End-of-the-Year Comics Roundup: Superpower Edition

I just can’t even with this December, guys. I have started three novels and finished only one, and it’s not that I don’t want to finish the other two, it’s just that that feels like it requires, like, effort. And I just don’t wanna.

Thank goodness for my backlog of comics and the fact that I am apparently all for reading words that are accompanied by pretty pictures. I’ve read lots of comics this month and they’ve all been pretty awesome.

Today, let’s talk about the ones that will scratch your superhero itch.

S.H.I.E.L.D., Vol. 1: “Perfect Bullets”, by Mark Waid and various artists
S.H.I.E.L.D., Vol. 1When I read Ms. Marvel, Volume 3, there was a super awesome bonus issue from a crossover with S.H.I.E.L.D., and I was like, yeah, I’m probably going to go read that now.

So I did! And I liked it a lot! This is a series made for the single issue, as the story in each issue is almost entirely separate from the stories in the other issues, with a different fight and a different main character each time. There’s a Coulson backstory issue, the wonderful Ms. Marvel issue, an issue with Spiderman (who I always forget is an Avenger), a kind of terrible and manipulative Sue Storm issue, and a two-parter with the whole Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. team, which is weird but I like having the whole gang together so that’s fine.

It’s a little weird reading this and watching the TV show, as I can’t quite place the comic in the timeline of the show and it quite possibly doesn’t have a place in it. Things are just off enough to be confusing, but also enough that I’m curious anew about how things might go. Win! This isn’t going on my “A plus plus will read while walking home” list, but I will probably be picking up the next trade volume when it comes out in a couple months.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: “Last Days”, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4Speaking of Ms. Marvel… things are not going well for her in this volume. Her former crush object is a real a-hole, for one, and as she won’t stop telling people, but then also there’s this, like, giant planet coming in for a landing on top of Manhattan. I’m sure that has something to do with important Marvel Universe things, but I can’t be arsed to look it up. The upshot is, Kamala finds herself running all over Jersey City trying to protect her family and community from the bad things that are going to happen and the bad things that ARE happening thanks to a certain former crush object. This is exhausting me just to think about it. I will never be a superhero.

Awesome things in this volume include a visit from Carol Danvers, which would be whatever except that Kamala’s insane squeeing is absolutely adorable (it’s the meeting with Wolverine times a thousand), an unexpected “be true to yourself” speech, and some serious truth bombs about love and responsibility. There’s also another crossover event included here, two issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but I’m just not that into Spidey so I don’t think this one’s going to get me to buy more comics.

We Can Never Go Home, by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, and Josh Hood
My copy of the trade paperback says “Volume One” on it, but I’m pretty sure this is a one-off miniseries. I’m not sure what they would do if they made more of these. But I’d probably be interested in finding out.

This is not a superhero story, but it does have a girl with a superpower in it: the power of glowy eyes and super-strength with the Hulk-like limitation of having to be anxious for it to show up. Our girl, Madison, is a football-player-dating popular-kid at her high school until one day, she’s not, having shown her superpower to her jerk boyfriend when he deserved it. However, she also showed her superpower to a loner classmate at the same time, and this completely changes Madison’s life, and not really for the better.

It’s a short series, so I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say the writer did some super interesting things with the “girl discovers her place in the world with the help of a cute boy” story as well as with the concepts of heroes and villains and self-determination and all that good stuff. Some of it is a little anvil-y because, well, five issues of a comic does not give you much time or space to work with, but some of the characterizations are surprisingly subtle. I’m not sure I loved this as a complete work, but there are definitely parts of it that are really awesome.

That’s all I’ve got for now — what other awesome superhero/superpower stories should I pick up next?

Weekend Shorts: Unwritten Marvels

The Unwritten, Vol. 9: “The Unwritten Fables”, by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter Gross, and Mark Buckingham
The Unwritten, Vol. 9Oh, hey, The Unwritten! After finishing up all those single issues, I came back to the trades just in time for the crossover with Fables, which I tried once and almost never read comics again. That’s an exaggeration. But I was still hesitant.

