Deadshirt is Reading: Spider-Men II and Wonder Woman!

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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Max Robinson is reading…

Spider-Men II #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli
Colored by Justin Ponsor
Lettered by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Marvel

“WHY DO YOU HAVE MEGA VENOM BLAST AND I DON’T?!”

2012’s Spider-Men mini-series (from the same creative team of Bendis and Pichelli) felt like a pretty bold comic as superhero stories go, acting as the first true crossover between the “regular” 616 Marvel U and its edgier Ultimate counterpart. With Spider-Men II, the duo are going back to the well with a serviceable first issue that suffers from being…well, a sequel.

The Peter Parker and Miles Morales Spider-Men have been running around together for a few years now, so the bloom is off the rose for any kind of team-up novelty. Still, the strongest part of Bendis’ script is the dynamic between the older and younger webslinger, with a mis en scene opener that (fittingly) feels right out of Bad Boys II. As the longest running Spider-Man writer, it’s not much of a surprise that Bendis has a strong grasp on Peter and Miles’ individual voices. Still, the “wordiness” of this issue really drags everything around it down and the scene of Miles talking with two other teenagers is agonizingly long-winded. And while Bendis nails the voices of his heroes, it’s jarring to read a comic where New York teens talk like too-clever-by-half Oscar Wilde characters in light of the impressive realism of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s brainy high schoolers.

The highlight of the issue of Pichelli’s art, which remains consistent from her days on the pre-Secret Wars Miles Morales comic. The action is more than competent, with a fun and fluid fight between Spider-Man and the Armadillo and some charming border details like two kids taking a selfie with a destroyed robot. The only real beef I have is the talking heads-heavy script doesn’t give Pichelli much to do.

As with way too many monthly comics, Spider-Men II isn’t really exciting enough to justify four bucks an installment. As it is, it’s a solid first issue of what’ll likely be an enjoyable superhero romp but even the promise of finding out who the Miles Morales of *Peter’s Earth* is can’t lift the needle too much on this one.

Stefano De La Cuesta is reading…

Wonder Woman #26
Written by Shea Fontana
Art by Mirka Andolfo
Colored by Romulo Farjado Jr
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
DC Comics

“My heart can take the heavy weight of those truths. I would not put that burden on another”

Shea Fontana (DC Superhero Girls) has her work cut out for her. Not only will she be writing the main Wonder Woman comic following a critically acclaimed run by Greg Rucka, she’s also writing it just as Wonder Woman’s first live action movie smashes box office records and renews mainstream interest in the character. Eyes are watching, and for my money Fontana and a stellar art team of Mirka Andolfo, Romulo Farjado Jr., and Saida Temofonte don’t buck under the weight of pop culture pressure. How? They take us back to basics.

Fontana has cut her teeth doing successful comics aimed at winning new and younger readers, girls especially, and from this comic it’s easy to see why. While past Wonder Woman runs seem obsessed with interrogating her as a character and as a fictional archetype, this issue feels very much attuned to what has made her such an enduring pop icon for decades and just lets that play out in a relatively straightforward manner. This initial chapter feels like the start of a What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way? type story for Wonder Woman, one that re-affirms certain central conceits about her while also juxtaposing them against a modern context.

Here, we find Diana in a role more or less defined as an armed contractor protecting refugees. Later we take a tour through her personal and professional lives before we get to a wedding where…something happens. Before you roll your eyes, know this: while other Wonder Woman books leaned too far into her “warrior goddess” status, here Fontana is much more interested in how Diana’s role as warrior is informed by and often clashes against her pacifistic and empathetic ideology. This is symbolized when we flashback to Diana’s childhood and see her effectively forced to lock away her prized doll, Agape (which is a Greco-Christian term referring to “love; the highest form of love, charity”) in order to move forward with her training.

Wonder Woman has often fallen into a similar trap in pop culture where she is meant to represent all things to all people all at once. In her case it’s often unfairly demanded that she cover the full spectrum of women’s nuances and experiences. The Agape subplot is very nakedly commenting on the ways we force essentialist & often harmful views on what constitutes maturity and what makes a woman strong vs. what makes a man strong. It’s still unresolved as of yet, but so far Fontana’s direction seems clear cut given where this story entitled “Heart of the Amazon” is meant to go.

If all that seems like heavy talk for a “back to basics” approach to Wonder Woman, don’t get me wrong, this book is crisp swashbuckling fun. The art by Mirka Andolfo and colorist Romulo Farjado Jr. has a distinctly anime/manga influenced vibe that is dynamic and energetic. It also evokes the mahō shōjo or “magical girls” subgenre. This is notable because this might be the most aesthetically femme the main Wonder Woman title has been in years. The look favors motion and expression and definitely puts this book of a piece with Renae de Liz’s stellar work in The Legend of Wonder Woman. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky, and in not concerning itself with topping the last creative team’s work it gives itself space to carve its own path. Shea Fontana, Mirka Andolfo, Romulo Farjado Jr. and Saida Temofonte have concocted the first chapter of what looks to be an accessible, genuine crowd pleaser with enough heartfelt emotional truths woven throughout to please new and existing fans alike.

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!

Post By Deadshirt Staff (652 Posts)

Deadshirt's writing staff is dedicated to bringing you thoughtful and entertaining media commentary. We're mostly indentured, which means we can pass the savings on to you!

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