Starbrand and Nightmask 1

Alternating Currengs: Starbrand and Nightmask, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Starbrand and Nightmask 1, originally released December 16th, 2015.

Drew: You’ll often hear comic book fans complain about superheroes being overpowered — that they’re simply too powerful for a villain to pose a credible threat. I’d actually argue that it isn’t a problem with the actual power-levels of the characters, but rather with the precedents set by the threats they face. There’s no reason Superman can’t get a kitten out of a tree, but when he’s otherwise occupied with fighting off planetary invasions, his street-level attentions seem like small potatoes. Unlike Superman, Starbrand and Nightmask were designed (or revived, as the case may be) specifically to fend off those planet-wide threats, putting the street-level conundrum at the center of their character descriptions, which makes the “Starbrand and Nightmask go to college” premise of Starbrand and Nightmask 1 particularly head-scratching.

Writer Greg Weisman does what he can to mitigate this, injecting multiple supervillains into the otherwise banal moving-to-college story, but it only highlights how odd it is for these characters to have normal lives. Indeed, even their college experience is utterly unrelatable — they didn’t apply, they don’t seem particularly excited, and they don’t have any parents there to embarrass them on tours or whatever. Their new context doesn’t humanize them, it only emphasizes how inhuman they are.

In fact, even their crime-fighting is a little strained. The issue opens with them fighting a villain who only wants to fight Iron Man. Why are Starbrand and Nightmask here, instead? Well, Starbrand saw the crime from Pluto. What were he and Nightmask doing on Pluto? We’re never told, and I honestly can’t even begin to guess. I have no frame of reference for their experiences or values, and this issue only reminds me of how alien those experiences must be.

Again, Weisman does his damndest to counteract this phenomenon, filling Starbrand and Nightmask’s dialogue with cultural references, but those seem to be in direct opposition with his characterization of Nightmask as a stiff, over-spoken alien. Maybe we’re meant to take his quoting of King Henry V and Stranger in a Strange Land as signs that he’s just a stiff, over-spoken human, but even that doesn’t jibe with the kind of guy who “hacks” a university’s enrolment records and then says “you’re welcome” for putting himself and his friend in a co-ed dorm. Gross.

The closest thing we get to meaningful characterization is Starbrand’s aversion to returning to college — he killed everyone at his former college when he became Starbrand. That this could be an actually traumatic experience for Starbrand, or that Nightmask might be forcing him to do this as a kind of exposure therapy to get him work through that trauma is glossed over in Starbrand’s insistence that this is “so not a good idea.” A meaningful (albeit heavy) emotional beat is treated as though Nightmask suggested that they jump a subway turnstile. There’s nothing in any of these characters to hold onto.

It really seems like Weisman knows how thin his material is, which is why he allows Squirrel Girl to steal an entire page. That page reads more like an issue of Squirrel Girl than anything in the rest of the issue, which I’m more than happy with, but it doesn’t reflect well on the rest of the issue. Indeed, Squirrel Girl‘s “superhero with lame-sounding powers but world-saving adventures” is more or less the opposite premise of Starbrand and Nightmask, which reveals just how flawed this series is. This isn’t the story of a silly character exceeding our expectations, this is about two painfully serious characters yukking it up in a bizarre imitation of everyman mediocrity.

About halfway through the issue, Starbrand asks Nightmask “how are two cosmic beings, who have explored the vastness of space, supposed to share a dorm room the size of a roach motel?” That is, the frustrations of a small dorm room aren’t ones of basic humanity — you know, the way everyone else who’s had this experience might be able to relate to — but because of their exceptional extra-human status. These aren’t regular guys struggling with college life, these are entitled dicks struggling with being regular.

Woof. I wasn’t sure what this series would be, but, true to Starbrand and Nightmask’s current mission, it’s fallen well below my expectations. I don’t even like the title of this series — their names are so awkward and unwieldy, I can’t help but wonder if some kind of snappy team name would have been more appealing. As it is, I’m kind of already sick of writing “Starbrand” and “Nightmask,” and that I always need to refer to them together, anyway. Patrick, were you able to find anything redeeming in this issue?

