This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Patrick: Does writer Chip Zdarsky leverage humor to find pathos, or does he exploit genuine emotion for comedy? It’s almost impossible to tell. Zdarsky often rides the line between celebrating the absurdity and celebrating the sincerity of his characters and his stories. Marvel Two-In-One somehow achieves both simultaneously, giving the reader a sad, almost Venture Brothersian look into the loneliness and ennui of the last remaining members of the Fantastic Four, while never letting go of the inherent weirdness of these characters. It’s a stupendous feat of writing, emboldened by Jim Cheung’s reverent artwork. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Silver Surfer 3, originally released April 13, 2016.
Patrick: Silver Surfer has a puzzling relationship with the concept of “history.” I suppose we should expect no less from a character that can get caught in infinite time loops and regularly has a role in actively remaking reality. But he’s also just a strange character to consider from a meta-fictional standpoint: a villain-turned-hero whose whole shtick reads like a crummy Beach Boys B-side. There’s a weird mix of highfalutin science fiction mumbo-jumbo and campy comic book irreverence built into the character’s DNA. Was he the herald of planet-devouring mega-monster? Sure, but his last name is also Radd. Dan Slott and Michael Allred use the occasion of Silver Surfer’s 50th anniversary to celebrate the character’s duality and challenge the comic book industry’s penchant for rebooting their worlds and characters. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015.
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 →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Spider-Gwen 3, originally released April 1st, 2015.
Patrick: Last week, Drew and I posited that Amazing Spider-Man 17 was about Peter Parking being a bad grown-up. So much of Peter’s identity is tied up in childish — specifically teenage — tropes, that the character has very little sense of agency. He’s reactive more than active. Peter doesn’t have a plan for when he arrives three hours late to his Aunt Mae’s birthday party because he was out fighting the Green Goblin, he just yammers and stammers until he’s ostracized everyone he loves. ASM 17 saw a push away from that attitude with the help of Peter’s sorta-girl-friend-but-not-really (look, Spider-Man got complicated for a while there), but no matter how many opportunities for growth our Spider-Man has enjoyed over his 50 year history, fresh Spider-Man analogues have to start back at square one. Of course, teenage drama might look a little different with the genders reversed. Spider-Gwen 3 ends up being a frustrating exploration of navigating the tough decisions as a teenage Spider-Woman. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Spider-Gwen 1, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Patrick: If you had to name the most important quality for a superhero story to nail, what would it be? Action? Adventure? Humor? Relatability? Kind of depends on the character, doesn’t it? What I think ends up being most important across publishers and mediums is the story’s ability to express the fundamental nature of the character. If you’re telling a Batman story, it better be dark, grimey, and morally ambiguous. If you’re telling a Spider-Man story, it better be humorous, optimistic and dutiful. So how on earth would anyone write a Spider-Gwen story? The character barely exists beyond a small roll in the recent Spider-Verse event. Fans latched on to the character for a number of reasons (everyone misses Gwen Stacy), but the clearest virtue of the character is that she looks amazing. In lieu of a letter’s page, editor Nick Lowe thanks fans for worshiping the incredible design of Gwen’s costume, celebrating it through fan-art and cos-play. This obsession with image becomes the fundamental nature of stories in Gwen’s world, as Spider-Gwen turns the superficial into the substantial. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Original Sin 2, originally released May 21st, 2014.
Shelby:Last issue, we discussed the merits of a superhero murder mystery. Patrick mentioned that the fluidity of the rules of the superhero world make for a much more fast and loose sort of mystery. It raises the question of how such a mystery can even exist; when you’ve got Emma Frost and Doctor Strange running around, how can you possibly know the answer to anything? I suppose that is was the Watcher’s function; despite the number of characters who have the capability of knowing everything, Uatu was the only one who actually did. The entity for whom there was no mystery is now the subject of a murder mystery of epic proportions. That fact is not lost on writer Jason Aaron, who decides to further upend the concept of the murder mystery by telling us who did it in the second chapter.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Fantastic Four 2, originally released March 12th, 2014.
Patrick: I don’t like the way James Robinson writes dialogue. Don’t like it. He invents unnecessarily awkward contractions; his characters use cliché superhero rhetoric; there are frequent problems with subject-verb agreement; and he’ll mix up countable and uncountable objects (using words like “fewer” and “less” incorrectly). I can accept some of these “mistakes” as affectations of Robinson’s characters: lord knows Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm aren’t going to edit the words that come out of their mouths. But dialogue is like 5% of a comic, right? As long as the art and incident are compelling, a few glaringly stupid sentences shouldn’t bother me, right? RIGHT!? Continue reading →
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing FF 16, originally released January 22nd, 2013.
Ethan: With the arrival of FF 16 Scott Lang’s campaign to end Doom is itself at an end. Even though Doom was the cause of the crusade, it’s always been more about Scott — this finale is no different. As Scott confronts the mortal enemy of the Fantastic Four and the man who killed his daughter, there’s never going to be a better time to prove who or what the latest incarnation of Ant-Man has become. Unsurprisingly, Matt Fraction and Lee Allred do not disappoint.
Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing Fantastic Four 9 and FF 8, originally released June 19th, 2013 and June 26th, 2013, respectively.
Shelby: Everyone makes mistakes. There’s no way around it. Personally, I think it’s a better judge of character to see how a person deals with their mistakes, and less so that the mistakes were made in the first place. It’s important to admit when you’ve messed up and take responsibility fr your actions, but the gesture rings a little hollow when you don’t actually expect to be held responsible. Or if you can just go back in time and undo what you did: how will you learn from a mistake if you can just erase it? Moreover, if you aren’t going to be held responsible for what you did, and you can’t undo it no matter how badly you may want to, can you really forgive yourself? Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Fantastic Four 6, originally released April 10th, 2013.
Drew: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” has long been the rule of thumb for eco-tourists — or really anybody visiting nature. The point is simple: don’t change things (and indeed, many ecologists now advocate for “leave no trace” practices, which argue that even footprints are too disruptive). This idea is quite common in sci-fi as well — the Star Trek had the prime directive, and Ray Bradbury’s time traveler had the butterfly effect — which exaggerates the danger of changing things to potentially harming history itself. You’d think, then, that a group as smart as the Fantastic Four would be especially careful when encountering alien cultures while time traveling, but issue 6 proves yet again that they can’t really be bothered with such concerns, willing to alter things at the very dawn of time itself. Continue reading →