The Stack 12/12 – Asgardians Of The Galaxy, Champions, Titans & More!

by Sage Ashford

Asgardians of the Galaxy #4
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Matteo Lolli, Natacha Bustos, Luca Maresca
Color Artist: Federico Blee

Annabelle Riggs and Valkyrie’s story dates all the way back into 2013 when Bunn was on Fearless Defenders (an underrated comic), but since they aren’t necessarily characters people are chomping at the bit to write, we haven’t seen them very often since then. Now with Asgardians Bunn is getting the chance to pick up where he left off to a point, and continue their story. As comics continue to grow in popularity, there’s a lesson to be learned here with respect to how DC and Marvel can continue to develop characters with small but fervent fanbases. Constant relaunches are already a thing for nearly everyone from C-List heroes to marquee names like Spider-Man, so why not figure out a way to work with these types as well?

Avengers #11
“The Strength and Conviction of Phillip Coulson”
By Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, & Cory Smith
Inkers/Finishers: Mark Morales, Scott Hanna, & Karl Kesel
Color Artist: Erick Arciniega

Jason Aaron’s Avengers is doing something I’ve always wished DC would do: open up the doors of their main team comic and allow some of the international heroes to spend some time in the main team’s series.  As comics gain more of a global appeal, this is only going to grow more important, until we reach a point where not talking about international heroes is actually regressive.  So it’s good the team here is including heroes from multiple countries.

Now what usually happens after creators introduce international teams is they get distracted by some other, more “interesting” idea.  And that’s certainly possible, since Aaron’s got War of the Realms coming up, and a look ahead to the stories he plans to tell in February, they’re heading to Transylvania to deal with vampires for a while.

Still, given how much work is going into setting up all the different teams in opposition, I’ve got more faith in Aaron than I would in other creators.  Come to that, while I’m a little sad the Squadron Supreme are villains again, I think it’s great they’re being set back in a role which makes them Marvel’s Justice League again, even if “Squadron Supreme of America” sounds absurd.  Also shouts out to Aaron for positioning: America and Russia fighting it out for supremacy while everyone else just wants to get along for the sake of actually being heroic.

Batman Annual #3
“Father’s Day”
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Otto Schmidt

We’re about six months out from Father’s Day, but this story is so good I’ll allow it. At this point, anyone who doesn’t realize Alfred’s the lynchpin of the Bat-Family should have to relinquish membership to the Batman Fanclub.  We like to pretend Bruce was alone, but even in his worst, darkest moments Alfred has been there–serving as everything from an adoptive father to dutiful assistant, keeping Bruce from becoming too consumed in his mission.

This is why ending Tynion’s idea for Detective Comics will always be something of a bugbear for me.  At this stage in Batman’s history, the most interesting idea for the character and his world is making them the most bad-ass adoptive family in the DC Universe.  (Well, aside from the Marvel Family…)

Champions #27
“Warriors of the Weird Conclusion”
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Max Dunbar
Color Artist: Nolan Woodard

I know I made a joke about how this seems like a game Kamala would’ve talked them into, but you’d think after actually living a game this would be the last thing any of them wanted to try.  Still, if you need your fix of superheroes exploring fantasy worlds DC’s decided to pick up the slack, but more on that later.

With Champions #27 we get the end of this current volume of Champions before Zub and company take us into the next phase of these teen heroes’ adventures.  Arguably this should’ve happened when Zub first took over, but given the huge line-up changes in the first issue launching this January I can see why they wanted to hold off.

This issue closes out a lot of major plot points for Champion, but none bigger than Sam finally accepting his life as Nova has come to an end for now.  And while I’m sure he eventually gets his helmet back–and gets to slug the guy who stole it from him in the first place–I’m kind of hoping some of the upcoming stories involve him trying to contribute to the team by finding other power sources. Watching experienced heroes take on new abilities and try to get used to them never gets old.

Also, while Viv has a tangential connection to a certain classic Avengers villain mentioned at the end of this issue, I’m seriously hoping her storyline doesn’t dovetail into his. Viv’s search to understand humanity has been delving into romance for some time now, with her flirting with characters on the team only to wind up rebuffed–this issue it’s Riri, who she “surprises” with a kiss after they survive their trip to Weirdworld. In today’s climate, the last thing we need is someone turning (or even considering) evil ’cause they’ve got bad luck getting a date.

Titans #31
“The Other Side”
Writer: Dan Abnett
Pencils: Clayton Henry & Brent Peeples

One young super-team leaves a fantasy realm, another dives headlong into one.  It’s been weird watching Raven operate like an emotionless android for months only for the team to do absolutely nothing about it, but that all changes here! Or, well…you’d think.  A quick glance at the solicit tells us next issue will actually focus on the Blood Cult, which one assumes is the Church of Blood with a “Darker and Edgier” make-over.

