The Stack: March 27th, 2019 – Action Comics, The Terrifics, Freedom Fighters & More!

by Sage Ashford

Well, it’s a new month but we’re still having a look at the end of the month comics from last week. This time we’ll get into Action Comics, more Transformers, and a few other DC and Marvel major books.

Action Comics #1009
“Leviathan Rising Part 3”
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Art & Cover: Steve Epting
Colors: Brad Anderson

I might just be a stickler for the dual identity trope in superheroes, but it really does bug me that Amanda Waller knows Superman’s secret identity.  We know she’s not infallible, so if she knows it…shouldn’t every major spy organization? And if that’s the case, why isn’t Superman constantly dealing with threats to his normal life?  Making heroes into public figures is fine, but people always step around the questions which need to be answered when you do that.
Having said that though, I’m much more annoyed that Lois was able to knock out Amanda Waller. Waller’s got far more training, and at least fifty pounds on her; get real. I get that she was ticked Waller lead Leviathan to Clark’s home, but I’m still not buying it.

Freedom Fighters #4
“Chapter Four: Monument”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Eddy Barrows
Inker: Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Adriano Lucas

There’s a lot to love about Venditti’s Freedom Fighters, but this worship of Uncle Sam is…a bit hard to take seriously.  For certain, it’s hype to see all these characters being used.  And as a multiverse lover, I’m happy we’re focusing on the adventures occurring outside of New Earth. However, this issue literally has him seeming like Captain Planet–his nation was polluted with too many toxic ideas courtesy of the Fourth Reich, and he found himself unable to leave the “Extradimensional Realm of Ideas”, which is a genius concept.  Extra points for this book all around if Venditti remembers what Overman was up to before this book started.
But as much fun as punching Nazis is (never stop punching Nazis), it can be hard to take serious all this lionizing of pre-WW2 America. It was never such a perfect place that it would generate a person made purely of it’s ideals like Uncle Sam.  Arguably, it wouldn’t even be that place now.  This was still very much a nation which didn’t have much for anyone that wasn’t straight, white, and male–and while I don’t doubt that a potential Nazi America wouldn’t be much, much worse for anyone who didn’t fall under all three of those groups, there’s still something regressive to this book which is beginning to leave a bad taste.
Just so we’re clear–I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people who enjoy this book. I enjoy this book for the most part, it’s very good. Both Venditti and Barrows are killing it, in my opinion. But it would make this comic much better if they gave some of the above points some room in the story.  As it stands this is just a liberal version of Make America Great Again, and it can be more than that.

Superior Spider-Man #4
Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Mike Hawthorne
Inker: Wade von Grawbadger
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
I’m not sure this isn’t a better way to tell superhero stories. It’s been seventy years since Cap punched Nazis in the face on the cover of his comic, and since then we approach comics differently. We ask for more mature storytelling, even though sometimes we mix that up.  These heroes are supposed to be inspiring, they’re supposed to be agents of change.  So how come we’re watching encounter after encounter of the heroes beating the bad guys into submission? What’s wrong with having at least some of the villains reform?
Of course, it’s not realistic, and when done wrong it’s awkward and frustrating.  And ultimately we know they’ll “eventually be bad guys again”.  However: DC and Marvel have never tried to be realistic, we can’t just look at edge cases where things are done wrong, and eventually any major character will be remade t o their “base” form.  In short, none of that should get in our way.  The most inspiring thing a hero can do isn’t beating their opponent into submission, but convincing them their way is wrong and showing them a better path.  In the case of Otto, we’ve already watched the beginning of his journey, but that was just Hero 101.  Now he’s dealing with the advanced courses, learning how to show genuine empathy for people–even those he considers less intelligent or powerful. This is the long way around of my saying that I’m finally fully on team Superior Spider-Man, and I hope Gage sticks around long enough for Otto to reach his destination, whatever that is.

The Terrifics #14
“The Terrifics No More Part 4”
Storytellers: Joe Bennett & Jeff Lemire
Inkers: Dexter Vines and Scott Hanna
Colorist: Mike Spicer

My favorite part about this is that Mrs. Terrific is not only alive, but working with Michael again. Making her into a super genius that happens to have the exact same tragic origin is perfect.  Michael Holt was created at a time where tragic superhero origins were all the rage, but…that’s much more common now than it should be.  I’d trade the guy being all needlessly bummed out for a world with another intelligent black woman superhero in it, no question.
Lemire and Bennett were doing their best to come up with a version of the Fantastic Four here, and for the most part it feels like they succeeded.  They’ve got an eclectic pairing here, but they’re all likable and they have enough team chemistry that I want to follow them.  A group of heroes going on impossible adventures is surprisingly uncommon in the DC Universe, where the heroes are busy trying to save the multiverse or figuring out why years of their memory have gone missing.

The Transformers #2
“The World in Your Eyes Part 2”
Written by: Brian Ruckley
Art by: Angel Hernandez, Cachet Whitman
Colors by: Joana Lafuente, Josh Burcham

I was pretty into the first issue, but I’d be lying to say this issue was as compelling or gripping.  For one thing, the artists who handled the first IDW universe were total geniuses–not just on the main ongoings but Livio Ramondelli when he told the flashback stories offered a metallic, yet vibrant quality to both Cybertron and it’s inhabitants.  By comparison, these visuals are flat and less interesting to follow–the wonder that our new protagonist Rubble has been talking about since his introduction doesn’t translate to the viewer.
Worse yet, this issue gets lost in the minutiae of the ongoings of Cybertron. And while I am a total lore geek, at the moment I’m far more concerned with where everyone stands and learning the central conflict of the series.  For what it’s worth, I get it–there will never be a better time to establish Cybertron than right now. Explaining to us exactly what was so amazing about this planet before it becomes an energy desiccated husk of its former self works best when you show it to us first.  That way,we feel the same loss.  However, at the moment I’m not even sure what Megatron is angry about, just talking vaguely about not having enough Energon. The sooner we set this up properly, the more excited I’ll be to see it unfold.
See you in seven.

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