The Failings of Friendship in Desperate Times in Secret Empire 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

“The power of friendship” is a popular trope in most media. The idea that most situations can be overcome through the bonds we share with our friends is powerful in a lot of ways, but it’s one that never really seems applicable to war or espionage stories like Secret Empire. Make no mistake, Hydra is not going to be defeated by friendship or optimism alone, but in Secret Empire 5, Nick Spencer, Rod Reis, Andrea Sorrentino, Joshua Cassara, and Rachelle Rosenberg do explore the effect pre-existing relationships have on their conflict. It’s not always a good one. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel 18

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Ms. Marvel 18, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Supporting characters exist, well, to support — to highlight and contrast the protagonist’s various personality traits. Even when supporting characters deal with trauma and plot twists of their own, creators and readers alike have a tendency to only think of those events in terms of how they effect the protagonist. I’ll admit that I’d been thinking that way of Bruno Carrelli, the (former?) best friend of Kamala Khan, after everything he’d gone through in the Civil War II tie-ins; my number one concern was whether he and Kamala would ever be able to repair their relationship. Writer G. Willow Wilson shines the spotlight on Bruno in Ms. Marvel 18, and by doing so, gently reminds her readers that Bruno is his own man with his own unique struggles that are worth considering and empathizing with. Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 4

ultimates-2-4

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 4, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. […]

Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. […]

Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.

Aristotle, “Rhetoric”

Drew: I’ve never studied philosophy, or even public speaking, but even I’ve heard of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the three modes of persuasion Aristotle describes in the excerpts above. Obviously, “heard of” is a pretty far cry from understanding, but to my lay mind, Logos — the mode that relies on logic — is often held up as the purest form of persuasion, as it hinges on facts rather than our emotions or faith in whoever is making the argument. But, of course, it’s difficult to truly ignore the impact of Ethos and Pathos — we’re emotional, social beings — so it’s possible for something to feel like Logos when, in fact, it isn’t (a phenomenon we call “truthiness”). Moreover, dubious Logos may shore up its logicalness by being distractingly lacking in Ethos and Pathos (a phenomenon we might call “fuck your feelings”). This is all very messy, and is threatening to turn into an essay on political discourse, but I brought it up to address the appeals characters make to one another in Ultimates 2 4 — all modes are on display, including a “logical” argument built on such shaky ground that its arguer feels compelled to call itself “Logos.” Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 1

ultimates-2-1

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 1, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: It’s odd that we have a concept of ideas that are “ahead of their time” — that is, it’s odd that ideas are so often rejected only to be later praised that we have a phrase to describe the phenomenon. Optimistically, the fact that those ideas can be reappraised suggests that you can’t keep a good idea down, but the other side of that coin reveals how common it is to reject good ideas in the moment. Indeed, the very fact that those ideas can later be proven to have value illustrates that the initial problem wasn’t with the idea, but the people involved in implementing it. Maybe it comes down to personalities involved or the politics surrounding an idea, but good ideas can be rejected for reasons totally unrelated to the quality of those ideas. Those mistakes may be corrected by history, but often over the course of generations. To me, the best way to speed up that process, unlocking the value of good ideas sooner, is to constantly reevaluate our decisions, never defaulting to the assumption that the “best” idea always wins. Such is the case with the idea of the Ultimates — the politics and personalities involved may have prevented that idea from reaching its fruition the first time around, but that doesn’t mean it should be discarded completely. Continue reading

The Uncanny Inhumans 13

Alternating Currents: Uncanny Inhumans 13, Drew and Patrick
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Uncanny Inhumans 13, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Most people believe that the 20th century was a death struggle between Communism and Capitalism, and that Fascism was but a hiccup. But today we know better. Communism was a fool’s errand. The followers of Marx gone from this earth, but the followers of Hitler abound and thrive. Hitler, however, had one great disadvantage. He lived in a time when Fascism, like a virus… like the AIDS virus… needed a strong host in order to spread. Germany was that host. But Germany did not prevail. The world was too big. Fortunately, the world has changed. Global communications, cable TV, the internet. Today the world is smaller and a virus does not need a strong host in order to spread. The virus… is airborne. One more thing. Let no man call us crazy. They called Hitler crazy. But Hitler was not crazy. He was stupid. You don’t fight Russia and America. You get Russia and America to fight each other… and destroy each other.

