‘Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging’: Junger’s must-read explains why America is tearing itself apart


Roughly 17 years ago I exited the military after a stint as a mechanized infantryman in the U.S. Army. Even though the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and the nation’s “long war” had not yet begun, I found myself having a difficult time with the transition to civilian life. Understanding why I missed my old platoon — and why I felt a growing fear and sadness for the country I loved — took years (and a blog like this) to figure out, but author and former war reporter Sebastian Junger articulates it all in his must-read book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Americans who have not lived under a rock for the past 20 years have witnessed the slow-motion implosion of our culture.

  • Cable news pundits obsessively talk of “red states” and “blue states.”
  • The politics of personal destruction reigns supreme.
  • Saying “all lives matter” is interpreted in a Twilight Zone-ish twist by millions of people as somehow racist.
  • Americans watch carefully constructed social-media feeds that tell them all Republicans are the equivalent of Darth Vader, or that all Democrats have shrines to Fidel Castro in their bedroom.

In short, the modern world is deficient in something that is causing tens-of-millions of people to feel isolated, alone, and empty. The void is filled with confusion, and that in turn fuels the kind of anger and hate that was the hallmark of the 2016 election cycle.

Why is it that many soldiers and civilians who have lived through war sometimes get nostalgic for it?

What are the consequences for society when a person “living in a modern city or suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day — or an entire life — mostly encountering complete strangers”?

Why are we often surrounded by others, yet “feel deeply, dangerously alone”?

One of the answers can be found in tribal societies. And no, your friendly neighborhood blogger is not saying Native Americans should have won the clash of civilizations at our nation’s inception. I am merely saying, like Mr. Junger, that we can learn from their ability to provide “the three pillars of self-determination — autonomy, competence, and community.”

Mr. Junger writes:

“After World War II, many Londoners claimed to miss the exciting and perilous days of the Blitz. (“I wouldn’t mind having an evening like it, say, once a week — ordinarily there’s no excitement,” one man commented to Mass-Observation about the air raids), and the war that is missed doesn’t even have to be a shooting war: “I am a survivor of the AIDS epidemic,” an American man wrote in 2014 on the comment board of an online lecture about war. “Now that AIDS is no longer a death sentence, I must admit that I miss those days of extreme brotherhood…which led to deep emotions and understandings that are above anything I have felt since the plague years.”

What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender. There are obvious stresses on a person in a group, but there may be even greater stresses on a person in isolation, so during disasters there is a net gain in well-being. Most primates, including humans, are intensely social, and there are very few instances of lone primates surviving in the wild. …

Whatever the technological advances of modern society — and they’re near miraculous — the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawn seem to be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.” — (Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2016), 92-93.

Tribe covers issues like PTSD, depression, and anxiety among combat veterans, but it would be a big mistake to solely think of it as a book for the military community. It is much more than that, because it is a blueprint for getting the nation on a path to cultural healing.

The author continues:

“The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs — and, more broadly, over liberal and conservative thought — will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.

So how do you unify a secure, wealthy country that has sunk into a zero-sum political game with itself? How do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place? […] I put the question to Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. …

“if you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different — you underscore your shared humanity,” she told me. “I’m appalled by how much people focus on differences. Why are you focusing on how different you are from one another, and not on the things that unite us?” […]

Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost are deluding themselves. (127-128).

Tribe is by no means “the” answer to the nation’s deep-seated cultural problems, but it is a significant piece of the puzzle. To get a good look at the big picture, I suggest pairing Mr. Junger’s quick-read with George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic. Each book provides a template for transcending dead-end partisan bickering, and in turn getting America efficiently focused on  becoming a more-perfect union.

Civil War II No. 7 perfectly explained by Miles Morales: ‘This is weird. Even for people like us’

Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II #7 is finally out, although the “summer” event still has one more month to go. On deck is Marvel’s Inhumans vs. X-Men. If you want to know what the company’s obsession with hero vs. hero tales means for our cultural mosaic, then check out my latest YouTube video below.

