The Man of Steel 5 Lets Superman Define the Symbol

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Early in this issue, Superman catches a glimpse of a symbol on Rogol Zaar’s chest, and while he gets a good look at it, he can’t quite make out what it’s supposed to mean. The symbol is one that writer Brian Michael Bendis and his collaborators have been playing with from the very first pages of Man of Steel — a perfect circle with something interrupting that perfection. Bendis’ various collaborators have cast a number of different circles and spheres to play the role of this symbol: sometimes it’s a collapsing Krypton, or a quiet Earth, or the reflection of Rogol in Superman’s eye. My favorite circle actually appears in this issue, as Rogol’s eye peering into the opening of the bottled city of Kandor. Bendis has been teasing meaning in this shape for so long that when Superman finally decides he is interested in divining that meaning, the character and the reader are united in purpose. Continue reading

Eddie Learns He Knows Nothing in Venom 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in middle school. I woke up thinking about it, I fell asleep thinking about it, I viewed everything through the lens of Magic. Friends were people I played Magic with, and school was just something I had to do before I could play again. I was in love: for almost three years, that game completed me. In 1995, my friends and I went to Gen Con in Chicago, a massive hobby-store convention, which mostly meant Magic and Warhammer. That’s when I realized just how miniscule my obsession actually was. I wasn’t a Magic expert, I was a kid with a hobby in a convention center full of adults who had been living this nerdiness since before I was even born. Magic opened me up to a love of gaming and fantasy, but for these folks, it was the culmination of their lifestyle. Issue 3 of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom gives Eddie Brock his very own Gen Con ’95 moment as he comes face to face with the god of the symbiotes. Continue reading

Batman 49 is the Anti-“The Killing Joke”

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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Tom King and Mikel Janin’s Batman 49 gives Catwoman and Joker an opportunity to discuss the role humor plays in both their lives and the greater Batman franchise. Joker’s goal in all of this is to get a laugh out of Selina, and by the end of the issue, she obliges him with a joke of her own and a chuckle. Sounds like Killing Joke, right? Here’s the thing – King gets us there by trading in connection, nostalgia and shared history, where Alan Moore and Brian Bolland got there by trading in misery. The result is an inversion on the classic story, and an update on the storytelling values in Batman and in comics in general. Continue reading

Who Controls the Page in Daredevil 604?

By Patrick Ehlers

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

“I’m gonna need the room.”

Father Jordan, Daredevil 604

Charles Soule and Mike Henderson’s Daredevil 604 is all about controlling space. Within the world of the story, that’s about dispersing satanic mists, or driving out swarms of ninjas. On the metatextual level, that’s about which character commands the space on the page. With the introduction of the Order of the Dragon (or Ordo Dragonum, if you’re nasty), the pages become thick with both action and potential, but it’s still on Daredevil to take control of every square inch of the city… and by extension, every inch of the page. Continue reading

Tony is the Team in Tony Stark Iron Man 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There’s no “i” in “team”.

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Tony Stark is a selfish jerk. It’s one of the things we like best about him! But there’s no denying that his success as Iron Man is contingent on the hard, capable work of thousands of employees, and countless robots and A.I. systems. As writer Dan Slott and artist Valerio Schiti take the Iron reins, they pitch Iron Man as a team venture, while casually undermining the autonomy of every individual on the team. Aside, of course, from Tony Stark. Tony remains a singular genius, more of a puppeteer than a team leader. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 801: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: Dan Slott has written more issues of The Amazing Spider-Man than any other creator ever. That’s not something one achieves if they merely “like” a character — Slott clearly loves Spider-Man in a way even the most die-hard of fans can only dream of. Writing his adventures has certainly changed Slott’s world for the better, and that’s a sentiment he expresses beautifully in The Amazing Spider-Man 801, his final issue on the title. It’s a love letter to the power of Spider-Man told in the only way that kind of story really can be told — through the perspective of a fan. Continue reading

Moonshine 11: 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: Hey, how fast is a comic? I’ve read twenty-page comics that take me over half an hour to get through, and there are some issues I can breeze through in less than 10 minutes. Some comics take place over the course of 60 in-universe seconds, while others stretch on to tell stories that take entire lifetimes. So the answer to my question is: variable. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine 11 masterfully commands pacing to create breathless swings between compression, tension and release. Continue reading

Rage is Ugly in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 23

by Patrick Ehlers

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 23

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

I think we all need a little mental health check in. How are you doing? At the time I sit down to analyze Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 23, the only news I can catch on my social media feeds are the infuriating reports of migrant children separated from their technically-criminal parents. This is an unspeakably cruel policy, enacted by opportunistic monsters, and enforced by a criminally unrestrained agency. It makes me mad to the point of being physically sick. And powerless. Ryan Ferrier and Pablo Tunica’s “…And Out Came the Reptiles” story from TMNTU 23 perfectly captures this sickening feeling of desperation, inflicting the ugliness of Mondo Gecko’s impotent rage on the whole issue. Continue reading

Thor 1: 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: When I’m teaching my students about tone and mood in class, my go-to lesson involves a Marry Poppins trailer. First I show them the original trailer for the movie and then I show them a trailer that Christopher Rule cut together, which makes the classic film look like a horror movie. It’s a great way of showing the kids that the same content can have a drastically different tone and mood based on how the artist presents the story. I was thinking of this as I read Thor 1, because the issue shares the same characters, settings, and even the same writer as the Mighty Thor, but it feels drastically different. It’s a textbook example of how a skilled writer can shift the tone of a story, and in this case, that shift is a refreshing change of direction for the Thor series. 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