The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1 Presents a Feminist History

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

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

Pixar

As a kid, I always suspected the inanimate objects in my life had secret lives of their own. It wasn’t so much that I thought they got up and walked around when I wasn’t looking, but that they had feelings and aspirations and friends that they cared about. That was the bit about Toy Story that really hit me when it came out — that my toys were desperate for my love and attention, and they felt neglected when I turned my attention elsewhere. Worrying about the feelings of inanimate objects speaks to some of my most well-worn neuroses, but I’d defend those early experiences as helping me practice sympathy for other humans. I hesitate to call Toy Story a feminist history, since the marginalized perspective it adopts is entirely fictional, but it certainly has the shape of a feminist history, cuing us (or, at the very least, eight-year-old me) into the heretofore ignored plight of children’s toys. (To be clear: “feminist history” isn’t the history of feminism, but feminist approaches to history — approaches that highlight otherwise overlooked perspectives and narratives in history.) With Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, Saladin Ahmed and Garry Brown achieve something similar, retelling the classic arc “Alien Costume Saga” from the perspective of the Venom Symbiote. Continue reading

Creator vs Creation in Daredevil 608

by Michael DeLaney

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

“I did not ask for the life I was given. But it was given nonetheless.”                                                                 Mr. Eko, LOST

No one ever asked to be born – we emerge from the womb and are saddled with struggles specific to our circumstances. In Daredevil 608, Mike Murdock emerges from the ether/Matt Murdock’s imagination and has to deal with a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge his existence. Thus, he takes some aggressive measures to make them acknowledge it. 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

It’s Power vs Responsibility in The Amazing Spider-Man 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 5

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

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

We tend to define power optimistically — we might list the duties of say, the President of the United States, for example, with the expectation that they’ll wield their power responsibly. But there’s another (perhaps more timely) way to define power, not by the amount of good it allows someone to do, but by the amount of harm it allows someone to inflict. Try as we (or Uncle Ben) might to link the two, power and responsibility are independent variables. That is, “With great power must also come great responsibility” isn’t a statement of some inviolable rule of the world, but a goal to strive towards. That’s why the “must also” part is so essential (and so missed from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) — it makes it clear Uncle Ben isn’t just stating a fact. Indeed, that power can be separated from responsibility is precisely what this first arc of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man has focused on, demonstrating the inefficacy of either without the other. Continue reading

How Directionality Sells the Drama in Ms. Marvel 34

by Drew Baumgartner

Ms. Marvel 34

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

The only limits in comics are those of the imagination and the page itself. That sounds grandiose, but I genuinely believe that to be true. There are no CGI budgetary restrictions or limits of practical effects that could make a shot or a sequence impossible (though time constraints may make big crowds on horseback less likely), no locations on earth (or off) that can’t be used, no detail to small that can’t be captured in a panel. That means comics are a medium with nearly infinite potential for flashy epicness, which can easily hog our attention. But its the fundamentals — nearly universal to all storytelling — that ultimately make a comic sing: characters, clarity, and heart. Sometimes those flashy elements can help connect us to those fundamentals, but sometimes it’s the simpler details that sell the story. Such is the case with G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon’s Ms. Marvel 34, which utilizes one of the most basic givens in the medium to remarkably effective results. Continue reading

Razing Mash-Up City in Cosmic Ghost Rider 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

The very concept of “Cosmic Ghost Rider” is a great example of Writer Donny Cates  using disparate ideas from all around the Marvel universe as the building blocks for something wholly new and exciting. In my write-up of issue #1, I called it “Mythological Omnivorism”, a turn of phrase that I like, but which feels a least a little dishonest. Cates and artist Dylan Burnett weren’t consuming this mythology so much as they were shuffling, repackaging, and repurposing it. Issue three is where the consumption begins – and all of those jumbled-up building blocks are devoured to sate the gluttonous reader’s appetite. Continue reading

How Layouts Drive Tension in Death of the Inhumans 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Death of the Inhumans 3

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Deep, thoughtful analysis is a rarity in the world of comics criticism. While it’s easy enough to dismiss itinerant continuity policing or grumbling about plot-holes as braindead drivel, there’s a much more insidious kind of shallow analysis that suggests that there are simple aesthetic rules that govern the medium. It may be possible to identify trends that are true for even a very large sample of comics, but there are just as many exceptions to those “rules.” Truly deep analysis, on the other hand, can introduce us to new analytical tools that can be applied to many other comics, even if the conclusions we draw from those applications have no universal trend. Such is the case with Matt Fraction’s “cover version: daredevil 230 and cutting techniques,” one of my favorite comics analyses of all time. I highly recommend taking the time to read that piece, but the short explanation for why I love it so much is that it introduced me to ideas I had never encountered before. Most important was the thought that the invisible structures that guide our reading experience might be only just invisible, and that we can unearth them by paying close attention to things like panel counts and layouts. Fraction identifies a triangle motif in Daredevil 230 that is obvious enough on some pages, but on others just loosely describes the areas of the layouts we might most pay attention to. Using those same techniques, I recognize a similar pattern on some pages of Death of the Inhumans 3, though they elicit a decidedly different effect. Continue reading

The Designs Define the Characters in Exiles 7

by Spencer Irwin

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

slim-banner

Exiles has been extremely lucky to have a regular artist as talented as Javier Rodriguez, but the series is just as lucky to have found a guest artist like Rod Reis, one who’s just as talented, even if his style is entirely different. I could probably spend a month just gushing about Reis’ work throughout Exiles 6 and 7, but today I want to specifically talk about his character designs and how they inform so much about each character’s role and personality without a single word. Continue reading

Intimacy, Friendship, and Romance in Runaways 12

By Spencer Irwin

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

Runaways 12 focuses in on two different pairings, which both eventually blossom into romance. In both cases, though, those romances are born of a deep friendship, of a deep intimacy which has been developed throughout several volumes of adventures together. Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson spend most of this issue digging deep into their intimacy in all its forms, be it emotional intimacy or physical. Continue reading

Depth of Field in Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends 1

By Drew Baumgartner

Hunt for Wolverine Dead Ends 1

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

I remember someone once telling me that they mostly evaluate a comics artist based on the detail of their backgrounds. That always felt like an odd facet to fixate on (especially with so many others to factor in), but it’s hard to deny that richly detailed backgrounds are dazzling. It allows artists to flex not only their attention to detail, but their capacity for deep perspective, lending a sense of lived-in reality to their settings. But it’s also time consuming — even the most detail-prone artists will pick their moments, reserving sprawling cityscapes and the likes for big splash pages, and making choices that compress the depth of field elsewhere. Time is an understandable driver of level-of-detail, but it doesn’t always coincide with storytelling in a meaningful way. With The Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends 1, artist Ramon Rosanas finds a much more thematically resonant way to use his depth of field, lending Charles Soule’s villain reveal an unsettling otherworldliness. Continue reading