Amazing Spider-Man 1: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Amazing Spider-Man 1

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

Drew: If you only had one word to describe Spider-Man, what would it be? Strength? Responsibility? Verbosity? These are all great answers, each with plenty of classic Spidey stories that emphasize those characteristics, but they aren’t quite perfect. Plenty of heroes are as strong and/or responsible, and a few even talk as much as Spider-Man, but there’s something else that makes him unique. With Amazing Spider-Man 1, Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley offer up their own answer — one I had never considered, but feels obvious on reflection: Karma. Beyond his powers and the responsibilities that come with them, Spider-Man is a person plagued by the consequences of his past mistakes. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 801: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: Dan Slott has written more issues of The Amazing Spider-Man than any other creator ever. That’s not something one achieves if they merely “like” a character — Slott clearly loves Spider-Man in a way even the most die-hard of fans can only dream of. Writing his adventures has certainly changed Slott’s world for the better, and that’s a sentiment he expresses beautifully in The Amazing Spider-Man 801, his final issue on the title. It’s a love letter to the power of Spider-Man told in the only way that kind of story really can be told — through the perspective of a fan. Continue reading

The Private Eye 10

private eye 10

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Private Eye 10, originally released March 19th, 2015.

Drew: One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from my older brother as I was preparing an essay for my college applications. I don’t remember his exact words, but he advised me to ease off a bit on my conclusion, which he pointed out was trying way too hard to wrap my essay up with a grand statment of purpose. It’s a common tendency, but it’s easy to understand why: the end is your last chance to leave an impression on your audience — better make your big point now, whether you’ve earned it or not. That tendency becomes even more treacherous when the work in question is meant as a kind of critique of modern society, where the very idea of an ending might feel forced, and any kind of grand statement would feel particularly heavy-handed. It should be no surprise that the sly-as-ever The Private Eye 10 avoids this pitfall altogether, offering an ending so subtle, it might actually be too ambiguous. Continue reading

The Private Eye 7

private eye 7

Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Richie Root are discussing The Private Eye 7, originally released June 20th, 2014.

Patrick: If there’s one thing all high concept stories suffer from, it’s a strained Third Act. So much of our fun up to that point has revolved around realizing a unique, compelling world. When it comes right down to executing on all of the promises laid out in the previous chapters, thematic beats have to take a backseat to action beats. Even when a sci-fi story finds a way to make that final moment a clever twist that asks questions which reinforce the central theme (like in Looper or The Matrix or Blade Runner), the meat of the Third Act is frequently less about the important ideas in action and just settles on being “in action.” When that action is executed with the grace and style of Private Eye‘s creative team, well, maybe that ain’t such a bad thing. Continue reading

The Private Eye 5

private eye 5

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Private Eye 5, originally released December 21st, 2013.

Drew: There’s a touch of irony that the greatest mystery in a detective story is the detective himself, but mysterious detectives are the best. The questions that surround their existence reflect and emphasize the mysteries they’re hired to solve. If that seems too tidy, bear in mind that the mysterious detective falls out of the format of a detective story: while he is busy grilling everyone else about their pasts, his stays conveniently in the dark. Some stories largely ignore this aspect of their detective, treating them as a force of nature designed to solve cases, but many more have mined rich emotional connections from their heroes’ mysterious pasts. In this way, Private Eye may bear more in common with Blade Runner than just its futuristic LA setting. Continue reading

The Private Eye 4

private eye 4Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Private Eye 4, originally released October 8th, 2013.

…it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.

Rachel Dawes, Batman Begins

Drew: As a child of the 90s, assured at every moment that it’s what’s inside that counts, the above sentiment confused me when I first heard it. The obvious difference is that, while after-school specials were focused on appearances and prejudice, Batman Begins is trading in ideologies. That is, the best of intentions don’t amount to a whole lot if you don’t act on them. Feeling guilty for being a jerk doesn’t actually excuse jerky behavior. Unfortunately, the practicalities of life force us into hypocrisy, as we cling to moral ideologies that we can’t actually measure up to. Think about how much you read compared to how much you want to read (or worse yet, how much you think you should), or how often you exercise, or call home, or see your friends. We want to be “better,” more ideological people than we are, and only occasionally do we put on a Batsuit to right those wrongs. Private Eye 4 finds DeGuerre reaching one of those ideological breaking points, only his goals aren’t nearly so noble. Continue reading

The Private Eye 3

private eye 3

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Private Eye 3, originally released June 28th, 2013.

Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.

Vinton G. Cerf
The New York Times

Drew: In 2009, the highest court in France declared access to the internet a basic human right. In 2010, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court issued a similar ruling. Greece even wrote that right into their constitution. I tend to agree more with Vinton Cerf’s op-ed piece (quoted above) than the courts and councils of these countries, but that only dredges up the stickier question of what rights are enabled by the internet? The freedom of speech is an obvious example, but it also obviously existed before the internet. Sure, the internet facilitates the distribution of ideas, but so does being published by Random House, and nobody would claim that publishing contracts are an inalienable right. To me, the internet isn’t nearly as much about the freedom of speech as it is about the freedoms of convenience and anonymity. I would argue that neither of these are rights, per se, but does something need to be a right for someone to feel injustice when it is taken away? More importantly, how might that sense of injustice deform society? This seems to be the question at the heart of Private Eye — and the reason its setting doesn’t simply resemble a pre-internet world. Continue reading

The Private Eye 2

private eye 2

Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Ben are discussing The Private Eye 2, originally released May 7th, 2013.

Patrick: I don’t like the board game Clue. However, there are some things that are supremely satisfying about it: that setting is incredible; those characters are iconic; pulling the cards out at the end to see if you had guessed everything correctly – that’s all good. But 98% of that game is simply gathering information, which ends up being far less engaging than if you were actually a detective solving Mr. Body’s murder in a creepy old mansion. If you were actually there, you’d get to know the suspects, form attachments with them, get a feel for the rooms, investigate the weapons. Clue lacks emotional investment – that’s my point. Now that The Private Eye’s central mystery has been established, Brian K. Vaughan eschews the information-gather phase in favor of a deeper look at his characters. Instead of answering questions about what happened, he answers the question of why the P.I. should care. Continue reading

The Private Eye 1

Alternating Currents: The Private Eye, Patrick and Drew

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Private Eye 1, originally released March 20th, 2013.

Patrick: Read The Private Eye. I don’t like starting off our conversation with a demand, but I feel justified in making this one. The story takes place in Los Angeles in the late 21st Century, but it is a decidedly old-fashioned detective story. It’s written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin. You can download the issue at Panel Syndicate for whatever price you think is fair (even if you this $0.00 is fair — the ol’ In Rainbows trick). This is a comic that it is absolutely worth going out of your way to find and to spend money on. But you don’t have to do either. Continue reading