Swamp Thing Annual 3

swamp thing annual 3Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Swamp Thing Annual 3, originally released October 29th, 2014.

Spencer: As a very young child, I loved watching Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with my mom every week. It wasn’t the first superhero show I fell in love with, but it was the first show I loved that got cancelled. I can still vividly remember sitting on the floor at my grandfather’s house bawling inconsolably the night the final episode aired. As an adult I’ve better come to appreciate that everything ends, but while many endings are absolutely triumphant (see: Trillium), there’s still always a feeling of melancholy that accompanies watching something I love come to an end. Charles Soule clearly can relate: Swamp Thing Annual 3 is all about the fact that all stories must come to an end, and how difficult those endings can be for those that have to experience them. In the process, Soule also explores the great power stories have in our lives, be it the power to comfort and inspire or the power to deceive and sow fear.

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All-New X-Men 33

Alternating Currents: All-New X-Men 33, Taylor and DrewToday,  Taylor and Drew are discussing All-New X-Men 33, originally released Ocotber 29th, 2014.

Taylor: A sense of belonging is important for our day-to-day lives. The city we live in, the place we work, where we sleep, and who we interact with are in some way or another based on our desire to feel we belong. Now, whether this sense borders on the quasi-mystical or is a simple impulse to feel comfortable is unimportant. Rather, humans being social animals just want to belong to part of the whole. When you’re a mutant, however, finding a place where you feel that sense of belonging becomes all the more difficult. It’s hard to relate to others when they very may well despise you (and also when they don’t know what it’s like to levitate and the like). The All-New X-Men, more so than their regular X-Men counterpart,s know this quandary, as they’re displaced in time along with being displaced socially. So what happen’s when their sense of belonging is stretched even further? Continue reading

Wonder Woman 35

Alternating Currents: Wonder Woman 35, Patrick and DrewToday, Patrick and Drew are discussing Wonder Woman 35, originally released October 29th, 2014

Patrick: A lot has been made of Hollywood’s apparent inability to adapt Wonder Woman for the screen. Is that driven by the sexism inherent in action film-making? Probably, in part. But Diana, Princess of the Amazons, suffers from a pretty severe case of “what the hell is she about?” We have easily understandable slug lines for just about any other bankable superhero: Batman is the mortal knight of vengeance; Superman is invincible alien boy scout, etc. There’s a how and a why expressed in both of those descriptions. Those attitudes have aged well, but for some reason, the essential nature of Wonder Woman is harder for creators to assert in perpetuity throughout the decades. What Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have done in their 37 (and a half) issues of Wonder Woman is reassert just who this character is, and why her fundamental qualities are every bit as iconic as truth, justice and the American way. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 10/22/14

round upLook, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Spencer and Drew discuss Batman Beyond Universe 15, Batman Eternal 29, Cyclops 6, Deadpool 36, Harley Quinn 11, The Flash 35, Starlight 6, The Amazing Spider-Man 8, New Warriors 11, Avengers 37, and Secret Avengers 9.

slim-banner4Spencer: One of the things I always admired about the Batman Beyond animated series was the way it resisted the temptation to just reuse future versions of Batman’s rogues gallery; while it was always respectful of Batman’s history, the writers worked hard to give Terry McGinnis his own legacy as Batman. The Batman Beyond comics, though, haven’t always done this; the previous volume especially seemed stuck mining Bruce’s past. In light of this, I was especially pleased with Batman Beyond Universe 15, a smart one-and-done story focusing on some of Terry’s signature rogues, Inque and Ten. Continue reading

Lazarus 12

lazarus 12Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Lazarus 12, originally released October 22nd, 2014.

‘Inspire a generation’ is our motto. Not necessarily ‘Create a generation’ … which is what they sometimes get up to in the Olympic village.

London Mayor Boris Johnson on the  2012 Olympics

Drew: The bacchanalian nature of the Olympic village is well-documented, with anecdotes about the athletes’ exploits reaching near-legendary status, but even without all of the stories, the orgiastic qualities of the village should come as no surprise — what else would you expect of an international group of twenty-somethings in peak physical condition with little else to do? Throw in the fact that any given day, somebody is celebrating the most important win of their lives, and you have an obvious recipe for partying. Curiously, this is exactly the situation the Lazari find themselves in in Lazarus 12. With their families preoccupied with the formalities and strategies of the conclave, the Lazari are left with little to do other than admire each other’s super-human bodies. The result is a decidedly lighter — and alluring — respite amidst all of the tension of the conclave. Continue reading

