Secret Avengers #3

Awesome week for Marvel titles and I still grabbed for this one first.

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Look at the cover! Tradd Moore and Matthew Wilson created this magnificently detailed cover, Widow looks pissed wiping a bloodied nose, Spider-Woman is frantically disarming a bomb and Coulson appears to be in real trouble while still looking hilarious, which is just perfect.

Maria Hill Micromanages the Secret Avengers. Phil Coulson Blows up space stations. Nick Fury has one eye. Black Widow Played by Scarlett Johansson, except when she’s not. Spider-Woman New to the secret team ops thing. Hawkeye Eats about 4 protein bars a day.

Black Widow, Spider-Woman and Coulson are sent to the island Sokotra to neutralize a failed poet with a nuclear device. While they are there, Spider-woman and Widow find themselves against Derrida’s soldiers while Coulson is cowering. Natasha thinks he’s having a PTSD thing. She lets Jessica handle the bad guy while she goes to protect Phil.

Those menacing eyes at the top of the cover? They belong to Lady Bullseye. And she’s gunning for Widow.

Meanwhile the space bomb starts talking to Jessica and tells her that it is going to commit suicide. The bomb’s chosen name is Vladimir. Spider-Woman talks him out of suicide by offering caramel gelato. 

Coulson overcomes his anxiety and jumps in a Jeep, runs over Lady Bullseye. “I just killed Lady Bullseye? Oh my. I’m on a roll.”

I really enjoy this series so far. Consistently fun, quirky and badass. They pull villains and settings from all corners of the Marvel Universe. And Spider-Woman got to kick ass AND use quick thinking and more stereotypically girly means of problem solving. Michael Walsh’s art is kick ass, somewhere in between more classic styles and more modern, some panels switch color schemes (colors by Matthew Wilson) or go with blank backgrounds or silhouettes, it creates momentum and excitement and is well matched to Ales Kot’s quirky writing style.

I will note that Nick Fury and Phil Coulson look like their film counterparts, but the others do not. Including Black Widow, even though they name dropped ScarJo.

The end pages have Fury and Hawkeye going after The Fury who is lost in space.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #3

This issue takes a break from the view of the new young (still kind of the old) Loki and follows the older (but possibly younger?) Loki. Loki is doing laps around the space/time continuum. We follow the aged trickster back in time to him greeting a young (and still prince) Odin. Loki gets the future king (and his adoptive father) into a heap of trouble after he takes out a shape changing man from a nearby town.

Side note: Odin’s all “That large beaver meant us no harm” but the both of them a clearly wearing leathers and eat meat. Both of these things involve killing animals that more than likely meant no one any harm. Loki just happened to kill a man in the form of a man-sized otter.

 

Jenny Frison cover = Old Man Loki +reflective riches Loki front and center conveying his self centeredness.

Jenny Frison cover = Old Man Loki +reflective riches Loki front and center conveying his self centeredness.

Anyway, they stop in to a pub and order some mead, but Odin picks up on that another patron is waiting for his son who was hunting supper. Dun dun… his son was the otter. One brother demands blood, the other demands retribution in the form of gold. Loki (the hardened old man Loki) shoots a fish with a bazooka to collect a treasure. Well, not exactly, he shoots a dwarf who can turn into a fish (his name is Andvari and this is a Norse folktale that is weaved in) The gold is cursed. And the character Regin behaves about the way he was written to traditionally. Andvari’ gold exemplifies the traits of each man who keeps it, Regin turns vengeful and Fafnir turns greedy (and into a dragon, he refused to leave the treasure and his body became deprived of food and water and survived off of spells and magic in the air and it transformed him… which is a very interesting idea). Sigurd, the first hero of Asgard, some years later, comes into the same tavern, he is served by Regin who has forged a mighty sword (Gram, the sword young Loki gets in Point NOW) to exact revenge, he gives it to Sigurd. IF Sigurd will slay (the now dragon) Fafnir and bring him his heart.

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Sigurd, being a legendary hero, does this mightily and then returns to Regin (who tries to stab him in the back. Literally). Sigurd keeps Gram. And some years later discards it. King Bor dies later still, and the still prince Odin finds it. Old Loki arrives and tells Odin to hide the sword in a box with 5 keys and save it… for this young Loki…

What does that mean?!

And if that wasn’t crazy enough, Sigurd in the PRESENT goes in search of his sword, finds that Loki already got there and vows to steal it back.

This series is so utterly and consistently good. I can’t begin to imagine why the haggard old man Loki has set this all into motion, but when he looks in on his other self (with Verity!) and says, “What a precious little girl child I am.” it poked fun at the taunts that Loki looked like “he’s from Twilight” or whatever crazy crap my friends thought about this. It’s a great story, about wanting redeption but knowing that you don’t really deserve it, and that you won’t really get it. But striving on anyway. The older Loki still considers himself the God of Evil… so why has he lead this Loki that seeks redemption to the ultimate weapon? What’s the end game?!

