Cosmic Ghost Rider 5: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Michael DeLaney 

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: What makes an audience try to see heroism in their anti-heroes? We all try to do it. No matter what Don Draper does, no matter who he hurts, we want to believe that there is some kind of moral or narrative victory in him achieving his goals. Is that just how we relate to protagonists? Or is the protagonists’ own buried desire to be good, to be morally right, more compelling than the villainous actions we see them undertake? Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett’s Cosmic Ghost Rider 5 sees the titular character making a heroic stand at the end of a failed timeline, but ultimately confirms what we should have known all along: Frank Castle ain’t no hero. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 58: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: Just last week I dug a bit into some of the weaknesses of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps’ space-cop, “lawful good” approach to justice, and now, here comes Wonder Woman 58 to provide a hero on the exact opposite side of Hal’s coin, one who follows her own justice rather than any one set of laws. I’m definitely more on Diana’s side than Hal’s here, to be sure, but G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord don’t let their hero (and her worldview) go unexamined either. This issue seems prepared to explore numerous approaches to justice, and it makes the full scope of its grand ambitions clear when it asks the hardest question of all: “Is there any such thing as a just war?” Continue reading

Mister Miracle 12: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Mister Miracle 12

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Drew: Critics of postmodern fiction often suggest that its self-reflexiveness is flashy, but devoid of meaning. According to the argument, postmodernism is a bit like racing stripes on a car — it might be superficially appealing, but doesn’t actually change what’s under the hood. I would argue that those critics are forgetting (or perhaps taking for granted) one of the most basic roles fiction plays in our lives, as an analogy for reality, augmented and enhanced to reveal something to us about the world we live in. In that way, postmodern self-reflexivity is simply part of that analogy — particularly apt for addressing our own existential crises. There’s no clearer exemplar of this argument than Mister Miracle 12, which twists all of the miniseries’ questions about Scott Free’s reality into a moving commentary on life with depression. Continue reading

Hulk Plays Scientist in The Immortal Hulk 8

by Michael DeLaney

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

I am about to make a wildly audacious claim here: I think years from now we are going to look back on Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s work on The Immortal Hulk as some of the most influential, game-changing work on the character. The Immortal Hulk 8 continues to push the limits of what we understand about the not-so-jolly green giant. This time around we see that Hulk is as much of a scientist as Bruce Banner is. Continue reading

Coping With a Post-Truth Society in X-Men Red 10

by Spencer Irwin

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

Tom Taylor and Roge Antonio open X-Men Red 10 with a single, three-word sentence that packs so much power that it takes up an entire page’s worth of real estate.

This image has so much power because it runs counter to everything we as the audience know about Jean Grey as a character. Ultimately, though, we’re responding to it based off our pre-determined opinions and biases, deciding that it’s fake, that it clearly isn’t Jean despite no real evidence backing us up. That’s exactly how the citizens of the Marvel Universe react to this broadcast as well, and those various knee-jerk reactions provide a startlingly prescient parallel to real life politics that make X-Men Red 10 an eerie, unsettling read. Continue reading

The Desperation of Dead Rabbit 2

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

Pop culture has taught me that there are two types of robbers: those who do it for fun and those who do it out of necessity. The gang from Ocean’s Eleven get involved in wacky overcomplicated capers because George Clooney’s character wants to stick it to Andy Garcia’s. More often however – and more realistically – people turn to this particular life of crime out of desperation. Dead Rabbit 2 is a prime example of this desperation. Continue reading

Don’t Sweat the Name in Star Wars Han Solo Imperial Cadet 1

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

Let the record show: I really liked Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s a fun, well-shot flick with some charming performances and cool character designs. Plus, I absolutely love that the revolutionary L7 becomes the brain of the Millennium Falcon – that’s a bit of mythology that feels genuinely additive to every other move that the Falcon has appeared in. But there is one place where the movie gets rightfully slagged, and that’s in the prequel’s need to label every thing. It answers questions no one would ever need to ask, like “Why is Han Solo’s last name Solo?” or “Why does Han call Chewbacca ‘Chewie?”” or “Why doesn’t Lando pronounce Han’s name incorrectly?” I actually find that last one kind of charming, but it is weird how much that flick seems focused on explaining why people use the names they use. Robbie Thompson and Leonard Kirk’s Star Wars Han Solo Imperial Cadet 1 revisits some of these naming moments and ultimately convinces the reader that what we call him doesn’t matter: Han Solo is always gonna Han Solo. Continue reading

Smash-cuts Break Up the Storytelling in Outer Darkness 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Outer Darkness 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

Star Trek

Not a lot of fiction gives you a mission statement quite as clearly as Star Trek. In just a few sentences (and fragments), the opening credits establish the where, what, and why of what of an entire universe, providing fuel for decades of new iterations and reimaginings. The mission statement for Outer Darkness is a bit more complicated, building on what writer John Layman calls “dramas set on spaceships” (in the grand tradition of Star Trek), while also folding in “outer space sci-fi horror,” for which he has charmingly few examples. The result is something obviously more difficult to pin down than that clear logline of Star Trek, but while this issue doesn’t quite cover its entire mission, it absolutely articulates its storytelling sensibilities, as Layman and artist Afu Chan make some distinctive choices to broadcast their tone. Continue reading

The Green Lantern 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: Given the state of, well, everything (recently I’ve found myself answering “How are you?” with “Good…well, other than, y’know, the world“), lately I’ve been finding it harder and harder to deal with “cop stories,” or even the role of cops within non-cop stories I read. I struggle to reconcile the fact that some sort of law enforcement is necessary to deal with murderers, rapists, and those who prey on the innocent with the fact that the police, as an institution, have been infiltrated by white supremacists, abusers, and racists, are filling for-profit prisons with non-violent offenders and killing unarmed children in the street, and have generally been rendered so corrupt so as to be more harmful to the public than helpful. With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at how Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp approach the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps in The Green Lantern 1. What kind of cop story is it? I’m honestly not sure yet. Continue reading

Death of the Inhumans 5: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: I’m not sure I “get” Black Bolt. Like, as a character, his perspective is borderline impenetrable. He’s a centuries-old king, with the power to demolish a city with his voice, and one hell of a prophecy hanging over him. He is also, famously, silent. So maybe my inability to get to the heart of his motivations is built right into the character’s DNA. In the finale of Donny Cates and Ariel Olivetti’s Death of the Inhumans, Blackagar’s motivations are just as clouded as they’ve ever been. Sure, he saves some Inhumans, but why and how largely remains a mystery not revealed to the reader. Continue reading