Waging Peace in X-Men Red Annual 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“I was the Phoenix. I burned so brightly. Then I was dead. And everything was dark.”

Jean Grey, X-Men Red (2018) Annual #1

Writer Tom Taylor starts this issue with the narration above, quickly summarizing the tragic arc of Jean Grey. It was a violent life, and the bullet points of her story are mostly bummers. Over Scott Summer’s grave, Jean promises that this time is going to be different, and this annual is all about what that might look like. Taylor and artist Pascal Alixe offer an issue full of love, understanding, and difficult conversations. Jean’s still here to win, but it’s not war she’s waging. It’s peace.

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The Story’s Scope is Not Well-Served in All-New Wolverine 34

By Spencer Irwin

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

I love the concept behind this “Old Woman Laura” arc. Diving into a Wolverine’s future to find a utopia is a refreshing change of pace, and a beautiful way to show how Laura’s more civil and humane approach to heroing — her attempts to be better than Logan — eventually pays off. That Laura’s final regret — and final mission — would be Bellona brings All-New Wolverine full circle in a satisfying way. Issue 34 itself has so many delightful moments; I practically squealed when Kate Bishop showed up. Yet, for everything that I love about this storyline and this issue, it also has a few major problems. A story of this scope needs more time and room to play out than it’s getting. 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

The Wicked + The Divine 12

wicked and divine 12Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 12, originally released July 1st, 2015.

Spencer: In superhero comics, readers get used to seeing characters interpreted in myriads of ways. Everyone from Bill Finger to Frank Miller to Jim Lee has had their hands on Batman, and as a result, we’re able to accept Batman’s characterization in almost any incarnation, no matter how drastic the change. That’s great for accessibility, but much worse for consistency, especially when a character gets saddled with a less-than-stellar creative team. Indie books, on the other hand, allow for finite stories told by a single creative team, with some books (such as Saga) even deviating from a monthly release schedule in order to ensure that no fill-in artists will be needed. Throughout its first 11 issues The Wicked + The Divine stuck with a consistent team (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles), but issue 12 features Kate Brown as the series’ first fill-in artist. This artistic switch-up comes in the aftermath of the series’ most turbulent moment, and it’s the perfect way to illustrate how shaken-up the cast still is after last month’s sudden, tragic turn. Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 11

Alternating Currents: The Wicked + The Divine 11, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 11, originally released June 3rd, 2015.

Mr. Ross: Firestorm, that’s a hell of a picture. Remember when they had the helicopter land on top of that car —
Frank Costanza: Hey! I haven’t seen it yet!
Mr. Ross: It has nothing to do with the plot!
Frank Costanza: Still, I like to go in fresh!

Seinfeld, “The Rye”

Drew: I wouldn’t say my girlfriend has a lot in common with Frank Costanza, but she also prefers to “go in fresh” to narratives. For her, any information beyond the barest gist of the genre and mood constitutes a spoiler. Of course, I’ve always been on the opposite end of the spoiler spectrum — because I’m most interested in how the story is told, knowing plot points ahead of time can’t “spoil” the experience. Every so often though, I’ll encounter a twist so shocking that I have to admit I’m glad I didn’t know it was coming. Which is to say, when I say that you should only read on if you’ve already read The Wicked + The Divine 11, I really mean it. Seriously: spoilers after the jump. Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 10

wicked and divine 10

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 10, originally released May 6th, 2015.

You know what hope is?
Hope is a bastard.
Hope is a liar, a cheat and a tease.
Hope comes near you?
Kick its backside:
Got no place in times like these.

Ben Folds and Nick Hornby, “Picture Window”

Patrick: The world of The Wicked + The Divine posits that everyone wants something just beyond their reach. Fans just want to connect with the gods, the gods just want to live a little bit longer. Their goals always seem tenable, but for the simple fact that they aren’t. This extends directly to the reader — ten issues in and we should be able to speak more definitively about whether Lucifer killed that judge, but we can’t. This issue explores the gulf created by what the characters want, and only sheepishly celebrates what they have. Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 7

Alternating Currents: The Wicked and The Divine 7, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 7, originally released January 21st, 2015.

Drew: Religion is such a weird thing in comics. Both of the Big Two feature actual gods in their publishing line, which opens up a whole host of ontological questions — Did these gods play a role in the creation of the universe? How did they come to exist? — but these characters largely aren’t designed to answer religious questions. Just like Superman isn’t really about the existential questions raised by alien societies, the likes of Thor and Wonder Woman aren’t really about mythology — goddom is just another avenue to explain why your characters would have superpowers. It was easy for me to confuse The Wicked + The Divine with this type of story — neither is ultimately interested in the religious implications of having gods up and walking around — but as the series’ themes continue to solidify, it’s become ever more apparent that the powers don’t matter, either. “God” is just an exaggerated stand-in for “teen idol,” and given the way our society treats celebrities, it’s not that much of an exaggeration. Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 6

wicked and divine 6
Today, Suzanne and Spencer Spencer and Drew are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 6, originally released December 17th, 2014.Spencer: I’ve gone to a lot of shows by myself over the last couple of years, but it’s rare that I’m ever lonely. I am not a bold or outgoing person, but there’s something about knowing that the majority of the people in that building all love the same band I do that makes it easier to reach out and make new friends. That’s what I love about fan culture, how shared love of a show or book or band can bring strangers together, be it in person or online. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to fan culture, be it pretentious elitists who believe their way of loving a piece of media is the only “right” way or gatekeepers who want to push out anybody they don’t want in their fandom, often resorting to violent or illegal means. The Wicked + The Divine 6 marks the beginning of a new storyline, one which Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie already seem eager on using to explore the darker side of fan culture. See, it turns out that not all of the Pantheon’s fans are as loyal or level-headed as our Laura… Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 5

wicked and divine 5

Today, Suzanne and Spencer are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 5, originally released October 22nd, 2014.

Suzanne: Comic book solicitations bring out my cynical side. How can they so casually throw around phrases like “changed forever,” “new status quo” and “earth-shattering events”? Does every sentence need to end with an exclamation point?! I get that their purpose is for marketing and selling comics, really I do. But the end result is that readers expect instant gratification each month. Some of us lose sight of the bigger picture — story arcs need time to build dramatic tension and not every issue will (or should) end in a cliffhanger or a climactic moment. I’d go a step further and argue that smaller moments can be equally important to character and plot development.

The Wicked + The Divine 5 effortlessly combines shocking, “game changing” events with softer character reactions. The first four issues of this series laid the groundwork for this departure. Gillen and McKelvie gave readers hints of what these gods were capable of like Sakhmet’s fierce, primal aggression. But this issue invokes an awe and apprehension in readers that mirrors Laura’s fangirl reaction to The Pantheon. Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 4

wicked and divine 4Today, Spencer and Suzanne are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 4, originally released September 17th, 2014.

Spencer: Last year I had the privilege of spending a day working as a roadie for my favorite band, Saves the Day. I was extremely fortunate that the guys in Saves lived up to my expectations; they’re probably the nicest, most genuine guys I know and went out of their way to make me feel comfortable, but even so, spending time backstage with them and their crew felt like entering a strange new world, with culture and customs all their own. I couldn’t help but think about this while reading Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine 4, as Laura gets to spend time in the private world of her idols. But while I had the best day of my life, Laura seems to walk away from the experience in much deeper trouble than when she started. Continue reading