Well, I’m unsure… but I am exorbitantly intrigued.

Lee Garbett’s drawing and Nolan Woodard’s art suit this tale perfectly shadowy but still crisp, undertones of red, gold and green illuminate the pages. The toothy dragon is larger than life, his heart is larger than a man. The fight scenes are detailed. Loki is hardened and wrinkled, a stark contrast next to the goofy young Odin.

And Sigurd: the first hero of Asgard is Black. I love Marvel.

Sigurd +(young appearing) Loki in #4!

Sigurd +(young appearing) Loki in #4!

Avengers Confidential, Black Widow & Punisher

SHIELD is on a mission to stop a global terrorist organization, Leviathan, at the same time that The Punisher is on the trail of an arms dealer. SHIELD needs intel form the dealer, and Punisher just wants to …uh, punish him. Black Widow interrupts Punishers mission and he winds up in SHIELD custody. The Punisher, not the bad guy, who escapes while SHIELD agents, including Nick Fury, Black Widow AND the Punishe all bicker and brawl. Kinda stupid.

Anyway, there’s a lot of “we do this my way” tug of war between the spy and the vigilante as they investigate what Leviathan is up to. Which is, specifically that Leviathan is creating programmable super soldiers with stolen SHIELD technology. Strike two when it turns out to be all Natasha’s fault.

SPOILERS AFTER THIS GIF- not that you should care. I want to save you from this movie.

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The former SHIELD scientist was in a relationship with Natasha Romanoff. But she was always going on missions and he wasn’t a powerful hero and therefore felt inferior… so he faked his own death and started working for the enemy AND experimenting on himself so that he would be super enough for Widow. Oh, fucking spare me. This is just another one of these “working women make men feel inadequate” shit shows. STAHP. How would this woo her? And you faked your own death, how does this establish trust? And if your response is “well, I can understand feeling inferior next to Black Widow, she’s a fucking bad ass.” I feel you. But think about it. They were already in a relationship. He doesn’t do it because he might be a liability to her, like that enemies might get to her because he’s weak and that would put them both in danger. He does this because he can’t compete with her work schedule and he’s not as bad ass as her and her coworkers. Would Pepper Potts fake her own death and conduct risky experiments on herself? Would MJ? Would Lois fucking Lane?! Fuck to the no. Why? Because in the patriarchal system that we live in, the dude is supposed to be tougher anyway.  So the fictitious women and the folks who write them understand that this wouldn’t be impressive. It would be deranged. And Widow’s former fling is portrayed as deranged… but also a terrorist org has supersoldiers because Widow wasn’t a doting housewife. Oh fuck off.

There were fight scene between Widow and the traitor AND Widow and the Punisher where she didn’t land a blow. So she was so badass that she earned this tragic and twisted love story… but not bad enough to actually.. you know, hold her own on her own.

Aside form that the art was underwhelming, the voices were poorly selected and the music was tacky. I was actually surprised at how much I hated this. It’s written by Marjorie M Liu who recently provided a “legend” for Red Sonja and notably the X-23 series.

The whole “reprogramming heroes” has been done before. SO MUCH. They’re powerful, what if their powers fell into the wrong hands?! DC is a little more infamous for that overused plotline, but come on. We get it. Being a human weapon is a huge liability. And that Widow was dispatched to save the entire Avengers from becoming unstoppable killing machines SHOULD have been badass… except that it was her “fault” for not making her man feel like the man? BOOOOOO

There were good things: Amadeus Cho, a young prodigy with a pet fox and a crush on Black Widow was a fun character for a bit. Fury admitting that Widow and Fury were dispatched because he could cut them loose. The good guys not always doing good things.

There’s a video where everyone makes it clear what they thought they were doing. But I can really only give this 2/5 Stars.

 

Fantastic Female Friday: Lorelei

(Marvel comics, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD)

From the Agents of SHIELD episode “Yes Men” it was easy to gather that Lorelei had feminine wiles that would cause “men” to go to endless war. She’s used to commanding armies, she’s used to demanding the finer things. But to her… they aren’t men, not really anyway, they are soldiers… they are ants. 

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Lorelei made her first appearance in Thor #337  in 1983. The story that she falls into is one of unrequited love, she’s always getting at Sif for liking Thor (since the 80s!), Loki likes her and Lorelei can have any man she wants… well almost, she can’t seem to get Thor. There’s lots of convoluted trickery including spells, potions, dragons and fake names. Amora, her older sister, tricks Lorelei and Loki into falling for each other. In Loki:Agent of Asgard #2.. this is still somewhat the case. Although, it’s more likely that he feels a fondness for her because of their similar status in their families. Lorelei gets in over her head enough, from wreaking small havoc on the love lives of her cohorts to teaming up with Pluto and spawning Valkyries.  

