Bottom of the Pile - April 9th, 2014
This is extremely late, but will be followed very soon by this week's.
Author's Note: Bottom of the Pile is a weekly column (or at least, my attempt at said) in which I cover the comics that found their way to the bottom of my pile, thus being the best as I've always been a proponent of "saving the best for last". Since bog standard reviews can be found literally anywhere, coverage can range from mini-reviews to funny comments to commentary on a creator's run or comics as a whole, depending on a wide range of factors including the comic itself, the amount of time I have, and my general mood.
You know, I should've made the connection between Spider-Woman and BW being a "name upgrade" a long time ago. Anyway, Dagger's response to the sudden change in Jessica's superhero nom-de-plume sums up how I feel about this story as a whole. I guess I saw the cover and was kind of hyped coming out of Young Avengers and expected that: a cool, "hip" story about a bunch of teenagers forming a super-team and figuring themselves out while they fought crime. You figure, once someone gives you the blueprint, that's what you use going forward, right?
And yet, All-New Ultimates is kind of confusing as hell. The art's beautiful one moment and a scattered mess the next, and that's about how I feel about the writing--there's no concrete direction here to set up where these guys are going. Hopefully they get on track with the next issue.
And here we have the ever-so-gradual transformation of Quicksilver into a Decent Human Being. Granted,he's still a spy, but it's for a good cause: Polaris is clearly nuts. It makes sense though: Peter David was originally the guy who humanized Quicksilver in the first place with the infamous "ATM" explanation. I guess this is just the next step.
I...wouldn't worry about being condemned by the Watcher, Hank. This is a guy who's observed billions upon billions of people dying, and hasn't made even the slightest attempt to help or save them. Does this just exist to make people hate The Watcher before he gets murked?
The worst part about being a superhero? Very, very few days off. Actually I'm thinking that's the only upside to dying--you'll eventually come back, so it's like a vacation.
Also, sidenote: The fact that this story just casually decided the most important magical being in Astro City's world is an asian woman, and her assistant (arguably just as if not more important) is a black woman. Kurt's been doing this for years. Countless article after article about why DC or Marvel need to have more diversity, and while DC and Marvel offer excuse after excuse, Astro City's like, "What's that bro? Can't hear you over the sound of actually getting shit done.". Amazing.
First an Avengers World, now it's an Empire. Next up is the Avengers Universe? Also, daaaang Vision. You really let yourself go. Kidding. I'm enjoying the fact that he's not being treated as something can be killed repeatedly because "he's a robot, he can't really die".
The part about Batman making quips is weird, but the bit where he starts threatening torture is even stranger. Also, "Penny-One" is a terrible code name. Its like a loose thread that if you tugged on all the secrets would come pouring out. Just...weird.
Still and all, Batman Eternal #1 is a very good Batman comic. It's weekly nature gives the writers room to focus on more than just Batman, instead giving the spotlight to Gotham as a whole and allowing development for the wide cast of characters the city contains.
And all this time I had been wondering where the War Machine armor had gone. Guess Tony repossessed it once the government employed Rhodey. Now, this issue is another great "fish out of water" story, continuing Tony Stark's battle against Malekith the Accursed in order to recover the rings of the Mandarin. The fight goes pretty poorly in this issue, and Tony sort of loses his temper and ends it all by bringing in the "big guns".
...But knowing Iron Man history, whenever Tony tries to brute force his way to a solution, he gets smacked down pretty easily. So despite this being a killer ending for this issue, don't expect him to be too impressive in the next.
"Hey, remember that time I was inside you and we saved the world?" I have to think that's one of the oddest experiences you could have as a superhero.
Also, earlier in this issue of Mighty Avengers we get to see a timeline of Adam Brashear (aka, the Blue Marvel)'s lifetime, with his adventures with his son from 1970's to the present. The last event with a year is 1999 on the turn of the millenium. The one following that is listed as "An Unspecified Amount of Time Later, at the beginning of the Age of Marvels". It makes a reference to Galactus' first attempt to eat the Earth. This concretely places Marvel's sliding timescale well into the 2000s, meaning the entire history from the early 60's to the present, from the first Avengers formation to Civil War, No More Mutants and the Heroic Age--all occurred in no more than 14 years.
(More accurately, probably around ten. Iron Man's long had his origin updated to occur in Afghanistan, so the entire timeline probably occurs in a post-9/11 universe. ....Which actually makes a LOT more sense than "the heroes were busy that day".)
Another thing I like about Marvel's sliding timescale is that it's fairly consistent. When you think about it, the whole concept of the X-Men has been around in-universe maaaaybe since '02 or '03, which means in the grand scheme of things, the mutants were probably only gone for two years, tops.
Anyway, Nightcrawler is essentially an 80's comic book, with art, story structure and dialogue updated just slightly for the present day. Most comic fans know what they're getting when they read a book by Chris Claremont, and this is no exception. He plays to his strengths and doesn't try anything terribly different that would water down what people would like about him. It's a "simple" comic book in that there are definite good guys and definite bad guys and not really that much grey (yet), but I really enjoyed it.
If you remember nothing else from my column, remember this. There are two versions of the DC and Marvel Comics Universes: the street-level hero version, and the cosmic/"super" hero version. This is how you explain how Batman can be useful to the Justice League in one book, and yet struggle fighting Two-Face in another. It is also how you explain why Spider-Woman is panicking over going out into space, when she was just in another galaxy five months ago. Which, when you factor in the time compression of comic book events, translates to probably a few weeks. The street level/cosmic level discrepancy has never made a ton of sense, but it's the only way to explain scenes like this.