Patrick Ehlers, Co-Editor-In-Chief
Location: Los Angeles
History With Comics: Patrick came late to the comics game. After enjoying adaptations of Batman, Superman and the Justice League, he was finally tricked into picking up a set of graphic novels after seeing Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City. Naturally, this lead to further exploration of Frank Miller’s work, specifically with Batman. But it was not until an unexplainable desire to read Blackest Night that Patrick began purchasing the trades of Geoff Johns’ run Green Lantern. With a convenient new entry point and a handful of friends to follow him into the madness, Patrick began reading monthlies with the New 52’s Justice League #1.
New 52 Favorites: The Flash, Swamp Thing, Batwoman
Other Favorite Comics: Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Saga
Look, 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, Patrick, Spencer and Drew discuss Darth Vader 2, Spider-Man 2099 9, The Amazing Spider-Man 15, Deadpool 42, Secret Avengers 13, S.H.I.E.L.D. 3, All New X-Men 38, Effigy 2, The Wicked and the Divine 8, Orphan Black 1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutanimals 1, Batman Eternal 47, Secret Origins 10, and The Flash 39.
“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.”
-“El Condor Pasa,” Simon & Garfunkel
Patrick: Part of being a good soldier is accepting the responsibilities that are thrust upon you without questioning. I was hanging out with our own Shelby Peterson this weekend, and she was talking about the ship that her father served on in the Navy. Evidently, they did all kinds of drills as through they had nuclear weapons on board their aircraft carrier, but none of the sailors ever actually knew whether or not they were armed with nukes or not. That information simply belonged to men at higher pay grades, and it was basically their jobs not to ask questions. In Darth Vader 2, general Tagge makes the assertion over and over again that Vader is nothing more than a tool or a weapon, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Suiciders 1, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Patrick: I usually resist pulling in creator’s comments about their own material when discussing a comic book — especially a first issue. But I’ve heard Lee Bermejo pitch this series twice now, once at NYCC in 2013 and again at C2E2 in 2014. Both times, he lead with a joke about the premise: “It takes place in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles… which is to say: Los Angeles.” It’s a good line, and far be it for me call someone out for re-using a clever turn of phrase. What interests me about his repeated use of the joke is that there’s really no point in any post-apocalyptic storytelling unless it can tell us about life in the pre-apocalypse. In a manner reflecting his detail-heavy drawing style, Bermejo writes about many specific societal ills that plagues LA, blowing everything out to grotesque proportions. The remarkable thing — and the thing that makes me most uneasy as a reader and resident of the City of Angels — is just how recognizable it all is. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Daredevil 13, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money…or candy!
George Oscar Bluth, Arrested Development
Drew: While I understand the distinction magicians make between “trick” and “illusion” — the former is about the techniques a magician uses, the latter is about the effect those collected techniques have on the audience — I think we’re perfectly justified in calling them “tricks.” The “illusion” — that a rabbit appears out of thin air, that a lady survives being sawed in half, that a card jumps to the top of the deck — dares us to believe that “magic is real,” but the actual techniques used to pull it off tend to be much more clever, if simpler, explanations. For me, an understanding of those tricks leaves me much more impressed about the illusion — knowing just how subtly they palmed the coin, or how convincing their false shuffle allows me to appreciate the actual craft that goes into what they’re doing. Indeed, any “magic” in the illusion lies in the skills of the magician, making knowing the trick more magical for me. Which I suppose is my way of asking forgiveness in focusing on the “tricks” of Daredevil 13, which pulls off an illusion so compelling, it’s hard to deny its magic. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Black Hood 1, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Drew: Superhero comics are a trope-filled medium. That’s doubly true of origin stories, which need to explain what would drive a normal person to dress up to fight crime. It turns out, there aren’t a whole lot of explanations out there. Was their family murdered in front of them? Were they the victim of some kind of science experiment gone wrong? Have they inherited some kind of mythical power? Every variation has been done, but so few have been done well. Indeed, the drive to get to the actual superheroics tends to leave origins rushed and expository — not the best recipe for a great story. The Black Hood 1 manages to avoid the tropes and the gratuitous exposition — while still taking its lead from regular guy to masked vigilante — trading our expectations in for some good old fashioned mystery. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Spider-Gwen 1, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Patrick: If you had to name the most important quality for a superhero story to nail, what would it be? Action? Adventure? Humor? Relatability? Kind of depends on the character, doesn’t it? What I think ends up being most important across publishers and mediums is the story’s ability to express the fundamental nature of the character. If you’re telling a Batman story, it better be dark, grimey, and morally ambiguous. If you’re telling a Spider-Man story, it better be humorous, optimistic and dutiful. So how on earth would anyone write a Spider-Gwen story? The character barely exists beyond a small roll in the recent Spider-Verse event. Fans latched on to the character for a number of reasons (everyone misses Gwen Stacy), but the clearest virtue of the character is that she looks amazing. In lieu of a letter’s page, editor Nick Lowe thanks fans for worshiping the incredible design of Gwen’s costume, celebrating it through fan-art and cos-play. This obsession with image becomes the fundamental nature of stories in Gwen’s world, as Spider-Gwen turns the superficial into the substantial. Continue reading →
Look, 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, Michael, Spencer, Patrick and Drew discuss Justice League 39, Batman and Robin 39, Batman Superman 19, Superman Wonder Woman 16, Batman Eternal 46, Legendary Star-Lord 9, Rocket Raccoon 8, Uncanny X-Men 31, Silk 1, Ms. Marvel 12, Black Widow 15, All New Captain America 4, Avengers World 17, Nova 27, Secret Identities 1, and Bitch Planet 3.
