Monday, November 23, 2020

Comics Commentary: Vacation Grab Bag


This is a Media Diet Comics Commentary video review of Action Comics #1025 (DC, November 2020), The Amazing Spider-Man #42 (Marvel, May 2020), Avengers #36 (Marvel, November 2020), and Detective Comics #1028 (DC, December 2020). Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Audio only.

Transcript below...

We're here for a bit of a grab bag today. Today's Monday, and I'm off work for the week for vacation. That gives us a chance to do something a little different than we normally do. We've got four comics we're going to talk about today, all four from Marvel and DC, all subscription copies. Just a mishmash of comics to talk about. We'll go from there.

The first issue we're going to talk about is Action Comics #1025 coming to us from DC. This has been a fun read. I'm not sure how I feel about John Romita, Jr.'s art as he ages and develops as an artist. I used to really,  really like it. I remember a run on Daredevil that was just mind-blowing. I remember some earlier work on Spider-Man that was wonderful. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the now kind of equal parts hatchy and clean, almost overly clean for the hatch-work style of art that he used to specialize in. It’s still really good character design, still really good shape and page layout. I really still enjoy it, but not as much as I used to. That's interesting. Usually as artists develop, I appreciate them more over time as they come into what they are, and this feels like, as he develops he's pulling back from where he started rather than leaning into it. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

This comic is interesting not just because of John Romita, Jr.'s art, not just because of the Brian Michael Bendis writing. I’m not a huge fan of Bendis, but people like him and he gets brought in for event books and things that are trying to reboot and be made to seem important to people. The fact that these two are together working on this run of Action Comics says that DC is trying to do something with Action, especially given that Romita just moved over to DC not too many years ago. I think he first did Superman. I’m not sure exactly when that happened, but the fact that he's even working on DC properties is kind of a big deal. 

This comic is fun. It's got a big-name writer, got a big-name artist on it who I have a history with, and it's got the entire Super family. You've got four Supers in it. You've got a Brainiac in it. They're your main hero base. We've got the issue opening with Marisol Leone, owner or publisher of the Daily Planet negotiating with a mysterious figure to get off the planet, things are so serious. We've got the Supers going to the headquarters of the Invisible Mafia, which has been playing a role over the last series or run of issues. They get there, and the place has just been cleaned out. It's empty.

We've got Dr. Glory breaking in or at least surreptitiously going into Star Labs with some superpowered assistance in the form of Robinson Goode. They're there at Star to release this fellow. I don't know who it is and I don't know where it comes from, but it seems to be some kind of intergalactic parasitical creature that has fought and defeated Supers before. They release this parasite from Star Labs who goes straight to find all of the Supers.

They then fight. There's a wonderful two-page spread where Superman first encounters the parasite and they begin fighting while they're trying to investigate the Invisible Mafia's headquarters. At the same time, the Daily Planet—this is actually my favorite part of the comic—is being raided by the FBI. That's very exciting. Lois Lane is there. Perry White is there. Jimmy Olsen is there. They're talking about journalism, journalism ethics, what it means to work for a click bait site or publication, rather than a decent journalistic organization. They're arguing with the FBI, helping the FBI.

Then Marisol Leone shows up. She's the criminal element that was just negotiating to get off the planet. She returns, saying she's going to cooperate with the FBI and throwing the side eye at Lois Lane, saying that she's not the real Lois Lane—all while this battle is happening outside the Daily Planet.  A lot of things coming to a head. If you haven't been reading this, it does build up to this—it does lead up to this—but where it gets to and where it got is pretty fun. Action Comics #1025 is worth checking out: The House of Kent, part four, if you haven't been following that series.

The next comic we're going to look at today is The Amazing Spider-Man. I think there have been some issues past this, but this was next in my stack on the reading pile. It’s #42, full series #843, and the cover date on this—this is less recent—is dated May 2020 in the indicia. We've got a wonderful old Fin Fang Foom kind of monster issue. That's the whole issue. It’s that. It's written by Nick Spencer and penciled by Ryan Ottley. I’m not the biggest fan of Ryan Ottley. I don't like it when they have cartoony artists working on Spider-Man. I know he's a more kid-friendly book, character, and franchise, but I didn't really like Humberto Ramos's run. Later stuff seemed a little more mature in the artwork.

