Secret Empire 1

Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Secret Empire 1, originally released May 3rd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: Skipping ahead into the radically altered future has become one of the hallmarks of modern Marvel event stories. Both Secret Wars and Age of Ultron rushed ahead to the moment after the unthinkable had already occurred, resting in a status quo that practically begged to be undone. Secret Empire, in its #1 issue, adopts this same tactic, catapulting over an untold stretch of time and insisting on a terrifying new normal. The difference between this story and events like Secret Wars and Age of Ultron, is that Secret Empire is based in the entirely credible rise of fascism in the United States. There is real world precedent for the world over which Captain Hydra rules, and even if it is exaggerated for the medium, and the long road to this moment is paved with recognizable warning signs. But writer Nick Spencer is no longer concerned with establishing the mechanical reality of Steve Roger’s brave new world, instead turning to the emotional reality of its occupants, dialing in on how it feels to be truly helpless and hopeless. And how it feels to resist.  Continue reading

Secret Empire 0

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Secret Empire 0, originally released April 19th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: It can be incredibly dangerous to put too much faith in one person, especially if it means neglecting other connections and relationships. While this can be true on a personal level, it’s far more important to remember on a political level, where not even the most well-meaning politician can be trusted with too much power — not even Captain America himself. Continue reading

Civil War II: The Oath 1

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Civil War II: The Oath 1, originally released January 25th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Why is Steve Rogers being transformed into a Nazi such a terrifying idea? It’s because we all trust Steve Rogers, both in universe and out. Not only can he use that to gain influence that should never, under any circumstances, be given a Nazi, but that trust means that we’re probably inclined to think the best of him — out of sheer habit, if nothing else — even though he’s never deserved it less. Well, no more. Civil War II: The Oath drives home that this altered Steve’s heart is as black as they come. If only the rest of the Marvel universe was privy to that fact as well. Continue reading

Civil War II 8

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Civil War II 8, originally released December 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The point of most blockbuster summer event crossovers is to throw as many characters together as a publisher can and coast off the spectacle, using tie-ins to boost sales and often refocusing their line of books in the aftermath. When these events are done right they can be loads of fun, but it’s hard to deny that there’s something kinda mercenary about the whole process. Is it possible for an event comic to have a soul? I’d certainly say so, and I’d imagine Brian Michael Bendis would agree with me. The problem with Civil War II, then, is that Bendis’ attempts to split the book evenly between spectacle and deeper themes results in both elements playing out unsatisfactorily. Continue reading

Captain America: Steve Rogers 6

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Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Steve Rogers Captain America 6, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Civil War II has killed the momentum of a lot of books, but its Steve Rogers Captain America tie-ins are an especially interesting case of this because the title never really had a chance to establish its momentum in the first place — writer Nick Spencer was still in expository mode, exploring how Steve’s new Hydra backstory changed him, when the title was dragged into a major event. Thankfully, Spencer and artist Javier Pina have been able to continue that exploration even throughout these event issues, but the moments tying directly into Civil War II feel unmoored in comparison. Continue reading

Jessica Jones 1

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Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Jessica Jones 1, originally released October 5th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Befitting her job as a private investigator, mystery is a vital element of the Jessica Jones mythos. It’s probably why my favorite episode of the Netflix series is the one that put the ongoing Kilgrave story on hold to solve an unrelated case of the week, and it’s also why the first issue of the new Jessica Jones relaunch works so well — Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos don’t just build a mystery around Jessica’s newest case, they turn her very life into a mystery that the audience, and perhaps even Jessica herself, need to solve. Continue reading

Sam Wilson: Captain America 10

capt america sam wilson 10Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Sam Wilson: Captain America 10, originally released June 22nd, 2016.

Spencer: People have certain aspects of themselves that bind them together into larger groups. Some of those qualities we choose for ourselves — our hobbies, religion, who we marry — but others we have no choice in. Our family, race and nationality, and sexuality bind us to like individuals. That doesn’t mean every member of, say, the same religion or race are alike, nor that they’re all friends, nor that they’ll even agree on anything. What it does mean is that they’ve all got one thing in common that no other group understands, and that makes them part of a community. In Sam Wilson: Captain America 10, writer Nick Spencer explores Sam Wilson and James Rhodes’ community, mining unexpected riches from the concept.

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Ms. Marvel 7

ms marvel 7

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Ms. Marvel 7, originally released May 25th, 2016.

Patrick: Y’know, for being one of them-there “Inhumans,” Kamala Kahn is not particularly well-suited for large-scale comic book crossovers. Her problems tend to be grounded in something so much more closely resembling reality than someone like Carol Danvers or Tony Stark or even Peter Parker. She’s not going into space, and if she is fighting some kind of superpowered evil, it’s more of a strain on her maxed-out high school schedule than it is a threat to her life. So I was a little taken aback when I saw that this issue was designated a “The Road to Civil War II” story, with all that self-serious branding on the cover. Luckily — and obviously, when you take a second to think about it — G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona understand what works about Ms. Marvel. Instead of delivering twenty pages of set-up, they craft a narrative that plays out — and subverts — the themes of Civil War in a friendly, emotionally honest way that’s true to their characters. Continue reading

Spider-Man 1

Alternating Currents: Spider-Man 1, Ryan and Drew

Today, Ryan M. and Drew are discussing Spider-Man 1, originally released February 3rd, 2016.

Ryan: The danger of starting your story with a climactic image and then jumping back in time is that it can displace interest. At best, it builds anticipation. At worst, it feels like a bait and switch. It’s like when a friend starts a story with “Did I ever tell you about the time I made out with a mime in Vegas?” and then proceeds to tell you details about how she booked her hotel room. By getting me too invested in the end of the story, you’ve diminished my interest in the preamble. At that point, I’m just listening for mime specifics that indicate we’re getting to the good stuff. Continue reading

Secret Wars 9

secret wars 9

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Secret Wars , originally released January 13th, 2016. 

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“Great societies are crumbling around us. And the old men who run them are out of ideas. So all eyes turn to you — our children — to build us something better […] We must do more, go farther… to somewhere no human has ever been. Your prize, Makers… are the stars themselves.”

T’Challa, Secret Wars 9

Patrick: The entirety of Jonathan Hickman’s incursion epic has hinged on this concept of master morality — that the decisions of the powerful necessarily cannot make sense to those less powerful. Individuals’ lives and rights are trampled for a concept as nebulous as “the greater” good, and it’s not really up to the subservient class to judge that trampling. With Secret Wars, the class of person making such impossible decisions is God — a literal, physically present, hands-on creator God — in the form of Doctor Doom. His decisions are immeasurably complicated, but they are also the decisions made by Hickman himself, and the conclusion to this mini-series, this event, and Hickman’s entire run at Marvel comics, links Godliness with creativity, and ultimately places the decisions and the morality behind those decisions in the hands of the storytellers.

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