Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Spider-Woman 10, originally released August 26th, 2015.
Spencer: I’m a suburban kid at heart, but I also really enjoy the city. That makes me a bit of an outlier amongst my extended family, which is filled with farmers and country folk. I dunno, I just enjoy having people and places close to my home — the quiet and sparseness of the country creeps me out big time. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, though, it’s obvious that there’s a drastic difference between the city and the country. In Dennis Hopeless and Natacha Bustos’ Spider-Woman 10, those differences have come to represent Jessica Drew’s dual lives. The city — New York City, to be exact — is Jessica’s old life as an Avenger, a complicated life full of chaos, while the strange simplicity of her new life as a P.I. is perfectly — and quite literally — represented by the American Midwest. It’s crystal clear which of those lives Jess prefers, but with the end of the world approaching, she doesn’t really have a choice as to which one she must live. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 49, originally released August 19th, 2015.
“Let’s get ready to rumble!”
-Michael Buffer, Ring Announcer
Patrick: Michael Buffer started using his signature phrase in 1984. It’s short, it’s sweet, and belted out in Buffer’s distinct tenor, it can bring a crowd to their feet. The dude trademarked the phrase in 1992, and since then, he’s gotten paid for every single time it’s used. It’s estimated that the phrase is worth $400 million – that’s $80,000,000 per word. Why should a single sentence — no matter how powerful — ever be worth that kind of money? Because the pageantry involved in the pre-fight ritual ends up being more important that the fight itself. Hype is an art form. No one calls out “let’s get ready to rumble!” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 49, but the issue is so singularly obsessed with hyping one specific rumble that it’d be easy to forgive the creative team for invoking Buffer’s cash cow. And even though they haven’t: I’m ready.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8, originally released August 12th, 2015.
Taylor: I recently watched a video of a man who walked, without any safety harness, across a rope suspended 1,000 feet in the air. It’s an impressive feat, if not in bravery, then at least in balance. One wrong move, too much weight to one side, and that guy becomes a smear on the ground. In this case balance is obviously important, but for me it highlights how balance is important in almost everything do. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8 similarly reminds that balance is important in a different way. Keeping in perfect equilibrium the nuttiness of Squirrel Girl and the gravitas of Thor, this issue expertly walks a fine line between comedy and adventure. And while it might not be nearly as breathtaking as slack-lining, it’s every bit as impressive.
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 48, originally released July 29th, 2015.
Taylor: Time is hard concept to understand. On the one hand, it’s totally an invention of humankind and wouldn’t exist without us. On the other hand, it does seem like things more or less move temporally in some fashion independent of human thought. That’s basically the second law of thermodynamics. The point is, time is a complicated concept. It should be no surprise then that time can be difficult to illustrate in comics. It’s such an abstract concept that it’s not always easy to show readers. However, one of the things comic book artists are experts at is showing the movement of time in and between panels. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 48, artist Cory Smith puts on a clinic on how to show the passage of time. Subsequently, this issue is beautiful to read.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Uncanny X-Men 35, originally released July 22nd, 2015.
Patrick: Mutants are among the more malleable allegories in comics. As a class of people persecuted for something they can’t control, they’ve acted as stand ins for racial minorities, religious minorities, disabled peoples, homosexuals – anyone with any kind of outsider status. But they’re also useful for other political debate: gun control, freedom vs. safety, etc. In one of his final issues writing the X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis employs a rarely-tapped metaphor and uses one of his own Mutants to tackle a topic that is decidedly apolitical, and casts an unlikely X-Man as the furthest thing from “outsider” you could imagine. It’s a delightfully simple slugline: what if Goldballs became famous? Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 2, originally released July 22nd, 2015.
Taylor: Last summer’s Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie met with lukewarm reviews. There were a lot of reasons cited by critics for the movie not being great, but the one thing that was almost universally harped upon was the confusing nature of the action sequences. Bay aficionados, however, were not surprised by this: chaos is one of his trademarks. What this goes to show is that clarity is incredibly important when crafting a story. It makes sense – if the audience can’t understand what’s going on, how are they supposed to take anything from it? Casey and April 2 is an interesting study in clarity: how it succeeds, how it fails, and how it succeeds despite its failings.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Guardians of Knowhere 1, originally released July 15th, 2015.
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl.
Drew: I’ve never seen any codified theories to this effect, but I strongly believe that every narrative has an ideal length. The Old Man and the Sea couldn’t be longer without losing its essence, just as War and Peace couldn’t be shorter. I can’t claim to understand all of the factors that determine the ideal length for a story, but it’s obvious enough when the length isn’t ideal. The epigraph may functionally describe a lot of stories we’re familiar with, but it’s too short to be a satisfying story — we have no empathetic connection to “boy,” no investment in his relationship to “girl,” no context for their eventual reunion. Conversely, Brian Michael Bendis is often criticized for making his stories too long to be satisfying, with each plot point dragged out for too many issues for us to be invested in the bigger picture. Of course, one of the big mitigating factors in the world of comics is the quality of the art — a dazzling action sequence may not require much of a plot, and indeed may be better off without many distractions. Nobody does “dazzling” better than Mike Deodato Jr., which makes him an ideal pairing for Bendis’ decompressed style. So does Guardians of Knowhere 1 live up to that “match made in heaven” expectation? Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Ant-Man Annual 1, originally released July 15, 2015.
Taylor: Mentorship is an ancient practice. Any of us who have had the pleasure of reading Plato’s Republic (or were assigned to read it for class) know that the practice of an elder teaching a younger the ropes is something present in almost all societies. It’s natural then that we see this same master-apprentice relationship present in comic books. Batman, the Ninja Turtles, Wolverine, Jean Grey – they’ve all had someone there to mentor them and help them become heroes who save the day. We generally like to think of those mentors knowing it all, often forgetting that they are still human and far from perfect. Ant-Man Annual 1 examines what it’s like to find this out in typical witty fashion.
Today, Spencer, Taylor, Patrick, and Drew discuss Siege 1, Planet Hulk 3, Years of Future Past 3, Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders 1, Inhumans Atillan Rising 3, Secret Wars Battleworld 3, Hail Hydra 1, and Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps 2.
Spencer: “Each domain is a region unto itself.” Each and every Secret Wars tie-in has begun with these words, and they really are a remarkably accurate mission statement: despite the common thread they all share, most of these mini-series feel like separate concepts far removed from the rest of their brethren. That begins to change with this week’s offerings, however. Several of this week’s issues find their casts questioning Doom and venturing beyond their own domain. Are we about to see some of these characters collide with the main Secret Wars title? Perhaps, but fortunately, these tie-ins still work as fun standalone stories as well. In many ways, it’s the best of both worlds. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Ryan are discussing We Stand On Guard 1, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Taylor: You don’t have to sort through many comics, movies, or books before you find a story about a war, on earth, set in the relatively near future. A lot of the time, these stories are a good way of capturing the zeitgeist of time in which it was written. Take, for example, much of the sci-fi written during the Cold War. What percentage of that writing focuses on a then-likely war with the Soviet Union and/or nuclear holocaust? Keeping that in mind, some might find it surprising that Brian K. Vaughan’s new series We Stand On Guard is about a future war between the USA and… Canada? Yes, the country known for its benign nature is now the centerpiece for a story about war. But why? As it turns out there are plenty of reasons which make this a promising series premier.