Best of 2017: Best Writers

Best Writers

In such a collaborative medium as comics, it can be difficult to say where a writer’s influence on the story ends, but there’s no question on where it begins: words on the page. Whether they thrill, elate, chill, or deflate, the best writers create characters, settings, and situations we want to return to, again and again. These are our top 10 writers of 2017. Continue reading

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The Fix 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

The Fix 10

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

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You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Drew: If that quote doesn’t feel like it fits this issue, it’s because it doesn’t. Where The Dark Knight explores the ideas of good, evil, and the moral relativism that exists in between, The Fix is gleefully amoral, concerned less with good and bad as it is with whatever its protagonists can get away with. Which is to say, a quote about heroes and villains doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the world of The Fix. But I wonder if we strip away the morality from that quote, if we might get something a bit more universal (if still deeply pessimistic): you either die happy, or you live long enough to see yourself become miserable. The ordering of those outcomes betrays a cynical worldview that The Dark Knight (or at least Harvey Dent) shares with The Fix, one that presumes things are inclined to get worse. Of course, while The Dark Knight spun that cynicism into tragedy, The Fix funnels it into dark humor, making any successes Roy or Mac may enjoy are but haughty spirits before the inevitable fall. Continue reading

Generations Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America 1: 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: One of the harsher truths of Secret Empire is that America was always run on an engine of hatred and fear. Racism, sexism, classism, fascism — neither Hydra Cap nor Donald Trump invented these things. They didn’t even popularize or legitimize them, they’re simply high profile embodiments thereof. It is increasingly easy to read the totality of American history as ugly and hateful, filled with crass opportunists, liars, and mass murderers. That can make the USA a hard hero to root for. With Generations Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America 1, writer Nick Spencer goes back in time, giving both Sam Wilson and his readers a lifetime to reconsider the value in fighting for what may, at times, appear to be a lost cause. Continue reading

Secret Empire: Omega 1: Discussion

By Ryan Mogge and Drew Baumgartner

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

Ryan: Every event in your memory left some sort of mark. When it comes to trauma, those marks are more like deep grooves. No matter how much you heal, or how much better off you are, you are changed by what has happened to you. In the wake of a rebellion against a group of fascists bent on world domination with the face of the most trusted man alive, you certainly can’t expect to move forward without being changed. In Secret Empire: Omega 1, Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino offer a mixture of back-to-normal plot points and artful rumination that operate quite differently but still offer the same themes of trauma and the scars left behind. Continue reading

Secret Empire 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers 

Secret Empire 10

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

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

Mark Twain

Drew: This may seem like an odd quote to kick off a discussion about a comic featuring superpowered heroes battling over bits of a cube that can rewrite reality, but I think it’s safe to say Secret Empire has really never been about superpowers or cosmic cubes. Those are the trappings of a big summer event series, sure, but the story was actually about how seemingly good people can be corrupted by toxic ideologies. That’s immediately recognizable as Steve Roger’s arc through Steve Rogers: Captain America and Secret Empire, but it’s also an arc that has been running in the background of Hydra’s America throughout this series, one that is far more unsettling than seeing Steve hail Hydra ever could be. Continue reading

Secret Empire 9: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers 

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

“All good things must come to an end”

Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde 

Michael: Secret Empire is racing towards its conclusion: previously trapped heroes have been freed, once broken spirits have been re-emboldened, and the bad guys themselves are starting to realize that the odds might not be in their favor. After all, all “good” things come to an end — especially evil empires. Unfortunately, that repurposed Chaucer maxim can also apply to the quality of an ongoing Marvel event, as Secret Empire 9 loses a little bit of the title’s oomph. Continue reading

Secret Empire 8: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Ryan Mogge

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

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Spencer: I’m writing this piece in the aftermath of one of the more horrific weekends in recent memory (Charlottesville), which arrives at the tail-end of one of the most horrific ten months or so of my lifetime. I don’t exactly feel an overabundance of hope right now, a sentiment shared by those trapped in Trump’s America and in the Hydra-Controlled America of the Marvel Universe alike. In Secret Empire 8, Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, Rod Reis, Sean Izaaske and Java Tartaglia finally bring the light of hope to their story, but I don’t know how well their methods translate to real life. Continue reading

Echoes of the Past, Pinocchio, and Barf in Captain America 25

by Michael DeLaney

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

Like a meta comic book continuity retcon, Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers’ Captain America titles collapse into one in Captain America 25. One of the last times Marvel published a Captain America 25, Steve Rogers was shot “dead.” While this issue might not be as monumental as “The Death of Captain America,” it is a book that is almost essential as a Secret Empire tie-in. Continue reading

The Price of Being an Icon in Captain America: Sam Wilson 24

by Spencer Irwin

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

As Falcon, Sam Wilson was free to be Sam Wilson. Falcon no doubt meant quite a bit to many people, but it was still a very personal identity for Sam. Captain America, though…Captain America is an icon, and what Sam does as Captain America automatically means more to the public, for better or for worse, than anything he ever did as Falcon. Captain America is a responsibility, Captain America means something. I don’t think Sam ever fully understood that, or was ever fully prepared to shoulder that awesome responsibility, until now. Continue reading

How a War of Language Escalates to Full-On War in Captain America Steve Rogers 19

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There are few political and social movements in my lifetime that have caused my peer group to stand up and say “fuck that whole ideology.” The rise of Trump and white nationalists is one such movement. I do it too — I find the ideas and attitude so repugnant, that I can’t help but extend my disgust to the people who preach it. Whether I’m justified in jumping to such combative language (did I really just use the f-word in the first sentence of a Retcon Punch piece?) the effect is undeniable: I’m contributing to the adversarial relationship that makes it feel like there’s moral gulf between myself and a Trump supporter. And with a chasm between us, how do we ever find common ground? Captain America Steve Rogers 19 asks these same questions, and unsettlingly lands on an answer: war.

Continue reading