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, 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 →
Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Age of Ultron 4, originally released April 3rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Patrick: One of the things I’ve absolutely loved about picking up monthly comics is that I’ve had the opportunity to get know the work of a ton of great writers and artists. It pains me a little to think of how few people will ever read a funny exchange written by Jeff Lemire, and how few people will never see Adam Hughes masterful acting simply because they don’t read comics. Drew, Shelby and myself have been at this for over a year — I like to think we’re in the club now — and I have this brand new skill of identifying someone by their work. Brian Michael Bendis, the writer behind Age of Ultron is notorious for his massively decompressed stories, and between this series, Guardians of the Galaxy, and his X-Men books, I feel like I can spot his handiwork a mile away. But Age of Ultron is a special case, and its glacial pace allows almost every issue to be a Bryan Hitch vanity project. This makes it kind of tough to discuss in the same way we discuss other comics, but it’s clear now that this is the series’ identity – the problematic obsessions with character development and plot and theme are mine and not Ultron’s. Retcon Punch needs a new way to talk about comics. Alright, let’s see what we got. Continue reading →
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 Superior Spider-Man 6AU, originally released March 27th, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Ethan: Familiarity is a funny thing. The exposure we have to a thing or activity, the more hard-wiring space our brains devote to it. That’s great when you need to do something quickly — like recognize and react to a baseball flying at your head — or when you do something the same way over and over — like driving a route to work every day. That hard-wiring can save you from injury, or save on processing power that could be put to other use. Automatic responses aren’t always helpful though; sometimes your conditioning assigns a label and to situation too quickly and funnels you into a course of action that almost always works, but not this time. In the Age of Ultron crossover Superior Spider-Man #6, writer Christos Gage and artist Dexter Soy demonstrate the folly of this kind of snap judgement as Otto Octavius (in the body of Spider-Man Peter Parker) faces off against the malicious artificial intelligence. Continue reading →
Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Age of Ultron 3, originally released March 27th, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Mikyzptlk: In any post-apocalyptic scenario, you can either give in to the destruction that surrounds you or you can find that one last sliver of hope to hang on to. The first two issues of this event have mostly centered on a group of defeated heroes who are on the verge of giving up hope. The resistance, if you could even call it that, was rudderless and quickly losing its steam. It was all quite depressing, if not in a fascinating kind of way. The latest issue of Age of Ultron reveals that perhaps not all hope is lost and, armed with a shiny new plan, our heroes start on a path that can hopefully lead them to victory.
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing Age of Ultron 2, originally released March 13th, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Ethan: In recent years, after the financial markets fell screaming into their perennial nosedive, the city of Detroit hasn’t done so well. Workers who had spent their lives with a company were laid off, branches were closed, businesses died, buildings were abandoned. Over time, the violence of the changes and departures faded as the temperatures, wind, and microorganisms went to work. Materials that we associate with longevity — brick, stone, even plastics — took on a distinctly alien appearance of decay. The effect even got a name — “ruin porn” — and photographers from across the country flocked to capture the scenes. Reading through the second issue of Age of Ultron evokes the same mix of wonder and horror, albeit the decay is in much fresher stage, and the characters are fictional. Bryan Hitch continues to deliver impressive vistas of metropolis in its death throes, and writer Brian Michael Bendis fills these images with sparks of life as the heroes try to find their place in the new world.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Age of Ultron 1, originally released March 6th, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Patrick: Y’all remember Battlestar Galactica? Until the show’s premise became too complicated to be expressed in a few simple sentence fragments, each episode would begin with the following titles projected across the screen:
The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.
It’s exactly enough information to tease the world of the series. Yeah, there’s a lot more to it than that — this description makes no mention of the last scraps of humanity drifting through space in outdated battleships, or God or gods or Starbuck or Frak. It doesn’t have to: the purity of the threat represented by Cylons is so elemental and to render the rest beautiful, beautiful set-dressing to this central conflict. Battlestar would go on to tell a hundred compelling stories based of that clean slug-line, replete with rich themes and psychologically complex characters. Brian Michael Bendis’ Age of Ultron looks like it will have a great deal in common with BSG, the first such indication is a straightforward and agonizingly clean premise: “Hank Pym of the Avengers created an artificial intelligence known as Ultron. It hates humanity… and it has returned.” Game on.
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.