She-Hulk 9

So, look.  I'm not saying that writing is easy.  This is a craft.  It requires a certain set of skills, a patience, a level of general competency.  And as someone who fancies himself a writer, it's a little painful to see something that reads at such a high level above what I could possibly do.  Extrapolating even further past that, She-Hulk is devastating.  Excruciating.  I want to take sharp objects and whittle away my skin, exposing my tender flesh to the harsh elements so that I may embrace the harsh, tortuous reality of my own limitations.  Did I mention that I rather enjoyed She-Hulk 9 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and the rest?  Because it was something special.  In the Marvel comics universe, superheroes are rather common.  A dime a dozen, even, and since all but a few of them are headquartered in my own home of New York City, you can pretty much toss a stone and hit someone invulnerable without even trying.  It takes little effort to read a comic about a character with super-strength, but, I must say, it's not quite as simple to read about a character in a law firm.  In fact, I can really think of only two major comic book characters who are lawyers, and, well, what do you know?  In this issue, both feature prominently.  It's almost like it was planned that way, who'dka thunkit?  Marvel legend Matthew "Daredevil" Murdock goes up against Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters in court for, near as I can tell, the first time in comics history.  This alone is monumental, and having them war over the fate of Captain America can only add to the significance.  And as the middle issue of the saga, having the exact details of Captain America's brazen culpability revealed, with his arrogance leading to the death of an innocent, presents something of a moral quandary.  How can one defend someone that blatantly pushes an unstable man, to the point of someone else paying the price?  And at the same time, how do we condemn arguably the greatest hero in Marvel's history, the leader of the Avengers, somebody who has saved the country, the world, even the universe, countless times?    Daredevil sidesteps these issues quite comfortably, presenting the struggle in clear legal terms.  Is Captain America in any way responsible for this man's death?  Setting aside his famed heroism, the good Captain is human, and can he suffer grave errors in judgement?  And in the same vein, She-Hulk attacks Murdock's approach in technical terms, so that the judge may throw out the case before it grows further.  Although a strategy plagued by Steve Rogers' own sense of...responsibility? Justice? Guilt? The issue showcases a clear representation of a court of law, with a level of accuracy rarely seen in casual fiction.  In fact, few writers in the comics industry could show such a devoted insight to the details of the legal system, discussing case dismissals and mistrials and everything that I don't understand, but Charles Soule clearly does.  It's not a surprise, really.  Soule has quickly risen to the top of the comics industry for many reasons--his immense skill level, the top-rank books he writes, and the sheer quantity of his workload.  And yet, in addition to all of this, he has a day job. A law practice, even.  Something that most other people would consider a full-time job, Charles Soule takes on as...more than a hobby, certainly, with the level of devotion he provides.  It's admirable, and in his work, it shows.    With as much devotion as Soule puts in, though, artist Javier Pulido matches, especially in page layouts.  I'm happy to attribute many strengths to Pulido, including a recognition of facial expression matched by few modern artists not named Jamie McKelvie, but there are even less artists on top-tier titles who have such an innate mastery of the craft that Pulido expresses.  His layouts with She-Hulk pursuing Daredevil amongst the rooftops of San Francisco capture superheroics so seamlessly, and that's merely a fraction of the issue.  The final two panels of the issue, which I won't spoil here, are so casually intertwined, and yet flawlessly challenge any other artist to present two opposing viewpoints with anything resembling the same level of poignance.  Even the notable admissions of Steve Rogers in this very issue can't match the message in Pulido's work.  He's just that good.  The fate of the ongoing She-Hulk title has been somewhat the forefront of comics news as of late, with a not-unexpected but equally not-accepted cancellation that apparently fits with the creative team's plans but not hopes.  The quality of this issue presses the unpleasantness of this news, but I'm anxious to see how Charles Soule wraps the many plotlines built in this series and exacerbated by this issue.  With the last-page reveal, Drew, how do you suspect Soule may write around what could be a dramatic change to Marvel comics (one that, let's face it, will likely not be allowed in a tertiary title?)  Has this historic challenge between Marvel's two most notable lawyers met with your expectations?  And, most importantly, what do you think of Kevin Wada's cover for this issue?  Because for me, Wada's covers have been probably the best part of a series that has basically zero flaws, and yet I sort of feel like this is his weakest cover on the book yet.  It's almost traditional.  Come on, Wada.  You can do better.Today, Shane and Drew are discussing She-Hulk 9, originally released October 22nd, 2014. 

slim-bannerShane: So, look.  I’m not saying that writing is easy. This is a craft.  It requires a certain set of skills, a patience, a level of general competency. And as someone who fancies himself a writer, it’s a little painful to see something that reads at such a high level above what I could possibly do. Extrapolating even further past that, She-Hulk is devastating. Excruciating. I want to take sharp objects and whittle away my skin, exposing my tender flesh to the harsh elements so that I may embrace the harsh, tortuous reality of my own limitations.

