Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Marvel Catch-Up #2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Okay. I'm kind of glad I got to start this series of articles with a comic that I'm really enjoying, because this one was awfully disappointing.

He takes up half the cover and he's not even really Iron Man.

So I'm gonna just put this out there: I am one of the only people in my circle of friends who actually loves the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. I think it's outstanding. I feel like the first half of the first season was pretty dull and everyone gave up on it, and then the show got fantastic for the next several years. I could seriously watch Quake (Chloe Bennet) do super-powered kung fu all damned day. Kyle MacLachlan as Mr. Hyde is one of the best things to happen in a superhero show EVER. Absorbing Man is just non-stop badass whenever he shows up. Fitz/Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, respectively) are my favorite couple on any current TV show, and they actually introduced the characters with the slash already in their name, which was BRILLIANT.

I know that loving the show puts me in the minority. I do know that. However, it made me the exact target market for Mark Waid's original S.H.I.E.L.D. comic series based on it. It ran for twelve issues and was so much fun. I pretty much always love Mark Waid's comics, but that series soared way above my already-high expectations. It took these new characters all over the Multiverse, it had approximately ninety-bajillion guest appearances by heroes and villains from the most mainstream to the most obscure, and it firmly cemented a Ming-Na Wen character into the Core Marvel Universe. I loved it, loved it, loved it.

And then it got replaced with THIS book.

Now, don't mistake this for me just being salty. Mark Waid moved on to writing other books and that's fine. I'll review them later, and I'm sure I'll enjoy them. I don't dislike this new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series because of some fear of change. I dislike it because... it's really sucky.

The story so far has been amazingly dull. It is just a rehash of JLA: Tower of Babel (which, incidentally, was written by Mark Waid). Agent Coulson/Batman had ideas for how to neutralize every member of the Avengers/Justice League, which are subsequently stolen and put to use by HYDRA/Ra's al Ghul. It's been done and redone in comics over the past 16 years and - despite the fact that the original comic was great - I am so over it.

Marc Guggenheim is really phoning in the writing on this comic. I'm not positive, but I think this is his first ongoing series? At any rate, I generally think of him as a TV writer, and it really shows through here. Whereas Mark Waid began his first S.H.I.E.L.D. issue in Asgard and expanded from there, Guggenheim treats his comic as though it is on a tight budget and can't afford any large set-pieces or celebrity guests. It felt like it was almost entirely people in suits talking to eachother in offices. The occasional scenes of Mockingbird or Deathlok doing superhero stuff feel like an afterthought. In the absence of actors and directors, the characters all talk exactly the same. And it is often hella sexist. It feels like all the tropey garbage that people hate about TV shows, crammed into one comic series.

The comic also - bizarrely - lacks any sort of narration, internal monologues, or even thought-balloons. It is literally all dialogue, which also lends to the feeling of watching a crappy TV show.

Germán Peralta's art on the book is like... satisfactory? It's not great, not awful. However, judging by some of the pieces on his Facebook page, it seems like he's capable of a lot more.

Honestly, the only truly nice thing I can say about this comic is that Rachelle Rosenberg does a really good job on the coloring. It makes a lot of the images pop off the page, despite the fact that they're typically just images of people standing around talking. I hope she moves on to a better comic.

So yeah. If you really want to read a comic about Agent Coulson and pals having wild adventures across the Marvel Universe, go back and read Mark Waid's. If you want to read boring bullshit scenes of Agent Fitz inexplicably sexually harassing Agent May in the workplace, you're probably not reading my blog anyway, so fuck you.

Marvel Catch-Up #0: The Introduction

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Marvel Catch-Up #1: A-Force

So I decided to do this series alphabetically to avoid headaches. However, this means that I'm throwing part of the concept of the series out the window in my very first entry, because the truth is that I have been keeping up with A-Force all along. I love the characters, I love the creative team, and I think the book is delightful. So this won't be so much a "read along with Adhesiveslipper" thing as I'd like it to be; It's mostly going to be me evangelizing about how much I love this comic and you should too.

ANYWAY, now that I've wrecked my whole format, let's talk about A-Force.

