Color and Foreshadowing in Astonishing X-Men 6

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: Over the weekend, a friend who had fallen out of comics asked me how the Iron Man comics were these days. He was last reading like four years ago, when Kieron Gillen was writing about the secret origin of Tony Stark. Between the Tony Stark A.I., Riri Williams, and a reformed Doctor Doom, I realized it was almost impossible to walk him through all of it in any meaningful way. I mean, just explaining how / why Doom could be a good guy requires briefing him on all of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and Secret Wars run. And in summary, it all sounds nuts — like the ramblings of a lunatic — but the moment-to-moment fireworks display that brought us to that point was exciting, compelling, and fun. That’s exactly what we get in Astonishing X-Men, a technicolor extravaganza content to sell the spectacle of the moment over the logic of the scene. But, man: what a spectacle it is! Continue reading

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The Fix 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

The Fix 10

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

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You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Drew: If that quote doesn’t feel like it fits this issue, it’s because it doesn’t. Where The Dark Knight explores the ideas of good, evil, and the moral relativism that exists in between, The Fix is gleefully amoral, concerned less with good and bad as it is with whatever its protagonists can get away with. Which is to say, a quote about heroes and villains doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the world of The Fix. But I wonder if we strip away the morality from that quote, if we might get something a bit more universal (if still deeply pessimistic): you either die happy, or you live long enough to see yourself become miserable. The ordering of those outcomes betrays a cynical worldview that The Dark Knight (or at least Harvey Dent) shares with The Fix, one that presumes things are inclined to get worse. Of course, while The Dark Knight spun that cynicism into tragedy, The Fix funnels it into dark humor, making any successes Roy or Mac may enjoy are but haughty spirits before the inevitable fall. Continue reading

The Right Kind of Experts in Jean Grey 9

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There’s a whole corner of the Marvel Universe devoted to mutants with psychic abilities. It is a niche corner, seemingly invisible to the rest of the heroes, particular those without the X-gene, until the point one of them threatens to upend everything. Usually, this has to do with their connection to the Phoenix force, which is simultaneously the source of their most terrifying power and their most humbling weakness. It’s complicated, it’s abstract, it’s supernatural and extraterrestrial at the same time. In short, it’s not easy to understand. In Jean Grey 9, writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Victor Ibáñez illustrate just how much special knowledge is required to deal with Young Jean Grey and that ominous Phoenix. Continue reading

Fu Jitsu 3 Takes on The Silver Age

by Patrick Ehlers

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

The general thesis of Fu Jitsu appears to be: “comics are weird, but resonate with us anyway.” Or perhaps the resonance is because of the weirdness. Writer Jai Nitz and artist Wesley St. Claire never really imply causation in one direction or another, but with issue 3 of Fu Jitsu, they do make a strong case for the last correlation between the two qualities throughout comic book history. Yup: issue one was about the diegetic past, issue two was about a diegetic present, and issue three is about the meta-past. Continue reading

DC New Talent Showcase 2017

It’s the 2017 DC Comics New Talent Showcase! To cover it, Retcon Punch has assembled our finest old talent to say something about each of these stories.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters II 5: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Patrick Ehlers

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

Taylor: Sticking the landing is the hardest part of any endeavor. It doesn’t matter if it’s landing a plane, finishing a gymnastics routine, or writing the end to a story: it’s just plain difficult. In all of these examples, sticking the landing is hard because they require one final flourish of skill before the tension in the situation is resolved once and for all. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters II has to stick its landing in this, the final fifth issue. It does so successfully but in a way that is overshadowed by the brilliance that came before it. Continue reading

The Mystery of Triceraton Humanity in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 16

by Patrick Ehlers

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

In the main TMNT series, the newly freed Triceratons have returned to Earth after millennia of servitude to the Utrom Empire. For a hulking army of dinosaur-men, they make first contact in a surprisingly sensitive way. Their ultimate aim may be to re-claim the planet, and they go in bearing axes and laser blasters, but they make an attempt as peaceful, civil discourse first. Where does that come from? If you tried to string together the most monstrous series of adjectives possible, you’d end up hitting some prime Triceraton descriptors: cloned, warrior, prehistoric, dinosaur. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 16 writer Chris Mowry and Giannis Milonogiannis find the humanity within these beasts reveling in the mystery of their origins. Continue reading

Eleanor and the Egret 5: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Eleanor and the Egret 5

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

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Drew: What moral do we take away from heroic self-sacrifice? We undoubtedly see nobility in a hero prizing the life and safety of others more than their own, but our own takeaway is likely much more modest — we might sacrifice our material comfort or time for the benefit of others, if not our lives. But is “self-sacrifice is good” the only way to look at those stories? Is it possible to look at a hero laying down their life for others and identify with those others — not the hero making the sacrifice, but the beneficiaries of that sacrifice? Is it possible that we see the hero’s death less as a noble choice and more as satisfying a cosmic need for heroes to die — a “sacrifice” in a very different sense of the word? It’s the kind of conclusion you might expect of a world-ending sci-fi computer to draw, but it’s also embedded in the idiosyncratic resolution of John Layman and Sam Kieth’s Eleanor and the Egret. Continue reading

Tyranny Destroys Expertise in Darth Vader 8

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Authoritarian rule is often the result of resentment toward the professional political class. All it takes is one “outsider” with enough willpower to assume power, and then the common man is freed from the dubious expertise of career politicians. The problem, of course, is that the elimination of political experts leads to brain drain in all other aspects of government, and eventually the loss of all knowledge and expertise. Star Wars Darth Vader 8 shows the tenuous balance between the experts and the tyrants that force their extinction. Continue reading

Creating Stakes in Mighty Thor 701

by Patrick Ehlers

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

700 issues in, the gods of Asgard have faced annihilation numerous times. But they have always pulled through, because that’s how decades-long serialized mythologies work. Every threat must be bested in order to perpetuate the franchise. This isn’t something that bothers me: the “what happens” never concerns me as much as the “how it happens.” But for anyone demanding meaningful, lasting, concrete consequences in their storytelling should welcome the rise of Mangog. Mangog is here to kill the gods, and by the end of issue 701, he’s already got a definitive Win in his column. Continue reading