Bottom of the Pile: Feb. 15th, 2017

Everyone got Valentine's Day out of their system, for good or bad?  We ready to talk comics?  Cool--welcome to Bottom of the Pile.  If you didn't know, Bottom of the Pile is a column where I take some of my favorite comics (anywhere from 5 to 10, depending on the week) and talk about them.  It can be anything from funny commentary, exploration of the themes and ideas being used by the author, or even a flat-out mini-review.   The hope is that I get you interested in the comic itself, because if it found its way here there's a good chance I think it's one of the best on the stands that week.  Please feel free to share this column as many places as you like, and comment if you think it's good (or if you think it's bad).


Batwoman Rebirth
This opening one-shot is mostly old news if you've been following Batwoman from day one: Kate Kane, kidnapped as a child and her mother and twin sister were killed before her father Colonel Kane could rescue them.  She joined the military as soon as she could--accepted into West Point, but before she could go on to have the illustrious career she was destined for, she was discharged for being lesbian and wound up going back to Gotham in search of another way to serve.  The new, Rebirth-y bits are a missing "lost year" where she decided to do enjoy her status as a rich socialite and enjoy a brief fling with another rich woman who loves women, something I'm almost certain will make a re-appearance given the preview page for the next year of Batwoman stories.  (Can I say I'm so happy those made a come back?  They give you something to look forward to/be excited for in the months to come!)

By the end, we find ourselves caught up with Kate in the present day, who's taken over an assignment she and Batman came up with involving Gotham's problem with an unknown group distributing the DNA-altering Monster Blood from the Night of the Monsters event.  (This is probably the most relevant an event has been after the fact in awhile.)   That's her current mission...but looking forward, it seems Kate is going to go through quite a few...life changes, maybe?  Overall, this issue serves as a great platform for informing someone interested in Batwoman exactly who she is and where she's going, and I'm pretty impressed and looking forward to future issues!

Green Lanterns
It's true--aside from pre-Crisis where all the heroes were totally "buddy buddy", Bruce has never been a big fan of Hal Jordan.   And...pre/post-Crisis/Flashpoint/JLApe/whatever, Bruce hasn't ever liked Guy.  He was quite fond of John Stewart and Kyle Rayner (or as fond of a person Batman can be), but with the full timeline not quite in place yet, who knows how much he even remembers of those two.  At any rate...this brings us right back to what was going on last week with Batman.  He's added one more person to his little mini-army, for purposes that remain unknown.  If this is all headed towards a single story, then hat's off to DC for managing to set that story up without massively intruding on the entire universe a la Civil War II.

Besides this, this issue had one really cool thing and one really annoying thing.  The cool thing was that Alfred, briefly under the control of the Sinestro Corps ring Sinestro had, was broken by a post-hypnotic phrase meant to break any mind control.  That's just so Batman, and I can't help wondering if every member of the Batman's "Gotham Knights" doesn't have the same thing--and what would their phrases be?   Alfred's phrase was an English poem, but what's Dick's?  Tim's?  I bet Jason's is a song from a rap verse.

The annoying bit was Simon Baz finally giving up his gun. This is definitely Sam Humphries little touch on the character, but I'm not really with it.  Simon didn't start wearing the gun because he was afraid, he wore it because the ring can run out of juice--and while a gun can definitely run out of bullets too, at least it's some kind of a back-up plan.   What's the plan now?  I give it six issues before he wishes he had his sidearm back because of some reason or another.


Invincible Iron Man - 14
As funny as this scene is, I still don't know why so many writers just assume Stark has the Hall of Armors still.  Dude's gotten rid of them at least twice--once he melted them down and sold the materials to fund Stark Resilient, a business venture mentioned in the recap of this very issue.

This issue sees Riri (real name confirmed: Rachel) and Pepper Potts deal with the Rule of Inverse Ninja in full effect, with a completely untrained fifteen year old kid able to confuse and fight off a small handful of ninja on her own, while Pepper Potts just outright fights them off.  I have so many questions, but this really just gets into my whole "when you pile the odds too high, you end up having to BS your way out of it" argument from my Chain Chronicle post the other day.   



The Mighty Thor 
Jason Aaron has probably the most cynical take on gods I've seen in something like twenty years of reading comic books.  It goes beyond them being just like the humans that worship them--the gods in Aaron's books aren't just flawed, they're mostly downright evil.  Conceited beings with far too much power, more likely doing more harm than they ever have good.  When you think about it, almost none of the gods in his stories have been very useful at all--this issue Bor, the standing King of Asgard is utterly useless until Sif just calls him (in so many words) a pussy.  Odin's just been a sexist dick who immediately turned the once democratic Asgard into a monarchy the moment he popped back up.    Thor (the Odinson) is the only god worth much of anything, and judging by King Thor even he's a bit of a fuck-up.  Even in this issue, the Shi'ar gods Sharra and Ky'thri challenge Thor to duel of the gods--only for them to kick things off by summoning a natural disaster upon some of their worshippers.   Just about all of them have been utterly, totally worthless.

Then you remember Aaron kicked off his run on this character with a story about a godkiller, and you wonder why he didn't get to jerks like these first. 


