For the better part of 2018, I’ve been writing this “Previously On” column over on the Comic Book Herald Patreon as an exclusive. Since I’ve added advance access to new reading orders as a perk over there for patrons, I’ll be running the “Previously On” columns directly on CBH here on out. Thanks to the Patrons who’ve made these weekly columns possible, and thanks to you for reading!
This week I dive into the latest full story arcs available on Marvel Unlimited: Venom Inc, and Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey, before talking about the frustrating side of comic book community.
Featured Comic Of the Week –
(Spoilers For These Issues Follow!)
Title: Phoenix Resurrection
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Leinel Francis Yu, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Benett, Various
Where To Find: Phoenix Resurrection Trade
Newly Available Complete Story Arcs in Marvel Unlimited: Yes!
There were two newly complete arcs available in MU that I was excited about, and two very different experiences reading them.
In all honesty, I could not get into Venom Inc. at all, to the point that it got me questioning what I’m looking for in Big 2 hero comics. This may just be the nature of reading something phenomenal, but my reading of Emil Ferris’ astonishing My Favorite Thing Is Monsters at the same time as Venom Inc. really puts quality in perspective (see also: comics no one would compare).
Over the course of developing this passion for superhero comics, I’ve come to terms with the variance in high-minded thoughtful art on display. Some comics certainly prove that the medium is just as capable of though-provoking emotion (look no further than My Favorite Thing Is Monsters for the type of literature that can fit seamlessly in a college level course on Autobiography, right next to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man). And then, of course, there are the more common (and let’s face it: more popular) comics where a Venom Symbiote merges with an alternate reality Punisher and his gun has fangs (for this, see the quite enjoyable Edge of the Venomverse).
At the end of the day, if I can’t defend the storytelling or artistic merit of the comic, I at least want to be able to turn to my imaginary critics and say, “Yeah, but Wonder Woman just hit Black Adam in the face with Hawkwoman’s mace and yelled ‘Shazam’!” Plenty of days, I’m more excited about the latter.
Venom Inc made me think about all this, but it doesn’t hit on either level. There’s certainly no deeper meaning, and the crossover fails to delight the pleasure centers. The best that can be said about Venom Inc is its place connected to the roots of comic history, bleeding together the narratives of Peter Parker, Eddie Brock, and Flash Thompson.
Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey isn’t entirely dissimilar in this regard, although the net effect is significantly more positive. This is because it succeeds on a third more nebulous level: comics as endless mythology. Taken as a whole, Phoenix Resurrection is a compelling vehicle through X-Men history, weaving Claremont, Byrne, and assorted dozens who have shaped the X-Men throughout Marvel Comics history.
After 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, I’m inclined to give writer Matthew Rosenberg the benefit of the doubt for just about any project, but his passion for X-Men is clear. The miniseries lives up to the weight of Jean’s shockingly long absence (a decade plus death in comics is unheard of!), and feels like a watershed moment returning Marvel’s mutants back to their core.
Like many comics, Phoenix Resurrection will ultimately be most defined by the run it sets up, Tom Taylor and Mahmed Asrar’s current work on the excellent X-Men Red. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy moment for X-Men fans, and my favorite of the completed stories in Marvel Unlimited this time period!
Phoenix Resurrection Reading Order:
Phoenix Resurrection #1
Jean Grey #10
Phoenix Resurrection #2
Phoenix Resurrection #3
Phoenix Resurrection #4
Jean Grey #11
Phoenix Resurrection #5
Generally speaking, Comic Book Herald is a place of tremendous positivity and passionate fandom. It’s no secret that online and social communities can be savage, ugly places, and I’m proud to say I receive very little of that on CBH. I have a zero tolerance policy with abusive or cruel comments, but even so, I rarely have to enforce any removals. The most common “complaint” is from fans looking for updates, or suggesting changes, and that I actively encourage.
Nonetheless, it’s not like I’m unaware of the anger and hostility prevalent in the community, and this weekend it came to my doorstep in the form of a Facebook death threat. Now, I’ll be clear that I’m fine, and that if pressed, I’m sure the perpetrator would chalk up the threat to a “joke.” Nonetheless, death threats online to people you don’t actually know still constitute violent threats, and are unsettling at a minimum.
Like many trolls, the threat is poorly though out, and wildly strange. The perpetrator seemed to take umbrage with the implicit possibility that I like Marvel Comics (spoiler alert: they’re not wrong), and that by transitive property, this meant I was forcing Marvel’s politics on them. Hence, the angry threat delivered with all the force and expediency of modern social media.
There’s not enough substance here to even formulate an argument, and I’m not arrogant enough to feel like I need to communicate to literally anyone that this is bad behavior. That said, this was a bit eye opening for me, not because I didn’t think this happened (I know it does) but because it got me thinking about the voices, celebrities, and professionals who deal with this kind of barbaric outrage on a daily basis.
The next day entertainment sites began covering actress Ruby Rose’s departure from Twitter, after her casting as the CW’s new Batwoman was met with hysterical criticism (some almost certainly threatening her). The covered consensus when these events happen (all too frequently, and all too commonly towards women) is that it’s unfortunate, but they rarely address the absolute force of will it would take to look at threats to your life and carry on unshaken. Why would Ruby Rose maintain a public Twitter profile if that’s part of the package?
It’s a truly depressing component of our reality, and while it’s hardly unique to just comics, it’s a blight on the idea of a comics community.
Again, I’m not going to tell others how to act. I get mad at elements of comics, too. My challenge, at least for myself, is to turn the anger into considered criticism. Explaining why an event in a comic, or a character’s direction upsets me is far more useful than simply pouring out a quick hit of rage.
Likewise, I look forward to Comic Book Herald remaining a positive force of passion for fans who enjoy comics. I’ve realized again and again that tastes may not align, but passion for comics and characters transcends countries, languages, and just about any barrier you can think of.