Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Omega Spoils Itself

by Drew Baumgartner

Venom Inc Omega

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

How do we feel about Marvel’s “alpha” and “omega” strategy to crossovers? That is, mostly embedding the crossover in already-running monthlies, reducing the event series to just the first and last chapters of the story. They’re harder to skip by design — where you might be able to simply ignore an entire event series, you might be pulled into a crossover if a book you’re following is participating — but that can be frustrating to otherwise disinterested readers. Another downside that I hadn’t considered is that the stakes of an omega issue are kind of necessarily neutered — their inessential nature means they lack the ballast to make any changes that would be too earth-shattering to its participating series. Any big changes must have already happened in the series it would most effect, leaving the omega to tie up the loose ends with as little disruption to the status quo as possible. I don’t love to lead with these kind of meta-critiques of an issue (honestly, most superhero story arcs wrap up with the same kind of predictable return-to-normal), but Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Omega seems determined to keep it at the forefront of my mind, stymying any tension at every chance it gets. Continue reading

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Heroes and Villains Alike Assemble Their Armies in Amazing Spider-Man 793

by Spencer Irwin

Amazing Spider-Man 793

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

By the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 793 — the fourth installment of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom Inc.” crossover — the many various players that have filled out this story have essentially grouped into two opposing sides. What’s interesting is the way these factions differ from each other. Continue reading

Middle-Chapter Blues in Amazing Spider-Man 792

by Spencer Irwin

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

The middle chapters of multi-issue storylines sometimes suffer a bit. They’re not a beginning, they’re not an ending — sometimes all they can do is move a few plot points forward, hopefully in the most entertaining manner possible. The Amazing Spider-Man 792, the second installment of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom Inc” crossover, is decidedly one of those middle chapters, but even in comparison to other middle chapters it suffers a bit. Continue reading

Defenders 1: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Ryan Desaulniers

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

Taylor: When you think of the job comic book writers are tasked with, it’s damn near impossible to not stand in awe at what they accomplish. When writing for monthlies, authors not only have to come up with an engaging story, but something that stands out as unique. This is no easy task. Monthly comics have been around for the better part of a century, and many of the heroes who have titles today have participated in literally hundreds of story arcs. With that in mind, it’s impressive to consider the career of a writer as prolific as Brian Michael Bendis. Arguably the most recognizable name in comic book writing today, Bendis has written countless stories in his career, so at some point it becomes reasonable to question if he’ll ever cease to come up with new, entertaining stories. While it would be hyperbole to say Defenders 1 signals the beginning of the end for Bendis’s creativity, it’s hard to argue the lack of originality and inspiration in this first issue. Continue reading

Silk 8

silk 8

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Silk 8, originally released May 11th, 2016.

Drew: I had a bit of an identity crisis when I got to college. Well, “crisis” is an overstatement, but I certainly had to reevaluate how I defined myself. Some of that came down to being in a new place with new people, but the bigger part was that the things that distinguished me in high school, say, my passion and talent for music, were no longer remarkable in a conservatory full of musicians. I suspect this is a common experience for a lot of teens, even if the details change a bit (maybe it’s not college, but a music scene, or space camp, or whatever), which is why identity is such an important subject for them. Of course, for all of our struggles to further define ourselves, our identities are much more stable than those of comic book superheroes, whose identities are managed by numerous writers, artists, and editors, but are often split between costumed and civilian personas, and might even run into alternate versions of themselves. Suffice it to say, Cindy Moon was not in a great place to define (or defend) her personality even before she ran into her evil doppelgänger, which lends every decision she makes in Silk 8 an almost visceral tension. Continue reading

Silk 6

silk 6

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Silk 6, originally released March 16th, 2015.

Taylor: Many of the stories I’ve encountered in my time reading comics exist in a world that is split into two halves. There are those who are good and those who are bad. S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Hydra. The Light Side vs. the Dark Side. While these worlds are the setting for compelling stories, they aren’t necessarily a reflection of our own world. It’s rare today that something or someone can be considered entirely good or evil. Silk 6 recognizes this, and in doing so, shows us that sometimes choosing between right and wrong isn’t as easy as most comics would have us believe.

Continue reading

Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 2/24/16

marvel roundup20

We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing All-New Inhumans 4, Astonishing Ant-Man 5, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 4, Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 3, and Silk 5.

slim-banner4 Continue reading

Silk 3

Alternating Currents: Silk 3, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Silk 3, originally released January 13th, 2016.

Drew: Superhero comics are full of tropes, from character types to specific situations our heroes find themselves in. There are a number of ways that a savvy creative team can avoid those tropes, but over a long enough publishing history, even the most innovative series will come upon ideas that have been done a million times before. Without characters and situations to distinguish one series from another, tone ends up being the signature of most superhero comics. Batman is darker than Superman, Deadpool is sillier than Spider-Man, and while those tones can change with creative teams and time, they tend to stay in the ballpark precisely because its the tone that separates one book from another.

I might make the same argument for sitcoms — any number of shows might have similar storylines or characters, but Seinfeld will never get you invested in character relationships the way How I Met Your Mother might. The notable exception is the “very special episode” — particularly common in family sitcoms in the ’90s — where shows would often jettison their tone wholesale in order to address a “serious” subject. These tend to be few and far between, but M*A*S*H is famous for slowly turning into a “very special episode” factory, eschewing the silliness of the early seasons in favor of earnest (though often heavy-handed) anti-war messages. That change wasn’t necessarily seen as a negative — indeed, M*A*S*H‘s final episode is still the most watched finale of any television series — but it must have been an odd transition for those who tuned in for irreverent fun. I find myself in a similar situation with this volume of Silk, where the tone seems to be shifting rather deliberately from the whiz-bang fun of Silk’s earlier adventures. Continue reading

Silk 5

silk 5

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Silk 5, originally released June 10th, 2015.

Spencer: Asking for help isn’t easy. It should be, because we all need help from time to time (or, perhaps more accurately, almost constantly), yet there’s often a stigma against asking for help. Needing helps means admitting that you can’t do everything all by yourself; oftentimes it means admitting that you were wrong, or that you failed. In the case of Cindy Moon — a.k.a. Silk — it also means revealing some of her deepest secrets. Yup, asking for help can be downright difficult, but it’s also absolutely essential if we want to keep moving forward in life. Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee’s Silk 5 finds Cindy finally reaching out for help in both her superheroic and civilian personas, and in both cases it’s without a doubt the best possible decision. Continue reading

Silk 4

silk 4

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Silk 4, originally released May 13th, 2015.

“My body can stretch all around this building. It’s natural state is a giant puddle of, well, me. It takes everything I have to hold myself together. So, yes. I’ve had anxiety.”

Reed Richards, Silk 4

Patrick: For obvious reasons, most superhero narratives that deal with mental illness stay pretty close PTSD or anger management problems. While debilitating issues in real life, in the realm of fiction, that all sounds very sexy — these afflictions either steam from or drive a character to action. Usually both. And it doesn’t much matter how negatively a writer tries to paint Bruce Wayne’s grief- and guilt-ridden revenge episodes, the reader always wants to see Batman kicking ass. Punisher may not be able to sleep without a gun under his pillow, but we sorta like that. Silk 4 toys with the idea that mental illness isn’t always so obvious and often isn’t so action-packed. Continue reading