The Amazing Spider-Man 25

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 25, originally released March 15th, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

Spencer: As Aunt May herself points out this week, Peter Parker’s always been a busy guy. Add running a major international company to his already impressive pile of responsibilities and it’s almost guaranteed that something will start to give. The massive Amazing Spider-Man 25 digs into that dilemma from all angles, reminding readers of every task Peter’s got on his plate and what’s at risk if he fails at any one of them. It’s an almost overwhelming issue, a trait that effectively puts readers in Peter’s overstressed shoes. Continue reading

Howard the Duck 11

howard-the-duck-11

Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Howard the Duck 11, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: On her twitter, Gail Simone recently discussed something she calls the “Batmobile Effect.” In short, it’s the exhilarating feeling a creator gets when they realize they’re working on a comic icon, on a character they grew up adoring and now, all of a sudden, are in charge of. That feeling right there describes much of the appeal of writing for Marvel or DC — the downside, of course, is that you never truly “own” a character. At the Big Two there’s only so much a writer can change a character because, when their run is over, it has to go right back into the “toy box” for another creator to use.

Howard the Duck 11 brings Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ run to an end, and the two show an exquisite understanding of how to handle a work-for-hire ending. Zdarsky and Quinones have truly made Howard their own, yet leave the character in better condition than when they found him, leaving the door open for future creators to try their hand at Howard as well. It’s a skill their in-story counterparts, Chipp and Jho, never quite grasp. Continue reading

The Clone Conspiracy 1

Alternating Currents: Clone Conspiracy 1, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Clone Conspiracy 1, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

Plutarch

Drew: The Ship of Theseus, as this thought experiment is commonly known, is often used in science fiction to address the notion of personal identity — that is, how much of you has to be, say, cybernetic before you are no longer yourself — but I actually think the key to the problem Plutarch laid out is that the ship isn’t a person. The question of whether or not a partially-replaced thing could be called the same thing is an interesting question, but I’m less inclined to think that a person’s identity is tied up in the provenance of their body parts. Moreover, I doubt anyone would assert that someone who receives a liver transplant is even a little bit a different person (especially since our livers are constantly replacing old cells, and best estimates suggest a full turnover of liver cells happens every 1-2 years). I’d suggest that the inverse is also true: that someone’s identity can change without changing their bodies at all (besides their liver, obviously). Point is, identity is much more complex than the simple summation of our body parts. For colloquial evidence, we need look no further than Dan Slott’s work with Spider-Man, where characters’ identities might inhabit other characters’ bodies (or octo-bots) without any real questions about who is who. That’s not to say issues of bodies and identity can’t get messy, just that it takes something a little extra to take us there — something like Clone Conspiracy. Continue reading

Spider-Man/Deadpool 6

Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Spider-Man/Deadpool 6, originally released June 29, 2016 

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Ryan: Meta-narratives come in varying levels of sophistication. On one end of the spectrum is the simple cultural reference. With the tact of a name-drop, a creator can acknowledge that she is aware of and potentially influenced by other pieces of art. The next step up in complexity involves a character being aware of art and having opinions that directly reflect back upon the source work. This character can directly address the form of his own story or invite the audience to have a relationship with the work that mirrors a character’s. When the fourth wall has begun to break down, a creator can be even more explicit with commentary. A character like Deadpool can act as a mouthpiece because his self-awareness lends itself toward dark humor at the expense of the tropes of his world. In Spider-Man Deadpool 6, Scott Aukerman exploits Deadpool’s meta tendencies and ends up with more meta than narrative.

Continue reading

All-New Inhumans 5

all new inhumans 5Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing All-New Inhumans 5, originally released March 16th, 2016.

Spencer: By this point in my life, I’ve consumed plenty of media where the main characters weren’t in the right, or perhaps where the audience is even meant to root against the protagonists. Still, despite all that experience, I tend to give my main characters the benefit of the doubt; I like to believe I should be rooting for them, and that they at least believe they’re doing the right thing, until I’m unequivocally proven wrong. Things haven’t gotten dire enough yet to turn me against the Inhumans by any means, but All-New Inhumans 5 does mark the point where I’m starting to question, if not their motives, then certainly their methods. Continue reading

Spider-Man 1

Alternating Currents: Spider-Man 1, Ryan and Drew

Today, Ryan M. and Drew are discussing Spider-Man 1, originally released February 3rd, 2016.

Ryan: The danger of starting your story with a climactic image and then jumping back in time is that it can displace interest. At best, it builds anticipation. At worst, it feels like a bait and switch. It’s like when a friend starts a story with “Did I ever tell you about the time I made out with a mime in Vegas?” and then proceeds to tell you details about how she booked her hotel room. By getting me too invested in the end of the story, you’ve diminished my interest in the preamble. At that point, I’m just listening for mime specifics that indicate we’re getting to the good stuff. Continue reading

Silk 3

Alternating Currents: Silk 3, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Silk 3, originally released January 13th, 2016.

Drew: Superhero comics are full of tropes, from character types to specific situations our heroes find themselves in. There are a number of ways that a savvy creative team can avoid those tropes, but over a long enough publishing history, even the most innovative series will come upon ideas that have been done a million times before. Without characters and situations to distinguish one series from another, tone ends up being the signature of most superhero comics. Batman is darker than Superman, Deadpool is sillier than Spider-Man, and while those tones can change with creative teams and time, they tend to stay in the ballpark precisely because its the tone that separates one book from another.

I might make the same argument for sitcoms — any number of shows might have similar storylines or characters, but Seinfeld will never get you invested in character relationships the way How I Met Your Mother might. The notable exception is the “very special episode” — particularly common in family sitcoms in the ’90s — where shows would often jettison their tone wholesale in order to address a “serious” subject. These tend to be few and far between, but M*A*S*H is famous for slowly turning into a “very special episode” factory, eschewing the silliness of the early seasons in favor of earnest (though often heavy-handed) anti-war messages. That change wasn’t necessarily seen as a negative — indeed, M*A*S*H‘s final episode is still the most watched finale of any television series — but it must have been an odd transition for those who tuned in for irreverent fun. I find myself in a similar situation with this volume of Silk, where the tone seems to be shifting rather deliberately from the whiz-bang fun of Silk’s earlier adventures. 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

Spidey 1

spidey 1Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Spidey 1, originally released October 2nd, 2015.

Spencer: I’m pretty sure Spider-Man is the reason I’ve become sick and tired of origin stories; two different Spider-Man movies retelling the 3rd most famous origin in all of comics within the same decade is enough to turn anyone off origins. Robbie Thompson and Nick Bradshaw’s Spidey is smart enough to cut that origin down to a single page and move onto more interesting things, but it’s still caught up in one of the greatest issues plaguing all retellings and reboots; this is just a story I’ve seen a million times before. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 1

amazing spider-man 1Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 1, originally released October 7th, 2015.

Spencer: If you’re reading a Spider-Man book, then you know his deal: “With great power must also come great responsibility.” For Peter Parker, his “power” has always been the superhuman abilities granted him by a bite from a radioactive spider, but are these abilities truly his greatest asset? It’s a question Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli tackle head-on in the newest Amazing Spider-Man 1. Skipping ahead eight months from the conclusion of Secret Wars, Slott and Camuncoli present us with a version of Peter Parker who’s found a way to honor his Uncle Ben without even needing to put on a mask; in fact, Spider-Man now exists mainly to protect and support Peter. It’s a take both radical and faithful in a way only Dan Slott could pull off. Continue reading