Moon Knight 9

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Moon Knight 9, originally released December 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Spencer: One of the greatest things about superhero comics is how thoroughly they live in the realm of metaphor. The limitless possibilities provided by the Marvel and DC universes mean that creators can take the most abstract of concepts and make them literal, physical threats for our heroes to face head-on. Sometimes this can oversimplify things, sure, but under the pens of the best creators this provides an opportunity to explore complicated subjects in a more straightforward manner. That’s certainly the case with Moon Knight 9, where Jeff Lemire and his murderers’ row of artists tackle Marc Spector’s mental illness in a way that’s simultaneously realistic and about as sci-fi as humanly possible. Continue reading

Death of X 4

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Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Death of X 4, originally released November 23rd, 2015.

Patrick: At the risk of making a statement that’s been made a million times already: 2016 has been a hell of a year for high-profile deaths. Calling them “celebrity deaths” would be underselling it — figures like Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro and Prince virtually changed the fabric of reality simply by existing in it. But for all their earth-shifting influence, their deaths were all quiet, ultimately meaningless affairs. These revolutionaries did not die they way they lived, which is to say, their deaths made no specific statement. Bucking the trend, was David Bowie, who had released an eerie, melancholy record in the final weeks of his life. Bowie knew that his life was performance – it was challenging and honest – and that his death should be the same. In Death of X 4 Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule close the book on the life of Scott Summers, insisting that he die the way he lived, a revolutionary, even if that’s a performance he was never putting on.

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A.D.: After Death Volume 1

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Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing A.D.: After Death Volume 1, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: A frequent criticism of popular fiction is the overemphasis on plot instead of character. There’s a lot of moving pieces involved in “epic storytelling” and oftentimes the emotional resonance of the characters in a story gets left by the wayside in service to the overall concept. Sometimes the fantastical plot of a story so greatly eclipses everything else that the personal relationships of the characters are rendered completely irrelevant and uninteresting. Then there’s A.D.: After Death Volume 1. Continue reading

Thanos 1

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Today, Drew and Ryan D are discussing Thanos 1, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

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Drew: This line is often used to sell a given story as some kind of ultimate showdown, but it always strikes me as thoroughly self-defeating: either one or both of those adjectives simply prove to be false. That is, the answer can’t be as interesting as the question suggests, since the answer necessarily reveals that the question was built on a false premise. Or, if you’re feeling more diplomatic, you might take Superman’s answer to this question from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman: “they surrender.” It’s an elegant solution, but is ultimately far less entertaining than the premise suggests — “they surrender” isn’t exactly the white-knuckle conclusion the question implies, and again, betrays the falsehood of those adjectives.

Such is often the case in superhero comics, where villains are routinely trotted out as unstoppable, only for our hero to miraculously give lie to that claim. It’s enough to make anyone doubt the increasingly hyperbolic claims made of villains. This becomes especially true of big name villains, who continue to be heralded as some kind of ultimate threat, in spite of the fact that they’ve been beaten in virtually every appearance. Thanos is a prime example of this — the seriousness of his threat diminishes with each subsequent return (especially after that time Squirrel Girl defeated him) — leading to even more hyperbolic claims made next time. Cleverly breaking that pattern, Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s Thanos 1 sidesteps the Worf Effect by lampshading the inevitable conclusion in the first issue. Continue reading

Descender 16

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Today, Ryan D. and Spencer are discussing Descender 16, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan D: Descender 16 drops the reader directly into the past, without even stopping to say hello to the cast from last issue’s focus on Andy and Effie/Queen Between. From the cover and the lovely introductory spread, it is clear right away that it is now Driller’s turn to get the spotlight treatment. As soon as we see the two robots being dropped from orbit into the Dirishu Mining Colony, it became very clear to me where this issue was heading: we met Driller alone on the planet, so something needs to take us from Driller having companionship to its solitary, human-hating life. Though the arc seemed fairly obvious, it was still a treat to see this robot get some well-deserved further characterization, not to mention the big reveal at the end. Continue reading

Descender 15

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Today, Spencer and Ryan D. are discussing Descender 15, originally released September 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The third arc of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender is called “Singularities,” and it’s an appropriate title. The progression of the narrative has slowed to a crawl as, instead, each issue gets drawn into the orbit of a single character, exploring the way the ten years since the Harvesters’ attack have shaped them into the person they are today. Issue 15 focuses on Effie (a.k.a. Queen Between), the ex-wife of Tim-21’s former owner, Andy Tavers. Not only do Lemire and Nguyen deftly flesh out the past of a character who, up until now, had been a bit player, but they pack a heartbreakingly comprehensive look at a ten-year-long relationship into a scant 23 pages. Continue reading

Moon Knight 6

Alternating Currents: Moon Knight 6, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Moon Knight 6, originally released September 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Drew: Unreliable narrators abound in postmodern fiction. Often, their unreliability reveals something important about the narrator — their fears, their ego, their obliviousness — but sometimes, it reveals more about their situation. Perhaps they’re dreaming, or on drugs, or experiencing a psychotic break — whatever the case, we understand that the events of the story may not be exactly what they seem, but precisely what that means about the narrator isn’t necessarily clear. It’s a device that runs the risk of turning into an unfollowable mishmash, but when done well — as it is in Moon Knight 6 — it can reveal surprising connections as disparate elements resonate with some shared (but perhaps unknown) meaning. Continue reading

Moon Knight 4

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Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Moon Knight 4, originally released July 6, 2016 

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Spencer: In a solo superhero title, it’s usually a given that the book will focus on the title character. They generally drive the action, and thanks to internal monologues, we often know what they’re thinking as well. In many ways, the audience views the story through that title character’s point of view, but in Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire’s Moon Knight, that statement is far more literal — we see the world just as Moon Knight himself sees it, and like our Mr. Knight, we have no way of telling what’s real and what isn’t, nor any way to control how we perceive this world. Just as the creative team dictates the reader’s experience, the people around Marc Spektor seem to have complete control of the world he inhabits, and that goes for friend and foe alike. Continue reading

Moon Knight 1

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Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Moon Knight 1, originally released April 13th, 2016.

Michael: Superheroes do so love wallowing in self-doubt and self-reflection. Along with trading blows with supervillains and helping the helpless, self-reflection is one of the great pastimes of the American superhero. “Am I strong enough?” “Am I supposed to be this?” “Can I overcome this?” and so on, and so on. In Moon Knight 1 our hero is questioning himself (or selves) on a completely different level. The main question our hero asks is “Have I ever actually been Moon Knight? Or did I make that up?” Continue reading

All-New Hawkeye 5

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Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing All-New Hawkeye 5, originally released March 23rd, 2015.

Taylor: Growing up, we have total faith in our parents. Not only do they know everything, but most of the time they are viewed as paragons of virtue, morality, and justice. Basically, to the small child,  parents are knowable because they represent the perfect person. As we get older, however, we learn that our parents aren’t always these things. This leads us to wonder what else we don’t know about mothers and fathers and ultimately, one day, we have the realization we don’t know exactly who they are because we no longer hold them in such high esteem. It’s a tough lesson to learn, made all the more so when you learn your parent might be a criminal. All-New Hawkeye 5 explores the issue of figuring out who parents are and in doing so also makes a statement finding your own identity. Continue reading