Bucky Takes Center Stage in Tales of Suspense 101

by Drew Baumgartner

Tales of Suspense 101

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

I like spy stories enough, but I’d never claim to be a connoisseur of the genre. I’m sure there are countless subtle subgenres, but to my lay eyes, the most obvious division is between the sensationalized high adventure of, say, James Bond films, and the more grounded stories of intrigue and espionage of John le Carré’s novels. And I recognize that that’s a gross oversimplification, but the actual point I want to talk about is tone — while the later category takes itself super seriously, the former is much lighter and more fun (more recent Bond films notwithstanding), savoring terrible one-liners and groan-inducingly punny names. The Bond franchise has recently eschewed that lightness of tone in pursuit of something more serious, but Tales of Suspense 101 represents another approach; one where everyone agrees the situation is very serious, but the characters can’t help but be funny, anyway. Continue reading

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Peter Parker Sacrifices Action in Spectacular Spider-Man 297

by Patrick Ehlers

Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man 297

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

Peter spends the majority of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 297 out-smarting, out-punching, and out-maneuvering both the NYPD and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Mintz. And he does it all while being underpowered and trying to keep his identity a secret. It’s the kind of Spider-Man story that wordlessly plays in the fantasies of Spider-Man fans — scrape after scrape, close-call after close-call, until he finally escapes. It’s thrilling, wonderful stuff. Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Adam Kubert use this issue to set up these thrilling heroics as the stakes of this arc, rather than the actual substance thereof. Continue reading

Secret Empire: Omega 1: Discussion

By Ryan Mogge and Drew Baumgartner

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

Ryan: Every event in your memory left some sort of mark. When it comes to trauma, those marks are more like deep grooves. No matter how much you heal, or how much better off you are, you are changed by what has happened to you. In the wake of a rebellion against a group of fascists bent on world domination with the face of the most trusted man alive, you certainly can’t expect to move forward without being changed. In Secret Empire: Omega 1, Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino offer a mixture of back-to-normal plot points and artful rumination that operate quite differently but still offer the same themes of trauma and the scars left behind. Continue reading

Secret Empire 7: Discussion

By Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin

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

Michael: Fictional prophecies are a tricky thing. Typically, the prophecy is either dead-on or has been slightly misinterpreted, but either way it usually comes with a twist. Nick Spencer has played with a lot of elements from Marvel’s last big crossover event Civil War II, but none moreso than Miles Morales clutching Steve Rogers’ lifeless body on Capitol Hill. Secret Empire 7 finally approaches that moment…or does it? Continue reading

Secret Empire 6: Discussion

by Ryan Mogge and Michael DeLaney

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

Ryan: Wednesday is the worst day of the week for soap operas. The storylines all build to a Friday afternoon cliffhanger, so by mid week you are still wrapping up the fallout of last week and are too early for this week’s storylines to be very juicy. Nick Spencer and Leinil Francis Yu are mid-run in Secret Empire 6, and rather than an issue with a self-contained arc that can be completed, we get bits and pieces of several arcs, with only limited links holding them together. Continue reading

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

Secret Empire 4: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Ryan Mogge

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

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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

Secret Empire 3

Alternating Currents: Secret Empire 3, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Secret Empire 3, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: That Secret Empire is about big ideas goes without saying. As with any tentpole summer event, it promises to change the Marvel universe as we know it (at least temporarily), but the bigger story is the way the event (and the stories leading to it) have reflected the real-world political climate, often in uncanny — and uncomfortable — ways. But issue 3 reveals that, underneath it all, writer Nick Spencer may have been building to an even bigger (albeit, perhaps less controversial) question about the very nature of the superhero genre in the present day: does it still have room for moral absolutes? Continue reading

Black Widow 11

Alternating Currents: Black Widow 11, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Black Widow 10, originally released February 8th, 2017As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Mordor. The one place in Middle-earth we don’t want to see any closer, and the one place we’re trying to get to.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Drew: As far as motivations go, “destroy evil ring” is about as straightforward as it gets. Obviously, there’s a great deal more to Tolkien than his MacGuffins, but I think one of the most elegant ways he complicates that motive is the simple fact that the ring has to be destroyed in Mt. Doom. In this way, each step of they journey brings the ring closer to destruction and closer to falling into Sauron’s grasp. The only thing that could up the tension any further is suggesting that the “secret” plan to destroy the ring is simply part of Sauron’s plan to draw it out. Are they defeating him, or are they doing his work for him? Nat finds herself in a similar situation in Black Widow 11, as she apparently delivers an equally devastating MacGuffin to Recluse. Continue reading

Black Widow 10

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Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 10, originally released January 18, 2017As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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“Thank you for being a friend.”

Golden Girls Theme Song

Patrick: In college, I made a friend name Melanie. She was a freshman during my senior year, and she had kind of a tough time adjusting to the more Wisconsonian aspects of her college experience. She was from Portland, Oregon, and between the winters and the culture shock, she couldn’t connect with her classmates very easily. I loved that Melanie could see through the dorky Wisconsin obsessions with the Packers, or cheese, or beer or whatever, but that meant a lot of the ways we connected were extremely cynical. We complained about people together, we came up with strategies for getting each other out of small talk at parties – I’d consider it misanthropic if it weren’t also the thing that bonded us so tightly. We used to exchange birthday cards that read “Happy Birthday you fucking cunt.” Obviously, she’s the only person in the world I’d send that card to. Being friends with Melanie was unlike being friends with anyone else, and it’s important to recognize how unique each friendship is. For me and Melanie, that meant one thing, for Natasha and Bucky it means something else.

Continue reading