Marvel Pick Of The Week – December 16, 2015 [SPOILERS]


Pick Of The Week: Illuminati 2, by Joshua Williamson, Shawn Crystal, and John Rauch

Making my pick this week taught me a lot of about myself. There were two books equally suited: the third issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was delightful and daffy and landed at least one great Doctor Doom joke every page and juggled facts about computers and time travel. But Illuminati gave me a creep beneath my skin that I can’t shake six hours later. So in the soul battle between humor and horror, I went dark.

Last issue got Pick Of The Week for the callback to classic horror comics, The Hood as a wicked narrator spinning the tale of Titania’s difficulties establishing a respectable life as an ex-con before The Hood tricked her into joining a team of mid-level villains to plan a heist that will take them all the way to Asgard. This week, The Hood again greets us (“Hello again! Glad we didn’t scare you off!”) before taking an issue to set up more about his current team. Evil shapechanging android Black Ant has joined up for the Pinocchio chance to become a real boy. The Mad Thinker is in as a way to access Asgardian technology, and The Enchantress just needs a ride across the Bifrost Bridge. Thunderball just wants to get rich without his annoying Wrecking Crew teammates. The Hood walks them through the heist with adorable cartoon panels for elements like “Steal a bunch of weapons” and “celebrate our riches and new A-List status!” It’s similar to Nick Spencer’s Superior Foes, but where that book kept the dark humor about the dopey way the villains kept defaulting to lies and betrayal, this book’s humor is more about how incongruous the gag is from the damp Gothic setting.

The crew heads to Club Fenris where everyone’s favorite creepy German twins have been resurrected and run a bar for supervillains. Titania gets to catch up with Paste Pot Pete while The Hood and The Enchantress pump a guy for information on his experimental transportation system, an encounter that ends in shocking, gruesome horror that spins this book so far out of the clever jokes that I started worrying for my own safety. Even the escalating tension of the plotting doesn’t foreshadow how gory the book is going to get, and this is an issue including a pair of twins where the brother used his dead sister’s skin to wrap the handle of his sword back in Thunderbolts.

And that’s what’s so great about this book. It’s not Superior Foes – the bad guys aren’t always pulling each other’s hair or trying to impress a cute bartender. It’s not Thunderbolts – no one is in this for redemption, and no one minds being a monster. It’s a series of scary stories, told in order to build an arc about the heist but enjoyable as standalone tales. DC gets these stories once in a while out of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, but Marvel hasn’t had a ton of scary books lately. Yes, Scarlet Witch and The Vision have been wonderful horror, but those come from a heroic title character, and in Illuminati, the reader doesn’t even get that piece of comfort. Marvel has almost finished a creative renaissance in the Secret Wars crossover, and I am so excited to see the multitude of ways the All-New, All-Different Marvel explores the ways we tell each other our fears.

Honorable Mentions:

All-New X-Men 2, because in the Marvel Universe, people have to use the Internet to untangle continuity and sort out identity changes. It’s kind of adorable.

Deadpool & Cable: Split Second 5, for this shot of the Six Pack meeting up for the first time. Sometimes you forget how much you miss the 90s until Fabian Nicieza goes back to the shoulder pad closet. The pouches. All the pouches.

Weirdworld 1, because Mike Del Mundo’s art sticks cute humor with fairy tale horror in a way we haven’t seen since the Jim Henson movies we tell our therapists about.

Web Warriors 2, because a Fastball Special with Spider-Ham is called Pig-In-A-Blanket and I could not be happier right now.

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