Patrick: You’re definitely not wrong to say that this issue actively works against having relatable protagonists, but I’d even go one step further and say that the entire world of Starbrand and Nightmask strains credulity. I am, for the record, totally on-board with the conceit “two superpowerful teenagers attend college” but for that premise to work, it requires both sides of that equation to represent themselves seriously. Like, you can’t buy a fish-out-of-water story if you don’t believe your characters are fish, but you also can’t buy the story if the environment doesn’t look recognizably out-of-water. Drew already mentioned a number of the ways Adam and Kevin’s college experience is completely unlike any college experience anyone ever has, but it’s also worth nothing that the Freshman Move-In Day experience is also strangely misrepresented.

Perhaps it warrants mentioning that both Drew and I worked in Residence Life and Student Affairs in student and professional capacity for years, so we’ve seen more that our fair shares of college students’ first days. It’s a little bit like when you see a movie or a television show and there’s an extra playing a musical instrument in a scene. If you have intimate knowledge of how the instrument is played, you’re likely going to be thrown out of the moment, gawking at some grotesque mimicry of “playing the trombone.” That is exactly how I felt meeting the RA, Imani Greene, who’s first words on the page are chastising freshman for not knowing how to do their own laundry. First of all, it’s move-in day: who the fuck is doing their laundry on move-in day? But second – Imani, that’s your job. No doubt she and her RA team have been brainstorming ideas to ease the transition into dorm life. Also, dorm washing machines aren’t like the machines in your mom’s basement – you probably have college-bucks on your student ID or something dumb like that. THE PROCESS REQUIRES EXPLANATION, IMANI.

Sorry, I know that’s a pretty specific quibble. But it’s demonstrative of every other shortcoming in the issue. If Starbrand and Nightmask is going to align itself so closely with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, as it explicitly does with her scene-stealing cameo, then the personality which drives it must be charming as hell. Unfortunately, Weisman’s script is frequently lacking in personality, and those odd moments that do reveal something more don’t paint a particularly appealing or engaging world. Artist Dominike “Domo” Stanton and colorist Jordan Boyd appear to acknowledge this throughout the issue. When Adam and Kevin show up at school, the rest of the world is dulled, their fellow students colored with drab grays and blues, with our titular heroes (in non-hero form) clearly standing out from the crowd.

Starbrand and Nightmask go to college

Mind you, the artistic statement here is lessened because a) neither Nightmask nor Starbrand are wearing coloring which actually make them stand out in this crowd and b) there’s very little in the text that follows that shows they feel like outsiders. That latter point is especially confusing with regard to Nightmask, who — by his own accounting — has only been alive for three years. But he seldom gets an opportunity to demonstrate his otherness; in fact he barely interacts with anyone not Starbrand, and no one even gives a shit that they’re weird. Don’t have any worldly possessions? Who cares! No one calls them on it, or demands an explanation or anything. They’re tourists at some kind of make-believe college-zoo, which is exactly as boring as it sounds.

It would have been fun to like this one. Weisman is an effective action-adventure writer, with a skill for expressing complex juvenile personalities, as demonstrated in his surprisingly good Kanan The Last Padawan series. Ultimately, I see very little to come back for in this series.

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14 comments on “Starbrand and Nightmask 1

  1. Whenever we disagree, I always go back and reread the comic to figure out how wrong I am. Much of the time, I am wrong, the stuff I hated was better than I thought and the stuff I liked wasn’t as good on rereading as I thought it was the first time.

    This time, however… Man, we’re opposite.on this one. I was sort of dreading it from the cover, even though I’ve been fans of these characters since the ’80s. (Although rereading The New Universe stuff is tough, tough sledding. It was mostly pretty terrible.)

