Comics Shotglass Reviews for 8/19/15

Comics Shotglass Reviews for 8/19/15

This week's comics have questions about trust and identity. Also, romance!

This week, we're diving into Secret Wars, Secret Love #1, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4, Martian Manhunter #3, Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #2, and Superman/Wonder Woman #20. Like always, this series highlights just a few of the comic books on sale each week, without delving into heavy spoilers. If you're interested in any book, click on the title and it'll take you to that book's Comixology page. We're going to kick things off this week with Secret Wars, Secret Love, Marvel's jokey look back at old romance comics.

I have actually had that argument.

Secret War, Secret Love #1

Written by Michel Fiffe, Felipe Smith, Jeremy Whitley, Marguerite Bennett
Art by Michael Fiffe, Felipe Smith, Val Staples, Guruhiru, Kris Anka

Not many realize that Marvel did romance comics in its early days. Well to be perfectly clear, Marvel predecessor Timely Comics did romance. It published My Romance in 1948 in response to the success of Crestwood Publications' Young Romance, a book conceived and created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Yeah, the folks behind Captain America. Which is to say, comics back in the day weren't dominated by a single genre. In fact, romance comics led the industry for a while until the Comics Code was introduced in 1954. That combined with the women's liberation movement put the kibosh on the whole thing; the audience aged out of the high school romance stuff and the Comics Code prevented creators from telling more adult stories.

Every now and then Marvel remembers this part of its history and develops a comic like Secret Wars, Secret Love. It's a fun little book that explores a side of Marvel that the company should delve into a lot more.

The stories themselves run the gamut from good to great. The opening tale by Michel Fiffe is a semi-serious story about Daredevil, with Karen Page playing the spouse checking up on their significant other as they go about their daily business. Solid work, but I can't say it really stuck with me. The story by All-New Ghost Rider artist Felipe Smith is fun jaunt into the Ghost Racers region, with Robbie Reyes and Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan meeting for the first time. The Squirrel Girl/Thor date story by Marguerite Bennett and Kris Anka is equally fun and the Ant-Man/Wasp comic by Katie Cook is simply adorable.

That said, there is one story in the comic that truly delivers on the promise of those old Marvel romance books. The Iron Fist/Misty Knight story by Jeremy Whitley and Guruhiru feels like it's about a real relationship. It's about everyone who lives with someone they love very much. Sometimes you forget why you're together, sometimes you fight too much, and sometimes you can't stand the sight of each other. Occasionally, you need something to remind you why you love each other. You have to step back and remember the good, instead of focusing on the places where something isn't working quite right. Whitley's story delivers some real emotions and Guruhiru's art is great.

Everyone put in a great effort, but the Iron Fist/Misty Knight story is the one that made me say "Marvel should do this full-time." Awesome work.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Adam Kubert

We're inching towards daylight here. I've made my dissatisfaction with this version of Spider-Man plainly clear. In order for Peter Parker to attend to his responsibilities as a father, he had to shirk his responsibilities as Spider-Man. Parker has made logical, understandable choices as a father over the course of this series, I just don't find them to be choices I want Spider-Man to make.

The official synopsis for this issue is "Spider-Man takes the fight to the Regent, his region's local bad guy," but that's not really the case. The Regent sweeps in and handily shuts down Parker and his help. The rest of the issue is seeing what happened to the remnants of New York's heroes and explaining the Regent's motivation for all the killing. Honestly, it makes sense from a twisted perspective and we've seen that motivation present in other books.

The highlight here is Annie, Peter's young daughter, who is 100 percent the hero that her father has forgotten how to be. She continues to be the redeeming factor in Renew Your Vows.

Martian Manhunter #3

Written by Rob Williams
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Gabe Eltaeb

Ah, the point of this opening arc becomes clearer. In the last issue, worried he was being used as a weapon by his fellow Martians against Earth, J'onn J'onzz vaporized himself out of existence. Or did he?

The truth is a bit different. In the old Justice League cartoon, J'onn had a number of different identities on Earth. A number of different lives he jumped between at random. Here, in the New 52, that idea is expanded: J'onn split himself into wholly different people. Daryl Wessel is one aspect of J'onn, an FBI agent who has no clue he's a part of something bigger. The odd Mr. Biscuits is another, more whimsical part of the Manhunter.

The point is reinvention. J'onn J'onzz has died, but these aspects remain. I assume they'll come together and the Martian Manhunter that's standing afterwards will be a completely different character. I'm looking forward to the shape of things to come.

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #2

Written by Al Ewing
Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Wil Quintana

These Secret Wars miniseries have variable lengths. Renew Your Vows looks like it'll end at issue #5, but this miniseries ends here. Shame.

It's worth explaining Faiza Hussain, our new Captain Britain, in some detail. She's a character who tends to avoid the trappings of superherodom. A triage doctor who gained the power of extensive healing: she can take a part any object or person, remove or repair any issues, and then put them back together whole and new. She was deemed worthy to wield the mythical sword Excalibur, (which was her code-name in the normal Marvel Universe itself) but she doesn't really fight unless she has to. She's a good person who uses her abilities to do good things.

Oddly, this issue hints that this may be Faiza from the Marvel Universe. She was the next in line to be Captain Britain, the guardian of all realities. When reality itself is fracturing, perhaps she found a way through?

All told, these two issues are really about setting ideology aside for a bit and learning to work with your fellow man. The two regions fighting here seem to be two sides of British comics: the dystopia of 2000 AD and the lighter, happier style. Same coin, different side. Especially on the internet, we sometimes get wrapped up in sides and it's good to be reminded that we're all people. And who better to remind us than the heroine who does her best to retain her humanity in the face of greater things?

Al Ewing continues to be a revelation. He's moving onto The Ultimates, but I'm hoping he still finds time to revisit Faiza in the future.

Superman/Wonder Woman #20

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoz, Sean Parson, Wil Quintana

You know what I always hate in movies and television shows? When someone finds out their loved one is a spy, superhero, or whatever and they ask, "Was everything a lie?" I'll never understand that. If a girlfriend said to me, "I'm a secret agent," I'd certainly have questions, but the fact that the revelation was happening at all is a rather big step. It's a matter of trust. As long as the revelation isn't, "I've killed 20 people since we've been dating," I can roll with it.

Clark Kent has been revealed as Superman, a move that have broken the trust that people had on both sides of the equation. In response to this new information, the US government has kidnapped the close friends and family of Clark Kent, dug up his parents, and dismantled his childhood home to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Can they trust Superman anymore? I mean, we know the answer: it's Superman, of course you can. But this Superman hasn't had decades to win that trust. It's easier to take him back to square one.

This is Superman/Wonder Woman of course, so while Clark Kent is having a chat with the President and Argus, Wonder Woman is handling things her way, by freeing Clark's friends. Probably not the best idea, but it's certainly more direct than Clark's way. Diana's side of things also allows us to get at the truth of what Clark Kent's closest friends think about the fact that he's been hiding his powers. Next issue looks to be the kicker though, as we get to Diana and Lois having a frank talk about the situation Superman currently finds himself in.

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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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