Open Mike Night: Ms Marvel #10/Suicide Squad (1987) #1


Ms Marvel #10

Written by: G.Willow Wilson
Art by: Adrian Alphonsa
Colored by:Ian Herring
Lettered by: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by: Kris Anka

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Weaver: The new Ms. Marvel often gets lumped in with Sam Wilson Captain America and female Thor, so I was expecting something a little more like the previous Ms. Marvel than what we got here.  That said, previous Ms. Marvel isn’t all that popular as a comic, so it was probably the right way to go to move in another direction.  I’m coming in during the middle of an arc here, but between the intro page and the character narration, I felt comfortable enough with what was going on.  I only see Ms. Marvel in costume, though, and don’t get anything about her uncostumed life, which I would have liked to have seen a bit of.

This title has a kind of cartoony style, which works well for the character.  That was the first thing that really struck me here.  The posturing and the dialogue were very much like a serious-ish cartoon, it felt like watching an animated series.

 Maillaro:  Just full disclosure, I have a huge love of this book because it takes place in Jersey City (my hometown), and Kamala goes to the same high school I did.  So, there is a natural bias for me here.

I am pretty sure this is the first issue of the series where we didn’t get any look at all at her friends and family.  It was kind of jarring, but worked real well with the story Wilson was telling here.  I actually was surprised at some of the odd social commentary here.  I was not quite sure if it was satire or not. 

Weaver: I’m thinking not satire.  It feels like they’re aiming this book towards the teenage market with a relatable hero who gives a lot of self-affirming talk about teenagers being more valuable than society tends to claim they are.  I did like how the villain said that if teenagers were another kind of minority, like an ethnicity or religion based one, most things people said about them would be considered hate speech.  The villain’s dialogue drifts into satire, but Ms. Marvel seemed to be giving the speech of “what we learned in this episode” that you’d get at the end of GI Joe or He-Man.

Maillaro: Yeah that was the heart of my confusion.  It seemed satirical in some ways (we are an extra generation….so our only real purpose is “batteries”), but was delivered with a lot of earnesty to it.   Especially when Kamala shifted the captured kids from willing hostages to her own little fighting force.   This definitely threw me some.

Before you mentioned the book reminding you of a cartoon.  Adrian Alphona was also the artist on Runaways, which had a very similar feel (both in terms of the writing and the art), so I definitely thought the same thing when I first read the series.  I also thought it was the perfect tone to capture here.  Kamala is a nerdy girl, and I could definitely see her as the one drawing her adventures this way.

Weaver: Those lines were planted by the villain, so that was the satire part of it.  They weren’t really willing hostages, they just seemed that way.

I think the cartoony style, like I said, fit what was going on here like a glove.  It’s a morality play with a lot of punching, like the best cartoons. It’s nice to see a title with this much synergy between the writing and the art.

Not sure that tossing Lockjaw in without a lot of explanation of who or what he is or why he’s there was a great idea (I’m sure it’s discussed previously in the series, but the previously page just makes a flip reference to his presence).  I was able to run with it, and it made a lot of the jokes work to be able to talk about stealing a girl’s dog and such, but I don’t know that everyone would be able to.

Maillaro: I think the whole Inhuman thing was kind of an afterthought in the character creation process.  Lockjaw has been a cute addition to the series, but I will admit that I found it to be kind of a stretch.  Inhumans are the new mutants (NOT X-MEN…there is a difference).  It would be like Nightcrawler being introduced to be her pet…

Hey, that could be a great idea for a comic…

Weaver: I’m not sure that works out with the main character being a teen girl.  It’s not like Kurt is Piotr.  Ba doom boom.

When Stan created the X-Men, he said that making them mutants just let him be lazy about origins.  I can definitely get that.  Why does this character have this ability?  Mutant.  The Terrigen Mists are the new catch-all to replace that, and that really doesn’t bother me as much as it does some people.  But I don’t think it was the intended origin or even best origin for this character, as it seems like she was meant to be the Skrull to Danvers’ Kree.

Maillaro: I actually said that on GameFAQ’s when the character was first created.  I was definitely disappointed when she got hit with the mist in the first issue and was revealed to be a descendant of the Inhumans.  Especially since no one else in her family gained powers with Black Bolt misted everyone in Infinity.  That to me is the lazy part of the Inhumans origin over mutant kind.

Weaver: There’s precedent for the Mists not working on some people.

Maillaro: To be fair, mutants are supposed to be genetic and there are plenty of people related to mutants who don’t have powers.  I just like to assume they haven’t manifested yet, but that is my own take on canon.  And Scarlet Witch might have fucked that up with her No More Mutants crap…

Weaver: I always assumed that to be that mutancy is generally a recessive trait.  Although at one point, it definitely seemed dominant.  Ah well.  Making comics conform to real life is an exercise in futility.