If you like what you see, then make sure to subscribe for future reviews. And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Dan Slott deactivates Twitter over ‘pro-Trump’ rhetoric, joins Humberto Ramos in self-imposed safe space


If there were stocks in safe spaces, then Donald Trump’s presidential election would send them through the roof. The Nov. 8 election forced artist Humberto Ramos to run for the “blue” hills last week, and now Marvel writer Dan Slott has deactivated his account due to “pro-Trump” rhetoric (i.e., there are more people standing up to Dan’s obsessive political tweets — even after endless rounds of blocking people — than his mind can handle).

Marvel’s lead scribe for The Amazing Spider-Man informed his Facebook followers on Monday that he has so little self control that his best option for Twitter right now is to “remove the temptation.”

Mr. Slott claims Donald Trump’s adviser, Steve Bannon, is a “white nationalist,” but as usual he provides no credible evidence to back his claims.


To make such inflammatory charges would be like this blog discussing Dan Slott’s own history of bigoted statements towards Christians without linking to the evidence. But since this blog is concerned with backing up its claims there will always be links, videos and screenshots for readers to consider.

Dan Slott Christians

Dan Slott telling Christians who just won a case at the U.S. Supreme Court to go to “Christ-Land” is just as bad as CNN contributor Van Jones saying Donald Trump was elected president by a “whitelash,” but activist-writers are master practitioners of selective moral outrage.

Question: What would Dan Slott’s reaction be if two years from now Democrats perform well during midterm elections and Steve Bannon refers to their “blacklash” performance?

Question: What would Dan Slott’s reaction be if two years from now a Jewish group wins a case at the U.S. Supreme Court and Steve Bannan tells them to go to “Jew-ville”?

The answer in both cases is that Dan Slott would lose his mind on social media and cite the man’s words as proof-positive that he is a monster.

The reason why activist-creators in the comic industry and Hollywood are melting down before your eyes is not necessarily because Donald Trump will be the 45th commander in chief.

What really upsets these people is that Mr. Trump’s commanding victory has emboldened millions of Americans to finally — finally — push back against the endless charges of racism and bigotry leveled their way over mere differences in opinion.

My suggestion to readers for the day Dan Slott inevitably returns to Twitter is to continue defending your position, no matter how many different ways he tries to impugn your character. He will either block you (take it as a badge of honor), or retreat once again into a safe-space of like-minded peers.

Maybe Dan Slott and Joss Whedon can plot a coup together, even though we both know they would never be on the front lines…


Dan Slott’s ‘Dead No More #1’ can’t shake stale smell of clone stories better left buried in Spider-Man history


Marvel’s big Spider-Man event of the year has finally arrived with Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy #1. Readers who lived through the 90s wondered why writer Dan Slott would dig up the still-rotting corpse of The Clone Saga, and DNM #1 seems to confirm their worst fears. Recycled plastic usually has a weird quality to it that fails to match the original, and recycled stories are the same way.

Here is what you need to know for DNM #1:

  • Peter attends the funeral of Jay Jameson and Jonah explodes on him, which is odd because he knows New U has the power to bring people back from the dead. Jonah’s first wife Marla, after all, has returned.
  • Peter says “this is all my fault” to himself after everyone leaves, even though it clearly was not.
  • Anna Maria Marconi finds out that Peter’s spider-sense went off when he used Jerry Salteres as a guinea pig for New U’s experimental treatment. The two decide to visit the employee’s house to investigate.
  • Jerry’s wife reveals that her husband failed to take his medicine and had something “terrifying” happen to him. New U told her not to talk about it and scrubbed her webware, which contained video of the incident.
  • Peter inexplicably vows to bring Jerry home after retrieving lost data from the webware. Anna privately scolds him for the promise and he heads off to New U as Spider-Man.
  • It turns out Peter used a “microscopic, sub-dermal tracer” on Jerry when they saw each other in the hospital, so he tracks down the man’s “reanimating” body inside a lab.
  • Miles Warren walks in on Peter and within moments Rhino and female Electro are headed for battle.
  • Spider-Man goes into a room marked “Do Not Enter” and finds Gwen Stacy. He is surprised when she doesn’t set off his spider-sense.
  • A reanimated Doctor Octopus punches Peter in the face with a tentacle and the issue ends.

DNM #1 also features a story by Dan Slott titled The Night I Died, which tweaks elements of 1973’s The Amazing Spider-Man #122 to include a semi-conscious Gwen finding out that Peter Parker was Spider-Man just before her death. She cries while thinking of Peter as “the man who helped kill dad.”

