Bottom Of The Pile: Apr. 25th, 2018 – Avengers, Exiles, Hunt For Wolverine, Invincible Iron Man, Justice League Of America, The Flash, Wonder Woman, X-O Manowar

by Sage Ashford

This week’s selection of comics is a little bigger than normal, as we shift from the usual mini-reviews to discussing the landscape of DC and Marvel as they both respectively approach new eras for their universes. But I still managed to sneak in a non-Big Two comic that everyone should check out as well, if only because it featured the most stunning art I saw all week. And considering all the great art I saw this week, that’s saying a lot.

Avengers #690
“No Surrender Part 16”
Writer: Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub
Artists: Pepe Larraz
Color Artist: David Curiel

This final issue of Avengers: No Surrender could have been much darker than it actually is.  Everyone lived, but it could have seen us lose out on the heart and soul of the team, Jarvis. But thankfully, that’s a hilariously well-timed red herring, and it turns out everyone’s favorite butler is not being replaced by a stupid computer program like he was in the MCU.
When this event was called the Avengers Disassembled of the current Avengers era, it didn’t conjure a lot of good memories for me. That storyline featured way too many deaths, and too many heroes acting out of character for me to get heavily involved. This event is actually the opposite; focusing on the positive influence the Avengers have had, not just on the innocent people of the MU, but the people we’d view as villains as well. The end features the Grandmaster’s daughter trying to convince Grandmaster Prime to let go of his rage by showing him the adventures of the Avengers.
But this issue also sets up a lot of future storylines for our heroes. Bruce goes off and becomes Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde again for The Immortal Hulk, after Hawkeye both calls him a monster and points out that there’s a good man inside him. Y’know…somewhere beneath the guy who was prophesied to murder the Avengers.) Scarlet Witch, Doctor Voodoo, and Synapse team up to go find Quicksilver, who’s trapped somewhere beyond human comprehension. Hopefully Sunspot is about to go lead a team of X-Men somewhere. Human Torch has got a family to get back to, and hopefully Iron Patriot is about to go hang out with Leonardo da Vinci and Riri Williams (more on that later).   Instead of being focused on endings, No Surrender is a story about the truth behind superhero fiction, and the truth behind humanity itself: the story never ends. For that, it deserves all the acclaim, and I can’t wait to see what Jason Aaron has for us next.

Exiles #2
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Penciller: Javier Rodriguez
Inker: Alvaro Lopez
Colorist: Chris O’Callahan

If I have one complaint with this book so far, it’s that somehow Nick Fury doesn’t sound like Nick Fury. He sounds like generic Cosmically Empowered Character #48. Other than that, my problems all come from my incorrect preconceived notions about this title.
I assumed it’d be super serious, but I couldn’t be more happy to be wrong. The entire group is a bunch of goofs that have been randomly chosen to save the multiverse from a crisis of epic proportions (and the reader from a crisis of infinite boredom), with the exception of Kamala Khan, who’s become the straight man to everyone else after dealing with some sort of apocalypse on her Earth.
Meanwhile? Iron Lad is an insecure kid who’s been bullied and just wants some friends so he doesn’t have to turn into the most ineffectual time hopping villain in superhero comics. Valkyrie is the lady version of Aquaman from Batman: Brave and the Bold, which automatically makes her AWESOME. She’s super strong, has a beautiful flying horse and just wants her next big adventure. Who can’t respect that? Wolvie is an adorable ball of rage who just wants some pie from Marvel’s chibi Earth. As for Blink, she’s been through multiversal crises so many times its become old hat–she just wants to go back home and hang out with the aunt that’s not really her aunt.
It’s far different than I would’ve expected, maybe this is what superheroes need: a chill superhero adventure where people save the world without being so SERIOUS. I can dig it.

