Uncanny X-Men 35

uncanny xmen 35

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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 2

tmnt casey & april 2

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.

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Guardians of Knowhere 1

Alternating Currents: Guardians of Knowhere 1, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Guardians of Knowhere 1, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl.

Traditional

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

Ant-Man Annual 1

ant-man annual 1

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.

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Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues released 7/15/15

secret wars roundup9Today, 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.

secret wars div

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.
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We Stand On Guard 1

we stand on guard

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.

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Princess Leia 5

princess leia 5

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Princess Leia 5, originally released July 1st, 2015.

Patrick: Love it or hate it, I’m a Wisconsin boy – born, raised, and educated. It’s a weird culture to grow up in, but it’s an even weirder culture to have to carry with you for the rest of your life. There are some awesome parts of being from Wisconsin, like an enthusiastic beer culture or an emphasis on education or the outdoors. Plus there’s the general air of friendliness that permeates my every visit to the homestead. But man, oh man, there are also a ton of drawbacks to that cultural identity: a meatheaded obsession with sports (specifically, the Green Bay Packers), unhealthy and frequently disgusting cuisine, and a bunch of casual institutionalized racism. And every person I meet is surprised that I’m not some backwoods, smalltown hick. Worse are the negative characteristics I actually take with me wherever I go, like juvenile appetite for dairy products and that irrepressible accent. Throughout the course of Princess Leia, Mark Waid and Terry and Rachel Dodson have presented us with Leia’s cultural identity, and with the final issue boldly declares that being Alderaanian is a powerful thing. Love it and hate it. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel 16

ms marvel 16 swToday, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Ms. Marvel 16, originally released June 17th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.

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Spencer: Being a teenager comes with a skewed sense of priorities. Every setback you face feels like the end of the world, even something as simple as failing a test or embarrassing yourself in front of your crush. As the superheroic Ms. Marvel, Kamala Kahn’s problems are often much more severe than the typical teenager’s, but even she sometimes needs a lesson in priorities — it’s just a shame that Kamala’s reminder takes the shape of the literal end of the world. If that sounds depressing, don’t worry — despite the heavier subject matter, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona never let Ms. Marvel 16 feel gloomy or depressing, instead focusing on the same mix of humor, heart, and adventure that’s made this title such a delight from the very start. Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 1

tmnt casey & april 1

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 1, originally released June 17th, 2015.

Taylor: When you’re in a relationship with someone for a long time, it’s inevitable that you and your partner will eventually get into a tiff. Sometimes this might be precipitated by a single event and sometimes it’s the culmination of a lot of little things that have added up over time. In either case: you’re heading into an awkward situation. You’re upset with your significant other, but given the nature of your relationship you may end up spending time together anyway. Moments like this have a habit of happening in the car — where you have no choice but to stay together and fume. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 1 throws us into just such a situation and we’re forced to consider just how good of a couple April and Casey really are. Continue reading

Marvel Zombies 1

marvel zombies 1 sw

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Marvel Zombies 1, originally released June 10th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For our conversations on the rest of Secret Wars last week, click here.

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Taylor: Whenever the subject of bleak and/or depressing stories comes up, I’m quick to point out that Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is perhaps the paragon of the genre. The book follows a man and his boy in an apocalyptic landscape as they struggle to survive in a world devoid of almost all life. While the narrative itself is heavy, what makes the book truly depressing for me is that it deals with the question of why try to survive at all. The book asks the uncomfortable question: if life is nothing but a struggle, why continue living it? Similarly, Marvel Zombies 1 has me considering these same questions. However, unlike the The Road, Marvel Zombies does spare some room for hope among the horror. Continue reading