In part one, we examined the output of DC comics this past week. Here in part two, we’ll look at the books from Marvel comics, including THE DEFENDERS #7, WINTER SOLDIER #6, and AVENGERS VS X-MEN #5.
Looks like THE DEFENDERS #7 kicks off the inevitable guest stat phase of the story, though unlike other books I could mention this one weaves the addition into the plot wonderfully. While the main group go to Wakanda – technologically advanced secret African nation and home of the Black Panther – in order to elicit aid in taking down John Aman right in his own country of Z’Gambo right next door, we see expert bugler and Spiderman supporting villain Black Cat infiltrate a company at the behest of an order of Antiquarians. It’s really just a means of testing the anti-villain’s effectiveness at her job, which she proves very well.
So well in fact that the group sends her off on her true mission: infiltrate Z’Gamba and steal a widget from Aman, just as the Defenders prepare to do the same to avenge Iron Fist’s fallen comrades. Convenient!
Also there’s a sequence where the gang gets high off a Wakandan beverage made from soul-shaped roots, so as to communicate with the Black Panthers of generations past. Nothing says awesome like seeing what the Silver Surfer is like stoned. And no, I’m not making this up. Have I mentioned this is another book you should be reading?
Meanwhile, WINTER SOLDIER #6 asks the question: what would you do if you woke up suddenly in a tube, with a mind empty of memory yet full of killer instincts, and then wandered off? And then what you happen if you one day remember who you are, and it’s not a nice person? That’s what happens to the third sleeper agent auctioned off following the end of the Cold War. Lost for twelve years, the recent events in the life (and apparent death) of our protagonist caused the reawakening of the third sleeper. And he’s not happy about what his former teacher has done and is doing.
It’s hard to say anything more as to the plot without dropping spoilers, but this issue once again brings up the theme of Cold War leftovers. And the way the book portrays the mental state of this sleeper, both as a lost man in a world he doesn’t really know and as the restored Russian killer, is pure spy thriller. The past has come back to haunt James Barnes, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out in later issues.
Finally we have the main event, AVENGERS VS X-MEN #5. And despite how shaky the pace has been up until now, we have here the turning point we’ve been waiting for. Everyone is on the moon, and the Phoenix Force finally arrives to claim its vessel.
Except it isn’t who you quite think. Although from what I can tell, it might have something to do with Iron Man’s meddling.
See, in previous issues Tony Stark decided to actually put his massive genius brain to the task of finding a weakness to the cosmic fire bird bent on global destruction. So he builds a giant robot cannon that he hopes will kill the Phoenix Force. It…doesn’t go as planned. When I saw the result, I was damned near floored.
I think the weakest part of this issue is the bit at the very beginning and the very end, where Hope gives her narration about where she lies in the totem of responsibility should things go sour. And it’s definitely going sour, as she can’t hope to control the beast coming to claim her. How does she express this sentiment? By likening her situation to the guy who physically dropped the atom bomb during WWII. I think there’s a law out there that says any argument involving Hitler is immediately rendered null, and at least from my perspective, referencing Hiroshima is as cliché and dumb a move so far as arguments are concerned. Really, Hope? I mean yes, the argument does make sense, but it’s so obvious and so played out that I just have to palm my face my frustration.
Anyway, in spite of that nonsense, this was probably the best issue of this series in a long time, and I’m starting to figure out why. This series was made too big. Yes, it’s a massive event that is the culmination to nearly every big event in the last ten or so years. But it’s still going to be a long event and last for a dozen issues. And despite the writer’s no doubt good intentions, I don’t know if there’s really enough plot developments to last the whole run. This is a really meaty issue, so it feels the best after a long time of lackluster offerings. Here’s hoping future issues perform better.
If this seemed shorter than most posts on the weekly pull, it’s only because coming up with new things to say about books that are really good is always difficult.