Gwen is then “reanimated” by Miles Warren, aka The Jackal, and introduced to her father as a means of convincing her to become a “business partner.”

The problem with mixing clone stories and The Amazing Spider-Man, besides the fact that they have been done to death (no pun intended) — and badly done — is that a writer is tasked with covering the very nature of existence, consciousness, and the soul. Even unintelligent readers seem to inherently understand that the writer is entering into serious territory, so if the tale isn’t handled right it crumbles under its own weight.


Let’s put it another way: Even clones in real life would know that they are clones (i.e., see the panel of Gwen Stacy realizing what has happened before grabbing a knife to slit her own throat). Readers are the same way. Why should they care about Gwen Clone?

They shouldn’t — unless it is done well.


And there’s the rub. On Dan Slott’s watch, Peter Parker “died” and came back to life. The character has not had a single moment of honest reflection on his own death (or whatever it was, since it was never clear) since the series relaunched. Human beings — flesh and blood with thoughts and emotions and hopes and dreams — would be shaken to their core if they died and were brought back to life. Not Dan Slott’s Peter Parker.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if Mr. Slott does not even apply basic human reactions to the protagonist of the series then he will not do so in a meaningful way with clones.

DNM #1 appears to set up all sorts of twists and turns for Peter Parker in the next couple of months. That is the good news.

The bad news is this: Like most conspiracies, the people who weave them usually lose their audience in an incoherent mess that unravels with the least bit of scrutiny. Before you plunk down $4.99 for this book, consider Mr. Slott’s track record and then ask yourself if he seems up to the task.

Editor’s Note:

Regular readers of this blog remember the time when I accurately predicted Dan Slott’s “Arachno-Rockets.” It appears as though your friendly neighborhood blogger has another notch on the belt after having asked in February when “single-cell Spider-tracers” would arrive. DNM #1 does not quite give us a single-celled tracer, but it is “microscopic, sub-dermal.” Given that the function is essentially the same, we’ll consider that a win.


Civil War II: The Accused #1: Guggenheim does Daredevil well despite flimsy ‘SRA II’ set-up


This blog asked the following question roughly four months ago: Did Marvel learn from the mistakes of Civil War I? The answer to that question is a resounding “no,” and Civil War II: The Accused #1 further highlights that unfortunate point. As was the case with Christos Gage’s work on The Amazing Spider-Man and even Brian Michael Bendis’ on Spider-Man, fairly impressive writing is undermined by the story’s weak foundation.

Marc Guggenheim does an admirable job showing Matt Murdock’s role in the project, but editorial mandates will give many readers heartburn. In short, Marvel has planted the seeds for Civil War III. Sigh.


Here is what you need to know for CWII: The Accused #1:

  • The Department of Justice has asked Matt Murdock to join its case against Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, who killed Bruce Banner. The ace lawyer accepts the challenge.
  • Barton asserts that Bruce Banner gave him the means to the Hulk if he returned. He says he does not know if he did the right thing, but that he had “a reason and it was a good one.”
  • The trial starts and the judge seems to have her thumb (actually, her entire fist) on the scale in favor of Murdock and his team of federal prosecutors. Hawkeye’s legal team meets with Murdock and tells him there is a conspiracy to make sure the superhero winds up in prison. Matt is told that if he looks for the truth then he will find out that he is being manipulated like a puppet.
  • Daredevil breaks into the Department of Justice and comes across a meeting between a military general and federal prosecutor Evelyn Stanzler. The government wants Hawkeye in prison to give officials “political cover” to introduce Superhuman Registration Act II. A murder conviction will give them what they need.
  • Murdock shows up in court and withdraws the government’s motion to exclude Bruce Banner’s video diary from the case. He knows the move damages his case, but does so because he believes it will give Barton a fair trial.
  • Barton is ultimately acquitted. Most people believe Hawkeye did the world a favor.

The key bullet point here is the last one because people in the Marvel Universe would believe that a living and highly unpredictable nuclear weapon should be dead — especially after years of witnessing his destructive capabilities firsthand.

The government does not need to execute a successful conspiracy to launch Superhuman Registration Act II because the sound rationale for it never disappeared after it failed the first time.


