The Right Kind of Experts in Jean Grey 9

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There’s a whole corner of the Marvel Universe devoted to mutants with psychic abilities. It is a niche corner, seemingly invisible to the rest of the heroes, particular those without the X-gene, until the point one of them threatens to upend everything. Usually, this has to do with their connection to the Phoenix force, which is simultaneously the source of their most terrifying power and their most humbling weakness. It’s complicated, it’s abstract, it’s supernatural and extraterrestrial at the same time. In short, it’s not easy to understand. In Jean Grey 9, writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Victor Ibáñez illustrate just how much special knowledge is required to deal with Young Jean Grey and that ominous Phoenix. Continue reading

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Subverting Dickens in Jean Grey 6

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only.”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The point of A Christmas Carol is that Ebenezer Scrooge could — and should — abandon his avarice, and become a better man. The moral about the dangers of greed have aged remarkably well, but there’s something about the message “change who you are” that feels a little less virtuous in 2017. In Jean Grey 6, the titular X-Man has to come to nearly the opposite conclusion: there is no changing who you are, so you’d better find a way to accept yourself. Continue reading

Discussion: Generations: The Unworthy Thor and the Mighty Thor 1

by Taylor Anderson and Drew Baumgartner

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

Taylor: I never have high hopes for crossover issues simply because, more than anything else, they tend to be really goofy. Goofy can be a good thing, but the kind of goofy I’m talking about here isn’t. Going into this issue, I was prepared to be underwhelmed simply because the the idea of pre-Mjolnir Thor teaming up with the current Thor felt, well, goofy in a bad way. However, I am delighted by this issue because it knows exactly what it is. Writer Jason Aaron is firing on all cylinders in an issue that is at once funny, brazenly over the top, full of great character moments. Continue reading

Jean Grey 3: Discussion

By Ryan Desaulniers and Ryan Mogge

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

Ryan D: When one writes about comic books, due to the popular types of stories being told, the critical eye encounters Joseph Campbell’s template for “the hero’s journey.” This monomyth pervades the pages of superhero titles, and seems even more prevalent in solo runs of characters due to the ease of accessibility inherent to that narrative. In Jean Grey, however, Dennis Hopeless and his creative team use a different kind of literary precedent — that of the Bildungsroman –– to tell the story of the young Jean as she gears up to meet the looming threat of the Phoenix. The Bildungsroman is a novel of formation or education with the psychological and moral development of the protagonist as the crux of the narrative, along the lines of Ponyboy in The Outsiders or Marji in PersopolisJean Grey 3 continues that trend of Jean moving painfully towards development and maturity as she learns a lesson in the company of “Marvel’s First Mutant,” Namor. Continue reading

Jean Grey 1

Alternating Currents: Jean Grey 1, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Jean Grey 1, originally released May 3rd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Ah, the solo album — is there any more fraught trial in popular culture? Making it as a solo act is a grueling process, and while most never rise above obscurity, artists who are already well known for their work with a band have the blessing/curse of starting their solo career in the public eye. It requires instantaneously landing on a musical voice that’s somehow familiar enough to appeal to longstanding fans (capitalizing on that notoriety) yet also distinct enough to justify the solo status. Dennis Hopeless and Victor Ibáñez face a similar tightrope in Jean Grey, aiming to give the (in)famous X-Man a voice that could distinguish this series from her other adventures. Continue reading

The Mighty Thor 18

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing The Mighty Thor 18, originally released April 26th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Anton Chekov

Drew: In general, audiences are more consciously concerned with what happens in a story than how the story is told. That is, if you ask someone to describe their favorite movie or book, you’re more likely to get a plot summary than a thoughtful description of style. That’s not to say style doesn’t contribute to their appreciation of the work, just that it does so in ways that they may not be actively aware of. As someone who values considered analysis of art, this phenomenon is nothing short of tragic, which is why I so value narratives that aim to utterly thwart any emphasis on plotting. That’s exactly what Jason Arron and Russell Dauterman give us in The Mighty Thor 18, using every opportunity to spoil the would-be reveal of its villain.

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Secret Wars 1

secret wars 1

Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Secret Wars 1, originally released May 6th, 2015. 

“Oh, best war ever…”

-General Nick Fury, Secret Wars 1

Ryan: Secret Wars grabs the baton from Jon Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers beloved/despised/confusing “Time Runs Out” saga chronicling the futile struggle of Earth-616 against the collapse of the multiverse. Hickman dives in by tipping his hat to the concluding plot thread of Doom vs. The Beyonders, the significance of which — aside from helping to shrink the amount of surviving universes down to a baker’s dozen minus a bunch — is still a bit lost on me. The narration of the issue is provided by Reed Richards, and the first installment of this event belongs to him.

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All-New X-Men 28

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men 28, originally released June 11th, 2014.

Taylor: Madness fills an interesting role in our imagination. Just enough madness and you’re considered a genius. A little too much madness and you’re considered a nut. We tend to think of someone as being “mad” if they have any of a number of mental defects but retain enough of their personality to still be somewhat coherent. Perhaps the most well known madman of all time is Ahab. His singular quest to destroy the white whale consumed his entire life, even if he did retain the vestiges of a sane man. And that’s perhaps what makes him such a disturbing character. Despite (or perhaps because of ) his madness, he is charismatic. We forget that he’s insane sometimes and actually feel that his quest against Moby Dick is justified. Xavier is similarly hell-bent on killing the X-Men of the past, and similarly might have good reasons for wanting to do so. All-New X-Men 28 has me wondering if this quest is the errand of a madman or the product of love gone awry.

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All-New X-Men 26

all new x-men 26

Today,  Patrick and Greg are discussing All-New X-Men 26, originally released April 20th, 2014.

Patrick: Superheroes are tools. No, not the “Superman is such a tool” kind of way, but in that they are all able to act as narrative and emotional shortcuts. Between shapeshifters and psychics, healers and teleporters, extra-dimensional sorcerers and reality-manipulators, there’s really nothing that the X-Men aren’t capable of. The brevity with which they can be used to evoke emotions might be even more impressive — just think of the ennui immediately invoked by the appearance of Jean Grey, or the uneasy sense of righteous revolution that accompanies Magneto. Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men seems designed to celebrate this tool box: bring the original quintet of X-Men to the present day brings all of those emotional shortcuts to the fore. Issue 26 might be the first time Bendis actually uses those tools, instead of laying them out neatly for us to all to quietly admire before putting them back in their protective cases. Continue reading

Wolverine and the X-Men 1

wolverine x-men 1Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Wolverine and the X-Men 1, originally released March 5th, 2014.

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

Patrick: I have a number of teacher-friends, my colleague and responder on this article, Taylor among them. The idiom above is largely bullshit, but it stings enough that I’ve seen links posted on facebook to articles decrying the attitude that it represents. The argument always follows that teaching presents its own specific challenges, distinct from the discipline being taught. (The follow-up argument, naturally, being that teachers are under-valued in our society, but like whatever: we’re all undervalued.) For my money, the hardest thing about teaching has got to be the shifting of priorities, from the betterment of yourself to the betterment of others. When I fail myself — write a bad article, perform as crummy scene, log something incorrectly in QuickBooks — I’m mostly just hurting myself. But when a teacher blows off their duties, there are a bunch of people, children even, that pay the price. Wolverine and the X-Men renumbers itself and zeros in on this burden of responsibility, just who can deal with it and who’s struggling. Continue reading