Comic Recommendations: January 6, 2016

This week’s new comics: Dark Horse Comics released Lone Wolf 2100: Chase the Setting Sun #1, a re-imagining of Dark Horse’s own 2002 series Lone Wolf 2100 which itself was a re-imagining of Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kajima’s manga Lone Wolf and Cub; DC Comics welcomed Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein back to work with his baby in Swamp Thing #1; IDW Comics relaunched “classic Angry Birds” with Angry Birds Comics #1; Image Comics released the first issues of the second arc to Joe Kelly’s 2008 series Four Eyes titled Four Eyes – Hearts of Fire #1; Marvel Comics’ first all-female Avengers team has spilled over from Battleworld to normal continuity in A-Force #1, Obi-Wan and Anakin #1 delivers a canonical story that takes place during the Star Wars prequel trilogy, we get yet another Deadpool-related title with Spider-man/Deadpool #1, and Magneto gathers together some of the more villainous mutants together to form a team in Uncanny X-Men #1.

NOTE: Injustice: Golds Among Us: Year Five #1 was released this week in print form, but it was originally released on December 21, 2015 in digital form so I didn’t include it with the January 6 comics.

UNSPOILED

  1. Angel & Faith Season 10 #22 (Dark Horse Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Angel & Faith Season 10 22 01

Angel & Faith has certainly been building toward something special, and starting at issue 22 it seems like we’re starting to get some heavy payoffs from our investment. What is particularly interesting about this new urgency is that there are still eight issues left until the conclusion of Season 10. Dark Horse started this current season with Angel & Faith, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the main story and biggest payoff of Season 10 happens to be found in the pages of this book. In other words, keep reading this title. The best is yet to come.

  1. Doctor Strange #4 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Doctor Strange 04 01

One of the people working at my local comic book shop suggested that each issue of Doctor Strange has been better than the previous and while I appreciate that sentiment I don’t agree with it. Doctor Strange #2 was BY FAR the best issue that has been released so far. I think a more accurate thing to say would be that each issue makes the whole developing story look much more sturdy and exciting. The fourth issue was pretty fantastic, and it is hard not to see awesome things on the horizon now that Strange’s relationship with the myriad magic-wielders of Marvel-616 has been established.

  1. Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Obi-Wan & Anakin 01 01

While seeing Anakin Skywalker with his Padowan rat tail (or at all) might be off-putting to those who would prefer to imagine that the prequel films never happened, the era of Anakin’s training under Obi-Wan Kenobi is a relatively untapped and potentially fruitful mine of Star Wars awesomeness. As witnessed by the last issue of theChewbacca mini-series, these canonical comic books have the potential to contain serious reveals about our favorite characters, but if the potential for big plot developments is enough the fantastic art of Marco Checchetto should be enough to keep your attention.

SPOILED

  1. Angel & Faith Season 10 #22 (Dark Horse Comics), Spoiled Edition

Angel & Faith Season 10 22 07

When Nadira first got kidnapped by Archaeus, I started narrowing my focus in on Angel & Faith Season 10. In my humble and limited opinion — I haven’t yet become an expert of Dark Horse’s offerings — this is probably the best book the publisher has put out since they lost the rights to Star Wars. In fact, Nadira, a magically affected individual who has a strange, passive relationship with the powers at play in Magic Town, is becoming a character of central importance. She claims that she does not command the magic in Magic Town, that she is more of a mouthpiece, but there are some serious questions surrounding the exact meaning of her relationship with this fount of energy.

Angel & Faith Season 10 22 03

Could she control or influence the magic under duress or with training? Is it possible that the magic has been using her as a tool for some intentions that she does not yet understand? More frightening: Might the magic choose a different host like Archaeus in order to assert its own will?

The question of Archaeus brings us to what is probably the most important issue of Angel & Faith this season, the issue of Angel’s vampire family.

Angel & Faith Season 10 22 02

Archaeus is the demonic progenitor of the line of vampires of which Angel is a part, and as a result he has the ability to influence and control Angel and Drusilla, as witnessed in Angel & Faith, and Spike, as witnessed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think what we are supposed to fear at the end of this season is that Archaeus might be able to siphon the mystical energies of Magic Town (perhaps with the help of the mysterious statue that was introduced at the end of this issue) and overcome Angel and Spike’s defenses, thus adding Angelus and Spike the Slayer Slayer to his army.

Angel & Faith Season 10 22 08

What I am a little bit haunted by is the memory that Angel’s sire and former lover Darla hasn’t been referenced in any significant way. I know that she was staked on the Buffy TV show, only to be resurrected and killed again on Angel, but the book of magic has been rewritten, literally, which means that all bets are off. I guess the big question is whether there are still some fruits to come from a continued relationship/rivalry between Angel and Darla. My knee-jerk reaction is that there is still a lot of fun to be had with those two vampires, but then again, I was always a fan of Darla, so I’m a little biased.

