The Shield as Excalibur in Captain America 702

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 702

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

Drew: Comics historians are obsessed with Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. There’s fun parallels to draw between the lasso and Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s invention of the lie detector, but another essential point is that a lasso isn’t a phallus in the same way that a sword or gun is. That is, it’s a feminine weapon, designed to entwine Wonder Woman’s enemies, rather than pierce their flesh. I think that reading certainly has utility, but I think practically, the effect of that choice is that Wonder Woman is less concerned with injuring and maiming her enemies as she is neutralizing them — her weapon of choice embodies her compassion. I think Captain America’s shield represents a similar compassion, positioning as a defender, rather than an aggressor. That fact becomes particularly salient as Mark Waid and Leonardo Romero explicitly draw parallels between the shield and Excalibur, effectively highlighting the difference between a shield and a sword. Continue reading

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Delayed Gratification in Avengers 2

by Mark Mitchell

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

Avengers 2 finds writer Jason Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness still trying to explain just what their Avengers book is going to be. Like the premiere issue, Avengers 2 is incredibly chatty, stuffed to the gills with narration, banter, quips, and inner-monologue that try to help explain the presence (and absence) of various Avengers. There’s a delayed gratification aspect at play, and seeing the entire team finally all together (whenever that happens) will no doubt be cathartic, but spending so much ink explaining why this team-up book doesn’t yet have a team is a sometimes frustrating choice. Continue reading

Staying Focused on Character, No Matter Where and When You Go, in Exiles 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

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One thing you can’t accuse Exiles of is a lack of imagination — or of decompressed storytelling, I suppose. The title flies through new ideas and worlds almost faster than readers can keep up with them. Sometimes I honestly wish it would just slow down and spend some time actually exploring the worlds it takes us to for more than a few pages, and thankfully, Exiles 3 does exactly that, spending over half its story in one scenario (a WWII-era battle with Peggy Carter’s Captain America), and ending with a legitimately shocking cliffhanger, one that finally isn’t the Time-Eater showing up yet again. I feel like this book is really starting to find its footing.

More importantly, though, no matter what era it travels to or how quickly things change, creators Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez always keep Exiles focused on what matters most: its characters. Continue reading

Despicable Deadpool 300: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner & Patrick Ehlers

Despicable Deadpool 300

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

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Drew: Five years into this run, pointing out that Deadpool is a Sad Clown would be lazy analysis — not only has that point been well established, but the series itself has managed to explore it so thoroughly, reducing the character’s emotional journey to a two-word summary couldn’t possibly do it justice. And yet, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to begin this piece than embedding Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown,” not because of a shallow similarity between the content of these two works, but because of some profound similarities in how they treat that content. The lyrics describe a narrator who puts on a good face in spite of his profound sadness, but the music doesn’t betray that sadness for a second — it sounds like any other Motown hit (though that bouncy bassoon that maybe hints that this song is about a clown). By this point in the story, Wade Wilson has completely dropped that fascade of silliness, but just like the instruments in “Tears of a Clown,” the series itself maintains that clownish exterior. Continue reading

Avengers 1: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Drew Baumgartner

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

Taylor: In middle school, my favorite book was a archaeology tome titles Ancient Mysteries. The book is exactly what you would think — a survey of all the unsolved mysteries archaeologists have studied such as how the inhabitants of Easter Island made their statues and the relevancy of the Atlantis story. I was entranced by these mysteries because they suggested a history of Earth that was far bigger and far stranger than anything I had imagined up to that point. This was exciting at the time, and to this day my interest is still piqued by random archaeology articles on the BBC. It’s maybe for this reason that Avengers 1 intrigues me so much. It points to a deep, weird history of Earth I want to know more about. Continue reading

The Inevitable in Despicable Deadpool 299

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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“Always do this. Tell the audience what you’re going to do. Do it. And then tell them it has been done.”

Stan Laurel via Jerry Lewis via Conan O’Brien on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show

Conan went on to explain, “If anyone knows what the hell he’s talking about, please tell me, because it’s been ringing in my head for years.” It’s a strange piece of advice, especially to be passed down through a line of comedians. Comedy is based on the unexpected, right? But there’s another kind of humor that comes from obviously broadcasting what’s about to happen and then delivering on it. It’s a kind of dramatic irony — the audience knows what’s going to happen only because of their superpower of being an audience. Despicable Deadpool plays into the dramatic irony of the title “The Marvel Universe Kills Deadpool,” and quietly asserts that the creative team intends to deliver on everything it’s been setting up for the last three issues. Continue reading

Hope Springs Eternal in Captain America 700

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 700

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

Superheroes don’t get endings. They might die, sure, but are inevitably resurrected months, years, or decades down the line. And they’re brought back for the same reason superheroes don’t get endings: there’s always another story to tell (and another dollar to be made telling it). Fans may sometimes get jaded about this — especially when a hero is killed off for the umpteenth time — but that lack of closure keeps superheroes in a holding pattern in the middle of the hero’s journey. They may have momentary successes, sure, but they never get to kick up their heels at the end of a career well-served. You know, unless you can find some kind of alternate universe/timeline workaround that allows your hero some sense of closure while still allowing him to carry on the fight tomorrow. That’s exactly the kind of workaround Mark Waid and Chris Samnee cook up in Captain America 700, giving Steve the kind of heroic end he can only have if there’s some kind of trick. Continue reading

Culminating Repercussions in Despicable Deadpool 296

by Drew Baumgartner

Deadpool 296

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

Are reverence and irreverence mutually exclusive? Linguistically, we might understand these words as opposites, but practically, we recognize that they coexist all around us. This is especially true in standup comedy, a field that both finds humor in what we take seriously and takes what we find funny very seriously. It’s no coincidence, then, that Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool run has had such a rich mix of reverence and irreverence, adopting some of the “sad clown” stylings of his comedic friends and collaborators, lending an otherwise goofy character real pathos. Indeed, one of the most distinctive features of Duggan’s work with this character was in crafting a tragic (but nonetheless joke-filled) backstory that could lend itself to reverence. With issue 296, Despicable Deadpool aims to cash in on much of that reverence, drawing on everything from Duggan’s earliest work with the character to some of his most recent. Continue reading

The Burden and Joy of Public Service in Captain America 699

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 699

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

For many superheroes, superheroics are a means of righting some cosmic injustice — the death of a loved one a the hands of a criminal, for example. Indeed, that particular motivation is so ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that many heroes are motivated not out of some personal vendetta, but because they feel morally compelled to help when they can. We tend to think of Spider-Man (death of a loved one at the hands of a criminal notwithstanding) for that kind of power/responsibility stuff, but I’ll suggest that Captain America might embody those ideals even more thoroughly. For Cap, superheroing is a public service, no different from volunteering at a soup kitchen or picking up trash at your local park. He’s able to make the world a better place by being Captain America, so he has to be Captain America. Again, it’s not an attitude that’s entirely unique to Steve Rogers, but as Mark Waid and Chris Samnee crank that aspect up to eleven in Captain America 699, it’s hard to imagine any other character living that ideal so perfectly. Continue reading

Disposable Supporting Characters in Despicable Deadpool 295

by Michael DeLaney

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

In the world of popular fiction, there’s a very low risk of the main characters — or the most recognizable ones — dying. We know that our protagonists are safe in any given story, so there’s a higher likelihood that any supporting cast member will meet their end. As entertaining and touching as Despicable Deadpool 295 is, I can’t help but feel that it’s just another story where the characters we like stay safe while the nameless ones die off. Continue reading