Bottom of the Pile - Feb. 1st, 2017

Now we're talking.  I've been having a bit of an issue with the way this Kang story is being told, vacillating on whether it's a good story or not, but this chapter sold me.  Though Kang has always been one of the most well-known threats in the Avengers rogues gallery, it's been years since they focused on just how big of a problem he is for the rest of humanity--the last time I recall seeing him, he was basically in a losing war with Ultron.   Here though, Kang explains his story--how he's been conquering various time periods and making his empires work together to allow him to truly be the master of Earth at every point in human history.

The whole story--beautifully told by Mike Del Mundo, who's abstract, fantastical art is perfect for telling this retrospective through all the different time periods--makes Kang out to be a massive threat, and actually makes Nadia's decision not to simply get rid of Baby Kang all the more insane and "heroic" all at once.  Of course, now that the Avengers have decided they aren't putting up with Kang's "ultimate time dominance" anymore, things are about to get more hectic--from the looks of things, they've basically hopped through time and dismantled his empires one by one.  I'm sure Kang's going to have some more tricks up his sleeve, but...given the Avengers force assembled in front of him: is it even going to matter?

During the last major Batman arc, "I Am Suicide"--Batman basically beat Bane by being a dick, and took the Psycho Pirate, who was helping Bane deal with Venom withdrawal as well as the complex emotions that come from being tortured as a child, from him.  And now in this new arc "I Am Bane", the story is that Bane's pissed now and is coming to Gotham to presumably ruin Batman's life.  Y'know, the usual.

But what's most curious to me is the idea presented here--that Bruce is somehow better working alone than with help.  That he couldn't protect his kids better with them fighting alongside them.  That's fascinating to me.  And by fascinating, I mean completely stupid.  These are all men (and a boy) who've been through the fire.  Jason was killed.  Dick was nearly killed.  And Damian basically went through all of what Bruce has in a single night, and survived.  They've faced much larger, more insane threats alone than this, nevermind together--so for the life of me I don't understand why, particularly when in Detective Comics he's learning not to do THIS EXACT THING, this is how this arc plays out.

Overall, this first arc of Cyborg has been very good--exploring the meaning of Artificial Intelligence and the morality of how humans interact with machine-based (or majority machine) life, in ways that aren't too complex for the average reader.  My only problem with this issue, "The Imitation of Life", is the same thing I've mostly loved about this book, which is how much this story plays out like a freaking Saturday Morning Cartoon show.  There are moments when that's cool, and then there's moments like this--where Cyborg's nemesis Anomaly literally shuts him down entirely and rather than simply murdering him and moving on, decides to simply disable him so he can continue explaining his horrible backstory to Cyborg and his father.   That's a move that comes right out of 80's and 90's SMCs, and while it's hilarious to see it be revived like this, I can't say it didn't detract from the story.

Other than that, I do wish so many new books weren't so caught up in trying to tell a massive twelve issue story arc for their first story.  It asks so much of the reader to be invested for that long, when ideally you should let reader faith build in the character over a longer period of time.

Lastly, I'd be lying if I said this last page of issue #9 wasn't laugh out loud funny.  I'm kinda bugged by how they go out of their way to make sure you know that this super-genius black hacker knows all the "hip" lingo in his dialogue (hip like, 1990's), but I do love that they're genuinely building up a supporting cast for a character who usually is supporting cast for some other character's book or is part of an ensemble cast.

Death of Hawkman 
I'm still loving this book, even though I continue to see it as a prelude to what I hope is something much bigger in scope. This issue we continue to learn how Adam Strange and Hawkman got to the point of battling an army of Despero's on a war-torn planet.  But now we learn Despero's somehow gotten a massive increase in power that not only allows him to do mental mumbo-jumbo on an entire planet, but can also affect whole conversations from galaxies away--there's no way he should be getting put away by these two, even if they are two really cool heroes.  We even got a pair of Green Lanterns this issue--it's not really a cosmic story until some of them show up.