Scores on this one are hard for me to assess.  I feel like I got a partial story, but it was a good partial story.  I’m giving the art a 4 because while it was a great fit for the book, there were times that I wasn’t completely clear on what was going on and who was who.  I don’t like the robot design for the bad guy, either.  But it was good.  I could be convinced up to a 4.5.

The dialogue was good, it was smart and relevant to modern times, but marrying that dialogue to what was going on was sometimes confusing.  I’m going to give that a 4 as well.

Maillaro: This was a pretty boring set of scores this week (I am writing this AFTER we did our scores on Suicide Squad below).  I would go straight 4’s on this one too.


Suicide Squad #1

Written by: John Ostrander
Penciled by:Luke McDonnell
Inked by: Karl Kesel
Colored by: Carl Gafford
Lettered by: Todd Klein
Published by: DC

Cover Price: $0.99 on Comixology

Maillaro: Wine is fine, but whiskey is quicker….suicide is slow with liquor…

This was an awesome choice, Weaver.  As much as I like Ostrander’s work on Apache Skies, Martian Manhunter, and Star Wars, I haven’t really read his Suicide Squad all that much.  There was one thing off the bat that annoyed me. The opening credits.  I guess they were trying to go for something like a movie or TV show, but it just seemed like the world’s annoyed narration…

Weaver: That confused me too.  At first, I thought that they were naming the characters on the page, then I realized what it was.  It was a moment of “Why are these people putting themselves into the story?” before I picked up on it.

Clearly, they wanted to do it movie/TV show style.  It feels like a movie or TV show.  It’s interesting to me that this is 1987, before Islamic extremism was the main thing the United States were focusing on as a threat.  It’s even before Iraq invaded Kuwait.  So at the time, this wouldn’t have been seen as a relatively cliche first mission, but reading it in 2014, it feels that way.

Maillaro:  The funny part about reading a comic that’s 25 years old is that I recognized so few of the characters that I really thought the beginning of the comic was showing the Suicide Squad doing some dark shit plotting an assassination.  I wouldn’t put that past Waller.

I am also amazed that we got decompressed storytelling even that far back.  I remember comics being a lot more done in one back then, especially first issues.  For the most part, this issue is all about recruiting the team and setting up the premise.  By the time things get rolling, the issue is basically already done.  The cover promised us someone would die dammit, and no one died!  Hell, none of the team did much of anything that could even put them close to dying.

These aren’t really complaints, BTW,  just things that jumped out at me.

Weaver: Captain Boomerang came pretty close to dying.  Just sayin’.  Anyway, oddly enough, one of the characters in here was a minor character that I recall very clearly.  Plastique.  I used to have the issue of Firestorm she first appeared in, where Ronnie causes her clothes to vaporize in order to take bombs off of her uniform.  She was a Quebecois terrorist in that issue, and she doesn’t seem to be French (or even French Canadian) at all here.  Which struck me as especially odd since Captain Boomerang’s accent was definitely happening.

Maillaro: Oddly enough, Plastique showed up in The Flash show…and she’s been a major part of Future’s End.  Kind of odd that she resurfaced in a major way just before we decided to review this issue.

Weaver: It definitely struck me that this was a very early example of decompressed storytelling, and I think a part of that was to make it feel like a movie.  I read that Ostrander was inspired by the Dirty Dozen in writing this, and I can sense that totally.  It’s a very good (if a little too thorough at times) introduction to the characters and team, it made this much more of a solid first issue than a lot of ones we’ve reviewed.

Maillaro: Yeah, thorough is a good word.  I liked how deep they got into who each of the villains was, as well as each of the Squad.  But so much of it was talking heads.   I definitely would have preferred to see more “let’s see the team in action, with some narration over it.”

But, that didn’t bother me as much as I would have expected.  Ostrander really kept things moving very well on this one.  So much so that I didn’t feel “hey, this is over already?” as much as “Man…I want to grab the next issue of this one.”

Weaver: I like how much of it is the psychiatric reports on the various members, who the psychiatrists clearly think shouldn’t really be out working in this capacity for their mental health.  Amanda Waller doesn’t care, obviously.  We see what makes a lot of these guys tick, with the exception of Mindboggler who I didn’t even know who it was until almost the end of the issue when they label her on screen.  This reminds me of the Secret Six issue we reviewed in that most of these characters are pretty obscure, but here, we get much more of a feel for them, which made me also want to grab the next issue.

Maillaro: To be fair, it’s been almost thirty years since the issue came out…maybe Mindboggler was a bigger character then,

Yeah, even I don’t believe that.  I actually assumed she was the one who would die by the end of the issue, since I had never even heard of her.  She’s cannon fodder waiting to happen, as far as I am concerned.

