Comics Shotglass Reviews for 03/02/2016: Spider-Man Represent!

Comics Shotglass Reviews for 03/02/2016: Spider-Man Represent!

Miles Morales just wants to be Spider-Man, SHIELD is screwing up, and Superman's people are unleashed.

Week three of the new format continues apace! All-New, All-Different Marvel is settling into its groove, DC Comics post-Convergence is about to undergo some more changes, and Image is going in hard on new series and mini-series. Let's see what I felt was some of the best work out there this week!

As always, links to each book are below; just click on the comic titles and it'll take you to the Comixology page for that book. I tend to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I promise nothing.

Spider-Man #2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli, Gaetano Carlucci, Justin Ponsor

Miles Morales continues his new life in the primary Marvel Universe. The main thrust of this issue is establishing Miles as Spider-Man, as book's title suggests. In the Ultimate Universe, Miles was the only Spider-Man because Peter Parker had died, but in this universe, Miles is sharing space. Parker has gone global, so Miles is the Spider-Man of New York. What does that mean to Miles?

The first part of this issue is stronger than the latter half. It's Peter and Miles hashing out if the former wants to let the latter keep using the name. There was apparently a gentleman's agreement previously, but following an attack by Blackheart, Parker is rethinking his franchising. No worries there, because the ultimate outcome of the fight reinforces that Miles has earned the right to his name.

It's the latter half of the issue where things get a bit rough. During the Blackheart fight, Miles' costume gets ripped and he's outed on YouTube as the minority Spider-Man. In response, Miles finds himself mostly dismissive of the video producer's excitement. This makes sense, because he wants to be Spider-Man, not "The Black Spider-Man". Given he had to argue with Peter over the title earlier, his take on this makes absolute sense. Miles asks in the issue "Who cares?" Bendis is rather clear where he's going with the scene - Miles is Spider-Man, with no qualifiers - but it comes across as dismissive of some readers as well.

The people who care are those who see your visible actions and are inspired to replicate them. I'm an African-American games journalist. That qualification doesn't really come up in most of the work I do, though it is a part of the experiences that make me who I am. Where it does matter is how my visibility helps others. I've talked to students on occasion, some of whom never thought of journalism as a field "for them". A place they can succeed, too. After meeting me, that becomes more of possibility.

Representation is a powerful force for people. Seeing successful people and compelling characters like you can be inspiring and helpful. Like Jeremy Lin, whose 2012 hot streak led to Linsanity and the growing pride of Asian-Americans. In comics, writer Dwayne McDuffie inspired a whole host of minority creators, both from his general presence and the characters he created. Writer Kwanza Osajyefo credits McDuffie with helping him towards his career. Another writer, Gene Luen Yang, spoke in 2014 about the inspiring nature of McDuffie and Milestone, the publisher he co-founded. One Milestone character, Asian-American hero Xombi, stood out for Yang and showed him there was room Asian-American heroes. Yang is finishing a run on Superman now.

Richard Pryor wasn't just a black comedian, but he directly inspired many black comedians, like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Steve Harvey. Likewise, Joan Rivers' career showed a whole generation of women that they could be damned funny too. In both cases, those people will inspire others.

Part of the power of Miles Morales is telling some young person of color, "You can be Spider-Man too." I understand not wanting to have the qualifier, but Miles (and Bendis) should remember that having the qualifier can be very powerful. Inspiration is a great thing. Let's not minimize that.

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna, Paul Mounts

Avengers Standoff: Alpha #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Jesus Saiz

Avengers Standoff is the start of Marvel next Avengers crossover, a sequel to 2006's Civil War. The story spins out of an event vaguely mentioned in Sam Wilson: Captain America months ago, a book also written by Standoff mastermind Nick Spencer. The idea is, given the fact that reality was rewritten by Secret Wars, SHIELD decides that it wants a contingency plan, so the agency goes about building one. That new contingency plan? An artificial Cosmic Cube.

Standoff #1 plays out like an early episode of the recent Fox mini-series Wayward Pines. In fact, it's painfully reminiscent of that story: a young man named Jim wakes up to find himself in Pleasant Hill, a small town he can't escape from. The town does its best to brainwash Jim and make him feel like he belongs, but there are others in the town who know that not all is as it seems.

Avengers Standoff is a SHIELD story.

Spoilers: The trick here is that Pleasant Hill is actually SHIELD's stab at a new type of supervillain prison. Instead, of draining their powers or stashing them in the Negative Zone, the new plan is to brainwash them into thinking they're normal people and leave them in a small New England town. SHIELD agents keeping everything safe, trained professionals (like cinematic Thor's friend Erik Selvig) making sure the new life sticks, and a hidden energy wall if people go too far. The problem is for some people, their talents are innate…

There's also a running thread of a mysterious little girl, who is a sentient version of the fake Cosmic Cube, called Kobik. This sets up the central conflict for Standoff, which also outs the crossover as a Captain America story. On one side, you have Steve Rogers, former Captain American and current civilian oversight for SHIELD. On the other, you have Sam Wilson, current Captain America, the hero who SHIELD dislikes because he leaked original Kobik plans to the press. And in the middle, there's Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier. As the Man on the Wall, Bucky's remit is to save the planet and he's going to do that by killing Kobik. (Who's a little girl right now.)

