Bottom of the Pile: March 18, 2015
Its a new era in superhero comics. I think that much is undeniable, at this point. And I guess it'd be disingenuous of me if I ran a comics blog and didn't at least try to talk about it. So, let's give that a shot!
It seems like Batgirl just can't stay out of the headlines. Right now it's the cover thing, but it seems like only yesterday we were dealing with the outrage of Barbara Gordon walking again. The latest issue of Batgirl deals with a little of that, as Barbara confronts the first major villain of her arc--an algorithm she wrote based off her own brainwaves that gained sentience, and is in fact convinced she's her....only, a version of her that never escaped the chair.
This entire run so far has been about Batgirl either leaving behind or overcoming the things that have defined her over the past twenty years or so. First, the book made a conscious effort to shift in tone from the grittier Gail Simone run to the brighter, more hopeful comic its become today. And now, it seems like she's rejecting the darkness that came over her life after the Joker left her wheelchair-bound, while also accepting the responsibility of being a superhero and no longer using her new outfit and lifestyle to run away.
Of course, this is technically ground that Chuck Dixon (and certainly Gail Simone) covered when she was Oracle during Birds of Prey, but it's good that the team has covered this ground narratively for the new generation, and presumably going forward they'll be able to define who she is as a superhero now, rather than be mired by what went on in a universe that isn't even canon anymore.
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers
Speaking of changes, no matter how different the new DC is, I don't think I'll ever be able to accept friggin' Cluemaster as a legitimate villain. Just seems like someone that actually matters in the Bat-world would've shot him in the face by now. "You've got a plan?! *backhands him* Shut the fuck up. You're Cluemaster. You don't get to have plans. You get to get caught by Batman for leaving too many stupid hints to your crimes."
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers
As Mighty Avengers fans will find out next issue, Monica's talking about the events of the popular Warren Ellis series, Nextwave. When it came out almost a decade ago, Ellis and Quesada both said the satirical series (of which Monica was a main character in) was separate from main Marvel continuity. Ellis claimed it was separate largely because he didn't want to drag proper mainstream Marvel into it because of "fear of what he might do to it".
Between the extreme levels of violence and all the people acting out of character, I pretty much agreed with that. But, it appears to be canon now. Is it because Secret Wars has basically made everything canon? Or is it perhaps because Marvel is now aiming at an audience that would find a book like Nextwave appealing? Could be both, or neither and the writer just decided to tell a Monica-focused story and this was the first thing he could think of.
Either way, I know I hope Monica gets to return to her typical main Marvel U characterization by the end of this.
Green Lantern: New Guardians
Speaking of changes, Green Lantern: New Guardians finishes its run by having Kyle create a White Lantern Corps, something that honestly I'm surprised took this long to happen. And it also sees Kyle propose to Carol Ferris, someone who before now was mostly known as "Star Sapphire" and "Hal Jordan's girlfriend". It kind of brings me back to my key problem with the New 52: It just seems like the primary change we've gotten from this that we couldn't have gotten from original DC is who's boinking who. Superman's with Wonder Woman now. Flash is with co-worker Patty Spivot instead of Iris. Kate is with...someone not Renee. (I can't read everything.) And Kyle's with Carol because Jade no longer exists and DC for some reason kept all their worst decisions in the reboot and left Alex in the fridge. It's the most superficial of changes, and I doubt they'll ever sit well with me.
Loki: Agent of Asgard
Meanwhile, over in Loki, it seems the argument is that change isn't and can never be permanent, and things will always revert to the status quo. The entire book has been about telling new stories in order to make everyone forget the old, but this issue seems to assert the opposite argument--no matter how many new stories you tell, there will always be some people who remember the older ones, and judge a person's character by those instead. It's a dark story from the main villain of Agent of Asgard--the older Loki (the god of evil) himself.
Honestly, despite how I bitched about this series back when it launched last year, Agent of Asgard has been one of the most consistently entertaining books on the stands, and this is actually a pretty great story to tackle for the character "Loki" as he is now.
