(Re)defining the Hulk in The Immortal Hulk 1

by Drew Baumgartner

The Immortal Hulk 1

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

It might be stating the obvious to suggest that the Hulk’s identity is fraught, but I don’t mean it in the Jungian dualistic sense. Obviously, the tension between Bruce Banner and the Hulk is the primary source of drama for the character, but the Hulk has long suffered from a different kind of identity crisis, in that no two writers ever seem to agree on who and what he is. Is he a senseless destructive force, or is he capable of reason? Is he a monosyllabic brute, or a brilliant physicist? I’ve only occasionally checked in on Hulk’s solo series over the past five or so years, and I’ve seen takes that pretty much run the gamut, if that’s any indication of how rapidly and wildly consecutive runs can change the character. And to be clear, I don’t necessarily see this as a weakness — I’d argue that the flexibility of superheroes to fit the themes different creative teams are most interested in exploring is a huge part of their longevity — but I do think it demands a strong statement of purpose at the start of a run; something to clarify exactly what kind of Hulk we should expect to see. Something like Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk 1, which introduces the specifics of this particular iteration with remarkable efficiency. Continue reading

Becoming Part of the Adventure in You Are Deadpool 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

slim-banner

You Are Deadpool isn’t the first attempt to turn a comic book into a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Not only is Deadpool — the irreverent, fourth-wall crashing, meta-joke of a character — a perfect choice to star in this kind of story, but creators Al Ewing and Salva Espin find inventive, intuitive ways to not only put readers into Deadpool’s shoes, but to make their choices, skills, and even luck truly have an effect on their adventure. Continue reading

It’s All a Game in Avengers 679

by Drew Baumgartner

Avengers 679

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

We’ll often chide middle chapters for failing to maintain dramatic momentum while setting up the climax — when he actions in those middle chapters feel motivated more by what the climax needs than what came before. We refer to that phenomenon as “putting the pieces in place,” as it reduces the dramatic interest of a story to setting up a board game. It’s an unfortunate tendency that tends to crop up in event series with huge casts, and has already led to some consternation with “No Surrender,” but Avengers 679 hangs a lampshade on its game-iness, zooming out from the game board to focus on the real players. Continue reading

The Ol’ Weekly Series Wheel-Spinning in Avengers 678

by Spencer Irwin

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

A weekly title — especially one running more than a few issues — should feel big, as if its story simply cannot be told in any other format, on any other release schedule. Instead, though, I’ve found that weekly comics often tend to feel padded, as if a typical story is being stretched out to better fit the format. That’s certainly a problem I’m starting to notice with “No Surrender,” the current weekly Avengers event. Continue reading

The Futility of Definition in Inhumans: Judgment Day 1

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Reading any on-going comic is an exercise in accessing memory. If a writer, or an editor, is feeling particularly generous, there might be a note on the page to jog that memory a bit. Can’t remember what’s up with Karnak? Don’t worry, an editorial note has that addressed. Can’t remember what Swain’s power is? A narration box has your back with a one-word explanation: “Empath.” But these characters are too complex for that, right? Al Ewing’s Inhumans: Judgment Day 1 explores the limits of definition as it applies to a cast of characters that is both constantly changing, and constantly changing back. Continue reading

A New Perspective Benefits Avengers 677

by Spencer Irwin

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

The nice thing about team books is the wide and varied casts that allow the creative team to explore each story from multiple perspectives. The nice thing about weekly series is the sheer amount of space they have to work with, giving them all the time in the world to explore even the most wide and varied of casts. That seems to be the idea behind Avengers: No Surrender. Thus far Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub (with Pepe Larraz on art) have used each issue to explore the perspective of a different Avenger. While the first issue largely used Lightning as an outside POV and the second didn’t lean enough into Falcon’s unique perspective, Avengers 677 digs deep into its spotlight Avenger, Quicksilver. Continue reading

Too Many Cooks Clash in Avengers 676

by Drew Baumgartner

Avengers 676

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

I still read my old college newspaper, but the older I get, the more I recognize how terrible it is. Case in point: they recently published an article about a meeting on campus, but failed to put the meeting into any kind of context — there were no quotes from anyone involved, no explanation for why the meeting might be necessary, no connections to similar issues at other schools (I’ll apologize now for being vague, but the point isn’t to dunk on this particular article, so I’ll leave it at that). The result was something closer to meeting minutes than an actual article, overemphasizing the “what” in place of any “why”. I found myself thinking the same thing in Avengers 676, which has so many characters and events to cram in, there really isn’t any room to properly examine any of them. Continue reading

Avengers 675: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Avengers 675

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

Drew: The Marvel Universe is big. That much is clear from the very beginning of Avengers 675, which skips across the globe to catch up with Marvel’s countless superhero teams and fictional countries as they deal with the Earth suddenly being transported…somewhere. Characters helpfully repeat each other’s names (and the names of their respective teams) to orient us, but being overwhelmed is kind of the point — these characters are facing down utter chaos, and that chaos is everywhere. Crossover events will often feature these kinds of “cash in all the chips” moments, straining our familiarity with Marvel’s lesser-known characters to really sell the massive scope of the story. But that’s where this issue differs from the standard crossover; where other stories simply revel in the bombast of throwing all of these characters together, Avengers 675 uses it as a cover to inject a new character into the narrative. [Phew, are there SPOILERS to follow.]  Continue reading

Rhetoric Paints the Picture in Rocket 6

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Rocket is an amazing series. Adam Gorham’s artwork is evocative, gritty and ambitious in a way that is simultaneously grounded and totally off the wall. There’s also the novelty of the persistent gutter narration, lending the whole thing a literary noire vibe that seldom makes its way into such a strongly visual medium. One aspect of this series I’ve seldom found an opportunity to praise is the rhetorical strength of Al Ewing’s writing. The story itself is compelling, but I’m referring to the moment-to-moment use of language and how Ewing uses tonal shifts, word play, and rhetorical flourishes to illustrate Rocket’s emotional journey. And this issue takes us on one hell of a journey. Continue reading

Out of Order is the Right Order in Rocket 5

by Spencer Irwin

Rocket 5

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

I’ve never been a big fan of the in media res opening (and I just won’t shut up about it!), but I’ve always thought Rocket has used them excellently nonetheless — when paired with the sidebar narration it feels natural to open a story at its end, rather than a cheap crutch. Al Ewing and Adam Gorham take this skill to the next level in Rocket 5, opening the issue with not one, but four in media res openings! Amazingly, it works better than ever. Continue reading