Alright, honesty time. I sat down to write out this inaugural Monthly Pull thinking I was going to recap everything I’d read this month. And I got about halfway through before I realized it was, well, outrageously boring. I’ve committed to ensuring Novelly Graphic is worthwhile, and what I’d written would’ve been letting us both down. SO. This month, I’ve chosen instead to only discuss a few of the reads that struck me most.
That said, I’m also including a complete list of all the comics and trades I read this month at the end of this post. If you see anything on that list you’d also like me to talk about, let me know, and I’ll gladly oblige in a separate post.
Ms. Marvel #17
I didn’t necessarily gasp at the end of the last issue, but seeing Carol Danvers standing side-by-side with Kamala definitely warmed my heart. G. Willow Wilson has done a great job with the various mentors she has brought through this title — perhaps most memorably, the team-up with Logan — but this was the one we were all waiting for, and it’s a fitting way to end the world.
Ms. Marvel #17 is surprisingly somber. While Carol and Kamala seek Khan’s kidnapped brother and her backstabbing one-time-crush and worry about how an entire world is threatening to wipe out everyone she has ever known or cared about, they happen upon a roomful of kittens. Kamala, naturally, wants to save them all, but Carol reminds her about how high the stakes are and delivers some seriously tough news about heroism: sometimes, you aren’t going to be able to save everyone.
Maybe it’s just the way Adrian Alphona draws feline faces, but that particular moment stuck in my gut. I’m used to Ms. Marvel being poignant, but it tends to be fairly lighthearted. This is precisely the kind of difficult lesson our hero needs to learn if she’s going to be Avengers-quality material, and that makes it bittersweet as a reader. On the one hand, Kamala is sort of the emodiment of the meme-ish “precious cinnamon roll, too pure for this world” that we’d like to protect from anything too upsetting. On the other hand, the world is legitimately ending, and no one comes through that kind of trauma unscathed.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. There’s some hilarious awkwardness to kick off the issue, and Princess Sparklefists makes it clear she’s not in the mood for trifling when they finally do get near Kamran’s hideout. But make no mistake; while other books may bear the “Last Days” banner without really incorporating the Incursion, Wilson has fully integrated it into her story, a crucible through which Marvel’s best new hero is being further, if painfully, refined.
I was legitimately shocked when I saw the final page of Daredevil #16, and I didn’t think anything would be worse than the wait to see what would happen next. Leave it to Mark Waid to prove me wrong, because #17 ends on an even bigger and more devastating cliffhanger. Throw in the end of the world and the ostensible clean slate of the Marvel relaunch, and I honestly have no idea whether Matt Murdock is going to make it out of this story intact.
One of the things that made me love Netflix’s latest Daredevil is that series’ handling of Wilson Fisk, and the way Fisk and Murdock both have enormous egos that are almost backed by their actual skill and abilities. These are well-matched characters, and so it never really feels out of place for one of them to have outsmarted the other one. Daredevil #17 delivers one of those great Kingpin moments where the pieces fall into place and you realize the guy who looked like a bluffing fool is actually holding a straight flush.
I really liked the issue’s handling of time, swapping back and forth between the present fight between Daredevil and Ikari and the past events which led up to the fight. While hardly a novel convention, it worked well here, slowly manipulating your perception of the fight and, more importantly, of what would constitute an optimal outcome. When a third fighter joins the fray, the panic becomes palpable…I’m pretty sure I let out an audible “NO!” right along with Matt.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2 & #3
I mentioned in my Secret Wars primer that this book made me nervous, and that continues to be true three issues in. That said, while I can’t be sure this isn’t a case of “careful what you wish for,” for the time being I’m still very much on board.
Having also read Spider-Man: Reign this month, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this Battle World and the AU featured in Reign. Both feature a kind of totalitarian regime, and both feature a retooled Sinister Six legitimized by the government in their pursuit of Peter Parker and his family. The tone of Renew Your Vows, mercifully, is decidedly lighter, though still grim in comparison to the 616 Spidey we’re used to.
The general conceit here — and I’m not sure I’m buying it — is that now that Spider-Man has a family to protect, he can’t afford the level of moral discernment he used to possess. In an ironic reversal of One More Day, we still get the sense that ultimately Peter Parker can’t have both his family and his soul. That’s a depressing position to take, and I’m hoping Slott isn’t quite so cynical. Certainly the moments with MJ and their daughter, Annie, give me hope. Here is the classic story of power and responsibility, but with higher stakes. What responsibility does a powered person have to use their powers to help people, in a world where being powered is against the rules? A fantastic family moment suggests that personal consequences be damned; time will tell just how dire those consequences are.
