All-New X-Men Annual 1

Alternating Currents: All-New X-Men Annual 1, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men Annual 1, originally released December 24th, 2014.

Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Emma Coates,  “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling”

Drew: This is a pretty well-worn axiom of fiction writing, and while I don’t have any qualms with the assertion that good coincidences are bad, I think it’s important to acknowledge that bad coincidences aren’t necessarily good. We’re all familiar with how deflating a Deus ex Machina resolution can be, but I firmly believe that an arbitrary, unlikely problem — a Diabolus ex Machina, if you will — can be just as bad. Actually, it might be worse; while we might understand a writer painting himself into a corner (thus requiring a miracle to get out of it), there’s no such justification for a coincidence up front. The arbitrary rules of sci-fi technology has always been a pet peeve of mine, but as the laws governing time-travel take center stage in All-New X-Men Annual 1, the conflict became a full-on Diabolus ex Machina, derailing what could have been a thrilling, emotional journey. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men 17

Alternating Currents: Uncanny X-Men 17, Drew and TaylorToday,  Drew and Taylor are discussing Uncanny X-Men 17, originally released February 19th, 2014.

Drew: What would you do if you found yourself lost in the wilderness? It’s the kind of thought experiment that captured my mind as a child. I’m sure the survival skills I cobbled together from movies and second-hand stories from friends wouldn’t have gotten me very far, but I liked to imagine that I would be cool and in control. I still find myself mentally preparing for similarly absurd hypotheticals (where would I go if there was a zombie apocalypse?), but experience has made it clear that decision-making tends to be impaired by the heat of the moment. That is, you may know you’re supposed to turn into the skid, but there’s a pretty big gap between what you know and what you’re actually capable of when in a state of panic. The only way to practice working under pressure is to actually be under pressure, which is exactly what Uncanny X-Men 17 is all about. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Marvel Comics Released 11/20/13

round upLook, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Drew and Ethan discuss Thunderbolts 18, A+X 14, Superior Spider-Man Annual 1, Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe 2, Young Avengers 12, Uncanny X-Men 14, X-Men 7, and X-Men: Legacy 20.

slim-banner4Drew: Our Infinity-fatigue is pretty well catalogued at this point, but Charles Soule continues to find a fresh angle in Thunderbolts 18. Where other series are preoccupied with piecing together a monolithic narrative by retracing the same steps, Soule has stayed very street-level, keeping his team focused on the mission at hand, even as New York crumbles around them. They manage to succeed in that mission in spite of each of them being focused on their own problems. Indeed, with a significant portion of the resolution arriving via the coincidental overlap of those problems, this series feels all the world like the superhero version of Seinfeld. Continue reading

Wolverine and the X-Men 36

Alternating Currents: Wolverine and the X-Men 36, Drew and TaylorToday,  Drew and Taylor are discussing Wolverine and the X-Men 36 originally released September 25th, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.

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Isn’t it worth a few bruised children to save the entire future?

Xavier

Drew: Sacrifice is a funny thing. If helping others requires harming yourself, people will hail you as a hero, but if it requires someone else being hurt — even with the same net result — people hem and haw about ends justifying means. Obviously, the sticking point is free will; it’s perfectly okay to willingly do something yourself, but each of us must be free to make that choice. Of course, that can become a bit of a sticking point in time travel narratives, where there’s a sense that certain things have to happen — Sarah Connor has to survive to give birth John, Marty McFly’s parents have to kiss at the enchantment under the sea dance — in order for the story to even be possible. We tend to focus on the potential paradoxes there, often forgetting that the affected characters have effectively had their free will’s sacrificed by whatever time-travelers happen to be meddling with their pasts. The morality of that act is under scrutiny in Wolverine and the X-Men 36, as Jason Aaron adds new players to both sides of the debate. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men 12

Alternating Currents: Uncanny X-Men 12, Drew and ShelbyToday,  Drew and Shelby are discussing Uncanny X-Men 12 originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.

