Devils and Dualities in Punisher: The Platoon 2

by Michael DeLaney

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

Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov return to Vietnam to reveal another layer of complexity of one of our nation’s first questionable international conflicts. The in-story journalist Archie Goodwin explains that — unsurprisingly — there were two sides to the story when it comes to The Vietnam War. In earlier Punisher works, Ennis focused solely on Frank Castle and the United States armed forces. In Punisher: The Platoon he presents us with sniper Ly, who is one of our windows  for the Vietnamese side of things. Continue reading


There’s No Innocence in Punisher: The Platoon 1

by Michael DeLaney

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

The Vietnam War is often pointed to as a clear turning point in modern American History. The confluence of improvements in broadcast television and questionable international interference led to disastrous results – taking millions of lives and leaving a devastating impact on those who walked away with their lives. Among those survivors – in the fictional Marvel world – was Frank Castle. Continue reading

Secret Empire: Omega 1: Discussion

By Ryan Mogge and Drew Baumgartner

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

Ryan: Every event in your memory left some sort of mark. When it comes to trauma, those marks are more like deep grooves. No matter how much you heal, or how much better off you are, you are changed by what has happened to you. In the wake of a rebellion against a group of fascists bent on world domination with the face of the most trusted man alive, you certainly can’t expect to move forward without being changed. In Secret Empire: Omega 1, Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino offer a mixture of back-to-normal plot points and artful rumination that operate quite differently but still offer the same themes of trauma and the scars left behind. Continue reading

Secret Empire 4: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Ryan Mogge

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


Patrick: The Secret Empire epic drives on an engine powered by dramatic irony. From the second Steve’s first “Hail Hydra” was uttered, the audience knew more about the threat the Marvel Universe faced better than any of its inhabitants. It is serendipitous (in the worst possible way) that the current political climate in the United States has made readers hyper-aware of this irony, as we’re able to draw obvious parallels between the rise of Hydra and the rise of white nationalism. We don’t need to parse out the rhetorical devices Steve uses to justify his abuses of power — we see them demonstrated by our president every day. Issue 4 doubles down on the practice of illustrating dramatic irony, giving the audience far more information than any of the characters are ever afforded. The result is an unsettling exercise in moral relativism. 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

Spider-Gwen 9

spider-gwen 9

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Spider-Gwen 9, originally released June 15th, 2016.

Spencer: There’s little I hate more than being forced or coerced into doing something. I don’t know about any of you, but I hate that feeling so much that sometimes, even if someone is trying to force me to do something I know I’ll like, I’ll oppose it almost simply out of spite. The only thing worse than someone trying to force you to do something is when life itself seemingly backs you into an inescapable corner, when a twist of fate seemingly decides the course of your life without your input whatsoever. In Spider-Gwen 9, Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi examine how Gwen Stacy’s responded to the twist of fate that’s come to define her life, whether she wanted it to or not. Continue reading

Punisher 1

Alternating Currents: Punisher 1, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Punisher 1, originally released May 4th, 2016.

Drew: The intro copy of Punisher 1 reminds us that “Frank Castle died with his family. Now there is only… The Punisher.” It’s a classic premise for a comic series — one that has been used long before and long after the Punisher’s debut (The Spirit and Spawn spring immediately to mind) — but not one that makes for the most compelling central character. Writer Becky Cloonan embraces the vaccuum of Frank’s personality, treating him in this issue more as a rarely-seen force of nature than a human being with real emotions. The result is something closer to Jaws than Kill Bill, but distancing us from Castle forces us to see his actions as truly monstrous, creating a much more unstable lead than could be achieved with a more empathetic approach. Continue reading

Spider-Gwen 3

spider-gwen 3

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Spider-Gwen 3, originally released April 1st, 2015.

Patrick: Last week, Drew and I posited that Amazing Spider-Man 17 was about Peter Parking being a bad grown-up. So much of Peter’s identity is tied up in childish — specifically teenage — tropes, that the character has very little sense of agency. He’s reactive more than active. Peter doesn’t have a plan for when he arrives three hours late to his Aunt Mae’s birthday party because he was out fighting the Green Goblin, he just yammers and stammers until he’s ostracized everyone he loves. ASM 17 saw a push away from that attitude with the help of Peter’s sorta-girl-friend-but-not-really (look, Spider-Man got complicated for a while there), but no matter how many opportunities for growth our Spider-Man has enjoyed over his 50 year history, fresh Spider-Man analogues have to start back at square one. Of course, teenage drama might look a little different with the genders reversed. Spider-Gwen 3 ends up being a frustrating exploration of navigating the tough decisions as a teenage Spider-Woman. Continue reading

Spider-Gwen 1

spider-gwen 1

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Spider-Gwen 1, originally released February 25th, 2015.

Patrick: If you had to name the most important quality for a superhero story to nail, what would it be? Action? Adventure? Humor? Relatability? Kind of depends on the character, doesn’t it? What I think ends up being most important across publishers and mediums is the story’s ability to express the fundamental nature of the character. If you’re telling a Batman story, it better be dark, grimey, and morally ambiguous. If you’re telling a Spider-Man story, it better be humorous, optimistic and dutiful. So how on earth would anyone write a Spider-Gwen story? The character barely exists beyond a small roll in the recent Spider-Verse event. Fans latched on to the character for a number of reasons (everyone misses Gwen Stacy), but the clearest virtue of the character is that she looks amazing. In lieu of a letter’s page, editor Nick Lowe thanks fans for worshiping the incredible design of Gwen’s costume, celebrating it through fan-art and cos-play. This obsession with image becomes the fundamental nature of stories in Gwen’s world, as Spider-Gwen turns the superficial into the substantial. Continue reading

Original Sin 8

Alternating Currents: Original Sin 8, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Original Sin 8, originally released September 3rd, 2014.

Drew: As the final chapter of a summer crossover event, Original Sin 8 has significantly more baggage than the average comic issue. In addition to wrapping up its own 8-issue maxi-series (9 if you count that zero issue), this issue is essentially charting of the trajectory of the Marvel Universe in the short term, setting up an array of new series and new volumes of old series that seem to fall out of the aftermath of this event. All that is to say that it’s easy for this conversation to turn into a discussion of Original Sin as a whole, or even how we feel about some of the lasting changes this issue presents. There’s certainly value in those conversations (and believe me, I’m going to talk about them a bit), but first, I want to examine whether or not this issue manages to be entertaining in its own right. Continue reading