Epistolary Irreverence in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 26

by Drew Baumgartner

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 26

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

The provenance of epistolary texts are always weird. Actually, it’s probably less weird than traditional narratives, where we might somehow be privy to the private thoughts of the protagonist or even the perspective of an omniscient narrator, but epistolary texts necessarily draw our attention to the weirdness in a way that more traditional narratives don’t. Because we’re reading documents composed within the diegesis of the epistolary narrative, the ostensible writer of those documents are a character, even as the actual writer attempts to become invisible. That tension, between our hyperawareness of the fictional author, and purported obliviousness of the actual author, puts epistolary narratives in this weird netherworld of headspace, embracing the self-awareness of postmodernism in an attempt to produce an entirely un-self-aware story. It’s a concept that already folds in on itself, but writer Ryan North adds a few more wrinkles, confusing the notion of self-awareness enough that the confusion starts to be to point. Continue reading

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Accepting Happiness in Silver Surfer 13

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Sometimes I think I ask too much of comic books. I always want them to be grand statements about morality or the price of heroism or contain some other largely unknowable truth about the world. Silver Surfer is one of those series that sets this expectation for me, and the creative team of Dan Slott, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred obviously have a lot to say about life, love, and adventure. The penultimate issue of this series slows that all down by speeding up time, allowing the reader to bask in the simple sweetness of a life lived together. It is a rarity among comics — something nice just for the purpose of experiencing something nice. Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 4

ultimates-2-4

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 4, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. […]

Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. […]

Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.

Aristotle, “Rhetoric”

Drew: I’ve never studied philosophy, or even public speaking, but even I’ve heard of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the three modes of persuasion Aristotle describes in the excerpts above. Obviously, “heard of” is a pretty far cry from understanding, but to my lay mind, Logos — the mode that relies on logic — is often held up as the purest form of persuasion, as it hinges on facts rather than our emotions or faith in whoever is making the argument. But, of course, it’s difficult to truly ignore the impact of Ethos and Pathos — we’re emotional, social beings — so it’s possible for something to feel like Logos when, in fact, it isn’t (a phenomenon we call “truthiness”). Moreover, dubious Logos may shore up its logicalness by being distractingly lacking in Ethos and Pathos (a phenomenon we might call “fuck your feelings”). This is all very messy, and is threatening to turn into an essay on political discourse, but I brought it up to address the appeals characters make to one another in Ultimates 2 4 — all modes are on display, including a “logical” argument built on such shaky ground that its arguer feels compelled to call itself “Logos.” Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 1

ultimates-2-1

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 1, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: It’s odd that we have a concept of ideas that are “ahead of their time” — that is, it’s odd that ideas are so often rejected only to be later praised that we have a phrase to describe the phenomenon. Optimistically, the fact that those ideas can be reappraised suggests that you can’t keep a good idea down, but the other side of that coin reveals how common it is to reject good ideas in the moment. Indeed, the very fact that those ideas can later be proven to have value illustrates that the initial problem wasn’t with the idea, but the people involved in implementing it. Maybe it comes down to personalities involved or the politics surrounding an idea, but good ideas can be rejected for reasons totally unrelated to the quality of those ideas. Those mistakes may be corrected by history, but often over the course of generations. To me, the best way to speed up that process, unlocking the value of good ideas sooner, is to constantly reevaluate our decisions, never defaulting to the assumption that the “best” idea always wins. Such is the case with the idea of the Ultimates — the politics and personalities involved may have prevented that idea from reaching its fruition the first time around, but that doesn’t mean it should be discarded completely. Continue reading

The Ultimates 5

ultimates 5

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Ultimates 5, originally released March 23rd, 2016.

Spencer: As a team, the Ultimates exist to solve problems within the Marvel Universe that are too grand for any other team to fix; it’s fitting, then, that Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort seem to be using The Ultimates 5 to solve an equally grand problem that Marvel Comics as an entity have been grappling with for years. It’s perhaps the most meta-textual concept in an issue full of meta, but thankfully, all that meta makes for an intriguing read. Continue reading

Secret Wars 8

secret wars 8

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015. 

secret wars div

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

The Ultimates 1

ultimates 1

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing the Ultimates 1, originally released November 11th, 2015.

Taylor: Canada recently elected a prime minister. His name is Justin Trudeau and people basically seem to love him. Maybe this has to do with his dashing good looks or maybe his liberalism is a nice shift from Canada’s previous, more conservative PM. Whatever the reason, he made headlines a week or so ago and further endeared himself to many when he was asked why half of his political cabinet are women. His answer: “Because it’s 2015.” Whatever your views may be on Canada’s new PM, this frank and forward thinking answer is certainly welcome in a world ready for a new breed of politician. “What does this have to do with comics?” you might be asking. Well, similar to politics, the comics world is prime for a new, fresh perspective, at least from the major publishers. Enter The Ultimates 1, a comic that promises to be progressive and different despite its trappings as a traditional title.

Continue reading

Silk 4

silk 4

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Silk 4, originally released May 13th, 2015.

“My body can stretch all around this building. It’s natural state is a giant puddle of, well, me. It takes everything I have to hold myself together. So, yes. I’ve had anxiety.”

Reed Richards, Silk 4

Patrick: For obvious reasons, most superhero narratives that deal with mental illness stay pretty close PTSD or anger management problems. While debilitating issues in real life, in the realm of fiction, that all sounds very sexy — these afflictions either steam from or drive a character to action. Usually both. And it doesn’t much matter how negatively a writer tries to paint Bruce Wayne’s grief- and guilt-ridden revenge episodes, the reader always wants to see Batman kicking ass. Punisher may not be able to sleep without a gun under his pillow, but we sorta like that. Silk 4 toys with the idea that mental illness isn’t always so obvious and often isn’t so action-packed. Continue reading

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4

squirrel girl 4

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4, originally released April 22nd, 2015.

Patrick: Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab (of Community fame) have a little pet project in L.A. called Channel 101. It’s a sort of DIY 5-minute-TV show festival/competition that takes place once a month at the Downtown Independent Theatre. It’s pretty cool, and the shows that come out of it can really run the gamut from brilliant to moronic, from sharp and professional to shaggy as hell. It’s an intense artistic environment, and the sense of community surrounding every showing is palpable. I was introduced to Channel 101 by our very own Scott Baumgartner, and the two of us (and my co-editor Drew) attended one of their events in December of 2012. As it was the end of the year, we weren’t going to just another screening but the end-of-year award ceremony called “The Channies.” It was still a fun time, but 90% of what occurred on that stage, and on that screen, played against everyone’s expectations for a Channel 101 event. It worked like gangbusters on the crowd, most of whom had been submitting shows to the competition for years. With the conventions and expectations of a Channel 101 show so well understood, the award show’s producers were able to crank out one well of a subversive experiences — even if it was 70% lost on me and Drew. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4 takes our shared expectations for comic books and flips them all on their head, pitching Squirrel Girl herself as Queen of Subversion. Continue reading

Silver Surfer 10

silver surfer 10

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Silver Surfer 10, originally released March 12th, 2015.

“You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

Traditional

Spencer: The Silver Surfer may not wear shoes — at least not when he’s “silvered up” — but that doesn’t make this old adage any less true for him. The citizens of Newhaven have every right to be mad at the Surfer, who, in many ways, is directly responsible for the destruction of their various homeworlds at the hand of his former master, Galactus, but it isn’t until they’re faced with the same horrific choice as he once was that they can truly begin to understand him. What happens once they do is one of the most inspiring, heroic comic book moments I’ve read in quite a while. Continue reading