She’s a little much. 

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But look at the way people are all captivated by Hiddleston, there’s no reason to hate on a female version of Loki.

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But Lorelei’s not a knock off.. she’s her own personality evolved out of a similar experience. She might be a “tramp” and a “hussie” but let’s face it: So? She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. And that’s hardly the only weapon in her arsenal. She has sorceress powers, can turn men to stone and she’s skilled in combat.

So when she is set free in Thor: the Dark World and debuts on the small screen taking over a biker gang’s empire in the middle of the desert -did anyone recall that Odin was being impersonated by Loki at the end of that film?! So did Loki want his lady friend back? …think about it.

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While I’m not a fan of her role in reinforcing the gender binary (her power only works on men… doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room… also no mention of gay men or lesbian women… erasure is a dick move, this should be retconned by now.. shit.) and despite the fact that her powers aren’t limited to coercion she’s seen relying heavily on her feminine wiles.. I’m still a fan. It is tropes on tropes. But we live in a world where people do infact have “good looking” privilege. Lorelei takes that to the next level. And that’s one of these times when I want to remind everyone why “conventional gender roles” are bad for everyone: Is it really her ‘fault’ that men will all fall on their swords for her? They were taught to look out for beautiful damsels in need… she just eggs them a bit further. It’s that specific reason that I can justify that it is only ALL men influenced regardless of orientation. Male privilege. Society said that men are heroes who fight for women. And this is the result. She’s manipulated a broken system to her will. 

Secret Avengers #1

Save the Empire!

“Run the mission. Don’t get seen. Save the world.”

SHIELD director Maria Hill has assembled a black ops squad to deal with things that cannot publically involve the Avengers. Maria selects Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Spider-Woman and Black Widow. …and SHIELD informant turned developer MODOK. …And Hawkeye accidentally joins up.

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Coulson and Nick Fury are sent to a space station where they end up in over their heads with THE Fury (an immensely powerful cybiote programmed to exterminate all life). This interrupts Black Widow and Siper-Woman’s spa day. …Well, TECHNICALLY Hawkeye accidentally busting in to escape AIM agents does (there’s a lot of nip slips covered up by ‘classic hero stickers’ it’s really fun). Natasha Romanova had been trying to teach Jessica Drew how to unwind when all hell broke loose. 

Maria Hill sends the trio to space to assist Coulson and Fury while Maria and MODOK get blindsided by a Latverian Hitman. 

So there’s a bunch of things happening at once. I’m at least peripherally aware of these characters. Sneaked in snippets of backstory were all that I really needed here. Maria Hill is doing a lot, maybe too much, and it shows. Hawkeye stumbles comedically through life threatening situations. Coulson is more reckless than the decisive Nick Fury.  MODOK is always being MODOK. It was funny. Very Funny. 

I’m really into Michael Walsh’s quirkier art style, Matthew Wilson adds the colors and its somewhere between looking like 80s comics and a Samurai Jack cartoon. It’s really awesome, that’s the kind of thing I like, some people enjoy more realistic interpretations… Well, I don’t. It carries along Ales Kot’s somewhat slapstick and action packed script perfectly. 

And it was fun to see Coulson in the books. 

Captain Marvel #1

Captain Marvel gets front and center in this All-New Marvel NOW! title. Kelly Sue DeConnick writes in plenty of every-woman charm for Carol Danvers while still keeping her edge 

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The story begins at Maniaciano Outpost, Planet Ursor 4. Captain Marvel and 4 humanoids I’ve never seen before are doing some work for the Galactic Alliance when they are followed by Spartax police (You know, I only started reading comic books last year, but I’m really starting to know what all this still is) anyway, they get followed while trying to stop a… space terrorist? And Captain Marvel makes a Star Wars joke, it doesn’t fly so she chucks a fruit at them and starts swinging. The person they’re pursuing gets tackled by a green skinned female and they’ve got to get out of there before…

We flashback to 6 weeks ago.

Iron Patriot and CM are intercepting… a bomb? nope, a capsule with that green skinned female inside. Wowzers. Later, Carol is at home (in the statue of liberty) her friend is staying with her and her friend’s daughter (who wants to be a super hero- who Carol affectionately calls Lieutenant Trouble) catches her and has a heart to heart before Iron Man shows up. 

Iron Man gives her the updates on the alien that she found. And they stop and casually thwart some street thugs. The alien woman’s home planet was destroyed. Iron Man brings up the idea of “a formal Avengers presence in space” a rotating gig between space (hanging with the Guardians of the Galaxy) and Earth. Stark baits her into thinking that he wants Rhodey for the job. It’s very playful and funny.

