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 →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing She-Hulk 12, originally released February 18th, 2015.
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 →
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, 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 →
Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Divinity 1, originally released February 11th, 2015.
My feeling is, story is the apple, plot is the arrow through it. (Or, story = mountain, plot = path through the mountain.)
Drew: I’ve often attempted to distinguish between the “story” and “plot” of a narrative, but because those terms are often used interchangeably, I’ve never felt like I was being totally clear. Little did I know that Russian formalist Vladimir Propp had actually coined the specific terms I needed almost a century ago: fabula is the chronological events of the “story”, while syuzhet is the narrative arc as laid out in the “plot”. There are a great many stories where the distinction is trivial — the events of the story are presented in chronological order — but in a world full of flashbacks, flashforwards, and other chronological twists and turns, it’s helpful to be able to differentiate the two.
In most cases, the syuzhet is crafted to enhance the audience’s experience (to obscure a key detail of a mystery or to remind us of a detail as it becomes important), but it can also be used to reflect a character’s subjective experience of the fabula. LOST did this well, showing the audience proustian memories brought about by triggers on the island, but there are a few stories that take that concept a step further, where the character’s experience of the fabula is more explicitly achronological, allowing the syuzhet to track the fabula, even though neither is arranged chronologically. The “backwards” order of Memento simulates Leonard’s anterograde amnesia, and the “Watchmaker” chapter of Watchmen simulates Dr. Manhattan’s omnipotent experience of time. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine’s new Divinity clearly has a great deal in common with that latter example, even if the subjectivity of the syuzhet is less explicit. 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 →
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.”
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 →
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 →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Secret Six 2, originally released February 11th, 2015.
Drew: At what point is it fair to form an opinion about a work of art? The conventional wisdom warns us not to judge a book by its cover, but at what point is it fair to judge? I’ve been told that the first chapter is enough, but I’ve seen others advocate for just the first page. I tend to be a bit more charitable than most — I’ve never walked out of a movie, but then again, I would probably not see a sequel of a movie I didn’t like. So, how do comics fit in to that? Is the first issue the first page of a story? The first chapter? The first movie? Single issues rarely give a complete story (at least nowadays), but also offer a convenient point to stop and reflect. After two issues, we may not have a great idea of what Secret Six will actually be like, but maybe we have enough to form an opinion about it. Continue reading →