A-Force 1

a force 1 sw

Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing A-Force 1, originally released May 20th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.

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Michael: Full disclosure: the exact ins and outs of Secret Wars are kind of over my head. I know that it is a better (and actually planned out) version of DC’s Convergence. I also know the basics of the event, which pretty much can be boiled down to the recap page of: “The Multiverse was destroyed! The heroes of Earth-616 and Earth-1610 were powerless to save it! Now, all that remains…is Battleworld!” So I’m going to try to take A-Force objectively, at face value. Continue reading

Secret Wars 1

secret wars 1

Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Secret Wars 1, originally released May 6th, 2015. 

“Oh, best war ever…”

-General Nick Fury, Secret Wars 1

Ryan: Secret Wars grabs the baton from Jon Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers beloved/despised/confusing “Time Runs Out” saga chronicling the futile struggle of Earth-616 against the collapse of the multiverse. Hickman dives in by tipping his hat to the concluding plot thread of Doom vs. The Beyonders, the significance of which — aside from helping to shrink the amount of surviving universes down to a baker’s dozen minus a bunch — is still a bit lost on me. The narration of the issue is provided by Reed Richards, and the first installment of this event belongs to him.

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Howard the Duck 1

howard the duck 1

Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Howard the Duck 1, originally released March 9th, 2015.

Patrick: Why do you take a chance on buying a brand new issue of a brand new comic book series the day it comes out? When you think about it, you’re taking a pretty big risk regarding the quality of the thing you’re about to read. I suppose the worst thing that can happen is that you’re out four bucks and about eighteen minutes. But there are so many damn comics, and I know I’m always looking for place to cut my pull. Number ones, though? I roll the dice on those several times a week. But for every number one I do read, there are like 80 I don’t. So what’s the alchemy that made me pick up Howard the Duck 1 over, I don’t know, Spawn Resurrection 1? The character? The publisher? The artist? The writer? That’s a question the issue itself poses: how did you come to Howard the Duck? 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. 


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

She-Hulk 11

Alternating Currents: She-Hulk 11, Drew and SuzanneToday, Drew and Suzanne are discussing She-Hulk 11, originally released December 24th, 2014. 


Dramatic Sound Effect, Traditional

Drew: There’s nothing like a good plot twist. I may hem and haw over whether I prefer that a plot be surprising or relatable, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as having the rug yanked out from under us. Still, I find that twists work best when, to paraphrase fellow contributor Greg Smith, they’re both an interesting plot devices and an organic extension of the story. That is to say, while the ending of The Sixth Sense may feel like just a clever, Twilight-Zone-y twist, it actually provides a very logical end-point to Cole’s newfound mission in helping ghosts come to term with their deaths. It’s not yet clear if all of the twists in She-Hulk 11 (and there are many) are quite as character-driven, but writer Charles Soule cleverly packs them into this penultimate issue, leaving plenty of space for more meaningful conclusions next month. Continue reading

She-Hulk 10

she hulk 10Today, Spencer and Suzanne are discussing She-Hulk 10, originally released November 12th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: At first glance, there are hardly any similarities between being a writer and being a lawyer, but ultimately, both professions owe a lot to the power of words. Writers use words to bring life to worlds and characters, while lawyers use them to argue and persuade, and sometimes even to tell stories of their own. The case between Jen Walters and Matt Murdock over the fate of Steve Rogers, as presented in Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk 10, is just one of those situations; everything comes down to the two lawyers each telling their own version of the truth and leaving the jury to decide which story they believe. As a look into the criminal justice system, it’s a bit unnerving, but as a showcase of the kind of power storytellers hold, it’s absolutely fascinating. Continue reading

Superior Iron Man 1

superior iron man 1Today, Patrick and Mark are discussing Superior Iron Man 1, originally released November 12th, 2014.