Hunt for Wolverine #1
Creators: Charles Soule, David Marquez, Rachelle Rosenberg, Paulo Siquiera, Walden Wong, & Ruth Redmond
Even when it happened, I said that the Death of Wolverine wasn’t a bad story. For certain, it was a story that felt really fake and corporate because we all knew Wolverine would eventually be back. And I would totally credit Marvel for leaving the guy off the table for four years…if they hadn’t brought in Old Man Logan and had Laura take his place and brought his son back and created a different son too.  But hey. They kinda tried?
Still, that has no bearing on Charles Soule’s story, which was an ode to one of the most popular comic book characters of all time…and a beautiful example of that double-paged cinematic storytelling that was the bees knees in the early 2000’s but gradually fell away at the turn of the decade. So it’s fitting, then, that Charles Soule gets to bring the character back proper.  He’s been back for months now, making appearances here and there but always just missing heroes while they’re doing something major, but no one realized it until this comic.
They’ve made a big deal of Wolverine’s body being something that a lot of dangerous people would love to get a hold of, and so now the Marvel hero community has to do their job in tracking him down. And while the opening part of this issue is a cool fight scene between the X-Men and the Reavers, brought to life beautifully by David Marquez, it’s actually the back up that I like the most. Kitty goes to see Tony Stark to get help in finding Logan, and Logan suggests reassembling the New Avengers roster.
I was never a fan of the New Avengers–basically it just felt like an excuse to throw all the most popular characters onto the Avengers onto one comic–but I do like what this says.  In Death of Wolverine, Charles Soule brought back all these elements of 90s’s Wolverine as we worked backwards through his history until the character died. Now, unless I miss my guess, he seems to be working forward in Wolverine’s history from the 2000’s on until we get to him being brought back properly. And there’s a beautiful symmetry to that kind of storytelling you have to appreciate.

Invincible Iron Man #599
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Stefano Caselli & Alex Maleev
Color Artists: Marte Gracia & Alex Maleev

I’ve gone back and forth on Bendis’ Iron Man. When it first started, he was restoring a lot of elements that made me feel like I was reading old school Iron Man.  But the longer that went on, the more he started bringing in his own stuff, the more things got dragged down by “big events”, and the harder a read it became. Much as I love Ironheart, I still missed my favorite Marvel superhero, and was looking forward to having him back.  Unfortunately, the Search for Tony Stark felt endless thanks to the decompressed storytelling and the fact that Infamous Iron Man’s storyline dovetailed into Invincible’s and the book didn’t get any bigger.
Nevertheless, this issue makes up for that by doing a lot at once. Tony Stark comes back, and we learn that his body is completely back to normal again instead of him being essentially a superhuman. This is good, and resets the table for whatever adventures Dan Slott has prepared when we start things in June.   We learn what happened to Tony’s dad, then what really happened to Tony’s dad, even if that plotline probably ends in next issue.  We see Riri meet up with Toni Ho, and Toni reveal she’s been working with Leonardo Da Vinci.  I sincerely, sincerely hope that that’s a subplot that plays out in its own mini-series and isn’t just some random supervillain who gets punched in the face next month.
But the biggest thing? This issue hints at Tony potentially bringing back James Rhodes.  Tony describes what he’s thinking of as an “extremely selfish thing to do”, and if that’s what he’s planning…he’s right.  But so what? We readers are selfish, refusing to let these characters move on and make new ones. And if Tony’s back, then I’m gonna want my second favorite character back working alongside him.  Plus, if Rhodey’s back, the Iron Man franchise would be healthier than it’s been in years in terms of supporting cast. No one wanted him dead anyway, let’s do this.

Justice League of America #29
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Hugo Petrus
Colors: HI-FI

A bigger selection of scrubs you’ll never find. Well, at least half of them are. The other half are former Leaguers who’re slumming it until someone gets on the main comic and likes them enough to put them back on a proper team. Seriously though, with No Justice on the way, we’re winding down both Justice League and both Titans books while gearing up to get ready for what comes in the aftermath of that mini-event.
From the looks of things, we’re continuing the trend of making the DC Universe feel more like a community of heroes instead of a bunch of disparate characters all operating in the same universe but barely knowing one another. It’s more turning the clock back, but despite how cool the future Justice League line-up looks, it’s still been lacking in terms of offering something completely new and unique. Could that be found in the Justice Foundation, a collection of new, lesser-known, and underused characters? Hopefully. But as of right now there’s no book called Justice Foundation in sight just yet, so let’s see where that ends up. In the meantime, time for me to go Google the lady that stole Superman’s Electric Bogaloo suit.