I also loved the gritty art on this issue.  I’m reminded of some of Mike Grell’s work on Jon Sable.  It’s not quite realistic, but close enough that it’s convincing, if that makes any sense at all.

Weaver: Mindboggler’s death was incredibly telegraphed, including the fact that she’s the member that we get the least info about.  But telegraphed isn’t necessarily bad.  I would have felt more cheated if they dropped pages of Mindboggler information and celebration on us then killed her in the next issue.

The art was very much as you say, but I don’t have any better words for it.  The airport seems realistic enough at times, and then there’s elements that aren’t quite as realistic, but you’re able to move along with it.  The prison being up on stilts was the same thing…it wasn’t quite realistic, but you could accept it after spending a moment realizing it wasn’t quite right.

Oh hey, did you catch the strange cross-company reference in here?  Alpha Flight, coming from Calgary (which is where they first ambushed the X-Men).

Maillaro: I definitely missed that.  I actually am not sure I ever read Alpha Flight’s early appearances….I guess I must have, I read pretty much all the Essential X-Men volumes, but it was a long time ago.  Ostrander is pretty good at dropping little references like that.

I love when DC puts up some of their older series at a 99 cents price point.  They did that with a lot of old issues of Flash too.   Suicide Squad is 30 years old…even with the movie coming out, how much money is there to be made from this issue?  Probably not much.   I guess they can put out a trade with Will Smith on the cover, but to me that is just a cash grab.  Why not just give them to the reader for a good price?

Speaking of the movie, I love that Suicide Squad is getting such a high profile.   There was a Justice League Unlimited episode about them.  They are heavily featured in Arrow.  And even the new Lego Batman had them…though they were just called “the Squad.”  I would have called them Task Force X.  Wiki also informs me that they appeared in Smallville.

Weaver: It’s like how iTunes priced out album cuts at 99 cents a song initially.  Anything that you had any attachment to is pretty much worth a buck.  Trying something out is worth a buck.  It’s such a small price to pay, and I know we’re both pretty finance cautious, but a buck…it’s not hard to talk me into that.  And with these characters and concepts getting all that screen time, definitely it makes sense to put these out there at a price that people are willing to take a flier on.

I like that this concept is getting a lot of exposure now.  It seems a great place to world build for DC within their various properties.  Clearly Arrow’s Suicide Squad isn’t the same as the movie (although it is awesome), but it gives a great template to stick villains back into the mix without running into the “Why doesn’t Batman kill Joker” dilemma.

Maillaro: It also gives a nice starting point to give bad guys more depth.  In Suicide Squad, you basically are rooting for Captain Boomerang and Deadshot…so it’s hard to see them as 2-dimensional when they show up in later works.   I am kind of assuming that is the plan for using Harley and Joker in the Suicide Squad…something I am sort of against…but that is a separate discussion entirely.

I like Suicide Squad as a “anything can happen” series.   But you know that Joker won’t die…and he’s certainly not redeemable.  If you have created a version of the Joker that is redeemable, that is an adaptation that is VERY far from the source material.

Weaver: I think that those sorts of characters can provide spice for an arc…I can think of some specific missions where Waller would gladly tap Joker if she could, and then he’s on the cover, and then some people that wouldn’t otherwise have bought it buy it.  I don’t think it’s the right way to go for a movie version.  I think Joker, while a great character, is criminally overexposed anyway, so I was less than thrilled to have Yet Another Joker Focused Property.

Pretty sure Harley makes a very quick cameo appearance with Suicide Squad in Arrow, but not much attention is drawn to her.  I’d buy into her in the mix more than Joker, but again, a really overexposed character.

Maillaro: Harley is mentioned in passing in the show.  You see her hand in one scene…and later they comment about the crazy girl they had to work with on a mission.  It was coy, but really well done.

So scores…I think the writing and art were both solid, and showed the series had a ton of promise.  I would go 4 on both.

Weaver: That’s exactly what I’d give it.  I feel like if I read a whole arc, I could move up to a 4.5 or even, dare to dream, a 5.  But as far as a single issue, this delivered quite well.  More than that, though, it made me want to know what happens next, which is precisely what these books should do.  I have to give it a bit of a docking for how played out “One of these guys will die in the arc” was already, and even moreso now, but yeah, 4 on both.


Maillaro: I think that just about wraps this up for the year.  Maybe when we get back in January, we will finally get around to doing Squadron Supreme.  That was the whole reason you got the band back together, and we never got around to reviewing it…

Final Scores

Maillaro – Story (out of 5) Weaver – Story (out of 5) Maillaro – Art (out of 5) Weaver – Art (out of 5)
Ms Marvel #10 4 4 4 4
Suicide Squad #1 4 4 4 4

 

 

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