Bottom of the Pile - November 30th, 2016

Since this week is short, I figured I'd take care of it first and go back and knock the others out later.

Batman Annual

I've never been a fan of dogs.  Some can be cute, downright adorable, but I'm still more of a cat person.   Still, this new origin of Ace the Bat-Hound in this year's Batman Annual is the kind of thing that makes you type in all caps 'cause the story is just so cute you can't stand it.

Found after one of the Joker's...weirder escapades, Ace was one of many attack dogs Joker was using until he got bored of them...and stopped visiting, or feeding any of them.  By the time they were found, they'd all attacked and killed one another with only Ace surviving.  Because amongst other things Batman is chiefly a story about taking in broken things and making them less broken, Ace gets adopted by Alfred, who ends up training him to be more obedient and taming his violent instincts.  Over the course of several months, Alfred tirelessly works with Ace---even after the point where freaking Batman gives up on the dog.   But finally, he pulls it off...and weeks later Ace is so nice he's licking Batman's wounds after a particularly nasty night. 

BAM!  Turns out, it's been a gift from Alfred the whole time!  When you really think about it, Alfred's an adoptive father who could only keep Bruce from losing it entirely by indulging this insane crusade of his.   He's not just a dutiful butler--he's been the guy who kept Bruce human.  Long before there was a Lark or a Nightwing or a Robin, there was Alfred--making sure he ate, making sure he slept, making sure there was someone that cared about the man behind the mask.  So what do you get the Man Who REALLY Has Everything for Christmas?   Well.  You've never gotten him a puppy.

I've said it before, but: Tom King GETS Alfred.  And that might sound like a small thing to some of you, but fuck that.  Alfred fucking rules.

Direct Currents
DC Direct Currents is a free magazine meant to update everyone on the status of the post-Rebirth DC.   And it's a genius idea done in the style of the old Wizard comics that you should totally pick up if you wanna see where your favorite characters are and what they'll be up to in their source material.  Just a thought.
Inhumans vs. X-Men
Do not buy this.  I just wanted to point out that the wa they've been written lately, the Inhumans are terrible, awful people.  They aren't anything less than villains at this point, and none of their story has unfolded in a logical fashion since the second Marvel decided these guys should replace the X-Men.   They're trying to normalize something that would've totally been a villainous plan in any other story: a group of super-powered individuals releasing a potentially dangerous cloud onto the ENTIRE PLANET that will forcibly change you into one of them if you have even the tiniest trace of shared DNA with them?   Isn't this the plot of some Avengers story?  And shouldn't the Avengers be punching them in the face, like as we speak?  They're even a militarized monarchy, so no matter how they try to spin it this looks like an act of aggression.
Moreover, any argument that they deserve the right to keep the Terrigen cloud goes out the window the second it's proven (and it's PAST proven at this point) the cloud is utterly fatal to mutants.  I'm sorry, but you don't get to increase the standing of your own people at the cost of another. Emma Frost might be a little insane right now, but it seems like she was a hero for wiping one of the two clouds out in Death of X. 

This prologue to Inhumans vs. X-Men sees Hank try to discover the cure to M-Pox, the Terrigen-originated virus du jour that's killing mutants, but with this issue we discover the only way to cure it would be individual cures for each mutant--a near impossibility to create.  After revealing this to Medusa, she further confirms her villainy by pointing out eventually the X-Men will want to *do* something about the fact that the Terrigen clouds are sterilizing and murdering them, and wants to make sure the Inhumans are united in attempting to crush them for it.  So....yeah.  Awful, unreasonable dicks that I literally just realized are either directly or indirectly responsible for killing my two favorite Marvel characters.  

Ms. Marvel
This is on the pull list because Ms. Marvel is consistently one of the best cape comic books on the stand--G. Willow Wilson has done an excellent job of making Kamala Khan into one of the most likable new characters in the post-Civil War era of Marvel, placing her on a path of fairly constant, consistent progression that's seen her grow from taking down D-List villains to being bad-ass enough to do triple duty between her family, her school life, and being an Avenger.  She knows exactly when to show Kamala succeeding or failing, so things never grow stale from too much success or depressing from too much failure. 

That said: This issue is the kinda on the nose storytelling that's all too common lately and frustrates the crap out of me.  Allegorical stories are usually thinly-veiled ways of talking about a political issue...but at least there's a veil.  This is literally an issue where Kamala learns a member of Hydra is tampering with votes through gerrymandering and expecting to win because most people won't care enough to vote, so she goes out and beats the streets to achieve a (no seriously) 100 percent voting rate to save New Jersey. 