Luckily, things in this volume are so incredibly crazy-pants that any problems I might have had were swallowed up in me staring, baffled, at the book in front of me. I don’t really remember what happened in that first volume of Fables, but at this point in the story things have gone all to shit, apparently, and some old lady (I think she’s the witch from “Hansel and Gretel”?) decides to summon some help in the war between the Fables (the people, that is) and this new bad guy overlord. Instead, she gets Tom Taylor, who was on his way somewhere else, but when you’re summoned to a weird storyland, you go, I guess.

And when he gets there, he’s all, “Y’all are just stories!” and “I’m not Tommy Taylor!” and I am like TOM TAYLOR YOU ARE AN IDIOT. I mean, maybe it’s just for the purposes of the crossover, but come on, dude, you know better.

Well, whatever, he gets thrown into the action soon enough, and there is plenty of action to go around, with plans and counter-plans and counter-counter-plans and plans going well just to be foiled, but are they really foiled?, and so on. It was definitely a page-turning volume and full of WTF-ery, but man, I hope the next volume dials back on the complexity. My brain just can’t even.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: “Crushed”, by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3So, yeah. After the wonderfulness of the last volume, I ordered this one up from my local comic shop immediately. I walked over to pick it up last week and only my audiobook and the weirdly low-hanging branches along my route kept me from starting it on my walk home. Instead, I started it as soon as I got there!

Sooooooo basically I’m super in love with Kamala Khan, much as her friend Bruno is, and I would totally take her to the Valentine’s Day dance that is the subject of the special one-off issue at the beginning of this volume. But I’m glad I didn’t have the chance, because Loki shows up for reasons I don’t really understand (I’m guessing they are part of the larger Marvel Universe) and Ms. Marvel lays a serious smackdown on him. Yay Kamala!

Then, in the next three issues, Kamala gets a bit of a crush herself, on the son of some old family friends who is just as into World of Battlecraft and Bollywood movies as Kamala is. Further, it turns out that he’s Inhuman as well, which we all find out after Ms. Marvel takes down another Inhuman who thinks the status quo sucks and wants to go all Epic on Jersey City. Seems the Inhumans are having a bit of a family tiff, and Ms. Marvel is stuck in the middle of it.

THEN, omg, it’s JEMMA SIMMONS. I’m kind of pissed at her in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. right now, but I’m just pretending she’s season one Simmons here and rolling with it. In a much better crossover than that one up above, Simmons and Coulson show up at Kamala’s school to rescue some alien technology or whatever, and Ms. Marvel is like YES PLEASE ME TOO I’M ON IT. The agents are like, dude, no, stay out of it, but of course that’s just catnip to a teenage superhero and Ms. Marvel saves the day in hilarious fashion.

I know it’s what they want, but I may seriously have to check out the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic. Are they all as awesome as this one?

Weekend Shorts: Fighting Bad Guys

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: “Generation Why”, by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2So, true story, I have owned this book for a while, but I also ordered it for my library so I was completely irrationally waiting for it to arrive so I could read the library copy instead. I’m weird, even to me. The library copy still hasn’t arrived, but I could not wait any longer to dive into part 2 of Kamala Khan’s saga.

In this volume, Kamala sets off to rescue her friend’s brother and also take down this weird bird-man enemy that was introduced at the end of the first volume. Turns out he’s totally not a bird, but a Thomas Edison clone who was accidentally spliced with bird DNA. As you do? It also turns out that The Inventor (his villain name) is using all the teens he’s been disappearing as a fuel source, as you… do… Then there’s some nonsense about millennials and their usefulness and it is heavy-handed as only this Ms. Marvel can do (because she can embiggen her hand, see, and I would presume that would make it much heavier) but I’m letting it go because WOLVERINE.

Early on in the book Ms. Marvel runs into that famous mutant, who is also investigating the weird stuff going on and who amazingly does not run in the other direction when he finds out that Kamala write fanfiction about him. Because of course she does. The amazing squee faces that the artist throws in throughout their interactions are literally the best ever. I want to squee like that. We also find out just how exactly Kamala came into her powers (spoiler: Inhumans!) and get a peek into some organization that is I guess working with the Inhumans, I don’t know, this is the only Marvel comic I read. The point is, it’s intriguing, and I can’t wait to read the next one, so it’s good that I waited this long because Volume 3 is already out!

Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Šejić
Rat Queens, Vol. 2I really liked the first volume of this largely because it was cute and weird and kind of fun, but even though this volume takes a MUCH darker turn I am still totally in.

This volume starts right after the drunken debauchery that ends the first volume, with everyone still a little hungover until Dee’s heretofore-unheard-of husband shows up. He’s not here just for his wife, though; it turns out that someone is using a very important cult relic to do very strange things with time and space, as evidenced by the very confusing storylines that follow. We jump back and forth with no warning between the various Queens’ childhoods, where we get to learn what makes these ladies tick, and the present, where the mysterious Someone is torturing the town’s Guard Captain.

I liked the leaps into the past as a fun if clichéd way to get some backstory, and I was totally intrigued by what we learn about each of the Queens. I wasn’t too sure about the frame story with the torture and the cult religion and whatnot, but I suppose we’ll see how that plays out in the next volume.

What great comics are you guys reading?

Weekend Shorts: Ms. Marvel

The shorts this week are more like one long, in that I read the first volume of a comic series and I always have way more to say about the first volume than the ones that come after. So, here are some thoughts about six issues of a so-far-pretty-awesome comic!

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1I almost couldn’t not read this first volume of the new Ms. Marvel, because it has been everywhere on my internets for ages. Excitement when it first came out, more excitement with the release of the first collected volume, and not terribly much less excitement in between. I had bought the first issue when I saw it in my comic shop and never bothered to read it, but with so many people telling me how awesome it was, and with an urge to throw my dollars at a project that sounded so fantastic, I went ahead and ordered the trade and threw myself into it.

First, for those not inhabiting my particular corner of the internets, a quick summary: Kamala Khan is a Muslim, Pakistani teen living in Jersey City who becomes the superhero Ms. Marvel but still has to, like, be a Muslim, Pakistani teen living in Jersey City. Lady superhero? Sold. Non-white superhero? Tell me more. Jersey City? Eh, that’s okay.

But really, I was lured in by promises of fanfic writing and Wolverine crushing (as in having a crush on, not, like, smushing), but I guess none of that happens in the first six issues. Super disappointing. I suppose that means I have things to look forward to, though…

What actually happens in these first issues is a lot of backstory. We meet Kamala and her friends and establish that Kamala’s family is pretty conservative and incredibly protective of her as the only daughter. Kamala’s friends are a little protective, too, especially around some falsely nice classmates who clearly do not understand how to interact with a person unlike themselves. And, to be fair, Kamala doesn’t really know how to interact with anyone — she is torn between frustration with her family’s rules and her need to defend them to her classmates, she makes trouble at Saturday School over sexist rules and teachings, and she has a boy totally crushing on her and she doesn’t even know.

The big theme of this volume, titled No Normal, is that Kamala really really really wants to be just like everyone else because it would be so much easier. When she first gets her Ms. Marvel powers via creepy mist, she finds herself involuntarily turning into the tall, leggy, blonde, skimpily clad Carol Danvers (the erstwhile Ms. Marvel turned Captain Marvel) in addition to growing and shrinking and stretching slightly less involuntarily. But as the story progresses, Kamala realizes that a) that outfit is hella uncomfortable and b) being herself requires way less effort all around. I think my favorite part of all this is that Ms. Marvel’s new outfit is a burkini, which, holy cow, why isn’t every superhero wearing one?

As almost an afterthought to all this coming of age and discussion of religion and ethnicity, there is also — you’ll never guess — villainy! Kamala finds herself rescuing (well, trying and then later succeeding) that aforementioned boy’s brother from a shadowy group serving a shadowy leader called The Inventor and possibly also the Birdman, which probably means something to someone but definitely not to me, so I am intrigued to see where that plotline goes. I hope that with the big exposition out of the way, we can move on to adorable fangirling and also asskicking posthaste!

Recommendation: Read it. Do it now.

Rating: 9/10