Bottom of the Pile: May 31st, 2017

Three...technically four weeks behind.  I'll knock them all out before the week is over.  Anyways...

If you didn't know, this is Bottom of the Pile, a weekly column where I take anywhere from five to ten (sometimes more) of my favorite comics of the week and discuss them.  Sometimes that can be a mini-review, sometimes its just short commentary--both are my way of highlighting comics that I think you should be reading.   When a comic is consistently well-written in terms of action, character work, or comedy--it finds its way to the bottom of the pile, because don't we all save the best for last?

The Unbelievable Gwenpool
It might be a tad unfortunate that Gwen didn't get an issue that lended depth to her character until we were sixteen issues in, but its no less welcome, as Gwen is suddenly dragged back to the "normal" world by her brother.  We finally get to see exactly what Gwen's life was like when she lived in the real worldUnsurprisingly, she wasn't exactly fitting in here--a high school drop-out who can't seem to find a job or commit to anything, she spends most of her time immersed in the fiction of other worlds because she finds her own so untenable.

At this point, Gwen might be the most relatable character in comics, because on some level or another we've all wished that we lived in a universe that was cooler, more exciting, or at least less shitty than the one we're in currently.  That's a big part of what causes us to be such huge fans of genre fiction, and arguably an even bigger part of what causes people to create fiction stories.

I honestly don't think I've ever identified with a character more than Gwen in this issue (or this scene), and I hope she can find her way back to where she belongs on the Marvel Prime Earth.


Teen Titans Annual
 The Lazarus Contract ends with Slade Wilson quitting his Deathstroke identity, Kid Flash being fired from the team, and Wally West having to quit being Flash because of Damian's reckless actions.

As much as I want to blame Damian for all the bad things here, young Wally's actions are the reason that Deathstroke was able to go back to the past at all.  So already he's indirectly responsible for the whole story.   Then when you think about it, having the world's most successful contract killer sealed away in the Speed Force probably wasn't the worst thing in the world--he certainly hadn't been "killed", so he risked Raven and everyone else's life for absolutely nothing.

And ultimately, while I have no idea why a group of 15-18 year olds would listen to a 13 year old, I'm always a fan of people being fired off a team when they explicitly disobey orders and the results are disastrous.  If superheroes are going to exist they need to be competent on some level, not just doing whatever because "you can't control me".  Wally needs to have to prove himself to get back on the team.

Having said all that, Damian still needs his ass kicked for nearly killing older Wally and destroying his career as the Flash, though he should be able to heal himself due to the Speed Force. That should be the solution at least, because I honestly don't understand why other writers don't get that the least interesting thing you can do with a speedster is tell a story about him being unable to run.

The Flash
There really needs to be some kind of explanation for this.  Because right now Thawne is looking literally immortal--he was just killed by, presumably, Doctor Manhattan, barely a couple weeks ago!  How do you revive yourself after being wiped from existence by a higher-order cosmic being?

Transformers: Till All Are One
This week's "Till All Are One" starts with Starscream making proper leadership decisions for the good of Cybertron, and seeming like a half-decent 'bot--one that could almost make the version of Bumblebee he keeps imagining proud--but then, as its described at the beginning, with Starscream it's a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of scenario.

By the end of the issue, Starscream is engaging in the forbidden art of Shadowplay, altering a robot's memory so they believe a different version of events than how they actually happened.  Outlawed millions of years ago (long before the war started), in his case he's using it to re-gain control over the Combaticons in order to keep his part in the Combiner Wars a secret and gain a powerful group of allies in a world that's increasingly turning against him.  But while he's altering the whole team's memory, he's only telling one of them--Blast Off--taking advantage of the fact that he's in love with the team leader, Onslaught.  It's a twisted faustian-type bargain that will likely end in either Onslaught killing Blast Off or vice-versa once the team realizes what's happened, and it kind of highlights why Starscream has been able to continue living in this arguably more dangerous post-war Cybertron.   He gets politics--he knows who to use, how to push their buttons, and most importantly?  How to save his own skin. 

It's fascinating how none of us realized that Starscream was the most compelling character in the Decepticons until now, and I hope that even though this book is canceled they find a way to continue his stories.

WWE
Dean Ambrose is one of the most puzzling figures in the WWE.  Initially seen as the "weak link" of the sensation that was The Shield trio he was apart of, Dean's "loose cannon" image quickly turned into him being "the lunatic fringe" because WWE needs nicknames for everything and doesn't understand how they work.  

But despite Jon Moxley being a really sick guy, Dean Ambrose has never quite worked that way.  He cut a promo once about being the "Iron Man of the WWE" that they went with for this issue of WWE and I really wish they would've kept, because once again a guy who presumably has zero ties to the locker room has made a ton of WWE stars (Charlotte, Sasha, Dean, and even Roman) way more affable than they tend to be on RAW.    No matter what he was doing on the indies, Dean Ambrose's gimmick has never been being "crazy".  It's not being Stone Cold Version 2.0, either.  It was being an average joe who's just too stupid to just stay down, and who everyone tends to underestimate because he doesn't "look" like a threat--which is the most dangerous thing you could ever do in an industry where all it takes is three seconds for a match to be won, or a title to change hands, and this issue highlights that aspect of his character in a story that leads into last year's Money in the Bank Pay Per View.  Solid work all around, though I can't help wondering what happens when they eventually catch up; they're barely a year away from our stories right now, after all.

Wonder Woman Annual
The Wonder Woman Annual is a collection of short stories that help develop Diana's character--she saves King Shark from being unfairly put to death, helps release a curse on a man and his village in a way that neither Superman nor Batman would've ever dared to, plays fetch with a young Kaiju she saves, and in Greg Rucka's story we see her first meeting with Superman and Batman.

The idea of Superman basically becoming friends with Batman because he was just too nice, too persistent, and honestly just too "Superman" to be afraid of Bruce might be the most accurate post-Crisis version of how these two would have become friends I've ever seen.  And this whole thing just makes me want Greg Rucka to get his hands on Trinity--he's got the keenest eye for how all three of them would act around one another, and would bring the kind of character-driven stories to that book it deserves.

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