Dressler, The Sum of All Fears

Drew: I’m not sure if the above quote appears in Tom Clancy’s novel, but it sure plays a key role in its film adaptation, where a group of fascists run a false flag operation in hopes of pitting Russia and the US against one another. The narrative of a neo-nazi faction gaining by pitting the two powers that be against one another certainly has real-world resonance in the rise of the alt-right during this election cycle, which I suppose highlights the danger of steamrolling any narrative into a simple dichotomy. The US and Russia may have been the only superpowers left, but they were far from the only interests that could benefit from their antagonism. Unfortunately, international relations aren’t always subtle enough to fully understand those smaller interests. The same could be said of superheroes, which, even when they’re fighting with one another, tend to be almost entirely two-sided. The Inhumans already represent a kind of third party to Captain Marvel and Iron Man’s “Civil War,” but an even subtler point is how even smaller factions might exploit that conflict to their own ends. It’s The Sum of All Fears, but with superpowers in place of, well, superpowers. Continue reading

The Ultimates 5

ultimates 5

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Ultimates 5, originally released March 23rd, 2016.

Spencer: As a team, the Ultimates exist to solve problems within the Marvel Universe that are too grand for any other team to fix; it’s fitting, then, that Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort seem to be using The Ultimates 5 to solve an equally grand problem that Marvel Comics as an entity have been grappling with for years. It’s perhaps the most meta-textual concept in an issue full of meta, but thankfully, all that meta makes for an intriguing read. Continue reading

Secret Wars 9

secret wars 9

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Secret Wars , originally released January 13th, 2016. 

secret wars div

“Great societies are crumbling around us. And the old men who run them are out of ideas. So all eyes turn to you — our children — to build us something better […] We must do more, go farther… to somewhere no human has ever been. Your prize, Makers… are the stars themselves.”

T’Challa, Secret Wars 9

Patrick: The entirety of Jonathan Hickman’s incursion epic has hinged on this concept of master morality — that the decisions of the powerful necessarily cannot make sense to those less powerful. Individuals’ lives and rights are trampled for a concept as nebulous as “the greater” good, and it’s not really up to the subservient class to judge that trampling. With Secret Wars, the class of person making such impossible decisions is God — a literal, physically present, hands-on creator God — in the form of Doctor Doom. His decisions are immeasurably complicated, but they are also the decisions made by Hickman himself, and the conclusion to this mini-series, this event, and Hickman’s entire run at Marvel comics, links Godliness with creativity, and ultimately places the decisions and the morality behind those decisions in the hands of the storytellers.

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Secret Wars 8

secret wars 8

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015. 

secret wars div

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

The Ultimates 1

ultimates 1

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing the Ultimates 1, originally released November 11th, 2015.

Taylor: Canada recently elected a prime minister. His name is Justin Trudeau and people basically seem to love him. Maybe this has to do with his dashing good looks or maybe his liberalism is a nice shift from Canada’s previous, more conservative PM. Whatever the reason, he made headlines a week or so ago and further endeared himself to many when he was asked why half of his political cabinet are women. His answer: “Because it’s 2015.” Whatever your views may be on Canada’s new PM, this frank and forward thinking answer is certainly welcome in a world ready for a new breed of politician. “What does this have to do with comics?” you might be asking. Well, similar to politics, the comics world is prime for a new, fresh perspective, at least from the major publishers. Enter The Ultimates 1, a comic that promises to be progressive and different despite its trappings as a traditional title.

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Secret Wars 1

secret wars 1

Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Secret Wars 1, originally released May 6th, 2015. 

“Oh, best war ever…”

-General Nick Fury, Secret Wars 1

Ryan: Secret Wars grabs the baton from Jon Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers beloved/despised/confusing “Time Runs Out” saga chronicling the futile struggle of Earth-616 against the collapse of the multiverse. Hickman dives in by tipping his hat to the concluding plot thread of Doom vs. The Beyonders, the significance of which — aside from helping to shrink the amount of surviving universes down to a baker’s dozen minus a bunch — is still a bit lost on me. The narration of the issue is provided by Reed Richards, and the first installment of this event belongs to him.

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