Bottom of the Pile: Sept. 7th, 2016

Woo-hoo~  Made it!  ^_^

All-New All-Different Avengers
When I first read this comic, this scene was probably the most powerful thing in it--it gave me chills--and on the whole, I'm completely on board with the new Wasp.  Nadia Pym seems like a real sweetheart and I can't wait to see what she's like when interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe.  Still, I can absolutely see how one could see this scene independent of the comic itself and see it as over-the-top and melodramatic.

So let's set the stage and talk about it.  The girl here is Nadia Pym, the heretofore unknown daughter of Hank Pym that's spent her entire life training in the infamous Red Room that gave us characters like The Black Widow, until she got a hold of some Pym Particles and used them to escape, joining up with the newest incarnation of the Avengers.  This issue is meant to be both her first focus issue that leads into her ongoing The Unstoppable Wasp and a Civil War II tie-in, as after saving herself and Janet from nearly being kidnapped, the pair learn about the fight breaking out between the heroes and Nadia has a break down.

To be fair though, Nadia absolutely has a point.  Though the fights are over big philosophical differences, its absurd that none of the heroes can seem to have them without ending up punching one another in the face.   It absolutely would be more heroic if they could just discuss their differences like adults, but...that would make for very interesting reading, I suppose. 



Batman
I'm still not completely sold on Tom King's Batman.  But I'm kinda into this more vulnerable version of the Dark Knight.  One that maybe doesn't have all the answers, because sometimes there aren't any "answers"--you make the best of the situation with the knowledge and abilities that you have at the time.

If you're not following the comic right now, post-"Rebirth" Batman has been all about a brother and sister who found their lives being altered irrevocably when they nearly suffered the same sort of trauma a certain future vigilante did, only to be saved by Batman.  Years passed, and the pair found a way to get superpowers, and they returned to Gotham to help others as Gotham and Gotham Girl.  But unfortunately, they ran into the Psycho Pirate and Hugo Strange and had their mental states permanently altered.  Gotham became much more prone to violence, and Gotham Girl became afflicted with a permanent fear. 

With the unique way their powers work, having the ability to become more powerful at the cost of years off their life, Gotham Girl ends up being the only person who can stop her brother from destroying the city and killing Batman.  This issue sees her continuing on in the job her and her brother agreed to do.  Her parents and brother all taken from her, she's become unbalanced, flying around the city saving people non-stop while talking to her dead brother, gradually killing herself by refusing to stop using her powers. 

With her being at worst a danger to everyone around her, and at best a danger to herself, Batman sets out with the intent to stop her...which results in the scene you see above.  While I'm still skeptical of King in general, I'm not at all against the idea that if you try to save Gotham while simultaneously being "above it", it ruins you.  That's what it did to Two-Face, and that's clearly what happened here.  Bruce--and even his protege--are so successful because they've become the night, they've become monsters of a kind in order to fight the true monsters of Gotham City.  It works, and I'm looking forward to the team up of Batman and the Suicide Squad...and hopefully the moment he shuts Amanda down for being a giant shit head.


Cyborg
Cyborg Rebirth kicks off with an idea that's not terribly unique to Cyborg or AI in general--the typical "am I a real boy" story--but for now I'm just glad writer John Semper (responsible for 90's favorite Spider-Man: The Animated Series) still has it.  Plus I'm totally into the reveal at the end which hints at Semper's desire to include all these robotic/android/cyborg entities of the DC Universe into his run. 

Daredevil
When this volume of Daredevil started I had an inkling of what could be possible, but now its confirmed: Charles Soule and Ron Garney have absolutely hit their stride on this comic.  Garney's dark, moody pencils are a perfect fit for DD's return to a noir style, and become even more appropriate with Soule's current story--a chilling tale about a murderer who takes lives in order to create "art".   The previous issue saw him post a mural that was made up from the blood of 100 different missing victims in New York, while this issue sees him create a scale diorama of Inhumans living everyday life...from the corpses of actual Inhumans he's killed!

