The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1 Presents a Feminist History

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

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

Pixar

As a kid, I always suspected the inanimate objects in my life had secret lives of their own. It wasn’t so much that I thought they got up and walked around when I wasn’t looking, but that they had feelings and aspirations and friends that they cared about. That was the bit about Toy Story that really hit me when it came out — that my toys were desperate for my love and attention, and they felt neglected when I turned my attention elsewhere. Worrying about the feelings of inanimate objects speaks to some of my most well-worn neuroses, but I’d defend those early experiences as helping me practice sympathy for other humans. I hesitate to call Toy Story a feminist history, since the marginalized perspective it adopts is entirely fictional, but it certainly has the shape of a feminist history, cuing us (or, at the very least, eight-year-old me) into the heretofore ignored plight of children’s toys. (To be clear: “feminist history” isn’t the history of feminism, but feminist approaches to history — approaches that highlight otherwise overlooked perspectives and narratives in history.) With Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, Saladin Ahmed and Garry Brown achieve something similar, retelling the classic arc “Alien Costume Saga” from the perspective of the Venom Symbiote. Continue reading

It’s Power vs Responsibility in The Amazing Spider-Man 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 5

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

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

We tend to define power optimistically — we might list the duties of say, the President of the United States, for example, with the expectation that they’ll wield their power responsibly. But there’s another (perhaps more timely) way to define power, not by the amount of good it allows someone to do, but by the amount of harm it allows someone to inflict. Try as we (or Uncle Ben) might to link the two, power and responsibility are independent variables. That is, “With great power must also come great responsibility” isn’t a statement of some inviolable rule of the world, but a goal to strive towards. That’s why the “must also” part is so essential (and so missed from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) — it makes it clear Uncle Ben isn’t just stating a fact. Indeed, that power can be separated from responsibility is precisely what this first arc of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man has focused on, demonstrating the inefficacy of either without the other. Continue reading

How Directionality Sells the Drama in Ms. Marvel 34

by Drew Baumgartner

Ms. Marvel 34

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

The only limits in comics are those of the imagination and the page itself. That sounds grandiose, but I genuinely believe that to be true. There are no CGI budgetary restrictions or limits of practical effects that could make a shot or a sequence impossible (though time constraints may make big crowds on horseback less likely), no locations on earth (or off) that can’t be used, no detail to small that can’t be captured in a panel. That means comics are a medium with nearly infinite potential for flashy epicness, which can easily hog our attention. But its the fundamentals — nearly universal to all storytelling — that ultimately make a comic sing: characters, clarity, and heart. Sometimes those flashy elements can help connect us to those fundamentals, but sometimes it’s the simpler details that sell the story. Such is the case with G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon’s Ms. Marvel 34, which utilizes one of the most basic givens in the medium to remarkably effective results. Continue reading

The Designs Define the Characters in Exiles 7

by Spencer Irwin

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

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Exiles has been extremely lucky to have a regular artist as talented as Javier Rodriguez, but the series is just as lucky to have found a guest artist like Rod Reis, one who’s just as talented, even if his style is entirely different. I could probably spend a month just gushing about Reis’ work throughout Exiles 6 and 7, but today I want to specifically talk about his character designs and how they inform so much about each character’s role and personality without a single word. Continue reading

Everybody Has Their Role to Play in Exiles 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

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Since the very first issue of Exiles the Tallus, an interdimensional, time-traveling gauntlet, has been calling the shots, pulling our heroes from reality to reality with its own agenda in mind. In many ways, it’s the true mastermind behind the defeat of the Time Eater, having charted a path towards victory and collecting heroes and allies all with vital and specific roles to play in its plan. Early on in the series this sometimes felt like it robbed the characters of their agency, but as we reach the finale of Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez’s story in Exiles 5 that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s interesting to see the role each Exile has to play, but far more interesting to see them all embrace their roles enthusiastically and of their own volition. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 1: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Amazing Spider-Man 1

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

Drew: If you only had one word to describe Spider-Man, what would it be? Strength? Responsibility? Verbosity? These are all great answers, each with plenty of classic Spidey stories that emphasize those characteristics, but they aren’t quite perfect. Plenty of heroes are as strong and/or responsible, and a few even talk as much as Spider-Man, but there’s something else that makes him unique. With Amazing Spider-Man 1, Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley offer up their own answer — one I had never considered, but feels obvious on reflection: Karma. Beyond his powers and the responsibilities that come with them, Spider-Man is a person plagued by the consequences of his past mistakes. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 801: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: Dan Slott has written more issues of The Amazing Spider-Man than any other creator ever. That’s not something one achieves if they merely “like” a character — Slott clearly loves Spider-Man in a way even the most die-hard of fans can only dream of. Writing his adventures has certainly changed Slott’s world for the better, and that’s a sentiment he expresses beautifully in The Amazing Spider-Man 801, his final issue on the title. It’s a love letter to the power of Spider-Man told in the only way that kind of story really can be told — through the perspective of a fan. Continue reading

One Impressive Spread is an Issue in Microcosm in Exiles 4

by Spencer Irwin

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

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Exiles 4 is the series’ best issue yet, and not just because of the puns (although the “Juggernautical” joke alone certainly earned this issue a spot high in my rankings). Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez slow down just a bit, devoting the entire issue to one dimension and one story, allowing the world the Exiles visit to feel interesting and fleshed out and for a full, self-contained adventure to play out there in a way that previous issues haven’t always had room for — all while still advancing the overarcing Time-Eater plot. It’s impressive plotting, pulled off with aplomb by every member of the creative team, who never allow the issue’s density to choke out the detail, character work, or fun this series has come to be known for. It’s a killer combination, and there’s one perfect moment that epitomizes everything that’s great about this issue. Continue reading

Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

by Spencer Irwin

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

Spider-Man has one of the most iconic, expansive, and enduring supporting casts in all of superhero comics, and that’s a fact Dan Slott has used to his advantage throughout his long tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man. He especially leans on his supporting cast in issue 800, the penultimate issue of his run and the grand finale of “Go Down Swinging.” It’s an issue all about the power of the people in Peter Parker’s life, be it the power he gives them, or the power they give him. Continue reading

Fun With Familiar Ideas in The Amazing Spider-Man 799

by Spencer Irwin

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

The end of a creative team’s run often finds the team building to a story that spans their entire tenure on the title, bringing together all their loose ends into one grand climax. Dan Slott, though, has simply been writing The Amazing Spider-Man too long to realistically do that; in fact, he’s tied up most of his long-running plots over the last few storylines, instead using much of his final arc to return Peter Parker to a kinda-sorta classic status quo for future creators to play with. Slott, though, has always found quite a bit to mine from classic status quos, from familiar plots and the immutable core of his characters. Even stories as well-known as “Norman Osborn returns to terrorize Peter and Harry” and “Spider-Man and Goblin fight” find a new life under Slott’s pen, and that’s no different in The Amazing Spider-Man 799, which finds Slott and Stuart Immonen tackling these familiar stories from new angles, from different perspectives, with a few surprises hiding up their sleeves. Continue reading