I don't really like Ottley's work, but I love Spider-Man, so I will always read The Amazing Spider-Man. This is part two of the True Companions storyline—and really the story of Gog. This is what Gog looks like now: totally classic Marvel monster, awesome, awesome stuff. This issue is Amazing Spider-Man and Boomerang in the middle of something where they come beset by Gog, and the rest of the issue is Gog's origin story. Without showing you all the art, I just want to show you how cute, cuddly, and kind he is when he was smaller. Gog was originally the pet of a child—looks like a Kree—raised to be peaceful rather than a warrior, but then a battle occurs. There’s an alien incursion on the Kree community and facility, and Gog is left behind.

Gog ends up being found by Kraven the Hunter, which has a role in his development. Gog has gone missing, and over time it's interesting. I'd actually like to go back through comics and see what other appearances of Gog there have been because if this is all stuff that happened, this is wonderful retroactive continuity. We've got Kraven the Hunter with Gog. We've got him encountering Spider-Man.  Here it looks like he's with the Sinister Six, again encountering Spider-Man. Then Gog returns to the Kree, where he finds his original owner. This is just a wonderful, empathetic series of panels there lying there beside the body of his previous owner. The issue makes clear why Gog is so mad at Spider-Man. Again, if this all really happened—if he really intersected with Kraven and Spider-Man, if he really intersected with the Sinister Six and Spider-Man—what a wonderful dipping back into history to someone who hasn't had a lot done with them and then tie it all together in what almost feels like punctuation in the run of Spider-Man recently, otherwise. 

The Amazing Spider-Man #42 is a wonderful, classic Marvel monster comic issue. It’s a wonderful opportunity for retroactive continuity, if that's what this is. They’ve retconned a bunch of stuff if these appearances actually happened. The fact that they're all bringing back, bundled, is some wonderful archival work from the editorial staff. Even though I opened by saying I didn't really like Ottley's art too much, it does work well for this. With the fact that Gog is a child's pet, that he was young and cute at one point, the art does work for the theme of the comic. I think Ottley's work is continuing on the series, but for this issue, specifically, it totally resonates and totally works. The Amazing Spider-Man has been one of my favorite comics as long as I've been reading. It goes hot and cold, but this was a fun standalone issue outside of the general continuity despite all the hooks into the broader continuity.

The next Marvel comic, Avengers #36, is amazing, absolutely awesome. It’s part four of a storyline called The Age of Khonshu with art by Javier Garron and written by Jason Aaron. Jason Aaron writes big scale, big scope comics. He’s a good writer to follow. This run of the Avengers, this and at least the previous three issues might as well not even be Avengers books. They might as well be a Moon Knight/Black Panther miniseries. There's a lot happening in this run of Avengers, so my commenting on this one issue will not suffice in terms of getting you up to speed.

Basically, we've got the Egyptian god Khonshu returning, Moon Knight as his hand, and the Black Panther trying to restrain and keep Moon Knight from succeeding at bringing Khonshu back fully. We've got a tie-in to Original Sin occurring. Original Sin one of the most interesting mini-series and events that Marvel has done in recent time: Nick Fury dead, the Watcher dead; so much cool stuff happened in that series. This connects in with that, and somehow Moon Knight also has Thor's hammer, so that ties into Thor and some of the other storyline about who is and is not worthy to carry Thor's hammer. Here's some neat imagery of the hammer in action and a previous Black Panther wielding the hammer—Moon Knight, Khonshu, and even a little bit of Ghost Rider. 

I think that the Moon Knight character's also been absorbing the powers of other people that he encounters. Mephisto is involved. Most of this issue is a fight between Black Panther and Moon Knight. I normally don't like fight comics, but this fight comic is cool, especially with the tie into the Black Panther movie. With the suit in his movie absorbing energy and then releasing energy, they do some really interesting stuff with coloring to show that as he's fighting that that is happening in the comics, as well. I don't remember that happening with his character in the comic before the movie. All of this in the service of Khonshu, in the service of Mephisto. 