It's a solid setup. Maria Hill arguably has her heart in the right place. These supervillains would be in prison anyways and a prison where they live out normal lives seems more humane. The problem is in the whole brainwashing and reality-altering. (Also, SHIELD seems to have taken in a few reformed villains, like Atlas and The Fixer? Why?)

Of course, everything goes to hell. Supervillain prisons will inevitably fail because the Marvel Universe is driven on conflict; if they worked, certain villains would be off the table indefinitely. Of course, the denizens of the Marvel Universe don't know that, but that's doesn't help us as readers, who have seen this play out before. SHIELD: making things worse, not better.

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3

Written by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello
Art by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Brad Anderson

I was pleasantly surprised by the first issue of Dark Knight III: The Master Race. I've become increasingly soured on Frank Miller's work over the years, but tethered to a solid writer like Brian Azzarello, Miller is doing an amazing job here. The "Master Race" in the book's title is a host of Kryptonians from the Bottled City of Kandor. With the help of the Atom, they've made themselves full-sized again, but no one stopped to check if they were good people. With their crazy religious leader Quar, the Kryptonians have offered Earth an ultimatum: worship them or die.

It looked like Bruce Wayne was dead and Carrie Kelly was Batman now. That's only partially true. Instead, Wayne has finally succumb to old age; being Batman is impossible for his human frame. Think Batman Beyond, but in the Dark Knight universe. Batman has to fight a war, so he needs help. Enter Superman, who left the world to freeze into a solid block of ice in his Fortress of Solitude.

This series seems to be about getting the band back together after Miller himself tore it apart in the previous books. A cynical Miller wrote about the fractured and broken Justice League. Here, the world is still broken and fractured; given a host of evil Supermen, Miller's talking heads show a world arguing with giving up or if the Kryptonians are even doing anything wrong in the first place. It's a world that needs heroes, even if they've all been gone for years. It feels more optimistic than Miller has been in years. Still great.

All-New, All-Different Avengers #6

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mahmud Asrar, Dave McCaig

This title has had a rough start in All-New, All-Different Marvel. Writer Mark Waid's first few issues told a story that felt decidedly classic and the art by Kubert wasn't helping dispel that idea. I like the characters and I liked certain moments, but it wasn't particularly satisfying until now.

Kang the Conquerer, or at least a broken cast-off from Kang, wants to get back to the future and his plan involves bringing multiple versions of villains from the future to help. Kang also used time-shenanigans (his superpower) to put the rebooted Vision under his control. So it's the Avengers vs Kang and Vision.

And it works! Everyone gets a solid moment to shine, especially Spider-Man (Miles Morales) who comes up with an excellent plan on the fly to get rid duplicated future villains and Thor, who gets to dual wield Mjolnir. This is the first time where you actually feel like "Oh, these folks are really the Avengers." The entire squad taking the fight to Kang actually felt like they were a solid, powerful team.

It took a while, but now ANAD Avengers can stand alongside New Avengers and Ultimates. I'm glad.

Quick Shots

Here's where I'll post a cool panel or two from comics with only a few words. This is more about letting you folks know about something cool I read, without going too far into detail.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1

Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Hendry Prasetya, Matt Herms

I'm not a huge fan of direct adaptations of film and television into comics, because I think it misses something in translation. This first issue of Power Rangers by Boom Studios is decent. Solid art and it has a story it wants to tell, about the Green Ranger's integration into the team. I honestly wish it wasn't Mighty Morphin or focused on the Green Rangers, but you gotta hit that nostalgia straight out the gate.

Old Man Logan #3

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo

The entire point of Old Man Logan is this version of Wolverine came from a dystopian future and he's trying to prevent that future before it happens. The problem? The current status quo of the Marvel Universe doesn't match up to what he remembers. The Hulk he went to kill? Not Bruce Banner anymore. Avalanche blinded Hawkeye in his time, but Avalanche is currently dead. What's a displaced angry time-traveler to do?

Superman: Coming of the Supermen #1

Written by Neal Adams, Tony Bedard
Art by Neal Adams, Alex Sinclair

Batman: Odyssey by Neal Adams is the best kind of nonsense. Superman: Coming of the Supermen looks to live up to its pedigree.

Black Widow #1

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Chris Samnee, Matthew Wilson

This is one long chase scene from beginning to end. I'm surprised Waid and Samnee pulled it off. Bravo.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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