Velvet 13

Alternating Current: Velvet 13, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Velvet 13, originally released February 3rd, 2016.

Drew: I wince whenever someone asks me if I can play chess. I certainly understand the rules of the game, but I feel like that makes me a chess player in as much as understanding the mechanics of applying paint to canvas makes me a painter. That is, the actual playing of chess lies not in my rudimentary grasp of what moves are allowable, but in the nuance of applying those moves towards a goal. Real chess players have so internalized those rules, they can plan several moves ahead, and the strategy ultimately revolves around forcing their opponent into moves they can anticipate. This is exactly the kind of game Velvet has been playing with ARC-7 for most of this series, and she’s damn good at it. But what if the rules she had internalized weren’t the rules of the game at all? That’s the situation she finds herself in this month, as Damian Lake proves to be even more of a wild card than she ever imagined. Continue reading

Hawkeye 22

Alternating Currents: Hawkeye 22, Drew and Courtney

Today, Drew and Jack are discussing Hawkeye 22, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Drew: Endings are hard. Whether they break our hearts or leave us wanting more, even the most satisfying ending must face the bittersweet truth of being the end. “The End” takes on a peculiar meaning in the world of month-to-month comics (especially where the next volume may already be a few issues in), but whatever we’re saying goodbye to — whether its a paradigm or a creative team — can still have an almost hallowed air of significance. This makes talking about comic book endings in a issue-by-issue format particularly difficult, as its tempting to use the final issue as a platform for talking about the series as a whole. I absolutely want to talk about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run as a whole, but I want to first give issue 22 its due respect as perhaps the perfect distillation of what made his run so remarkable. Continue reading

Velvet 10

velvet 10

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Velvet 10, originally released April 22nd, 2015.

Patrick: Aren’t spies just the coolest? They’re up there with ninjas as some of the most fascinating types of heroes. Part of what makes them both so damn irresistible is their impossible levels of competency. It’s the same reason we love Sherlock Holmes – we can’t fathom a scenario that he can’t clever his way out of. That makes their day-to-day lives the stuff of fascinating stories, even if we have every confidence going in that they’re going to come out victorious. But then, why’s it so satisfying to watch these infallible heroes scramble? There are few moments as narratively disarming as the odd beats when James Bond or Sherlock Holmes or Ethan Hunt are caught off guard. It’s like a violation, seeing the most capable people out-matched. Velvet 10 shows our already on-the-run hero set even further back, and the scope of the story broadens rapidly, mutating so quickly that we barely have time to understand one development before the next steamrolls everything that came before. It’s dizzying, disorienting, and leaves the breathless reader just as lost as our hero. Continue reading

Chrononauts 2

Alternating Currents, Chrononauts 2, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Chrononauts 2, originally released April 15th, 2015.

Homer: Sorry but this is a highly sophistimacated doo-whackey. If you don’t use it responsibly… Kablammo!
Lisa: Ow! Someone just punched me in the face!
Homer: It was your mother!

The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Horror VIII”

Drew: I’m endlessly amused by the notion of using sci-fi technology for mundane personal uses. Homer using his teleporter to grab a beer without getting up, or to avoid having to climb the stairs feels like an abuse of the technology, but it’s also a compelling estimation of how it would be used in the hands of an everyday person. As much as we might claim to want to use a time-machine to avert a world war or warn people of impending disaster, we’re probably more likely to use it to ace a history presentation, meddle with the affairs of our family, or just bring the younger versions of our friend group to the present in hopes of winning an argument. Doctors Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly find even less noble uses for their chronosuits in Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy’s Chrononauts 2, and it proves to be an absolute blast. Continue reading

Chrononauts 1

Alternating Currents: Chrononauts 1, Ryan and Drew

Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Chrononauts 1, originally released March 18th, 2015.

Ryan: On September 13th, 1959, the Soviet Union made history by landing the first man-made object — the Luna 2 — on the moon.  The Soviet success allowed their premiere, Nikita Khruschev, a scientific triumph to laud over President Eisenhower demonstrating the virtues of Communism. After a decade of dominating the Space Race, the USSR lost the ultimate prize to the USA and its space program, which had been kicked into high gear under the watch of President John F. Kennedy, when the first feet to touch the surface of the moon belonged to American astronauts on July 20, 1969. Despite the years of rivalry and the mires of the Cold War, when Apollo 11 touched down, the Russians cheered. As Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov wrote, “Everyone forgot that we were all citizens of different countries on Earth. That moment really united the human race.” Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy’s new title, Chrononauts, seeks to recapture the magic of families across the world crowding around their televisions and radios as science catches up to imagination. Continue reading

Velvet 9

velvet 9

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Velvet 9, originally released February 4th, 2015.

