FF 12

Alternating Currents: FF 12, Shelby and Drew

Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing FF 12, originally released September 25th, 2013.

Shelby: Destiny takes on a whole new meaning in ComicBookLand. To us regular folk, destiny is the idea that the natural order of the universe has predetermined our future. In comic books, it generally means a version of yourself from the future has arrived who knows what happens next because they’ve already lived it. It makes it a lot harder to argue your future is your own when faced with someone who knows what you’re going to do next, and the consequences of those actions. Unless, of course, you’re in Matt Fraction’s FF; no matter how many intellects from the future drop by, you never actually know what will happen next.

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FF 11

FF 11

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing FF 11, originally released August 28th, 2013.

Patrick: I don’t care how many times we say it around here — it bears repeating: comics are weird. Every time I think I get a handle on the time travel, or space travel, or clones, or moloids or whatever, I discover that the well of weird is deeper than I could ever imagine. Enter: The Impossible Man. Who’s The Impossible Man? Just a shapeshifting alien with nearly unlimited power and a comprehensive knowledge of (and fascination with) Earth popular culture. I did a little rudimentary research, just to familiarize myself with the character, and my favorite piece of trivia about The Impossible Man is that he once talked Galactus out of eating Earth, and then celebrated by going to the Marvel offices and demanding that Stan Lee give him is own solo series. It is in that spirit that FF 11 introduces his son.

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FF 10

ff 10Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing FF 10, originally released July 31st, 2013.

“I’ve written myself into my own script.”

“That’s kinda weird, huh?”

“It’s self-indulgent! It’s narcissistic! It’s solipsistic! It’s pathetic! I’m pathetic and I’m fat and pathetic!”

Nick Cage as Charlie and Donald Kaufman, Adaptation

Patrick: Adaptation is the best narrative I’ve ever encountered that directly confronts the challenges of portraying beauty abstractly. The screenplay works incredibly hard to achieve this, constantly doubling down on both its own cleverness and its disdain for said cleverness. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman does this my making himself a character in his own movie about adapting the book he’s been hired to adapt. If that sentence seemed to loop back on itself — and consequently, not make any sense — that’s because the film really needs to be experienced to be understood. Matt Fraction inserts himself, artist Mike Allred and editor Tom Brevoort into this issue of FF, but the lessons he offers have more to do with history than with expression. Plus, he makes himself say “ginchy,” like he’s Velma from Scooby-Doo, so you know it’s a home run.

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FF 9

FF 9

Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing FF 9, originally released July 17th, 2013.

Patrick: We recently decided to ax our coverage of the FF‘s sister series, Fantastic Four. Partially, we did this because Reed Richards is an insufferable asshole, but the series also suffered from its own apparent non-importance. The idea of the Fantastic Four’s totally episodic adventures through time and space sounded like an awful lot of fun, but they started to feel trivial pretty quickly. When you account for the Magic School Bus level of coincidence involved in some of their stories (“hey look kids, it’s Julius Cesar!”), it became clear that the story wasn’t for us. Or was it? FF’s stories have been pretty insubstantial too, but there’s something about the cast and the sense of humor we just liked more. With this issue, Fraction reveals that none of his stories have been irrelevant, and all of these threads are woven together into a single tapestry, telling personal, interested and interesting stories about the people touched by the Fantastic Four. Plus: POOL PARTY!

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Fantastic Four 9/FF 8

fantastic four 9 ff 8Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing Fantastic Four 9 and FF 8, originally released June 19th, 2013 and June 26th, 2013, respectively.

Shelby: Everyone makes mistakes. There’s no way around it. Personally, I think it’s a better judge of character to see how a person deals with their mistakes, and less so that the mistakes were made in the first place. It’s important to admit when you’ve messed up and take responsibility fr your actions, but the gesture rings a little hollow when you don’t actually expect to be held responsible. Or if you can just go back in time and undo what you did: how will you learn from a mistake if you can just erase it? Moreover, if you aren’t going to be held responsible for what you did, and you can’t undo it no matter how badly you may want to, can you really forgive yourself?
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Fantastic Four 8

Alternating Currents: Fantastic Four 8, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Fantastic Four 8, originally released May 22nd, 2013.

