Venom 7: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin

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

Michael: The first arc of Donny Cates’ Venom went for bombastic action and retcon myth-making, and as fun and exciting as that was, I can’t help but find myself more interested in the more “down-to-Earth” nature of Venom 7. Cates does still add to his symbiote mythos, but this issue focuses more on the personal bond between Eddie Brock and his symbiote pal – or lack thereof, in this case. Continue reading

Finding the Emotion Behind the Audacious Premise in Murder Falcon 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Friday’s Image Comics spotlight panel at New York Comic Con. The panel was a chance for about seven or eight creators to talk about their new or upcoming series, and while every creator there had an excellent pitch (and I want to read all their books), it was Daniel Warren Johnson who seemed to win the crowd fastest, with just two words: “Murder Falcon.” Murder Falcon has the kind of wonderfully insane concept — metalhead’s guitar playing allows him to fight monsters via an absolutely ripped bird named Murder Falcon — that just screams for attention, but for a book to keep readers, it needs more than just an audacious premise. Thankfully, Johnson is well aware of this, and thus Murder Falcon 1 finds the heart beneath all the (wonderful) silliness, and highlights the real emotional power of its premise. Continue reading

Border Town 2: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Spencer Irwin

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

PatrickBorder Town hinges on an obviously loaded concept: the membrane between the monster world and the human world lies along the border between the US and Mexico. All the xenophobia, all the paranoia, and all the actual danger is exaggerated. But there’s another component of the traditional border dispute narrative that’s cranked up to ten — culture. Writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos take care to bask in the cultural specifics of our heroes, while only hinting at the implied culture of the monstrous villains. It’s a fascinating look at what humanizes people on either side of either border. Continue reading

Individuality is the Key to Teamwork in Tony Stark: Iron Man 4

by Spencer Irwin

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

Despite the double emphasis in its title, Tony Stark: Iron Man isn’t really a solo spotlight for its titular hero. Instead it’s an ensemble piece, a team book, devoting just as much (if not more) space to the stories of Jocasta Pym, Andy Bhang, Bethany Cabe, Amanda Armstrong, or Rhodey as it does Stark. In fact, issue 4 outright turns this choice into an ethos, predicating Stark Unlimited’s entire victory on the fact that they are a team who can work together and pool their ideas, and their opponents from Baintronics’ loss on the fact that they’re not a team, they’re a hive mind. Their lack of multiple perspectives and approaches seals their fate. Continue reading

Man-Eaters 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Drew Baumgartner

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

Spencer: There’s quite a bit to unpack in the high concept behind Man-Eaters, and I don’t just mean its metaphors and allegories. Despite the fact that it takes place in a world similar to ours in most ways, the one new element Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk introduce — menstruation-triggered transformations into murderous big cats — opens up a bevy of new questions that beg to be answered. Thankfully, Cain and Niemczyk answer them with grace, simultaneously building both world and character effortlessly and never falling into the dangers of rote exposition. Continue reading

Guilt As A Weapon in The Wicked + The Divine 1373AD

by Spencer Irwin

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

For the most part, emotions aren’t inherently good or bad — their effect ultimately depends on how you process them. Too much of a “good” emotion can be overwhelming, while traditionally negative emotions like fear, pain, sadness, and even guilt have their lessons to teach us. Growing up religious, I’ve seen guilt successfully steer people towards better choices (or away from poor ones), but I’ve also seen guilt consume people down to their very soul. In the wrong hands guilt can be a powerful and dangerous weapon, a tool to wield against others, to manipulate them and tear them down. Ananke, of course, has never met a weapon she hasn’t wanted to give a try, and in The Wicked + The Divine 1373AD guilt proves to be a potent addition to her arsenal. Continue reading

Gratuitous Violence and Wasted Potential in Heroes in Crisis 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

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What is Heroes in Crisis actually about? The answer drastically changes my reading of this issue. See, as a murder mystery it works quite well — it doesn’t alleviate all my criticisms (which we’ll get into in a bit, believe me), but there’s interesting hooks in the form of which of the two prime suspects is the murderer, why they did it, and how the Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman will react. As a murder mystery, Heroes in Crisis 1 is an enjoyable, if flawed, comic. But Heroes in Crisis has primarily been advertised and solicited as a more low-key, nuanced look at how superheroes handle trauma, and when judged by that metric, it’s far less successful. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 2: 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: Kate Bishop’s California adventures — under the pens of both Matt Fraction and Kelly Thompson — have all more-or-less revolved around the idea of appearance, on Hollywood’s obsession with beauty, fame, and youth. On first glance, M.O.D.O.K.’s transformation into the chiseled B.R.O.D.O.K. in West Coast Avengers 2 seems fueled by the same kinds of obsessions, but there’s actually an even greater danger lurking deep within: B.R.O.D.O.K.’s preoccupation with appearance is driven entirely by dangerous entitlement and toxic masculinity. Continue reading

Severing Yet Another Tether to Bruce’s Humanity in Batman 55

by Spencer Irwin

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

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When first introduced back in 1940, Dick Grayson — then known as Robin, the Boy Wonder — was meant to provide a reference point for young readers, a way for them to see themselves in the stories they were reading. His youthful charm not only won over readers, but Batman himself, who quickly transformed from his early brooding, murderous, pulp-inspired incarnation into a more genial, bombastic character thanks to Robin’s influence. Even as modern interpretations of Batman return to a darker take on the character, Dick Grayson — now Nightwing — remains a tether to Batman’s humanity, a character who can bring out his lighter side even under the harshest circumstances. In Batman 55, Tom King and Tony Daniel highlight this vital role Nightwing fills, not just through his actions, but through the very structure of the issue. Continue reading

“The End” is the Enemy in Fantastic Four 2

by Spencer Irwin

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

Back when the Future Foundation rode off into the sunset at the end of Secret Wars, ready to recreate and explore the multiverse, many fans (myself included) saw it as the perfect farewell to the characters. This leaves Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli with the unenviable task of bringing this “ending” to an end, of justifying more adventures for characters who had already received their happily ever after. Interestingly, Slott and Pichelli do so by demonizing the very idea of “endings,” by making “the end” the very villain that brings the Fantastic Four back together. Continue reading