Spencer: Who can you trust? This can be a hard question for anyone to answer — how many of us have trusted someone who didn’t end up being worthy of it? — but for a spy, whose entire life revolves around secrets and lies, it’s practically impossible. Velvet Templeton is a spy on the run, further minimizing the list of people she can trust — even those she knows aren’t against her can’t necessarily be trusted to keep secrets from her employers. So far Velvet’s wise choices when it comes to trust have kept her one step ahead of her pursuers, but Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet 9 may find her making her first mistake by trusting Damian Lake even just a little — and in doing so, Velvet may have just found herself an opponent who can finally keep up with her. Continue reading

Hawkeye 21

Alternating Currents: Hawkeye 21, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Hawkeye 21, originally released February 4th, 2015.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…

Justice Potter Stewart

Drew: I’ve never been a fan of classifications in art. I could go on at length about how sub-subgenres eventually become too specific to have any utility, while broader classifications face the opposite problem of being to general, but my real issue is that our definitions fall apart under scrutiny. We tend to accept the kind of “I know it when I see it” definition of basically every category we have, from gender to genre, but most working definitions have to allow for so many exceptions that they lose all meaning. Take “superhero” for example. We all have a lose idea of who a superhero is, what they do, how they act, but to try and pin down the definition reveals that none of those things are fixed. Are they heroic (courageous, noble, selfless)? Many are, sure, but there are plenty of antiheroes muddying up any moral definition. What about superpowers? Again, lots do, but with so many non-powered superheroes, it’s hardly a criteria. The closest I can come up with is based on our relationship to superheroes — namely, that we expect their actions to lead to their success. In that way, I’d like to posit Clint Barton — particularly as depicted in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye — as an antisuperhero. Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Series Part 1

Best of 2014: Best TitleWe all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a decades-spanning ongoing or a short-run miniseries, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. Indeed, we’re so enamored of serialization that we decided to split our favorite series list into two installments. Here’s part 1 our top 14 series of 2014 (check back here for part 2 tomorrow).
Continue reading

Velvet 8

Alternating Currents: Velvet 8, Drew and GregToday, Drew and Greg are discussing Velvet 8, originally released November 5th, 2014.

Drew: Did you enjoy Skyfall? I enjoyed it well enough, but found myself staunchly defending it — specifically from attacks that suggest that the film ripped off the “villain gets captured as part of the plan” plot points from The Dark Knight and The Avengers. I can’t deny the similarities — it does indeed pose a classic example of what TV Tropes and Idioms identifies as the “Batman Gambit” — but what irked me is how myopic the argument is. The Batman Gambit is much, much older than either The Avengers or The Dark Knight (indeed, the name “Batman Gambit” is based on instances of the device from comics that long predate Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, and has been used in everything from Die Hard to Reindeer Games), so to suggest that Skyfall‘s use of the devise is derivative, it must also be true of The Avengers and The Dark Knight. My point is, I’m willing to forgive the use of a trope if it’s done well, and I’d argue that Skyfall does it better than those other two films.* All that is to say that I enjoyed Velvet 8‘s own Batman Gambit for precisely the same reason: it’s really well done. Continue reading

Hawkeye 20

Alternating Currents: Hawkeye 20, Suzanne and SpencerToday, Suzanne and Spencer Drew are discussing Hawkeye 20, originally released September 10th, 2014.

Drew: Of all the ways a writer can use to emphasize their storytelling beats, shuffling the chronology of the events always demands my attention. I almost called it “distracting” but I think I mean “demands my attention” — I absolutely appreciate that it’s a handy tool in the savvy writer’s toolkit, but we’re so used to perceiving events one after the other that flipping them around feels noticeably alien. Again, I don’t want to imply that it’s inherently bad — there are lots of compelling reasons to tell a story out-of-order — but that it draws attention to itself in ways that aren’t always accounted for. Fortunately, Matt Fraction has routinely proven himself capable of handling (and justifying) these types of stories, making Hawkeye 20 an excellent example of nonlinear narrative done right. Continue reading