What is enjoyable about this is seeing this new iteration of the Titans finally start to pick itself back together. While I’m sure this was always the intention of Abnett’s stories, the Titans have such a weird reputation between the 90’s and the late 2000’s that it’s always concerning when they’re just watching teammates die and suffering infighting. But with Donna finally accepting her role as leader and Kyle Rayner joining the team (yes!), this group feels more centered and stronger than they’ve been since before the Justice League randomly showed up and told them to disband.

Detective Comics #994
Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Jamie Mendoza
Color Artist: David Baron

After wandering aimlessly without a permanent writer for a bit, ‘Tec finally gets someone who will hopefully stay on for awhile in Pete Tomasi.  Granted, Tomasi’s done Bat-Comics off and on for the better part of a decade now, but he’s a talented writer who plans to be here for a while in an era where stability isn’t given nearly enough credence.

Everything’s built around a countdown to issue #1000, which I can respect, and this first issue walks a perfect line between superhero mystery that a book with a name like “Detective Comics” should have, and light horror elements that come naturally for Batman…and Gotham, all of which are brought to us courtesy of Doug Mahnke, one of the most versatile pencillers in comic books.

The book’s set up around a killing perfectly orchestrated to resemble the Wayne murders from Bruce’s childhood, though it quickly escalates into something much bigger by the end. My only real problem with this issue? This Joker tease at the end. I know every writer seems to have one great Joker story in them, but maybe that doesn’t have to be one of the first stories you tell?  Please?  Hopefully this is just a red herring?  It is a chilling way to end an issue…

Fantastic Four: The Wedding Special #1
Writers: Gail Simone, Dan Slott, Fred Hembeck
Artists: Laura Braga, Mark Buckingham, Fred Hembeck
Inker: Matt Farmer
Color Artists: Jesus Aburtov, Matt Yackey, Megan Wilson

This moment proves why Gail Simone is probably one of the best comedic writers in comics.  Though honestly…why doesn’t this happen more often?  Sure Johnny’s an idiot for sleeping with both Crystal and her older sister, but…that’s a lot more common than you’d think unless you paid attention to it.  Heroes tend to fall in and out of relationships with one another–it makes sense considering they spend the most time with each other, but it also stands to reason most social situations would be awkward like this.

TMNT Macro Series: Raphael #1
Story: Kevin Eastman
Script: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz
Layouts: Kevin Eastman
Pencils and Inks: Ben Bishop
Colors: Tomi Varga

Sometimes you just want to show off.  That’s what happens in this final Macro Series one-shot. Kevin Eastman and Ben Bishop show off a mastery of comics storytelling, telling a story that swaps between both perspective and time effortlessly without ever making you feel lost.

Alongside Michelangelo, Raphael easily has the strongest of the Macro Series one-shots thus far, delving into why the angriest member of a group of pizza-loving ninja bros is actually so angry.  The twists the IDW story has taken are letting him be more than just a one-note character. It’s also allowed each member of the group to have more of a life than just being a member of the group–not one other Turtle plays an active role in this book, both illustrating the loneliness Raph had to deal with before finding his brothers and how they’ve all managed to form bonds with people who aren’t blood-related to them.

With Transformers gone, TMNT might just be the strongest book IDW has going for them right now.  So 2019’s big announcement’s going to be how they’re rebooting the entire universe again to bring it in line with a new set of films or something.

Superman #6
“The Unity Saga Part 6”
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis

I know I’m supposed to be all excited Jon is back, but all I can think of is how Superman basically abandoned Zod in the Phantom Zone after he came to help him.  Feels like the kind of thing that would come back to haunt him in the worst of ways.

Also, considering Bendis is being allowed to write both Young Justice and Superman, it’s unsettling he’s decided to age up Jon into his teenage years. Given his abilities, he was working just fine as a ten year old superhero, and that would’ve made him different enough from Kon-El for people not to make the argument they’re two characters occupying the same space. Hopefully there’s a story leading Jon back to his youth, because as it stands it’s a bit concerning–if one of them has to go, it won’t be Superman’s son.

The Flash #60
“Force Quest Part Three”
Script: Joshua Williamson
Pencils: Rafa Sandoval
Inks: Jordi Tarragona
Colors: Tomeu Morey and HI-FI

This is…solidly the most CW like Barry’s been since the comic book started. Why is Barry so cavalierly revealing his secret identity?  What on Earth is a “force connection” and why would that mean you could trust someone you don’t even know?  This is a mistake you normally don’t have to worry about when it comes to comic book Barry, but rather his overly trusting, “gets betrayed every season” live action adaptation. Granted, it seems like the theme since Rebirth started has been how much of a screw up Barry is–he’s ticked off both Kid Flashes, his co-workers, and his girlfriend. You’d figure he’d have it together when it came to the day to day of being a superhero, but if he’s tossing out his identity to people who didn’t even ask for it, maybe not?

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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