Bottom of the Pile - Jan. 19th, 2016

I keep forgetting we left the flying Batmobile behind in the pre-Flashpoint days. Admittedly though, a flying bike is pretty sweet. Either way, this month's Batgirl features Bluebird and Spoiler helping Batgirl work a leg of a case. As much as Bluebird annoys me as a character and as much as I think Stephanie Brown's the One True Batgirl, I liked this issue. Batgirl's got about as much seniority as Dick Grayson so it's cool to have her show some of the "junior members" around. I DO miss Babs Tarr though--two artists couldn't quite measure up to her art, even if this panel's adorable.

Captain Marvel

This is actually one of my favorite comic books to come out this week.  Nothing against writer Kelly-Sue DeConnick--I love what a critical darling she turned Captain Marvel into while writing her, but the art never clicked and the (admittedly) few issues I read of her run on this didn't really compel me to pick up more.   But here--Kris Anka might be doing some of the best work of his career.  Characters are perfectly expressive without ever being off model, while environments are incredibly detailed even relatively tiny panels.  Points to Matthew Wilson for the beautiful colors too--they match the optimistic, hopeful tone being expressed in this first issue of Carol Danvers' newest adventures.

Speaking of: While I might not be the biggest fan of KSD's work, I LOVE Carol.  I've loved Carol since she was a recovering alcoholic trying to put her life together in Kurt Busiek's Avengers in the late 90's/early 2000's, and watching her slowly go from X-Men side character into leader of the Avengers has been a pleasure.  While I might not have liked the KSD era, the fact that it propelled her onto a larger stage was great, and writers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters seem to be ramping that up into overdrive.  Relative newcomers to the Marvel Universe, it's commendable how they managed to incorporate so many characters into this first issue without it feeling crowded, and get their voices pitch perfect as well.  Not only that, but they chucked Carol right into a high concept idea with TONS of potential for future stories by making her the commander of a new global initiative to be the Earth's first line of defense against alien threats, known as Alpha Flight.  Extra points for folding that team into this book, as this is probably the most relevant that team's been in ages.  It sounds pat, but my biggest problem with this issue is that it ended.  Issue 2 when?

Doctor Fate
After having Khalid visit the literal Egyptian world of the dead, it's interesting that they're still keeping his Muslim beliefs and potentially, making them just as valid.  I've got the strangest feeling Doc Fate's going to exist in an "All Myths Are True" world, which is normally logical for DC but being apart of DC's "DCYou" brand, Doctor Fate doesn't even feel like its apart of the rest of the DC Universe right now.   Still, Paul Levitz is doing a great job turning this relative newcomer into a superhero--gradually building him up into someone worthy of the mantle of Fate.  Unfortunately I've got this feeling that it won't be long before Kent Nelson (the original Dr. Fate) takes the helmet again.  Something something something "most iconic". 


If there was ever a time I wanted the DC and Marvel Universes to mix, it's right now.  Could you imagine how cool it would be if the new gods they were referring to were the ACTUAL New Gods?  In any case, Hercules is proof that any character becomes cool under a talented writer.  Dan Abnett has taken one of the least interesting characters of the Marvel Universe and made his stories worth following, mixing the classic pantheon characters with the modern world and telling stories out of the clashes of their juxtaposition.  Backed by Luke Ross' gorgeous art, Hercules has quickly become one of my favorite comics coming out of Marvel's latest relaunch.

Ms. Marvel

Ah yes, the part of heroing that lands you firmly in the "Spider-Man" column of classification.  Even when you're essentially a saint, the people you saved find a way to dislike you for it.  I'm convinced Peter Parker could literally die saving the city of New York and they'd complain that he just got his Spider-bits all over some nice, shiny new building. 

As for Kamala, it's great that through a relaunch of her comic (and a complete re-formatting of her universe) that they're still keeping the sense of growth in her career as a hero.  Last volume she spent most of her time combatting one threat and barely being known at all, now she's an Avenger and causes fellow classmates to literally fangirl at the sight of her. I'm bringing this up because it's important to point out when DC or Marvel do the "diversity" thing and not actually cock it up.  Also, though I might get fans raising pitch forks at me, is it possible to have Takeshi Miyazawa draw this comic book forever?  Kamala and her friends are never more adorably expressive than when that guy's behind the pencil.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat

