Leisure:Animation & Manga
What do you do when your title has a three-issue tie-in with the latest big comic event and is heading for a relaunch shortly thereafter? If you’re Mark Waid then your answer comes in three parts: Tell a story setting up a future story, tell a story setting up a new series (with its co-writer), and tell a flashback story that touches upon the same themes of the event.
In the first case we have Vision employing the aid of professional “Civil War II” plot device Ulysses to find out when the villain known as Kang the Conqueror was born so he can be dealt with. Then we have Waid teaming up with “Unstoppable Wasp” co-writer Jeremy Whitley to give us a multi-generational Wasp story as Janet tries to help stepdaughter Nadia work through the difficulties of seeing superheroes fight each other. Last up is Thor talking with Heimdall about using his predictive abilities to help resolve the conflict and the gatekeeper god responding with a tale about how he once did so to assist the Avengers against Doctor Doom only for things not to turn out the way they expected.
Of the three, the Thor story is the best even as it traffics in some familiar time-travel cliches. It’s still set up fairly well and offers a nice explanation of Heimdall’s abilities with Thor making up her own mind about how they should be used in her context. Adam Kubert also gets to show off by rendering the flashback in vertical descending splash page fashion, giving the story a distinct look while also demonstrating his range in terms of characters and settings throughout the three tie-in issues here.
Vision’s story comes in second as Waid manages some genuine, “Where is he going with this?” tension even as I remain convinced he can’t be tampering with Kang as much as he implies here. As for the Wasps, while I liked the mother/stepdaughter dynamic between Janet and Nadia I can’t say that doing a story where a character nearly blows herself up is the best way to set up her ongoing title.
Rounding out this collection is an annual featuring fanfiction of the Marvel Universe as seen through Ms. Marvel’s perusal of the latest offerings from Freaking Awesome. The offerings here are pretty slight with all of them operating off of one good joke each. Faith Erin Hicks gives us the self-explanatory “Squirrel Girl vs. Ms. Marvel” which should’ve leaned more into videogames than it does while Zac Gorman and Jay Fosgitt unleash talking animal versions of Marvel characters and animal puns in “Up Close and Fursonal” and call it a day. “The Adventures of She-Hulk” has some wonderfully creative art as She-Hulk teams up with a pencil, but no real story to hold your interest. Meanwhile, Mark Waid & Chip Zdarsky, and Scott Kurtz have some modest fun with male entitlement in “The Once and Future Marvel” and “An Evening With Ms. Marvel: A True Story.”
These are bookended by sequences with Ms. Marvel, written by her creator G. Willow Wilson with art from Mahmud Asrar, reacting to one story which isn’t featured here. That would probably have been the best part of this issue if it weren’t for the fact that the reveal of the person who wrote it falls flat because he never seemed to me like someone who would have an interest in this stuff. This annual had a good idea behind it, but the creators ultimately played it too safe here. Next time either give us some really crazy stories, or just some crazily-bad-written ones instead.
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