West Coast Avengers 4: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin

West Coast Avengers 4

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

I just wanted to [work in the documentary format] to see what it was like. You know, to take those weights off our ankles. I feel like 30 Rock and Community never get an award for doing a format that’s twice as hard. Because it really is twice as hard. Not only can you not lay in a voiceover, sort of explaining what people are doing and how they feel, but on top of that, you are combining all of the crutches that come from flashbacks and jumping around in time and multiple points of view. I wanted to do it and verify that it actually is easier to make an episode funnier using that format. And the answer is, yeah, it is. I mean, there were a lot of jokes in the episode, and it just seemed faster, like we were able to fire off more and pack more into it.

Dan Harmon on “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”

Drew: I regret that this quote is so critical of the documentary format, since my takeaway isn’t that it’s “easy” to be funny using that format, but that the format itself is well-suited to comedy. (Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine caring about how easy or difficult a joke is to tell — I just care if it’s funny.) Indeed, I’d argue that selecting the format that best tells the story is of the upmost importance, and a format that is funnier and faster is ideal for a series like West Coast Avengers. In many ways, the documentary format itself — represented in this issue by the confessional sequences delivered directly to camera — sets the pacing for this issue, establishing six square panels as a kind of heartbeat for each page. Continue reading

Projection and Toxic Masculinity in West Coast Avengers 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

When discussing West Coast Avengers 2, we went into significant detail about how B.R.O.D.O.K. represented the worst traits of toxic masculinity, of entitled, deluded men who think of women as objects or prizes rather than real people with their own needs, personalities, and desires. With issue 3, Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli continue to explore this topic, but come at it from a slightly different angle. This time, their attention is focused less on the delusions that drive B.R.O.D.O.K. and more on how his actions effect the women around him. Spoiler alert: things don’t go well for them. 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

West Coast Avengers 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers 

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

This is the true story of seven strangers picked to work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

The Real World.

Spencer: Despite that famous tagline, reality television rightfully has a reputation for being anything but real, with contestants purposely taking on certain roles for the camera and producers editing footage in misleading ways to construct particular narratives (whether they’re “true” or not). Part of what makes West Coast Avengers so interesting, then, is that, despite its “superhero reality show” concept, creators Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli seem devoted to depicting the sad realities of their cast’s lives, to finding the truth behind their day to day existences, even when those existences are patently absurd. Continue reading

Embracing the Unknown in America 12

by Spencer Irwin

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

America opened with its title character ready to try something new, with the unfathomably strong, uber-competent hero deciding she had more to learn and heading off to school to learn it. America 12, the series’ grand finale, returns to this idea, with America saving the day by quite literally diving into the unknown and finding a way to fight her enemy that, for once, doesn’t involve her fists. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but one that works better in concept than in execution. Continue reading

America’s Joy Defines America 11

by Spencer Irwin

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

America‘s often breathless pace works to its favor in issue 11, a transition issue that manages to serve as an epilogue to the previous storyline while also diving head-first into the next, mixing heartfelt character moments with genuine thrills and actions, with none feeling out of place or poorly paced. For the moment, America Chavez is in a good place, and her joy shines through in this issue loud and clear. Continue reading

The Strength of Heritage vs. the Evils of Cultural Appropriation in America 10

by Spencer Irwin

America 10

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

For better or for worse, America 10 brings all of the series’ developments thus far to a climax. Writer Gabby Rivera’s (assisted on art by Flaviano and Jen Bartel) attempts to find roles for the majority of America’s allies makes the issue feel overcrowded, especially since most of their efforts don’t really play a role in America’s victory, but her further exploration of the racial and cultural conflict between America and Oubliette (which I first talked about when covering issue 8) is far more successful. Rivera has a message she wants to get across, and it makes this issue feel focused and vital in a way the rest of this storyline sometimes hasn’t. Continue reading

Great Ideas Fizzle Out in America 9

by Spencer Irwin

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

One of America‘s greatest strengths as a title is that it’s chock-full of fantastic ideas; unfortunately, one of its greatest weaknesses is that it often doesn’t give those fantastic ideas enough room to breathe and succeed. America 9 is a frustrating installment in that way, blowing through the meaty ideas of last month’s issue (plus a whole host of new concepts) so fast that none have room to land. Continue reading

History as a Weapon (and a Motivation) in America 8

by Spencer Irwin

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

When I was first introduced to America Chavez in the pages of Young Avengers, she was a bad-ass, taciturn woman of mystery. As time has passed, though, we’ve come to learn far more about her personality, her methods, and — especially within the pages of Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones’ America — her history. She still has the qualities that made me fall in love with her in the first place, but she’s also become more predictable and easier to sum-up.

For example, I took one look at this panel — of America explicitly breaking the rules the moment they’re announced — and thought ‘Yup, that’s America in a nutshell.’ Oubliette the Exterminatrix — the evil who’s been recently stalking America, and who finally makes her move in America 8 — has been paying as much attention to America’s history as readers have, and it gives her just the ammunition she needs to take America down. Continue reading

A History and a Destiny Revealed in America 7

by Spencer Irwin

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

America Chavez is a self-made hero. She chose to follow in her mothers’ heroic footsteps instead of staying safe in utopia forever, and likewise chose her goals and domain very carefully. With the entire multiverse at her fingertips, she’s chosen to call Earth-616 her home, originally to watch over Billy Kaplan, but now because it’s where her friends are, where she’s laid down roots. This DIY image is a stark contrast to her grandmother Madrimar, who has devoted her life to following the will of the spirits and watching over her home planet, and seems to believe that it’s America’s destiny to do the same. Continue reading