A-Force, Volume 1

Things are going to get a bit weird for a minute, as A-Force is one of the few All-New, All-Different books to spin directly out of the barrage of miniseries launched in support of Secret Wars. It was first announced back before we had any details about what Jonathan Hickman had in store for us with the Secret Wars series, and all we got at first was the cover of the first issue and the fact that it was being cowritten by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett. And let me tell you, I found both the writing team and the cover art VERY ENTICING.


That cover basically showed a bajillion badass ladies that we all know and love, many of them sporting incongruously outdated costumes, along with one Super Secret Mystery Character(!). When the early previews first hit, I mistook the Mystery Character for Tamara Devoux - a.k.a. Captain Universe - who looks VERY similar, but thankfully a group of nerds on a Heroclix messageboard corrected me on my grievous error and called me a few mean names for good measure! Thanks, Internet!

Suffice it to say, I was very excited about this whole concept. Wilson has won my admiration many times over with her comics work. An all-woman Avengers team appeals on the same level as the all-woman X-Men team Wilson briefly wrote about a few years back (though be warned that the first 17 issues of that series were instead written by noted sexually-harassing grossbag Brian Wood so I can't in good conscience recommend them).

What was this rad-looking, lady-filled comic even about, though!?

Well... That gets a little tricky. I promised myself I wouldn't get too bogged-down in Secret Wars stuff in these articles. So let's just say that the series was mostly about the complex politics of Doctor Doom's "Battleworld" and we can mostly leave it there. I don't mean to write the miniseries off like that, it was actually really fun. The story was full of great character moments, big action, and terrific dialogue. The first issue opened with the kind of GOSHDAMNED GIANT MONSTER FIGHT that is exactly what I want from my comic books, to be honest. It even had a Captain Marvel moment that will live in my heart forever...


...but at the end of the day it was mostly about how the residents of one Barony of Battleworld must never breach the boundaries of another Barony, lest they be cast beyond the Shield Wall by the Thor Corps of God Emperor Doom, blah blah et cetera et cetera. Personally I dug all that mega-detailed world-building, but it's not for everybody... so I'mma just skip over it.

For our purposes here, the important bits of the original A-Force miniseries were:

  1. There was a superteam of badass ladies led by She-Hulk
  2. The above-mentioned Mystery Character fell from the sky at one point.
"I'm... Batman."

The mysterious sparkly blue girl of mystery was eventually revealed to be a small universe, collapsed in upon itself during the destruction of the Marvel Multiverse and somehow given intelligence and sentience, though she remained childlike in manner. Okay, player. She was given the name "Singularity", and she became BFFs with Nico Minoru, and she helped A-Force along their convoluted adventure across Battleworld, and eventually she nobly sacrificed her own life to save her newfound friends. The end.

Now we can safely fast-forward to the comic I'm ACTUALLY here to talk about, lolz.

A-Force, Volume 2

So eventually Mr. Fantastic prevailed over Doctor Doom, the Secret Wars series ended, and we returned to good old Earth-616. An in-continuity A-Force series was launched, co-written by G. Willow Wilson and author/blogger/podcaster Kelly Thompson, who is rad but whom Wikipedia is apparently not yet hip to.

Full disclosure: I love this cover so much that it's currently the background image on my laptop.

The story opens with Singularity sort of just... poofing into existence somewhere in Earth's upper atmosphere, alongside the Alpha Flight space station that Captain Marvel is currently in charge of.

I felt this should have had a sound-effect, regardless of the physics of space. Maybe a POINK?

I should note that I have literally no idea why there is a space station called "Alpha Flight", nor why Captain Marvel is in charge of it. This whole project is about me getting caught up with current comics, and apparently this is one of the things I missed.

Interestingly, the narration in this first storyarc is delivered by Singularity herself, who remains confused and childlike, despite her cosmic powers. I feel like that was a really solid move from a narrative perspective: I love the idea of having a point-of-view character standing out from an ensemble cast. It sort of hearkens back to Kitty Pryde's role in the early-80s X-Men, and gives us as the readers a way to observe all the superheroics from a slightly different angle than we're used to. We aren't put straight into the shoes of the unstoppable badass: We're instead identifying with the confused kid, watching things unfold with a mixture of awe and terror. It really pulls some of the MACHO out of a superhero comic, and I think that's so useful in so many ways. I am also growing really fond of Singularity as a character, and specifically as a Cosmic Marvel character. Her power-levels remain undefined (which I'm fine with; let's learn along with her), but as near as I can tell, she is a human-sized, teen-girl version of Eternity - one of Steve Ditko's coolest creations - which could place her VERY high on the power scale.

