Bottom of the Pile: Oct. 7th, 2015

Even though Secret Wars is still ongoing, Marvel October can't be stopped!   Let's see what things look like (another) eight months into the future over at the House of Ideas, along with what's going on in the world of Batman, DC's newest character with an ongoing Telos, and more!

Batman and Robin Eternal

And just like that, Cassandra Cain is re-introduced into the DC Universe.  Given how I basically thought Bluebird was a Mary Sue, it might seem weird that I'm cool with a "new" character manhandling basically "Batman Two", so let's see if I can briefly offer up a refresher course: Cassandra Cain is (or was, at least) the daughter of assassin David Cain and Lady Shiva Wu-San.   Both of these two are best known for helping train Batman in the original DCU--the former helping Bruce when he was first learning to be Batman, while the latter helped Bruce re-build Batman after Bane broke his back during the KnightFall storyline.   David Cain basically took Cassandra and trained her in every martial arts known to man, forgoing teaching her how to read, write, or even speak(!) in order to make her strongest at reading body language and her opponents in battle.  Eventually she would come to defeat even her mother, basically making her the foremost martial artist in all of DC.   So yeah, Dick Grayson's just a light workout for her.

As for how I feel about the issue overall: eh.  Admittedly, with the DC Universe's continuity still in vast disarray it's hard for me to feel very positive about most of DC's comics, but Batman and Robin Eternal rubs me wrong for a different reason.   For those who haven't bothered to pick it up, the first issue sets up this grand plot that basically makes all the Robins (and Jean-Paul Valley) somehow "connected".   It's a kind of overarching prophecy that's meant to tie the universe closer together--which is a storytelling element that I'd love if (and when) we were talking about someone with more mystical or magical-based powers like Green Lantern or Flash, but I honestly believe has no place in a world as grounded as Batman's Gotham City. 

This is just issue one of twenty-six so there's plenty of time for this prophecy to reveal itself as a joke, but somehow I don't think this is a fake-out...which is unfortunate, since so many of these characters shouldn't have anything to do with one another.  Still, it's great to have a weekly comic book centered around Gotham back.  It's a city that's chock-full of so many cool characters that never get utilized as much as they should, and this goes a long way towards ameliorating that issue.  Plus, seeing all the Robins team up likely won't ever get old.

Cyborg
Sometimes characters who've never properly interacted before suddenly do stuff together and you're legitimately shocked because either the characters play off one another great or because they have so much in common you can't believe no one thought of it sooner.   That's basically how I feel about the Metal Men in this month's issue of Cyborg.  Cyborg's a man who became part machine while the Metal Men are machines that are probably a lot closer to being human than most would care to admit.  They're a great match, and since these characters go woefully unused, I'm hoping they find a place here. 

And the issue overall continues to make Cyborg look more like a capable hero who can do things on his own (even when he has guest-stars!)--a competent hero deserving of his own team rather than a permanent team player. 

Telos

"Fresh" from DC's summer event Convergence, Telos is trying to track down his family--so he goes to the only person who might know anything: Brainiac, the guy who gave him his powers in the first place.   Unfortunately, Brainiac supposedly has "no idea" what happened to them, as he lost those memories when he started playing about with all the timelines.

Which begs a personal question: if the "Infinite Earths" is still a thing, why'd Convergence basically over-write all the cool Earths with the New 52's?   Was it just to shut the fanboys up?

Either way, if this is a way to explore more of the rarely seen Colu, I'm all for it.

Anyway, that's enough of DC...let's give the first week of #MarvelOctober a look, shall we?

Secret Wars
But before we do that, let's go back to Secret Wars--which is still going on because of...something.  Anyway, this is the first issue I've genuinely loved since the second, and it's no surprise it features the return of the Illuminati and the Avengers.  With scenes like Reed Richards meeting his villainous Ultimate Universe self, and Namor and Black Panther's odd blood feud bromance, along with Valeria's brutal honesty concerning Battleworld and her relationship with her "father", Secret Wars #6 felt more like a continuation of the "Time Runs Out" era of Hickman's Avengers comics rather than an event that's long outstayed its welcome.

With only three issues left, Doom has to deal with an enraged Reed Richards, a Black Panther who wields an Infinity Gauntlet, and all the other challenges to his kingdom.  Of course, we already know how it all ends...but we knew that anyway, it's the journey that matters.  And thanks to this issue, the remainder of this journey is looking a lot better.

All-New, All-Different Point-One
"Make them collectable."   I'm pretty sure that's what Kabam told Marvel when they asked for characters they could use in the mobile game this is based off of.   Still, considering (as far as I know) there's no actual story to get in the way, this actually has a lot of potential.  Especially when they can reach across the entire multiverse to get the characters they want.

Amazing Spider-Man

I am all kinds of onboard with this. I remember back in 2009 or so, Dan did an interview with the ever-enlightening John Siuntres' Word Balloon.  He talked about how he viewed Peter as one of the most intelligent people in the Marvel Universe...but since he never took the time to read scientific journals or sit down and actually use his brain, he lacked behind more relevant guys like Reed, Tony, Hank and Hank, or even someone like Bruce Banner.  

When he fully took over and did Big Time, back in 2010-2011, it felt like Peter was finally tapping into the true potential of a boy who created the world's strongest adhesive at the tender age of 15.  It got weird when we entered the Superior Spider-Man run, but all of that just lead to this: Ultimate Power.  Ultimate Responsibility.  Taking it in like this, it becomes obvious that Amazing Spider-Man represents what Dan Slott has been trying to work towards with Peter Parker since day one.  He's finally a man who can make his Uncle Ben proud.  

