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, 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.
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, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Fearless Defenders 6, originally released July 10th, 2013.
Patrick: Hey guys: GENDER IN COMICS! If there’s one thing we get whipped into a frenzy about on a fairly regular basis over here at Retcon Punch, it’s the portrayal of women in superhero comics. And with good cause: not only is there a decades-long tradition of turning female characters into disposable subjects of the leers and catcalls of male readers, but the inequity between male and female characters continues to this day. When DC relaunched it’s line two years ago, the editors found a home for 4 different past male-Robins, but couldn’t be bothered to include Stephanie Brown in their ranks. Why? The same can be said about Earth’s Green Lanterns: Guy, John, Kyle and Hal were all zipping around the universe, but whither Jade? And even a series like Fearless Defenders, which in 6 issues has only featured one named male character, seems to be plagued with gender problems: occasionally-cheesecakey art; a hysterical, flakey lead; and now the ubiquitous woman in a refrigerator. But it is possible that we put too much responsibility on these all-women series to be paragons of gender equality?
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?
Drew: Comics love engaging in their own history. Whether they’re rehashing origin stories, resurrecting campy villains, or just making winking nods to their own pasts, comics always find ways to reference their own histories. It makes sense — both creators and fans love comics — but what do you do when the history your referencing isn’t so charming? It’s no secret that comics don’t always have the most enlightened views when it comes to female characters, but what is a writer’s obligation to that history? Should they ignore it? Reclaim it? Embrace it? These are the weird questions Cullen Bunn is forced to address in Fearless Defenders 5, as he blows up the scope to comment on virtually all of Marvel’s female characters. Continue reading
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.