New 52: Futures End
In more superficial changes (sort of), more people should really listen to Rich Johnston. Y'know, as much as I've been critical of DC's choices over the past couple years, I have to wonder who really thought this was a good idea. Terry McGinnis is for some people the only person who can take over for Bruce after he stops being Batman, and presumably we'll be launching a book in June where someone's wearing the Beyond costume that isn't Terry? I don't get it.
I mean, I've been a Tim Drake fan since I read his original comic back in 2005 so I'm obviously in until I get a real Robin/Red Robin comic book, but I still feel like this is all a bit musical chairs.
More changes, but not the more obvious kind. Silk could've been a much worse comic than it's turning out to be. She could've just continued to fawn over Peter in Amazing, but instead she's really been given her own book and her own identity. Books starring female superheroes aren't new, but rarely do they have as much personality as Silk. Stacy Lee's art is gorgeous and uniquely expressive in a way that probably wouldn't have flown back in the mid-2000's, while Robbie Thompson seems to be giving us basically Peter Parker without all the baggage that comes with being a character that has over forty years of stories written about him. It's good stuff.
I feel weird 'cause Bleeding Cool already talked about this. Still, I feel like there's still something I can offer here. Maxima was initially a much older character who's primary character trait could probably be simply phrased as "obsessed with Superman". When writers Mike Johnson and K. Perkins brought her back in this Crucible arc on Supergirl, but chibi-fied (and apparently a bit of a tsundere), I was immediately a fan. Detached from the Man of Steel, they did a great job developing her, and even though this reveal feels a bit rushed, I know a big part of that comes from everyone being forced to end their current storylines in time for the big DC move to LA and Convergence.
But on the whole? I like this reveal. (Though I think it was a bit weird to have the book switch from this confession to Kara asking out her male friend back on Earth--that's most likely a part of that rushed thing I mentioned before.) I had a kneejerk reaction initially to changing this for the sake of, but I had to come to my senses and remember that in no way was I any kind of Maxima fan before, and that this run has done more to make me want to be than anything else. And I love the Crucible Academy, which has the potential of expanding the space part of the DC Universe in a big way should they ever bring it back.
Of course, not all comics are filled with radical change. Though I still think the "Point-Whatever" series is the most needlessly confusing addition to comics since the words "event tie in" were introduced into our collective lexicon, Amazing Spider-Man 16.1 manages to be really great without having any manner of great, sweeping changes. It's just Spider-Man teamed up with another vigilante in New York, on a case to help restore a sense of normalcy to the city after the power vacuum Kingpin's disappearance has left, courtesy of Punisher creator Gerry Conway.
Now usually when they bring back writers from older eras like this, its got some sort of weird "timeless" setting, but thankfully here Marvel's decided to allow Gerry to follow up on some Amazing plot threads that Dan's probably a little too busy to work on just yet. It's a great way of giving us a classic Spidey story while making it "matter", which I vaguely wonder if that even matters any longer, but good on them for trying?
And just like that, the More than Meets the Eye crew excuses itself from the Combiner Wars with what has to be the most logical reason ever. "Look, we're busy! Figure out this combiner junk on your own. Remember, we left because we had things to do!"
Still, Combiner Wars has a pretty decent start, looking through the eyes of former Stunticon Swindle as he kickstarts the next stage of the Cybertronian Wars, this time getting away from the tired Autobot/Decepticon dynamic to attack Cybertronians who probably have no idea who those factions even are. Giving the opening act of the story to a single character gave it a solid focus point and made what will no doubt end up being a huge scale story easier to follow. So far, we're off to a good start. Dark Cybertron had lots of great character moments, but it lost the plot a bit too frequently for my tastes, so I'm hoping Combiner Wars can avoid that and pull off a solid crossover between the main title and Windblade.
Welp, that's it for this week guys. Next up: Windblade, New Avengers, Ultra Comics, and the last issues of Flash and Aquaman before the break!
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 reading stack, thus being the "best". Since bog standard reviews can be found literally anywhere, coverage here 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.