Daredevil 13

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 13, Drew and Patrick

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

New Avengers 30

new avengers 30

Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing New Avengers 30, originally released February 25th, 2015. 

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Spencer: Jonathan Hickman and Dalibor Talajic’s New Avengers 30 reads a bit like a textbook on multiversal theory. It’s about as dry as beef jerky, and is focused so strongly on explaining every minute detail about the Ivory Kings that it largely fails to address why they’re doing what they’re doing. The information contained within its pages will likely prove important as Secret Wars grows closer, but for the moment, New Avengers 30 feels like an issue that highlights the greatest weakness of Hickman’s Avengers books: a focus on plot that supersedes “story” or characterization.  Continue reading

Spider-Gwen 1

spider-gwen 1

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

Loki: Agent of Asgard 11

loki 11

Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Loki: Agent of Asgard 11, originally released February 18th, 2015. 

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Spencer: When reading a new book, it’s easy to feel like the story is malleable. Sure, we know the ending has already been written, and, in fact, is already printed on the upcoming pages, but until we’ve actually read those pages, there’s always a feeling of freedom, like maybe, if we wish hard enough, we can push the story in the direction we want it to go. Once we’ve finished the book, though, that feeling goes away; the ending was always concrete, but now that we’ve seen it with our own eyes, the idea that maybe we can influence its outcome essentially vanishes. Al Ewing and Lee Garbett make that idea literal in Loki: Agent of Asgard 11. The series has always been about Loki’s attempt to reform, but the arrival of his evil future self — “King Loki” — essentially makes that impossible. If King Loki represents the end of Loki’s story, as plain is if it’s written on the page, then what chance could Loki possibly have to escape that fate? Continue reading

Silver Surfer 9

silver surfer 9

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

She-Hulk 12

Alternating Currents: She-Hulk 12, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing She-Hulk 12, originally released February 18th, 2015. 

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And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Drew: I fully appreciate what’s disturbing about historical revisionism — the above passage is undoubtedly the scariest thing I read in high school — but I’m less certain why people seem to be so opposed to similar revisions to fictional continuities. Retcons (or retroactive continuity) might be one of the most reviled devices in all of comicdom, but I honestly don’t understand why. Nobody is more invested in the idea that each issue matters than the publishers (or at least their marketing teams), so fears that a single retcon represents a first step on a slippery slope strike me as totally alarmist. Instead, publishers tend to use retcons to clean up continuities that have become overly complicated after decades of embellishment. Still, being told the opposite of a fact we know is unsettling, even if the “fact” describes something in a fictional world. It’s that exact phenomenon — that the facts both do and don’t matter — that makes She-Hulk 12 so much fun. Continue reading

Cyclops 10

cyclops 10

Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Cyclops 10, originally released February 11th, 2015.

Spencer: When we first started covering Cyclops, Patrick and Suzanne speculated about the kind of influence Scott’s space-pirate father would have on him. Corsair isn’t a “bad guy,” but he is a morally ambiguous figure whose decisions are often based more on pulling off a score or simply staying alive than any of the more traditionally heroic values of Scott’s previous mentors. In the issues since then Scott’s been put through the wringer, but no matter what he’s faced, his humanity and morality have come out on top — in fact, Scott’s influence even seems to be making Corsair a better person, not the other way around. John Layman and Javier Garrόn’s Cyclops 10 makes that fact explicit, but questions whether Scott’s example is enough to end the years of hatred between Corsair and Valesh Malafect. Even though he’s become his own man, is Scott still doomed to repeat the mistakes of his father? Continue reading

Captain Marvel 12

Alternating Currents: Captain Marvel 12, Drew and Patrick

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

All-New X-Men 36

all new xmen 36

Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing All-New X-Men 36, originally released February 11th, 2015.

“It’s not as good as the first one.”

Traditional

Patrick: There’s a certain magic to the first time you experience a genre or franchise or medium. Novelty is cruel in this regard: no matter how good a sequel is, part of the luster disappears when you revisit the well. Comic book creators and fans know this too well — every reboot and relaunch is a promise to recapture whatever it was you first loved about superheroes in comics. What’s insane about this approach, is that we all fell in love with comics at different times, reading different books and for different reasons. What one person thinks of as “classic” Batman, another thinks of as new and hackneyed. There’s no guarantee that a “back to basics” approach is going to mean the same thing across fandom, never mind whether or not it’s valued the same way. As the Original X-Men wrap up their adventures in the Ultimate Universe, writer Brian Michael Bendis ruminates on just what it means to try to recapture the greatness of the original. Continue reading

Thor 5

Alternating Currents: Thor 5, Michael and Taylor

Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Thor 5, originally released February 11th, 2015.

“Do not just be worthy of the hammer. You are not the first to wield it, and no matter your fate, you will not be the last. Be worthy of the name.”

Lady Freyja, Thor 5

Michael: Change is constant in mainstream comics; but equally constant is the reversion of those changes back to the status quo. Bruce Wayne may step down from the role of Batman but he will always return to put the cowl on again. Steve Rogers may get old or die but he will always be back to don the Captain America shield once more. Heroes die, heroes return; the more things change, the more they stay the same. Part of the reason is that figures like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man are cultural icons. Even if Miles Morales is now the Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter Parker will always be the original. More to the point, we as a culture are reluctant to change — and especially venturing outside of our comfort zones. Continue reading