So... Upon her sudden arrival in the Core Marvel Universe, it's made clear that Singularity actually remembers the events of the first A-Force miniseries, which sets her apart from most current characters, as far as I know. She immediately uses her... cosmic senses, I guess? to seek out a familiar face, and pays the nearby Captain Marvel a visit.

"HUH?!" I enjoy a good interrobang.

Singularity is surprised to find that Captain Marvel does not recognize her, and begins to piece together that she's arrived on a different Earth after her "death" on Battleworld. As introductions are being made, another cosmic entity poofs into existence outside of the space station. This one is a large red dude made of antimatter, so it's pretty clear from the jump that he's evil. He immediately starts attacking the station, and his ranting makes it clear that he's after Singularity. Captain Marvel jumps out into space and engages in some serious face-punching, but Antimatter seems unaffected. It soon starts to seem like Singularity is the only one who can cause him pain, though it somehow also seems to involve draining her energy/life-essence/whatever. It's vague, but I appreciate that vagueness. Comics that over-explain everything lose something for me: It pulls me out of the story and plunks me down in a classroom.

Singularity, afraid, hijacks an escape-pod and launches herself towards the Earth. She again reaches out for signs of her former friends, and finds She-Hulk at her law office in New York City. She crash-lands her escape-pod and is first spotted by a couple of goofy hipsters that look QUITE A LOT like Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick...

This is not a particularly serious comic.

Singularity quickly finds out that Antimatter abandoned his fight with Captain Marvel to chase after her. He continues his self-aggrandizing ranting, which is right and proper for a supervillain.

She flees to She-Hulk, who - despite the fact that she does not know Singularity and has very little idea what is happening - recognizes the threat and jumps into the fight without much questioning, because she's a goddamned superhero.

Medusa shows up shortly after with an army of Inhumans in tow, and joins the battle as well.

During a brief pause in the fighting, Singularity teleports herself, Medusa, and She-Hulk to Japan, where they crash the wedding of Nico Minoru's cousin. Antimatter quickly catches up with them, and Nico - obviously - joins the fight too.

There is a really sweet exchange at this point where Singularity expresses surprise that these women are willing to help her despite not sharing her feelings of familiarity, or even being from the same UNIVERSE as her, and She-Hulk states her feelings quite simply: Helping people is what we do.

I literally got misty at this panel. Shut up.

As a brief aside, this book has introduced the idea that Nico has been studying languages beyond English and Japanese to circumvent her can-only-cast-a-specific-spell-once-ever restriction. She casts a healing spell on herself in Estonian, explaining that she requires healing spells fairly frequently. This was a very brief moment, only a couple panels on the page, but I felt like it was a very clever idea and a potentially-huge change to the character.

The heroes receive a call from Captain Marvel, who conveniently suspects that a blast of "light energy" could hurt Antimatter. I say "conveniently" because it serves mostly as an excuse for them to once again teleport away and recruit the last member of their team: Dazzler.

Dazzler has in the last couple years been turned into a brooding punk-rocker after some traumatic events in Uncanny X-Men, and we find her at a roller-derby match, competing as "Ali-STUN Blaire". I thought that was cute.

Dazzler joins up with her fellow superheroes, Antimatter appears again, their attack fails again, and they retreat back to Captain Marvel's space station.

Captain Marvel and her team of scientists(?) announces that they have found a way to defeat Antimatter, but it will also mean the destruction of Singularity. The members of the newly-formed supergroup all agree that that is not acceptable. They eventually build a super-scientific MacGuffin that will protect Singularity while blowin' up Antimatter, proceed to blow his ass up, and then they all go out for burgers.

