We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing Sam Wilson: Captain America 2, New Avengers 2, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1.
Sam Wilson: Captain America 2
Drew: I used to think of the “media” half of “social media” as an indicator of it’s material — I might describe it as photos and text in the same way I might describe an artist’s media as paint or ink. More recently, I’ve come to understand that people use “social media” as an alternative to “traditional media” — that is, a source of meaningful information about the world that isn’t just selfies and cat gifs. There are a number of reasons why this is distressing, but the biggest one might be the loss of editorial oversight. Without any rigorous method of checking facts, a distorted or misunderstood “story” can be retweeted and repeated long before anyone can step in to correct it, exaggerating those distortions and misunderstandings. There are plenty of real-world examples of this (I’m embarrassed to admit that we’re not immune to this kind of thing), but none could be more salient than knee-jerk reaction to Sam Wilson: Captain America 1 — a fact that issue 2 seems designed to highlight.
Sam sets to giving us “the short version” of how he and Steve came to the stand-off that ended issue 1, and it’s obvious that even his abridged version wouldn’t fit in 140 characters.
Issue 1 certainly had some extreme moments, but this issue serves to place them in context. Nothing here seems particularly controversial, and that’s exactly the point: if we fire off after only a tiny portion of the story comes in, we’re probably reacting more to our own imaginations than actual events. A little more time and a little more information goes a long way, making everyone who jumped the gun look a little silly (or at least like misinformed bros).
That’s not to say this series isn’t trading in controversial subjects — the immigration debate rears its head here — just that it’s not nearly as partisan as people accused it of being. Actually, the most brazen criticism seems to be of social media culture generally. Writer Nick Spencer doesn’t pull his punches on that subject at all — twitter is called by name, rather than any “chirper” or “tweeter” stand-in that we’re used to seeing in fiction. Of course, it’s hard for anyone to defend twitter from what Spencer is accusing it of here — all the evidence is in his own twitter feed from the last few weeks.
Patrick: Man, even the idea that twitter would need to be defended against Spencer is so backwards it makes my head hurt. If anyone needed a “save me from twitter button” in the last few weeks it’s him.
Actually, on that subject, I do find it fascinating where Spencer chooses to use real-world people, companies and ideas and where he decides to fudge it and use a Marvel Universe equivalent. When poor Sam is just trying to get through his miserable middle-seat flight, he’s straight-up listening to This American Life, as hosted by Ira Glass. The voice on the podcast identifies himself as the real NPR personality, and even gives the name of the show explicitly. But when it comes to the mystery and the controversy within the world of the issue, we’re dealing with a leak named “The Whisperer” revealing a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” program called “Koblick.” But these are all stand-ins, superhero and supervillain versions of issues from the real world. The Whisperer, and the government reaction’s to him, represent Edward Snowden, and Koblick represents anything the government does that US citizens might not be too happy about (the clearest analogue here is probably data collection).
But Drew’s right that it’s not the issues themselves that are important to the creative team, it’s how the issues are discussed (or not discussed) and understood (or not understood) by the world at large. Back to Drew’s point about editorial oversight and fact-checking – remember, we did get This American Life name checked in this issue. Is Spencer trying to remind us that responsible media is still out there?
New Avengers 2
Spencer: Perhaps even moreso than the first issue, New Avengers 2 demonstrates just what Sunspot’s new A.I.M is capable of on a technical level. While it’s not short on insightful character beats (from Songbird’s world-weariness to the moment Sunspot must take to compose himself before tackling this newest crisis), writer Al Ewing mostly focuses this issue on the process A.I.M. follows to solve the Life-Minus dilemma and the mix of abilities the New Avengers call upon to implement the plan. I’m an absolute sucker for that kind of stuff, so needless to say, this worked like gangbusters for me. That said, I’m also fond of the way Ewing is building the Maker (Ultimate Reed Richards) into a foil for the New Avengers.
If Reed Richards is a super-scientist and explorer, than the Maker is a version of him who has lost his way and no longer cares if his experiments are ethical. He values knowledge simply for knowledge’s sake and will even recklessly pursue ideas that could destroy the world, and that’s a far cry from how A.I.M. aims to use their knowledge and resources to solve crises and improve the world. That’s a pretty compelling hook to hang the conflict between A.I.M. and W.H.I.S.P.E.R. upon, and I can’t wait to see it explored further.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1
Michael: I’ve always thought that the trick to climbing the ranks in the Big Two is by revamping, revitalizing or simply just telling an engaging story with a lesser known character. I mean let’s be honest here: Geoff Johns is very much responsible for Green Lantern being a household name. And while I don’t know if Squirrel Girl will ever break into the pop culture zeitgeist the way that GL has, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a testament to Ryan North’s writing prowess. Even if you know next to nothing about Squirrel Girl (like me, outside of her being Jessica Jones’ nanny), North builds comedic patterns within the structure of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1 that are so very easy to love. The plot of this issue is: establish our cast of characters, have Doreen (Squirrel Girl)’s mother meet her roommate and help rehabilitate an old school Marvel villain; simple enough. That last plot point may in fact be my favorite part of this book. North frames ‘70s HYDRA villain Brain Drain as a sympathetic character who wasn’t in control of his actions who sought out Squirrel Girl because she “has a way of helping.” Though there is a case of the “classic comic book misunderstanding,” it’s awesome that Doreen is thought of as someone who wants to help bad guys and not just punch them. When Doreen is trying to find any potential weaknesses that Brain Drain might have she pulls out “Deadpool’s Guide to Supervillains.” I think it’s extremely fitting that this book points to Deadpool as a point of reference. With its self-aware style, pop culture tropes and comedic grounding, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl could indeed follow in the footsteps of Marvel’s “Merc with a mouth.”
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?