Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Clone Conspiracy 1, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article containersSPOILERS.
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
Drew: The Ship of Theseus, as this thought experiment is commonly known, is often used in science fiction to address the notion of personal identity — that is, how much of you has to be, say, cybernetic before you are no longer yourself — but I actually think the key to the problem Plutarch laid out is that the ship isn’t a person. The question of whether or not a partially-replaced thing could be called the same thing is an interesting question, but I’m less inclined to think that a person’s identity is tied up in the provenance of their body parts. Moreover, I doubt anyone would assert that someone who receives a liver transplant is even a little bit a different person (especially since our livers are constantly replacing old cells, and best estimates suggest a full turnover of liver cells happens every 1-2 years). I’d suggest that the inverse is also true: that someone’s identity can change without changing their bodies at all (besides their liver, obviously). Point is, identity is much more complex than the simple summation of our body parts. For colloquial evidence, we need look no further than Dan Slott’s work with Spider-Man, where characters’ identities might inhabit other characters’ bodies (or octo-bots) without any real questions about who is who. That’s not to say issues of bodies and identity can’t get messy, just that it takes something a little extra to take us there — something like Clone Conspiracy. Continue reading →
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 →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Spider-Women Omega 1, originally released June 1st, 2016.
Spencer: In the letters at the end of Spider-Women Omega, writers Dennis Hopeless, Jason Latour, and Robbie Thompson all touch upon one of the primary elements that has made this crossover so strong: its focus on character-driven storytelling, not spectacle for spectacle’s sake. Spider-Women‘s grand finale sticks with this winning formula, leaving every character in a far different state emotionally than they were at the story’s beginning. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Spider-Woman 7, originally released May 18th, 2016.
Michael: “What comes before anything? What have we always said is the most important thing?”
George Michael: “Breakfast?”
Spencer: Family is a common theme in most works of fiction, but that makes sense — everybody has a family, and for better or for worse, they tend to become inextricably intertwined with our personalities and our view of the world. “Family” has been a major theme of the “Spider-Women” crossover as well, and not just because Jessica Drew’s a new mother. Every single Spider-Woman here — as well as our one kinda-sorta “Spider-Man” — is defined and driven, in one way or another, by their relationship with their family. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Silk 8, originally released May 11th, 2016.
Drew: I had a bit of an identity crisis when I got to college. Well, “crisis” is an overstatement, but I certainly had to reevaluate how I defined myself. Some of that came down to being in a new place with new people, but the bigger part was that the things that distinguished me in high school, say, my passion and talent for music, were no longer remarkable in a conservatory full of musicians. I suspect this is a common experience for a lot of teens, even if the details change a bit (maybe it’s not college, but a music scene, or space camp, or whatever), which is why identity is such an important subject for them. Of course, for all of our struggles to further define ourselves, our identities are much more stable than those of comic book superheroes, whose identities are managed by numerous writers, artists, and editors, but are often split between costumed and civilian personas, and might even run into alternate versions of themselves. Suffice it to say, Cindy Moon was not in a great place to define (or defend) her personality even before she ran into her evil doppelgänger, which lends every decision she makes in Silk 8 an almost visceral tension. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Spidey 1, originally released October 2nd, 2015.
Spencer: I’m pretty sure Spider-Man is the reason I’ve become sick and tired of origin stories; two different Spider-Man movies retelling the 3rd most famous origin in all of comics within the same decade is enough to turn anyone off origins. Robbie Thompson and Nick Bradshaw’s Spidey is smart enough to cut that origin down to a single page and move onto more interesting things, but it’s still caught up in one of the greatest issues plaguing all retellings and reboots; this is just a story I’ve seen a million times before. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 14, originally released February 11th, 2015.
Patrick: Were any of you paying attention to Twitter when they announced that Spider-Man would be appearing in the Disney Marvel movies? It was surreal: like a piece of super-fan-fantasy mutated into a news item and enthusiastically expressed itself in the middle of the night. On my feed, no one more more elated by this news than Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott. He filled twitter with all-caps celebrations — not because he had anything to do with negotiating this deal (nor will he have any role in developing Peter Parker’s role in the MCU), but because he’s a goddamn super-fan. As the impresario and master weaver of Spider-Verse, Slott has had the opportunity to shout his love for all the Spiders from the heavens, and in issue 14, he goes out swinging, symbolically ceding his own control over the Spiders back to the characters themselves. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 12, originally released January 7th, 2015.
Drew: Last week, Patrick and I spent a good ten minutes laughing about The Comic Archive’s “Marvel Movie Omnibus” — that is, all of the Marvel Studios films leading up to and through the end of The Avengers compiled into one mega-movie. Never mind that the thing weighs in at an ungainly 12-hour play-time, what really amused us was the steamrolling of narrative cohesion in favor of what the video description calls “correct story order.” I’ve always been a bit peeved when fans are more concerned with how stories fit together than whether they’re emotionally satisfying, and this struck me as the ultimate manifestation of those priorities. Indeed, flashbacks from Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy are included, even though Malekith and Peter Quill don’t otherwise appear in the movie (remember, this only carries through the end of The Avengers), passing over Chekhov’s gun in favor of boneheaded reportage. The result is a work that is so focused on its whole (however unwatchably long it may be) that it fails to offer satisfying servings, such that any movie-sized chunk of it wouldn’t be a satisfying chapter so much as an arbitrary slice of an indivisible monolith. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about Amazing Spider-Man 12, a slice of “Spider-Verse” that ends up being mostly connective tissue. Continue reading →