atom dividerDrew: I’ve always loved the hypothetical question: “if your friend/family member/significant other committed a crime, would you hide them from the police?” It pits our relationships against our morals, or, more elegantly, our loyalty to people against our loyalty to ideas. What do you value more? Obviously, there are a number of mitigating factors, including the relationship to the given person, and the severity of the crime in question, but the point of the exercise is to think about where those factors start to matter — is this love truly unconditional, or are there conditions that trump it? Some situations are harder to call than others, but Uncanny X-Men 12 might mark the first narrative I’ve ever read where a man is conflicted with the idea of aiding and abetting himself. Continue reading

X-Men 5

Alternating Currents: X-Men 5, Ethan and TaylorToday,  Ethan and Taylor are discussing X-Men 5 originally released September 11th, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.

atom dividerEthan: If you’ve ever run away from home, or snuck out in the middle of the night to dodge your curfew, or even just stormed off in the middle of a fight, you know the feeling. The conviction that you’d rather be ANYWHERE but where you just left; an undirected need to get away; but the nagging little awareness that your escape is only temporary. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn around and confront whatever it is that pushed you away — finish the conversation with your parents, make amends with a friend or significant other — in short, come home. In X-Men #5, we find Jean and Scott on the outbound leg of this sort of journey, and contrary to their fears, they might not have to go home quite as soon as they think.

Continue reading

All-New X-Men 16

all new x-men 16 atom

Today,  Shelby and Ethan are discussing All-New X-Men 16 originally released September 4th, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.

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Shelby: 

“I think that you X-Men are so used to the space and time and life and death craziness in your lives that you don’t even notice how crazy it is anymore.”

-Triage, All-New X-Men 16

“And which of our numerous, terrible mistakes are you referring to?”

-Wolverine, All-New X-Men 16

Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men 11

Alternating Currents: Uncanny X-Men 11, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Uncanny X-Men 11, originally released August 28th, 2013.

Drew: Does bravery matter in war? Society has long honored the soldiers most willing to ride out and face their enemies, but modern technology renders that way of thinking almost obsolete. Why risk your life in hand-to-hand combat when you can shoot your enemy from a quarter mile away? Or drop a bomb on him? Or better yet, have a drone drop a bomb on him while you sit comfortably in a control room on the other side of the planet? The danger for yourself stops being physical, and starts being spiritual — under what circumstances is it moral to kill someone who poses no immediate threat to you? America has become a bit desensitized to these drone strikes, but in Uncanny X-Men 11, Brian Michael Bendis examines how would-be-victims react to murder-by-proxy. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men 10

uncanny x-men 10Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing Uncanny X-Men 10, originally released August 14th, 2013.

Ethan: When moderately intelligent villains start going about business of realizing their aims, one of the early practical considerations is that of personnel. If you want to take over the world, or bend its orbit into the sun, or just make a whole lot of money, you’re gonna need some other people to help you get there. You can solve this problem in a few different ways: one common one is to just shell out the cash, but you tend to get an army of dim thugs that way. Another way is to come up with an idea that has the twin benefits of both supporting your own aims while striking a chord in the hearts and minds of your potential followers/muscle. In Uncanny X-Men #10, we start to receive signals that Scott is in danger of following in the footsteps of the bad guys he used to square off against, and I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men 9

Alternating Currents: Uncanny X-Men 9, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Uncanny X-Men 9, originally released July 31st, 2013.

Drew: Earlier this year, I became addicted to Radiolab, NPR’s quirky show about science and the philosophical repercussions of that science. The show is fascinating, but is also maddeningly self-referential — the hosts will often refer to massive concepts and conclusions from episodes that aired years before. The one that has come up the most often is the idea that your sense of self — the thing that makes you you — is basically the story you tell yourself about your life. That is to say, it isn’t how you look, how you spend your time, what you value, or even the company you keep — what you are is the narrative you believe about your life. Uncanny X-Men 9 finds Brian Michael Bendis examining every single one of his theories, as our new mutants (and a few old ones) struggle to get a handle on their own identities. Continue reading