This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Ryan D: When one writes about comic books, due to the popular types of stories being told, the critical eye encounters Joseph Campbell’s template for “the hero’s journey.” This monomyth pervades the pages of superhero titles, and seems even more prevalent in solo runs of characters due to the ease of accessibility inherent to that narrative. In Jean Grey, however, Dennis Hopeless and his creative team use a different kind of literary precedent — that of the Bildungsroman –– to tell the story of the young Jean as she gears up to meet the looming threat of the Phoenix. The Bildungsroman is a novel of formation or education with the psychological and moral development of the protagonist as the crux of the narrative, along the lines of Ponyboy in The Outsiders or Marji in Persopolis. Jean Grey 3 continues that trend of Jean moving painfully towards development and maturity as she learns a lesson in the company of “Marvel’s First Mutant,” Namor. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Patrick: The Secret Empire epic drives on an engine powered by dramatic irony. From the second Steve’s first “Hail Hydra” was uttered, the audience knew more about the threat the Marvel Universe faced better than any of its inhabitants. It is serendipitous (in the worst possible way) that the current political climate in the United States has made readers hyper-aware of this irony, as we’re able to draw obvious parallels between the rise of Hydra and the rise of white nationalism. We don’t need to parse out the rhetorical devices Steve uses to justify his abuses of power — we see them demonstrated by our president every day. Issue 4 doubles down on the practice of illustrating dramatic irony, giving the audience far more information than any of the characters are ever afforded. The result is an unsettling exercise in moral relativism. Continue reading →
Drew: The US is lucky to have never fought a modern war on its own soil. Wartime always divides our attention between the warfront and the home front. Of course, governing a country can be a handful even in peace, so one of these often gets put on the back-burner. During World War II, it seemed that the emphasis was on the war, with resources being reallocated such that almost every American was consciously aware of the war effort. It was this kind of attitude that made George Orwell see war as an effective means of controlling the populations of Oceania in 1984 — war acts as both an explanation for a shitty situation AND a rousing source of patriotism. More recently, however, it’s been the war front that people push to the back of their minds, at times all but forgetting we’ve been at war for over a decade. That very well could have been the attitude on Earth as the Avengers rode off to face the Builders, an abstract threat that no earthling has ever even seen (hell, it’s likely that the public doesn’t even know about the threat), but they sure start to feel it in New Avengers 9. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing New Avengers 8, originally released July 24th, 2013.
Patrick: “What have you done?” This phrase appears a couple times throughout the issue. It’s a fantastically loaded question, both accusatory and sincerely seeking an answer. With so many balls in the air, and so many mysteriously motivated characters, I find myself asking the same question of our heroes. But rather than being motivated by anger or desperation or any emotion whatsoever, I’m asking for clarification. “Hey, Tony,” I ask, hands sheepishly in my pockets, “what did you do?”
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 7, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Spencer: The more responsibility you have, the harder it is to find time to yourself. I consider myself fortunate to have a job that I can ignore completely on my days off, but if I was, say, a CEO or the president, I just wouldn’t have that luxury; there are no days off when you’re that important. As the self-appointed protectors of our universe, the Illuminati fall firmly into that camp. Even as the threat of the Incursions recedes for the moment, they’ve still got more than their fair share of life-or-death, morally gray decisions to make.
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing Indestructible Hulk 5, originally released March 20th, 2013.
Ethan: How do you handle a dangerous idea? When the structure of the atom began to unfold, when the concept of converting mass to energy began to surface, what went through the minds of those in the know? Looking at the far edge of the equations, where the numbers start to get really dramatic, what was it like to be one of the people who stopped and superimposed the idea of a fission reaction onto reality — the machines that might be built, the weapons that might be forged? The history of nuclear power and the tragedy of nuclear weapons is all around us now, but it wasn’t so long ago that all of these ideas were just scrawls on chalkboards and napkins. In fiction — and specifically the Marvel universe — big and dangerous ideas are molded into reality all the time, and whether the result is a marvelous new tool or a terrible doomsday device is entirely dependent on the person who controls that “a-ha” moment. In Indestructible Hulk #6, Mark Waid plays with his own microcosm of an arms race and drops the Hulk straight into the middle of it. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Aquaman 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Patrick: When I originally got my friend Taylor into comic books, I suggested Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing series. Taylor was intrigued, saying that the idea of a Captain Planet made of Plants seemed like a really fun book to read. Of course, Snyder’s Swamp Thing has more to do with elaborate mythologies and alternate futures and cool stuff like that, but that idea stuck with me. We read so few comic books about superheroes that stand for anything. Our heroes are driven by revenge or obligation or circumstance to fight crime, but none of them end up championing any causes – they just keep fighting whatever supervillains pop up to challenge them. After the events of Throne of Atlantis, Aquaman finds himself wedged uncomfortably between the roles of superhero and supervillain. What other choice does he have than to enact his own values and forge his own path?
Today, Shelby and guest writer Mogo are discussing Justice League 17, originally released February 20th, 2013, This issue is part of the Throne of Atlantis crossover event. Click here for complete ToA coverage.
Shelby: When I was in drama club in high school, we put on a lot of older comedies with the entire plot revolving around one basic misunderstanding. That one misunderstanding would compound exponentially (as misunderstandings are wont to do), and before you know it, you’d have a wacky, 2-hour situation involving mistaken identities and hiding in closets. At the end of the show, everyone would reveal themselves, and, with a good chuckle, the guy would get the girl, the plucky sidekick friends would hook up, and everyone lived happily ever after. In ComicBookLand, where two superheroes can’t bump into each other on the sidewalk without getting into a fight and destroying a city block, misunderstandings are never so innocently comedic. Justice League 17, the finale of the Throne of Atlantis, is no exception. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Mikyzptlk are discussing Dial H 7, originally released December 5th, 2012.
Taylor: Imagination enjoys an awkward place in our modern day society. While most people and institutions are quick to praise the use of imagination it is far more rare to find those who actually appreciate it. Seldom are we, as an audience, treated to something that is truly unique – whether it be in a movie, music, a book, or any other medium. While the complexities of this relationship with creativity are of too much detail to go into here, it will be said that a fair amount of imaginative endeavors are rebuffed due to the general population’s resistance to anything that diverges too far from their expectations. Many inventive music artists aren’t signed to major labels because their music isn’t traditional pop; many writers have to rewrite parts of their book so they will appeal to a larger base audience; and many TV shows craft generic characters and plots so that they will be liked by many, but perhaps loved by few. However, the comic book industry has always managed to buck this trend in many ways since its very inception, which itself was a departure from accepted norms. Whether this is due to the type of reader the comic book attracts or the type of artist it employs for its creation, I can’t say, but it seems like comic books have always been more willing to take imaginative chances than their counterparts in other media. Dial H is a perfect example of this daring and the seventh issue of this title is an excellent example of its imaginative prowess.
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Aquaman 0, originally released September 26th, 2012. Aquaman 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Shelby: Geoff Johns is a big picture kind of guy. When he gets an idea, it’s a big idea. This plays out well in trade paperback collections of his story arcs, when you can read them in great big chunks. It doesn’t always work so well in the monthly issues; when a huge story is dragged out over months, the pace slows and it’s hard to keep that big picture in your mind. I think Johns found a solution to the problem: just write an issue with a story so big it spans all the oceans, treat it like the opening scenes of a movie, and give your artists plenty of elbow room.