The Punisher 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers

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

Michael: Comic book readers are probably familiar with the idea that “Batman always wins” – he’s an inevitable force of nature. I think that The Punisher is similar in this respect. Frank Castle is primarily a hunter, but when the roles are reversed he’s as wild as a cornered animal, finding any and every way to disarm opponents and escape. Such is the case in Matthew Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski’s The Punisher 2.

Frank Castle isn’t a complicated man – at least he probably doesn’t consider himself to be. He’s got two rules: kill criminals, don’t kill cops. That second part tends to make Frank’s life a little more difficult, as he has to get creative when he is evading New York’s finest – as well as its superheroes. Continue reading

Captain America 1 Addresses the Change We Wish We Didn’t See

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 1

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

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. […] We need not wait to see what others do.

Mahatma Gandhi

You might be more familiar with this quote as it is often paraphrased, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” It’s a (hilariously self-actualized) misquote that kinda sorta captures the sentiment of the original, paring a nuanced sentiment down to something that could fit on a bumper sticker. But we only need to think about the cheery optimism of that bumper sticker for a moment to see the pessimism inherent in it. We can be the solution to the world’s problems, sure, but only because we’re already the cause of them. We need to change because we are what the world is — any problems in it are caused by us (whether by malice, ignorance, or complacency).

It’s a lesson many Americans learned (too late) after Donald Trump was elected. Not because we voted for him, but because we thought not voting for him was enough. We thought we were the solution to the problems we saw in the world, but didn’t appreciate how we were also the problem. We saw the battle over the future of this country as an “us vs. them,” failing to understand that there is only an “us,” that we can only be the solution when we accept that we are the problem. We thought fascism was a thing that happened in other countries, and that America would band together to reject it. We were wrong. Few people understand this (or have articulated it quite as clearly) as Ta-Nehisi Coates, which makes him the ideal writer to tackle Captain America, a series also coming to terms with its own in-universe convulsions of fascism. Continue reading

Bucky Takes Center Stage in Tales of Suspense 101

by Drew Baumgartner

Tales of Suspense 101

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

I like spy stories enough, but I’d never claim to be a connoisseur of the genre. I’m sure there are countless subtle subgenres, but to my lay eyes, the most obvious division is between the sensationalized high adventure of, say, James Bond films, and the more grounded stories of intrigue and espionage of John le Carré’s novels. And I recognize that that’s a gross oversimplification, but the actual point I want to talk about is tone — while the later category takes itself super seriously, the former is much lighter and more fun (more recent Bond films notwithstanding), savoring terrible one-liners and groan-inducingly punny names. The Bond franchise has recently eschewed that lightness of tone in pursuit of something more serious, but Tales of Suspense 101 represents another approach; one where everyone agrees the situation is very serious, but the characters can’t help but be funny, anyway. Continue reading

Rise of the Black Panther 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Rise of the Black Panther 1

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

“Spinoff!” Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?

Troy McClure, “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase”

Drew: That epigraph might seem a bit glib, but while I understand the criticisms spinoffs get for being uninspired or safe, I’d never dismiss a spinoff as a matter of course. Case in point: The Simpsons is technically a spinoff from The Tracey Ullman Show, but that didn’t stop it from becoming arguably the greatest sitcom of all time. And actually, the discrete nature of The Tracey Ullman Show might just have been part of what makes The Simpsons so successful — there isn’t the temptation to feature cameos from the original show, the way Frasier might with Cheers, for example. That is, The Simpsons could operate in its own world, untethered to the sensibilities of its origin. Unfortunately, despite the decades that separate The Rise of the Black Panther from its main series, it never really manages to form its own identity. 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

The Bitter Taste of Regret in Deadpool 35

by Michael DeLaney 

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

Releasing the same day as Secret Empire 10, Deadpool 35 is the first book that shows us a glimpse of the Marvel U the post-Secret Empire. It’s also the issue where Deadpool admits something that we’ve known since Steve Rogers ordered him to kill Coulson: Wade is heading for a fall. Continue reading

Secret Empire 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers 

Secret Empire 10

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

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

Mark Twain

Drew: This may seem like an odd quote to kick off a discussion about a comic featuring superpowered heroes battling over bits of a cube that can rewrite reality, but I think it’s safe to say Secret Empire has really never been about superpowers or cosmic cubes. Those are the trappings of a big summer event series, sure, but the story was actually about how seemingly good people can be corrupted by toxic ideologies. That’s immediately recognizable as Steve Roger’s arc through Steve Rogers: Captain America and Secret Empire, but it’s also an arc that has been running in the background of Hydra’s America throughout this series, one that is far more unsettling than seeing Steve hail Hydra ever could be. Continue reading

Secret Empire 9: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers 

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

“All good things must come to an end”

Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde 

Michael: Secret Empire is racing towards its conclusion: previously trapped heroes have been freed, once broken spirits have been re-emboldened, and the bad guys themselves are starting to realize that the odds might not be in their favor. After all, all “good” things come to an end — especially evil empires. Unfortunately, that repurposed Chaucer maxim can also apply to the quality of an ongoing Marvel event, as Secret Empire 9 loses a little bit of the title’s oomph. Continue reading

Secret Empire 8: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Ryan Mogge

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

slim-banner

Spencer: I’m writing this piece in the aftermath of one of the more horrific weekends in recent memory (Charlottesville), which arrives at the tail-end of one of the most horrific ten months or so of my lifetime. I don’t exactly feel an overabundance of hope right now, a sentiment shared by those trapped in Trump’s America and in the Hydra-Controlled America of the Marvel Universe alike. In Secret Empire 8, Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, Rod Reis, Sean Izaaske and Java Tartaglia finally bring the light of hope to their story, but I don’t know how well their methods translate to real life. Continue reading

The Price of Being an Icon in Captain America: Sam Wilson 24

by Spencer Irwin

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

As Falcon, Sam Wilson was free to be Sam Wilson. Falcon no doubt meant quite a bit to many people, but it was still a very personal identity for Sam. Captain America, though…Captain America is an icon, and what Sam does as Captain America automatically means more to the public, for better or for worse, than anything he ever did as Falcon. Captain America is a responsibility, Captain America means something. I don’t think Sam ever fully understood that, or was ever fully prepared to shoulder that awesome responsibility, until now. Continue reading