Patrick: Let’s talk about Office Space. It’s a modern comedy classic, and while that Superman-3-inspired conflict is introduced far to late to be in any way meaningful, there are so many great gags and characters that buoy the movie. Plus, it introduced so many phrases into the lexicon — how would we even express ourselves in 2014 without “pieces of flare” or “no talent ass-clown?” But I’ve always had one gripe with Office Space: I always hated that Peter’s attitude change stemmed from something as ridiculous as a hypnotherapy mishap. Rather than giving Peter to agency over his own inciting action, the movie absolves him of any responsibility for what follows. Think about how much more meaningful it would be if Peter decided “fuck it, I don’t care any more” on his own. I find myself wishing the same was true of Superior Iron Man, which throws a bunch of interesting ideas at the wall but refused to let Tony Stark actually be responsible for his own actions. Continue reading

She-Hulk 9

So, look.  I'm not saying that writing is easy.  This is a craft.  It requires a certain set of skills, a patience, a level of general competency.  And as someone who fancies himself a writer, it's a little painful to see something that reads at such a high level above what I could possibly do.  Extrapolating even further past that, She-Hulk is devastating.  Excruciating.  I want to take sharp objects and whittle away my skin, exposing my tender flesh to the harsh elements so that I may embrace the harsh, tortuous reality of my own limitations.  Did I mention that I rather enjoyed She-Hulk 9 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and the rest?  Because it was something special.  In the Marvel comics universe, superheroes are rather common.  A dime a dozen, even, and since all but a few of them are headquartered in my own home of New York City, you can pretty much toss a stone and hit someone invulnerable without even trying.  It takes little effort to read a comic about a character with super-strength, but, I must say, it's not quite as simple to read about a character in a law firm.  In fact, I can really think of only two major comic book characters who are lawyers, and, well, what do you know?  In this issue, both feature prominently.  It's almost like it was planned that way, who'dka thunkit?  Marvel legend Matthew "Daredevil" Murdock goes up against Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters in court for, near as I can tell, the first time in comics history.  This alone is monumental, and having them war over the fate of Captain America can only add to the significance.  And as the middle issue of the saga, having the exact details of Captain America's brazen culpability revealed, with his arrogance leading to the death of an innocent, presents something of a moral quandary.  How can one defend someone that blatantly pushes an unstable man, to the point of someone else paying the price?  And at the same time, how do we condemn arguably the greatest hero in Marvel's history, the leader of the Avengers, somebody who has saved the country, the world, even the universe, countless times?    Daredevil sidesteps these issues quite comfortably, presenting the struggle in clear legal terms.  Is Captain America in any way responsible for this man's death?  Setting aside his famed heroism, the good Captain is human, and can he suffer grave errors in judgement?  And in the same vein, She-Hulk attacks Murdock's approach in technical terms, so that the judge may throw out the case before it grows further.  Although a strategy plagued by Steve Rogers' own sense of...responsibility? Justice? Guilt? The issue showcases a clear representation of a court of law, with a level of accuracy rarely seen in casual fiction.  In fact, few writers in the comics industry could show such a devoted insight to the details of the legal system, discussing case dismissals and mistrials and everything that I don't understand, but Charles Soule clearly does.  It's not a surprise, really.  Soule has quickly risen to the top of the comics industry for many reasons--his immense skill level, the top-rank books he writes, and the sheer quantity of his workload.  And yet, in addition to all of this, he has a day job. A law practice, even.  Something that most other people would consider a full-time job, Charles Soule takes on as...more than a hobby, certainly, with the level of devotion he provides.  It's admirable, and in his work, it shows.    With as much devotion as Soule puts in, though, artist Javier Pulido matches, especially in page layouts.  I'm happy to attribute many strengths to Pulido, including a recognition of facial expression matched by few modern artists not named Jamie McKelvie, but there are even less artists on top-tier titles who have such an innate mastery of the craft that Pulido expresses.  His layouts with She-Hulk pursuing Daredevil amongst the rooftops of San Francisco capture superheroics so seamlessly, and that's merely a fraction of the issue.  The final two panels of the issue, which I won't spoil here, are so casually intertwined, and yet flawlessly challenge any other artist to present two opposing viewpoints with anything resembling the same level of poignance.  Even the notable admissions of Steve Rogers in this very issue can't match the message in Pulido's work.  He's just that good.  The fate of the ongoing She-Hulk title has been somewhat the forefront of comics news as of late, with a not-unexpected but equally not-accepted cancellation that apparently fits with the creative team's plans but not hopes.  The quality of this issue presses the unpleasantness of this news, but I'm anxious to see how Charles Soule wraps the many plotlines built in this series and exacerbated by this issue.  With the last-page reveal, Drew, how do you suspect Soule may write around what could be a dramatic change to Marvel comics (one that, let's face it, will likely not be allowed in a tertiary title?)  Has this historic challenge between Marvel's two most notable lawyers met with your expectations?  And, most importantly, what do you think of Kevin Wada's cover for this issue?  Because for me, Wada's covers have been probably the best part of a series that has basically zero flaws, and yet I sort of feel like this is his weakest cover on the book yet.  It's almost traditional.  Come on, Wada.  You can do better.Today, Shane and Drew are discussing She-Hulk 9, originally released October 22nd, 2014. 

