Bottom of the Pile: April 5th, 2017
This issue finally wraps up the "Kang War" storyline, with all the various Avengers across time working together to obliterate Kang's massive, history-spanning empire. Everything's kinda wrapped up in the neatest of bows, though there are some cool moments in there--like Ant-Man being responsible for saving the day not once but twice--but there's still something kinda...flat about this whole storyline. Like, they took Kang out entirely but I guess I've been conditioned to think that shouldn't just be the end of things.
Still, the next arc teases the "Infamous Iron Man" joining the team and that's kinda cool. This team is sorely lacking in any sort of conflict, aside from the mysterious (and quite frankly, off-putting) dislike Nadia has for Spider-Man. Having Dr. Doom in this book even for a single arc will probably increase how interesting this team is by tenfold. And if he joins "full time", well...I've been saying for awhile now the group just doesn't feel as strong as Avengers teams of late have been--having Doom join would definitely change that.
Still, how insane is it that I think a team with Thor, Hercules, and Cap is underpowered? That just goes to show how OP the last few incarnations of the Avengers have been, really. You need " The Big Three" plus an additional two powerhouses and at least one more super-genius, along with like four other members before you even scratch the surface of being dangerous.
....And just like that, in barely six panels, her family is ripped away. Not because they were ruthlessly slaughtered to get back at Rose, or to get at Deathstroke through Rose. Nope, it's just because Deathstroke--and pretty much everyone around him--is a bastard. It's who he is and he can't even help it. Somewhere in his twisted little mind he might've even thought giving Rose a place to belong was the right thing to do--it didn't matter if it was fake or not, particularly since it allowed him to keep an eye on her and not risk her being killed if she distanced herself too far from him. If I knew more geeky friends I'd start a pool on how many issues before Slade ruins Tanya Spears the same way he's done everyone else--she's gonna start swearing or smoking before this arc runs out, I just feel it.
And that's before we get to the part where Jessica Cruz got to be a total bad-ass by saving her and Simon after they got trapped in a giant ball of crumpled up automotives that had been shoved to the bottom of the ocean at the end of last issue. Her character has been developed so well here--she's gone from a young woman who couldn't even form constructs to being able to cover for her partner's weakness. And Simon being unable to save them even makes sense: he spent years locked up in Guantanamo Bay--if the guy has any one major weakness, it's probably going to be imprisonment.
With Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps being as good as it is, I'm pretty happy this book is able to pull its own weight as the other half of the GL franchise.
Of course, the group offering it to them have their own purposes: they're counting on Danny to fail, and thus be able to drain his chi and gain the power of Shou Lao the Undying, thus replacing K'un Lun as one of the Seven Heavenly Cities. So to me, this issue actually raises a very interesting question: what happens when Danny inevitably wins this tournament, and has drained all their masters chi? What do they do? And more importantly, do they have something to do with causing K'un Lun to fall in the first place?
Anyway, I actually like this issue a lot more than the last. It fixes a problem I saw reviewers complain about but I barely even noticed: that not much happened. Danny basically just revealed his powers were gone, he was fighting randoms because he didn't know what else to do, and he gets invited to a tournament. This issue we learn what the tournament is for, see Danny meet (and defeat) his first opponent, learn the REAL purpose of the tournament, and have Danny encounter his second enemy. That's a lot of ground to cover in a single issue, but it never lost my attention and made sure I care enough to pick up the next--all you can ask for, really.
Bryan Hitch's Justice League might not be the "best" story ever told, but it's absolutely the most purposeful. Over and over again the team keeps facing massive, cosmic-level threats, and all the threats are apparently centered around the source of the team's abilities--so many of them have attacked the Speed Force, or the Lantern energy, or the Light of the Sun, and so on. It's happened so frequently I'm beginning to believe they're essentially envoys for whatever lies at the end of the Rebirth initiative next year.
As a side note, I honestly can't get mad with the villains' complaints lately; how many times does our planet have to get attacked and reality get altered before you're just like "Look, fuck this." and decide to destroy/change/replace the Earth so you don't have to put up with it anymore. Yes, it's usually them that attack us but...still. At a certain point one has to look at the common denominator.