Nightwing
This is the feel that DC Comics has been missing for far, far too long.  In a special epilogue of Bludhaven, writer Tim Seeley details the first two months of Dick and Shawn's relationship together--in all its puppy love adorableness.  It covers all sorts of milestones through multiple flashbacks the two relate to their friends--from their first date to their first argument to a shared realization that they love each other.  Aside from the questionable last page (that I won't spoil) which is hopefully fixed next issue, it's a near-perfect issue.  But what I love the most about it?  The downtime.   For way too long so many heroes have felt like they don't GET any downtime--they've all turned into Batman, just bounding from one potentially world-ending arc to the next.   This actually makes the heroes feel less real, as the world (or even the city) simply can't be exploding at every moment of every day.

But equally as awesome?   With each month since DC Universe: Rebirth, things have felt more and more like a living, breathing universe.  Dick goes on a fun first date, and does he immediately strike off on another adventure?  No, one of his best buddies calls and they talk about it over a beer.  It's exactly these kinds of small moments--the truly relatable parts of a superhero comic--that make the big multi-comic events actually mean something to a reader, because they turn these heroes into "real" people, and I couldn't be happier they're back.

The Wild Storm
I need all the higher-ups at DC Comics to write this down five hundred times daily: WildStorm characters belong in their own universe.   These characters were made during an era that runs almost directly counter to the spirit of DC's characters--their ideologies, their creation myths, none of it really lines up with the DC Comics characters, and they don't have to.  The people who love the WildC.A.T.s or I/O or the Authority love them because they're not like the Justice League or the Teen Titans.

In any case, Warren Ellis' grounded view of superheroes happens to work perfectly for Wildstorm, and having him back is a boon that I'm not sure how DC managed, but I'm excited.  His explanation of a world of different fantasy "clans" done during a modern era as a group of spy organizations each working towards their own ends--and involving weird alien conspiracies--adds a uniqueness to WildStorm that will help their world stand out and hopefully bring the whole universe back to prominence alongside the Big Two.   So long as all the higher-ups don't get any other bright ideas, at least.
 

The Clone Conspiracy
I was way off on this one. This story had the makings of being the ultimate (ha) Spider-Man story, but the scale didn't quite match up and this ended up being even smaller in the grand scheme of things (and Slott's run in general) than Spider-Verse or Spider-Island.  I wanted it to be a longer story that left Peter struggling a little longer with the moral dilemma of bringing people back and "saving everyone"--and I definitely think they should've brought back Uncle Ben to really send the guy for a loop, but for whether Slott thought that was stupid or unnecessary or they just pulled back on the scale of the story for some reason, I'll never know.  Then again, given all the nonsense that came from Civil War II lasting the better part of a year, maybe it's a good thing this only lasted a couple of months.  Certainly, The Clone Conspiracy isn't a bad story, even if ultimately it added a lot of pain and psychological damage piled onto Peter that we likely won't ever see him deal with.

Jokes aside, it did succeed in bringing Ben Reilly back, even if we have no idea where he is right now--we'll still eventually get Scarlet Spider back and another Spider-Man related book written by Peter David, a guy who was basically born to write the character--so all-in-all I'm putting this in the win column.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool

Within only a month, Gwenpool has become the comic I read that just puts a big ol goofy smile on my face--it knows how to perfectly walk the tightrope between "serious adventure" and "cartoonishly goofy" without falling too far over on either side.  This month features Gwen using a different set of meta memories to deal with having landed in an RPG/board game-ish world along with the rest of her group from the last major arc.   It's honestly good to see most of them back, but even better is the appearance of The Merc With a Mouth at the end.  Deadpool's ubiquity was beginning to get on my nerves, but seeing him in Gwenpool's comic makes it difficult not to jump for joy.  One of them knows she's in a comic book world, the other knows he is a fictional character; the next month's issue is going to be so meta readers might literally wind up on Marvel Prime. 


Ultimates 2

It's exactly this kind of bureaucratic foolishness that made the Civil War-era of Marvel Comics so difficult for me to tolerate.  Why exactly should any hero spend time consulting non-heroes when there's lives to save?  Or in this case, creation itself?    Discussion can be had after it's confirmed no one is going to die, I think.  Fortunately, unlike Civil War the good guys don't decide to just acquiesce to the governments' demands.   It's fortunate on a moral level but also on an action one, as this issue has a pretty big blow-out between the Troubleshooters and the Ultimates, successfully putting one of the most over-powered teams in Marvel history on the ropes.

At the same time, the new fusion of Order and Chaos--Logos--starts wreaking havoc to the greater Marvel cosmos, wiping out the remainder of the Celestials (who I'd totally forgotten about) and restoring Galactus to his old, purple, hungry self.  Hopefully that part's not a permanent change, but I am loving that stories are being told on this highest of scales--showing how the concepts themselves can be just as turbulent as any other sentient being, especially when they're being manipulated.

U.S. Avengers
"Tell people what they want, and they believe it, and then they'll believe anything, and they're yours."  With lines of dialogue like that, and this idiot's obsession with gold (to the point that he builds an entire armor out of it, one of the softest metals there is)--I feel like this is a pretty direct Trump analogy.  And if so, points again to Al Ewing for having some measure of subtlety here and not just outright using an orange-faced old man masquerading as a politician or political figure of some sort.


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