Marvel Pick Of The Week – December 23, 2015 [SPOILERS]


Pick Of The Week:

Captain America: Sam Wilson 4, by Nick Spencer and Paul Renaud

Four issues up, four Picks Of The Week. This book has been pushing political discussion while making us laugh, and last issue resurrected a beloved Gruenwald story with CapWolf. This time, Sam Wilson revisits another staple of the Gruenwald run by talking to Steve Rogers’s once-villain-then-hero-now-stripper ex-girlfriend Diamondback.

The nostalgia is terrific in this series. Readers don’t need to be fans of CapWolf or Diamondback to love this issue – last issue, a mad geneticist was splicing animals into illegal immigrants and saddled Sam Wilson with some wolf DNA and he is going to be a werewolf for a little while. No big. It makes for great comedy as Captain America loses it barking at a meter reader or licks his plate after breakfast, but it’s temporary and never gets too silly. As for Diamondback, readers get a montage of her as a villain in the Serpent Society, her kissing Captain America, and some text boxes about her relationship not working but how she ended up a hero in her own right. Even as a nude dancer, she maintains respect, bragging about her tips and putting this in perspective of a lifetime doing what she needed to survive. I started reading comics near the beginning of the relationship between the Boy Scout and the Bad Girl, so I always jump when I see her back in action, and I love when an author can accept her as a darker character without trying too hard to sanitize that. You don’t rehab Rachel Leighton – you love her, or you get out of her way, and Nick Spencer gets that.

Spencer’s love of complicated women doesn’t end there. He has been giving Misty Knight a panel or two each issue that steals the page, be that when she can’t keep from Tweeting her excitement about CapWolf…

… or enforcing strict discipline with the new Falcon (an illegal immigrant who had Sam Wilson’s falcon grafted into him, it’s creepy and awesome).

That said, the piece of this book that has elevated it beyond Spencer’s terrific other work on Superior Foes, Ant-Man, and Morning Glories is that the writer uses Marvel’s most prominent Avenger to push a smart, chilling discussion of politics in America. We have seen him use satire and realism to illuminate issues with immigration, gun control, and freedom of information. This time, the book opens with Viper of the Serpent Society rebranding as Serpent Solutions, a corporate consultant group willing to outsource a company’s ethically dubious duties. He’s a bad guy, and the pitch gets violent in a shocking way a few pages in, but in those pages, readers go through a terrifyingly coherent argument that when we use smartphones, we are saying that it is okay for slaves to be chewed up making them because the value of the tech outweighs the cost. In the eighties, we had Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross; now we have a roomful of folks in suits listening to a man in a snake costume point out that everyone blames them for the nation’s problems – “Did someone put a gun to their heads and force them to buy  house they couldn’t afford, or rack up those credit card debts?” Captain America is up against Corporate America, and I don’t think Spencer is going to let this end with anything as simple a win.

Paul Renaud takes over art duties on this issue, and it’s a big change from the style of Daniel Acuna but is still vivid and gorgeous. And I need to give some credit for his attention to, umm…

I have no idea how anyone keeps eye contact with a man wearing a suit like that, but I am willing to volunteer to try this out.

This week, Nick Spencer continues to show that great political and feminist thought can entertain, can coexist with humor, can deepen an established character. I can’t wait for the next one.

Honorable Mentions:

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat 1, because Patsy gets a great gay roommate who quotes Wicked and Carly Rae Jepsen at her…

… and because classic sidekick Tubbs is now sexy Brooklyn bear Tom who runs a queer bookstore that allows Patsy to browse a book called Butts: Volume IX and there is NOTHING wrong with this book. Y’all, this is Squirrel Girl as a gay icon.

Daredevil 2, because in the Marvel Universe, grumpy teachers can use a “Why can’t you be more like Tony Stark?” as a burn.

New Avengers 4, because Hawkeye, with his chill space jokes and vinyl punk albums, could Cool Dad with me anytime.

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