In reference to the bigger picture of this season, with Buffy and crew falling in with some of the bigger powers of our dimensions — the counsel, the military, the two main vampire representative groups — in order to battle some of the bigger powers from other dimensions — Godzilla-style mega-monsters trampling major cities, it remains unclear where Angel and Archaeus’ war games will fit in. My gut says that Archaeus is the prime mover in this story, that he will acquire the power of Magic Town and potentially of the book of magic in order to get all vampires worldwide under his power, but my mind says that Joss Whedon is much smarter than my gut and he’s going to impress me more than my own theories ever will.

  1. Doctor Strange #4 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition

Doctor Strange 04 02

I may have downplayed their inclusion in the short description I wrote above, but I could not be more excited that Doctor Strange has already met with characters like Scarlet Witch, Magick, and Shaman by Doctor Strange #4.

Doctor Strange 04 04

What this suggests to me is that these characters are likely to pop up here and there as the story progresses and that they will be highly developed and integral to the story once we begin to march toward Jason Aaron’s endgame. I really loved seeing Chris Bachalo’s depiction of Illyana Rasputin when he was doing the art for Bendis’Uncanny X-Men, and I’m already a fan of his work on Wanda Maximov. When it comes to character development, I’m happy to see Shaman again. Back in my day, I was really into Alpha Flight, and I would love to see this old guy get a bigger piece of the action. I’ve mentioned before that I love how Jason Aaron writes Illyana Rasputin, and while there has been talk about Strange and Magick training together I wouldn’t mind seeing them in action a little more often than I have in the past. Of course, at the end of the day, I think I might be the most excited about Aaron potentially fleshing out some of the lesser known sorcerers in the crowd and making them his own.

While the main story continues to be the elimination of the various Sorcerers Supreme from across the multiverse, what I am really excited about is the fact that Doctor Strange #4 is mainly dedicated to explaining Strange’s taste for disgusting food. During the flashback at the beginning of this issue, Aaron establishes a theme of, “Every punch comes with a cost.” The literal understanding of this maxim is made plain when Stephen Strange punches his master with one of his maimed hands only to be met with intense pain.

Doctor Strange 04 03

The analogical understanding is that you cannot use magic without also paying a cost. This cost is a kind of purging. It sometimes involves vomiting profusely, but it has been suggested that one can purge oneself without vomiting actual stomach contents. What I really liked is how the idea that magic has its cost is now tied to the arcane pasta in Strange’s refrigerator. Since the Sorcerer Supreme has lost so much of his original self to the magic that he has cast to protect the universe (and then some), he is now only able to eat terrifying Cthulhean jelly that apparently tastes like lepers.

Doctor Strange 04 05

Comedy aside, I think my response to every punch coming with a cost would be not to punch, but that option is removed near the end of the issue. We are told that a world without Stephen Strange would be just fine, but a world without magic wouldn’t be worth living in. If Strange is the one who must keep magic alive in our universe, then he needs to keep punching, regardless of the cost.

Doctor Strange 04 06

Now that we’ve spoken about a wizard-world support group and the cost of magic, I think it is about time we talked about Doctor Doom, because if there is going to be an arcane battle against anti-magic Doctor Strange is almost certainly going to need Doom’s support and there is almost certainly going to be a cost. I hope Brian Michael Bendis is willing to share Victor Von Doom with Jason Aaron for this purpose. If not, I trust these creators to do what’s right, but I find it hard to believe that there will be a battle for the fate of magic that doesn’t involve Doom. If there were, he’d be whining about it in third person for years to come. “Boo hoo. Nobody invited Doom to the apocalypse get-down.”

  1. Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition

Obi-Wan & Anakin 01 02

By the end of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the assumption is that there is only one Jedi left in the universe and zero Sith. Sure, Leia is naturally strong in the force, but she hasn’t (yet?) gotten any training in the ways of the force. If the original trilogy is your main entry point for Star Wars, then Obi-Wan Kenobi’s comment that there are only 10,000 Jedi in the universe during the time of the Obi-Wan & Anakin mini-series (between Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones) feels pretty ridiculous. Charles Soule certainly plays on the highly political tone of Episodes I-III, but he does so on a distant non-Republic planet. In other words, we are not hit by a brick wall of political intrigue, confusing and confounding us the way Phantom Menace and its droogs unfortunately did. Instead, there is a pretty simple description of the Senate and the Jedi and their place in the universe. The Jedi Order are at the disposal of the Senate, and the Senate protects planets that have resources they need while completely abandoning others.