Out in outer space, we've got Iron Man and Captain Marvel chased down by Khonshu, who I think is actually wielding the hammer and has the powers of Ghost Rider. There’s a ton of stuff going on. Then the battle with Black Panther and Moon Knight ends, and it turns out Moon Knight was fighting Black Panther toward a purpose that I will not reveal. Even after Black Panther stops fighting him, the Moon Knight continues fighting himself so he can bring about this thing that occurs at the very end of the comic—and amazing.

In outer space, Iron Man and Captain Marvel with the Star Brand chased down by Khonshu, who's enlisted Moon Knight, manipulating him to fight the Black Panther. There’s some kind of tie into benefiting Mephisto, an Original Sin tie-in, and just no Avengers to be seen. I mean, there are Avengers—Iron Man's there at the end, Captain Marvel's there at the end—but it's not a team book for this run. It's very much a Moon Knight story, and a fascinating approach to the Avengers on this run. It’s really worth checking out: The Age of Khonshu, part four. Be sure to read all of it. I'm sure it'll be collected as a trade paperback. This run of Avengers has been absolutely very fun and has tied into a lot of other stuff that surprised me.

Lastly in this grab bag, we've got Detective Comics #1028: “From beyond the grave... a horseman rides.” This issue is of interest, written by Peter Tomasi and art by Nicola Scott. I just wanted to point this out: wonderful ad placement from the magazine Rue Morgue, which has done a standalone special issue on horror comics, Blood and Four Colors. They are advertising to an audience that is perfect for that. This isn't a horror comic, but what better place to advertise for a magazine about comics than in a comic book. I hope that brings some readers to Rue Morgue, which is an excellent monster movie magazine.

I've been enjoying Detective. It is not as big a series lately as Batman.  That's actually been the case as long as I've read both titles: not as big a series, a slightly quieter series given the tie back to the original Detective Comics series, much more mystery oriented and detection oriented—at least sometimes, not always. This issue very much could have been an issue of 100 Bullets, a total cop comic. Standalone and self-contained, it also reminds me of some television show plots—a wonderful Detective Comics story in the traditional historic sense focusing on police and detection.

It's basically the story of a cop gone bad, perhaps led to that by others on the force, perhaps not. Not everyone paying for their crimes, one cop gone bad paying for his crime—and then either him returning from the dead or someone else exacting revenge for him with the remaining police over time. We get this ghostly visaged police officer wearing historic garb. They're armed with a sword or a rapier. He opens up the issue riding on a horse, taking on one of the people who fall victim. The comic is the mystery of figuring out who that person is. Is it a ghost? Is it not a ghost? If it's not a ghost, who is it?

You've got Bullock and Batman debating over how to approach it. You've got Batman checking out a crime scene when maybe he shouldn't be to get clues for the mystery. You've got a perhaps-ghost chasing down a cop on a motorcycle riding a horse, going back to the stables, the original scene of the crime. I won't tell you who it ends up being, but you get Batman on a horse. You get him chasing the villain through Gotham’s version of Central Park on horseback.

This could have been a mystery comic.  It could have been a Mike Mist mystery from Ms. Tree. A wonderful crime comic, police comic, detective comic. It just happens to be a Batman comic. Wonderful story from Tomasi, and I really enjoyed the artwork; Nicola Scott did good work.

The only other thing that I would say is that it's a little disconcerting with these Snickers ads that are done to to look like page spreads of a comic book when the art in the ad is too similar to the art in the comic. Sometimes you turn to it and you're, like, is this continuing where I was? Is it not? It's not always clear. It’s kind of a neat call back to the original Hostess comic book ads, but a little disconcerting when it's similar to the art. With Scott’s art, it's similar enough that it was kind of disconcerting. If it had been opposite Ottley's art, it would not have continued.

A great crime comic. A wonderful crime comic. Just not knowing if it's a ghost or not a ghost, not knowing who it is, and then your classic one-by-one revenge hunt down. A fun, fun read. Huzzah! Huzzah to Detective Comics. A wonderful, wonderful issue of Detective.

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