    I loved this comic. I laughed at the jokes (and yes, the best was Tippy Toe doing the robot but I also quite liked the referencing/quoting arguments) and liked the characters. In the end, I liked the story, liked the characters, and wanted to know what happened next to them. I even ended up liking the art, which isn’t normally my style.

    I was going to try to quote some of your complaints with the story and explain how I saw it, but damn, nearly every page you hated I liked.

    I will point out one thing from personal experience. I was a freshman in college in 1988. It was a long time ago and my memories of it mostly seem like stories about someone else. However, about two months in, I was talking to a guy in my Calc class and I found out HE LIVED IN A COED DORM!!! I didn’t live in a co-ed dorm. How did that happen? How did he get that? Why did I live in a building with all guys? What the hell? To me, the coed dorm joke wasn’t gross, it was a joke that hit pretty close to home. (While looking this up, I found out the dorm tower I lived in back then was left empty Fall 2015 for the first time and will most likely be demolished. I didn’t need to feel old this morning. Stupid memories making me old…)

    • See, a guy finding out about a coed dorm months into his college experience and wishing he lived there is a much more interesting story than two guys who can do whatever the fuck they want doing whatever the fuck they want. Again, they can apparently transmute matter and spot problems from halfway across the solar system, but they’ve prioritized rigging the system so they can maybe see girls in towels on a semi-regular basis. I maintain that that’s a gross priority, and only makes these profoundly powerful characters seem all the more petty and selfish.

  2. Like kaif, I also disagree, though for my experience credentials, I have to say that I, like most people at my university, didn’t dorm.

    I think you are missing the point of the exercise when you talk about why these cosmic powerhouses are going to college. While achieving very different ends to the Vision, it is exploring the same contrasts. The point is that even as they are all powerful, they also have the struggles of being outsiders in college. It is the classic engine that fueled Marvel Comics since they introduced that spider fellow.

    I will say that I was expecting more. While you guys called Kanan ‘surprisingly good’, Weisman is a legend in animation circles. So seeing him return to comics is great. But this was charming, and not a lot more. Too busy setting the scene, it felt, and the most interesting thing, Kong seeing them transform, happened at the very end.

    I felt this comic proved to be a perfectly adequate start, and will be willing to read on. It will be interesting to see what happens when the table is properly set, and we properly see Kevin and Adam interact with others. I’m willing to give this time.

    I mean, it already had the best example of a superhero erection I can remember since the first Spiderman movie had Peter ‘discover’ his webs when looking at Mary Jane

    • I absolutely appreciate that they’re trying to Spider-Man-ify these characters, but I really don’t think that formula works for characters that are this powerful. Spider-Man is classically a street-level hero, so his life fits in naturally into his concerns. Starbrand and Nightmask couldn’t be further from street level, so attempts at normalcy are inherently at odds with their powersets. I agree that that can be a compelling scenario (plenty of Superman stories are about the struggle reconciling those two goals), but I think it’s totally botched here. Starbrand and Nightmask are introduced as characters that could, if they wanted to, easily solve every issue plaguing the world. Instead, they use their powers to ensure they live in a coed dorm (for a school they didn’t even have to bother applying for because they’re so above the petty constraints of humanity). Superman can work because he’s selfless, but this issue goes in the opposite direction, establishing Starbrand and Nightmask as almost pathologically selfish.

      I know you’re going to hate me bringing this up, I think it’s fair to expect this issue to establish what motivates them — Hickman never really bothered to characterize either of them, and this is the first issue. “I’m a planetary defence mechanism” is the closest we get, and is effectively meaningless. Give me a reason I can relate to. Superman fights for Truth, Justice, and the American way because he was raised by people who believed in it. Spider-Man understands the responsibility of his powers because he found out the hard way. These guys apparently fight crime in between visits to Pluto and scamming their way into college because they can (which is the same non-reason they visit Pluto and scam their way into college).