Obi-Wan & Anakin 01 04

I have been pushing the idea that the Jedi Order of I-III is already corrupt and only a couple inches from the dark side at all times, and this is something that would have been the case even without Palpatine’s machinations. When Obi-Wan explains this structure to Anakin, he does so very matter-of-factly, clearly attempting to mask his dissatisfaction with the shape of things. I would be really happy if this comic gave us more canonical support for Qui-Gon Jinn’s middle-path between the corrupt natures of both the Jedi and the Sith, but I will certainly settle for a balanced portrait of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Obi-Wan & Anakin 01 03

The other interesting development is that Anakin and Obi-Wan’s quest to this abandoned planet appears to be a shell for a more important story in which Anakin Skywalker contemplates leaving the Jedi Order. I think what we’re supposed to want — despite the fact that it would make everything thereafter no longer work continuity-wise — is for Anakin to leave the Jedi Order, because if he is never trained to use his powers he can never become the weapon of Palpatine. I used to be of this school, but I have recently abandoned this line of thinking. If we are to believe that Pelagius is able to manipulate life and death (as described in Revenge of the Sith) and that Anakin was conceived by the force (as described in Phantom Menace) resulting in the conclusion that Anakin was created by Pelagius, then one way or another Anakin was going to become a tool for the Sith. What is truly amazing is that in his last moments (Return of the Jedi), Anakin overcame the evil purpose he was created for. Now, that’s good story-telling. As for Anakin wanting to leave the Order, what concerns me in this mini-series is why he wants to and why he decides against it.

I’m hoping Soule decides to keep playing up Anakin’s slave background, because this is one of the most under-addressed ethical issues (alongside the consequences of the destruction of Alderaan) in all of Star Wars.

Obi-Wan & Anakin 01 05

Phantom Menace made slavery on Tattooine seem fun and goofy and I’d like someone to have the courage to posit the truth about slavery and forced labor. Hopefully, Charles Soule is my guy.

* * *

New Avengers Illuminati Special 01 03

In preparation for Captain America: Civil War, I decided to go back and read the 2006-07 Marvel’s Civil War mini-series and surrounding issues. Obviously, I am going to recommend that you all do so as well, because that means I will have more people to talk to. Captain America: Civil War is inevitably going to diverge quite a bit from the original Civil War of a decade ago, and I am certainly not into the idea of movie-goers booing a film because it does not stick to a strict pre-existing story, but I am happy to use the film as an excuse to do some catch up.

I only got around to reading one Civil War comic this week and it was The New Avengers Illuminati special issue by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev featuring “The Road to Civil War” banner.

New Avengers Illuminati Special 01 01

I have to say that this was probably one of the heaviest comics I have ever read. There is a lot to discuss about this issue, but the most important aspects for the current conversation come down to Tony Stark’s monologue near the end of the issue. He basically explains that he is a futurist and then describes a story of how in the near future a young Avenger will get into some sort of trouble, the media is going to jump on it, the people are going to get scared, and they are going to pass the Superhero Registration Act. Once this Act is passed, friends and families are going to be divided by a Civil War and people are going to die. Stark describes it as if it is inevitable and believes that his fellow Illuminati ought to volunteer to register and get in good with SHIELD before the hammer comes down.

New Avengers Illuminati Special 01 04

I thought maybe Bendis would ease into this story, but already we basically know what happens. Unfortunately, most of us already know the biggest casualty of the war to come, but the original audience had no idea what was coming. For all they knew, this was just another crossover.

I can’t help but to see Stark’s desire to bring the entire superhero community together as a parallel to what was going on during that time at Marvel Comics from a production standpoint. When I started reading comics again in 2011, the post-Civil War world that I had entered into seemed much more organized than the various comics I had read from the 1960s through the 1990s. What I had inferred about Civil War was that Marvel had used it to bring together scattered franchises like Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-man, Daredevil, and company, in a way that mirrored the successful dynamic of Professor X and Magneto in the 1960s. With Captain America (the idealist) at odds with Iron Man (the pragmatist), the world of non-mutant superheroes would now have a shape, and every character would have a reason for existence that connected to some central idea. It has always worked for the X-Men, making them the most compelling superhero team in comic book history, and now Marvel would make it work for all of their other titles as well. Genius!

New Avengers Illuminati Special 01 05

Of course, my hypothesis can only stand on two legs if it survives the actual battle, and I’m really excited to put it to the test by reading Civil War. As with every post, if you see something you want to talk about, let’s talk about it. If you want to talk about something that isn’t referenced in this post, let’s talk about it just the same.

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