 She goes around and lectures people and explains how voting works in a fashion that feels so rehearsed, I'd almost think it was a two-page ad in the style of the old superhero Hostess mini-comics. If I didn't have an idea as to how comics worked, I'd be weirded out that someone basically came up with their fantasy of how Donald Trump should've lost...except I do, so I know this was scripted out months in advance.  It's cute that they kept rhetoric to a minimum but...ugh.  Even as a liberal this comic made my head hurt--it just felt less like a story and more like being lectured to.  But this isn't common for the comic--Ms. Marvel (and Ms. Wilson) are both much, MUCH better than this--it's usually a much more nuanced comic.  Everyone has an off month.

New Avengers
Writer Al Ewing is one of those creatives that has kinda been around forever but didn't really make an appearance onto the main stage until a few years ago--but from the moment he's been here dude has made an impact.  His Loki was genius meta storytelling, while New Avengers and Ultimates have both been the kind of next-level super-science insanity that cape comics DESPERATELY need in order to stand at the forefront of creativity in comics.

This particular incarnation of Avengers was the result of former X-Man/New Mutant Robert DaCosta buying out AIM and re-purposing it into Avengers Idea Mechanics.  Employing a variety of young heroes including Wiccan, Hulkling, the new Power Man and Max Brashear (the Blue Marvel's formerly evil son) as well as a number of scientists like Toni Ho (granddaughter of Yinsen Ho, the man who helped Tony Stark build his armor)--New Avengers was mostly about the various plans and back-up plans and side gambits played between multi-billionaire entrepreneur Robert DaCosta and an evil version of Reed Richards known as The Maker, along with trying to outmanuever SHIELD, who still believed A.I.M. was just as evil as before, simply with a different Supreme Leader. 

But The Maker was taken out last issue, which just left them with convincing SHIELD once and for all that none of them had turned traitor.  So this issue features DaCosta enacting the ultimate plan for the series' final issue: faking his own death to lure out the final members of the old AIM and shut them down once and for all.  The issue has a lot of hilarious moments as each member of New Avengers finally chooses to go their own separate ways (while beating up left-over factions of SHIELD) as we set up for the next incarnation of DaCosta's team, the USAvengers.   

This was actually one of my favorite comics from the ANAD era for including so many lesser-known new AND old characters--the plotline that saw Robert DaCosta (Sunspot) and his buddy Cannonball become the new Beast and Wonder Man of the Avengers pre-Secret Wars was one of my favorite, and to have this comic pick that up was great.   All too often, the A-List heroes like Cap or Spidey or Iron Man can never really experience that much growth and change, but the B and C-Listers have plenty of freedom for that...if they can ever get the focus.   The growth we've seen from DaCosta from his stories in the late '80's until now is incredible, and I hope they let him keep a title for the forseeable future.



Totally Awesome Hulk
When Bruce absorbed a fatal dosage of radiation as the Hulk, it was Amadeus Cho who found a way to both relieve him of that radiation and his powers as well, choosing to take on the powers of the Hulk himself.  And we've been following the adventures of Amadeus Cho over the past few months as...the Totally Awesome Hulk, as Cho and his sister Maddy tool around America fighting monsters and putting them under control, helping to make everyone see the Hulk as the hero he's always been.

If you've been keeping up with Civil War II, you know that recently Bruce Banner was killed by Hawkeye after a vision by the Inhuman Ulysses "revealed" that Bruce was going to Hulk out in the future and murder most of the superhero community.  Empowered by the abilities of the Hulk, for the last few issues Amadeus has been hunting for Hawkeye/Clint Barton, only to have SHIELD, Captain Marvel, and the Black Panther get in his way--though to little effect.  There's also a story about a monster that feeds on emotion and Cho being abandoned by his sister in this issue, but the first one's just so we can get a little bit of superhero punchy-punchy, and the second thing is something that will play out in later issues.  The real meat of this issue however, is Cho finally getting to confront Banner's killer. 

As unconvincing as it's sounded over in the actual mini-series, Barton was indeed told by Bruce that if he were to ever lose control again that he needed to be stopped, and Clint was the only one of the heroes that would've had both the ability and the guts to go through with it.  Setting aside whatever problems you'd have with the plot behind that--Clint's not a heartless dick, and Banner was his friend.  So he maybe has the steel to go through with it, but what does taking the life of a close friend of yours do to you in the aftermath?  And the very existence of Cho as Hulk is a sign that your judgment might have been wrong and you killed a normal human can only compound the guilt. 

As for Cho--earlier in the issue, after his ego gets the better of him and he rushes off against his sister's cooler head, she points out rightly that he's not a bad person.  When he found Hawkeye he was never going to kill him--but this page came as a bit of a shock to me.  Two men bonding over the loss of a friend.  And yeah, how the whole thing played out is twisted and fucked up, but the life of a superhero is often twisted and fucked up.  I just appreciate Greg Pak for allowing the bombastic actions of Civil War II a stage for the emotional conflict that should follow to play out.

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