A Story Deepened by Shades of Gray in Darth Vader 17

by Spencer Irwin

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

Throughout their run on Darth Vader Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli have created (and/or reintroduced) a fascinating set of supporting and one-off characters, but for my money, the most intriguing is Jedi Master Ferren Barr. Last month Patrick already seemed suspicious of Barr’s methods, and in Darth Vader 17 the creative team doubles down on the shades of gray surrounding Barr. It’s the questions surrounding him and his methods that make Barr so interesting, especially as a Jedi. Continue reading

Malice in Civility in Mister Miracle 9

By Patrick Ehlers

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

War is hell. It is economically, physically, and psychologically catastrophic for both those waging war and anyone unfortunate enough to be in war’s orbit. But ending a war? Ending a war requires one of two things: one side to be completely destroyed, or an agreement to be reached between the warring parties. Most wars end the second way. Which is borderline unfathomable, right? Imagine sitting down to negotiate with someone who has been systematically, enthusiastically, killing your friends and family every day for months or years. Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle 9 wrestles with the dissonance of trying to make peace out of war. Continue reading

Character Drives the Drama in Marvel Rising Alpha 1

by Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Mogge

Marvel Rising Alpha

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

Drew: For most of my mid-20s, I worked for an academic summer program — basically, summer camp for nerds. As with most work with youth, the job was both rewarding and frustrating, with unexpected problems often interrupting the flow of what we might imagine a “normal” day to be. Indeed, those unexpected problems came up so regularly, that my boss’s regular refrain was “don’t let the urgent crowd out the important” — that is, don’t forget the part of the job that isn’t putting out fires. It’s straightforward advice, insisting that every part of the job is important, but I think it’s particularly salient when dealing with kids — you don’t want the loudest, most poorly-behaved students to command all of the attention, as the quiet, well-behaved students might be struggling just as much. It’s a hard balance to strike, especially for the college-aged students we hired as instructors, so I understand exactly why Doreen Green makes the missteps she does in Marvel Rising: Alpha 1. Continue reading

Eternity Girl 4 Skips Through the Comics Multiverse

By Drew Baumgartner

Eternity Girl 4

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

Comics critics are bad at talking about art. I suspect there are a few overlapping causes — some critics are diehard fans of specific characters, so are more invested in what happens to those characters than they are acknowledging that they live in a fictional world created by real human beings; others are (nominally) writers, so are have an affinity towards writing, which doesn’t leave much room (or knowledge) for anything else. And to be clear, I’m not suggesting that I’m any better. As a non-artist, it’s easy for me to get caught up in the most superficial elements of a given artist’s style. Defying that tendency has always been what excites me about artist Sonny Liew. My first exposure to Liew’s work was his original graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which is part biography, part retrospective on a fictional comics artist, requiring that Liew modulate his style between the docudrama and epistolary elements. The effect was downright magical, creating the sense that there truly was a second artist creating all of the diegetic comics. It effectively defies my tendency to pigeonhole an artist based on “their” style. It’s that skill that Liew taps into with Eternity Girl 4, offering us multiple iterations (and styles) of the life and times of Caroline Sharp. Continue reading

Secrets Don’t Stay Secret for Long in Dead Hand 3

By Spencer Irwin

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

Secrets rarely stay secret for long, but this is especially true when kids are involved. Younger children will repeat anything and everything to anybody, while older children and teenagers tend to be naturals at sniffing out lies and seeing through bullshit. What this means for the cast of Kyle Higgins and Stephen Mooney’s Dead Hand is that the secret of Mountain View is coming closer and closer to being revealed — unfortunately for them, the loss of that secret could very well mean the end of the world in a fiery nuclear holocaust.  Continue reading

Doom’s Secret Origin in Marvel Two-In-One Annual 1

By Drew Baumgartner

Marvel Two-in-One Annual 1

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

Each is described as being the strongest man in the world and each as battling against “evil and injustice.”