Michael: And so, the latest Justice League arc, “The Amazo Virus”, ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. Wonder Woman, Superman and Luthor are fending for themselves against the infected Justice League. Superman gives Luthor a sample of his blood to help create a cure (self-inflicted heat vision can induce bleeding, I guess?) and Captain Cold saves the day. Apparently Amazo is susceptible to the cold, so Captain Cold subdues him and they throw him into cold storage. As a byproduct of this whole event, dozens of infected humans have kept their newly-found superpowers. Despite Neutron still being alive we are still unfortunately no closer to finding out who put the hit on Lex Luthor. And just when Jessica Cruz is feeling completely sidelined and unimportant, Hal Jordan comes back to steal the spotlight…er…help her. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Fables 149, originally released February 18th, 2015.
Patrick: We tend to look at foreshadowing as somewhat virtuosic — especially in serialized stories. The foreshadowing itself is kind of like a promise to the readers, and the payoff is the storyteller keeping that promise. That’s immensely rewarding, because it sorta proves that the creators were as invested in the ending of the story as the readers. But why does that really matter so much to us? In fact, isn’t it more impressive if ideas are creatively recalled from earlier in the story? Like, what’s the real virtue in planting a seed you’re only going to pay off later when anything could be a seed? Fables 149, takes this “everything is a seed” approach, asking questions about what is planned, why it was planned, and whether it matters. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Silver Surfer 9, originally released February 18th, 2015.
Patrick: As he’s about to take Galactus head on in combat, Silver Surfer recalls the story of David and Goliath. I love David and Goliath, mostly because of how its message has been muddled by the passage and time. We read that story now as a triumph of the little guy against immeasurable odds — which is a fine story to comfort us when we feel like we’re taking on the world. But the real story isn’t quite so comforting: David wasn’t an untrained kid with a slingshot stuffed in the back pocket of his overalls; he was a trained soldier, battle-hardened and armed with his weapon of choice. In slaying Goliath, David isn’t beating the odds, he’s fulfilling his potential. And that’s exactly what this issue of Silver Surfer does too: both in terms of narrative power and the power cosmic, Norin Radd gloriously achieves his potential. Continue reading →
Look, 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, Patrick and Spencer discuss Astro City 20, Guardians of the Galaxy 24, X-Men 24, All-New Ghost Rider 11, Spider-Woman 4, Justice League United 9, and Batman Eternal 45.
…it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.
Rocky Balboa, Rocky Balboa
Drew: A hero’s journey necessarily requires adversity, which in turn requires perseverance of the hero. Indeed, perseverance is the key quality of virtually every hero — especially superheroes. They may get knocked down in the first round, but there wouldn’t be a series to read if they didn’t keep getting back up. But what about when they’re no longer certain they’d survive getting knocked down? How does a hero reconcile their ingrown drive to keep fighting with the hard truths about getting older? That’s exactly the idea at the heart of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City 20, as Quarrel and Crackerjack confront how their age is affecting their performance. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Captain Marvel 12, originally released February 11th, 2015.
Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!
Super Mario Bros.
Drew: Ah, the MacGuffin hunt; is there a more straightforward objective in all of fiction? Sure, that may also make it one of the most common objectives in all of fiction, but that hasn’t stopped it from generating some truly great stories. It’s just a clean, simple way to motivate characters to action. “We need the thing for reasons” is the general gist, but there’s actually a cleaner, simpler motivation if the MacGuffin was stolen from the hero. Now the “reasons” don’t need to be mired in mythology about the significance of the “thing” — getting back what is rightly theirs is more than enough justification for action. This is exactly the scenario Carol finds herself in in Captain Marvel 12, jettisoning any need for exposition in favor of high-flying space action. Continue reading →