Civil War II #0 definitely has a “prologue” feel and not much in the way of action or twists other than the president of the United States saying that he wants James Rhodes to take his spot in the future. (There is a little bit of a disconnect between She-Hulk/Carol’s sequences and War Machine’s.) However, Brian Michael Bendis clearly articulates the premise of Civil War II and makes the conflict in it, both ideological and personal. As an Ultimate, Captain Marvel has seen the fluctuating timestream and dark futures of the Marvel Universe, and she desperately wants these to not happen by being more proactive towards catastrophes.
Reuniting the creative team of DC Comics’ acclaimed Starman series for the first time in decades, and sold with the promise of revealing the story behind Threepio’s one red arm in The Force Awakens, this issue was delayed numerous times (it was originally intended to be published shortly before the film’s release, not months after) due to a long script approval process from LucasFilm (according to Harris, he and Robinson didn’t receive final approval until about a week before the issue’s first solicited release date). As a result, expectations for this issue grew to possible unreasonable proportions: no story could possibly live up to the hype generated just by virtue of its constant rescheduling.
Hellcat #5 is an explosive ending to the series’ first arc as Patsy and her friends get a nice win against Casiolena, but she has a lot to learn as she balances her life as a superhero with her actual job at Tara Tam’s tattoo parlor, the court case with Hedy, and hanging out with friends. But she has a great supporting cast that writer Kate Leth has fleshed out throughout the first five issues, bright and bouncy art from Brittney Williams, and intense colors from Megan Wilson so she has a great shot at overcoming this obstacle as well. Plus the final two pages have my third favorite Marvel character on it and will definitely make you sad that the next issue is a month off.
Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery #622-645 is really the closest Marvel has come to telling a long form urban fantasy story about stories like Vertigo’s Sandman , and it survived multiple art shifts and even an extended crossover with the Fear Itself event. The premise of the series is ingenious as in the aftermath of the Siege event (which involved the much maligned and overused by Brian Michael Bendis character, the Sentry, finally getting thrown into the sun by Thor.), Loki has been resurrected as a child and hopes to avoid his villainous destiny.
Although Black Panther #1’s writing is rough in places as Ta-Nehisi Coates flits from scene to scene without letting Brian Stelfreeze do an establishing panel at times, it has a strong thematic base in the conflict between monarchy and democracy, and the always universally tradition versus progress. The comic’s cliffhanger is a little less than compelling by throwing in a fan favorite character without any foreshadowing or a hook for the next issue. Coates and Stelfreeze also craft a pair of supporting characters (and antagonists for now) in the Dora Milaje turned Midnight Angels Aneka and Ayo, who are easily the best part of this comic.
Sam Wilson Captain America #7 doesn’t do much with its title character, but there is a great moment where Steve admits that he respects and trusts Sam despite having differences over what he should do as Captain America as Crossbones beats him up. It’s mostly Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna’s tribute to the character of Steve Rogers while simultaneously a game changing moment in the “Avengers Standoff” crossover, but a few confusing moments aside, it’s worth picking up to see Steve Rogers written well and heroically even if you haven’t kept up with the “Standoff” storyline. And this exploration of Captain America’s qualities of courage, standing up for the little guy, and genuine care for the friends he made over the years extends to the backup stories of which the Whedon/Cassaday one is the highlight as they lay out the heart and soul of the character in nine fluid pages.
Hellcat #4 continues to be an adorable, friendship focused comic about characters, who struggle with real problems like dating and jobs along with fighting Asgardian sorceresses. And artist Brittney Williams and colorist Megan Wilson add some nice Bronze Age flourishes when Casiolena shows up to go with their fashion forward character designs and fun cartooning and to vary the style of the comic a little bit.
Since then, Punisher has remained a viable character and maintained a consistent publishing presence, though his heyday of carrying multiple books and making routine guest appearances in all corners of the Marvel Universe are long behind him. And, really, that’s for the best: on his own, the Punisher is a compelling character. A shattered soldier, driven to extremes by the death of his family. He’s a Batman who eschews the theatricality of a costume and has no qualms about killing bad guys, and that type of character can be engaging and entertaining. But Punisher works less well as a protagonist in a shared superhero universe. Put him side-by-side next to guys like Daredevil or Captain America, and everyone gets watered down: the Punisher doesn’t kill anyone (because the heroes won’t let him), and the heroes look like idiots for not capturing this guy who willingly operates so far outside their usual “no killing” code.
Like Darth Vader #16, this issue picks up on threads left over from “Vader Down”, helping make that crossover feel more like a part of the overall narrative and not just a one-off stunt. It also features Sana Starros, the character introduced as Han’s wife in the series’ second story arc, which also helps add to the impression that these issues are part of a larger whole, and not just a series of self-contained stories.
Black Widow is off to a blisteringly great start that is simple but highly effective. More comics should take notes from the team of Samnee, Waid, Wilson and Caramagna to focus on utilizing each member of the creative team to make for a truly fun and exhilarating read that couldn’t possibly turn people away from picking up the next issue.
Things are going to get worse before they get better. In Miles Morales’ short career as a hero, he’s dealt with Venom, losing his parents in some form or fashion, and the end of the world as he knew it. In Spider-Man #2, his next biggest challenge rears its ugly head: the citizens’ public opinion of Spider-Man.
After Hellcat #3, it’s safe to say that I’m a (Hell)kitten, and this comic is my warm milk (I would have said catnip, but that’s even self-indulgent by my standards.) thanks to its varied colors from Megan Wilson, adorable art and zippy storytelling from Brittney Williams, and a thematically robust, joke filled writing. Watch out for a great Jessica Jones Easter Egg too!
College is a tough time This rings true for all of the students transitioning to a new point in their lives. While some have to deal with creating the perfect class schedule, others have to deal with three cosmically enhanced supervillains that are threatening both SHIELD missions and your average college campus. It’s no big deal for Starbrand and Nightmask although, in this issue, things get more dangerous, and the stakes are raised significantly.
In the pages of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, most of the members of that assassination team have lost something. Wolverine lost his son. Angel lost his life while Psylocke lost her love. Fantomex lost his independence. And Deadpool? Well, as in almost all things, Deadpool was the oddity in Remender’s story about the moral ambiguity of these heroes.