Best of 2017: Best Writers

Best Writers

In such a collaborative medium as comics, it can be difficult to say where a writer’s influence on the story ends, but there’s no question on where it begins: words on the page. Whether they thrill, elate, chill, or deflate, the best writers create characters, settings, and situations we want to return to, again and again. These are our top 10 writers of 2017. Continue reading

An Unstoppable Force is not Stopped in Jean Grey 10

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: Superhero comics are full of unstoppable forces. Darkseid, Doomsday, Thanos — these are all bulldozers that the heroes claim to be powerless against. But, time and time again, they are repelled, resisted and defeated. That’s done out of narrative necessity. For starters, we want to see our scrappy heroes overcome impossible odds. But more importantly, if our heroes are slaughtered and their homes razed, how can the story continue? Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Alberto Alburquerque plow headlong into their series conclusion by giving their own nuclear option a W. Continue reading

The Right Kind of Experts in Jean Grey 9

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There’s a whole corner of the Marvel Universe devoted to mutants with psychic abilities. It is a niche corner, seemingly invisible to the rest of the heroes, particular those without the X-gene, until the point one of them threatens to upend everything. Usually, this has to do with their connection to the Phoenix force, which is simultaneously the source of their most terrifying power and their most humbling weakness. It’s complicated, it’s abstract, it’s supernatural and extraterrestrial at the same time. In short, it’s not easy to understand. In Jean Grey 9, writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Victor Ibáñez illustrate just how much special knowledge is required to deal with Young Jean Grey and that ominous Phoenix. Continue reading

Subverting Dickens in Jean Grey 6

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only.”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The point of A Christmas Carol is that Ebenezer Scrooge could — and should — abandon his avarice, and become a better man. The moral about the dangers of greed have aged remarkably well, but there’s something about the message “change who you are” that feels a little less virtuous in 2017. In Jean Grey 6, the titular X-Man has to come to nearly the opposite conclusion: there is no changing who you are, so you’d better find a way to accept yourself. Continue reading

Collaboration Must Be Fun in Doctor Strange 24

by Taylor Anderson

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

To be a comic book writer you have to have a certain amount of trust in people. I say this because unless you’re one of those uber-talented and driven writers who can do it all, you have to depend on another person to put your words and directions into pictures. Aside from the loss of creative control this may represent to an author, there are also logistical worries involved in this process. When an artist is penciling Doctor Strange, for example, they are going to need pretty clear directions from the author given that a lot of what they draw has to be things that don’t exist in real life. How exactly do you tell someone to draw all those bizarre magical beasties Stephen has to fight? Continue reading

History Deepens in Doctor Strange 23

by Taylor Anderson

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

The Marvel universe is as deep as the Mariana Trench, which is to say it’s practically bottomless. After more than fifty years of continuously pumping out serialized stories, it’s fair to say that no person knows everything about the Marvel universe no matter how much they’ve read. The breadth of its history gives writers a leg up when writing their stories: when you have deep pool to draw from it’s unlikely it will run dry any time soon. Even with the vastness of this narrative landscape, Doctor Strange stands out because it always hints at an even deeper world history beyond the Marvel pages. This is something Dennis Hopeless knows and uses to his great advantage in Doctor Strange 21.

Continue reading

Jean Grey 4 Delivers a Puzzling Moral

by Spencer Irwin

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

The best idea in Dennis Hopeless and Harvey Tolibao’s Jean Grey 4 is that the Odinson teaches via stories — quite often rambling, drunken ones. It’s an ingenius use of the character, exploiting both his greatest strengths and weaknesses, but unfortunately for an issue about teaching lessons, the moral never fully comes together. Continue reading

Jean Grey 3: Discussion

By Ryan Desaulniers and Ryan Mogge

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

Ryan D: When one writes about comic books, due to the popular types of stories being told, the critical eye encounters Joseph Campbell’s template for “the hero’s journey.” This monomyth pervades the pages of superhero titles, and seems even more prevalent in solo runs of characters due to the ease of accessibility inherent to that narrative. In Jean Grey, however, Dennis Hopeless and his creative team use a different kind of literary precedent — that of the Bildungsroman –– to tell the story of the young Jean as she gears up to meet the looming threat of the Phoenix. The Bildungsroman is a novel of formation or education with the psychological and moral development of the protagonist as the crux of the narrative, along the lines of Ponyboy in The Outsiders or Marji in PersopolisJean Grey 3 continues that trend of Jean moving painfully towards development and maturity as she learns a lesson in the company of “Marvel’s First Mutant,” Namor. Continue reading

Understanding Golden Age Tropes is an Asset in Doctor Strange 22

by Taylor Anderson

Doctor Strange 22

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

No matter how much success comic book movies have in crossing over into the mainstream or how dark and gritty Christopher Nolan, Alan Moore, or anyone else can make their comic book universe, monthlies will never be able to escape the shadow of the goofiness of the Golden Age. In some ways, the silliness of Golden Age comics have been celebrated by serious comic book fans and writers. They knowingly acknowledge that comics of the past weren’t great, but also pay homage to the stories that gave birth to some of today’s most beloved heroes. Doctor Strange is a product of the Golden Age, and in issue 22 Dennis Hopeless both celebrates and takes a dig at these roots. Continue reading

Doctor Strange 21

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Doctor Strange 21, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

Taylor: Here are Retcon-Punch, we read a lot of comics. This is great in so many ways, but primarily because at no other time in history has their been so many quality options for monthly reads. However, the deluge of great comics can take its toll. Given too much of something good, even great comics, a person quickly becomes numb to their pleasures. Reading so many wonderful series means that it becomes easy, on occasion, to overlook just how amazing and unique some issues really are. It’s for this reason that Doctor Strange 21 stands out to me. Not only is it an excellent issue on its own, but it reminds me why comics are some of the most innovative mediums going today. Continue reading