Using Our Voices to Help, Not Hurt in Black Panther 171

By Spencer Irwin

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

Our voices make us powerful. They allow us to make bonds and forge connections with one another, they allow us to speak out against oppression and injustice, they allow us to express our innermost desires and emotions, to be heard. Unfortunately, some voices are louder than others. Voices of men, voices of white people, they have a platform that women or people of color are so often denied access to, a platform that amplifies their voice, not only giving their words too much power, but drowning out the voices of others. This is first and foremost a problem for those whose voices are being drowned out, of course, but it’s also a problem for those doing the speaking; they’re so busy talking that they’re not listening, and that means they’re missing out on a lot of vital information. Continue reading

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Doctor Strange: Damnation 2 is Basically a Heist Movie

by Taylor Anderson

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

Just as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Steven Soderbergh will reemerge from “retirement” now and again to make another heist movie. One can’t blame him for this: heist movies are fun, and Soderbergh has shown that he’s become very good at making them. Still, why is it that our thirst for these can’t be sated? Is it seeing familiar faces from different walks of life team-up? The notion of stealing for a just cause like Robin Hood? Or perhaps it’s serving comeuppance to someone who deserves it. Whatever the reason may be, the heist story is here to stay, and, as Donny Cates and Nick Spencer show, is easily transferable to the superhero genre. Continue reading

An Unsettling Twist Changes the Game in Black Panther 170

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 170

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

Black Panther 170 is by all measures a climactic issue. Indeed, with so many of T’Challa’s villains and allies joining the fray, the bulk of the issue has a decidedly “Battle of the Five Armies” feel to it, which artist Leonard Kirk captures in all of its chaotic glory.

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

We may suspect a quieter, more personal denouement down the line — Klaw, Stane, Faustus, and Zenzi are nowhere near this fight — but this feels like the big army battle before things tighten back up to Black Panther tracking down the villains and rescuing his kidnapped friend. We think we know where this is going, but then writer Ta-Nehisi Coates yanks the rug out from under us on a stunning final page turn. [Major spoilers after the break!] Continue reading

Spidey in a Nutshell in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 300

by Taylor Anderson

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

Over the years, Spider-Man has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. That being the case, it’s still interesting to ponder what about Spidey resonates with so many fans. After all, there are plenty of superheroes who have had comics, but few who are as popular as the web-slinger. I can’t help but feel that there must be something about Spider-Man that all people enjoy — something that makes him almost universal in his appeal. Figuring that out is perhaps a taller order than I can accomplish in this article, but in issue 300 of the Spectacular Spider-Man, there are hints which suggest why he is such a likable hero. Continue reading

Black Panther Annual 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Black Panther Annual 1

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

Drew: Over the past two weeks, countless articles have been written about the world-building in the Black Panther film. It’s obviously something the movie does remarkably well, combining a kind of anthropological survey of African culture with a sci-fi utopia for an Afrofuturist aesthetic that is unique in the world of blockbuster movies. Moreover, that world-building was essential in ingratiating a new audience to the character and his home country, implying a rich culture that stretched far beyond what we saw on the screen. Of course, superhero comics — especially long-running ones — are often more interested in what has already been built than they are in what is new, trading on our nostalgia for familiar events and characters in a way that a single film obviously can’t. There’s certainly a case to be made for honoring the storied history of any character in that way, though the approach may be at odds with appealing to newcomers (who may have been brought in by, say, a widely popular movie), all of which puts Black Panther Annual 1 in a difficult position. Is it aimed at newcomers looking for an approachable entry into comics after seeing the movie, or is it aimed at long-time readers who are already duly familiar with the character’s history? Continue reading

Doctor Strange: Damnation 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

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

Spencer: Since our audience has excellent taste, I’m going to assume that you’re all watching NBC’s The Good Place, right? Essentially a show about lost souls trying to earn their way into Heaven by becoming better people, one of the more interesting concepts percolating beneath the show’s surface is the idea that the rules dictating what afterlife you’re sent to are inherently flawed and unfair. It’s almost impossible to earn your way into the Good Place — only the most selfless and charitable of souls make it — leaving plenty of folks who led wholly mediocre lives (or whose greatest crimes were being born in Florida) facing an eternity of torture and punishment. I couldn’t help but think of this while reading Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, and Rod Reis’ Doctor Strange: Damnation 1, which finds the city of Las Vegas, the Avengers, and perhaps the entire world being judged by equally biased, unfair rules. Continue reading

What in the Ever Loving Hell is Happening in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 299?

by Taylor Anderson

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 299

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

You know those Russian dolls where you find smaller and smaller dolls inside one another until you’re left with just a tiny, little one? Sure you do — everyone knows about them even if they might not know that they’re called Matryoshka Dolls. Well what’s the opposite of these dolls? One where the dolls somehow continue to get bigger and bigger in some brain-twisting way that defies physics and space? I doubt there’s a name for such a doll, but if there was one, it would be called Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 299. 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

Focus vs. Multiple Fronts in Black Panther 168

By Ryan Desaulniers

Black Panther 168

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

Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box

Whether you’re writing an indie comic title or trying to pen the next billion-dollar Star Wars film, a great place to start is by asking, “What is the hardest thing for my characters to do?” True character, after all, is revealed through the most difficult decisions they’re forced to undertake. After a very interesting tangent in Black Panther 166 to meet the new Klaw, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates tries to pile on the challenges facing King T’Challa and the rest of his royal court of protagonists, but is it better to assault a character from all sides, or to offer one clear, powerful opposing force? Continue reading

The (Re)Introduction of Klaw in Black Panther 166

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 166

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

There’s a lot to be excited by in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther run, but one we rarely comment on is that it’s bringing in new readers. As an already popular author and journalist, Coates has an established audience that is much, much larger than the typical comics creator. For evidence, we need look no further than his twitter followers, which number 1-3 orders of magnitude more than most comics creators — heck, he has more followers than most comics publishers. And, importantly, the vast majority of those followers (and Atlantic and Between the World and Me readers) aren’t comics readers. I’ve covered plenty of comics in our 7 years as a site, but tweets about Coates’s Black Panther represent the only times I’ve been asked “where can I buy this comic?” And that’s happened multiple times. Coates is bringing new people to the medium, and that’s something special.

Of course, it also puts him in a bit of an unusual place as a writer. T’Challa is a character with a rich, half-century-long history, and comicdom is notorious for fans who know every bit of that history. How do you reconcile the interests of those fans with those of total neophytes? From the start, Coates has struck an elegant balance, acknowledging many specific beats of that history while also creating entirely new mythologies for the character and his world. No one element represents that better than Ulysses Klaw, whose introduction at the end of last month’s issue crashed one of T’Challa’s oldest enemies into that new mythology. Continue reading