So when they take Pyg out and Damian rushes off to stop the disfigured "clone" of Nightwing only to get knocked out and sentenced to death by a villain, you don't really think about who it could be...until they just decide to reveal it outright on the last page: Simon Hurt, the man responsible for "killing" Bruce Wayne. Hurt played a major role in Grant Morrison's legendary Batman run from 2006-2013 and no one was actually sure what he was; Morrison kept it kinda vague. He could've been some twisted doctor who just wanted to fuck with Bruce, or he could've been a demon. What we did know was that he managed to "hack" Bruce's mind and leave him completely destroyed after placing a spy in Bruce's life to ruin him.
The reason I'm flipping out is that in dealing with both Pyg and Hurt, writer Tim Seeley has basically turned this Nightwing arc into a sequel to the beloved 2009 Batman and Robin series. Teaming Dick and Damian together, forcing them to face the truly depraved psychological villains of Morrison's run--it's something I never would have expected, especially when last arc focused so heavily on Dick's roots in Bludhaven. Sometimes you need to zig when everyone's expecting a zag--it spices things up, just like here.
I don't know what it is, but something about Al Ewing's prose this issue is chillingly beautiful. It puts me back in touch with the Inhumans in a way that their "Inhumans as X-Men" phase following Secret War just utterly failed to do. Having their precious Terrigen crystals and gas ripped from them, the Royal Family and the democratically elected ruler of New Attilan learn from an unexpected source (Marvel Boy, which means I'm 2-for-2 for re-appearances of obscure Grant Morrison characters) that there is a chance they can replenish their supply of Terrigen for the future of the Inhuman race.
It just requires a journey to the destroyed Kree homeworld of Hala. So a group of seven agrees to go on a journey into space to discover a way to bring the Inhumans back to their proper glory. Which makes me think of two things: A.) how cool it was when the Inhumans took their place as the ruling family of the Kree back during War of Kings, and B.) how Marvel should sign Al Ewing to a decade-long contract, because he's easily one of their best writers and shouldn't be allowed to go anywhere else.
As the flash forward showed at the beginning of this issue, there are dark times ahead for the Inhumans...and I'm pretty sure Marvel Boy at this point is just going to be a dick forever...but they've got to put some work in to get out of the mess they put themselves in over the last few years they had a chance to be at the forefront of things in the Marvel Universe.
...I'm still of a mixed mind. See, over the last two years I've been reading Chris Claremont's X-Men...almost more than I have been the present-day books...so it's not actually not that much of a jump to go from reading that to reading this, especially since this is literally the exact same line-up, minus a random Cyclops appearance here or there. It's not even that far off to see Kitty Pryde lead the team--there's an issue once where both Storm and Cyclops aren't available and Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine and Rachel all just defer to her anyway. And that was when she was barely a teenager--she's had ten years of battle experience now, so if Storm isn't going to do it, Kitty's absolutely the next best qualified person.
I want to love this book. I certainly enjoyed it, quite a bit. Aside from the gorgeous art and writing, it's about the X-Men reclaiming their role as heroes of the Marvel Universe and shaking off all that "teetering on the edge of extinction" stuff they've been repeating since House of M--both things I've wanted for years--and sees the team just enjoy being alive again. And yet.
Is this really what we had to do? Go back nearly thirty fucking years to find a version of the X-Men that had some kind of hope in them? Think about how many eras the X-Men have seen since 80's Claremont, and realize they didn't try to utilize any of them. As beautiful and as solidly written as this book is, it's not forward thinking at all. It's just "Chris Claremont's X-Men" if they went through a bunch of really shitty life events back to back. But it's the same team. Peter's still pining after Kitty (though she curved the fuck out of him). Wolverine might be old as shit but still just the same grumpy motherfucker he was in '85--arguably Old Man Wolverine gives them an excuse to ignore all the characterization the real version of the character had before he died, even. They're still playing baseball and trying not to use their powers but eventually saying "fuck it" because why wouldn't you if you had superpowers? There's even a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants at the end of the issue, a team that I don't think has had any true relevance since Wanda told humanity it was straight on that whole "evolution" thing.
Make no mistake: X-Men: Gold is a good comic. Sets up the new status quo for the team quickly. Kitty looks like she'll make a great leader like everyone thought. The dialogue is pitch-perfect. ("I hear there's some version of me that's still dead.") And while there's not much in the way of foreshadowing, there doesn't need to be just yet--it's enough to just lay the groundwork and give the readers something to believe in. And I firmly believe if you've been missing the classic X-Men, Marc Guggenheim and Ardian Syaf are going to give you exactly that and it'll be as good as it ever was, maybe better. I just...wish we had a better step forward than this, you know?