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

She-Hulk 1

she-hulk 1Today, Patrick and Greg are discussing She-Hulk 1, originally released February 12th, 2014. 

slim-bannerThere’s figures on this. 70% of what people react to is the look; 20% is how you sound; and only 10% is what you say.

Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill

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

FF 16

ff 16

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.

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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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