The Stack: March 6th, 2019 – Avengers, Doomsday Clock, Immortal Hulk & More!

by Sage Ashford

The beginning of the month remains the absolute best week for comics.

Avengers #16
“A Fistful of Blood”
By Jason Aaron & David Marquez
Color Artist: Erick Arciniega

As much as I was certain this would be just a little filler arc to keep readers busy until War of the Realms starts, Aaron hasn’t taken his foot off the gas even a second. There’s no calm before the storm, because this story still feels like it’s going to have major implications for later on in Aaron’s run.  The creation of a new status quo for Marvel’s seldomly used but surprisingly large vampire population, plus a surprising reintroduction of a key Ghost Rider character? We’re obviously not done developing either of these, and that’s before we even get to the fact that the Winter Guard has clearly leveled up since adding the Red Widow to things. Their most impressive members used to be a more dangerous version of Yogi the Bear and a knock off Iron Man–now they’ve got someone capable of making Dracula cry.

This arc feels like it’s helping establish what makes this Avengers team different from many of the ones that came before it.  The cosmic stuff and usual rogues gallery of Avengers line ups past has taken a firm backseat to mysticism and political intrigue.  All the intermission issues with Avengers BC see the characters dealing with magical monsters that have been around since creation itself, the current arc is a battle against vampires and an expansion to Ghost Rider’s world, and the upcoming story will submerge them into a world of dwarves, gods, and dark elves. But unlike the League, which assembles entire teams to deal with mystical threats, the Avengers are just going to handle everything on their own, because they don’t stop being “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” just because the enemy type switched to Spellcaster.

Doomsday Clock #9
Writer: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson

Look, it’s the fight scene that everyone wanted!  And by everyone, I mean no one.  It feels like a bit of a jump between the ending of last issue and this one, but the DC heroes are finally aware of Dr. Manhattan and getting to square off against him.  As expected for a character that’s been selectively altering DC’s continuity as he pleases, it’s not really a fair fight.

This issue is a reminder of how Geoff Johns truly is the master of the DC Universe.  It balances a cast of dozens, but whether it’s through dialogue or just the organization of the different teams, no one feels out of place, a testament to how long he’s spent making all of these characters his own. (I’m pretty sure Geoff’s written 80 percent of the characters featured in this issue already.) Plus, the slight references to Metal show he’s not merely telling his story while ignoring the DC Universe’s goings on.  Half of this story’s appeal was its overall effects on the DC Universe, so it’s good to know Johns is taking into account the changes to the mythology that have happened since he began this story a year and a half ago.

It’s interesting to see just how absurdly powerful Dr. Manhattan has become since making his way here.  His ability to hop through time as he sees fit means some of the changes he’s made to the DC Universe could merely be him appearing during other periods and changing events with his own hands, but this issue suggests it goes deeper than that. Manhattan shows Firestorm a version of history that doesn’t line up with his own memories, suggesting he’s either changed time so much things are unrecognizable, or he’s capable of changing origins completely.  In that light, it’s not certain if he’s rewritten the laws of magic here, or if he’s simply explaining how things have always worked.

With three issues remaining (and only one left unsolicited), there’s still a lot of plot points left to converge on, and it remains to be seen if Johns is capable of sticking the landing.  This still needs to give us the return of the Legion, the Justice Society, and offer a satisfactory conclusion to the events that brought half the Watchmen universe over to the DC Universe. There’s literally no way Johns can pull this story off without pissing off some group, but I’m still with him for being bold enough to tell it at all.

Immortal Hulk
“We Only Meet at Funerals”
Writer: Al Ewing
Guest Artist: Kyle Hotz
Colorist: Paul Mounts

First, hats off to guest artist Kyle Hotz.  Much as I miss Joe Bennett, Hotz’s style lends itself well to the eerie story being told here, and lends a fearsome grotesqueness to the Jade Giant that was much required for this issue.

This issue finally clarifies how Al Ewing sees the rest of the Hulk universe, and I’m pretty happy about it. About a decade ago, Marvel was filled with all these different kinds of Hulks and She-Hulks, then a few years ago they gradually started to pare them down until we were left with just Bruce and Jen.  Now while I was of the opinion that we didn’t need any more Hulks, that didn’t mean I thought they should take the ones we had away.  Especially Betty, who spent so many years standing to the sidelines, having to understand that her boyfriend could turn into a monster at any moment.  Finally making her his physical equal as well as his equal in a relationship was awesome, and frankly Red She-Hulk was second only to the original She-Hulk in the coolness of her design.