      More than anything, though, this issue just doesn’t make me care about them. As you say, a hero with a rocky love life is pretty standard faire, but it’s the closest thing any of these characters have to a real struggle. Peter Parker has relationship issues, sure, but he also has to work his butt off just to make ends meet and take care of his aunt. These guys can do whatever the fuck they want, and this issue shows them doing exactly that. Relationship struggles can only come across as whiny when literally every other part of your life is perfect. I’ll point back to that line about sharing a small dorm room — it’s not hard because the space is small for two people, it’s hard because the space is small for “two cosmic beings, who have explored the vastness of space.” It’s not “this room is too small,” it’s “this room is too small for me.” That difference may seem small, but it’s what separates a relatable character from a gratingly entitled one.

      • ‘Starbrand and Nightmask couldn’t be further from street level, so attempts at normalcy are inherently at odds with their powersets.’

        This, of course, is the central conflict of the story. It is the equivalent of ‘the Vision in suburbia’, ‘cancer patient in Asgardian War’ or ‘Happy Daredevil’. An inherent contradiction, something that doesn’t make sense, and therefore the drama is explored by seeing how these two contradictory elements interact. It is the chemistry of storytelling. In the Vision, the contradiction is horrifying, twisting the world around it until something goes very, very wrong. In Thor, Jane Foster’s normal life is shown to be greater than the epics of Asgard, in that it gives her a more solid foundation than the others around her. In Waid’s Daredevil, the contradiction is just completely ignored, creating an inert story that you eventually drop out of frustration, but that’s Waid for you. I mean, I actually reject the idea that Peter Parker works because he is street level. What makes Peter Parker work is that he is a guy so powerful that he can stop all these supervillains, yet not powerful enough to survive dating, or help Aunt May when she’s sick. The supervillains he fights aren’t supposed to be similar to his normal life, they are supposed to be completely different. Peter Parker, quite simply, can’t use the same tricks that he uses to deal with the school bully or the girl he fancies that he uses on drugged up mad scientists. They are two completely different worlds. The fact that Starbrand and Nightmask save galaxies instead of cities doesn’t change that dramatic engine, to me. The drama has always come from the fact that their abilities, as powerful as they are, aren’t the right sort of abilities. Being able to spot the Blizzard from Pluto is the utterly wrong ability when dealing with talking to your RA.

        Never complain about talking about motivation, as it is an important part of characters. Everything I said in out epic Robin War debate was simply me attempting to prove that all the motivation needed for the story existed. But I think the interesting thing about Starbrand and Nightmask is how they have inverted the basic idea. I mean, is there anything in this issue that suggests a real care for the superhero side? Most of it was them in college, and even the cliffhanger fight at the end made a point to draw attention to Kong learning who they are. Hickman messed up Starbrand and Nightmask, as part of the general failure that was the Avengers half of his Incursion story (don’t want to call it the buildup to Secret Wars, as I think it is its own story even as Secret Wars is its followup/sequel). But I don’t think Weisman is interested in exploring what motivated them to be heroes. I think Weisman is interested in exploring what motivates them to be people. As much as I used the Peter Parker example, it is as inversion of Spiderman. Spiderman is about a normal person learning ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’ and becoming a superhero, Starbrand and Nightmask is about two people learning ‘my role as the planetary defense mechanism is compromised if I am not part of the actual planet’ and becoming normal people (this is also why I reject your selfishness complaint. Nightmask clearly says that he feels this is an important part of improving their effectiveness as protectors of Earth). Yes, we still don’t know a lot about what motivates them as heroes, but considering the story is ‘Two walking gods decide to enroll in college to better connect with humanity’, what makes you think that aspect of their story is the important one? You don’t need to know why the Vision is a superhero to enjoy the Vision.

