Patrick: Drew recently brought a Mutilversity article on comic book criticism to my attention. Interestingly, they posted another article that same day on the diminishing role of artists in comics — effectively arguing that we know series by their writers and not by their artists, and isn’t that fucked up? I think there’s room to argue that serialized storytelling in any format is going to be a writer’s medium (just look at how much more writer-driven TV is than the movies, which are much more director-driven). Regardless, the fact remains that there’s a problem in comics — and comic criticism — with focusing too heavily on the words that are written on the page. At one point in this issue, Jennifer Walters — a Hulk that spends very little of her time smashing — asserts that “90% of lawyering is conversation.” That’s an interesting inversion of the pearl of wisdom Eddie Izzard drops in the bit above, but that also might explain why we don’t have the most exciting piece of fiction in our hands. Continue reading
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing FF 16, originally released January 22nd, 2013.
Ethan: With the arrival of FF 16 Scott Lang’s campaign to end Doom is itself at an end. Even though Doom was the cause of the crusade, it’s always been more about Scott — this finale is no different. As Scott confronts the mortal enemy of the Fantastic Four and the man who killed his daughter, there’s never going to be a better time to prove who or what the latest incarnation of Ant-Man has become. Unsurprisingly, Matt Fraction and Lee Allred do not disappoint.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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
Today, Ethan and Patrick are discussing FF 4, originally released February 27, 2013.
Ethan: Growth is hard. Everyone’s familiar with the usual childhood “growing up” process, with all of its difficult changes, naïve missteps, puppy love, and idealism. Then there’s the second adolescence — of the mind rather than the body — that we deal with as we explore what it means to be an adult. The changes are more situational and relational than hormonal; the missteps become less laughably naïve but often have much larger consequences; idealism fades to pragmatism, and puppy love — well, love doesn’t really change that much. Alongside these more mundane types of development, life occasionally confronts us with something truly awful and growth stops being something we do as a matter of course and starts being something we do just to survive. In the hands of writer Matt Fraction and artist Michael Allred, FF #4 continues to show us a world in which the varieties of growth faced by children, adults, and survivors collide. Continue reading
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing FF 1-3, originally released November 28th, 2012, December 19th, 2012, and January 23rd, 2013.
Shelby: What do you do when things go wrong? When something doesn’t happen the way you’ve planned, how do you react? If you thought ahead and have a back-up plan, there’s nothing to worry about. But what if you are the back-up plan? What if you are the one who has to step up when things fall apart and figure out how to hold everything together? Between FF and Fantastic Four, Matt Fraction shows us both sides of the coin, and it gives him an opportunity to tell a pretty unusual kind of story.