This issue introduces the possibility that once an individual has been changed by gamma, they always have access to that gamma energy. I’d love it if that’s where the story goes, though the solicits tell me this isn’t about to become a story of Betty and Bruce on the run, nor should it based on what happens here. This issue is probably one of the best depictions of a “comic book relationship” I’ve ever seen–the emotions are twisted up so badly it’s impossible to know whether they hate or love each other after the constant lies for someone’s protection, deaths and disappearances that we just take for granted as normal in modern day superhero storytelling.   Hopefully this series won’t just be a character study on Bruce (though it should continue to be mostly that), but will expand outward to get looks at all the lives touched by Bruce and the Hulk, including Jennifer and Ric Jones as well.

On that note: shouts out for including the secret best character of the Hulk universe in Doc Samson at the end of this issue. He’s probably going to get chucked through a mountain or something by the end of all this, but it’s pretty cool to see him even if only for a bit.

Justice League #19
“The Sixth Dimension Chapter 1”
Plot: Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez

The “SuperFriends’ing” of the Justice League continues, as this issue even Mr. Mxyzptlk cracks on the group for their screw ups, pointing out that their actions haven’t just affected their world, but the fifth dimension as well.  Snyder, Jimenez, and Tynion aren’t just redefining the existing mythology of the DC Universe, but they’re crafting it wholesale–adding on to what we already know in ways that make even a Johns/Morrison continuity geek like me proud.  This centering of the multiverse around Perpetua leaves me wondering: is she really as evil as everyone assumes?  This entire run has been about our heroes believing one thing to be true, only to instead learn reality was something entirely different.  They claim she created a multiverse so terrifying that other beings in the omniverse intervened, but is that true, or merely the story as people understand it?  Perpetua hasn’t awakened and we’ve heard nothing from her, meaning no one’s gotten her side of the story in potentially billions of years.  Perhaps the powerful conspired to both take her power and change her universe for the worse?

Also, I’m loving Snyder letting Jorge Jimenez have a bit more control over the direction of the story. It’s led to the reintroduction of some pretty sweet designs from Jimenez’s run with Dan Abnett on Earth 2: Society for these so-called “Sixth Dimension” characters.

The Green Lantern #5
“Blackstar at Zenith”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff

Can I just go ahead and proclaim Sharp and Oliff as the best artistic duo in comics for 2019?  I know it’s early, but…still. The two have proven capable of handling everything thrown at them with such ease it seems unreal.  A couple issues ago they showed us an Oa so advanced it put Cybertron to shame, now this week they’ve managed to create this gothic world that wouldn’t have been out of place in Gaiman’s Sandman, or a 1950’s horror comic.

I think my only complaint about this issue is that it was too compressed for the story it was telling, as Morrison sends Hal on this RPG-esque quest to have Hal join this latest incarnation of the Darkstars.  Literally the guy is railroaded from point to point to collect the different pieces of his gear to join the group, and while it works it feels like a few added pages could’ve ramped up the tension.  But what is there is glorious though, with Hal tearing through all manner of nighttime nasties to complete his true mission: infiltrate the Darkstars.  This was always an undercover mission, and I appreciate that Morrison isn’t even trying to hide it from readers that would all know better. But I love that the Guardians have finally become savvy enough to recognize Hal’s reputation in the Corps as someone perpetually dissatisfied with the leadership and the way things are run.  Since Johns’ run reintroduced the characters, they’ve largely been idiotic authority figures not really achieving much when they weren’t serving as threats to the people they’re supposed to be employing.  Fortunately, that’s taken a back seat in this refocusing, and the “new” Guardians are more interested in keeping order across the universe instead.

I can’t wait until this book starts to expand outward to include other characters in the larger DC cosmic universe–it’s a toybox that Morrison’s only slightly flirted with, and there’s tons of potential there, including the character featured at the end of this issue’s cliffhanger.

Young Justice #3
“Seven Crises Part 3”
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Patrick Gleason & Viktor Bogdanovic
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez, Chris Sotomayor, HI-FI

I’m caught between thinking this is stupid and thinking this is a great idea. Kon is the ultimate kid, and storytelling works off the friction that comes from placing characters in the most unlikely scenarios possible. So what’s more unlikely than seeing a guy who was once basically DC’s Peter Pan come back with a wife and kid?  Granted, there’s every chance the end of this will show this isn’t actually his kid and he’s protecting a group of people like Superman would, but still. Having a little kid around for the Young Justice team (who are in their late teens and early 20’s at this point) to watch over might shake things up in just the right way.

Also, while this month’s issue is pretty strong with Bendis-isms, I think he might’ve forever earned my respect with how the “Smallville” era of Conner was written off forever.  The dude’s literally just sitting in a classroom until he realizes he’s freaking Superboy and could be helping way more people instead of pretending to be normal, walks out of class and flies away.  They even took him from that mid-2000s garbage T-shirt and jeans look back to his original outfit, albeit stitched together awkwardly.  This book is very much trying to play on my nostalgia, and dammit it’s working.

See you next time!

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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