        And the struggle comes from the fact that they don’t fit in. Nightmask seems to be acting as more of a mentor role in the story, but Starbrand is shown to very clearly having disconnected from the rest of humanity. His life isn’t perfect. He may fly around the vastness of space with godlike powers, but he hasn’t had a proper relationship with anyone but Adam in 8 months. His struggle isn’t asking a cute girl out. His struggle is becoming a part of the world again, after divorcing from it when he accidentally blew up his last college when his powers awakened. Starbrand is struggling with his very humanity. So maybe they hacked into the school records so that they could join college (something I’m treating with all the respect that the issue itself treated it as, as merely the necessary justification to set up the premise but ultimately unimportant in the scheme of things). And maybe, just like so, so many college students, they are surprised at just how small their new living space is.

        But ultimately, we have a very clear motivation (reconnect with Starbrand’s humanity by developing actual relationships with normal people) and a character who faces real struggles (disconnecting from humanity, guilt over his activation of superpowers burning down his last school). Not the sort of motivation we expect from Spiderman, but that is because it is inverting the Spiderman template it is using. It isn’t a story about normal people becoming heroes. It is about heroes becoming normal people.

        • I think we agree on the main points (though I may have been a tad too glib in my explanation to actually be clear) — especially when it comes to this series being a kind of inversion of the Spider-Man formula. For me, that’s exactly why this doesn’t work.

          It’s not necessarily that Peter uses the same skills when dealing with his costumed/civilian life, it’s that the scope of those two lives are relatively close together. He’s “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” so his relationship is with his neighborhood (though, admittedly, that’s usually expanded to the entire city of New York, and occasionally to the world). That’s the only way the tension between Spider-Man and Peter Parker works — that he could be reasonably conflicted by his decisions. Sometimes, saving the day as Spider-Man means letting his loved ones down, but sometimes, it’s more important that he go to May’s for dinner than patrol the city. There’s none of that tension when your job is to literally defend the planet — that will always take priority over anything else. Moral relativism doesn’t always carry the day when Peter is forced to chose between saving Mary Jane or a busload of boy scouts, but it gets a hell of a lot less nuanced when you replace “busload of boy scouts” for “the entire eastern hemisphere” or something.

          But that’s reading a lot into one issue, which, as I suggest in the piece, doesn’t seem all that interested in tension or emotional stakes. You point out that this issue doesn’t take their means of enrolling in college particularly seriously, but I tend to think that this issue doesn’t take anything seriously. I think Patrick hit the nail on the head when he suggested that neither the characters nor their situation is fleshed out in a relatable way.

          I think the parallels to The Vision is interesting, especially because I enjoyed that series so much. Part of that is certainly the creative teams — The Vision features distinctive narration, art, and a unique tone, while this series feels likes same-y nothingness — but the other part is that this series requires me to be invested in the humanity of Starbrand and Nightmask, which it utterly fails to elicit. If Starbrand and Nightmask’s alienation from humanity is a problem, shouldn’t there be a way to illustrate that? A situation that would reveal it to them and us? Instead, Adam just explains that it’s a problem to everyone, which isn’t enough to hook me. Plus, they come off as entitled and unpleasant — seriously, everybody‘s dorm room is small, the only people who say it out loud are absolute assholes (and that’s without the “small spaces are especially hard for me because I’m so special” sentiment).

        • Are we friends here? We’re at least friendly. If I ran into you in person at a con or a 7-11, I’d buy you a beer, or at least a bag of chips from the concession stand. So I need to know: It seems like there’s a huge, huge, gigantic sticking point with them and the size of the dorm room. Far beyond what I’d expected. Is there a reason?

          Personally, I lived in a dorm room for one year, and my first roommate was such a jerk that his nickname on the floor was “Dickhead.” Dickhead Raycraft, from Normal, IL. He got special permission to move out after one semester and go live at the Sigma Chi house. I ran into him a couple years later and he was still a dickhead. My second roommate was a 21 year old sophomore who started college two years after graduation (and I don’t remember why) and transferred in and was very, very serious about studying engineering. He didn’t fit in with the rest of us who probably didn’t take our first year of college quite serious enough. And I think we ALL complained at some point about the size of our rooms.