Judge Augustus Hand (writing for the majority)
Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc.

Augustus Hand served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1928 to his death in 1953, and just might be the most quoted judge when it comes to the definition of the superhero, owing to the decision he wrote when the Second Circuit ruled that Wonder Man did indeed constitute copyright infringement on Superman. His decision provided a revealing definition for the genre, insisting not just on superpowers, but a selfless, pro-social mission. Indeed, it’s not until after that decision that you see superheroes whose superpowers and pro-social mission are seen as separate things, with perhaps separate origins. That is, while Superman fought crime because he could, and Batman became a superhero specifically to fight crime, Spider-Man only picked up his pro-social mission after Uncle Ben died, well after he’d been using his powers for decidedly less selfless purposes. In that way, we might understand Marvel Two-In-One Annual 1 as a key part of Victor Von Doom’s superhero origin; it’s the story of how he became a good guy. Continue reading

Plastic Man 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: The first JLA comic I ever read was an issue from Joe Kelly’s early 2000s run. The story found Martian Manhunter corrupted and turned against a hopelessly outmatched League. The only hero who could stand up to him was, surprisingly, Plastic Man, whose shapeshifting skills were on par with J’onn’s and whose elastic brain resisted his telepathy entirely. Plastic Man was also an interesting contrast to the rest of the uber-serious League, a walking visual gag who cracked wise even as he fought the most powerful being on Earth one-on-one. That issue impressed on me the value of Plastic Man and the unique charm he adds to the DC universe. Gail Simone and Adriana Melo clearly understand the character’s appeal, and it’s ultimately Plastic Man’s charisma that carries Plastic Man 1 in its shakier moments. Continue reading

The Fix 12 is a Perfect Revenge Fantasy Parody

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a roaring rampage of revenge. I roared. I rampaged. And I got bloody satisfaction.”

The Bride, Kill Bill

I tend to struggle with revenge fantasies. The objective of the protagonist is too prescribed for me, as though the sentiment “I want the people who made me suffer to feel what I feel” is a universal impulse. That is, of course, part of the genius of Kill Bill: the revenge fantasy is challenged the second Beatrix Kiddo sees the life she’s sworn to ruin. It’s a twist on the formula, just like Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s The Fix 12. The motivation remains the same, but our hero’s efficacy is the variable. Roy’s complete inability to get revenge for Mac’s death makes this issue a borderline genre spoof, and it’s just so perfect. Continue reading

The Tantalization of Other Timelines in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 305

by Taylor Anderson

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

Every time I read a news story about a tweet our current commander in chief sends out, I can’t help but think how his predecessor or opponent in the election wouldn’t debase themselves in such a way. This inevitably leads me to wonder what an alternate timeline might look like where the current president didn’t win the election. What would the country look like? Would the oval office still be dignified and one that engenders respect and appreciation? I have some ideas about that, but I can never be sure exactly what that timeline holds. This idea, of other timelines, is tantalizing and one all people think about, and as such, it dominates the narrative of the Spectacular Spider-Man 305. Continue reading

Indifference is the Enemy in Analog 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“Oona can handle herself…”

Analog 3

We find ourselves in a wholly irrational place in history — a swing away from progressive ideals. Regressive. Part of what makes this era so fucked up is that we believed ourselves to be beyond history. The concept of the “end of history” is contingent on society having reached a perfect state of civility. There would be no war, no famine, no racism, no inequality, no income disparity if only we reached this civil equilibrium. Here’s the problem: we never got close to perfection before white America declared that we were living in a post-racial world. And why would they? We are Americans and we are exceptional! We saved the world from the most obvious evil history has ever seen, and everything since 1945 has been a victory lap. Essentially, the belief has been that the system would find justice, or that society can “handle itself.” Gerry Duggan and David O’Sullivan’s Analog 3 explores the dangers of expecting a situation to fix itself. Continue reading