Doctor Aphra 16 Finally Lets Aphra’s Queer Flag Fly

by Mark Mitchell

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

Hey, what’dya know, actual queer people in Star Wars. Continue reading

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Simultaneous Silliness and Sincerity in Marvel Two-in-One 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: Does writer Chip Zdarsky leverage humor to find pathos, or does he exploit genuine emotion for comedy? It’s almost impossible to tell. Zdarsky often rides the line between celebrating the absurdity and celebrating the sincerity of his characters and his stories. Marvel Two-In-One somehow achieves both simultaneously, giving the reader a sad, almost Venture Brothersian look into the loneliness and ennui of the last remaining members of the Fantastic Four, while never letting go of the inherent weirdness of these characters. It’s a stupendous feat of writing, emboldened by Jim Cheung’s reverent artwork. Continue reading

Potent Symbols Abound in Falcon 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Falcon 3

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

Falcon 3 opens with Sam and Rayshaun in prison. Denied any due process by the white mayor, it’s hard not to see the parallels to mass incarceration, a problem that disproportionately affects black men. Moreover, Sam and Rayshaun are powerless to do anything about it. They eventually escape, sure, but it’s only by the force of literal magic — there’s no other means available to them. It’s a potent symbol, the kind that makes Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara’s Falcon so refreshing. Continue reading

Blackheart Takes Center Stage in Falcon 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Falcon 2

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

The Marvel Universe is full of odd little corners that don’t always interact. I mean, sure, the X-Men will show up for the big summer crossover series, and Wolverine shows up in everything (even when he was still ostensibly dead), but they largely exist in a world separate from Spider-Man or Thor. Likewise, Spider-Man and Thor occupy worlds separate from each other. This obviously falls out of some practical concerns — plans for certain characters may not facilitate their appearances elsewhere — but there are also important aesthetic ones, as well. Chief among them is concerns of “fit” — while it might be fun to see a cosmic-level hero take a side adventure into some street-level action (or vice versa), it’s not exactly what fans of their series signed up for. So: team-ups between, say, Silver Surfer and Hawkeye are few and far between. I found myself thinking a great deal about fit as Falcon 2 emphasizes the demonic threat Sam is up against. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 28

Alternating Currents: Amazing Spider-Man 28, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 28, originally released July 7th, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

Drew: When we’re frustrated with superhero comics, we’ll sometimes blame the serialized format for robbing endings of any tension (or even mocking the very idea of “endings”) — as much as a given comic may try to convince you of the danger its hero is in, we all know they’ll be back to fight again next month. And actually, genre conventions are much more prescriptive than that, generally insisting that the villain also live to fight again (though maybe not until the hero has cycled through the rest of their rogues gallery). I added the caveat of “when we’re frustrated,” because I ultimately don’t think anyone’s assessment of a story comes down to how rote certain genre conventions are — predictable stories can be great, and unpredictable ones can be terrible — just that we might misidentify (or overemphasize) “predictability” as the reason for disliking a given story. Writer Dan Slott may be most famous for throwing those presumptions out the window, but Amazing Spider-Man 28 reveals just how adept he is at making even the most familiar genre conventions feel exciting. Continue reading

Black Widow 11

Alternating Currents: Black Widow 11, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Black Widow 10, originally released February 8th, 2017As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Mordor. The one place in Middle-earth we don’t want to see any closer, and the one place we’re trying to get to.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Drew: As far as motivations go, “destroy evil ring” is about as straightforward as it gets. Obviously, there’s a great deal more to Tolkien than his MacGuffins, but I think one of the most elegant ways he complicates that motive is the simple fact that the ring has to be destroyed in Mt. Doom. In this way, each step of they journey brings the ring closer to destruction and closer to falling into Sauron’s grasp. The only thing that could up the tension any further is suggesting that the “secret” plan to destroy the ring is simply part of Sauron’s plan to draw it out. Are they defeating him, or are they doing his work for him? Nat finds herself in a similar situation in Black Widow 11, as she apparently delivers an equally devastating MacGuffin to Recluse. Continue reading

Black Widow 10

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Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 10, originally released January 18, 2017As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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“Thank you for being a friend.”

Golden Girls Theme Song

Patrick: In college, I made a friend name Melanie. She was a freshman during my senior year, and she had kind of a tough time adjusting to the more Wisconsonian aspects of her college experience. She was from Portland, Oregon, and between the winters and the culture shock, she couldn’t connect with her classmates very easily. I loved that Melanie could see through the dorky Wisconsin obsessions with the Packers, or cheese, or beer or whatever, but that meant a lot of the ways we connected were extremely cynical. We complained about people together, we came up with strategies for getting each other out of small talk at parties – I’d consider it misanthropic if it weren’t also the thing that bonded us so tightly. We used to exchange birthday cards that read “Happy Birthday you fucking cunt.” Obviously, she’s the only person in the world I’d send that card to. Being friends with Melanie was unlike being friends with anyone else, and it’s important to recognize how unique each friendship is. For me and Melanie, that meant one thing, for Natasha and Bucky it means something else.

Continue reading

Black Widow 8

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Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Black Widow 8, originally released November 30th, 2016As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Spencer: Natasha’s mission in Black Widow 8 is, ostensibly, to save the Vice-President from an assassination attempt by one of the young Dark Room recruits, yet it’s not really about trying to save the Vice-President; he doesn’t even make an appearance in the issue. Instead, the person Natasha is truly trying to save is the young assassin herself. In a way, by saving her, Natasha can save herself as well. Continue reading

Black Widow 3

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Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 3, originally released May 4th, 2016.

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Patrick: You wanna hear my theory for why we haven’t had a Black Widow solo movie yet? I don’t think filmmakers or movie audiences are prepared to sit through Natasha’s origin story. Given the global political climate, it’s bound to be difficult to mine adventure and romance out of what is essentially kidnapping young girls and turning them into child soldiers. That’s the source of Nat’s power – she’s frighteningly competent because she literally had to develop those competencies or die in the process. As Black Widow 3 drifts between the past and the present, Chris Samnee and Mark Waid make a point to keep us in the dark about how Nat pulls off any of her numerous remarkable feats. It’s a confident, unnerving read. Continue reading

Daredevil 18

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 18, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Daredevil 18, originally released September 2nd, 2015. 

Act three: The climax occurs as well as the dénouement, a brief period of calm at the end of a film where a state of equilibrium returns. In other words, it is simply the resolution.

Wikipedia, Act (drama)

Drew: It might be reductive to call the final act of a story the most important, but it certainly defines what kind of story it is; is it a tragic or optimistic? Is it about how people and things change or about how they stay the same? Is it about satisfying resolutions for the characters, or satisfying resolutions for the plot? I’ve presented some obviously false dichotomies there, but the point is, the exact nature of a story, from its ultimate message to its storytelling sensibilities, can’t be defined until that final act. That puts a lot of pressure on the final act — a pressure that is doubly true in comics, where the final issue may make up a tiny fraction of the series’ run. Of course, it’s under pressure that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil has always had its highest moments, from moving Matt and company across the country to gracefully integrating into whatever crossovers Marvel cooked up to simply resolving the daring cliffhangers they came up with the month before. Daredevil 18, their final issue, is no different, which is exactly why it’s such a remarkable ending. Continue reading