CWII: The Accused #1 makes the case (no pun intended), that nefarious forces need a conviction to persuade the public that it is time for SRA II, which is laughable. The only reason why some readers do not get the absurdity is because Marvel turned Tony Stark into a psychotic warmonger in Civil War I.

If you want to see Mr. Guggenheim do the best he can with the shoddy hand he has been dealt, then check out CWII: The Accused. If you are tired of seeing heroes fighting heroes — and one side always being portrayed as cartoonish goons — then hold onto your cash. Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is looking like a must-read.

Bendis’ Tony Stark ‘loves’ woman he’s been on about 2 dates with; Invincible Iron Man #13 a giant boredom bubble


It was just under one year ago that Brian Michael Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man launched. Yours truly was excited at its potential, and even gave the first handful of issues rave reviews. Then, something weird happened. IIM became a plodding tale about Tony Stark’s search for an identity. He sat around his lab and, for all intents and purposes, did his own version of Derek Zoolander’s, “Who am I?” into a puddle of water.

IIM #13 is the culmination of a book that promised to take readers to great places when in reality it only gave them Victor Von Doom (looking quite a bit like Rand Paul) locked inside an energy bubble.


Here is what you need to know about IIM #13:

  • Doom takes Tony to Cambridge, where biochemical engineer Amara Perera is illegally testing her experimental Alzheimer’s drugs.
  • Doom and Tony argue about whether or not they are friends or enemies.
  • Tony tries to explain why he didn’t tell his girlfriend that he was going undercover or get word to her that he didn’t die in Japan.
  • Amara Perera tells Tony “I don’t know anything about you,” and moments later he confesses his love.
  • Tony tells Amara about James Rhodes dying, leaves, and then spends time in his lab thinking about Rhodey. He does not attend the hero’s funeral.
  • Doom returns to torment Tony and is locked inside “a zero-point energy web net.” Tony says he wants answers. “You’re going to tell me why you’re all over me. Why? Why have you decided to be in my life all of a sudden? Why? Why me?” he asks.

Marvel fans already have a good idea how all of this will turn, given that IIM is going to be launched with RiRi Williams as Ironheart — and that Infamous Iron Man, “Iron Doom” will launch in October.

Before we move on, let us go over our Mighty Marvel Checklist:

  • Superior Spider-Man? Check.
  • Hydra-Cap? Check.
  • Infamous Iron Man? Check. 
  • Bruce Banner killed because he might go Infamous Hulk on everyone? Check.

Interesting pattern, Marvel. It seems like Tony isn’t the only one having an identity crisis…


What makes IIM #13 even worse is that Mr. Bendis is doing — on a much smaller level — what Dan Slott did with Peter Parker’s “close” girlfriend, Lian Tang (i.e., the one who tried to murder him).

It has been established that Amara Perera is a smart woman, but she and Tony’s “relationship” consists of a small bit of playful banter and cross-talk early on in the book. How does that translate into “love,” and why would Tony say that to a woman who a.) agreed to be “taken off the grid” by Doctor Doom, and b.) suddenly calls the villain “Victor”?

Answer: It would not translate into love.

Tony would not say that, and readers should be insulted that Bendis would make him go there with a woman who has always been skittish about his lifestyle, personality, and double-life as Iron Man.


In short, if you have read IIM this long then you may as well buy the last issue before the relaunch. If you are considering Infamous Iron Man for you pull list, then just be aware that Iron Doom may essentially be the tale of Victor Von Zoolander.

Iron Man #11: Bendis gives Riri action, Tony tepid climax

IIM 11 cover

Invincible Iron Man #11 should have been an action-packed extravaganza with War Machine, Captain America, Nova, Ms. Marvel, She-Thor, Vision and War Machine all joining forces with Tony Stark to destroy “Techno Golem” and her network of terror. Writer Brian Michael Bendis had other things in mind — action for Riri Williams, and a tepid climax for Tony. Long-time readers should be chafing.

