Hulk 5

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Hulk 5, originally released April 26th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: A defining trait of She-Hulk has always been control — becoming She-Hulk gave Jennifer Walters confidence, and she could fully control that form to the point where she remained Hulked-Out 24/7. Much of the tragedy of Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon’s Hulk has been watching Jen lose that control as a result of the trauma she underwent in Civil War II, but Hulk 5 shows that Jen’s situation is actually far more circular and complicated; she didn’t just lose control because of her trauma, but her trauma hit her so hard because she lost control in the first place. Continue reading

Spider-Woman 16

spiderwoman-16

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Spider-Woman 16, originally released February 22, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

“…as for Ellen and me, we were finally joined into a new element — much, much bigger than anything we had ever known. We didn’t know what the future had in store for us, but what did it matter? We fulfilled our destiny.”

“Day of the Dot” The Adventures of Pete and Pete

Patrick: Action movies and will-they-won’t-they romanic stories have a lot in common. Both rely on the promise of something big and meaningful just on the other end of the narrative. It’s a sense of longing — either for a pair of soulmates to recognize each other or for explosions and motorcycle chases — that drives like 90% of the story. When the lovers get together, or the fists start flying, that means we’re just about at the end of the thing. The Adventures of Pete and Pete got its two teenage leads together in a special before the series even got started, which made for a weird transition to a regular serialized romance. It was kind of neat though, to actually see the glory of their romance (in all of its innocence) before having it awkwardly revoked a few episodes later. Spider-Woman 16 moves us to those goal posts on both the romanic and action fields, showering the reader in destinies fulfilled. 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

Civil War II: The Oath 1

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Civil War II: The Oath 1, originally released January 25th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Why is Steve Rogers being transformed into a Nazi such a terrifying idea? It’s because we all trust Steve Rogers, both in universe and out. Not only can he use that to gain influence that should never, under any circumstances, be given a Nazi, but that trust means that we’re probably inclined to think the best of him — out of sheer habit, if nothing else — even though he’s never deserved it less. Well, no more. Civil War II: The Oath drives home that this altered Steve’s heart is as black as they come. If only the rest of the Marvel universe was privy to that fact as well. Continue reading

Civil War II 8

civil-war-ii-8
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Civil War II 8, originally released December 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The point of most blockbuster summer event crossovers is to throw as many characters together as a publisher can and coast off the spectacle, using tie-ins to boost sales and often refocusing their line of books in the aftermath. When these events are done right they can be loads of fun, but it’s hard to deny that there’s something kinda mercenary about the whole process. Is it possible for an event comic to have a soul? I’d certainly say so, and I’d imagine Brian Michael Bendis would agree with me. The problem with Civil War II, then, is that Bendis’ attempts to split the book evenly between spectacle and deeper themes results in both elements playing out unsatisfactorily. 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

Spider-Woman 11

Alternating Currents: Spider-Woman 11, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Spider-Woman 11, originally released September 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

The five stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Drew: As a psychological heuristic, Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief is arguably as well-known as Freud’s id, ego, and super-ego structural model. However, that may make it one of the most misunderstood, as Kübler-Ross explains in the quote above. We often talk about those five stages as if they fall into a prescribed linear order, but it was never really meant to be understood in that way. Which is to say: someone experiencing grief may feel any or none of these feelings in any order or any combination. Grief is a remarkably complex phenomenon that everyone experiences differently — some might feel mostly depression or mostly denial, while others, like Jessica Drew in Spider-Woman 11, feel mostly anger. 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

All-New Wolverine 9

all new wolverine 9

Today,Taylor and Spencer are discussing All-New Wolverine 9, originally released June 1st, 2015.

Taylor: In middle school I was a wallflower. I would go to dances with the hopes of dancing with a girl only to find myself retreating to the sidelines once the first few bars of a slow song wafted their way across the gym. By doing so I guaranteed my safety, even though that also guaranteed my mission to dance with a girl would fail. There was, and continues to be, safety in fading into the background. There, you aren’t the focus of attention, you can be overlooked, and most importantly, you’re just part of a larger tapestry. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less important than those people on the dance floor; you’re just different. The same can be said for comics, where background, while often overlooked, is an integral part of the art, as All-New Wolverine 9 demonstrates.

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