This Week in Comics – September 14, 2019

Few days late getting to my comics this week. Light week, with just two books on the stack.

POWERS OF X #4

“Inferno.”

The HOXPOX train keeps on running, smooth as a Swiss watch. This week’s entry returns us to the POX portion of the story and takes us to Bar Sinister, home to many versions of Nathanial Essex, the character I grew up knowing as Mr. Sinister. Hickman gives us a great royal court kind of scene here, with Magneto and Professor X entering into Sinister’s decedent establishment like Artoo and Threepio waltzing into Jabba’s palace. Here, multiple versions of Sinister hold court in a way that’s reminiscent of the UK Parliament’s recent Brexit debates– amusing, witty, and laced with an undercurrent of extreme menace.

The core of this issue for those up on their X-lore are the two text pages of “The Red Diamond”, a kind of Page Six style gossip rundown from across the mutant universe. There are nuggets here that made me squeal with joy, and I reckon Hickman has planted seeds in these pages that will bear fruit throughout his entire tenure as chief X-architect.

The book shifts gears in its second chapter, bringing in Doug Ramsey aka Cypher, a personal favorite character from the pages of New Mutants. Doug is recruited by Professor X to embark on a special project involving the mutant island Krakoa. More of Krakoa’s history is revealed, as well as more secrets and tantalizing glimpses at Apocalypse and the Phallanx technovirus.

This issue was not as incendiary as the previous HOXPOX entries, but I think it makes up for that in shear volume of goodies. It’s a slight dip in momentum from the last two white-hot HOX action issues, but continues the rich world building of this new X-era. The X-Men are back and absolutely everything feels all new and all different. I’m bracing for the weeks ahead where HOXPOX reaches its conclusion. It feels like a volcano is about to erupt. In just a few short issues, HOXPOX has reshaped and reconfigured Marvel’s Merry Mutants for a new age. With the end of this opening salvo within view, it’s impossible not to be excited about what big shakeups are in store as Hickman and team lay the foundation for the “main event” of ongoings launching post-HOXPOX. It’s incredible that this is just the beginning.

YOUNG JUSTICE #8

“What’s your fancy name?”

I’m a big proponent of picking up a random issue of a book with no context an just jumping into it. I rarely had more than a handful of sequential issues from any given title as a youth. There’s something to be said for not having all the pieces of the puzzle, not being spoon fed every last detail. It feels like our world is losing a bit of that mental muscle memory that we used to have when watching serialized TV shows or reading monthly comics. We are very much in completionist times now- everyone wants the full trade, the entire season to binge, all the answers, all the information. We’re info junkies.

Anyways, I embark on the fading joys of serial media this week as I randomly grab Young Justice #8. I didn’t read Young Justice 1-7, I have no knowledge of what’s gone down in those issues, and I don’t really care. Writer Brian Michael Bendis makes my reckless reading habits all the more easier with a fantastic intro blurb on page one that gets me relatively up to speed, gives me the who, what, when, where, and why, and then throws me into the action with a flip to a double-page spread. Pardon my French, but: Fuck. Yes.

I really like a lot of what’s going on here. There’s dynamic and fresh art from John Timms that has a real bouncy energy to it. It’s not overly stylized, just a little bit of a bend here or a twist there that really gives all the super hero showdowns going on in this issue a nice level of propulsion. Norm Breyfogle energy comes to mind. Bendis is laying down the word count pretty thick, and Timms’ artwork serves as a nice counterbalance to that, and his angles and page designs make the visuals exciting throughout. The combo also reminds me of Bendis and Bagley on Ultimate Spidey.

There is a cornucopia of DC characters I know and love cascading all around here, plus the introduction of new (I think) Earth 3 doppelgangers. This has the classic vibe of a DC comic to me, from multiverse angles to banter among teammates and clashes with alternate versions of themselves. Check, check, and check for a DC superhero teen book.

The sleeper hook here is the apparent renaming of Tim Drake. Poor Tim’s been through the ringer lately. He’s been tossed around in a bizarre limbo starting with Grant Morrison’s introducing of a new-new-new Robin in Damian Wayne. Damian’s grown to become a pretty key character in the DC world, and the idea of Batman having a son as his ward remains interesting. But where does that leave the rest? Dick Grayson, the first Robin, as long been established as Nightwing. I think he’s been Nightwing longer than he was Robin at this point? So, Nightwing is fine. Robin 2, Jason Todd, infamously died at the hands of the Joker and was out of the picture for decades, until reemerging as the Red Hood in the Hush story. Todd’s established a strange little niche for himself as Red Hood and continues to evolve in that identity. That leaves Tim Drake, the AOL generation’s Robin, most definitely “my” Robin. Morrison left him in an awkward limbo with his introduction of Damian, and the New 52 basically ignored him before eventually folding him back into the Batfamily under the ridiculous premise being that Tim had never been Robin at all, he was instead Red Robin. Yes, the character who held down nearly 200 issues of the ROBIN comic was now revealed to have never been Robin at all, but instead was a two-bit wannabe Robin. W.T.F.

Bendis seeks to iron out this extreme silliness and recraft Tim’s fate for the future. I can’t say the name change proposal on the table immediately clicked with me, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Red Robin (I won’t spoil it here…you can search for it online or check out the issue). For one, it’s short, succinct, not a burger restaurant, and not derivative. Although I don’t love the new moniker, I do like the idea that it finally gives Tim Drake his own “Nightwing” moment, and will allow him space to safely exist away from the callous hands of uncaring writers who might be tempted to sweep him aside like a piece of anachronistic rubbish. I’m hoping the new name grows on me. I think he could use a new costume to boot, and make his matriculation from Robin to whatever’s next complete. Bendis giving Tim the Dick Grayson treatment is pretty cool, and feels long overdue. Let’s hope it sticks.