Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
Marvel, by their own admission, knows they have a lot of titles on the stands. We have seen firsthand the gamut of Thor books produced, thanks to the buzz on the upcoming film. We have seen Captain America branch out into a variety of different styles and stories, and the Avengers are a franchise of their own. Tell me you wouldn’t look twice at a book with Wolverine on the cover. I mean, just to see what he’s doing there?
From this ‘Jump On What’s Hot and Print It!’ attitude from the House of Ideas, I’m still a little amazed that Heralds found the light of day, not to mention extremely grateful. Possibly my favorite comic this year, Heralds was a five-issue weekly event that brought Emma Frost, She-Hulk, Agent Abigail Brand, Hellcat, Valkyrie, Monica Rambeau and Sue Storm together to help a young woman find her place in this world and in the cosmos. It’s an honest story, one that fills the scope of cosmic powers with personality and humanity. These are people living in this great and strange Marvel Universe, and it expressed them all so well that I was drawn in and loved every page.
It was a hard sell. While the characters above are popular, there was no Deadpool cover or marketing jazz to hit the mainstream. A lot of people may have missed the book or passed it by, so please try and grab it in a back issue bin or on the shelves as a trade. The hardcover edition is lovely.
Which brings me back to my title, “The Ladies and the Little Guys.” Two comics came out this week that could easily be passed over on the way to bigger books and this week, I say thee nay. Deciding between Thor, Thor: For Asgard or Thor: First Thunder? Try She-Hulks #1. Too many Avengers books got you down? Grab a copy of Ant-Man & Wasp #1. Not only will you be encouraging character spotlights like Heralds, but you’ll be getting some great new stories a little off the beaten path. Ant-Man & Wasp and She-Hulks are like the off Broadway plays that might not be the hit productions on the big stages, but give just as much performance. They might even be a little experimental!
I read both of them this week (because it would be silly of me to talk aboutthem if I hadn’t) and not only did I get some great character pieces, but there was quick pacing and plot to chew on, moments that reminded me of comics past and even a couple odd notes or moments that made me look forward to the next issue to see how their resolved. No comic is perfect and in the right kind of flaws, we can see a little humanity shine through an artificial world.
Still waiting on the Tron covers? Here, let me tell you what I read.
(WARNING: Yep, spoilers ahead for both She-Hulks #1 and Ant-Man & Wasp #1. I have to tell you what happens inside, don’t I?)
Out of World War Hulks, the She-Hulks (Jennifer Walters and Lyra of Earth-8009) are tracking down the escaped Intelligentsia members, cool villains like the Trapster (gadgets!) and the Red Ghost (simians!). The B-Plot is Jennifer Walters settling back into society and mentoring Lyra as she goes through… *sigh* Cliche High School.
Quick Side Note: Amadeus Cho is the luckiest teen I know who has skipped that ‘forced high school’ phase other teen heroes go through. Yay sidekickin’ with the Greek Gods!
I’m well passed the age of teen drama (mostly) but I have to say this was the least interesting part of the book. Yes, all the girls will be catty toward the new student, yep, there are the jocks being boorish and crude, and right on time is the heart-throb with that book you like! It’s all very forced and I couldn’t wait for Lyra to be done so something new and unpredictable could happen. It’s also kind of weird to see the She-Hulk of all people telling Lyra to accept her puny self and not to wear her underwear in public. Considering Jennifer Walter’s history and her absolute celebration of being big, green and beautiful, it seems a little mother henning to tell Lyra that she should have a life outside of being She-Hulk. Sure, this maybe an older, wiser Jen talking from experience on living it big and green, but that vivaciousness is what drew me to the character in the first place. No reason to start putting on the mom jeans now…
But that was it, my one quibble with the story that otherwise kept me smiling, entertained and interested for what happens next. The art by Ryan Stegman is fantastic, alive and fluid with great expressions that commit the characters actions to their words. Their ‘fight first’ attitude is pure Jen at heart and will lead to later troubles. Bruce Banner has a good gig as the Charlie to their Angels and keeps this book in the Gamma Family. It’s all fun and fast paced, showing personal touches with some great gamma slams.
Both Lyra and Jen are characters that work well together, while Eric O’Grady and Hank Pym will certainly not. Ant-Man & Wasp #1 (of 3) shows a vote of no confidence. That $3.99 price point does leave a sour taste in the mouth, especially over three issues focusing on two characters who aren’t Captain America or Thor right now, but look at it this way: that’s only a $11.97 commitment (excluding sales tax) and MARK MILLAR’S NEMESIS IS A $24.99 HARDCOVER. Those issues were $2.99! *achem* All I’m saying is buy the comics, you’ll be glad you didn’t wait when the trade is either a digest and too small to read or a big honking hardcover that’s overpriced. Buy comics!
Anyhow, Hank Pym is settling some skeletons in his closet by doing right by people he feels he’s directly wronged, Janet Van Dyne and Bill Foster. Yes, Bill Foster, otherwise known as Black Goliath and Giant Man, the hero that got the worst funeral in history during Civil War. Hank is trying to leave behind something more than spousal abuse and killer robots, so like a good scientist does, he looks to making the world a better place. Eric O’Grady is gathering new skeletons to shove in his closet by consorting with criminals and cheating on his girlfriend and generally being a difficult characters to like. Both are embroiled in an AIM plot (science!) that threatens the afterlife of Bill Foster. O’Grady makes a rather appropriately impassioned speech to Pym who agrees to take on this threat together, and hijinks will ensue.
I am so glad Hank is getting some face time. Since coming back from Secret Invasion, there’s been a lot of good clean-up done to his image and character as a man making up for his past. Between Slott’s Mighty Avengers and his new role in Avengers Academy, he’s making up for a lot but neither book can give him a chance to step up and speak for his action the way a sharp, short miniseries can. He’s not a perfect hero, but he’s a good man and I like to see him do the right thing instead of focusing on the wrong he’s done before. Eric O’Grady is written to be unlikable, which is as good enough a shtick as any. No one can be the good guy all the time but my patience is taxed to see this guy make something of himself other than the bastard on the roster. This will probably be a good story for them both because one could easily see a lot of themselves in the other.
And this is all just the first issue! We have AIM, always a fun high science adventure villain, there’s a nice callback to those who followed the Fifty States Initiative characters and I’m glad Bill Foster might be put to rest from his opprobrious death (yay thesaurus). The first issue gets you familiar with the characters, their motivations, the task at hand and gets things going; considering how much time they have, this is important. After these three issues, both characters will return to their respective books and have a new outlook and some deeper development.
Which is why both of these are important books. Minis and solo adventures can help flesh out characters that would otherwise be lost in the wider lens of team titles. You can learn so much more about the Marvel Universe from one set of eyes and a character you know so well than you can in the grander scheme of things, sometimes. Tie-ins should be used to support the heroes in the event book, bolstering them up so that when they defeat or are defeated in the larger storyline, it means more to the reader than any surprise ending or new world view.
I know new series can make one cautious and the weekly budget of food or comics can make one pause at a title that’s not going to lead into something bigger later, but give these two titles a try. Treat yourself every now and then to something new and a little off Broadway.