Still, there are some things about this issue that drove me nuts. For one, and here come some spoilers: this issue, Green Lantern of Thanagar Isamot Kol is murdered by Despero.  It's so quick it happens off panel, and I'm pretty pissed about it.  If you're a GL fan, Isamot's basically been around for almost a decade now--surviving multiple wars on the GLC from Sinestro, Nekron, Final Crisis, and more.  To see him taken out in a single panel is depressing as fuck.  Doubly so considering the Green Lantern ring is the most powerful weapon in the universe.  Or at least, it used to be.  Lately, it's been about as helpful as the Nova Force when it's not all gathered up in one being.  Despero even makes a joke about how GLs always think they're more powerful than they really are; its embarrassing.  I'd love to learn one day that GLs have just gotten lazy and aren't even tapping into the vast majority of their powers.  These rings really shouldn't be done in by fucking Nth Metal, which up until the New 52 (and maybe the Justice League cartoon) had its most useful incarnation as a fucking harness for bird-like wings.

Sidenote: Supposedly in the next major DC event, the one being done by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, is all about metals.  You don't think...

Green Lanterns
Because we're concerned about the sales of this book, have a Green Lanterns/Batman team-up!  This first of a two-part story arc sees Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz come to Gotham to help Batman out with a strange case where there've been mysterious outbreaks of men and women violently, randomly attacking the people around him out of fear.   Of course, Simon makes the assumption that this is the Scarecrow because the vast majority of Bruce's baddies are one-trick ponies, but Bruce shoots that suggestion down and claims that it's obviously the Sinestro Corps.

The joke here is obviously that they're both right, but the bigger question I have here is: how did Batman not see that?  I mean, these people are all acting out of fear but the attacks are localized entirely to Gotham and they're all mostly trying to kill him.  Feels like the most obvious thing ever.  Still, this is a solid enough team-up that DC could use way more of if we're going to bring back that feeling of a connected universe.  I am a little bummed about the gun thing though--it's been brought up multiple times in this book, and I'm pretty sure Simon's going to throw it away at the end of next issue....and then need it the issue after that, because why wouldn't the universe work that way?  

This is easily one of my most hated of all superhero comic tropes: girl figures out superhero's identity because "duh"/"I've always known"/"who else has *insert generic thing plenty of people have*".   If its that easy, half of these guys should end up dead overnight.   She met this guy once years ago and since then has been through the prison system and completely rehabilitated and put her life together in another city--there are friends I knew with in high school I wouldn't even recognize if I saw them now but she can recognize him and without his mask?   Knock it off.

Having said that, "Bludhaven" has definitely been where Nightwing has found its groove--with slick Marcus To artwork and beautiful, almost painterly colors from Chris Sotomayor that just happen to have enough blues and blacks in the backgrounds to make me think it's being done on purpose, and the character finally finding his way back to the city he left over a decade ago, I'm ecstatic to say the Nightwing book is the best it's been since the Pete Tomasi run back in '07.    He's got a love interest that isn't Barbara or Koriand'r, there's a neat little supporting cast, and he's finally got his city back--he's starting to feel like his own man again, and that's cool.

Equally cool in this book is the confirmation that the Detective we met not long ago, Elise Svoboda, is basically lady Bullock.  From her dislike of the costumed sect to her willingness to cut corners while wanting to be noticed as an important member of the police agency, right on down to her overall bullheadedness.  And she's actually a pretty good cop when it comes right down to it--she plays as big a part in solving Nightwing's first case in Bludhaven as Nightwing.   Speaking of Nightwing, it's looking like our next arc is going to have him dealing with a copycat--one wearing that gross red and black, so I'm hoping he gets pasted mid-way through so I never have to see that suit again.

Planet of the Apes/Green Lanterns
IDW's all about the crossovers lately.  First Star Trek/GL, then Star Trek/Legion, Batman/TMNT, and now Planet of the Apes and Green Lantern.   I'm kind of with it, because for some reason the idea of space cops intruding on the post-apocalyptic world of the Planet of the Apes is fascinating for me.  I just get this image of them peering down on Earth and going, "...Huh.  So they finally blew themselves up, huh?  Who had this day in the pool?"