          I’m just curious. I haven’t talked to anyone about dorms or even thought about dorms for 20+ years. Until now, about intergalactic, entitled assholes, who I kind of liked and didn’t find assholey at all, so I’m really, really curious.

        • I would highly disagree with what the central tension of a Spiderman story is. It is rarely a tense choice about whether Peter will go have dinner with Aunt May or fight the Green Goblin. The tension comes from the fact that we know Peter is going to suffer the consequences of choosing to go fight Green Goblin instead of going to Aunt May’s. Peter will always go and fight the Green Goblin, quite simply because if a school of kids die because Peter Parker made the choice not to go and fight Green Goblin, he no longer becomes a character that is sympathetic enough to function. So the fact that Starbrand is fighting Galactus instead of the Green Goblin doesn’t change the central tension. The fact that while Kevin was out saving lives, he missed his date with the RA, and he has to deal with the consequences. That is the tension of Peter Parker, and the tension exists whether he is fighting Green Goblin or Galactus (the Mary Jane or busload of boy scouts moment is a special case, in which it is during the moment where the worlds actually collide. In this special case, the tension comes from how will Peter Parker do both).

          I wouldn’t put too much into my reference to the Vision. The Vision is my favourite Marvel comic, but my mention of it is primarily as an example of the sort of comic that uses contradiction to explore drama, which is why I also mentioned Thor and Waid’s Daredevil (though Waid’s Daredevil completely failed at exploring it). The Vision is closer than most, as it shares the idea of dehumanized figures connecting with humanity, but it has one truly massive difference. The Vision is a horror book, about figures that fit in so poorly that it is unnatural, and everything burns. Starbrand and Nightmask is not that book. It is an inversion of the Peter Parker story. It is interested in dehumanized figures actually reconnecting with their human sides, and doing it through the lens of a Peter Parker style school story. Of course it is going to be tonally on that rhythm. You are right that they didn’t do a good enough job illustrating Kevin’s alienation. There is a reason I only called it perfectly adequate. The scene in China could have used a civilian that Keven completely failed socially with.

          It not connecting with you is perfectly fine. Weisman, surprisingly, used too much telling instead of showing. Again, there was a reason I only called it perfectly adequate. But the problem comes from that, not the underlying premise or the fact that these characters are too powerful. I have faith in Weisman, who previously has managed to use superheroes to tell powerful stories about body image, substance abuse, abusive families, consent and all sorts of stuff like that through the lens of superheroes, so I am willing to see what he does once he has stated his premise and gets the chance to explore everything. But I also think it is wrong to say that it doesn’t take anything seriously. There is no tongue in cheek when discussing Kevin having not had a relationship with anyone for eight months, nor in the recap page where it makes very clear that Kevin’s activation was responsible for the destruction of his old college.

          And yeah, I’m pretty sure everyone complains about the size of their rooms. Like kaif, I don’t think it is as entitled as you think it is

  3. My take on all this:

    Starbrand’s fucked in the head. He was a schlup who just was existing a lower level peon life at school, accidentally killed a ton of people when he got this power, didn’t really want the power and really wanted to just be a schlub. He hung out in space with the Avengers but really spent his time with Nightmask who wasn’t even really a person, at least not as we think. He eventually grew into his power and made the ultimate sacrifice in saving all of existence by fighting the Beyonders or whatever in Avengers and died.

    Nightmask was even less defined, other than being a little robotic and kind of Starbrand’s keeper and even though I read Nightmask 1 way back in 1986 (’87?), I can’t really define exactly what this one does.

    To me, this isn’t a Peter Parker story. This is a Thor or Hercules story if they had a zero year or year one story. This is about fucking GODS trying to find their place with humans. One of them knows what he’s doing (kind of, Nightmask) and the other is mindfucked by all of the power. He knows he’s now supposed to be the Earth defense system, and he’ll do it, and even have some fun trying, but he wants to stay the hell away because he’s still afraid of what he is.