slim-bannerShane: So, look.  I’m not saying that writing is easy. This is a craft.  It requires a certain set of skills, a patience, a level of general competency. And as someone who fancies himself a writer, it’s a little painful to see something that reads at such a high level above what I could possibly do. Extrapolating even further past that, She-Hulk is devastating. Excruciating. I want to take sharp objects and whittle away my skin, exposing my tender flesh to the harsh elements so that I may embrace the harsh, tortuous reality of my own limitations.

Did I mention that I rather enjoyed She-Hulk 9 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and the rest? Because it was something special. Continue reading

She-Hulk 5

Alternating Currents: She-Hulk 5, Drew and MichaelToday, Drew and guest writer Michael are discussing She-Hulk 5, originally released June 11th, 2014. 

slim-bannerThe film went from a Japanese Saturday matinee horror flick to more of a Hitchcock, the less-you-see-the-more-you-get thriller.

Stephen Spielberg on Jaws

Drew: I don’t care about authorial intent. It seems totally logical to me — I can’t presume to know what an author’s intent was, so I don’t know why I would bother caring about it — but I often find myself confronted by people who don’t see it that way. The author clearly didn’t intend that, so why am I talking about it? In those instances, I like to point them to the production of Jaws — specifically, the way the malfunctioning Shark puppet affected Spielberg’s choices. His intent was to show the shark a bunch, but circumstances forced him to reserve those shots for key moments, relying more on suspense than jump-out-of-your-seat moments. It makes for a compelling viewing experience, but one that’s virtually unrelated to anyone’s intent. That is, an analysis focusing on the authorial intent of Jaws would dismiss a key element of the final product as if it were a flubbed line, or a member of the crew in frame, some unaccounted-for artifact of the filming process. It would be easy to similarly dismiss a guest artist as a similar artifact of comic books, a decision borne more out of necessity than of creative mojo, but that would ignore the effect those changes have on the reading experience, which — as is the case in She-Hulk 5 — can be quite profound.

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She-Hulk 3

she-hulk 3Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing She-Hulk 3, originally released April 2nd, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: She-Hulk is a superhero lawyer. What does that mean? Well, she’s a superhero who is also a lawyer, but that’s obvious. Does it mean she takes on cases involving superpowered individuals? No doubt they’re a huge part of her clientele, but I think there’s more to it. Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk 3 finally gives us a chance to see Jennifer Walters, attorney-at-law, in action, and she’s every bit as great at the job as we’ve been told. What stood out to me the most, though — and what truly makes her a “superhero lawyer” in my eyes — is that she tackles the case with the same kind of enthusiasm and dedication that she devotes to fighting crime. Continue reading