But Carol wants it. And so she gives Rhodey the “it’s not you, it’s me” talk he says he won’t hold her back… and then she asks him if he’ll feed her cat -and I actually snorted reading that. 

And then Captain Marvel heads for space (but we already knew that) .

I loved this. LOVE LOVED this. 

The art’s by David Lopez -whose work I saw previously during the second story arc of Brian wood’s X-Men, and truth be told. I didn’t love it then. But it looks great here. It really embodies DeConnick’s writing style as well. Carol Danvers is very human (with god powers) and every spunky facial expression, every nuance between her and Rhodey is just superbly illustrated. The colors are more muted and Lee Loughridge adds amazing gold, red and blue overtones to everything, it looks very unique. This is wonderful. 

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

AKA Trust Me #1

Loki. There’s a lot to say about Loki. Tragic trickster, Thor’s foster brother, black sheep of the family, God of Evil, hilarious, powerful, spiteful. Made all the more popular because of the Marvel cinematic universe portrayl by the stunning Tom Hiddleston.

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Anyway, Loki died, was reborn into a new, youthful body, obtained the sword of Asgard’s earliest hero and is now a secret agent for the All-Mother, the ruling trio of Goddesses. 

So.. page one, when we see Loki stabbing Thor in the back with the narration, “TRUST ME. I know what I’m doing.”

We must wonder… does he?

Earlier: Loki is soaping up when the All-Mother (Gaea, Freyja and Idunn) show up to give him a mission. This leads him to Avengers tower. Thor is Drinking, Cap and Iron Man are sparring, Hawkeye and Black Widow are lounging, Bruce Banner is working, Loki is laughing. Sounds right. 

Loki climbs the building, takes an extra peek at Thor, who is drinking mead and ordering around the help. Thor gets irrationally mad when he catches a whiff of Loki and tosses his hammer out the window at him.

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He falls past Hawkeye and Black Widow’s room (she’s reading a book while he plays video games) and Hawkeye shoots out a grappling hook arrow, which Loki grabs. 

Meanwhile, we get some backstory on Loki and his particular brand of magic. And why he wants to be the good guy. 

Loki, now inside, is asked to answer why he has come. Loki babbles that he is the All-Mother’s Undercover Agent. And then he tells Thor that Stark still has Thor’s DNA from Civil War when they cloned him to make a monster(retconned but not gone!).

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Thor, predictably, challenges Iron Man…and Loki runs off. AND then he tricks Hawkeye into thinking Bruce Banner is him, and so he shoots Banner who Hulks out. Nothing more distracting than that. 

Soonish;

Loki reaches the Avenger’s Database. What he’s looking for… is himself. The files they have on him. The God of Mischeif that became the God of Evil. The Villain. The Loki that burned. He purges the files. People like patterns, they expect him to become that. He’s trying to reboot his story. 

They catch him. Thor orders them to kill Loki. captain America, goody two shoes, says, “Avenger’s don’t do that,” so Thor says he’ll do it himself. But the Hammer is too heavy (dishonorable behavior) so he goes at Loki with his bare fists. And that’s when Loki stabs him in the back. “TRUST ME. I know what I’m doing.”

Earlier: 

Thor yells at the All-Mother that women belong in kitchens, not on thrones.

Before That: 

in a bar fight, hassling a wench.

And then we get a glimpse at the whole mission. Corruption has entered Thor’s heart. The All-Mother sent Loki to cast it out, but he needed a sword to make Thor see the truth. To suffer the blade is to suffer all the truths you deny yourself. Thor sees and casts out the corrupt entity which Loki captures in a jar.

So:

Loki and Thor get their brotherly moment. There’s a Slashfic joke and they share a drink. And Loki escapes shortly after. Back with the All-Mother we find out his reward. For each successful mission, one crime purged from the memory of all of Asgard. He leaves them in the jar.

What’s inside is truly bewildering and terrifying. What will it mean for our would be hero?

I love all of this. We have this anti-hero character, reborn and trying to make amends. He’s not granted instant redemption and he knows he has to work with that. He’s not surprised that no one trusts him. But he wants to be good. No one is the villain in their own story, everyone thinks that what they are doing serves a purpose, everyone wants to be the hero. I really like the idea of Loki overcoming himself in his quest to change his fate instead of overcoming, tricking or otherwise convincing others. Al Ewing did a great job on this story -I’m not a huge fan of jumping back and forth, but it was well done. Lee Garbett’s art was expressive and playful and perfect for this story.

Will Loki redeem himself? Or will he be his own worst enemy? Dun dun dun