2017 comics reading challenge


Limited series during the 2015 Marvel event Secret Wars. Not required reading for the main storyline.

Writers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Kelly Thompson
Artists: David López, Laura Braga, Paolo Pantalena, Filipe Andrade

Captain Marvel and the five elite female fighter pilots called the Banshees (or Carol Corps) are the first line of defense for Hala Field airbase against threats like the Ultron robots. They are sent to destroy a ship. The Baroness of the battleworld says that it’s an Ultron ship so no human is on it, but something feels strange to Captain Marvel. And when she sees a human on board the ship, she decides to rescue him against orders. Of course, the Baroness doesn’t like anyone going against her orders, much less against Doom’s orders.

Some of the Banshees are very smart and very curious and they start to question just what is surrounding their small world. God Emperor Doom has forbidden such questioning, though, so it could prove very dangerous. But Carol has now her own doubts and she starts to wonder about a lot of things, including the origin of her own powers.

This is a surprisingly good read, for an event tie-in. However, to really understand the situation the characters are in, you should read the Secret Wars main story; it isn’t explained much. Also, the ending is very open but of course this timeline was wiped so it doesn’t bother me as much as it usually would.

The pilots are an interesting bunch, some more cautious and others brashly jumping into danger. One of them was accepted in the Thor corps and Carol meets with her briefly. Recommended only for CM fans who have read Secret Wars. It doesn’t add anything to the event but I quite liked it.

Apparently, the collection has also issue 17 which is the last one of DeConnick’s run. It has a different artist and a different feel from the miniseries and even different characters because they’re Carol’s usual supporting crew. It’s a fitting end for DeConnick’s run but if you haven’t read the rest of the series, it could be puzzling.

Part of the Secret Wars event. In this alternate X-Men universe, the X-Men lost the Inferno event.

Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Garrón

The story begins four years after the X-Men lost Inferno. Demon-infected Manhattan has been separated from the rest of the US with walls, force fields, and magical wards, and the X-Men guard the walls. Illyana has been imprisoned in the Empire State Building. Colossus wants to rescue her and has made a deal with Scott Summers (who is, by the way, this domain’s baron!): one day a year Colossus and a team of X-Men try to free Illyana and the rest of the time Colossus is part of the regular X-Men team. But this time things go really wrong: Scott and Colossus are crippled and Illyana is revealed to be the Darkchild, ruler of Limbo and demon-Manhattan. And she chooses to stay with the Inferno demons.

The next year, when Colossus wants to lead a team to again attempt the rescue, Scott makes it clear this will be the last attempt. So, Colossus, his lover Domino, Nightcrawler, and Boom-Boom head out to rescue Illyana. Unfortunately, their team isn’t a match for the forces which have been building in Manhattan. Colossus and Domino end up in the hands of the Goblin queen Madelyne Pryor and her consort Alex Summers while Illyana herself captures Nightcrawler and someone else captures almost fatally injured Boom Boom. However, Madelyne has an interesting offer to Colossus: if he fights by her side, he can rescue his sister and Madelyne will rule Inferno.

Inferno is actually not one of my favorite storylines because it was quite disjointed, jumping to different X-comics. (And of course Madelyne was right to hate Scott for abandoning her and their infant son and to hate Jean for, essentially, condoning it. However, Madelyne had no right to hurt innocent bystanders!) But this is exactly the kind of spin off I really like: alternate version of characters who are still heroes but different, different romances, difficult choices to make, and Scott in a wheelchair calling “To me my X-Men”! Not to mention what Illyana did to poor Kurt… I wouldn’t want this story to become the status quo for X-Men but it’s interestingly different from the usual status quo. Yeah, I really liked it.

Limited series during the 2015 Marvel event Secret Wars. Not required reading for the main story line.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Gerardo Sandoval

Douglas Ramsay is a mutant who can understand any language, including secrets hidden by body language. This makes him very valuable to many people. He lives is a Battleworld ruled by Baron Apocalypse and his viceroy Mister Sinister. Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen and Beast have also a lot of influence and power. Beast and Doctor Nemesis make horrific experiments in their lab.

Humans have been driven into a ghetto which is overseen by Sheriff Carol Danvers. Most mutants live apparently well but a few have chosen to oppose Apocalypse’s rule: Magneto and his X-Men who were named after Magneto’s dead friend Charles Xavier. But in an effort to save Douglas from a Horseman Holocaust the X-Men Storm, Dazzler, Colossus, Iceman, and Exodus are killed. Douglas and badly wounded Nightcrawler are captured, and now the surviving X-Men have to save them. But Wolverine, Magneto, Emma Frost, Rogue, and Blink are determined to do it.

