Best of 2016: Best Issues

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Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2016. Continue reading

Secret Wars 9

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Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Secret Wars , originally released January 13th, 2016. 

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“Great societies are crumbling around us. And the old men who run them are out of ideas. So all eyes turn to you — our children — to build us something better […] We must do more, go farther… to somewhere no human has ever been. Your prize, Makers… are the stars themselves.”

T’Challa, Secret Wars 9

Patrick: The entirety of Jonathan Hickman’s incursion epic has hinged on this concept of master morality — that the decisions of the powerful necessarily cannot make sense to those less powerful. Individuals’ lives and rights are trampled for a concept as nebulous as “the greater” good, and it’s not really up to the subservient class to judge that trampling. With Secret Wars, the class of person making such impossible decisions is God — a literal, physically present, hands-on creator God — in the form of Doctor Doom. His decisions are immeasurably complicated, but they are also the decisions made by Hickman himself, and the conclusion to this mini-series, this event, and Hickman’s entire run at Marvel comics, links Godliness with creativity, and ultimately places the decisions and the morality behind those decisions in the hands of the storytellers.

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Secret Wars 8

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015. 

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Spencer: I recently got into a bit of a debate with the AV Club’s Oliver Sava on Twitter about whether Doctor Doom is the hero or the villain of Secret Wars. Sava argued that he’s the hero because he saved the universe — I argued that he’s the villain because he then proceeded to rule his salvaged universe as a brutal tyrant and dictator. In a way, we’re probably both right, and writer Jonathan Hickman seems less interested in laying blame at any of his character’s feet than he is in exploring their motives and varying levels of morality. Secret Wars 8 is a full-on action issue, but each confrontation changes the rules a bit in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong, who wins and who loses.  Continue reading

Infinity Gauntlet 5

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Infinity Gauntlet 5, originally released November 11th, 2015. This issue is part of Secret Wars. To see more coverage of this week’s Secret Wars issues, check out our Marvel Round-Up.

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Spencer: There was one simple reason that I wanted to cover Infinity Gauntlet 5 this week: I just thought it would be a blast, both to read and write about. Spoiler alert: I was right, but considering the previous four issues, I suppose that was always a foregone conclusion. Even when his focus was on the cast’s hopeless task of trying to survive in a savage wasteland, Dustin Weaver imbued the story (and especially the art) with a certain spark of chaotic, creative energy that never failed to draw me in. That spark grew into a full-blown fire as the series progressed; the finale actually revolves around the power of creativity, both in terms of the ideas Weaver and scripter Gerry Duggan fill it with and within the story itself, where Anwen makes creativity her greatest weapon in the battle against Thanos. Continue reading

Weirdworld 5

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Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Weirdworld 5, originally released October 21st, 2015. 

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Patrick: One of the reasons people like genre films so much is that you never really need to guess what their values are. Are you watching a Western? Great: we value tough, honest men. Are you watching a teen drama? Great: we value cleverness and beauty. Jason Aaron and Mike del Mundo’s heart-stoppingly beautiful Weirdworld wears its chief value on its sleeve (and in its title): weirdness. That may sound like a shallow value, like when someone criticizes South Park for being all about “shock value,” and that may be the case. But even if we want to call weirdness a “shallow” value, it is startling how persistently it presents itself in this series. Even a little thing like The End of the World isn’t going to stop it from expressing itself as thoroughly — and as weirdly — as possible. Continue reading

Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues Released 10/7/15

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Secret Wars is a mammoth event — Marvel has populated an entire Battleworld with Wolverines, Captains America and Spider-Men. There’s a lot in here that’s worth reading, but we don’t always have the time to dig deep into all of them. The solution? A quick survey of what we’re reading. Today, we’re discussing Secret Wars 6, Old Man Logan 5, Spider-Island 5, and Seige 4.

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Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues Released 9/30/15

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Secret Wars is a mammoth event — Marvel has populated an entire Battleworld with Wolverines, Captains America and Spider-Men. There’s a lot in here that’s worth reading, but we don’t always have the time to dig deep into all of them. The solution? A quick survey of what we’re reading. Today, we’re discussing Ghost Racers 4, Hail Hydra 3, and M.O.D.O.K. Assassin 5.

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E is for Extinction 4

Alternating Currents: E is for Extinction 4, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing E is for Extinction 4, originally released September 30th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check out our Secret Wars Round-Up!

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Drew: Do you ever hate movies for ruining a good premise? Like, not just for failing to live up to the potential they had, but for poisoning that premise for anyone else. You might have an interesting story where plants conspire to wipe out humanity, but the only thing anyone will see when they look at it is The Happening. A similar phenomenon can happen with smaller details, from memorable character names to meet-cutes to death scenes, that, for one reason or another, are so strongly associated with a crummy piece of art that it’s difficult to repeat. X-Men: The Last Stand is one such piece of crummy art, yet E is for Extinction 4 aims to reclaim many of the moments it had soiled. That’s an unexpected windmill to tilt at, but the more surprising fact is that the issue largely succeeds in winning those moments back. Continue reading

Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues Released 9/23/15

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Secret Wars is a mammoth event — Marvel has populated an entire Battleworld with Wolverines, Captains America and Spider-Men. There’s a lot in here that’s worth reading, but we don’t always have the time to dig deep into all of them. The solution? A quick survey of what we’re reading. Today, we’re discussing Inhumans: Attilan Rising 5, Years of Future Past 5, Weirdworld 4, and Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps 4.

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Runaways 4

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Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Runaways 4, originally released September 23rd, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check back Tuesday for our Secret Wars Round-Up!

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“If there’s one thing I love, it’s teens who stay teens even when the situation is really dire, and so even when they’re running for their lives they never quite lose sight of crushes, pretensions, anxiety about their future and who they’re going to be. Sometimes those situations can feel just as life-or-death as…actual life-or-death.”

Noelle Stevenson, Runaways 4 letters page

Spencer: I loved Runaways 4′s letters page; the sheer unfettered enthusiasm and creativity from readers warmed my heart. But to me, the most insightful moment of that page is the above quote from Runaways writer Noelle Stevenson, which explains the greatest strength of both this mini-series and its finale magnificently. To these characters, coming to a romantic realization is just as significant as escaping from the Doom Institute; Stevenson and artist Sanford Greene realize that and treat every victory with equal importance. It makes for an uplifting, triumphant finale. Continue reading