Prioritizing Responsibilities in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man 2

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

It’s always easy to score political points against the president by suggesting they’re spending too much time relaxing. Folks of every political persuasion have made this argument at some point or another, and it always sounds reasonable because the President obviously has more important things to be doing. With great power, as the saying goes, must also come great responsibility. But of course, even Presidents are people, and while we should certainly hold them to a high standard in terms of workload (that it’s a stressful job is part of the job description), expecting them to never take a vacation is inhumane. This is a point Peter Parker has always fluctuated on. He obviously respects the responsibilities that come with his powers, but he’d also like to be a human being with a fulfilling professional and personal life. Usually, that means he’s constantly running out on dates or jobs to save the day, but Chip Zdarksy and Adam Kubert find a decidedly different approach in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 2. Continue reading

Exploring Thematic Connections to Secret Empire in Amazing Spider-Man 30

by Spencer Irwin

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

The current arc of Amazing Spider-Man is a direct tie-in to Secret Empire, with its opening scene even taking place during the Free Comic Book Day issue and with Otto’s newfound might largely coming from Hydra resources. This story is ultimately more concerned with Peter and Otto’s battle for Parker Industries, but even there Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen are able to create spiritual and thematic connections to Secret Empire. Continue reading

Gags as Story Engine in Spider-Man Master Plan 1

by Ryan Mogge

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

Long before Betty was in a coma, Archie one page gags filled my favorite digests. The form is simple: a few panels establishing the premise, a few panels executing the idea and then a twist usually capped with a pun. While Spider-Man: Master Plan 1 is certainly more fluid than a series of one pagers, it has the same rhythm throughout. Continue reading

The Art of the Tie-in: Amazing Spider-Man 29

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 29

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

It’s easy to vilify crossover events for disrupting your favorite series, but that’s kind of the point, right? An event that boasts “everything changes here” should be disruptive to the universe around it — that’s just making good on that claim. The feeling that the story we were reading has been put on the back burner is definitely frustrating, but it’s exactly what would happen in the event of a Earth-shaking change in the status quo. But there are ways to soften the whiplash effect of event tie-in issues, and Amazing Spider-Man 29 features just about all of them. Actually, it might be to precise to pin it on this one issue — while this is the first to explicitly acknowledge the events of Secret Empire, so much of what happens here spins out of threads writer Dan Slott has been spinning for years. In many ways, it feels less like the event forced a change to the series and more like the changes that were coming all along were given a fresh twist by tying them to Secret Empire. Continue reading

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 1: Discussion

by Ryan Mogge and Ryan Desaulniers

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

Ryan M.: How much background do you need to enjoy a single issue of an on-going serial? There is an argument that the answer is none. Most of us start out by just diving in, checking things out and then heading to Wikipedia or a very knowledgeable friend to help fill in the cracks. The serialized narrative is a moving train, you catch it when you can, and see what it has to offer. This can be one of the format’s strengths, giving the reader a feeling of discovery by entering a rich established world. You may have questions that aren’t answered or relationship dynamics you can’t understand, but you are seeing into a fictional world that is fully realized. It’s one of the reasons that origin stories can feel plodding. They are explaining why things are rather than showing what they become. In Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider Man 1, Chip Zdarsky balances out that sense of history by giving the story a day-in-the-life feel with a few big turns that make it clear that a bigger story is evolving. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 28

Alternating Currents: Amazing Spider-Man 28, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 28, originally released July 7th, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

Drew: When we’re frustrated with superhero comics, we’ll sometimes blame the serialized format for robbing endings of any tension (or even mocking the very idea of “endings”) — as much as a given comic may try to convince you of the danger its hero is in, we all know they’ll be back to fight again next month. And actually, genre conventions are much more prescriptive than that, generally insisting that the villain also live to fight again (though maybe not until the hero has cycled through the rest of their rogues gallery). I added the caveat of “when we’re frustrated,” because I ultimately don’t think anyone’s assessment of a story comes down to how rote certain genre conventions are — predictable stories can be great, and unpredictable ones can be terrible — just that we might misidentify (or overemphasize) “predictability” as the reason for disliking a given story. Writer Dan Slott may be most famous for throwing those presumptions out the window, but Amazing Spider-Man 28 reveals just how adept he is at making even the most familiar genre conventions feel exciting. Continue reading

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