Halfway through this miniseries, I can say that this is almost the Spider-Man comic I’ve been hoping for. I don’t feel that Peter’s dark streak is entirely justifiable here, and my hope is that in a less oppressive universe — one without an anti-power dictator — Peter wouldn’t feel so either. I hope Marvel looks at this as a kind of proof of concept, because a married Spider-Man raising a new generation of hero alongside his quite capable soulmate is a book I’d happily read for more than just five issues.
The Wicked + The Divine
I realize I’m super late to the party here, but for the two of you out there who still haven’t heard: Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie have created a modern masterpiece. Here’s the premise: every ninety years, twelve “gods” become incarnate, hijacking the lives of twelve teenagers and imbuing them with supernatural power. Catch is, after two years of living it up and doing miracles, they all die. The Pantheon, as it is called, draws from all over mythology and religion, and there’s no telling which gods will appear each cycle. We follow Laura, a girl who may as well be fandom incarnate, in her quest to get as close as possible to the Pantheon and maybe, just maybe, snap up some of their magic for herself as a tradeoff for her utterly mundane existence.
I happened upon WicDiv by chance, as the first volume was part of what I got for donating to an Image Humble Bundle a little while back, and I read it along with a few other first volumes of Image books I’d not paid attention to when they came out (Sex Criminals, The Walking Dead, Deadly Class). I recognize that this creative team has already established a pretty devoted following based on their other works (especially Young Avengers and Phonogram), but this was my first encounter.
And I was hooked. In fact, I’m so strongly convinced that the first volume speaks for itself that I’m not going to even try to explain why. You can get a copy of the first trade — Issues #1-5 — for a mere six dollars right now on Amazon. If you like fandom, mystery, or mythology, or just appreciate impeccably-paced storytelling, you owe it to yourself to give this book a try. I might also argue it’s worth checking out just for the art, but I’m assuming you have eyes.
PICK OF THE MONTH
The Wicked + The Divine #13
Really there’s no proper way to review this heartbreaker that doesn’t begin that way. For twelve issues, she has remained an enigma, only ever brought up to be disdained, and here at last under the beautiful guest artistry of Tula Lotay, we meet the first (though our last) member of the current Pantheon. I can’t remember the last time a delayed reveal so fittingly lived up to the suspense.
WicDiv #13 is one of those rare pieces of serialized fiction that functions powerfully as a standalone piece without losing any of its power as part of a larger whole (and if I weren’t so convinced people should give the whole series a go from the start, I’d definitely recommend picking up this issue as a trial run). To be sure, this issue carries on the larger narrative of murder amongst gods, as well as Ananke’s recent behavior. But in many ways, this isn’t an issue about Tara of the Pantheon. It’s an issue about stardom, sexual harassment, online bullying, and the devastating consequences of treating people as if they aren’t people.
The most powerful moment in the issue for me is a two-page spread featuring dozens of tweets directed at Tara’s social media account, calling her a whore, begging her to just die already, threatening to find her and rape her, etc. etc. The words had a familiarity because I’ve seen these tweets posted by actual women — friends and celebrities alike — with far too great a frequency over the past couple years. But my shock is secondhand. Too many women don’t need to open a comic book to see this kind of harassment; they need only open their own Twitter mentions.
I forced myself to read every single tweet. And even though it only takes a few before you get the gist of things, I never felt like I had gotten used to it or had become numb to it. Each new tweet still stung, the two or three positive ones easily drowned out and forgotten. And that was me, a guy, reading fictional tweets directed at a fictional character. Reflecting on the fact that real people receive these kinds of messages in real life — and with numbing regularity — makes me wonder, in awe, how thick a skin it takes to be a woman (especially a famous one) in this kind of world.
A lot of comics get called “thought-provoking.” The Wicked + The Divine #13 actually is.
Read since last post:
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2, #3
Batman #42, #43
Batman: The Long Halloween (TPB)
Batman: Hush (TPB)
Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity (#1-3)
Captain Marvel (2014), Vol. 1 (#1-6)
Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps #1, #2
Daredevil (2014) #17
Deadly Class, Vol. 1
Giant-Size Little Marvel: Avengers vs X-Men #3
Inhumans: Attilan Rising #3, #4
Moon Knight (2014) #13-#17
Ms. Marvel (2014) #17
Sandman #21-37, Special #1 (Finished Omnibus Vol. 1)
Secret Wars #5
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1
Southern Bastards #10
Spider-Man: Reign (TPB)
Starfire #2, #3
Uncanny X-Men (2013) #35
The Wicked & The Divine, #1-#13