I'm legit fascinated with the way this story's going now, and at this point my only problem with the series is Matt and Foggy being at odds again--I'm already tired of that in the show, I don't need more of it here, and Matt being the errand boy for the D.A..  It stretches the disbelief a bit when Matt basically vanishes all the time in order to do work as Daredevil.  But these are minor nitpicks when the story is otherwise great, and I hope Soule can stay long enough to carve out just as respectable a run on the character as Mark Waid did.

Doctor Strange
The down side to this current Strange comic is that its sad that it took a film to get someone that cared enough about Stephen Strange to give him a good ongoing, but one supposes the upside is at least we got one.  In the aftermath of The Last Days of Magic, the story in which a science-based villain from another dimension had been systematically wiping magic out of the entire universe with "holy cleansing fire", magic in the world has been considerably diminished.  Many of Strange's tricks no longer work, his magical library of spells and tricks have been cleaned out.

It's a neat way to approach things, because if the old way of magic is mostly gone, it gives writer Jason Aaron a ton of leeway to make up his own rules.  There's a pretty cool point near the start of the book where someone says, "If the old books of magic don't work anymore...write new ones."  On its own its a fun line but it could easily lead nowhere.  Except, Aaron takes things a step further and shows off how Strange has to approach magic if he's going to keep being the Sorcerer Supreme without many of the spells he once relied on.  It lacks finesse and is much more brute force in its approach, but its consistent with the version of Strange he's been giving us since day one--one not afraid to use unconventional approaches, and get down in the trenches and get his hands dirty to get the job done.  

Green Arrow

Man, how much trouble can one person be worth?  Emiko already almost got Oliver killed, now she's gotten into trouble with the yakuza.  Sheesh.  And he thought Roy was a pain.

Invincible Iron Man
I can't decide if I'm amused at Bendis poking fun at these two obscure-ass 70's characters or annoyed at the fact that they're both former members of the Guardians that he neglected to put in his run because they weren't from the movie.

Either way, as pissed as I am that one of my all-time favorite superheroes is dead, this was a fitting way to tell the story of how Tony Stark is coping with the lost of his closest friend.  It also grounds Tony a little bit more for when the story of Civil War II for when things inevitably go wonky.

Squadron Supreme
I'm pretty sure I saw somewhere that Namor's returning to life, and that's actually quite the bummer.  I loved the character, but for one thing I like when decisions have at least some weight to them.  This is the same reason I was pissed when Damian Wayne came back to life--the story you killed him in made sense, and he hasn't been dead long.  It's one thing to bring back someone dead for decades--or even a few years--but Namor died like earlier this year and I think they're bringing him back by the end of this?  Absurd.

And the guy totally deserved his death, too.  During all those dark, brooding issues of New Avengers leading into Secret War, where every member of the Illuminati weighed things out in their heart and minds, it was only Namor who possessed the unbridled arrogance that made him willing to take another planet and destroy it so that their world could live.  And sure, that's ballsy and it made him seem like the only guy in the group who could do what was willing to be done.  But you know what?  Actions have consequences, and Namor got his. 

Superman

Yeah yeah, Jon's a cute kid.  But I'm gonna have the face Batman has now pretty permanently if my boy Kon-El doesn't come back.  Preferably as his old-school 90's solo/Young Justice self.  Confident and hilarious.

Anyway, that's enough of the Big Two stuff.  I actually gave three different "independent" comic book series a try this week, and all three of them were pretty awesome.

Alters
Alters is a new superhero that came from Aftershock Comics.  Set in a world where super-powered beings are all referred to as "Alters", unique existences that seemingly are one in fifty million occurrences, our story starts after the Alters have become a semi-constant.  A good bit after their creation by the scientist Octavian, and a good bit after the first "dangerous" alter killed 5,000 people just by having their powers manifest.   Even a good bit after their first major villain, "Matter Man", has popped up.  Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Leila Leiz have clearly placed a ton of work into developing a proper universe their characters can play in.

...But that's not why Alters is getting the press it is right now.  It's getting noticed because Chalice, the series' star character, is the first trans superhero to be the lead character in her own comic.  I was a bit skeptical here, since this is a delicate subject that someone could easily completely fuck up--but it's actually a pretty solid comic.   We get to spend time in Chalice's world both as a superhero and when she's "Charlie", her not-yet-out alter-ego that's still living with her family and has an entire life that's doubtlessly going to get flipped upside down when she finally tells her family she's trans.  ....And probably flip upside down again because apparently on this world, when you're an Alter you get noticed by Matter Man, who immediately demands you place yourself under his control or...bad things happen.