Watching a hero explain what hero life is like to non-heroes is always entertaining.  Anyway, with adorable art like this there's almost no way I wouldn't fall in love with this comic.  Patsy Walker was the breakout character of Jessica Jones--a character who seemed like she would just be a casualty in the war between Zebediah and Jessica but proved to be a much tougher, more layered character than anyone (or me at least) would have guessed. It makes sense that they would decide to give her an ongoing, and double points for not automatically lining her character up with the way she was portrayed in the Netflix seires but using her comic book character and progressing her. 
Here's where the Lantern concept jumps the shark for me.  The emotional spectrum has always been nonsense, but its the kind of craziness that superhero comics can always use more of, and there were always rules.  A ring being drawn to you meant you embodied a certain emotion--or in a Green Lantern's case, just had superhuman amounts of will.  Using a ring that wasn't yours wasn't impossible because it wasn't assigned to you, it was impossible because a wielder was essentially controlling a fundamental emotion source in the universe.  

All of this is to say: SUPERMAN HAS NO BUSINESS WITH A FEAR RING.  The dude is like, the polar opposite of a fear generator in all but the most xenophobic people.  There's something to the idea that Sinestro is such a master of fear that he can force the rings to go to anyone, but that doesn't mean they should be able to USE them.   That's one of the most frustrating parts of the New 52 Lantern-verse since Geoff Johns left--it's like they didn't read the run that made this franchise so popular in the first place.

Titans Hunt

As cool as it is to see all these characters in outfits resembling their classic Teen Titans suits, I'm forced to ask what the end game is now.  You're pretending as if these characters have this history that ties them together, but the universe doesn't have the timeline to back that up.  So this is either leading to you backing out at the last second--where the big bad is implanting memories that don't exist and they'll all realize it in the climax--OR they're all going to become basically anomalies in that they remember their lives from a previous universe.  As nice as it would be to give them their old timelines back, it sets a dangerous precedent.  As illogical as the slippery slope argument is, the more you introduce elements of the "old" universe, the more the temptation is to bring it all back.  Especially in this early stage of things where you want to solidify the idea that what's gone is gone.
(All of this was written before I knew this was a thing.)

Uncanny Inhumans
I remember when Kang was one of the most terrifying villains in all of Marvel.  Ranking alongside Thanos as a threat you simply did NOT want to mess with. But lately Marvel's been kind of downgrading the poor guy.  He's been firmly outranked by Ultron, who's one of the most boring villains there is given all the "robots conquer everything" stories that have popped up in the four decades since his creation.  This arc with the Inhumans was beginning to bring him back into prominence, as he wiped all of the Inhumans from time itself...but it kind of all comes to a crashing end when he gets bitched by a kid who got his powers all of ten pages ago.

...I'm mostly joking.  The most troublesome part of a villain like Kang is that there is no way to end a story with the guy that doesn't involve some sort of deus ex machina.  Though I'm still not entirely comfortable with the idea of the Inhumans replacing the X-Men, Uncanny Inhumans has been one of the most consistently solid reads.  It helps having a single writer over both of the main comics, and I look forward to seeing how (and if) the Royal Family puts itself back together.

Uncanny X-Men
I want to like this comic.  Call me weird but I enjoy Greg Land's pencils--there's a cleanness to the lines and while they may not always be the most unique, his pencil work never gets in the way of the story.  I love Cullen Bunn, too.  He's spent the better part of two years writing comics that make me like villains, which I would have believed to be an impossible task not long ago.  And in all fairness, I can't help liking any comic that features Monet--she's like Sasha Banks if she could fly, had super-strength and was nearly invulnerable: a complete boss.  

But man, it's hard to like any X-related comic these days.  Sure, it feels like there's more of them than ever but you can tell there's someone with a grudge against homosapien superior...things just feel relentlessly depressing.  They reduced the number of active mutants to 186 over a decade ago, made it impossible to create anymore, then after waffling finally started to bring them back, only to now decide that the Terrigen Mists of the Inhumans not only make mutants sterile, but are actively killing them.   It's absurd, and now we're setting a book around another group of Marauder-like characters murdering some of the few mutants still alive.  At what point do things get BETTER for these guys?

It doesn't help that this book isn't exactly one of Cullen's best.  I don't know if he's still getting the voice of these guys or if he's not used to writing team books but this title lacks the nuance of its predecessor Magneto right now.  But ultimately, my need for it to be good is probably going to keep me reading long enough to at least finish this arc out.   

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 are so common, coverage here can range from mini-reviews to funny comments to commentary on a creator's run or comics as a whole.


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