In the final scenes, Dazzler opens up about her trauma to her teammates (I'm not going to dive too deeply into it because it's complicated X-Men stuff, but basically Mystique took her hostage for several months and drained her blood to synthesize special mutant-drugs), and then asks Nico to magic her up a new superhero costume. Which leads to one of Sister Grimm's most adorable spells ever:


Singularity then senses that Antimatter was NOT destroyed, and that sentient pieces of him have been scattered across the globe. The End? Nah, obviously not.

I really ought to mention that I'm well aware how quickly I've blown through the entire first storyarc, four issues long. I don't want you to feel like I am minimizing this comic, because I absolutely am not. I'm keeping things super-brief here for two big reasons. Reason One: I really think everyone should read this book, so I want to provide the barest possible summary of events. I don't want to spoil all of the clever plotting, quite-funny jokes, and brilliant dialogue. Reason Two: The story is simple, but without being simplistic. Despite the complexity of the story and the world it is taking place in, it all boils down to a team of superheroes being formed to fight a random-but-powerful baddie, which is a formula that Marvel has been using literally since the formation of the Avengers in the 1960s.

At issue #5, G. Willow Wilson has left the book, with Kelly Thompson becoming the sole author. Her writing has moved towards a third-person-omniscient narrative, as opposed to being filtered through the eyes of Singularity. The art also has taken a distinctly more cartoonish turn at the hands of Ben Caldwell.

I love Dazzler's straight-up "PEW PEW PEW" pose here.

At the beginning of the issue, Singularity has teleported the team to the location of some sort of rip in space/time. They are immediately greeted by the sight of THOR BATTLING A BIGASS DRAGON OVER OREGON.

There is also a very fun introductory panel for the characters:

They immediately join in the battle, because as She-Hulk says: "I wanna fight it. Hell, one that size has been on my bucket list for a while..."

I love the look of elation on She-Hulk's face as she is being chucked at a dragon's head.

After a sound thrashing, the dragon retreats, and they notice that the Thor they've teamed up with is not the Thor they were expecting...

...but is instead a HOLY CRAP DAZZLER THOR, a remnant of Battleworld's Thor Corps, who reveals that the dragon was actually an evil sorceress named The Countess... who seems to also be from Battleworld, but I'm not 100% on that because she was not in any of the miniseries that I read. If anybody feels like filling me in on that, it'd be rad.

The Countess

Dazzler obviously has some feelings about meeting a Thor version of herself. They all go out to get beer and pie together.

The Countess soon gains control of Nico's mind, and Nico uses her not-insignificant magical powers to put the rest of A-Force in peril. And that is where the latest issue's cliffhanger leaves us.

To put it bluntly, I am loving the hell out of this comic. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and I am really looking forward to future issues. I am a bit concerned that things will take a dark turn, as Brian Michael Bendis has recently killed off She-Hulk in the Civil War II series, but I have faith that Kelly Thompson can push past that Grimdark Garbage Crossover Shit and continue telling a fun, positive story about women and girls who kick ass.

Marvel Catch-Up #0: The Introduction

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Marvel Catch-Up #0.5: OMG SJWs!!!

So this came up in my Facebook "On This Day" thinger and I thought it was worth sharing here:

I had actually forgotten that the teaser images for All-New, All-Different Marvel caused a minor ruckus amongst the Angry Twitter Whiteboy crowd, who are ever-eager to label anything and everything an example of political correctness run amok. I'm glad I got the reminder, because that will provide a useful lens to view these comics through. Was it even an actual attempt to be more diverse at all? If it was, did it succeed in any meaningful way?

I had also forgotten about the fear at the time that Marvel/Disney was going to use the minor rebranding to further distance itself from properties whose film-rights belong to Fox, namely the X-Men. It was a fear I shared, to an extent (X-Tent?). It didn't turn out to be the case at all, really, but it's another useful reminder of the feelings people had about the fate of the Post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe at the time.

Oh and for the record: According to dudes on Twitter I am already officially a SJW, a Beta Male, a White Knight, a Try-Hard, and a badge-carrying officer of the PC Police. Just so we all know where we stand on this whole "diversity" thing!


