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!

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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 his 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 for ever, 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 home for. Continue reading

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“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.

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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

A Bait-and-Switch in Hunt for Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda 1

By Spencer Irwin

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

There’s a joke amongst fans that if a team exists in the Marvel Universe, Wolverine has been a part of it. This is an exaggeration — it’d be funny to see him joining up with the Champions or Young Avengers, but it hasn’t happened yet — but only slightly. Logan’s prolific stature in the Marvel Universe is what allows for an event like Hunt for Wolverine, which rounds up as many characters with connections to Logan as possible, no matter how tangential, from every corner of Marvel’s vast universe. It’s a bit of a bait-and-switch, as bringing in all these characters has so far (in the two issues of Hunt for Wolverine thus released) led to stories that are rather light on Wolverine himself. Tom Taylor and R.B. Silva lean into that idea in Hunt for Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda 1, pulling a bait-and-switch on their cast as well as their readers. Logan’s former New Avengers teammates think they’re rescuing Wolverine(‘s genetic code), but it turns out they’ve stumbled into a very different, much more personal scenario. Continue reading

The Burden of Tomorrow in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 303

by Taylor Anderson

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

More so than most superheroes, Spider-Man knows just how much of a sacrifice it takes to use his powers for good. In fact, the very reason he decided to become a hero at all revolves around the loss of his Uncle Ben. The list of hits doesn’t end there, though: Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, and and the sometimes friendly Osborns have all died at some point or another due to Spider-Man. This means that he’s a character as much defined by his tragic circumstances as he is by his superpowers, which begs the question: if he knew how terrible it is to be Spider-Man, would Peter Parker choose to be him anyway? Continue reading

Failure Defeated by Pure Action in Daredevil 601

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Daredevil is a punching bag. I know all superheroes suffer — conflict is the engine of story, and masked dudes with superpowers have to really be put through the ringer for a desensitized audience to feel anything. But Matt Murdock is a special case: his default state seems to be “just got beat up.” I mean, look at the cover to this issue. No one’s going to ask “oh no, is Matt gonna be okay?” Yeah, sure — he’ll be fine. He always bleeds from the face when he’s working on a plan. So part of what makes Daredevil 601 feel so unsettling is how smoothly everything goes for the Mayor Without Fear. Continue reading

Fun With Familiar Ideas in The Amazing Spider-Man 799

by Spencer Irwin

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

The end of a creative team’s run often finds the team building to a story that spans their entire tenure on the title, bringing together all their loose ends into one grand climax. Dan Slott, though, has simply been writing The Amazing Spider-Man too long to realistically do that; in fact, he’s tied up most of his long-running plots over the last few storylines, instead using much of his final arc to return Peter Parker to a kinda-sorta classic status quo for future creators to play with. Slott, though, has always found quite a bit to mine from classic status quos, from familiar plots and the immutable core of his characters. Even stories as well-known as “Norman Osborn returns to terrorize Peter and Harry” and “Spider-Man and Goblin fight” find a new life under Slott’s pen, and that’s no different in The Amazing Spider-Man 799, which finds Slott and Stuart Immonen tackling these familiar stories from new angles, from different perspectives, with a few surprises hiding up their sleeves. Continue reading

Peter’s Problems Outpace His Growth in Amazing Spider-Man 798

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 798

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

I had a college professor who liked to talk about “the ascending spiral groove thang” — the notion that we tend to cycle through the same problems, but always with our previous experience informing each new iteration, turning that cycle into a kind of spiral staircase. It’s an elegant idea that helps turn the hopelessness of facing down the same issues again and again feel like an opportunity for improvement. It’s an idea that Peter Parker embodies almost perfectly, vowing to improve (if never quite perfect) the decisions that led to the deaths of his loved ones. But what if those problems have an ascending spiral groove thang of their own? What if Peter’s problems are getting smarter and more mature along with him? That’s exactly what he’s up against in Amazing Spider-Man 798, as Norman Osborn returns with the Carnage symbiote. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 797 Does What Only a Comic Book Can

by Spencer Irwin

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

I was initially drawn to comic books simply because I loved superheroes, and wanted to find more stories about them. Story is still probably my favorite part of comics (or anything, really), but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the specific strengths of comic books as an art-form, the things they can do that no other medium can. Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen certainly understand those strengths, as their Amazing Spider-Man 797 revolves around a sequence that just wouldn’t work on TV or in the movie theater. Continue reading

Spidey in a Nutshell in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 300

by Taylor Anderson

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

Over the years, Spider-Man has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. That being the case, it’s still interesting to ponder what about Spidey resonates with so many fans. After all, there are plenty of superheroes who have had comics, but few who are as popular as the web-slinger. I can’t help but feel that there must be something about Spider-Man that all people enjoy — something that makes him almost universal in his appeal. Figuring that out is perhaps a taller order than I can accomplish in this article, but in issue 300 of the Spectacular Spider-Man, there are hints which suggest why he is such a likable hero. Continue reading