Individuality is the Key to Teamwork in Tony Stark: Iron Man 4

by Spencer Irwin

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

Despite the double emphasis in its title, Tony Stark: Iron Man isn’t really a solo spotlight for its titular hero. Instead it’s an ensemble piece, a team book, devoting just as much (if not more) space to the stories of Jocasta Pym, Andy Bhang, Bethany Cabe, Amanda Armstrong, or Rhodey as it does Stark. In fact, issue 4 outright turns this choice into an ethos, predicating Stark Unlimited’s entire victory on the fact that they are a team who can work together and pool their ideas, and their opponents from Baintronics’ loss on the fact that they’re not a team, they’re a hive mind. Their lack of multiple perspectives and approaches seals their fate. Continue reading

“The End” is the Enemy in Fantastic Four 2

by Spencer Irwin

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

Back when the Future Foundation rode off into the sunset at the end of Secret Wars, ready to recreate and explore the multiverse, many fans (myself included) saw it as the perfect farewell to the characters. This leaves Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli with the unenviable task of bringing this “ending” to an end, of justifying more adventures for characters who had already received their happily ever after. Interestingly, Slott and Pichelli do so by demonizing the very idea of “endings,” by making “the end” the very villain that brings the Fantastic Four back together. Continue reading

Line Holds and Unreality in Tony Stark: Iron Man 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Tony Stark Iron Man 3

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

Does Stark not get HBO? Everyone knows that if you make a virtual wild west chances are the NPCs will start killing off everybody.

Jacosta, Tony Stark: Iron Man 3

It’s no coincidence that Dan Slott all-but name checks Westworld in Tony Stark: Iron Man 3, as the issue is all about our ability to distinguish humans from robots. Westworld relishes surprising us at every turn — often with the reveal that someone was or wasn’t a robot all along, but sometimes with the very fact that he world we’re seeing is or isn’t what we think it is. This issue leans into the game of “spot the robot” (with its own Westworld-ian twist), but plays things very straight with the division between reality and fantasy, relying on some smart decisions by artist Valerio Schiti and colorists Edgar Delgado and Rachelle Rosenberg. Continue reading

Fantastic Four 1 Teases the Reader with Pathos

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: Dan Slott and Skottie Young close out the first issue of Fantastic Four by giving the creative team shit for not actually reuniting the titular superheroes. It’s a cute little one-pager, playing to Young’s hyper-specific strength for drawing adorably angry characters.

But this epilogue is more than just a cute way to sign off with joke. By ending the issue with an explicit acknowledgement that “they’re not even back yet”, Slott and Young are doubling down on the idea that the absence of the Four itself is a phenomenon worth exploring. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 1: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Amazing Spider-Man 1

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

Drew: If you only had one word to describe Spider-Man, what would it be? Strength? Responsibility? Verbosity? These are all great answers, each with plenty of classic Spidey stories that emphasize those characteristics, but they aren’t quite perfect. Plenty of heroes are as strong and/or responsible, and a few even talk as much as Spider-Man, but there’s something else that makes him unique. With Amazing Spider-Man 1, Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley offer up their own answer — one I had never considered, but feels obvious on reflection: Karma. Beyond his powers and the responsibilities that come with them, Spider-Man is a person plagued by the consequences of his past mistakes. Continue reading

Tony is the Team in Tony Stark Iron Man 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There’s no “i” in “team”.

Traditional

Tony Stark is a selfish jerk. It’s one of the things we like best about him! But there’s no denying that his success as Iron Man is contingent on the hard, capable work of thousands of employees, and countless robots and A.I. systems. As writer Dan Slott and artist Valerio Schiti take the Iron reins, they pitch Iron Man as a team venture, while casually undermining the autonomy of every individual on the team. Aside, of course, from Tony Stark. Tony remains a singular genius, more of a puppeteer than a team leader. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 801: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: Dan Slott has written more issues of The Amazing Spider-Man than any other creator ever. That’s not something one achieves if they merely “like” a character — Slott clearly loves Spider-Man in a way even the most die-hard of fans can only dream of. Writing his adventures has certainly changed Slott’s world for the better, and that’s a sentiment he expresses beautifully in The Amazing Spider-Man 801, his final issue on the title. It’s a love letter to the power of Spider-Man told in the only way that kind of story really can be told — through the perspective of a fan. Continue reading

Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

by Spencer Irwin

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

Spider-Man has one of the most iconic, expansive, and enduring supporting casts in all of superhero comics, and that’s a fact Dan Slott has used to his advantage throughout his long tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man. He especially leans on his supporting cast in issue 800, the penultimate issue of his run and the grand finale of “Go Down Swinging.” It’s an issue all about the power of the people in Peter Parker’s life, be it the power he gives them, or the power they give him. Continue reading

Fun With Familiar Ideas in The Amazing Spider-Man 799

by Spencer Irwin

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

The end of a creative team’s run often finds the team building to a story that spans their entire tenure on the title, bringing together all their loose ends into one grand climax. Dan Slott, though, has simply been writing The Amazing Spider-Man too long to realistically do that; in fact, he’s tied up most of his long-running plots over the last few storylines, instead using much of his final arc to return Peter Parker to a kinda-sorta classic status quo for future creators to play with. Slott, though, has always found quite a bit to mine from classic status quos, from familiar plots and the immutable core of his characters. Even stories as well-known as “Norman Osborn returns to terrorize Peter and Harry” and “Spider-Man and Goblin fight” find a new life under Slott’s pen, and that’s no different in The Amazing Spider-Man 799, which finds Slott and Stuart Immonen tackling these familiar stories from new angles, from different perspectives, with a few surprises hiding up their sleeves. Continue reading

Peter’s Problems Outpace His Growth in Amazing Spider-Man 798

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 798

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

I had a college professor who liked to talk about “the ascending spiral groove thang” — the notion that we tend to cycle through the same problems, but always with our previous experience informing each new iteration, turning that cycle into a kind of spiral staircase. It’s an elegant idea that helps turn the hopelessness of facing down the same issues again and again feel like an opportunity for improvement. It’s an idea that Peter Parker embodies almost perfectly, vowing to improve (if never quite perfect) the decisions that led to the deaths of his loved ones. But what if those problems have an ascending spiral groove thang of their own? What if Peter’s problems are getting smarter and more mature along with him? That’s exactly what he’s up against in Amazing Spider-Man 798, as Norman Osborn returns with the Carnage symbiote. Continue reading