The return of one of the greats, plus two of Marvel’s most interesting current storylines, makes for a strong week at the top!
I spent most of this week at a conference in Austin, Texas. A nice city, but not everyone is built for the 97 degrees Fahrenheit Texas heat. So glad to be back home, with my newly-fixed air conditioning!
Astro City #1
What makes this series so effective? Perspective. Every Astro City story is told from a specific perspective, not the third-person narrative of most comics. Whether it’s the newcomer to the city, the child superhero, the fallen hero, the villain trying to make good – this is what gives Astro City its unique voice.
It’s also a fantastic job of world-building. The elements of super heroics are commonplace in the Astro City universe, and center on this particular city. It’s just a given. They never dwell too long on fight sequences – we’ve seen them all before. If you want to see that, there’s a dozen other comics each week that do a good job of it. Instead, we focus on characters, and how they fit into this unique world. It ends up feeling like this is a more archetypal universe, and things like the Marvel and DC universes are a reflection of it, not the other way around.
This issue is told from a unique perspective as well, that of a mad man. Whether he’s truly privy to the secret history of the universe, or just a superpowered nutcase, is hard to say at this point. But it’s an effective, and different, frame to kick off a new cosmic storyline.
If you want to understand the modern age of comics, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Rising fight it out for second place. At the top of the list, by a wide margin, sits Astro City. This is reconstructionism, wonder, and the essence of what makes the genre work. Read this issue. Read the back issues. There’s nothing else like it.
Superior Spider-Man #11
We continue with the story of the Superior Spider-Man. This issue feels different to me in a key way: This is the first issue that there’s no plot threads about Peter Parker trying to regain his identity as Spider-Man. Otto has won, and is getting on with things.
How long will this last? It once seemed inevitable that we’d get back to the status quo after a few months, like most of these Big Changes storylines. Now? I don’t know anymore. Dan Slott, you win. I keep trying to frame this storyline in context to what I know as a long time comics reader, and it isn’t working. Kudos!
As for the actual issue, we see more of Otto starting to fall into a new routine. He’s not a nice guy, for as much as he’s accepted the responsibility of being Spider-Man. And the day has come for the execution of the Spider-Slayer, who is responsible for killing J. Jonah Jameson’s wife. (It’s interesting how JJ is the one person who takes to the new Spider-Man wholeheartedly.) Of course it doesn’t go smoothly. Both Otto and the Spider-Slayer have been planning, and both know the supervillain prison they are in extremely well, so it’s a nice game of chess that’s being played.
It’s continued in the next issue, and it’s a nice little superhero story in its own right, but I’m far more interested in when, or if, the other shoe will ever drop. And I love that. Comics just don’t keep you guessing like this one does very often!
All-New X-Men #12
Instead, they have a very nice moment. For the time-plucked Scott Summers, he had no idea that his younger brother was still alive, and was proud of him for doing well and becoming an Avenger. For Alex Summers, this was his brother when he was still someone to be proud of. They both kind of needed that. Modern Day Cyclops is traumatic for them both.
And the two who have a problem? Jean Grey and the Scarlet Witch. As some of the dialog points out in this issue, the Scarlet Witch not long ago went a bit nutso and nearly wiped out the Mutant Race. And she’s wracked with guilt about it. The inexperienced Jean Grey can’t help but pluck this out of her mind, and she reacts as one who just found out someone you’re talking to prosecuted a genocide against her own people. Since that’s what it is. And there’s a fight. Not much comes of it, but everyone who was there is not quite resolved about the matter anyway. I don’t know if Bendis is leading to something, or that this storyline is still just too big a crater in the Marvel Universe and he’s also uncomfortable with the lack of repercussions from it.
And there’s some movement on the Mystique plot, but not much. It’s true that this comic is talky and doesn’t move along super fast. But the talky bits are interesting, so I’m not in a rush to get there.