Did I mention that I rather enjoyed She-Hulk 9 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and the rest? Because it was something special. Continue reading

Secret Origins 6

secret origins 6Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Origins 6, originally released October 22, 2014. 

Spencer: Patrick and I recently lamented a certain style of comic, the kind that tries to recap an entire lifetime with voiceover, practically becoming an illustrated Wikipedia article in the process. It seems as if the entire purpose of these comics is simply to relay information without attempting to further characterization or plot, and the longer I read comics the more this kind of story bothers me. This particular style seems to pop up most often when retelling origin stories (just check out our Zero Month coverage for proof), and that made me particularly cautious about picking up Secret Origins 6. Each of the three stories presented in this issue tackles the business of telling an origin story slightly differently, yet two of them still stick pretty close to this format. I suppose that raises the question of who this title is actually for: newbies who may need an illustrated Wikipedia article, or long-time readers who might expect a little more from their stories? Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 1

Alternating Currents: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ghostbusters 1, Drew and GregToday, Drew and Greg are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 1, originally released October 22nd, 2014.

Drew: I think the word “love” is overused when it comes to pop-culture. I mean, I like Star Wars as much as the next guy, but it only took a few shitty prequels to reveal just how conditional that fondness was. More importantly, when we claim to “love” every bit of pop ephemera, the word looses it’s meaning — to paraphrase Syndrome when everything is loved, nothing is. As fond as my memories of The Magic School Bus or M*A*S*H might be, I’m going to reserve “love” for the few things that have a deeper, more profound meaning to me. I say this because I want to be perfectly clear what I mean when I express that I love Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both properties played massive roles in my childhood; I saw the movies (dozens of times each), I watched the shows, I played with the action figures — heck, I even covered the theme songs for both in my band in high school. A crossover event like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters should be a match made in heaven, then, right?

Well, it turns out it may be a bit more complicated than simply smashing them together — especially if you want to do right by the characters and the universes they occupy. Fortunately, IDW has proven time and time again that they are very invested in doing their crossovers right, giving over the majority of this issue to explaining how these characters could be interacting in the first place. The only downside to all that explanation is that we don’t get much of that interaction in this issue, but that doesn’t stop writers Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz from delivering a ton of fun. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 10/15/14

round upLook, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Drew and Spencer discuss Loki: Agent of Asgard 7, New Avengers 25, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 16, Avengers World 14, Original Sin Annual 1, Batman Eternal 28, and Batman/Superman 15.

slim-banner4Drew: It’s no secret around here that I’m a sucker for some good postmodernism (what can I say? I like art about art), which means it should be no surprise that I’m enjoying the heck out of Loki’s latest adventure with a decidedly self-aware Victor Von Doom in Loki: Agent of Asgard 7. Writer Al Ewing has always imbued the series with some charming winks at the audience, but he takes it a step further here, as Loki begins the issue totally frozen in a time-cube — a seeming nod to would-be detractors of all of the recent changes the character has gone through. Of course, much of this issue is given over to rescuing Latveria from “World War Hate,” which gives Ewing some space to preach about how the solution to hate is understanding one another. Loki gets a little snark in, but that message is mostly delivered with a straight face, which robs the series of the sense of humor that usually makes it so fun. It was mostly a fun issue, but switched into a pervasive joylessness as the issue reached its conclusion. Continue reading

Trees 6

Alternating Currents: Trees 6, Ryan and DrewToday, Ryan and Drew are discussing Trees 6, originally released October 15th, 2014. Ryan: Remember watching Dragon Ball Z when you were younger? Remember how you would be so excited for the final confrontations, but shake your fist of the television screen when an entire episode stretched by and nary a punch was thrown? Well, anime, like manga, like comics, like Dickensian 19th century literature, is serialized. The objective of serialization is to keep readers or viewers invested enough to buy the next installment. Sometimes this can lead to frustrating lulls in action which hide under the guise of building exposition. In many ways, I felt this way about Trees 6. While we receive some rumblings of future events and some fall-out from past occurrences, this issue moves the plot forward the smallest amount possible. Continue reading