Projection and Toxic Masculinity in West Coast Avengers 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

When discussing West Coast Avengers 2, we went into significant detail about how B.R.O.D.O.K. represented the worst traits of toxic masculinity, of entitled, deluded men who think of women as objects or prizes rather than real people with their own needs, personalities, and desires. With issue 3, Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli continue to explore this topic, but come at it from a slightly different angle. This time, their attention is focused less on the delusions that drive B.R.O.D.O.K. and more on how his actions effect the women around him. Spoiler alert: things don’t go well for them. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 2: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney

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

Spencer: Kate Bishop’s California adventures — under the pens of both Matt Fraction and Kelly Thompson — have all more-or-less revolved around the idea of appearance, on Hollywood’s obsession with beauty, fame, and youth. On first glance, M.O.D.O.K.’s transformation into the chiseled B.R.O.D.O.K. in West Coast Avengers 2 seems fueled by the same kinds of obsessions, but there’s actually an even greater danger lurking deep within: B.R.O.D.O.K.’s preoccupation with appearance is driven entirely by dangerous entitlement and toxic masculinity. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers 

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

This is the true story of seven strangers picked to work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

The Real World.

Spencer: Despite that famous tagline, reality television rightfully has a reputation for being anything but real, with contestants purposely taking on certain roles for the camera and producers editing footage in misleading ways to construct particular narratives (whether they’re “true” or not). Part of what makes West Coast Avengers so interesting, then, is that, despite its “superhero reality show” concept, creators Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli seem devoted to depicting the sad realities of their cast’s lives, to finding the truth behind their day to day existences, even when those existences are patently absurd. Continue reading

Doctor Strange: Damnation 4: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

Doctor Strange Damnation 4

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

Spencer: Big comic book events and crossovers aren’t exactly known for intimate, character-based storytelling — instead we read these stories to see dozens (sometimes hundreds) of characters all hanging out and mixing together in ways they never would at any other time. Damnation has been an interesting event because it’s the exact opposite — Donny Cates, Nick Spencer, and Rod Reis’ story works best when the scope remains small, and becomes weaker and weaker the more it tries to be an “event.” Continue reading

Doctor Strange: Damnation 2 is Basically a Heist Movie

by Taylor Anderson

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

Just as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Steven Soderbergh will reemerge from “retirement” now and again to make another heist movie. One can’t blame him for this: heist movies are fun, and Soderbergh has shown that he’s become very good at making them. Still, why is it that our thirst for these can’t be sated? Is it seeing familiar faces from different walks of life team-up? The notion of stealing for a just cause like Robin Hood? Or perhaps it’s serving comeuppance to someone who deserves it. Whatever the reason may be, the heist story is here to stay, and, as Donny Cates and Nick Spencer show, is easily transferable to the superhero genre. Continue reading

Hawkeye 16: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

X marks the spot.

treasure map, traditional

Patrick: How do you know where to look? I’m asking a holistic question here. When you’re walking down the street, what draws your eye? When you’re deciding what to do next with your life, how do you decide what people and what activities are of value to you? Maybe we’re following signs, or bright lights, or that warm feeling of belonging. It’s something. Hawkeye 16 shows both Kate and Eden coming to terms with what they’ve been looking for, all while Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero expertly show the reader where to look. 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

Doctor Strange: Damnation 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

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

Spencer: Since our audience has excellent taste, I’m going to assume that you’re all watching NBC’s The Good Place, right? Essentially a show about lost souls trying to earn their way into Heaven by becoming better people, one of the more interesting concepts percolating beneath the show’s surface is the idea that the rules dictating what afterlife you’re sent to are inherently flawed and unfair. It’s almost impossible to earn your way into the Good Place — only the most selfless and charitable of souls make it — leaving plenty of folks who led wholly mediocre lives (or whose greatest crimes were being born in Florida) facing an eternity of torture and punishment. I couldn’t help but think of this while reading Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, and Rod Reis’ Doctor Strange: Damnation 1, which finds the city of Las Vegas, the Avengers, and perhaps the entire world being judged by equally biased, unfair rules. Continue reading

Three Interrogation Scenes in Old Man Hawkeye 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Old Man Hawkeye 2

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

The conventional wisdom in improv is that transaction scenes — like those between a customer and a storekeeper — are inherently uninteresting. The relationship between the two characters is impersonal and perfunctory, and the transaction is void of any tension. Any of those elements can be changed to rescue a transaction scene, but beginners are encouraged to avoid those setups altogether in favor of those that have relationships and tension built in to the premise. (At least, this is my understanding, though I’m prepared to have our improv contingent correct me in the comments.) Interrogation scenes definitely have that tension built in, as one person wants information the other is reluctant to share, but the relationships are often still impersonal. Moreover, they’re scenes we’ve seen a million times, whether they’re taking place in a police station or as Batman dangles a crook from some rooftop. Which is to say, the tension isn’t quite enough to carry those scenes. Like a transaction scene, an interrogation can be rescued if complications are added in the right places. Unfortunately, those complications are largely absent from Old Man Hawkeye 2, leaving two of its its three interrogations feeling pretty limp. Continue reading

Fluid Stakes Keep Hawkeye 15 Breezy

By Drew Baumgartner

Hawkeye 15

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

That’s a dumb joke, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. It doesn’t make any sense — Bender should know that the person he’s talking about is standing directly in front of him — but the reveal to us is just so perfect. It’s the kind of joke that really only works in visual media, taking advantage of the limits of our perspective we all take for granted. We assume we understand who is in the scene because of who we’ve been shown, but anybody could feasibly be lurking just off-camera. That kind of perspective twist is part of what gives Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero’s Hawkeye such a distinct voice, as our perspective telescopes to best suit the scene. Indeed, as issue 15 demonstrates, they can shift perspective both literally and figuratively to goose just about anything. Continue reading