The Mighty Thor #705 by Writer Jason Aaron and Artist Russell Dauterman
As the penultimate issue to one of my favorite marvel stories, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of frustration when I picked up this issue, knowing that the series was driving steadily toward its end. Not the end of The Mighty Thor, of course; but, rather the end of the series’ current hero, Jane Foster. While Marvel has been candid about its return to an all-white, all-male Marvel line-up in the form of Marvel Legacy for a year, it still stings every time I pick up an issue of Thor, as the series has just been so damn good. This issue is no exception. While I can’t fully appreciate the death of Thor, I can’t deny that Jason Aaron is giving her an honorable and deserved farewell.
This issue concludes the merciless battle with the Mangog that has consumed much of the final arc of the series, with Thor and Mangog duking it out all across Asgard while the Asgardians make a final escape from their doomed home. Much like the other issues in the series, Aaron skillfully weaves meaningful well-written dialogue into the incredible and complex fight scenes drawn by Russell Dauterman. Every page is bursting with beautiful panels full of vivid colors by Matthew Wilson and detailed artwork. In addition, the panel work–always a standout element of the series–plays an integral role in presenting the utter destruction and chaos that is consuming Asgard and the titular hero.
However, it is the potency with which Aaron connects the otherworldly action of Thor to the real-world battle of Jane that makes this issue, and ultimately the entire series, so special. While the Mangog is initially introduced as a creature inflicted upon the Asgardians as a punishment for their apathy, it ultimately becomes a symbol for the cancer that has plagued Jane Foster throughout the series. Unceasing and inextricably bound to Thor and Asgard, the Mangog stops at nothing to bring death to all that inhabit the planet. This is clearly paralleled by the cancer that infests Jane. This connection makes Jane’s actions in this issue particularly meaningful, and give the issue a level of emotional resonance that is lacking in most other contemporary superhero comics.
Aaron’s thoughtfulness and care for Jane is on full display in this issue, and makes the loss of such an amazing character a little easier to swallow. While I want to rail against the loss of yet another excellent female superhero, I can’t be mad at Aaron, as he has guided this story with such a deft and loving hand.
Moonshine #8 by Writer Brian Azzarello and Artist Eduardo Risso
Issue #8 is the second issue of the second arc of the series and finds the protagonist Lou on the end of a southern chain gang as a result of the concluding events of the first arc. This issue focuses on Lou’s past, using what could have been a relatively mundane rehashing of cliche prison tropes as the backdrop for narrative that shapes a bit more of Lou’s character. Interestingly, Lou’s narration in this issue introduces Dolly, a character from his past, who appears as a vision while Lou is breaking rocks on the line, adding another potential supernatural element to the story.
Although briefly, The story shifts to the Holt family as they recover from the events of the first arc of the series. While the few pages allotted to the Holts mostly serves to establish the worldview of the matriarch that heads the family, there is a piquing moment shared between sister Hiram and brother Enos when he returns after a night of blood letting as a werewolf.
All of this is rendered in the beautifully grotesque style of the series that makes even the most pedestrian moments engaging to look at. Risso’s play with shadows and light is a standout element of the series and really works to build the tense and nightmarish atmosphere of the story.
While nothing monumental occurs in this issue, its focus on the personal motivations and struggles of the characters should leave readers satisfied until issue #9. Moonshine #8 continues the excellent narrative of the series and closes with a ominous and titillating set up for the next issue.
Runaways #7 by Writer Rainbow Rowell and Artists Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson
When other comics are getting me down, it’s nice that something like Runaways exists to bring me back up again. This comic has never been about high-stakes hero action or big event arcs that “will change the face of the universe forever,” and for that I have and will always love it. Rainbow Rowell picks up the series two years after the events that ended the series in 2009. I won’t spoil any of that here. If you haven’t read Runaways before, do yourself a favor and pick up the trades of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s run. I can’t endorse this title enough.
Here we find ourselves at the beginning of the second arc. The team has been reunited and is once again “on the run” from evil relatives. That’s all well and good until running away means Molly Hayes––the youngest Runaway at 13––will be late for school. The thing that I find consistently good about this comic is that at its core it is about how a group of “couldn’t be more different” young people are thrust together by circumstance and come to regard one another as family. This issue in particular both maintains that sense and shakes up the status quo. Molly insists she remain in school despite all the complications of being a minor on the run from her villainous legal guardian. Rather than have a big fight about it where the characters pout and do what they want anyway, everyone pitches in to make it work.
Readers looking for flash and heroes putting their lives on the line for strangers (all things I do love) will be disappointed by this issue. It’s much quieter in its approach, wherein all the stakes are tied to the interpersonal relationships of an estranged and super-powered family reunited. For those of you who have never read a Runaways comic and don’t feel like going back to the old stuff just to catch up, this is issue is a perfect jumping on point.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #17 by Writer Jody Houser and Artists Nathan Stockman and Ruth Redmond
Speaking of unconventional comic book families and going back to school, I really like the idea of Renew Your Vows, and sometimes it can feel like you’re holding on to a comic for that reason alone, always hoping it will rise to its potential and be the thing you knew in your heart it could be. I’m still holding, but issues like this one make me feel a little more justified in that hope. One of the few good things to come out of Marvel’s big dumb event Secret Wars (III? IV?), Renew Your Vows comes out of the Battleworld alternate universe and asks the question: what would’ve happened if Mary Jane and Peter Parker didn’t make a deal with the devil and stayed together? Spider-powered Annie May Parker and the Amazing Spider-Family, that’s what!
After spending the first ten or twelve issues with the Spider-Fam, Spiderling (aka Annie Parker), Spinneret (aka MJ Parker), and our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, when Annie is just eight years old, the comic does something I’ve never seen another Marvel comic do before: it lets time pass. Now we are following the family, eight years later, as Annie is entering her second year of high school. She’s just spent the intervening stretch of time learning and training at the Xavier Institute, with the X-Men, and now she’s integrating back into a “normal” high school life that is, guess what, not that normal!
This feels to me like the best possible direction for a title like this to go. Far from dealing with the adventures of Annie alone as a burgeoning teen superhero, we get to experience these characters as they work (and sometimes don’t) as a unit, fighting crime and making their lives work. In this arc we get something closer to a solo story where Annie interrupts two other students as they are in the midst of messing with some chemicals that give them super powers. She finds herself in a weird sort of mentor role to them after accidentally revealing that she has powers to, and puts them through a kind of light training on their way to fighting crime themselves. Of course things are just a hair’s breadth from getting out of hand as the new heroes are eager to bite off more than they can chew.