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

The Specificity of Allusions in Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Deadpool vs Old Man Logan 3

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

Back in high school english class, I was daunted by the idea that every work of literature alludes to earlier, more foundational works. How could I ever understand the meaning of a novel if I haven’t also read the novels it references, and the novels those reference and so on and so on. I’m still fascinated by the notion that every work of art has an ever-branching family tree of influences, but I’m less concerned about missing them — a work lives or dies on its own merits, so if I don’t “get it,” I’m happy to pin that on the work itself. I have a largely similar attitude to comics, where general familiarity with the character and the world might be a safe assumption, but a given issue can’t take for granted that we’ve read any other comic, let alone one from years ago. And yet, comics also has this rich, ever-growing continuity that can (and some might argue should) inform every character’s identity. Such is the case with Deadpool Vs. Old Man Logan 3, which draws upon writer Declan Shalvey’s own personal history with Wade Wilson in one of the most rewarding ways I’ve seen in years. Continue reading

Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 1: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin

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

slim-banner

Michael: A common criticism of a piece of fiction is “nothing really happened.” The meaning of that blanket statement can vary depending on who the critic is and more specifically what they’re expecting. A great example of this is the Season 3 Breaking Bad episode “The Fly.” Critics praised the bottle episode as a brilliant character study while it left many audiences unimpressed with the fact that “nothing really happened.” While I try to appreciate the deeper meaning of a piece of work, I must say that in Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 1…nothing really happens. Continue reading

Wolf 8

wolf 8

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Wolf 8, originally released June 8th, 2016.

Man is a symbol-making and -using animal. Language itself is a symbolic form of communication. The great writers all used symbols as a means of controlling the form of their fiction. Some place it there subconsciously, discovered it and then developed it. Others started out consciously aware and in some instances shaped the fiction to the symbols.

Ralph Ellison

Drew: I distinctly remember asking my high-school English teacher if she really thought writers consciously employ symbolism. In 1963, Bruce MacAllister had a similar question, but rather than pose it to his teacher, he sent a survey to 150 of the most famous living writers asking them about their use of symbolism. I’m less enamored with the emphasis on authorial intent, but I’m absolutely in love with the audaciousness of that move. Or, rather, I’m in love with the fact that so many writers responded — including Ralph Ellison, whose own use of symbolism so frustrated me when I was in high school. Ellison’s comments stood out to me particularly for the allowance he makes for the symbols to take primacy over other elements, turning a literary device into the very point of the work in question. In short, turning prose into poetry. Ales Kot often attains a similar poetic quality, weaving symbols deep into the fabric of his comics. Wolf 8 finds both new and old symbols once again taking the center stage. Continue reading

Power Man and Iron Fist 4

power man iron fist 4

Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Power Man and Iron Fist 4, originally released May 18th, 2016.

Spencer: The beating heart at the center of David Walker, Sanford Greene, and Lee Loughridge’s Power Man and Iron Fist is the friendship between its titular heroes. It should’ve been obvious, then, that the primary theme of this series would be “the power of friendship,” but that’s actually an idea that didn’t come fully into focus until this month’s issue four, the finale of the series’ first storyline. Even more interestingly, the true strength of friendship (and its advantages over other kinds of power) isn’t driven home by Luke and Danny, but by the villains, Jennie Royce and Black Mariah. In fact, it’s their friendship that makes Danny and especially Luke reprioritize their own friendship. Continue reading

Batgirl 50

batgirl 50

Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 50, originally released April 6th, 2016.

Mark: Batgirl 50 is the culmination of the Fugue storyline, and Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart successfully check the box on every superhero trope a reader could want. Mind control? Check. A bank robbery? Check. Previously unmentioned deus ex machina device? A big, fat pneumatic tube-shaped check! The Fugue has released all of Batgirl’s previous foes and is using them to set up mind control devices to lure Burnside’s citizens to Burnside Bridge. Then he’s going to blow up the bridge, killing the citizens, and then convince the rest of Gotham that Batgirl is responsible. This is not a good plan! Continue reading

Black Canary 8

black canary 8

Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Black Canary 8, originally released February 10th, 2016.

Mark: One of the privileges of adulthood is the opportunity to choose your family. Even if you love your immediate family, the family that raised you, as you grow older and move away you build another sort of family — a family comprised of friends, romantic partners, mentors, work colleagues, and so forth. This new family is your social circle, the ones your rely on on a day-to-day basis as an adult. No matter your childhood, this chosen family is an essential part of being an adult, of being independent.

The great gift and the great tragedy of life is that people can flit in and out of our lives seemingly at a whim. I moved to LA with no job and no friends, but have lucked into the most wonderful circle of human beings imaginable. Still, some friends with whom I was once super close have become more like acquaintances, and through no fault of either party. What can you do? Life moves you in one direction, and your friend in another. So even in adulthood, as much as we choose our family, life still finds a way to intervene. Continue reading

Black Canary 4

black canary 4

Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Black Canary 4, originally released September 16th, 2015.

Marge: “You liked ‘Rashomon.'”
Homer: “That’s not how I remember it.”

The Simpsons — “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo”

Spencer: By now, anybody with even the tiniest bit of pop culture-savvy is familiar with the concept of an unreliable narrator. Much like the various storytellers in “Rashomon,” an unreliable narrator believes their own personal version of the truth, even if it doesn’t necessarily jive with the experiences of everyone else present. Comics are a particularly fun medium through which to explore unreliable narrators, because the juxtaposition of words and images means that the creative team can explore two different versions of the truth at the same time. This seems to be Brenden Fletcher and Pia Guerra’s intention with Black Canary 4 as they recount Bo Maeve’s backstory, but unfortunately, the differences between Maeve’s version of the truth and reality are never quite clear enough to be effective. Continue reading

Wolf 1

wolf 1

Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Wolf 1, originally released July 22nd, 2015.

Ryan: Stop me if you have read this comic before: a dark, supernatural noir following a seemingly immortal protagonist and featuring Lovecraftian — oh, yes, that’s Ed Brubaker’s Fatale. Or this one, then: a hard-nosed paranormal detective named Wolf tries to right wrongs in a major American city populated by folkloric — yup, you got it, that is Fables. The first issue of Wolf strides over well-trodden territory — really, we have seen this all before. So why, then, does it work so well? Better yet, what is it that Ales Kot is doing better than everyone else? Continue reading

Black Canary 1

black canary 1

Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Black Canary 1, originally released June 17th, 2015.

Mark: It’s well-worn wisdom that you can’t run away from your past. Humans are an accumulation of their past experiences, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so. And if that’s true for real-life humans, you know it’s doubly true for fictional characters. Any character setting out to start a new life will invariably have their past catch up with them.

Now using the alias D.D., Dinah Lance is on the road with the fortuitously named band Black Canary as their lead singer. But whether it’s the sins of the past coming back to haunt her, or if trouble just has a way of finding her, Black Canary can’t seem to make it through a show without D.D. taking out some baddies. Continue reading