Bottom Of The Pile: July 18th, 2018 – Avengers, Jessica Jones, Justice League, Tony Stark: Iron Man

by Sage Ashford


Avengers #5
“The Secret Origin of the Marvel Universe”
By Jason Aaron, Paco Medina, & Ed McGuinness
Inkers: Juan Vlasco with Mark Morales & Karl Story
Color Artist: David Curiel
There was a time where just the Celestials appearing would be a sign that whatever was going down, none of the heroes would have the ability to stop it with their powers alone, and they’d have to think up a non-violent solution to keep things from falling apart. Stories like this existed to show that heroes are more than their fists. And now here we are thirty years removed from the toyetic days of Transformers and He-Man in the 80’s and now suddenly Tony Stark has giant “Godkiller” armor and Ghost Rider’s possessed a dead Celestial and it looks like issue six of this is literally going to be the Avengers having knock down, drag out fights with immortal cosmic beings with strength surpassing the gods themselves on the level of the most absurd Ultraman anniversary film you can think of.
…To be clear, I don’t have a problem with any of this. Nevermind all this Avengers BC stuff, this is what I’m here for: to see the Avengers save the world from the most impossible threats imaginable. Jason Aaron’s really settled into a groove here, and Ed McGuinness is perfect for the kind of widescreen, blockbuster storytelling Aaron’s aiming to do here.
There’s also some references to the “true” origin of the Marvel Universe, which plays with the old idea that the Celestials used Marvel Prime Earth as a petri dish to explain the insane number of superheroes our planet has. Aaron takes a much darker, more cynical route by saying it wasn’t some grand experiment at all, but rather the death of a Celestial which infected the Earth.  It’s a neat twist, but honestly unless he’s going to make that revelation the center of his run it’s a bit meaningless: the next time you hear about it will be when the next writer decides to retcon those origins again.
But don’t let that take way from what’s otherwise a fantastic issue, and the next installment should be truly nuts.

Jessica Jones #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Mattia De Iulis
I believe in giving credit where it’s due, and Kelly Thompson is really a fantastic writer. In the wake of Jessica Jones having another season of her series added to Netflix this Spring, Marvel decided to get a comic starring the sardonic detective off the ground again. And to Thompson’s credit there’s no needless rejiggering of her character to make her resemble Krysten Ritter’s incarnation.  All too often when a character becomes popular outside the comics, Marvel has this habit of making them resemble the film/TV/mobile game/puzzle version of themselves in the hopes more people will cotton on to the comics. But in Jessica’s case, that would be such an immense step backwards for her it’d almost be tantamount to ruining her. She’s not broken anymore–she’s got a loving husband, adorable daughter, and is an active part of the superhero community.
To be fair though, Thompson has found a way to walk the line and merge the visual trappings of the Netflix version of the character with her current status in the comics to create a version that’s familiar to fans regardless of where they come from. Jessica still has her signature leather jacket and her shitty office-that’s-really-an-shitty-apartment where she works cases from, but she also has her best friend Carol Danvers visit her after a case goes wrong and she gets shot in the head. Speaking of–this first issue has a pretty big mystery to kick things off, with Jessica having a guy go after her for being one of a group of relatively unknown (ouch) powered women.  It’s exactly the kind of case which would fly below everyone else’s notice but perfectly fits Jessica’s MO, and I’m already eager to find out what’s going on behind it all.  Plus, the next couple issues have Elsa Bloodstone in them!  Exactly the kind of impossibly obscure but really cool characters I expect out of books like this, and she’s got a great design to boot.
…Speaking of designs, I’m not sure where they found Mattia De Iulis, but he is absurdly talented. His facial features are perfect, and he’s an absolute master of the background details a detective mystery comic like this would find necessary.

Justice League #4
“Justice League: The Totality Part 4”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Cool as it is to have Sinestro back in his classic outfit for a story-based reason, if there’s one problem I have with this book so far is it’s trying to do too much all at one time. Redefining the Injustice Society and putting them in place as the Legion of Doom. Revealing there were six new forces in addition to the Speed Force, but they were all trapped behind the Source Wall. Umbrax and the invisible/ultraviolet spectrum. And whatever lies at the center of the Totality.
All of that could’ve been four different arcs but Snyder wanted to give them all to us at once. Now on the bright side, it makes it impossible for us to get bored with the story, but at the same time it also feels like these aspects which are adding major elements to the DC Universe that could be used for years to come aren’t necessarily getting the development they deserve.
Of course, that’s not to get too far away from the center of what’s happening here, as it’s only four issues in and already Superman and Martian Manhunter have had their minds taken over by Lex Luthor and Joker, respectively, Hawkgirl’s in danger of having her head chainsawed off, Batman just got swallowed by a giant antibody, and Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are getting spanked by Gorilla Grodd and the Turtle. We’re a long way from the days of the Superfriends making quick work of the Legion of Doom.

Tony Stark: Iron Man #2
“Self-Made Man: Part Two: The Not-A-Pilot Episode”
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Color Artist: Edgar Delgado
I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about Dan Slott’s Iron Man yet, so let me be crystal clear: this book is excellent. Dan’s love for the character is obvious, as he draws on various eras of Iron Man’s history for his run.  This version of Stark seems to be trying to overcome his old habit of doing everything on his own, and is bringing in everyone from Rhodey and Bethany Cabe to Jocasta in order to help him.
Last issue felt like a blast from the past, connecting perfectly to the Silver and Bronze Age version of Tony Stark, and this issue shows those eras that same love. Slott pulls from various real moments in comic book history to show how Rhodey is very probably tired of risking his life in any version of armor considering how terribly it’s gone for him. In sharp contrast to Justice League, Tony Stark: Iron Man isn’t afraid to throw several plot points at the reader at once–Bethany’s being mind controlled, Machine Man seems to be very much against humanity, and Tony Stark’s been revived wrong–but without any complicated elements of the Marvel Universe to explain away it just feels like a frenetic version of old-school compressed storytelling instead of being too much at once.
If Slott can maintain the same level of quality he did on Iron Man (and Silver Surfer), we’re in for yet another landmark run on one of the most fascinating characters in the Marvel Universe. And hopefully Valerio Schiti sticks along for the ride–I’ve loved his work since his days on Journey into Mystery with Kathryn Immonen, and his cartoony expressions fit this delightfully over the top soft sci-fi book just perfectly.
See you in seven.

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