Ambiguity and Closure in Doctor Strange 390

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I had a writing teacher in college that used to say there were four kinds of stories. The first is the most common: the hero wants something, gets it, and his happy he got it. We see this one in superhero media all the time, right? Batman wants to catch the Riddler, he does, feels great about it. The second type of story is the hero wants something, gets it, is unhappy he got it. This is the old Twilight Zone twist — “I can live for ever, BUT AT WHAT COST?”). The last two kinds of stories are similar: hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is happy to have not gotten it, and; hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is unhappy to have not gotten it. Doctor Strange 390 manages to be a weird mix of all these types of stories, where even the question of who our hero is leads to some fascinating ambiguity. Donny Cates’ send-off to Doctor Strange is as mysterious, and true to the tone of the character, as a reader could possibly home for. Continue reading

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“What Ifs” in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 304

by Taylor Anderson

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

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation involves Worf and parallel dimensions. In it, Worf is returning to the Enterprise from a Bat’leth tournament and through a bizarre set of circumstances finds himself transporting to different versions of his universe. In one, he’s married to Deanna Troi. In another he goes from placing first in the Bat’leth tournament to ninth. In yet another, he’s responsible for the inadvertent death of Goerdi La Forge. It’s a fun episode because it sets familiar characters and settings against an unfamiliar backdrop. This “what if” is a favorite of every Star Trek show and the same goes for comics. That being the case, you think I would be tired of the conceit, but the very opposite is true — I love it.

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The Burden of Tomorrow in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 303

by Taylor Anderson

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

More so than most superheroes, Spider-Man knows just how much of a sacrifice it takes to use his powers for good. In fact, the very reason he decided to become a hero at all revolves around the loss of his Uncle Ben. The list of hits doesn’t end there, though: Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, and and the sometimes friendly Osborns have all died at some point or another due to Spider-Man. This means that he’s a character as much defined by his tragic circumstances as he is by his superpowers, which begs the question: if he knew how terrible it is to be Spider-Man, would Peter Parker choose to be him anyway? Continue reading

Authenticity in Sex Criminals 23

by Ryan Desaulniers

Sex Criminals 23

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

[He] felt he had to choose between being a failure and being a fake

Because going against our natural inclinations can make us feel like impostors, we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable.

Herminia Ibarra, The Authenticity Paradox

“Authenticity” is a big, nebulous word. I normally encounter the concept in the realm of art — whether it be performance or otherwise — as an indicator of a work’s sincerity or the artist’s commitment to an original, unique vision, but there’s no rubric or scale to truly measure these values. The same can be said about authenticity in one’s personal life. How can one accurately and honestly gauge whether their actions or behaviors come from one’s natural, earnest inclinations when any given person, on their journey through life, undergoes so much change due to a litany of reasons? At what point can the quest for authenticity become a detriment to further development instead of being a welcome pillar of deeply-held tenants? Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals 23 reads as a very busy issue, featuring an array of close-ups on the characters of the series, and these moments succeed in showing the struggle for authenticity, though these moments occur within a messy-feeling broader plot. Continue reading

A New Start for the Fantastic Four Marvel Two-In-One 5?

By Taylor Anderson

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

Earlier this month it was announced that the Fantastic Four would be returning to comics. Many assumed that their absence from the pages of Marvel monthlies was due to the fact that Fox owns their movie rights. Disney, not wanting to promote movies from which they wouldn’t profit, phased them out of their comic pages, or so the theory goes. Whether this is true or not may never be known, but now that the Fantastic Four are soon to return, it’s interesting to consider how exactly that will happen. However, if Marvel Two-In-One 5 is any indication, the Fantastic Four may already have reunited. Continue reading

Out of Sync Spider-Men in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 302

by Taylor Anderson

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

In Back to the Future, Doc tells Marty that he can’t interact with a younger or older version of himself because it could disrupt the fabric of spacetime. In other stories, if someone sees themself from another time, it might cause things to explode. In yet other stories, characters can see their future or past selves and everything is A-OK. This is the case in the Spectacular Spider-Man 301, which means Past-Peter and Present-Peter can battle bad guys together. Sounds like a two for one special, but is this special event worth it? Continue reading

Differences of Time Travel Opinion in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 301

by Michael DeLaney

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

What would you say to your younger self if you had a chance? Would you try to change the future or just enjoy the literal stroll down memory lane? Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 301 does a little bit of both, actually. J. Jonah Jameson and Peter have traveled back in time a little earlier than their target date and have some time to kill. Peter spends it thwipping webs with his younger counterpart while Jonah enlists his younger self to track down The Tinkerer. Continue reading

Existential Fears in Marvel Two-In-One 4

By Taylor Anderson

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

There are times deep in the night, and always at night, where I am plagued by existential fears. It’s the curse of the modern age, I guess, knowing about problems that are too great for any one single human to do anything about. Climate change, the meaning of life in a godless universe, and death (just to name a few) frequently wrack my brain. Of course, this is to say nothing of the eventual heat death of the universe, which, while possibly a googol years away, still worries me because it basically means the end of anything living (as we know it) in the entire universe. That’s sad and troubling! This fear of nothing being left is hard to fathom, but it’s made easier when it happens all at once, as in Marvel Two-In-One 4. 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

Lettering Reveals Status and Power in Marvel Two-In-One 3

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Marvel Two-in-One 3 is all about characters either rediscovering or redefining their relationship to their super powers. Our titular pair of marvels even goes to doctor Rachina Koul in the middle of nowhere Wyoming to jump-start Johnny’s powers. Ben describes Johnny as “broken” and whether that’s just referring to his ability to flame on, or more holistically applies to the man is left up to the reader’s discretion. But the implication is clear: without their defined roles as superheroes and supervillains, these guys just don’t know how to function. The damn Mad Thinker is going so crazy he’s styled his facial hair to look like Reed Richards and claiming to launch a “New Fantastic Four.” Basically: everyone goes nuts without boundaries. Today, I want to explore how lettering emphasizes the connection between a character, their powers, and how they view themselves in this universe. Continue reading