    So Nightmask tries to get him back to earth to understand what he’s fighting for because he’s lost that part of it.

    ———-

    Anyway, it seems all so weird to me when I read your criticisms about how they’re entitled assholes doing all this weird creepy selfish shit because I got absolutely zero of that. Starbrand has zero agency in his human interactions. He’s lost. Why are they in college? Because Starbrand is about 20 and Nightmask looks like he’s about 20 (although I don’t know if he could change that) and that’s what 20 year olds do. Starbrand’s secret identity might even be dead, Nightmask isn’t a person and didn’t take the SAT, so they can’t exactly apply online to Empire State. But Starbrand’s brain isn’t quite right, so Nightmask pulls some strings and gets them in school, and AROUND GIRLS, because Starbrand used to like girls and doesn’t now, so get around some girls. Could they have done that at the Empire State square dance club or board game club or save the greenpeace club, sure. But it seems the RA has something about her (I’m guessing blown up but survived in Starbrand’s creation), and this was author choice on how to put his real life in a diverse group, which includes both genders, so there it is.

    It’s about a god who forgot how to be a person, so his best friend who isn’t a person either trying to find a way to get him to connect to that side of him too. To me, it was a fun and engaging story about people who forgot how to be people due to tragedy (Starbrand) or never was a person at all. Plus, defend the planet from cosmic level events. I liked it a lot.

    I’ll admit I’m a bit of a sucker for stories of people who have power but lost themselves and try to come back from it, sometimes kicking and screaming (or bitching and moaning, which is how Starbrand trended) as their friends and family do whatever they can to help (This really has a lot in common with issues 1 and 2 of Hercules I thought). Which is how I read this particular comic and why I’m still astonished that your guys’ read was “Look at these two entitled assholes. Fuck those guys.” We’re far, far apart on this story, which is cool.

    • Thor/Herucles is certainly a fantastic way of looking at it. I personally love the ‘inverted Peter Parker’ description, because if you take every aspect of Peter Parker and reverse the emphasis, you get this book. But yeah, Thor coming to Earth to learn humility is also another great way of describing this book.

      And you have a great way of summing up my arguments in a very clear way.

  4. You guys have both made a lot of good points, so rather than making a bunch of little responses, I’ll just put my thoughts here.

    I haven’t read any Thor outside of Aaron’s run, which hasn’t ever featured Thor being human — indeed, one of the best issues followed him doing only god things. I have to admit that I still haven’t checked out Hercules, in spite of Kaif’s numerous recommendations.

    As far as the “inverted Peter Parker” analogy, I think the only way Peter can maintain any semblance of real life is that his Spider-Manning is limited to what he can see, hear, and spider-sense. He can’t sense a crime in Brooklyn when he’s in Manhattan, let alone stop it. This issue makes it explicitly clear that Starbrand and Nightmask can sense crimes on the other side of the galaxy and arrive there instantaneously. This is what I meant about their scope being too big. They can’t have a normal life without intentionally ignoring every holdup, car crash, industrial accident, natural disaster, or anything else going on anywhere on Earth. It’s inherently selfish.

    I’m sorry if my comments on their reactions to the dorm room was insulting — that really wasn’t my intention. There’s a big difference between what real people do and how fictional characters are introduced. I might say something mean to a loved one or something like that, but those moments aren’t crafted by a writer to introduce me to an audience. Every line of dialogue matters — especially in a first issue, where we don’t have any other context to put these lines into. These moments have to stand on their own. Its entirely possible I’m blowing this out of proportion (I haven’t had a chance to reread the issue since this conversation started, what with holiday travels and all), but that was my reaction upon first reading it. As always, I say this just to clarify my reaction — not to convince anyone to read it my way. I’m honestly happy you guys enjoyed it, I just really didn’t.

