Amazing Spider-Man #799 by Writer Dan Scott and Artist Stuart Immonen
Is it really here? Is it truly almost time to say goodbye? This week gave us the next installment of Go Down Swinging, Dan Slott’s final arc on ASM. Spidey is injured and in hiding immediately following the Green-turned-Red Goblin’s attack on the Daily Bugle. The Red Goblin offered up a simple ultimatum: either Peter Parker puts down the spider-suit forever or the Goblin kills everyone Peter knows and loves.
This issue opens with Peter calling out over comms to an assemblage of amazing spider-friends: “This is ‘The Man in the Chair’ talking.” A sweet little shout out to Ned of Spider-Man: Homecoming. He has enlisted the help of his friends––Johnny Storm, Silk, Miles Morales, and even Clash––all the heroes at his disposal who also know his secret and assigned them a body to guard. The object is to watch and wait for the Goblin to strike, then dog pile on him with super powers.
Naturally this doesn’t work, and Peter has to jump back into costume to save the day. Look, I know that was always what was going to happen. I also understand that Slott is running out of literal issues to tell this final story, but he had set up the tension so nicely for this issue that we deserved to be allowed to linger in it a little longer. Not only does Peter have all of his loved ones (currently unprotected by spider-friends) but his leg is essentially useless AND he is hiding out in an Oscorp facility sucking up their wifi. The heroic moment that is the pay off for all the bad Parker Luck only feels like a pay off because we’re left to languish in the lows for a time.
I so appreciate all the great storytelling from Dan Slott’s momentous run. I just hate to see the ending rushed through in any way.
Skyward #1 by Writer Joe Henderson and Artist Lee Garbett
Willa was just a baby when Earth’s gravity got noticeably, experientially weaker. Now 20 years later she is roof-hopping, high-flying (literally) messenger person with dreams of traveling the world.
Set in Chicago, ostensibly in the present, Skyward explores what happens when gravity suddenly isn’t the force you always remembered it being. On the day things…turned upside down (it’s actually impossible not to make these jokes; they’re in the damn comic!) Willa’s father, Nate, had just put her down for a nap as her mother, Lily, went out for a jog. She didn’t make it far and then she was just gone into big blue sky. After all this time, Nate still blames himself for her death, though it’s unclear why. Now he believes he knows how to fix everything. The problem is, Willa likes the world just as it is.
It’s hard to tell what a series is going to be from its very first issue, but I plan on hanging on to this one for a few issues. One thing I was really hoping to see is how this world is different from the one we live in due to the shift in gravity. There’s some stuff there. Lots of free floating things are lashed down, lines of cable run between buildings to help people get around, and a lone messenger can deliver a large crate full of milk all on her own. Henderson goes to some lengths to show how low gravity is improving people’s lives. A legless man and a very overweight woman with Willa at the messenger service, and the art and storytelling both show off how free they are without normal gravity.
Still this world feels less lived in from the jump and relies heavily on the reader’s sense of the world as it is to communicate the differences in the world on the page. There’s time yet to fill things out, but I’ll be looking for more evidence that Henderson has really thought out this new Earth sooner rather than later.
Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 by Writer Jeff Lemire and Artist Dean Ormston
The core Black Hammer story oddly returns with a new number one picking up immediately after the events of Black Hammer #13. Age of Doom #1 throws the heroes trapped in the eerily quaint town of Rockwood on a new adventure, as the newly arrived Lucy Weber, who has acquired some powers of her own, is teleported to a place called the anteroom as she is about to tell the other heroes how they became trapped. The Anteroom, a bar straight out of Beetlejuice that houses a cadary of ghouls and goblins, makes for the most interesting twist to the story, creating yet another hurdle for the superheroes from Spiral City to overcome.
Throwing this new wrench in the machine is no surprise for this book, as the book functions at its core as a series of unfortunate events. Right as the heroes think they are making headway or finding resolution to some personal conflict, something arises complicate things further. This recursive anti-climax functions well within the context of Black Hammer, as much of the storytelling revolves around the mysterious entrapment that confines the heroes and eludes any logical explanation.
Lemire takes concept one step further with the addition of the anteroom, as Lucy’s new dwelling becomes even more confining and constrictive, restricting her movement to a single bar as the exit simply returns her to the upstairs bedroom where she initially arrived.
This makes for engaging reading, as Lemire’s basic premise continues to enthrall, but this issue is also important as it unifies the core group and begins to really implicate Madame Dragonfly and Colonel Weird in the seemingly malevolent event that sent them to the farm.
This aspect of Lemire’s writing is the most compelling feature of the comic, as he takes the time to flesh out the character relationships, giving room for the characters to hold kitchen table conversations. As far as superhero comics go, there is little in the way of action, especially in this issue, but the the book doesn’t leave the reader hungry for it either.
While I am beginning to grow tired–and, honestly, a bit confused–by the ever-expanding universe of Black Hammer, especially regarding this new re-numbering of the core narrative, I would still encourage readers to pick up trades and catch up with the series. While the side stories have been a bit uneven, it is undeniable that Lemire’s central narrative is an refreshing and exciting break from the traditional superhero fodder.
Ms. Marvel #29 by Writer G. Willow Wilson and Artist Nico Leon
Coming off a rather underwhelming arc that followed Kamala’s friends as they try to fill the hole that Ms. Marvel left when she mysterious disappeared from the streets of New Jersey, issue #29 puts the titular character in a rather sticky romantic situation. Caught in a kiss, Kamala reunites with Bruno as he returns home to deliberate on whether he wants to stay in Wakanda or integrate into his old life. The issue also introduces a new villain by the name of Kaylee Kirk, who plays off as a mean girl and feels completely shoehorned into the larger arc of the issue.
Overall, I can’t deny that I am growing frustrated with Ms. Marvel of late, as I feel like the character has slowly dissolved into vehicle for the creative team to tell bite-size YA stories about high school kids. This is by no means a dig on the YA genre; rather, my comment aims to highlight the waning depth of the characters from rich and original to two dimensional and flat.
The seemingly unending drama of Kamala’s life has grown fatiguing as each issue rests on the assumption that readers like spending a lot of time with someone who never ceases to find something to complain about.
However, the return of Bruno–accompanied by his Wakandan friend Kwezi–injects some much needed complexity and personality into the issue, as Bruno struggles to face a problem that he ran away from a while back. Bruno’s legitimate fears about coming home, and his conflicting feelings about his place in Wakanda make him a sympathetic character that really has some challenging decisions to make. This is all bound up in his impairment that requires him to wear a vibranium exosuit to walk and use his left arm. Bruno is both mentally and physically wounded by his past experiences in Jersey, and his struggle to overcome the tensions with Kamala are reflected in his physical impairments–soemthing that is often commented upon by characters around him.
Additionally, Kwezi as the outsider looking in makes for some hilarious moments as he explains his reasoning for coming to America: to get a chance to learn about a developing country. It’s great reversal of an American presumptuousness about foreign countries that leads to some great lines. Honestly, I would have much rather spent twenty two pages with Bruno and Kwezi and avoided the whole Kamala encounter all together.
Yet, these moments of real conflict and humor can’t save the issue from smacking of the same sugar-coated and forced drama that has been the driving force of the book in recent arcs, making me hesitant to encourage readers to pick it up. For those looking to get into the series, I strongly encourage you to go back to the original trades, as the older issues still sit at the top of my favorite comic book list.