Three Interrogation Scenes in Old Man Hawkeye 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Old Man Hawkeye 2

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

The conventional wisdom in improv is that transaction scenes — like those between a customer and a storekeeper — are inherently uninteresting. The relationship between the two characters is impersonal and perfunctory, and the transaction is void of any tension. Any of those elements can be changed to rescue a transaction scene, but beginners are encouraged to avoid those setups altogether in favor of those that have relationships and tension built in to the premise. (At least, this is my understanding, though I’m prepared to have our improv contingent correct me in the comments.) Interrogation scenes definitely have that tension built in, as one person wants information the other is reluctant to share, but the relationships are often still impersonal. Moreover, they’re scenes we’ve seen a million times, whether they’re taking place in a police station or as Batman dangles a crook from some rooftop. Which is to say, the tension isn’t quite enough to carry those scenes. Like a transaction scene, an interrogation can be rescued if complications are added in the right places. Unfortunately, those complications are largely absent from Old Man Hawkeye 2, leaving two of its its three interrogations feeling pretty limp. Continue reading

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An Unwelcoming Welcome in Curse Words 11

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Curse Words 11 ends with a welcome letter from writer Charles Soule. Is the end of the issue maybe kind of a weird place to welcome his readers? Well, that’s the trick — it’s not particularly welcoming, and neither is the rest of the issue. You’ve got a weird issue of a weird series in your hands, and if the rapid expansion of cast and the mythology is making your head spin, then you’re feeling exactly what Soule and artist Ryan Browne want to you feel. This is Curse Words in all of its cold, unwelcoming glory: which of course means that it’s impossibly fun. Continue reading

Clashing Tones in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42

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

It’s hard to separate a character from the types of stories they inhabit. Indeed, it’s an idea that doesn’t even really make sense in most media, where characters tend to inhabit just the one story, but it kind of runs amok in comics, where there are countless forces pushing characters into other types of stories. There’s crossovers and cameos, which will pull the guest-starring character into the (potentially very different) tonal world of the home series. There’s cross-media franchises, which will accentuate the parts of the character that best suit the medium, whether it’s an action movie, a video-game, or a kids cartoon. And, perhaps more than anything, there’s the monthly grind of telling yet another story with this character, inspiring creators to think outside the box to find something new and exciting to show us. Those forces compound over the decades, such that a given character is less defined by the type of stories they inhabit than the range of stories they could inhabit. Such is the case with Spider-Man, who is so famously versatile to have teamed up with basically everyone in the Marvel Universe, has appeared in countless film and television iterations, and often stars in multiple comics series at once. Even so, there seem to be a few types of stories that Spider-Man isn’t quite suited for, as The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42 illustrates. Continue reading

Star Wars: Poe Dameron 24: 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: Star Wars fans of a certain age remember a time when new Star Wars movies weren’t something to be expected like the changing of the seasons. For these fans, the original trilogy was sacred canon, spawning innumerable subtexts which, because there were no movies to look forward to, were anticipated greatly. In particular, the X-Wing series stands out as being a fun permutation of the early Star Wars novels because it supplied fans with the flair of space battles and the familiarity of well-loved, if obscure, characters like Wedge Antilles. More than anything, though, these novels were fun because they were a journey into the unknown where anything could happen. That’s not the case with Poe Dameron, since we all know how the comic ends. The limitations this places on the series is apparent, and no more so than in issue 24. Continue reading

It’s Family That Hurts the Most in Runaways 6

By Spencer Irwin

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

I love this line, not only because it’s so perfectly in character for the prickly Gert, but because it really sums up the relationship all these kid had with their parents: the people who raised them, who tried to kill them, each other, and the entirety of the human race, the people whose deaths they were partially responsible for, and the people whose deaths they still feel guilty for, even years later. In Runaways 6 Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka add another complex, loving, evil guardian to the list of loved ones who will forever haunt these kids: Molly’s grandmother. Continue reading

Kingpin’s Trumpocracy in Daredevil 598

by Michael DeLaney

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

Nick Spencer had his take on Trump’s America in Secret Empire and now Charles Soule holds the mirror up to our current national nightmare in Daredevil 598. Wilson Fisk is the mayor of New York City and like Trump, he’s planning on making America great again…for the bad guys. Continue reading

Fluid Stakes Keep Hawkeye 15 Breezy

By Drew Baumgartner

Hawkeye 15

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

That’s a dumb joke, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. It doesn’t make any sense — Bender should know that the person he’s talking about is standing directly in front of him — but the reveal to us is just so perfect. It’s the kind of joke that really only works in visual media, taking advantage of the limits of our perspective we all take for granted. We assume we understand who is in the scene because of who we’ve been shown, but anybody could feasibly be lurking just off-camera. That kind of perspective twist is part of what gives Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero’s Hawkeye such a distinct voice, as our perspective telescopes to best suit the scene. Indeed, as issue 15 demonstrates, they can shift perspective both literally and figuratively to goose just about anything. Continue reading

Welcome Nuance Enriches Batman: White Knight 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

This is the first installment of Batman: White Knight where Batman has really felt like Batman to me. Sean Murphy digs into the character’s nuances in a way that he hasn’t in previous issues. This is the Batman who will buy Harley Quinn a dress and support her sincere, if bungled, efforts to reform, because under his gruff exterior he truly does care about people, even villains. This is the brilliant detective who has managed to piece together a good 95% of Neo-Harley’s plan when most of the other heroes barely even realize she has a scheme at all. Even Batman’s failed attack on Neo-Harley that closes the issue — which results in the destruction of one of Gotham’s bridges and Batman becoming a fugitive — is motivated by Neo-Harley’s personal attack on him and a desire to protect his family, not wild, unreasonable vengeance. This isn’t the gruff madman of previous issues — this is a complex Batman who still wants what is best for Gotham City. He’s just blinded by his hatred of the Joker. Continue reading

Bridging the Gap Between the Old and the New in Star Wars 43

by Mark Mitchell

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

I’ve always considered Marvel’s Star Wars comic to be an extension of the Original Trilogy — a way to continue telling stories with the characters and within the framework that most fans are familiar with — but Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s Star Wars 43 surprises by also acting as a satisfying coda to 2016’s Rogue One. From closing the book (for now) on Jedha to calling back to Princess Leia’s final line in the film, Star Wars 43 neatly bridges the gap between “old” Star Wars and “new” Star Wars in way that fulfills the promise of post-George Lucas single canon Star Wars cross-media world-building.

And as sterile and filled with corporate buzzwords as that all sounds, it’s effective when it works.

Continue reading

Superhero Action Monopolizes Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 4

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

Is there a limit to how subtle a superhero story can be? I’m certainly not of the mindset that tights and flights have to be bombastic or simple, but it seems obvious to me that, say, “being able to punch really hard” isn’t a solution that can be applied to every problem. Creators have found countless was to get subtler beats into their superhero work, but at some point, “being able to punch really hard” must come up, or the story might as well not feature a superhero. I’ll often regret that necessity when stories jerk away from compelling subtleties for generic action, which is unfortunately what Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands 4 is all about. Continue reading