Monday, June 22, 2015

Greetings from Battleworld: Secret Wars Week 7

Thors #1
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story and Marte Gracia

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups: the Thors who investigate crime, and the Sheriff of Agamotto who prosecutes the offenders. These are their stories.


Who would’ve thought a bunch of blond guys flying around with hammers and battle armor would make for a great police procedural?

Thors has all the elements of a great cop show: Partner protagonists whom the other cops find unorthodox, a murder of the week, fellow officers who stand around making snarky comments and bragging about their records, a drunk racist cop, a rookie who barfs at the scene of his first homicide, an angry captain who wants results, dammit, a forensics (Thorensics?) nerd, primetime network TV levels of swearing, etc.

It’s also got random Ghost Rider attacks and a Groot-Thor that says only “I am Thor” and has a cape made of leaves, in perhaps my favorite bit of stunt-casting in this book. And while all the characters speak in Marvel’s Official Thor Font, their dialogue could have come right out of any episode of “Law & Order” or “NYPD Blue.”

The central Thors in this book are Thorlief Golmen, the Thor of the Ultimate Universe, whom the other Thors have derisively nicknamed “The Ultimate Thor” for his ability to get stuck with cases none of the other Thors wants, and Beta Ray Thor, the one with the horse face. True to form, the two get stuck with the latest “Allthing” – a bizarre case that must be solved immediately to avoid the wrath of God Emperor Doom. Describing the Allthing would give too much away, but suffice it to say it’s a case that could only exist on a planet in which multiple realities and times exist simultaneously.

Rounding out the cast are Odin as the lawspeaker (angry captain), Frog Thor (Throg) as the forensics guy, and Groot, Storm and the Destroyer, among others, as fellow officers. And, of course, keep your eyes peeled for cameos.

Serious kudos to writer Jason Aaron, who since 2012 has continued to find new ways to play with the god of thunder, from telling a story across time to giving the hammer to Jane Foster to turning the Worthy into a multiversal peacekeeping force. And to artist Chris Sprouse for making sure each Thor is distinguishable from the next.

Also, whether intended or not, this book makes me want to rewatch one of my favorite episodes of Community, season 3’s “Advanced Lupine Urology.”


Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2
Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Matteo Lolli and Ruth Redmond

Wade Wilson’s heretofore untold adventures in the original Secret Wars continue with an explanation of why our sometimes-hero looks like the protagonist of a Hal Needham movie, a series of flashbacks told to the Lizard and the introduction of a love story.

A major part of the plot of this issue is the lenticular shields that were packaged with the action figures that were essentially the driving force of Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck’s original series. Deadpool finds a whole mess of them amid a fight with Spider-Man and takes one for himself, then brags about his cool new weapon to the other heroes until Reed Richards dismantles it to save them after the Molecule Man traps them in a mountain.

I’m enjoying the nonlinear nature of the book, as the constant flashing forward and back keeps the plot – most of which was pre-existing – from being completely predictable. It helps that this is a four-issue miniseries as opposed to the original 12, which forces tighter writing and limits the original’s major plot points to a highlight reel. It’s also always fun to revisit classic superhero fashions, such as Storm’s Mohawk or Cyclops’ plain blue spandex togs.

Speaking of which, art for next issue teases Deadpool in Spider-Man’s black costume. Maybe it’s a feint, maybe it’s not. Either way, I’m 99.9 percent certain hijinks will ensue. See ya there!

Ms. Marvel #16
Story: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Adrian Alphona

While the various Secret Wars tie-ins take place on the hodgepodge planet of Battleworld, the "Last Days" tie-ins follow heroes and villains as the last two Earths prepare to crash into each other. Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, starts the story out still mourning the fact that her crush, fellow Pakistani Inhuman Kamran, turned out to be a villain to a hot dog vendor. But as she sees people charging out of New York City into her own native Jersey City, Kamala heads to NYC where she sees the other Earth coming. I hadn't realized that you could only see the point of incursion from New York before, and I might have missed it, but it's a nice touch. But just because things are only visible from New York, doesn't mean there isn't chaos across the river. So, Kamala starts out by getting people to head to her school, which has been reinforced to deal with robot attacks and is protected by "hipster viking magic," which credit where credit is due, is pretty cool. I love that new-Loki is being called a hipster Viking, by the way; it makes me smile. But when Kamala heads home to get her family, she finds Kamran there and her brother gone, paying off the hint from last issue that another Khan might be an Inhuman. We've seen Kamala with her friends in danger before, sure, but this is different. This is family. This is classic Marvel hero tropes, like Spider-Man having to fight the Green Goblin, who knows he's Peter Parker. It's a test, and Kamala does what she knows is right, which is make sure everything is settled and safe at the school before doing what she has to for her family. It's a testament to her strength that she doesn't give in and abandon her responsibility. The final page of the issue sets up the meeting that readers have been waiting for since issue one. Even if the world is ending it's an exciting time for Ms. Marvel fans.

Runaways #1
Story: Noelle Stevenson
Art: Sanford Greene

Only on Battleworld could you find a school more prone to get you killed than Xavier's, the Victor Von Doom Institute for Gifted Youths. Runaways is the story of The Breakfast Club of Battleworld, a bunch of kids who are part of a program to find the best and brightest who are all rebellious. It's an interesting combination of characters, from various eras of young heroes from the 90s to the past few years. I was most excited to see Amadeus Cho and the Delphyne Gorgon from The Incredible Hercules pop up, but it's also nice to see Molly Hayes from the original Runaways there as well. Readers are treated to a lot of teen bickering and fighting mixed in with the kind of things you'd expect to see at a school dedicated to Doom: end of years finals the end in expulsion if you and a team don't win at some sort of elaborate test. It's a fun comic, with these different characters playing off each other. I like that Skaar, son of Hulk, becomes Amadeus Cho's bodyguard and buddy, fitting well with Cho's usual m.o. of palling around with someone physically bigger than him. The identity and power inverted version of Cloak & Dagger are also a nice touch. And introducing a new character in the middle of it, Sanna Strand, Frostbite, makes me wonder if she's going to be a new important character after Secret Wars ends, or if she's cannon fodder. And I love that tough Jubilee has a girl gang right out of a 90s movie, the include the Gorgon and Jubilee's best friend/ex Pixie. All these characters, in detention after a fight between Frostbite and Jubilee, wind up on a team for the final exam. Noelle Stevenson is so good at inverting tropes in Lumberjanes, I'm sure there is more than the typical teen movie set up of a bunch of different people must work together and learn that they're not all that different, especially as we see the headmistress of the school and her right hand hall monitor, Bucky Barnes the Winter Soldier, have it out for the Runaways (a title never used in the comic). I don't think Molly Ringwald ever faced someone trying to kill her in a John Hughes movie, so I can only expect more action and excitement as the kids try to make it out; I hope they curvive the experience. 

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