Today, Taylor and Ryan M. are discussing Archie 18, originally released March 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Taylor: There is an art to making conversation. If you deny this then you clearly have never tried to talk to me over the phone. When I attempt a conversation over the ol’ horn I feel like one of those poor dogs forced into booties. It feels unnatural and stilted and it’s not uncommon to endure long, awkward periods of silence. In person I’m better, but still not great, so I’ve come to appreciate those people who can make conversation. My experiences have taught me that talking truly is an art form where flow is supremely important. The same can be said for comics, where conversations and narratives alike need to flow easily. Archie 18 is a lesson on the importance of conversational and narrative flow, just perhaps not in the way it intended.
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Black Widow 10, originally released February 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
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 →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 10, originally released January 18, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
“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.
Today, Ryan D. and Michael are discussing Daredevil 15, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan D: Sometimes I forget a simple fact about Matt Murdock: he is a tricky dude. Seeing as he does not have quite as spectacular of a power set as many of our better-known Marvel heroes, Murdock relies a great deal on trickery and misdirection to best many of his foes. Off the top of my head, I recall times when he has faked his own and Foggy’s death, had Danny Rand dress up as Daredevil to help keep his own identity secret, become the Kingpin and leader of the Hand, and even become a drifter in Upstate New York. Matt has something new up his sleeve in the new arc of Charles Soule’s Daredevil, featuring a slightly different tone and art than the recent arcs of this run. The question is: did the Man without Fear bite off more than he can chew with this scheme? Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Archie 15, originally released December 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: Part of the problem with “doing the right thing” is that it’s usually the harder option, and quite often has no obvious reward outside of simply knowing that you’re in the right. For example, we see corrupt bankers and politicians steal from millions and never face any consequences, while those who try to bring their crimes to light are fired, arrested, or simply ignored. It’s easy to see why some people decide that morality doesn’t matter, but for many of us that simply isn’t an option: doing the right thing is too important to give up. Archie 15 finds the Riverdale Gang taking the high road in a few different ways, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee them victory, or even happiness. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Black Widow 8, originally released November 30th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
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 →
Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Avengers 1.1, originally released November 9th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: Take 2014’s Amazing Spider-Man 1.1-1.6 (which told a previously untold story set in Peter Parker’s first few months as a hero) and mix it together with Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s JLA Year One (which retold the Justice League’s post-Crisis origin in a modern setting) and you’ll get something resembling The Avengers 1.1. Waid and Kitson take their trademark stylistic combination of classic storytelling set in the modern day (which Waid has also been employing in his modern-day Avengers stories) and use it to tell an “untold” tale of the Avengers’ past. If you have any experience with the aforementioned stories or creative teams, then the result is probably exactly what you were expecting. Continue reading →
Drew: In 2011, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted out 22 “story basics” she learned at Pixar. Every one of them is useful (and I encourage any storyteller to check them out, even if I cringe at how Coats’ list of lessons became “rules” as they were compiled by various bloggers), but #19 has always caught my eye because of how fickle audiences can be with coincidences. I suspect Coats is generally right, but I can’t help but think the magnitude of the coincidence is important, as well. Small coincidences that help characters get out of trouble (say, that the villain’s dropped weapon fell near enough to the hero to reverse the fortunes of their battle) would be more palatable than big coincidences that get them into it (say, that the dropped weapon landed on a button that began the self-destruct sequence on the ship just as it was hurtling towards the hero’s hometown). And, of course, these rules only apply when we’re concerned about verisimilitude — nobody ever complains about the outrageous coincidences in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon because those coincidences are precisely what make those cartoons so entertaining.
All of which is to say I think there are a few more variables in play than helpful/unhelpful in determining the success of a coincidence. Moreover, the specific profile of the coincidences in a narrative might help define it’s tone; an action thriller might allow for bigger, more unhelpful coincidences than would be appropriate in a parlor drama, for instance. In this way, a coincidence that strains credulity might not be a problem with the narrative so much as a sign that you’ve misjudged the tone of that narrative — different stories require different levels of credulity. As you may suspect, Archie 12 contains a few big coincidences that threw me for a loop, and while it would be easy to cry foul, the fact is that Archie has always been a bit cartoonier than I’ve been giving it credit for. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Archie 9, originally released June 22nd, 2016.
Ryan: This last week, I helped my mother clean out her garage. To be fair, most of my help came in the form of going through boxes of my childhood things and deciding what was to go to Goodwill. There was an Archie Comics digest in almost every box. At this point, I’ve probably read more pages of Archie than any other book. I also found a Burger King Toy with Veronica in a convertible and my Gumby-style Betty doll. There was no Archie figurine in my things. That’s for a simple reason; I think he’s kind of a jerk. It’s not that he’s a bad guy, but he has never been my favorite. I love the rivalry/friendship between Betty and Veronica, but the love triangle element was never that interesting to me. Mainly because his unwillingness to choose between Betty and Veronica made him a compassion-free cad and turned them into doormats. Mark Waid and Veronica Fish present my favorite version of Archie, because they treat him and every other character in the story with empathy and humanity. In Archie 9, both the central conflict and the love triangle develop in a world where everyone is doing their best and there are no villains. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 3, originally released May 4th, 2016.
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 →