This is an action-packed return to the Age of Apocalypse cross-over event in the 1990s but not a continuation. Several things are different from the original story, most notably characters who weren’t part of the original. Still, it was great (and chilling) to see again the cruel and cold Prelate Summers Brothers and the Dark Beast. As a linguist, I really liked the way Douglas finally got to be not only useful but the best hope the world has. While he was alive in the New Mutants, he was always underappreciated.

This is a treat to us who enjoyed the original story but I’m not so sure if other people will get much out of it. Some of the motivations to the characters are strange, to say the least, and the art style doesn’t appeal to me any more.

It was interesting to read this and Years of Future Past back-to-back. In this comic, the mutants are supposed to be at the top of the heap; the humans are in ghettos. But none of them seem happy: the bad guys are cruel (or world-weary and disgusted with the world) and the X-Men are desperate and miserable. The mutants is YoFP live in concentration camps near cemeteries full of their former friends but at least they have dependable team mates and a lucky few have loving families. Of course, the chance of drama increases with unhappy characters and both of this alternate worlds are… extreme to say the least. In contrast the X-Men in the X-Men 92 comic seemed much better off.

Collects Years of Future Past 1-5. Part of the Secret Wars event.

Writer: Marquerite Bennett
Artists: Mike Norton

This is a rehash of the classic two-issue Claremont/Byrne alternate future story “Days of Future Past” where Senator Kelly’s murder by Mystique has led to a future where all mutants, and other superpowered being such as the Fantastic Four, are either dead, hunted mercilessly, or living in concentration camps and wearing devices which suppress their powers. Rachel Summers sends Kate Pryde’s consciousness to the present so that she and the present time X-Men can stop Mystique. One of my favorite stories and so deep especially considering the limited page count. (I reread it after finishing this one.)

When Doom remade the world during Secret Wars, this future was one of the fragments he remade. The Baron of the world is President Kelly who has put almost all mutants in concentration camps. Some, such as Wolverine and his son Cameron, are still at large. However, the biggest problem they face is that all mutants have been sterilized. Christina Pryde is the last mutant child born 15 years ago. Her parents, Kate Pryde and Colossus, along with other mutants such as Magento and Rachel Summers live in the camps and have raised her there. Even though the place must have been terrible, they showed her love and gave her as good an education as they could. Because they plan to bust out and then Christina will be mutants’ last hope. Well, busting out doesn’t go exactly to plan and Christina must make terrible choices.

At first reading, this is a fun ride in dystopic ruins. However, I found it a bit hard to swallow that Kate and the others were training Christina to become a hero while at the same time, they were apparently working with the government. Of course, having a child can change your life and in an environment like this, parents might have to make choices they otherwise wouldn’t do. But still isn’t that the height of hypocrisy? We also get a monolog from Colossus about how oppression starts with a joke right out of the blue which interrupts the flow of the story. Also, the end fight was strange. One character had decided that if mutants go away, humans will rise to a golden age without violence. Uh, I guess that person has never met humans, eh?

Christina was a good character and I’m kind of sorry I’m never going to see her again. Most of the characters are (at least superficially) very much like the X-Men in the original DoFP story: Wolverine an outsider, the rest in the camp. However, there’s were some differences and twists as well, which I liked a lot.

Overall, this was a good nostalgic read but with some flaws and an open ending which I personally don’t care for. The original story is a very tough act to follow.

The big event from 2015. Collects issues 0-9 and a cover gallery.

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Esad Ribic, Paul Renaud

Marvel universe is dead – long live Marvel universe!

This is the culmination of Hickman’s Avengers, New Avengers, Fantastic Four, and FF runs. I’ve read them and so I knew what was going on. The story starts with the final incursion: Earths from alternate universes colliding into each other. These incursions forced some of Marvel’s most beloved heroes into, in essence, mass murderers. Granted, only Namor was, in the end, able to actually destroy a whole alternate Earth. But Reed, T’Challa, Tony, Bruce Banner, Dr. Strange, and even Hank McCoy created the weapons which made such monstrous action possible. And then Namor gathered his Cabal, the villains who battled those alternate Earths so that the heroes wouldn’t have to.