Honestly, this might be my favorite comic book of the week.  There's so much to love about it.  Peter legitimately seems to be on his shit for once.  How effortlessly Dan deals with the idea of Pete being "just another CEO".   The perfect way the issue balances international, jet-setting superhero stuff with his being a CEO, and how Peter actually makes the bodyguard premise seem to work.   It's all just too good, and I'm at the edge of my seat to see how he includes the "greater Spider-Man universe" into all this.

Avengers
Yes, it's totally corny.  But most of you claiming that also want Superman back in his undies.  And the rest of you still think superheroes should wear costumes, so all of you can shut up.   It's a simple enough idea: Miss America shuts down tears in the fabric of reality by thinking happy thoughts.  It's one of her (really cool) superpowers.   But this particular tear is enormous, so she needs an enormously happy thought--and what could be happier than impressing your partner on a first date? 

I might just be a sucker for this because as a Macross fan I love the idea of the power of music having a real, tangible power that affects people for the better, but either way I enjoyed the heck out of this.   Al Ewing is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers of this new generation, and I have to be honest in saying that I'm looking forward to his Avengers comics the most.  (Which says a lot, as I'm still foaming at the mouth from knowing that Mark Waid is writing the "main" team.)


Doctor Strange

I'd pretty much had it with Stephen Strange by the end of Hickman's Avengers: he'd become a jerkwad that was responsible for obliterating countless universes after all.  But Jason Aaron's first issue with the guy has gone a long way towards making that up.   The bit where he's "the only Doctor who still makes house calls" was both endearing and pretty cool, as he helped despell a little boy who's mind had become infested with magical beings from another dimension.   And then there are scenes like this, which shows the good Doctor approaching the magical realm just as clinically as he did his life as a surgeon.

It's been ages since anyone even attempted a Doctor Strange ongoing, but Jason Aaron might have it all figured out--giving Stephen a proper supporting cast and a dangerous threat that's already wiped out one Sorcerer Supreme.   This is definitely one of the comics to look out for, especially for fans of magic-based heroes.

Invincible Iron Man
As usual with anything Bendis-related, I take issue with a lot of things in this comic: the idea that some jerk at MIT could so easily reverse-engineer Tony's armor, the fact that some random date of Tony's who we've never heard of could come up with a cure for the mutant gene...   But ultimately, David Marquez's jaw-dropping artwork and basically having Tony Stark "henshin" for the first time he dons his armor makes it unsurprisingly easy to forgive any minor issues in what is otherwise a very well-done opening.

Everyone remember that when Bendis reveals Happy Hogan as the ultimate enemy behind the fifteen or so years of Iron Man stories and I'm pulling my hair out. 

Contest of Champions
And, fortunately we didn't have to wait too long to see how Contest of Champions panned out.  So, a couple things:

1.)  WOOHOO, Gamora's finally got a new outfit!  I realize her last one was more "practical" than what she wore in the 2008 Guardians book, but so what?  This is superheroes.   I don't want practical.  I want cool.   If some tweaks make her less sexualized but keep an overall faithfulness to her '08 look?  I'm all for it. 
2.) British Punisher?  Who the fuck asked for that?
3.) As suspected, I'm simply unable to be upset with a comic book that combines major characters like Iron Man and Gamora with more obscure guys like Outlaw and fan-favorite "era-specific" people like Mr. Fixit. 

I'm not sure how long this comic can last, but I'm definitely along for the ride.

Spider-Island

Lastly, we come to Spider-Island.  It's a bit of a cheat that I'm using the comic in the back-up, but it spoke to me a lot more, so tough cookies.

Spider-Girl/Spider-Woman is one of the stranger characters to come out of Marvel, if only due to the patchwork nature of her publishing history. She was initially just one part of Marvel's "MC2" imprint--which is what Marvel was meant to look like fifteen years into the future if things never went completely crap.   It featured comics like A-Next and the Fantastic Five, along with offbeat comics like J2, the son of Juggernaut who'd decided to become a hero.  Unfortunately, the imprint failed inside of two years and left Spider-Girl as the only remaining MC2 comic on the stands.   You'd think her story would've ended not long after the rest, but nope.   Maybe it's because she was a Spider-Man character, maybe because people just wanted to see the daughter of Peter and Mary, or maybe she was just that likable and Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz were just that good, but the book went on to run one hundred issues over eight years, then proceeded to get another volume that same year that lasted another thirty issues.   Arguably, she's the one that started the "popular alt. universe character" trend.

Her last ongoing ended roughly six years ago, but since then we've seen more of MC2 than we did before they were canceled in the first place--including more adventures with May Parker.  Still, all good things must come to an end, and when Spider-Verse saw the Inheritors invade the otherwise halcyon life of Mayday and her parents only to bring Peter's life to an unfortunate, grisly end, I was a little frustrated.   That was the one universe where Peter wasn't the perpetual loser--where he'd finally been able to settle down and live a normal life.   It reflected in May, who understandably became an angrier, more fierce character...at least until this little mini-series, which gave Tom DeFalco the chance to give her tale a happy ending.  Though Peter's gone, the end of Spider-Verse saw her take an alternate universe's Uncle Ben to her world, who helps her get over some of her grief and raise her little brother.  And this sees her conquer the left over darkness and rage in her heart to maintain her life as The Spectacular Spider-Woman.  

Of course, she'll go on to have adventures in Web Warriors or whatever, but for all intents and purposes this can be the end if you want it to be.  A wise writer once said, "if you want a happy ending, you have to know when to close the book".   Well, here's your happy ending.  The nature of comics is that when we see her again she has to go through more crap, and most of it is probably going to piss the average Spider-Girl fan off, so this is probably the best chance you'll get to actually close the book on May Parker's stories.   Take it and run.


Anyway: next week we've got Week 2 of Marvel October, Catwoman, Earth 2, Starfire, and *sighs dreamily*, more Phonogram.  Can't wait.


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. 

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