Here is what you need to know for IMM #11:

  • Stark’s board of directors hire corporate saboteur Ghost to break into Tony’s lab and override his servers.
  • Mary Jane informs the board that she is Tony’s new Executive Administrator. She wards off the hostile takeover by telling everyone that Stark is secretly working on new products.
  • Riri Williams tests her new suit during a prison break outside New Mexico State Penitentiary.
  • Tony meets “Rhodey” at a secret meeting place to ask why the Avengers are flying around Osaka, Japan. He soon realizes that he is speaking to Ms. Marvel in shape-shifted form. She informs him that a rescue operation is taking place.
  • The Avengers, War Machine, and S.H.I.E.L.D. launch an assault on the bio-hack ninjas that nets Zhang but misses the big fish “Techno Golem.” The action (that is being generous with the term) is a single shot that takes up two pages.
  • Tony poses as “Franco” in a prison cell with Zhang and asks where “Techno Golem” went. Zhang says she feels betrayed, but that the woman could be “anywhere” and will ultimately destroy S.H.I.E.L.D.

The best way to describe Invincible Iron Man at this point is disappointing. It had so much potential, but Mr. Bendis essentially over-promised and under-delivered. There needed to be serious action in IIM #11, and instead it was just talking…and more talking…and Tony scratching the back of his neck while in deep thought.

It’s nice to have witty and intelligent banter, but at some point it seems like endlessly watching two cats pat around a ball of string.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the issue is that it takes place before James Rhodes dies in Civil War II (i.e., the timing called for something special that never transpired).

This was a “rescue” operation to bring Tony out of hiding and wipe out a deadly foe, but readers are not given a memorable battle for a man who has meant so much to Mr. Stark. Instead, the book features Riri Williams punching the engine of a getaway vehicle in the desert, and a snapshot of the Avengers in action.

“That was my first superhero thing. I’ll do better next time,” Ms. Williams says after sending two convicted felons through a windshield. Meanwhile, Rhodey must embarrassingly hem and haw when he is informed that he captured the wrong High Value Target.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger wrote “Invincible Iron Man: Bendis’ superb work lures back old Tony Stark fan” on Oct. 22, 2015. I published positive reviews in the months that followed, but somewhere along the line the book began to offer diminishing returns. My guess is that Mr. Bendis has been allocating the bulk of his creative energy to whatever he is doing with Riri Williams behind the scenes.

If you are a fan of Tony Stark, then I suggest staying away from Mr. Bendis’ efforts until the billionaire has his undivided attention.

Black Panther #3: Plodding, pretentious book thrills … author’s aunt, bores non-family

Black Panther 3

Marvel took a leap of faith by giving a man with zero experience writing comic books the reins to Black Panther. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is primarily known for his academic work and political commentary, but the brass behind the scenes thought he could quickly make the transition. That has not happened.

The third issue of Black Panther is a meandering mess. It is pretentious and plodding to such an extent that it is hard to imagine sustained sales for twelve issues without incredible hype and a hefty amount of variant covers.

Here is what you need to know about this issue:

  • T’Challa continues to doubt his ability to lead Wakanda. His mother corrects him: “You say you are clouded. No. The problem is not your blindness. It is your clarity.”
  • The Midnight Angels, lovers Aneka and Ayo, subdue the White Gorilla Army.
  • T’Challa “stalks the soul” of Zenzi, the women who is helping to fuel a Wakandan insurgency in the Nigandan Borderlands.
  • A spiritual ally of Zenzi takes down Black Panther and his “war dogs. He says, “You dare accuse us of treachery…you, who plotted with those who drowned our people? You, who schemed while men murdered your uncle and ransomed your mother? Who fled while Wakanda burned? Who left our queen, your own sister, to die alone? Some of us remember the old ways, Haramu-Fal. … The worms of the earth shall devour all wolves, lions and leopards.”
  • T’Challa’s sister tries to find her soul on another plane of existence. She talks to a being who encompasses “all” of her “mothers” throughout time and is then armed with “the drum, for it carries the greatest power of all…the power of memory.”

If you had a hard time grinding out that summary, then imagine what it would be like to read three issues. As I said in my reviews for Black Panther #1 and Black Panther #2, Mr. Coates is clearly an intelligent man — but that doesn’t necessarily translate into an ability to write exciting comic books.

Complicating matters further is the fact that readers do not sympathize with the hero-king because the “villains” in many ways are portrayed as misguided or semi-righteous victims.

Instead of writing a story that would resonate with the majority of Black Panther fans, Mr. Coates appears to have used the character to work out his own personal hangups. It was a mistake, and someone at Marvel might want to talk to him about it as soon as possible.