    • I haven’t been reading Slott’s Spiderman, as it has never felt right to me. But I remember this site discussing an issue that Slott did, where Anna Maria talks to Peter about how he goes all about Spiderman wrong, due to having such a desperate need to repent for Uncle Ben’s death and following ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’ that, quite simply, he has been handling his power poorly. I believe there was a scene where he hears about a fire on a police radio, jumps into action, and then Anna Maria tells his to stop, sit down, and ignore it, only for the radio to say police ar eon the scene, and everything is fine. Which, of course, was Anna Maria’s point. Peter Parker doesn’t have to be everywhere. And I assume that this lesson is playing a key part of his current status quo, where Peter Parker has actually realized that he can do more good by, instead of jumping at every fire and car accident, realizing that he isn’t the only first responder and therefore allocating his SPiderman time more responsibly (and tying back into the famous line. Not using power properly is, by definition, not a responsible use of power. Peter Parker neglected the power of his intelligence, and only by rethinking the best way to be Spiderman did he actually sort everything out and use his power in a responsible way).

      Quite simply, Starbrand and Nightmask do have great powers. But they alos live in a universe where there are normal first responders like police and firemen, as well as all sorts of other superheroes. And every planet has equivalent stuff, like the Shi’arr Imperial Guard. And that isn’t including the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy are flying around. Yeah, if Galactus is about to eat a planet and they are aware of it (and the Silver Surfer, or someone else suitably cosmic isn’t there to deal with it), it is their responsibility to get there as quickly as they can (I think the Superflow is a shortcut, not instant) and help.

      A police officer isn’t selfish for ignoring a car accident, when other police officers are closer, because that means that the police officer can do other things to help while the others are distracted. Peter Parker isn’t selfish when he ignores a car accident, to run a billion dollar company with an emphasis on philanthropy. And Kevin and Adam aren’t selfish when they ignore a car accident, to undergo what is, ultimately, a strategy to improve Kevin’s effectiveness against the sort of threats that, unlike the smaller threats, he is one of the few people who can handle it (and that’s ignoring the fact that it is truly important to be responsible for your own mental health, especially when you have powers like Kevin does).

      Starbrand and Nightmask live in a world full of superheroes, policemen, firemen and ambulance drivers, all helping in their own ways. They can sue their powers responsibly and selflessly without responding to each and every problem. Especially when they use their ‘free time’ in a responsible way, like look after the mental health of the Starbrand and ensure that when Starbrand is truly needed, he is operating at the highest possible level.

      And I didn’t find your comments about the dorm room insulting at all. You are certainly correct that we must never forget that a story is crafted, every scene chosen, every line written was chosen, and therefore deserves to be judged as a choice. We understand that. We are just arguing that there is a clear reason for that choice, that it reflects a universal of experience. That Kevin reacts the way he does to the room because that’s how everyone reacts. Not a sign of entitlement, but that Kevin is just a person, like everyone else. To me, it was one of the most ‘ordinary’ and ‘human’ parts of the book, and a scene chosen to convey that sense that he is like us (though the scene that did it best is when Kevin’s Starbrand powers activate slightly when he sees the RA)

    • I didn’t take anything as insulting, I was just surprised because we read it so differently. And we’re on the same page as far as enjoyment goes: I’m always happy when you guys like something, whether I like it or not. I’m also usually trying to clarify my position or taste; Tastes should vary, and while we’re all brilliant and funny and most likely amazing looking, it seems reasonable that occasionally we’d like different things.

      I’m eager to see this weeks reception of Moon Girl (which I’ve read and know what I think) and Angela (which I haven’t read, but I know what I thought about the first two issues and will try to read this time as a dark comedy)…

      • Didn’t read Angela, but read a preview that had the most meta joke ever. Between that preview and a gag in the recent New Avengers, I swear Bennet and Ewing are desperately fighting to be the next GIllen, now that he has left the Marvel universe.

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