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

Amazing Spider-Man 797 Does What Only a Comic Book Can

by Spencer Irwin

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

I was initially drawn to comic books simply because I loved superheroes, and wanted to find more stories about them. Story is still probably my favorite part of comics (or anything, really), but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the specific strengths of comic books as an art-form, the things they can do that no other medium can. Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen certainly understand those strengths, as their Amazing Spider-Man 797 revolves around a sequence that just wouldn’t work on TV or in the movie theater. Continue reading

Old Habits Die Hard in Amazing Spider-Man 796

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 796

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

There’s a concept in psychology of the “repetition compulsion,” which essentially lays out a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for our neuroses. A straightforward (and non-pathological) example would be an introvert avoiding big crowds, which in turn prevents them from developing comfort around (or at least strategies to cope with) big crowds, which in turn encourages them to avoid big crowds, but this phenomenon can be seen operating at everything from our smallest habits to our biggest problems. Lest this sound too fatalistic, those cycles of repetition can be broken, but my actual point in bringing them up is just to emphasize how cyclical our lives can be — even when embarking on a new adventure, our old habits may force them to resemble our old adventures. Such has long been the case of superheroes, whose new adventures are in part only marketable because people liked the old adventures, so leaning into those repetition compulsions (even the destructive ones) is a logical choice.

Writer Dan Slott has always managed to keep a remarkable balance between the old and the new, repeating enough to keep his characters recognizable, but changing enough to keep the stories exciting, largely by changing the big patterns (Pete’s job, relationship status, identity, etc) but holding onto the small ones (Pete’s talkativeness, bad luck, sense of responsibility, etc). But with issue 796, Slott and co-writer Christos Gage begin folding some of those larger repetitions back into the mix, suggesting that Slott might just be putting the toys back in place as he hands over the reigns of the series he’s been writing for over a decade. Continue reading

Clashing Tones in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42

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

It’s hard to separate a character from the types of stories they inhabit. Indeed, it’s an idea that doesn’t even really make sense in most media, where characters tend to inhabit just the one story, but it kind of runs amok in comics, where there are countless forces pushing characters into other types of stories. There’s crossovers and cameos, which will pull the guest-starring character into the (potentially very different) tonal world of the home series. There’s cross-media franchises, which will accentuate the parts of the character that best suit the medium, whether it’s an action movie, a video-game, or a kids cartoon. And, perhaps more than anything, there’s the monthly grind of telling yet another story with this character, inspiring creators to think outside the box to find something new and exciting to show us. Those forces compound over the decades, such that a given character is less defined by the type of stories they inhabit than the range of stories they could inhabit. Such is the case with Spider-Man, who is so famously versatile to have teamed up with basically everyone in the Marvel Universe, has appeared in countless film and television iterations, and often stars in multiple comics series at once. Even so, there seem to be a few types of stories that Spider-Man isn’t quite suited for, as The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42 illustrates. Continue reading