I'm a sucker for a good hero, so Chalice makes herself instantly likable over the course of the nineteen pages in the first issue.  She settles into the role of being a hero early (she's the only one with a proper costume!), but is reluctant to get dragged into the war between the person responsible for creating the Alters and his opposite Matter Man.  When she's first confronted, they offer her the opportunity to train her to use her considerable powers but she turns them down because they can't promise protection for her family.  But when Matter Man sacrifices someone completely uninvolved because of her, she immediately pops up on Octavian's doorstep.   Which I appreciate, because most new heroes would be completely stupid and immediately try to fight the bad guy that's already successfully beaten/terrified the world.  

With the ability to manipulate quantum forces in the real world, there's a good chance she's the world's only hope against a guy who's seemingly powerful enough to do literally whatever he wants because the only people with any powers have been running scared.  Doubtlessly, Chalice has a long way to go before she can take Matter Man on..  The story seems to have logically positioned her as both the most relevant and possibly only heroic character, which makes me pretty excited to see where the story goes and how the universe develops from here

Skybourne
You'd think after seeing one of your henchmen gutted by someone with their bare hands you'd immediately apologize to whoever you just pissed off and do your best to never, ever do it again, but of course not...

Anyway, "Indie" comic #2 is Skybourne, which is basically Frank Cho proving he can create a bad-ass on par with Wonder Woman.  (Well, almost.)    The series follows three children, each gifted with super-strength, impenetrable skin, and immortality--all the children of the resurrected Lazarus.

The first issue sees the daughter, Grace, track down the location of King Arthur's Excalibur and have to "recover" it after a deal goes bad in one of the most violent chase scenes I've ever witnessed.  But of course nothing can go that simply, as Grace finishes the issue fighting a powerful wizard...who manages to pierce her impenetrable skin with Excalibur.  The issue ends with her bleeding out and possibly dying, but I've got a feeling Frank Cho has much bigger plans for Grace than that, and I'm pretty hyped for issue two.

Red One

And then finally we have Red One.  My favorite of all three of these indy comics.  The tagline is "What if America's greatest superhero was a Russian spy?" but don't let that distract you.  This comic book is about so much more than that.  Red One might literally be my favorite superhero of the modern era.

Set in Southern California during the 1970's, Red One draws upon a ton of influences including the political grays necessitated by the Cold War and the burgeoning porn industry, perfect for the comic's primary lady hero--Vera.  She's not a super-soldier, she's not from another planet, and though she certainly has the physique of one, she's not an Amazon from a magic island lost to time.   She's just been trained from birth to be a perfect physical specimen, and so she's the perfect agent to take on a super-dangerous, super-important, super-secret assignment: become a superhero in the States.

The comic is roughly three issues in so far (with only two issues made a year currently) but I'm in love with it for so many reasons.  Red One is this impossibly talented superhero who's fighting against a cracked out version of a Westboro Baptist Church stand-in who just happen to have a murderous jerk-off named The Carpenter helping them to "eliminate" anyone who doesn't represent THEIR idea of America.  (IE, all the lesbians, gays, and any other related people who dare to be "different".)   It's the perfect progressive superhero for our era without all the speechifying--things are wrapped in enough allegory to avoid the constant strawmen that fill far too many of our comics today.   Red One just shows up to angry mobs threatening innocent people and just effortlessly beats them down...while also suggesting that maybe they join in on the fun instead of threatening people next time.   Which reminds me, she's also seemingly heavy into the whole bohemian, "free love" sort of thing--at one point suggesting that she needs hugs and/or sex to recharge her emotional batteries.  It sounds absurd, but it feels like the first time anyone's ever taken polyamory seriously as a life style choice. 

Honestly, she's absolutely fascinating as a hero and my biggest complaint is that they don't make enough money to do this at least five or six times a year.  I'm basically only getting the fourth issue next month and then I'll be waiting until 2017.  So now I'm imploring you: buy Red One, and help me feed my new addiction! 

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