X-Men Red 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Ryan Desaulniers

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

Spencer: What are the X-Men best known for? I’d honestly say that there’s two answers to this, because while thematically the X-Men are most often used to explore discrimination and social justice, in execution they’re just as well known for their unwieldy cast, soap opera dramatics, and byzantine continuity. I think what I like most about Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s debut issue of X-Men Red is how heavily it leans into that first aspect, while ignoring the latter almost entirely. There’s plenty of character within these pages, of course, but this is first-and-foremost a title with a mission and a message. Continue reading

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Jean Grey 3: Discussion

By Ryan Desaulniers and Ryan Mogge

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

Ryan D: When one writes about comic books, due to the popular types of stories being told, the critical eye encounters Joseph Campbell’s template for “the hero’s journey.” This monomyth pervades the pages of superhero titles, and seems even more prevalent in solo runs of characters due to the ease of accessibility inherent to that narrative. In Jean Grey, however, Dennis Hopeless and his creative team use a different kind of literary precedent — that of the Bildungsroman –– to tell the story of the young Jean as she gears up to meet the looming threat of the Phoenix. The Bildungsroman is a novel of formation or education with the psychological and moral development of the protagonist as the crux of the narrative, along the lines of Ponyboy in The Outsiders or Marji in PersopolisJean Grey 3 continues that trend of Jean moving painfully towards development and maturity as she learns a lesson in the company of “Marvel’s First Mutant,” Namor. Continue reading

No More Mr. Nice Dictator in Captain America: Steve Rogers 18

by Michael DeLaney

Captain America Steve Rogers 18

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

Michael: It’s kind of been a kick for me to watch Steve Rogers slowly enact his devious Hydra takeover, but in Captain America: Steve Rogers 18 the kid gloves have come off. As he faces The United Nations, Steve is devoid of any of his hunky charm and goes full-on authoritarian. Steve demands allegiance from the UN and threatens grave consequences if any nation crosses Hydra. Continue reading

Secret Empire 4: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Ryan Mogge

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

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Patrick: The Secret Empire epic drives on an engine powered by dramatic irony. From the second Steve’s first “Hail Hydra” was uttered, the audience knew more about the threat the Marvel Universe faced better than any of its inhabitants. It is serendipitous (in the worst possible way) that the current political climate in the United States has made readers hyper-aware of this irony, as we’re able to draw obvious parallels between the rise of Hydra and the rise of white nationalism. We don’t need to parse out the rhetorical devices Steve uses to justify his abuses of power — we see them demonstrated by our president every day. Issue 4 doubles down on the practice of illustrating dramatic irony, giving the audience far more information than any of the characters are ever afforded. The result is an unsettling exercise in moral relativism. 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.

Continue reading

Secret Wars 8

secret wars 8

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015. 

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Spencer: I recently got into a bit of a debate with the AV Club’s Oliver Sava on Twitter about whether Doctor Doom is the hero or the villain of Secret Wars. Sava argued that he’s the hero because he saved the universe — I argued that he’s the villain because he then proceeded to rule his salvaged universe as a brutal tyrant and dictator. In a way, we’re probably both right, and writer Jonathan Hickman seems less interested in laying blame at any of his character’s feet than he is in exploring their motives and varying levels of morality. Secret Wars 8 is a full-on action issue, but each confrontation changes the rules a bit in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong, who wins and who loses.  Continue reading

A-Force 1

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Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing A-Force 1, originally released May 20th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.

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Michael: Full disclosure: the exact ins and outs of Secret Wars are kind of over my head. I know that it is a better (and actually planned out) version of DC’s Convergence. I also know the basics of the event, which pretty much can be boiled down to the recap page of: “The Multiverse was destroyed! The heroes of Earth-616 and Earth-1610 were powerless to save it! Now, all that remains…is Battleworld!” So I’m going to try to take A-Force objectively, at face value. Continue reading

Avengers 42

avengers 42

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Avengers 42, originally released March 4th, 2015. 

“We don’t view our history as being broken or something that we need to fix. If anything we think we are building upon that history and we are taking the best and biggest pieces of it and seeing how easily they coexist with one another. We don’t expect all our moves to make everyone happy, but we think it will make for a really fascinating read through ‘Secret Wars’ and beyond.”

-Axel Alonso, Secret Wars Press Event

Patrick: The grander hyper-textual implications of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers have been apparent for some time, but the importance and meaning of the meta-textual reasons have been something of a mystery. By Alonso’s own admission, Marvel doesn’t really need a Crisis-style reboot, but Secret Wars and Battleworld seem to bear all the multiversal signatures of one of DC Comics’ rebooting events. The problem with Crises (and it’s a problem that I think both DC and Marvel are starting to experience) is that the real world drama trumps the in-narrative drama. We’re more interested in answering the question “What’s going to happen to Batman?” than “What’s going to happen to Batman?” — and that means that we are necessarily less interested in the stories themselves than the companies telling those stories. Avengers 42 tries to reclaim some of that drama for itself, representing what appear to be conflicting editorial voices as characters within the Marvel Universe. Continue reading

Avengers 40

Alternating Currents: Avengers 40, Drew and Mark

Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Avengers 40, originally released January 14th, 2015. 

The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Drew: I think it would be fair to say that Dostoevsky’s polyphonic style — one built upon the perspectives of an array of characters — is antithetical to the notion of the hero’s journey. Indeed, Dostoyevsky’s philosophies (as articulated in the quote above) suggest that there’s an active tension between caring about an individual and caring about humanity at large. I’ve always been partial to the depth of understanding achieved by sticking with one protagonist — especially when it comes to comics — which has made me wary of the kind of expansive, Dostoyevskian scope of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. In my mind, a tight focus on a single character more accurately reflects how we experience the world, but with Avengers 40, Hickman makes a compelling case for how his dense interconnectedness reflects how the world actually is. Continue reading

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 1

Alternating Currents: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 1, Ryan and DrewToday, Ryan and Drew are discussing Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 1, originally released October 1st, 2014.

Ryan: I love when comic books try new things. Whether the point is to advance the relatively young medium or simply to offer some variety to a landscape that sometimes feels dominated by the same handful of big names and tried-and-true styles, it excites me to read a daring, non-linear narrative or to see adventurous use of graphic design in a title. I spent the entire summer haranguing a friend to read the copy of Jonathan Hickman’s The Nightly News which I graciously let him borrow. Hickman, responsible for both the writing and art, confessed in the afterword of the trade paperback that he intentionally made the comic difficult for the reader’s eye to follow by cluttering the pages with infographics and non-sequential art. Luckily, this calculated risk works perfectly in the total package. Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier showcases a fun, new direction for the former covert operative/Captain America and art that looks unlike anything I have read lately, but do these strong choices translate into a great read? Continue reading