If there’s anything that can be said on Marvel Comic’s recent approach to the character of Ant-Man, it’s that it’s awkward. Despite being a founding member of the Avengers, Ant-Man has never been a big enough draw to support a long term solo series. Because of this, he’s often overlooked (in any incarnation) and lives mostly in the shadow of his Avengers or other super science teammates. He isn’t a high profile member of any section of the Marvel Universe as say Thor comes packaged with Asgardian adventures, Captain America is bundled with all sorts of political espionage and World War II pulp action, or Iron Man being part of the super science scene. This public perception really sunk in when he was absent from the lineup of the massively popular Avengers film. Even now, it seems Marvel’s awkwardly looking at its feet and trying to make up for whatever small complaints there were that Hank Pym wasn’t yet part of the Cinematic Universe. While the same studio will pump money into making non-comic fans excited for characters completely alien to them with Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s a complete lack of zest when trying to market an Ant-Man movie.
First and foremost, The Gutters was a twice weekly webcomic that made fun of various aspects of the comics industry. It took the comics news of that week and spinned into something hilarious and self-contained with a rotating cast of artists, including ones you might know like Annie Wu (Hawkeye), Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan), Joe Eisma (Morning Glories), Nick Bradshaw (Wolverine and the X-Men), and even comics legend Neal Adams, who pencilled a heartfelt tribute to the late Joe Kubert in 2012. The humor of The Gutters is highly topical. However, in the tradition of the best MAD Magazine strips or SNL sketches, it can act as a nice time capsule to 2010 when people were arguing whether Steve Rogers or Bucky Barnes (or Clint Barton) should be Captain America, or 2012 when the circle of snark around Before Watchmen and if it was doing irreparable damage to comics was going on.
Cullen Bunn is unique. If nothing else can be said about him, he is certainly unique. The Empty Man shows the full extent of Bunn’s ability. The series focuses on two detectives as they struggle to sort out the mystery surrounding a series of suspicious deaths and murders. The deaths are connected by the strange hallucinations experienced by the perpetrators, as well as their last words “The Empty Man made me do it”. The Empty Man is unpredictable because it follows so very few tropes. Nothing like this series has been seen before, and readers will be asking themselves the same question over and over: Who is the Empty Man? (Or “What the F*ck?”).
Wolverine is dead to begin with. How permanent is his death remains to be seen. For the time being though, Wolverine’s possessions have been collected and his last wishes read. The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning will never be the same. As his replacement, Wolverine has chosen Spider-Man to fill the position of Guidance Counselor for a rather erhm, Special Class of mutants.
In Captain Marvel #9, Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez switch gears from space opera to rock opera in space involving variations on the traditional fairy tale. DeConnick inverts gender roles, writes about 75% of the issue’s dialogue in rhyme, and reinvents the character of Lila Cheney (who I previously thought was a Dazzler knockoff while showcasing Captain Marvel’s ability to inspire heroism and self-sacrifice in other people. Artist David Lopez adds a lot of the humor to the proceedings with his penchant for expressive faces. He also spaces out his panels in a way which reflects the rhyming scheme of dialogue before bringing out creative layouts and speed lines for the big third act battle. Colorist Lee Loughridge adds to the musical flavor of Captain Marvel #9 by contrasting the colors of the musical notes with the rest of the panel. He also adds a bit of pop to the teleportation and other dramatic scenes.
Jumping out of the pages of Marvel’s still ongoing event Avengers & X-Men: AXIS, Superior Iron Man marks a new status quo for the armored hero. Tony Stark was hit by a mental wave created by Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch, altering his personality into slightly sinister version of himself from his pre-superhero days.
If you were a fan of how Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn balanced the comedy of a Weapon Plus reunion between Deadpool, Wolverine, and Captain America with real character growth for Deadpool in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, Deadpool and Captain America will be a treat to read. Duggan takes Deadpool seriously as a character while peppering his script with puns, pop culture gags, and silly, but chuckle worthy jokes about Wolverine’s grooming. Scott Kolins’ figures aren’t as sharp and well-defined as Declan Shalvey’s in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, but he is skilled panel architect, who can turn a mundane elevator ride into an opportunity for humor and character reflection. Kolins adds layers to the comedy with sight gags and slapstick, like when Captain America beats up an AIM.
Because the characters exist in the public domain, there have been countless comic book iterations of classic horror icons Dracula and Frankenstein, including “official” versions of both characters which exist within the respective Marvel and DC Universes, versions which interact with each company’s superheroes. But through the years, those heroes have also encountered and battled one-off iterations of the horror monsters, independent of the “main” characterization.