The Many Irreconcilable Definitions of Redemption in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 34

By Spencer Irwin

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

Kraven the Hunter is not only the very first enemy Doreen Green defeated way back when Ryan North and Erica Henderson launched The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but he’s also the first enemy she reformed. Unlike the other villains whose lives Doreen has helped turn around, Kraven has continued to pop up as a recurring character ever since, allowing the creative team to explore life after redemption and just what, exactly, Kraven looks like as a “good guy.” With this image now firmly in place, North and artist Derek Charm use The Unbeatable Squirrel 34 to muddy and complicate it in fascinatingly complex and nuanced ways. What redemption means for Kraven may not be the same for Doreen, or Spider-Man, or the police, or the people of NYC, and there may simply be no way to reconcile these various viewpoints.  Continue reading

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

The More Peter Changes, the More He Stays the Same in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 306

by Spencer Irwin

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

Peter Parker’s been a lot of things in his 50+ years of existence — a bullied high school student, a harried college student and photographer, a loving husband, a clone, a CEO — but none of those roles have ever changed who Peter really is inside. This holds true in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 306, an issue that asserts that, no matter how much Peter changes, he’ll always be a hero. 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

Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 1 Offers a Secret History for J. Jonah Jameson

by Drew Baumgartner

Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 1

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

All fictional characters — especially in the compressed world of superhero comics — start as types. It’s only as we spend more time with them that they can be fleshed out into more fully-realized, nuanced characters. But, of course, being a type is often all a given character may need to be. And so, for decades, J. Jonah Jameson was little more than the irritable, muckraking editor of the Daily Bugle. That’s not a failure — it’s all he really needed to be to move the story forward, and he was still plenty entertaining. But as with any character that’s around for the better part of a century, those little glimpses we got of him started to add up, and creators started exploring who he was behind all of that bluster, giving us the JJJ we all know and love. He’s still that irritable muckraker, but we understand that there’s more too him. Indeed, there’s enough there that Jameson can anchor a story himself every now and then, as he does in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 1. Continue reading

The Tantalization of Other Timelines in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 305

by Taylor Anderson

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

Every time I read a news story about a tweet our current commander in chief sends out, I can’t help but think how his predecessor or opponent in the election wouldn’t debase themselves in such a way. This inevitably leads me to wonder what an alternate timeline might look like where the current president didn’t win the election. What would the country look like? Would the oval office still be dignified and one that engenders respect and appreciation? I have some ideas about that, but I can never be sure exactly what that timeline holds. This idea, of other timelines, is tantalizing and one all people think about, and as such, it dominates the narrative of the Spectacular Spider-Man 305. Continue reading

Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

by Spencer Irwin

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

Spider-Man has one of the most iconic, expansive, and enduring supporting casts in all of superhero comics, and that’s a fact Dan Slott has used to his advantage throughout his long tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man. He especially leans on his supporting cast in issue 800, the penultimate issue of his run and the grand finale of “Go Down Swinging.” It’s an issue all about the power of the people in Peter Parker’s life, be it the power he gives them, or the power they give him. Continue reading

Ambiguity and Closure in Doctor Strange 390

by Patrick Ehlers

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

slim-banner

I had a writing teacher in college that used to say there were four kinds of stories. The first is the most common: the hero wants something, gets it, and is happy he got it. We see this one in superhero media all the time, right? Batman wants to catch the Riddler, he does, feels great about it. The second type of story is the hero wants something, gets it, is unhappy he got it. This is the old Twilight Zone twist — “I can live forever, BUT AT WHAT COST?” The last two kinds of stories are similar: hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is happy to have not gotten it, and; hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is unhappy to have not gotten it. Doctor Strange 390 manages to be a weird mix of all these types of stories, where even the question of who our hero is leads to some fascinating ambiguity. Donny Cates’ send-off to Doctor Strange is as mysterious, and true to the tone of the character, as a reader could possibly hope for. Continue reading

“What Ifs” in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 304

by Taylor Anderson

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

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation involves Worf and parallel dimensions. In it, Worf is returning to the Enterprise from a Bat’leth tournament and through a bizarre set of circumstances finds himself transporting to different versions of his universe. In one, he’s married to Deanna Troi. In another he goes from placing first in the Bat’leth tournament to ninth. In yet another, he’s responsible for the inadvertent death of Goerdi La Forge. It’s a fun episode because it sets familiar characters and settings against an unfamiliar backdrop. This “what if” is a favorite of every Star Trek show and the same goes for comics. That being the case, you think I would be tired of the conceit, but the very opposite is true — I love it.

Continue reading

Luck vs. Skill in Domino 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Domino 2

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Is privilege just luck that we don’t recognize as luck? The failure to recognize the benefits afforded by our race, gender, class, nationality, or any other number of inborn factors in our lives? That is, a privileged person is a lucky person, but specifically one that misattributes their luck as merit or skill. This helps protect Domino from coming off as too privileged — she absolutely recognizes how lucky she is — though Gail Simone and David Baladeón take pains to make it clear that she’s not that lucky, and that much of her success is ultimately attributable to her skills, too. Continue reading