I do think that there aren't nearly enough of the Lanterns in the Apes' world yet.  Hopefully next issue fixes that for me.

Finishing off our "Multiplicity" storyline, we find our main Superman finally face to face with Prophecy, the supervillain who's been kidnapping Supermen and Superwomen across the multiverse, and learn his goals.  He's glimpsed an enemy that the multiverse itself seemingly has no hope against, and has decided to drain all the Supermen and Superwomen of their powers in the hopes that all of their power would be enough to fight back against this massive threat.   Ultimately just one Superman among many who have already lost, Prophecy drains our Superman as well--but he's still outmaneuvered, as the ship Superman traveled to Prophecy in was a hidden homing beacon that allowed the Justice Incarnate to find him, just in time to take out Prophecy together.

There's a lot of really cool moments in this book--like the first meeting of Superman and Kenan Kong (Super-Man), and all the Supermen and Superwomen working together rather than it simply being New Earth's Clark Kent taking the main stage and being the only important character.   The only thing that bugs me is Red Racer--who sacrifices himself in order to build a second ship capable of traveling through the multiverse.  On its face I'm okay with this, but was there really only one speedster there that could do the job?   Couldn't multiple have saved them this trouble?

The other issue is: after defeating Prophecy, he's teleported away by--you guessed it--"Mr. Oz".  It's a good thing we're only two issues away from "Superman Reborn".  I'm REALLY going to need the story of WHO Mr. Oz is and what's his purpose.  He's been kidnapping people across the Earths for months now, time to find out what tf he's about.

Transformers - Lost Light
It's good to see that, even in the worst situations, these guys don't lose their sense of humor.  This is kind of a complicated issue, as the main crew here have made their way into an entirely different universe from an arc in the last volume released several months back, one in which there was never a war but apparently because that never happened the very things that caused that war (functionism, the idea that you're only as useful as your alt-mode) never got better.  Things just got worse, and now the functionist council have simply completely ruled over Cybertron for millenia.   I think we're making the case that sometimes while war is horrible good things come from it--and while that's a disturbing case to make, it's not necessarily something I can disagree with this issue.

At the same time, I do wonder how much of a threat the authority on this world can be to our protagonists.  War is known to accelerate technology at a rapid pace that peace just wouldn't, and billions of years of war would just make these guys better equipped and just flat-out better built for combat.  It's evident when we get a look at the "resistance" later, a group of people who...well.  It's best you see for yourself.  But I do hope Roberts has thought about this, and either shows them steamrolling the bad guys later or we get an explanation of some sort why they're in any kind of real danger. 

Unbelievable Gwenpool

I initially thought Gwenpool was the stupidest idea, but I literally had no idea what I was talking about.  I just figured they were cashing in on the Deadpool and Spider-Gwen popularity by combining the characters.  What I didn't know is that she's basically an even more insane version of Deadpool--a comic book geek like myself that's from our world but transported to the Marvel Universe.   She's got no compulsions about killing people in violent ways but also has none of the years of training or technique that your average assassin would have in the MU, but she DOES know the secret identities, weaknesses, and whereabouts of most of the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe.   So, fancying herself a hero (albeit a murderous one), she spends most of her time exploring the MU and getting into wacky hijinx to make her comic book interesting to the people from her world like me that are reading. 

So, I was wrong.  Gwenpool isn't the stupidest idea, it's the BEST stupidest idea ever. I will say that this character has a certain shelf life--eventually she'll have been a resident too long to actually know what's been going on in everyone's lives.   But for now, I'm happy to follow along with her ridiculously meta adventures--like this issue she winds up in a town full of undead normal people, who seemingly just wanna live out their dead lives on Earth in peace, but end up being attacked by Marvel's most famous monster hunter--Blade--leaving only a certain Gwen Poole to save them.  There's more to the story, but I don't wanna spoil the sad (and kinda funny) twist at the end.  Just, give Gwenpool a try.


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