Bottom of the Pile: April 12th, 2017

Welcome back to an admittedly late edition of Bottom of the Pile.  If you didn't know, Bottom of the Pile is an article where I take some of my favorite comics of the week and do commentary on them--it can range from funny remarks to discussing the comic in context of the world around it both in-universe and in a meta sense, or full on mini-reviews, depending on what I'm feeling about it.  When your comic is so excellent that I want to save it until the end, you wind the Bottom of the Pile.

 Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows
Renew Your Vows hasn't really gone into what the superhero landscape of its Earth looks like.  Bear in mind, this is essentially the same Earth from Secret Wars where Regent had basically conquered the planet and taken all the superheroes and villains' powers for his own...or had them killed, so we should actually be fairly light on heroes aside from our friendly neighborhood spider-folks.  This issue gives us a glimpse at the X-Men which appear to be mostly intact--Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Jean, Jubilee, Wolverine, and even Professor Xavier are all healthy and continuing the good fight for acceptance.  In fact, the team looks straight out of the early 90's cartoon/Jim Lee era, with Cyclops wearing what is to this day my favorite costume of his.   It's like a period of the Marvel Universe crystallized in amber that Gerry Conway gets to do his own take on, including explaining how the Civil War didn't go down.   Here apparently Xavier got involved, and allowed this Earth to avoid the SHRA as it was on Earth Prime.

But everything comes with a price, and here it appears to be...Cyclops still being a wet fucking blanket.  I'm not even sure how this works exactly--the incident that sparked the Civil War itself happened long after Scott had broken up with Jean and was dating Emma, the OTP for all Cyke fans.  I guess it just exists so there can be a rift between Scott and Xavier that (hopefully) doesn't involve Scott killing Charles.   It's not so bad, I guess it's just frustrating to see my favorite mutant hero walking around whining about a relationship that's gone on long enough for Jean and Logan to have had a little tyke running about. 

It's pretty awesome to see the team together again without all the weird time travel-y complications.   Peter and Mary Jane head to Xavier's school with an invite after their daughter is revealed to have powers, and are asked if they'd like to enroll her in the school.  They're absolutely going to end up saying no, but I hope they can visit the school again from time to time, because it'd be pretty awesome if Annie had a bunch of young mutant friends.
Black Panther and the Crew
I wasn't sure how this book was going to shake out...but it's actually quite good.  It slots Misty fairly neatly into the role of detective again, along the lines of how she is in Netflix's Luke Cage only she's got her mechanical arm and way with machinery.   Rather than just "decide" to make an all-black team of superheroes, we get a slow development that involves a heretofore "unseen" part of Marvel's history, and Misty slowly starting to get the idea that she'll need to form a team in order to handle a racially charged homicide that's tearing Harlem apart.

While this book has plenty of time to get all ham-fisted on me, so far it's a fairly nuanced take on things on the complex relationship black neighborhoods have with the police.  Misty's not just blaming the cops because that's just what we do now.  She was a cop, and she's seen the city get cleaned up from the days where they were actually a war-zone.  As a result, instead of just blaming the NYPD she's actually investigating--taking this case apart bit by bit and looking into every loose end, and it's making for a compelling read, so far.  The twist at the end where Misty gets the first teammate to join her "Crew" is nice too--I didn't see it coming, even if I totally should've because the writer made it so painfully obvious for anyone who was paying attention.

There's a lot more to tell to this story, and I hope it lasts longer than a few issues.  There are a lot of potential characters being left out of this arc that I'd love to see get a bigger spotlight in the future--Blue Marvel and his family alone could get an arc to themselves, for instance...

Detective Comics
And so we learn that the League of Shadows and the League of Assassins are in fact one and the same--which is kinda weird and yet kinda awesome at the same time. Because the League of Shadows is apparently the even more secret part of an already secret organization, which is so byzantine as to be ridiculous, but it's comic book-y stupid and explains away any lingering continuity errors that might exist from Batman having obviously met the League of Shadows.

Having said that, I kind of hope there's some fallout from this.  Ra's has been playing with Bruce's memories--the last time someone did that, he invented a giant big brother-y eye in the sky that generated a ton of dangerous power-neutralizing androids that eventually launched an attack on the super-powered community as a whole.  I'm not asking for anything that drastic this time, but I would like to see that Bruce isn't exactly taking the fact that someone can set up shop in his mind easy.   If I can't get that, I'd at least like a Black Casebook mention--Bruce used to keep track of the things that happened that he couldn't easily explain, and I'd love to see him go back to that.  The fact that he believed Ra's and just wrote the League of Shadows off as a fairy tale (basically the same thing he did with the Court of Owls) just doesn't feel like proper protocol for a guy who once kept a back-up personality in his head "just in case" someone hacked his brain.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps
This is basically the thing I was most concerned about in the post-Johns era with respect to the various rings.  You can point holes in Johns' stories as much as you like, but there were a lot of rules to how each of the rings worked, and that's what allowed him to create all those different rings in the first place without it feeling overtly like Power Rangers once you actually delved into things.

Here, they just describe them as "guns", which doesn't even make sense.  For you to use any of these rings, you have to prove yourself capable of exerting excess levels of a certain emotion: if you have a red ring you're a rage-a-holic, if you've got a green ring you have superhuman levels of will.   And if you're a Sinestro Corps member, you're capable of inflicting great fear, which honestly isn't a GOOD thing.   Like even in my head the difference between a Green Lantern Corps member and a Sinestro Corps member is the difference between someone who was a good cop and the "bad cop" that used excessive force all the time to get his job done.  Some of these emotions aren't ones you'd want to experience so powerfully you'd be able to use their Rings. 

