Razing Mash-Up City in Cosmic Ghost Rider 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

The very concept of “Cosmic Ghost Rider” is a great example of Writer Donny Cates  using disparate ideas from all around the Marvel universe as the building blocks for something wholly new and exciting. In my write-up of issue #1, I called it “Mythological Omnivorism”, a turn of phrase that I like, but which feels a least a little dishonest. Cates and artist Dylan Burnett weren’t consuming this mythology so much as they were shuffling, repackaging, and repurposing it. Issue three is where the consumption begins – and all of those jumbled-up building blocks are devoured to sate the gluttonous reader’s appetite. Continue reading

How Layouts Drive Tension in Death of the Inhumans 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Death of the Inhumans 3

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Deep, thoughtful analysis is a rarity in the world of comics criticism. While it’s easy enough to dismiss itinerant continuity policing or grumbling about plot-holes as braindead drivel, there’s a much more insidious kind of shallow analysis that suggests that there are simple aesthetic rules that govern the medium. It may be possible to identify trends that are true for even a very large sample of comics, but there are just as many exceptions to those “rules.” Truly deep analysis, on the other hand, can introduce us to new analytical tools that can be applied to many other comics, even if the conclusions we draw from those applications have no universal trend. Such is the case with Matt Fraction’s “cover version: daredevil 230 and cutting techniques,” one of my favorite comics analyses of all time. I highly recommend taking the time to read that piece, but the short explanation for why I love it so much is that it introduced me to ideas I had never encountered before. Most important was the thought that the invisible structures that guide our reading experience might be only just invisible, and that we can unearth them by paying close attention to things like panel counts and layouts. Fraction identifies a triangle motif in Daredevil 230 that is obvious enough on some pages, but on others just loosely describes the areas of the layouts we might most pay attention to. Using those same techniques, I recognize a similar pattern on some pages of Death of the Inhumans 3, though they elicit a decidedly different effect. Continue reading

Death Roulette in Death of the Inhumans 2

by Patrick Ehlers

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The title Death of the Inhumans makes one specific promise: some Inhumans are gonna die. But y’know, this is a comic book, and odds are just as good that the title is sensational hyperbole that they are of the title being literal. Writer Donny Cates and artist Ariel Olivetti spend the entirety of issue 2 insisting on three simple things:

  1. The Inhumans who have been killed already.
  2. The Inhumans left to kill.
  3. Vox’s ability to kill any Inhuman.

By the end of the issue, the reader is forced to take the threat of the title seriously. Cates and Olivetti cash in on that seriousness with one hell of a gut punch. Continue reading

Death Of The Inhumans 1: Discussion

By Ryan Mogge and Patrick Ehlers

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

Ryan: Narration can be a crutch, a device used to add exposition where story cannot carry itself, the epitome of “show don’t tell.” However, when it’s done well, it can be fantastic. In Death of the Inhumans 1, the narration’s tone and point of view work in concert with the story as it unfolds. At times, it feels as though the visual and the narration are two paths that run alongside one another and intersect intermittently. They inform each other and create a balance that elevates both elements to something more nuanced and affecting. Continue reading

Mythological Omnivorism in Cosmic Ghost Rider 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

I aways struggle to identify with the Punisher. The straight line from Army vet to man suffering from personal loss and PTSD to gun wielding maniac only ever plays as tragedy for me. Like… where’s the fantasy? Where’s the escapism? Writer Donny Cates and artist Dylan Burnett address this dissonance by taking the two most sadistic parts of Frank Castle’s origin — military service and a mind set on vengeance — and mythically amplifying them both in uniquely Marvel ways. The result is, and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Frank Castle story, tons of fun. Continue reading

Eddie Learns He Knows Nothing in Venom 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in middle school. I woke up thinking about it, I fell asleep thinking about it, I viewed everything through the lens of Magic. Friends were people I played Magic with, and school was just something I had to do before I could play again. I was in love: for almost three years, that game completed me. In 1995, my friends and I went to Gen Con in Chicago, a massive hobby-store convention, which mostly meant Magic and Warhammer. That’s when I realized just how miniscule my obsession actually was. I wasn’t a Magic expert, I was a kid with a hobby in a convention center full of adults who had been living this nerdiness since before I was even born. Magic opened me up to a love of gaming and fantasy, but for these folks, it was the culmination of their lifestyle. Issue 3 of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom gives Eddie Brock his very own Gen Con ’95 moment as he comes face to face with the god of the symbiotes. Continue reading

The Symbiote Stands for Addiction in Venom 2

by Ryan Desaulniers

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

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If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict.

William S. Burroughs, Junkie

Is it possible to explain addiction to someone who has never been addicted? The closest parallel I can draw is the deep, resounding heartache felt when ending a long-term relationship, when the hurt is so big that it is all-encompassing, physically affecting you, turning your stomach, switching your brain off from rationality. Maybe that’s close, but there’s plenty less stigma associated with heartbreak than addiction and its corresponding mental health cycles. Different forms of media endeavor to bring addiction out of the shadows and prove that it is no indication of a flaw in a person’s character, but even a well-told story like that of Requiem for a Dream might offer the non-addict a catharsis based upon their security in never living that experience as opposed to an understanding of those who have. Venom 2 offers a compelling look at a character in a narrative rife with addiction imagery and symbolism which might just lend a window into the life of someone struggling with their relationship to a substance. Continue reading

Ambiguity and Closure in Doctor Strange 390

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I had a writing teacher in college that used to say there were four kinds of stories. The first is the most common: the hero wants something, gets it, and is happy he got it. We see this one in superhero media all the time, right? Batman wants to catch the Riddler, he does, feels great about it. The second type of story is the hero wants something, gets it, is unhappy he got it. This is the old Twilight Zone twist — “I can live forever, BUT AT WHAT COST?” The last two kinds of stories are similar: hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is happy to have not gotten it, and; hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is unhappy to have not gotten it. Doctor Strange 390 manages to be a weird mix of all these types of stories, where even the question of who our hero is leads to some fascinating ambiguity. Donny Cates’ send-off to Doctor Strange is as mysterious, and true to the tone of the character, as a reader could possibly hope for. Continue reading

Setting a Mood in Venom 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

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First issues have a lot to do, and Venom 1 checks off many of those requirements with subtle aplomb. It establishes its hero’s goals, modus operandi, and morality in a casual, understated way, and spends plenty of time looking towards the future, expanding Venom’s world in intriguing new directions. Despite all that, though, more than anything Venom 1 is interested in creating an atmosphere, setting a mood. It’s an issue that’s bleak and relentless, and for once, I mean that as a compliment. 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