Bottom Of The Pile: Aug. 22nd & Aug. 29th, 2018 – Action Comics, Extermination, Hunt For Wolverine, Justice League Dark, The Terrifics, West Coast Avengers

by Sage Ashford

Since the fifth week was a little lacking in comics, I decided to merge it and the first week together for one big mega-column. Let’s get a look into the worlds of Marvel and DC as we exit the last complete month of summer.

Action Comics #1002
“Invisible Mafia Part 2”
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Patrick Gleason
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez

One of the reasons Batman surpassed Superman…besides WB’s single-minded focus on the Dark Knight’s film prospects for the better part of three decades…is the Batman’s world just feels so much more vibrant and alive. The people who surround him are so fascinating they wind up with books of their own, and his city is a character unto itself, compelling even without the long shadow of the bat.

With Superman, though? It always feels like everything about his world is just punching stuff, with his supporting cast often reduced to being one note and lacking strong, defining characteristics. Up until recently, there’s never been much focus on the world around him, which is…strange. Unlike Bruce, who surrendered his entire life to fighting crime, Clark has strong ties to the world he’s chosen to protect. He has a boss, annoying co-workers, and a family. You’d think his world would be as much about that as him versus Toyman or whatever, but nope. Recently this has started to change, by making him into Superdad, but that’s more of a recent development and it really needed a writer who would continue to build on what Jurgens and Tomasi began.

Enter Brian Bendis, who’s working in the footsteps of Johns and older writers before them, choosing to flesh out the world of Metropolis and the Daily Planet. Everything’s centered around the lens different people see him through. How tourists react to him with wide-eyed wonder, while civilians are amazed but have grown used to him. How the crooks have to operate differently if they want to continue operating in his city, refusing to say his name or Lois’, the reporter everyone thinks he has a “friendly” crush on. Every perspective is unique, yet logical, and the result is a comic that’s as much Superman as it is everyone else. Even Bendis’ new creations are slotting into this world of characters who have been around for decades with little trouble.

Extermination #2
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Garcia

I was sort of on board with Extermination #1, but I’m not sure how I feel about nuCable. Like, they tried to send the kids back years ago and failed. The group knows they have to go back and talk about it literally all the time–X-Men: Blue saw them make a freaking time platform to send them back and even that didn’t work. Why’s Cable: The Even Edgier Edition out here talking like they’ve just been screwing around?

Surprisingly, the death toll is kept pretty low in this issue, but they manage to make up for it by letting Angel get his wings ripped off. You know, I don’t have a problem with the X-Men aiming for a certain “ideal” status quo, but this franchise more than any other seems so fond of repeating the same story beats. How many times are people gonna try to clip Angel’s wings? Presumably this is to make up for the abilities he gained during Black Mirror, but in that case I can’t wait to see how they undo Jean’s telepathy and Hank’s ability to cast magic spells.

The best part of this chapter is easily Pepe Larraz’s artwork, which is still just as bright and vibrant here as it was on No Surrender. He’s pretty much turning into the weekly series guy. This chapter felt over far too soon with not nearly enough meat to it…aside from the reveal at the end where Old Man Logan is one of Ahab’s hounds. I’m choosing to ignore that whole bit, since Rachel should’ve just mind-wiped him the second he walked in–telepaths are almost never the threat you’d expect them to be.

Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Color Artist: GURU-eFX

After following four separate mini-series entitled “Hunt for Wolverine”, it was a scooch frustrating to be told, “Hey guys, buy another one shot!” Especially when the guy spent a month or two making random appearances at the end of nearly every MU comic, and at one point I’m pretty sure even had an Infinity Stone. But it’s all been leading to this: the introduction of a new villain to the X-Universe, something they’ve been desperately needing after tapping the well positively dry on Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, Sentinels, and Juggernaut. (But hey, it’s okay! Magneto’s a villain again and has reformed the Brotherhood, apparently… *weeps into his Kool-aid and Rum*)

This issue serves as a handy recap of all the events of the other four mini-series, summing up what went on in all of them before coming to the conclusion of one name, one company being behind it all: Soteira. And beyond that, one woman: Persephone, someone with murky goals who’s become more terrifying than every mutant-hater they’ve ever dealt with by being able to track down mutants not as they happen–but before their X-Gene even activates. It’s the kind of change the X-Men desperately need in a lot of ways: fresh blood, but someone not driven by hatred or from some twisted alternate future. Well, hopefully.