(Image Text, via Me-From-One-Year-Ago:

So wait, THESE are the teasers that have all the dorks freaking out about how the PC Police are diversifying their comics to death? Three black guys, a brown girl, and a VERY questionable Native American cliché (I mean I kind of like Red Wolf but the writers will have to be VERY careful)? Everybody screaming that they're "turning Wolverine into a woman" despite the fact that's clearly X-23 and she's clearly STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO not only Wolverine, but the Wolverine from noted sexist grossbag Mark Millar's relentlessly-bleak "Old Man Logan" story that these same dorks all looooved?
Honestly, I am reassured by these images. They still have mutants, they still have a Fantastic Four character (even if it looks like The Thing's joining the Guardians of the Galaxy?), and Karnak - one of my favorite characters - is apparently alive again.
Really guys, my literal biggest concern here is that Spider-Gwen gets a better name than "Spider-Gwen".

Friday, June 3, 2016

Marvel Catch-Up #0: The Introduction

Hi! So... I went away for another couple of years. I am not great at being consistent!

HOWEVER, I have a thing I want to write about! It's going to be a SERIES, even!

See, I usually pride myself as somebody who is mega up-to-date on superhero comics. But I have fallen almost a year behind on the stuff that Marvel is releasing! Suddenly Cap is in HYDRA, Civil War II is getting fired up, and my friends have questions for me that I can't answer! I KNOW, HOW EMBARRASSING!

The truth is, I got a little burnt out by Secret Wars. This is not to say I didn't enjoy Secret Wars, because I actually thought it was amazing. It capped off Jonathan Hickman's genuinely-epic multiverse-spanning storyline - that started wayyy back with his first issue of Fantastic Four in 2009 and then ran through FF, Avengers, and New Avengers over the next 6 years - in the perfect way. But it was also HUGE. There were eighty-bajillion tie-in miniseries that I still haven't finished making my way through. There were delays and shipping conflicts that led to new books being launched while, as far as anyone reading Secret Wars knew, there wasn't even a Marvel Universe for them to take place in. It all turned into a big, confusing, stressful mess for me, so when Marvel officially rolled out their All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch...

...I got left behind. I ended up rereading John Ostrander's entire Suicide Squad run when I could have been catching up with Marvel (though that was worth it because god I love that comic). Image caught my attention with some new books. I started hanging out with DC a little bit. There were a few Marvel books that I kept up with - Howard the Duck, for example - but I've stayed away for the most part, and WITH NO GOOD REASON! A lot of the books Marvel was doing seemed REALLY FUN!

So here is my big idea: I want to get caught up on this stuff, and I want to bring y'all along for the ride. I know that many of my friends really like to follow along with their favorite characters, but don't necessarily have the time or inclination to read all the comics that come out. Well, I have time to read comics. I have time to write about comics. I even have a blog about comics, that mostly just sits around taking up space in the tubes of the internet. So I will read the comics, and write to you about those comics, on my blog about comics! I will call it...


I was gonna make a logo to put there, based off the old Marvel Team-Up comics, but then I remembered that Marvel Team-Up had literally the most boring logo of all time.

Like, seriously? Nobody could do better than block letters? This comic ran for YEARS. Ugh. It's how I used to write band-names on my notebook when I was twelve.

Now I just have to decide if I want to read these comics in alphabetical order, or in what-do-I-feel-like-reading-next order. Or maybe I could take requests? I dunno.

Anyway, that is my idea.

But Adhesiveslipper, won't I have to read Secret Wars first? This was supposed to be a reboot of the entire Marvel Universe, wasn't it?

Nahhh. Marvel is too smart to reboot their whole universe. Mostly Secret Wars was just an excuse for Dr. Doom to be God for a while, and for writers and artists to do some fanciful miniseries set in the weird context of Dr. Doom's Battleworld. The only significant change is really that the "Ultimate" line of Marvel comics got cancelled, and a few important characters from there made the jump over to the main "Earth-616" Marvel Universe. So besides the fact that there are now two Spider-Men running around (Miles Morales and Peter Parker, if you're WAY behind), things are pretty much the same as they were before. If there's anything important from Secret Wars in a specific comic that bears mentioning, I'll fill you in. I'VE GOT YOUR BACKS, FRIENDS.