Doctor Strange: Damnation 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

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

Spencer: Since our audience has excellent taste, I’m going to assume that you’re all watching NBC’s The Good Place, right? Essentially a show about lost souls trying to earn their way into Heaven by becoming better people, one of the more interesting concepts percolating beneath the show’s surface is the idea that the rules dictating what afterlife you’re sent to are inherently flawed and unfair. It’s almost impossible to earn your way into the Good Place — only the most selfless and charitable of souls make it — leaving plenty of folks who led wholly mediocre lives (or whose greatest crimes were being born in Florida) facing an eternity of torture and punishment. I couldn’t help but think of this while reading Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, and Rod Reis’ Doctor Strange: Damnation 1, which finds the city of Las Vegas, the Avengers, and perhaps the entire world being judged by equally biased, unfair rules. Continue reading

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It’s All a Game in Avengers 679

by Drew Baumgartner

Avengers 679

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

We’ll often chide middle chapters for failing to maintain dramatic momentum while setting up the climax — when he actions in those middle chapters feel motivated more by what the climax needs than what came before. We refer to that phenomenon as “putting the pieces in place,” as it reduces the dramatic interest of a story to setting up a board game. It’s an unfortunate tendency that tends to crop up in event series with huge casts, and has already led to some consternation with “No Surrender,” but Avengers 679 hangs a lampshade on its game-iness, zooming out from the game board to focus on the real players. Continue reading

The Ol’ Weekly Series Wheel-Spinning in Avengers 678

by Spencer Irwin

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

A weekly title — especially one running more than a few issues — should feel big, as if its story simply cannot be told in any other format, on any other release schedule. Instead, though, I’ve found that weekly comics often tend to feel padded, as if a typical story is being stretched out to better fit the format. That’s certainly a problem I’m starting to notice with “No Surrender,” the current weekly Avengers event. Continue reading

Mighty Thor 703: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Spencer Irwin

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

Taylor: One of the hardest lessons to learn growing up is that everything has a cost. This is a particularly difficult lesson to learn because when we’re young, things tend to not really cost all that much, if anything at all. It’s only once we become adults and begin to age that literally everything has some cost associated with it. Want to go out and drink all night? The cost is a hangover. Want to get a master’s degree? The cost is crippling student debt. Heck, even want to find love? The cost is putting in the time and effort to cultivate a meaningful relationship with someone. This isn’t to say that things aren’t worth their cost – love is a good example of something that more than pays for itself. However, the cost of things always has to be collected, as Jane and her friends learn in Mighty Thor 703.

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Avengers 675: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Avengers 675

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

Drew: The Marvel Universe is big. That much is clear from the very beginning of Avengers 675, which skips across the globe to catch up with Marvel’s countless superhero teams and fictional countries as they deal with the Earth suddenly being transported…somewhere. Characters helpfully repeat each other’s names (and the names of their respective teams) to orient us, but being overwhelmed is kind of the point — these characters are facing down utter chaos, and that chaos is everywhere. Crossover events will often feature these kinds of “cash in all the chips” moments, straining our familiarity with Marvel’s lesser-known characters to really sell the massive scope of the story. But that’s where this issue differs from the standard crossover; where other stories simply revel in the bombast of throwing all of these characters together, Avengers 675 uses it as a cover to inject a new character into the narrative. [Phew, are there SPOILERS to follow.]  Continue reading

Potent Symbols Abound in Falcon 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Falcon 3

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

Falcon 3 opens with Sam and Rayshaun in prison. Denied any due process by the white mayor, it’s hard not to see the parallels to mass incarceration, a problem that disproportionately affects black men. Moreover, Sam and Rayshaun are powerless to do anything about it. They eventually escape, sure, but it’s only by the force of literal magic — there’s no other means available to them. It’s a potent symbol, the kind that makes Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara’s Falcon so refreshing. Continue reading

Blackheart Takes Center Stage in Falcon 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Falcon 2

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

The Marvel Universe is full of odd little corners that don’t always interact. I mean, sure, the X-Men will show up for the big summer crossover series, and Wolverine shows up in everything (even when he was still ostensibly dead), but they largely exist in a world separate from Spider-Man or Thor. Likewise, Spider-Man and Thor occupy worlds separate from each other. This obviously falls out of some practical concerns — plans for certain characters may not facilitate their appearances elsewhere — but there are also important aesthetic ones, as well. Chief among them is concerns of “fit” — while it might be fun to see a cosmic-level hero take a side adventure into some street-level action (or vice versa), it’s not exactly what fans of their series signed up for. So: team-ups between, say, Silver Surfer and Hawkeye are few and far between. I found myself thinking a great deal about fit as Falcon 2 emphasizes the demonic threat Sam is up against. Continue reading

Worlds Collide and Teams Clash in Avengers 672

by Spencer Irwin

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

Avengers 672 opens with both the Avengers and the Champions having the same fight in two different places. A new satellite is about to reveal images either confirming or denying proof of the High Evolutionary’s Counter Earth, a planet sharing our orbit on the far side of the sun. Nova and Peter Parker have both been to the planet, but Amadeus and Wasp insist that it cannot exist because it would defy all laws of physics and throw off the balance of the entire solar system. Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz use this scenario — of two planets that cannot share the same orbit without causing destruction — to illustrate the problem facing both of these teams: they can’t be in the same place without tearing each other down. Continue reading

Secret Empire 3

Alternating Currents: Secret Empire 3, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Secret Empire 3, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: That Secret Empire is about big ideas goes without saying. As with any tentpole summer event, it promises to change the Marvel universe as we know it (at least temporarily), but the bigger story is the way the event (and the stories leading to it) have reflected the real-world political climate, often in uncanny — and uncomfortable — ways. But issue 3 reveals that, underneath it all, writer Nick Spencer may have been building to an even bigger (albeit, perhaps less controversial) question about the very nature of the superhero genre in the present day: does it still have room for moral absolutes? Continue reading

Captain America: Sam Wilson 21

Today, Ryan M. and Drew are discussing Steve Rogers: Captain America 12, originally released February 22nd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan M: Empathy and understanding can only be built by listening. That’s why representation is so important. Reinforcing norms of exclusion only bolster the narrative of inequality. An outsider telling your story, however well-meaning, influences the message. The speed and breadth of modern media only add more veils between the truth and the version people hear. In Captain America: Sam Wilson 21, Sam wrests back control of his own story.

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