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

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

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

Character Drives the Drama in Marvel Rising Alpha 1

by Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Mogge

Marvel Rising Alpha

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

Drew: For most of my mid-20s, I worked for an academic summer program — basically, summer camp for nerds. As with most work with youth, the job was both rewarding and frustrating, with unexpected problems often interrupting the flow of what we might imagine a “normal” day to be. Indeed, those unexpected problems came up so regularly, that my boss’s regular refrain was “don’t let the urgent crowd out the important” — that is, don’t forget the part of the job that isn’t putting out fires. It’s straightforward advice, insisting that every part of the job is important, but I think it’s particularly salient when dealing with kids — you don’t want the loudest, most poorly-behaved students to command all of the attention, as the quiet, well-behaved students might be struggling just as much. It’s a hard balance to strike, especially for the college-aged students we hired as instructors, so I understand exactly why Doreen Green makes the missteps she does in Marvel Rising: Alpha 1. Continue reading

It’s OK to Keep Secrets in Ms. Marvel 30

by Taylor Anderson

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

In any relationship, romantic or otherwise, there are bound to be secrets. For a long time, there was belief that prevailed which said your partner was entitled to know everything about you, which basically meant no secrets were kept. However, times have changed, and people have begun to accept that it’s healthy and natural to not tell your partner everything. That’s not being duplicitous, that’s just being human and respectful. This is healthy turn of events, but as with all things, it’s more complicated if you’re a superhero, just as Kamala find out in Ms. Marvel 30. Continue reading

Staying Focused on Character, No Matter Where and When You Go, in Exiles 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

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One thing you can’t accuse Exiles of is a lack of imagination — or of decompressed storytelling, I suppose. The title flies through new ideas and worlds almost faster than readers can keep up with them. Sometimes I honestly wish it would just slow down and spend some time actually exploring the worlds it takes us to for more than a few pages, and thankfully, Exiles 3 does exactly that, spending over half its story in one scenario (a WWII-era battle with Peggy Carter’s Captain America), and ending with a legitimately shocking cliffhanger, one that finally isn’t the Time-Eater showing up yet again. I feel like this book is really starting to find its footing.

More importantly, though, no matter what era it travels to or how quickly things change, creators Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez always keep Exiles focused on what matters most: its characters. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel 29: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Ryan Mogge

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

Taylor: There’s a reason why Archie comics are still around almost 80 years after the first issue was published. The lives of teenagers, to a certain extent, will always be the same, and Archie comics have traditionally done a pretty good job of chronicling what it’s like to be a high-schooler. In particular, the series’ focus on the romantic and emotional lives of its characters is what has made it an enduring title. After all, it’s not necessarily your AP Biology class you remember so much as the crush who happened to sit next to you in it. But it would be a mistake to think that Archie comics have cornered the market when it comes to teen dramas, or, as Ms. Marvel 29 shows, that teen dramas can’t include super heroes. Continue reading

Pacing as Character in All-New Wolverine 33

By Patrick Ehlers

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

I love the idea of popping into a character’s far-flung future. It’s a way of taking a character’s essence and teasing out the results of a life lived in that essence — the ultimate if-then statement. If you’re a violent loner, then you end up alone and wracked with guilt. It’s all effect, and the cause is understood to be part of the character’s DNA. All-New Wolverine 33 kicks off the “Old Woman Laura” story, and writer Tom Taylor and artist Ramon Rosanas show the result of Laura’s legacy of positivity and leadership. Even in a world that was rocked by Doom World Wars, there’s still joy, prosperity, sorority and productivity in Laura’s future. Continue reading

Sometimes a Comic is Actually Comedic in Ms. Marvel 28

By Taylor Anderson

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

Comics as a medium suffer from a case of poor branding. They’re called “comics” even though a majority of what we think of when we think of comics aren’t comedic at all. One has only to pick up an issue of Batman to get what I mean — the Dark Knight’s adventures aren’t exactly full of laughs (Joker antics aside). There are reasons for this nomenclature, of course, but it’s always kind of rewarding when comic treats its content with levity. This proves true in Ms. Marvel 28, but G. Willow Wilson accomplishes this without losing any of the series’ heart. Continue reading

Inspiring Vulnerable Populations in Ms. Marvel 26

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Kamala Khan is such a good kid. She get’s these stretchy-growy-shrinky superpowers and the very first thing she does is try to protect the vulnerable people in her community. Of course, that doesn’t mean helping impoverished families navigate the SNAP program or helping people with job placement or anything like that — it means punchin’ bad dudes with her temporarily over-sized fists. It’s an inspiring thing, both to read and for the characters within Kamala’s orbit. Issue 26 continues the ‘Teenage Wasteland” story arc by showing us just how thoroughly Kamala has inspired her friends to act as nobly and selflessly as she did when faced with roughly the same threat. Continue reading