On the Panel
Last week’s comics, I’ve done a separate write up of the finale of Superior Spider-Man as well as the series in general, you can find this here. -link to be updated once posted-
Hulk (2014) #1
This story follows on from the conclusion to Indestructible Hulk that I actually haven’t read but turns out it doesn’t matter as this gives you enough information. Apparently in the conclusion to that series Bruce Banner is shot in the back of his head which leaves him oblivious to the attack and therefore unable to preemptively Hulk out and save himself.
Dr Aaron Carter is the focus of this issue, he is a surgeon who used to study alongside Bruce Banner and resented him back then for his greater aptitude for taking tests. He is the best in his field and is tasked with operating on Bruce in an attempt to save his life. I really like how the ethics of what is going on here are explored as Carter is conflicted about doing his best or simply making a “mistake” and ending this forever. It’s also clever how the issue uses Carter to reminisce about the early years of The Hulk which includes his origin and theories about his origin, if you’re a new reader then this is a great place to start.
If there is one downfall it’s that the issue is too bogged down in back story with not a lot else happening. There is urgency to the operation and seeing Banner in such a vulnerable position is interesting but ultimately not a lot happens. That being said I really love the ethical debate that the issue gives, it’s something that’s a little too familiar where the Hulk is concerned but it’s used well here since Carter is very much distanced from all of The Hulk related craziness as he is only a passive observer through the news and so on.. A lot of setting up of the threads that will permeate this comic happens too with a very effective twist ending. I’m interested to see how this progresses.
Ms Marvel (2014) #3
Kamala Khan continues her freakout over her new powers and her inability to control them. I like the decision to do this unique origin in a 5 part arc that really lets us inside the head of this complex character. The framework of this storyline might seem all too familiar -unprepared nerd suddenly ends up with superpowers and has to deal with them, it’s essentially the Peter Parker story but I find that this series approaches it in such a unique way that none of that matters.
Kamala’s culture is again front and center but is shown as not being something she blindly accepts, we see her question why women are treated in certain ways and how she feels about the dismissive answer she is given. I really like how she’s raising existential questions to herself and to others -even if they fall on deaf ears- that she doesn’t even know how to phrase, she’s clearly out of her league here and it shows.
There were some great lighter notes as well such as Kamala’s phone screen saying “lol no battery”, for some reason I found that very funny. Another interesting touch was when she shape shifted to foil a robbery she changed into Carol Danvers as she looks now with the more conservative and practical Captain Marvel costume, this makes sense considering how uncomfortable Kamala was with the Ms Marvel costume previously.
The issue isn’t building to any larger arc and is tightly focused on Kamala dealing with her powers, trying to keep them hidden and trying to control them, all of which are being met with fairly limited success. She does wrestle with the notion of using them to help others because she is fundamentally a good person with strong values. I really love this comic, the character is great and the light on plot approach is working since we’re becoming privy to every thought and feeling that Kamala is having and I can’t wait to see how she deals with it all. Naturally she will settle into some kind of secret identity status quo at some point in the near future but her situation is a little more complex than most so it will be interesting to see what that is and what complications come with it.
What If? Age of Ultron #3
The unfortunate casualty this time around is Thor who mysteriously falls during a battle with the serpent Jormungand leaving Earth -or Midgard- open to all kinds of otherworldly chaos. Nick Fury leads an unlikely group of heroes against this threat -his team consists of Silver Sable, Microchip, Falcon, Shang-Chi, and Black Widow which is an unusual grouping to say the least which is where this comic really shines. The group gels well together with the disparate personalities shining through the intense action. As battles go it all seems hopeless as it’s not exactly Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the strength sense of the term but they all do a good job. In a dazzling piece of fan fiction convenience Black Widow suddenly finds herself worthy of wielding Thor’s hammer and the power that comes with it allowing her to be more than a match for the forces up against them.
As a story the issue wasn’t bad. It was actually a lot of fun and showcased some nice character moments. Like the others it takes place in an alternate reality that will never be revisited -most likely- so ultimately it doesn’t really matter. As a fan I enjoyed seeing Black Widow in Asgardian garb wielding Mjolnir but it was a bit silly. Overall, enjoyable and disposable with a puzzling title. I’m hoping that the final two issues of this comic series will actually feature some Ultron because seeing alternate realities where Ultron is different in some way can be very interesting, the first issue proved that, I thought this was going to showcase the death of different Avengers inspiring Hank Pym to create Ultron in a different way that causes other untold problems.
Wolverine (2014) #4
On the surface this story seems interesting but it’s all coming together a bit predictably. I was enjoying the fact that Wolverine is becoming more unhinged than he normally is due to the loss of his healing factor. Having to deal with mortality is something strange to him and it would make sense for him to become angrier as a result.
As it turns out this is all a front so that he can infiltrate Sabretooth’s organisation with a story that’s believable to them. Naturally they won’t trust him at first but the more questionable actions that Wolverine is responsible for the more that he’ll be accepted. It all makes sense from a story point of view I was just expecting a bit more, I would really like to see a Wolverine story where his dubious morality is stretched to such a limit that he does empathise with those on the other side, even if it is out of desperation on his part, instead what we’re getting here is a standard wolf in the fold plot that will probably play out exactly as these things logically do.
Having said that, the issue was good in giving us some plot progression and hopefully an end to the confusing time shifting that the comic has been doing before now. The character stuff was good as Storm appeals for him not to go and Beast has everyone give him a tearful sendoff. I also really liked the bit where he threatened -albeit falsely- Kitty Pryde to really sell his story. Hopefully Sabretooth won’t be too long in figuring out the truth, after so many altercations he must have some idea of how Wolverine is and how unlikely he is to actually join that group. I also would like him to recover his healing factor sometime soon, I’ve never believed that you need to power down invincible characters to make them interesting -that is especially true with Wolverine. I’ll keep at this comic for now and see how it continues.
Batman Eternal #2
The main reason for that is that we’re introduced -perhaps not the right word given who they are- to a slew of supporting characters who are sure to become important in the issues ahead. This comic being a weekly series didn’t really need to introduce everyone at such breakneck speed since we really wouldn’t have to wait long to bring more people in. There is some excitement associated with seeing them all crop up but ultimately the issue feels like something of a device intended to lay the foundations for the rest of the series. Not that it’s bad, it just makes it a bit light on content.
By far the best part of the issue was Batman’s discussion with Gordon where Gordon is doubting his own sanity. I like how Batman is so loyal to his friend that he’s having a difficult time believing what all of the evidence is pointing to, that loyalty will be very important in the coming weeks. We get to see some real vulnerability from Gordon here which is very refreshing -at least for me who doesn’t read these often.
I liked this issue despite the lack of focus on story. I’m hoping that the narrative will pick up now that all the pieces seem to be in place. The direction they’re taking with Gordon is great and I like to see more humanity to Batman when he’s actually in his Batman guise, for all I know this is how it always is but I dip in and out. Seeing all of the supporting characters was good as well. Batman has such an interesting “family” as some have called it so it makes sense for them to come to help in a time like this as well as the less altruistic characters primed to take advantage of Jim Gordon’s removal from investigating their various activities. I will continue to read this.