More balanced this week, and more varied too. In part one, we looked at the books from DC and Dark Horse. Here in part 2, we examine the offerings from Marvel and Valiant. Includes SCARLET SPIDER #9, WINTER SOLDIER #10, AVENGERS VS X-MEN #11, HARBINGER #4, and BLOODSHOT #3.
Concluding the oil rig/corporate corruption plot, SCARLET SPIDER #9 pits the Rangers (who indeed are a preexisting team) and our titular hero against Mammon, the evil force Roxxon industries unearthed accidently. We learn what the whole deal is with the oil rig, and why Roxxon was covering up their shady activities, even at the expense of dozens of people.
And once again, Kaine gets the honor of being a hero. Much to his dismay.
At the end, Roxxon ends up hardly worse for wear, SS rejects an offer of Ranger membership, and there is what appears to be a new potential enemy for our crimson-clad crusader. It’s not what one would expect, though in context it makes perfect sense. I’ve been in another of those moods, so I can barely bring myself to analyze these books, let alone write long-winded reports on them.
Next is WINTER SOLDIER #10, another mostly plot-centric issue. As I knew would happen even before it happened, SHIELD brought Black Widow back to headquarters, only for it turn out that she had deeper, more subtle brainwashing in addition to the one involving being a ballerina. And it results in people dying. One major character is now dead, as depicted on the cover.
But being a huge tease, I encourage you to read the book yourself if you want to know who.
Naturally Black Widow absconded after her rampage, and Barnes needs to hunt her down before the President has to treat her like a traitor. And the Winter Soldier can’t do it alone. In come three characters that kind of feel out of place with this mostly military spy drama: Captain America, Hawkeye, and Wolverine.
Because Wolverine is contractually obligated to appear in everything. No I’m serious, this is a trope.
It may just be my tired mood talking, but Winter Soldier is growing a little old for me. I’m surely on board until this Leo Novokov storyline wraps up – for however long that takes – but after that I might just drop. It’s not that there’s been a drop in quality as of late; I just find the pace fairly slow, which makes the decreasing novelty all the worse. It’s kind of like The Punisher in that way, the other major Marvel comic I’m thinking of dropping. Given how much I spend on comics, this one’s on the list of books I wouldn’t mind axing to lighten the load.
Or at least taking a break from for a while.
Thankfully AVENGERS VS X-MEN #11 is the second to last in this event, and AVX is drawing to a close while it’s on a roll. Heck, it has one of the best opening two pages I’ve seen in a while simply because it treats a major tenet of the Marvel universe with the gravity it deserves.
So only two of the Pheonix Five remain – Cyclops and Emma Frost – and a lot of the former’s allies in the X-Men are starting to see what anyone with half a brain predicted would happen at the start. Cyclops is going mad with power. So was Emma given how much she was mind-dominating some of the X-Men earlier, but that bit has kind of been swept under the rug. It’s all about Cyclops and his delusional arrogance, and his former mentor Professor X has had all he can stand on the matter.
Meaning it’s time once again for a MIND BATTLE™ like we saw in the Detective Comics annual. But bigger! And with more explosions!
No spoilers here as usual, but things don’t go according to plan. And then they get worse. It’s stuff like this that makes me love comics. It’s also what makes people love the Marvel Universe so much. They’re willing to juggle complex, personal tragedies when they could just have some cosmic evil guy trying to destroy the world. Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional cosmic battle for all reality. It worked great in Crisis on Infinite Earths, even though that confused the hell out of DC continuity.
Looking at two Valiant books this week, starting with HARBINGER #4 and its disturbing close-up cover of a woman. The last issue also had an extreme close-up of the main character, which was also kind of creepy. Is this the thing Valiant is doing with Harbinger now? Plastering a character’s face extremely close on all the covers? Because it creeps me out, and new readers aren’t going to know what the book is about if all they see is a character’s face. At least when the JSA did a series of covers with the characters’ faces on them, they were all visually distinct and we saw more than just their face. Can we get covers with scenes of awesome psionic action? Please?
A good third or more of this issue is devoted to a subplot about a really fat nerdy woman who has the potential for psychic powers. So the Harbinger Foundation brings her in intent on awakening her powers, and Peter stanchek is brought over to see if he can do it with his powers. Because it was established that he’d tried at least once as a child to awaken his father’s latent potential, so it’s possible – and potentially less dangerous than the method they have now that kills a fourth of the subjects.
Did I mention this was a fairly grim book? Peter once mind controlled a girl into sleeping with him, so it’s not a new thing.
The rest is devoted to the Foundation as a whole being really apprehensive about a powerful psychic in their midst with severe anti-social behavior and no control of his abilities. All this leads to a particular part at the end, where it’s hinted they did something that could only make the matters worse. Anyone could have told you what they’re hinted at doing was a bad idea, for many reasons. Makes me kind of glad it’s obviously going to go south in the next issue.
Seriously, forget what I may have said earlier. Screw the Harbinger Foundation.
BLOODSHOT #3 has the decency to have a dynamic cover, as well as giving us insight into who the various fake family members in the title character’s head are. Bloodshot was “programmed” by Dr. Kuretich, who created those various families from people he knew, even if he only met them briefly. We learn this when Bloodshot forces a paramedic to drive him to the home of one of his “families”, only for the woman and child to be much older than Bloodshot remembers.
Kuretich himself is busy elsewhere, filming what remained of a Project Rising Spirit atrocity/super weapon. My guess is it was caused by nanomachines.
Project Rising Spirit meanwhile (I love the unintended daisy chaining) break out a woman they’ve had sedated so she can use her own powers in the quest to catch Bloodshot and put him down. We don’t learn what this woman is called, but we do learn that 1) she has the ability to release an EMP and break electronic hardware, 2) that she was instrumental in “killing” Bloodshot “last time”, and 3) that she wants Project Rising Spirit and everyone in it to die. I like this character, she’s awesome!
In fact, I like basically everyone in this book, even the guys I’m supposed to not like because they’re evil. Kuretich himself isn’t all that bad anyway; he just wants people to know about the terrible stuff going on, and he’ll do what’s necessary to do it. And the team sent to kill Bloodshot mostly seem like they’re just doing their jobs. I think the problem with Harbinger was that it made me uncomfortable (not helping is the weird art style); Bloodshot on the other hand is something I feel much more comfortable with.
If you’re reading any or all of the Valiant books these days, which do you find most enjoyable to read? Do you think a cover should be exciting (not just a face)? Did you know who the Rangers were before this run of Scarlet Spider? In your opinion, is Winter Soldier still exciting after ten issues? And do you think AVX was a successful event comic? Leave your comments below.