This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
While the concept of war is terrifying on its own, the actual reality of it is alien to a lot of us. Myself included, and I have a brother, a sister, and a brother-in-law that have served in the US Army and seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. What it really means to be “at war” is far enough divorced from my day-to-day life, that I can comfortably sort it into an experience that someone else has. Vs takes the “otherness” of war and smashes it into the everyday, making the reader question the separation between entertainment, spectacle, and violence. Continue reading →
Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2016.Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Secret Wars , originally released January 13th, 2016.
“Great societies are crumbling around us. And the old men who run them are out of ideas. So all eyes turn to you — our children — to build us something better […] We must do more, go farther… to somewhere no human has ever been. Your prize, Makers… are the stars themselves.”
T’Challa, Secret Wars 9
Patrick: The entirety of Jonathan Hickman’s incursion epic has hinged on this concept of master morality — that the decisions of the powerful necessarily cannot make sense to those less powerful. Individuals’ lives and rights are trampled for a concept as nebulous as “the greater” good, and it’s not really up to the subservient class to judge that trampling. With Secret Wars, the class of person making such impossible decisions is God — a literal, physically present, hands-on creator God — in the form of Doctor Doom. His decisions are immeasurably complicated, but they are also the decisions made by Hickman himself, and the conclusion to this mini-series, this event, and Hickman’s entire run at Marvel comics, links Godliness with creativity, and ultimately places the decisions and the morality behind those decisions in the hands of the storytellers.
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015.
Spencer: I recently got into a bit of a debate with the AV Club’s Oliver Sava on Twitter about whether Doctor Doom is the hero or the villain of Secret Wars. Sava argued that he’s the hero because he saved the universe — I argued that he’s the villain because he then proceeded to rule his salvaged universe as a brutal tyrant and dictator. In a way, we’re probably both right, and writer Jonathan Hickman seems less interested in laying blame at any of his character’s feet than he is in exploring their motives and varying levels of morality. Secret Wars 8 is a full-on action issue, but each confrontation changes the rules a bit in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong, who wins and who loses. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 2, originally released May 13th, 2015.
Mark: This summer finds both DC and Marvel presenting readers with big crossover events where their heroes fight for survival, but the approaches couldn’t be more different. For all of the problems DC’s Convergence has (and the list is not brief), one advantage is that DC has a long, storied history of multiverses, continuities, and characters to choose from. It does my nerd heart good to see characters like pre-Flashpoint Superman once again, characters to which I have a lot of attachment. Maybe it’s a cheap thrill, but there’s something to seeing these heroes from different times and universes coming together. Marvel does not have the luxury of history. They’ve always employed a rolling continuity that keeps their characters’ histories current without having to do a hard reboot like the New 52. Outside of Earth-616, the Ultimate universe has been a depressing mess for such a long time that Miles Morales was the only reason to keep it limping along at all. So in order for Marvel to create an interesting clash of heroes, they had to basically build one from the ground up.
Enter Battleworld. I admit to having Jonathan Hickman fatigue after his sometimes messy, always talky Avengers/New Avengers run, and I honestly found Secret Wars 1 to be rather boring, but I appreciated the mash up of sci-fi and fantasy tropes with the Marvel Universe found in Secret Wars 2.Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Secret Wars 1, originally released May 6th, 2015.
“Oh, best war ever…”
-General Nick Fury, Secret Wars 1
Ryan: Secret Wars grabs the baton from Jon Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers beloved/despised/confusing “Time Runs Out” saga chronicling the futile struggle of Earth-616 against the collapse of the multiverse. Hickman dives in by tipping his hat to the concluding plot thread of Doom vs. The Beyonders, the significance of which — aside from helping to shrink the amount of surviving universes down to a baker’s dozen minus a bunch — is still a bit lost on me. The narration of the issue is provided by Reed Richards, and the first installment of this event belongs to him.
Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 21, originally released April 16th, 2014.
Spencer: To tell a good story, characters need to face consequences for their actions. Just look at Heroes, where characters could quit jobs, disappear for months at a time, or even switch between “good” and “evil” at the drop of a dime without ever facing any consequences, thus giving us little reason to care about what the characters did, since none of it mattered anyway. Contrast that with, say, Breaking Bad, where every decision the characters make, no matter how small, has the chance to ruin their lives; everybody’s actions matter, causing the viewer to become invested in the story and pay close attention to what happens. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic follow the latter example, fortunately, in Thor: God of Thunder 21, which finds both versions of the titular god dealing with the consequences of actions he took in previous issues. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 20, originally released March 19th, 2014.
Spencer: As its name would suggest, Thor: God of Thunder is a book concerned with the more theistic side of Thor’s existence. Although at first glance this current storyline seems more interested in environmentalism than examining godhood, that doesn’t mean this element is missing completely; it just means that Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are making us work a little harder to find it. After all, this issue features two different versions of the thunder god, a cosmic force so powerful that he makes gods tremble, and an evil CEO with the ego of a god. What’s the one thing they all have in common? They all do whatever they want, no matter what the consequences may be.
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 19, originally released February 12th, 2014.
Spencer: It’s easy to take a cynical view of environmentalism — personally, I’m thinking specifically of how that one-time donation of $20 I gave to my state’s Wildlife Conservation Fund has been spent three or four times over just paying for the junk mail they’ve since sent me — and its even easier to turn stories about environmentalism into preachy tirades. Amazingly, in Thor: God of Thunder 19 Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic avoid those traps, somehow presenting us with a nuanced and “realistic” tale of the titular God’s fight to save the Earth itself while also taking the time to remind us of our planet’s beauty — and what the planet could end up looking like if we fail to protect it. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 17, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Shelby: Sometimes you have to sacrifice what you want for the greater good. If it’s the happiness of just you versus the happiness of many, you just gotta bite the bullet and go for the greater good. It sucks, but it’s the right thing to do, and generally there is some consolation found in that. But if the greater good you’ve sacrificed your happiness for actually leads to even greater suffering, where does that leave you? I can tell you this much; it leaves me with a very unsatisfying end to the latest arc of Thor: God of Thunder. Continue reading →