The Flash #45
“After the Storm”
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Christian Duce
Colors: Luis Guerrero

The Flash came with the emotional gutpunch for the heroes and the readers this issue with the epilogue to the Gorilla Grodd storyline.
After being back over a year, Wally finally connects with the one woman he’s been avoiding all this time: his aunt, Iris West. It’s momentarily heartbreaking, since it seems obvious she wouldn’t remember him. Except, as the Grand Lightning Rod for the whole Flash family…she does. And more than that, the moment she sees him she remembers who else they lost…and so does he.
Wally West as the Psycho-Pirate of a post Flashpoint world is a fascinating idea. Since he’s more central to the overarching story of the DC Universe, it’s less of a funny continuity quirk you tell people about to tell everyone you’re a huge geek…and more a way to lend a sense of pathos to the hero who once had the most perfect life in comics.
Heading into the Grodd story I only wanted to see what was next with Flash War. But now, seeing this I just want to see the next step in Rebirth. Hopefully there’s no truth to the rumors that the finish of Doomsday Clock is what’s holding us back from that. It’d be great if the Flash War just brought back all those missing characters like Impulse, Jay Garrick, and Max Mercury, but that might be hoping for too much. Whatever happens, I hope we deal with the fact that at this point Wally should absolutely remember that he had two kids…until Barry got selfish and went back and time and screwed that up.

Wonder Woman #45
“Amazons Attacked” Finale
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Ema Luppachino, Ray McCarthy, & Marco Santucci
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Well, we’d been wondering exactly how Darkseid comes to join the Justice League and apparently we finally got our answer here. Darkseid’s been in Wonder Woman for most of James Robinson’s arc, having his daughter Grail kill as many Greek gods as possible to infuse him with the energy he needs to age himself back to normal. He finally got himself back up to his usual Jack Palance-y self, and immediately set about trying to create an army powerful enough to take back Apokolips. Which, since it’s a Wonder Woman comic, comes at the expense of the Amazons being transformed into Parademons.
Wonder Woman ends up throwing down with the god the devil prays to, but can’t beat him solo. Instead, she somehow awakens the spirits of the gods within Darkseid and gets them to leave his body.  He disappears in the chaos of that event, and is now walking the Earth without memory of who he is. This plays into two separate plots. Metal’s final issue hinted at the “Dark Pantheon” being something Wonder Woman would have to deal with, and seemingly that’s a reference to the Greek Pantheon being corrupted from Darkseid’s energies.
And then the flipside is Darkseid joining the Justice League temporarily because he has no idea who he is. I’m assuming this is going to come with a lot of Nature vs. Nurture-type storylines, but it’s going to take a lot for me not to read Justice League Odyssey and think they should do anything other than toss Darkseid into a jail cell. He nearly ended creation once, after all.

X-O Manowar #14
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

This issue of X-O might as well have been called “Scenery Porn: The Comic”.  In the aftermath of Aric’s time in space, the barbarian king gets lost in his thoughts several times. He attempts to commit suicide by flinging himself into a star, but picks up a signal from Livewire informing him that Earth needs him, and so he decides to attempt to fly home.   Because normal flight would take far too long, they instead use essentially Farscape’s “slingshot” method to get him back to Earth faster. Once he arrives, Shanhara points out they need to drain off the radiation before being in contact with any human, and Aric delves beneath the ocean to avoid having to see his own people for as long as he can.
That summary exists solely to point out all the gorgeous landscapes we were treated to thanks to the jaw-droppingly gorgeous work of Ariel Olivetti, an artist capable of displaying the majesty of exploding stars just as much as he is the beauty of ocean life in its natural habitat. Though we finally get in-depth on exactly what’s been wrong with Aric, the story mostly gets out of the way and simply allows the reader to soak in Olivetti’s work. It’s all so real, so lifelike that you’d think he actually traversed those stars himself.  X-O’s never had any shortage of fantastic artists, but this is on another level…both for the book, and for the artist himself. His work’s always been amazing, but never quite this sublime. I don’t know how much longer he’ll stick around on this book, but he could stay for the remainder of Kindt’s run without complaints on this end.
In the meantime, the story of Sad Superman continues next month as we plunge headlong into Harbinger Wars 2: The Harbingerest.
See you in seven.

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