Now, the final two Earths collide. Reed and T’Challa have built a life raft for a group of the “best and brightest” who would restart the human race. But things go wrong: Susan, Franklin, and Valeria are destroyed despite Reed’s efforts to save them.

Or so Reed thinks. For this is a new world, gathered from fragments of other Earths, futures and pasts. And God Emperor Victor von Doom is the ruler of this Battleworld with Sheriff Stephen Strange as his right hand, Susan Richards as his wife, and Valeria and Franklin as Victor’s and Susan’s children. Some of the most powerful, or popular, villains are the Barons and Baronesses of their own little islands. And our heroes in the Battelworld don’t remember anything about the “real” past: as far as they know, they’ve always lived in these islands of conflict.

But two groups of people survive from the previous Earths and they intend to bring Doom down.

I love alternate universes and this one was especially intriguing with all Marvel characters redone. We don’t actually see a lot of the different fragments: the action is focused on Strange, Doom, and the people trying to bring Doom down. (The individual Warzones books are for that. Luckily the Finnish library system has three of them and Marvel Unlimited even more.)

I enjoyed this story but was mildly disappointed by the ending (mildly because I’m a long-time comics reader and was expecting it). My brother, who hasn’t read Hickman’s other comics, was confused by the start but ended up enjoying it was well. So, by itself it’s an interesting story. But has it actually changed anything? We’ll see.

Collects issues 1-4. Elseworlds comics.

Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Igor Kordey
Publisher: DC, Titan comics

Bruce Wayne is opening a new wing to the Gotham Museum of Natural History and to fill it up he has also funded an expedition to Africa. Finnegan Dent has brought all sorts of interesting stuff to the Thomas and Martha Wayne wing from Africa. At the wing’s opening, Bruce meets Lord Greystoke.

At night, Catwoman breaks into the Museum and steals some pieces. Both Batman and Tarzan confront her. She reveals herself to be a priestess of Sakhmet, princess Khefretari from a secret African city of Mamnon. She’s only trying to get back pieces which was stolen from her city. It quickly turns out that Dent is a rogue and thief rather than an archeologist and he wants more of the secret city’s treasures. Tarzan and Batman want to protect Khefretari’s people and confront Dent. So, the trio travels to Africa and travel to Mamnon.

This isn’t Earth shatteringly good but it’s a quick read. As an Elseworlds comic, none of the other familiar Batman characters appear and Batman even says that he doesn’t any partners, so no Robin in this universe. Marz teases us a little with the name Dent and what happens to him later.

This isn’t the environmentalist Tarzan I remember reading about in comics in my youth (in Finland. I have no idea where they originally came out.) but a more violent man who has no qualms about killing animals or humans to survive. Batman is sternly against killing and chastises Tarzan a couple of times. Even though they’re somewhat similar, being both orphans, they have quite different worldviews.

Sadly, I didn’t care for the art at all.

Collects Silk issues 1-6 and Amazing Spider-Man 1.

Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Stacey Lee, Tana Ford, Veronica Fish

Cindy Moon’s life has changed quite a bit after the events in Secret Wars. For one thing, she’s now a criminal and working with the Black Cat! The Cat’s goon squad is fighting the Goblin King’s army (Goblin Nation) and stealing high-tech gear. Of course, it’s a front: Silk is actually undercover working for Mockingbird and S.H.I.E.L.D. But in order to infiltrate the Cat’s organization, Silk has to smear her own reputation – and during the day, she has to work at her day job, where people are wondering what is up with New York’s newest heroine. Also, Peter Parker shows up! Cameos by Mockingbird and Spider-Woman.

Killer Shrike is Cat’s right hand and he doesn’t trust or like Silk which causes her some problems. Also, Cindy is seeing a therapist to work out her issues and trying to help her brother recover. Her brother is apparently a former member of the Goblin Nation and he’s recovering from a brain injury. She’s still looking for her parents.

This was a good continuation to volume 0. Silk’s starting to be her own kind of hero instead of just a female Spider-Man. On the other hand, a weird guy with electricity powers has to safe her a couple of times. But Silk is new and she’s still learning. Black Cat’s return to villainhood is still a very strange idea to me, but it seems that Silk and the Cat are in danger of bonding, so that will no doubt lead to more interesting (in the Chinese sense) times for her.

I’m not a fan of the changing artists.

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