In any case, Charles Soule does such a great job of making the complicated lives of the X-Men seem approachable that I wouldn’t be mad at all if they let him write the X-Books when everything was said and done. His Death of Wolverine story was great, and he’s prolific enough to believably write multiple X-titles if he wanted with no problem, or just take the mothership Uncanny three times monthly.

Justice League Dark #2
“The Last Age of Magic Chapter 2”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inks: Raul Fernandez
Colors: Brad Anderson

For the many who doubtlessly missed this era, Khalid Nassour is from Paul Levitz’s run with Doctor Fate back in 2015. Created during their DCYou era, the character (and his comic) was all but doomed the moment Rebirth started slowly bringing things back to a pre-Flashpoint feel.  A shame too, since the character and his world was likable and a strong change from the days of Kent “Nobody Wants To Write A Book About Me Anyway” Nelson.

I loved seeing him make an appearance as it felt like he’d been forgotten, but I am kinda bummed if this is the last we see of him. Levitz spent so much time building him up as a likable alternative to the absurdly powerful version of the character fans are used to. Speaking of, this issue wastes no time introducing the real villain behind what’s going on–in the wake of No Justice, Nabu snapped and summoned the true owner of magic into the DC Universe, and he is decidedly not a nice fellow.

Justice League Dark continues to be my favorite of the two Justice League titles. We’re all used to the eclectic casts seen in JLD, but watching Wonder Woman deal with this gang of misfits and try to whip them into shape is pretty great. She’s putting her life at risk for no other reason than “it’s the right thing to do” and everywhere she turns people are pushing her away or making more work for her rather than trying to help. It’s such a massive change than the Justice League proper, where everyone’s showing up for work on time and trying to do their job because they know if they don’t it all falls apart.

The Terrifics #7
“Tom Strong & the Terrifics Part One”
Storytellers: Dale Eaglesham & Jeff Lemire
Colors: Mike Atiyeh

After six issues of focusing solely on The Terrifics as a team, we’re finally getting back to that Tom Strong tease, with a look into the character’s daily life before being sidetracked by one of his many supervillains. It’s unclear just how this “New Age of Heroes” line is playing out at the moment, but if DC ever decides to do a Tom Strong solo comic, Dale Eaglesham is absolutely the guy to do it with. His work is gorgeous, and reminiscent of the kind of Silver Age feel Millennium City is supposed to give off, while his Tom Strong is the square-jawed, perfect human specimen he was always intended to be.

This issue sees him come into contact with the villain plaguing the Terrifics lately–Doc Dread–a villain who’s reasoning seems inscrutable for now. He’s just wandering around aimlessly doing evil stuff without a proper plan. It’s almost comical–who hops between universes solely to make different characters’ lives miserable?

West Coast Avengers #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Stefano Casselli
Color Artist: Triona Farrell

At this rate Kelly Thompson is going to become one of my favorite writers working at Marvel. West Coast Avengers is exactly the kind of book we need to keep superhero comics honest–it’s not afraid to take the piss out of traditional tropes, but it’s not so “cute” it feels like someone doing a fanfic.

After spending months doing her hero thing on the West Coast, Kate finally runs into a problem too big for her to handle on her own: land sharks. No, not the beer–though she could probably use a case of that after this first issue–actual land sharks. We don’t see who made them yet, but it does compel her to try to build her own team. The result?  The other Hawkeye. Her boyfriend, who just happens to have powers but has no idea what to do with them. America, who’s very clearly still trying to convince Kate she’s not as straight as she thinks. Quentin Quire, someone who’s massively powerful but is such a giant tool most people would still rather do the work without him.

She also has Gwen!  Yes, only a few short months after Gwen’s last solo appearance she’s landed into an Avengers mini-series–guess her relevance isn’t over yet. Honestly, while I like most of this team I think I’m here for Gwen the most–hopefully she still has all her cool “abusing the fabric of comic reality powers”, and Thompson chooses to do cool stuff with them, because this feels like the best place to put them. One minute they’re facing land sharks, the next minute it’s a 50 foot Tigra (yes, the former Avenger), the next they’re being saved by B.R.O.D.O.K.–the Bio-Robotic Organism Designed Overwhelmingly for Kissing. This book definitely isn’t afraid to lean into the absurdity of daily superhero life, and or admit the world of superheroes doesn’t always have to be “EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE” every other issue. Sometimes you can just have ridiculous, fun adventures with your friends, kiss pretty people and save the day.  Well, hopefully.

See you in seven.

Sage Ashford

A writer with way too many hobbies, Sage can often be found catching up on the latest anime, or reading a stack of comics between Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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