Perhaps the easiest way to sum up Black Panther’s core audience is to give potential customers a look at the letters to the editor section.

  • “I just wanted to write in to congratulate you on writing something that I think the 9-year-old you would, and the 25-year-old me does, find amazing.” — Katie.

Katie’s analysis is delusional. Unless Mr. Coates was a weird kid, he would not eagerly await the story his adult self is telling. This is a book that excites people who watch the PBS News Hour — not kids — which brings us to our second reader.

  • “I haven’t read any new comics (except for some ‘event-related collections’) in nearly 20 years but I really enjoyed Mr. Coates’ appearances on the PBS News Hour and like most Marvel fans, I have long been a fan of Black Panther.” — Tom.

Tom is such a big fan of Black Panther that he hasn’t regularly purchased comics in 20 years. He will continue to buy the book due to a sense of ideological loyalty — a fellow PBS man is writing comics. Tut-tut! (What wine pairs best with Black Panther consumption? I need to find out and then pick it up on my next artisan cheese run.)

  • “Ta-Nehisi Coates…I played with doll babies, read Archie and Peanut comics, but never had an interest in super heroes. I am 67 years old and read Black Panther #1 cover to cover. … In some way, it reminds me of what we as a people have done or are doing to our brothers and sisters now.” — Aunt Jo Ann (Yes, Mr. Coates’ aunt).

Mr. Coates’ aunt is now telling readers what a great book he writes. ‘Nuff said.

I wanted to give this title at least six issues, but I cannot. I’m tapping out. Perhaps one day Mr. Coates’ will figure out how to write an intelligent, exciting and focused comic book, but as of now he has a long way to go. One out of three does not cut it. I wish him the best.

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1’: Gage offers reprieve from Slott fare

Civil War II ASM 1

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1 came out on Wednesday, which gave Marvel fans an opportunity to see how everyone’s favorite wall crawler reacted to the Inhuman prognosticator at its core.  It is safe to say that writer Christos Gage offered more intrigue in a single issue than ASM writer Dan Slott in months.

Here is what you need to know for Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1:

  • Peter Parker lands in New York City after a long flight from Shanghai. He crawls into bed at Parker Industries headquarters to take a quick nap and is shocked to find Johnny Storm — naked. He tells Johnny to put some clothes on or “flame on” so he can turn around. The Human Torch reminds Peter that he is scheduled to spend time with Ulysses, the Inhuman who can see and “experience” possible futures.
  • Spider-Man takes down the Vulture and the “Vulturions” over New York City. Ulysses is with the hero.
  • The two men make their way to Chinatown and stop a rage-filled man who was going to murder his ex-girlfriend.
  • Spider-Man tells Ulysses that if he hones his power, then he can help Parker Industries narrow down projects that will make it through the research and development phase — and therefore help a greater number of people.
  • Ulysses takes a tour of Parker Industries and meets Harry Osborn  **cough**Lyman**cough** and Clayton Cole.
  • Ulysses tells Spider-Man that Clayton Cole, aka Clash, will likely revert to his old ways. The Inhuman tells Spider-Man to prepare for an attack.

As I mentioned in the comments section of my review for Civil War II #1, there is incredible danger in fully embracing a man who only sees possible futures. Ulysses actually admits in the issue that his predictions “almost” always come true, but not 100 percent of the time.

What if, simply by allowing doubt to creep into his mind over his employee’s integrity, Peter Parker inadvertently plants the seeds for Mr. Cole’s recidivism?

What if Ulysses is unknowingly a harbinger of doom that can only transpire if heroes alter the “future-dominos” for him?

These are all very interesting questions, the kind of which are sorely lacking in The Amazingly Immature Spider-Man these days.

Clayton Cole Cvil War II ASM 1

Perhaps the only odd note the issue hits is the opportunistic way that Peter latches onto Ulysses and his ability. He rightly tells the young man that he can probably use his powers to affect more lives than he realizes, but the moment is ruined with a hasty job offer at Parker Industries. Readers want to believe Peter is not exploiting the situation, but it’s hard not to wonder given how petty and immature the character is under Slott’s direction.