That's not to say this book isn't otherwise good--there are a lot of great moments, not the least of which being Rip Hunter randomly appearing at the end wearing a GL ring--I'm just concerned that we're going to take away what makes each individual Corps special.

New Super-Man
And so Superman and Kenan's second meeting comes to an end, with Kenan having chosen to take the long road of training under I-Ching to learn how to use his powers, and the Justice League of China gaining their own Flash.  First off, if they can gain their own Aquaman and GL, I'm going to want them in their own comic--it can either take place after New Super-Man inevitably ends or at the same time if the book somehow succeeds more, but either way I've always wanted to see the international landscape of the DCU get developed and this is the perfect spot to start in.

Second, I love how they're gradually building up the superhero community again.  The New 52 seemed so afraid of having heroes know each other, but ever so gradually (and in a way that seems purposeful but not overbearing), each hero is reaching out and creating their own ties in the N52.  From Green Arrow showing up over in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, to what Batman's doing over in Detective, all the way up to Superman meeting up with his Chinese counterpart Kenan, it's slowly starting to remind me of that post-Identity Crisis/pre-Flashpoint era of DC where the heroes worked together to solve problems they couldn't deal with alone.  And hopefully going forward into whatever Rebirth is finally leading to next year we'll see them all be better heroes for it, instead of allowing the bad guys to just utterly wreck the Earth like they did when Darkseid and the Crime Syndicate popped up.

Justice League of America
Speaking of rebuilding communities, it's obvious that's what Batman's trying to do here in Justice League of America.  He's forming ties with superheroes he never knew in this timeline, and forcing them to form ties with one another.  It'd be pretty awesome if he was doing this as a reaction to what he learned during DC Universe: Rebirth: that somehow, someone just made everyone "forget" everyone else and how close they used to be.  Batman always was the guy who was the most difficult to fool, after all.

Of course, it's most likely that this is just set-up for Metal in August, but I'm still kinda hoping it has even greater implications down the line.  For now though, I guess we all just get to see Killer Frost and Black Canary learn to make nice?   If you're concerned that they're too worried about re-covering already tread ground, I'm pretty certain this is a new (albeit shaky) friendship sparking up.  I'm sure Frost's Birds of Prey membership card is in the mail already.

The Amazing Spider-Man
If you were wondering how Peter was going to lose his company and status as a multi-millionaire CEO, it's because Dan Slott gave him the Idiot Ball for this arc.  He's flying a Parker Industries plane directly into the sovereign country of Symkaria against the wishes of the U.S. Government and S.H.I.E.L.D., which is basically making him an enemy of both Symkaria as well as America.  Admittedly, he's being betrayed by what appears to be a revived version of Doc Ock,'s all just too much.  In rapid succession his company has been involved in PR disaster after disaster, and most of it can be blamed on either Peter Parker or Spider-Man.   Most likely, by the time Peter finishes dealing with Norman Osborn he'll end up being kicked out of the company he helped build...or have his company collapse entirely.

Both of these run pretty directly counter to his "with great power, great responsibility" act, though.  Particularly when here all he has to do is...y'know...scrape the Parker Industries logo off the plane?  It's gotten to the point where he isn't just being careless, he's being flippant.  It's obvious he cares more about being Spider-Man than keeping his company going.  Which is a shame, since I'm sure Pete was making sure this was a "good" corporation and it was employing hundreds (possibly thousands) in multiple nations across the world.  In a world where corporations abuse their workers by overworking and underpaying them, the fact that Pete would rather play hero than be a proper businessman actually makes him look pretty irresponsible.

...And all because everyone wants him to go back to having that Old Parker Luck.  SMH.

One of the most incredible things about The Big Two is that they can just casually introduce inventions that in any other universe would be the driving force of conflict for an entire, multi-year run, but in their universes are just tossed aside as soon as a story's done.   Like the Fearsome Five having a machine that can strip heroes not just of superpowers but even their very athletic capabilities and battle experience.   You'd think villains everywhere would want this thing--you could break not only the super-powered folks but the street-level heroes like Batman and Nightwing?   That's a guaranteed win for all involved!   And yet I'd bet after the Titans finish their run-in with HIVE and Deathstroke we never see this thing again.

Wonder Woman
As much as I've been enjoying Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, I'd be lying if I said I didn't prefer his first go-around--updating all the Greek gods and goddesses into people who've adapted to the modern world was a unique twist that I don't think we've seen nearly often enough to be tired of.  With that in mind, I'm pretty big on this version of Circe who's basically exactly the kind of "modern update" I was talking about--the long hair and elaborate outfits have vanished, but the trickster element remains and if anything has been seriously amped up as this issue sees her help Veronica Cale try and recover her daughter by placing the gods who stole her soul under her control.

The plan goes off without a hitch, it turns out, Deimos and Phobos lost Cale's daughter some time ago and the only way to recover it (conveniently) is by freeing Ares from his prison on Themyscira.  What's such a bummer about this is that there's obviously so much story that Rucka has left to tell--right now most of the gods are completely shrouded from Diana and the rest of the world, but what would they look like?   Ares was captured for a reason, doubtless they'd want to show themselves if he got free, right?   How does the world deal with that, and more importantly; how does Diana?   There's so many bases left to touch before even beginning to claim that he's done everything he can with the character...but unfortunately both Greg and Liam Sharp are taking their leave of the Amazonian Princess within the next few months, citing the heavy schedule as their major issues.   It's understandable, but man I'm going to miss them both--I haven't enjoyed Wonder Woman's book this much since Rucka's original run.

Check back with me on Thursday for this week's installment, where we'll talk about (amongst other things): Astro City, Deathstroke, Royals, U.S. Avengers, and finally get to the opening of the Batman/Flash crossover, The Button!


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