Drew: I love mysteries. Not just detective stories — I love even the smallest mysteries that happen in a narrative. Who is that? What is their relationship to the other characters? I find it satisfying when those little mysteries resolve. My girlfriend, on the other hand, has what could be fairly described as anxiety over those little mysteries — she’s always convinced she’s somehow missed the explanation for what’s going on. I think, when you get down to it, the difference is a matter of faith in the storytelling — it’s unclear because it’s supposed to be unclear. That faith flies out the window when you’re jumping into the middle of a decades-long serialized universe, where I very legitimately might have missed the explanation for what’s going on, giving me the very same anxiety I usually tease my girlfriend over. Usually, conscientious editors keep the memories of those titles fairly myopic, providing notes for anything that took place over a few issues ago, but Fantastic Four has been so historically minded as to shake my faith in Matt Fraction to explain everything to me. Continue reading

FF 7

FF 7

Today, Ethan and Shelby are discussing FF 7, originally released May 15th, 2013.

Ethan: Family is the most important thing. The ones closest to us make all the difference, whether that’s helping us reach our goals, being there for us when we’re down, or providing vital sustenance when we kill them and eat them. More on that later. Writer Matt Fraction and artist Michael Allred continue to shepherd FF forward through the latest crisis — the assault by The Wizard — with the all of the quirks and charm we’ve come to expect. Even for an issue that spends more time than usual on its fight scenes, Fraction still finds ample room to pack in both the standard measure of goofball interactions and touching moments.

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Fantastic Four 7

fantastic four 7

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Fantastic Four 7, originally released April 24th, 2013.

Shelby: When I read comics (or watch movies), I throw myself into it completely; I get so wrapped up in the world these types of media create, strongly written characters can affect me very deeply. This happens with characters I love (you all know of my gigantic crush on Clint Barton), and it happens with characters I hate. Sometimes, I just can’t extricate myself from a fictional universe to remember that it is, in fact, fictional, and I probably don’t need to get angry at a character for being a total ass. Continue reading

FF 6

FF 6

Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing FF 6, originally released April 24th, 2013.

Shelby: It’s interesting to see the real world creep into comic books. On the one hand, real world elements make comic books more relateable; if we can relate to the events our heroes are facing, it’s easier for us to become immersed in the story. On the other hand, real world events juxtaposed with fantastic (and sometimes dumb) comic book events can be jarring and ultimately make the story unnecessarily nonsensical. Matt Fraction maintains the balance of real world and comic world by making the silly comic book stuff EXTRA silly while at the same time making the characters extra endearing. I don’t understand how or why, but it works. Continue reading

FF 5

Alternating Currents: FF 5, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing FF 5, originally released March 27, 2013.

Drew: Comics have a LOT of history, which is precisely what makes them so intimidating. Marketing ploys like the New 52 and Marvel NOW are designed specifically to minimize the cost of entry — sure, there may be decades of dense continuity to follow, but why bother when you can start with a brand new #1. As someone who was enticed by those ploys, I often have the false sense of security that I understand the universes these stories are told in. Sure, there are references to events and characters I don’t know, but I continue on the faith that, if it’s important, everything will be explained. For the most part that attitude has served me well, but every so often, I’m reminded of just how my ignorance might color my readings. The recent twist ending in Age of Ultron 3 is a great example — everything about the reveal told me that this was a big surprise, but I completely lacked the knowledge to understand what actually happened, forcing me to consult the Marvel Wiki for answers. Of course, the long, convoluted histories that most characters have often make that experience more confusing than helpful, which is exactly the experience I had trying to parse the ending of FF 5. Continue reading