Overall, if you’re looking for a book that gets the Civil War II ball rolling, then check out Christos Gage’s work. His effort also serves as a good audition for the role of lead ASM scribe. For the first time in many months I have not felt embarrassed for the title, and that is a good thing. I look forward to buying Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Civil War II ASM 1 Spider-Man

Exit Question: Is it me, or did this issue highlight how Peter Parker filled his entire inner circle at the company — courtesy of Dan Slott — with back-stabbers, criminals, and super villains?

  • Anna Maria Marconi: Doc Ock’s girlfriend. She went behind Peter’s back with Sanjani on Doc Ock’s nano-technology project.
  • Sanjani: She tried to strike a deal with The Ghost — a corporate saboteur — to destroy Parker Industries.
  • Lien Tang: Peter’s girlfriend tried to murder Spider-Man and traded company secrets to a terrorist organization.
  • Jacob Fury, aka Vernon Jacobs: Parker Industries’ biggest shareholder — and Peter’s “secret Santa” at the company Christmas party — ended up being the terrorist mastermind Scorpio.
  • Clayton Cole: Mr. Cole was formerly the villain known as Clash.
  • Harry Osborn: It’s really only a matter of time before Harry falls off the Green Goblin wagon. We might as well get it over with.
  • Living Brain: The robot is Doctor Octopus.

Black Panther #2: Perhaps Ta-Nehisi Coates should have written a T’Challa novel instead

Black Panther 2

Black Panther #2 was released in comic shops across the nation on Wednesday, but it is beginning to feel as though Ta-Nehisi Coates would have been better off writing a novel called T’Challa instead. Marvel’s decision to experiment with a political commentator may be a noble one, but the company will need more than three variant covers to inflate sales in the future if Coates doesn’t make some editorial adjustments.

Black Panther 2 preview
Marvel is going to need more than three variant covers in the next year to sell copies of Black Panther if Mr. Coates doesn’t pick up the pace.

My review of BP #1 noted that there was a lot — perhaps too much — going on with “A Nation Under Our Feet.”  T’Challa returned to Wakanda to reclaim his kingdom; Shuri, his sister, died (or, rather, is trapped in a place “between” life and death); two members of an “elite female royal guard” stole “midnight angel” suits and vowed revenge against men who abuse their power; and T’Challa tried to revive his sister.

BP#2 is just as dense:

  • Readers learn more about the Nigandan plot to overthrow Wakanda.
  • The Midnight Angels save captured women in the Bandit Compound in Northern Wakanda.
  • Aneka and Ayo cuddle again and further plot their revenge.
  • Black Panther confronts the “witch” who has been poisoning the minds of Wakandans, but learns that she is really a “revealer” who forces repressed feelings to the surface.
  • A shaman and an academic, old friends (soon to be rivals?) discuss how “the weak” should “marshal justice against the powerful.”
  • Shuri finds herself conscious on the “plane of Wakandan memory.”

In many ways, BP is set up to be a book that is almost totally devoid of fun:  T’Challa — a man who must bear the weight of family history, his nation’s history, and the needs of those currently alive — even says, “heavy is the head… [that wears the crown].” Given that, it would be strange to criticize the author for being too mired in politics and philosophy when the book dictates a mastery of both fields of study. The problem, therefore, is likely something else.

The reason why BP continues to be an awkward title is not because readers are introduced to John Locke or allegories to real-world crises (e.g., Boko Haram kidnapping and raping women). The problem with BP is that Coates is juggling too many balls at one time.

Instead of spending time on Aneka and Ayo, perhaps Coates should have solely focused on the “mysterious woman.” That is six pages in BP #2 that could have been devoted to T’Challa, his new enemy (who does have a cool power), or his sister.

Instead of spending time in Hekima Shule (a school), why not plant the seeds for introducing a major Marvel villain? I want to see Black Panther face off against Sabertooth. I want to see Black Panther in hand-to-hand combat with Crossbones. I want to see Black Panther battle Blackheart.

What I do not want to do is read a BP comic book that focuses for 12 months on how much Aneka and Ayo love each other — even if the writing is technically sound.

Mr. Coates is an intelligent man, but at some point in time it will be a stupid decision not to use the rich Marvel rogues gallery at his disposal. If there is not a major Marvel villain in the book — or even the hint of one — by the sixth issue, then this reader will move on to another title.