Deadshirt is Reading: Civil War II, Seven to Eternity, and Venom: Space Knight!

Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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David Uzumeri is reading…

Civil War II #6

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by David Marquez

Colored by Justin Ponsor

Lettered by Clayton Cowles

Marvel Comics

“Boo-hoo if someone gets their feelings hurt.”

Civil War II is the most astounding mess of Marvel’s modern era, and I don’t think I’m employing too much hyperbole when I make that statement. When Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War (the first) was coming out, one of the highlights of the expansive, overlong commercial juggernaut was Bendis’s tie-ins in New Avengers and especially the coda Civil War: The Confession. “Why isn’t Bendis writing the main series?” was a pretty common critical refrain, since he did such a great job filling in the emotional lacunae that riddled the main series’ blockbuster epic.

In the Monkey’s Paw spirit of the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Sixteen, we have the answer, in the form of a now-eight-issue miniseries built around perhaps the least divisive moral dilemma in the history of superhero comics: “is profiling good or bad, even if it’s Terrigen-fueled super-profiling?” Each side is led by a hastily constructed extremist strawman of Safety or Freedom, and the entire plot depends on the suspension of disbelief required to accept that two long-term veterans of Crazy Superhero Shit in the Marvel Universe would suddenly turn into bickering children because yet another one of their loved ones died in a dumb accident. While Tony Stark comes across as being unusually stubborn and grandstanding, Carol Danvers—Captain Marvel, the star of Marvel Studios’s first major female-led installment—has been turned into a completely unsympathetic fascist, leading an army of jackbooted thugs profiling under the name of “predictive justice” and disregarding basic humanity to the point where even the Captain America who’s currently a secret Nazi thinks they’re a bunch of dicks.

Where the first Civil War may have suffered in simplistic characterization and vague plot mechanics, it nailed the action sequences and the fuck-yeah moments, which are really the carbohydrates of the superhero event comic meal. This has poor David Marquez and Justin Ponsor wasted on page after page of talking heads punctuated with heroes-flying-at-each-other spreads—we haven’t gotten anything on the level of Civil War’s Spider-Man’s identity reveal or Punisher straight-up murdering the supervillains offering to join Cap’s side, or even the “Nick Fury was right” fist-pump moment from Bendis’s own Secret Invasion (with Leinil Francis Yu). It’s just sequence after sequence of frustrating, circular conversations between strawmen while only the kids realize nuance is dead and decide to get the fuck out of Dodge, the first sensible thing anybody’s done in this story.

This isn’t a bad review out of some kind of distaste or grudge for the creators. This is one of the most mystifying things: Bendis’s own tie-ins to his own bad event have been routinely excellent, especially the last issue of Invincible Iron Man, where Tony and Carol accidentally meet up at an open AA meeting they attend to try to give the other the space to go to their usual, closed AA meeting. He captures the nuances well in the spaces dedicated to them, but he just can’t nail the big dumb thread that ties it all together. Bendis tries to increase the level of nuance in the argument from its predecessor, but it can’t be a philosophical character study since people need to beat each other up. Successful at being neither a thrilling big dumb action comic nor a riveting character drama, Civil War II just is, filling out plot point after plot point on an outline to allow other books to tell their stories before dropping us into a new status quo. What a shame.

Adam Pelta-Pauls is reading…

Seven to Eternity #2

Written by Rick Remender

Art by Jerome Opeña

Colored by Matt Hollingsworth

Lettered by Rus Wooton

Image

“No matter what happens, no matter how dire our circumstance, you make me one promise: don’t you ever hear his offer.”

Rick Remender writes the highest concepts in comics right now, and he’s really perfected the “throw them into the thick of it” method of starting a book. Seven to Eternity is just the latest in that trend. Combining elements of westerns, fantasy, and sci-fi, with a little Journey to the West thrown in for good measure, the book follows the doomed Adam Osidis in his efforts to protect his family from the Mud King and his followers, but whereas the first issue was pretty opaque, this one begins to coagulate the ideas a little bit more.

I fell in love with Remender’s settings in Low and he continues to deliver here. The country (planet?) of Zhal is lush and vibrant, and every corner of every page of Jerome Opeña’s art is crammed with enough critters and beings that you’ll be staring at them for minutes on end. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors light these creatures up, sometimes literally, and the end result is a comic that just teems with, not just character, but life.

Where Remender really triumphs, though, is making the whole thing relatable. It’s so basic, but the reason a lot of high concept stuff like this usually fails is the characters are less interesting than the setting they’re in. Reminder grounds his characters so well, makes them so thoroughly human, that it doesn’t matter how alien the environs; you’re hooked. Osidis’ mission is fraught with danger, and he’s driven on it by a trove of complex forces, each of which you want to see borne out. There’s something for everyone in this series: a little magic, a little technology, a big lizardman named Drawbridge who has a mechanized jaw with a troop-carrying capacity. I’ve got more questions than answers at this point, but I’m definitely willing to stick it out for the ride.

Joe Stando is reading…

Venom: Space Knight #13

Written by Robbie Thompson

Art by Gerardo Sandoval

Colored by Dono Sanchez Almara

Lettered by Joe Caramagna

Marvel

“Long Live Venom. And Long Live Mania.”

The grand experiment that was Venom: Space Knight has come to a close. At thirteen issues, it was both a longer run than I’d expected, and a shorter one than I felt Venom’s current status quo would’ve required. Venom is a character who’s constantly in flux, as creative teams try to tease and push him into directions that give him more to do without feeling stale. Venom as a government agent begot Venom as a Guardian of the Galaxy, which begot Venom as an intergalactic James Bond, gathering his own gallery of Guardians-lite sidekicks.

Seeing as the new Venom book seems to be a solo title set on Earth, with the symbiote’s classic look, I went through this arc with a sense of dread. The corruption felt by the symbiote in the previous arc would come back, or Eddie Brock would forcefully take the symbiote back, or Mac Gargan would show up. Instead, we were treated a kinder, gentler ending, as Venom parted ways with his new supporting cast to reunite with his erstwhile sidekick, Mania. It’s an ending that felt earned, even as the set-up was mostly a result of tie-ins with various other books and events. The Venom/Mania dynamic was among the most missed things in this new book, and I’m glad the next iteration will spotlight it.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a little bit of regression here. Visually, it looks like Venom is switching back to the Agent Venom and monster looks, rather than the Mass Effect-esque design from this book. The art is great, with Sandoval’s slick, Marvel vs Capcom-looking designs, and Almara’s colors pop. At the same time, it’s the opposite end of the spectrum from Ariel Olivetti’s painterly work that opened the series. Even the wrapped-up story seems to set the stage for arcs about guilt and redemption, which were prominent in the Agent Venom era but feel almost like a step backwards.

I don’t mean to complain too heavily. Getting a sharper, darker Venom story featuring Mania while still giving Venom: Space Knight appropriate, optimistic closure is more than I could’ve asked. Flash Thompson hugs his robot friend goodbye in this issue! I guess Venom is destined for now to be a flavor of the week character, reinvented with every line-wide revamp into a new, fresh book. Space Knight was an exciting little diversion, one that told plenty of stories without overstaying its welcome.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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