Doctor Aphra 16 Finally Lets Aphra’s Queer Flag Fly

by Mark Mitchell

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

Hey, what’dya know, actual queer people in Star Wars. Continue reading

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Bucky Takes Center Stage in Tales of Suspense 101

by Drew Baumgartner

Tales of Suspense 101

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

I like spy stories enough, but I’d never claim to be a connoisseur of the genre. I’m sure there are countless subtle subgenres, but to my lay eyes, the most obvious division is between the sensationalized high adventure of, say, James Bond films, and the more grounded stories of intrigue and espionage of John le Carré’s novels. And I recognize that that’s a gross oversimplification, but the actual point I want to talk about is tone — while the later category takes itself super seriously, the former is much lighter and more fun (more recent Bond films notwithstanding), savoring terrible one-liners and groan-inducingly punny names. The Bond franchise has recently eschewed that lightness of tone in pursuit of something more serious, but Tales of Suspense 101 represents another approach; one where everyone agrees the situation is very serious, but the characters can’t help but be funny, anyway. Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Covers

Best Covers of 2017

You know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t judge the cover on its own merit. This year found us marveling at covers that weren’t just carefully designed and lushly colored, but that actually did a great deal of storytelling, cramming all of the drama, excitement and emotion of the whole issue into one succinct image. Some did it literally, some did it metaphorically, but all moved us in some way beyond simply broadcasting which of our favorite characters would appear in the issue. These are our top 10 covers of 2017. Continue reading

Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Phoenix Resurrection 2

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

Does anyone remember the “flash sideways” device from LOST‘s final season? The show mined a lot of fun out of the mystery of just what the heck that other world was — a parallel universe? a new timeline? purgatory? — but I never really found the guessing all that fun, as the magical/metaphysical nature of that particular mystery meant that any and all of those things could be equally right. I tend to feel that way about most mysteries that delight in building up red herrings to look as likely as the ultimate answer (perfectly demonstrated in Clue‘s multiple endings; the culprit can only be found by the movie telling us whodunnit, not through any deductive work on our own), but it’s particularly pronounced in stories with a fantasy or sci-fi element that might defy our own experience of the world. That is, if we’re operating in a world with a magical island, is it possible to rule out even the most absurd theory? These are the thoughts running through my head as I read Phoenix Resurrection 2. Continue reading

Potent Symbols Abound in Falcon 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Falcon 3

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

Falcon 3 opens with Sam and Rayshaun in prison. Denied any due process by the white mayor, it’s hard not to see the parallels to mass incarceration, a problem that disproportionately affects black men. Moreover, Sam and Rayshaun are powerless to do anything about it. They eventually escape, sure, but it’s only by the force of literal magic — there’s no other means available to them. It’s a potent symbol, the kind that makes Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara’s Falcon so refreshing. Continue reading

Blackheart Takes Center Stage in Falcon 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Falcon 2

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

The Marvel Universe is full of odd little corners that don’t always interact. I mean, sure, the X-Men will show up for the big summer crossover series, and Wolverine shows up in everything (even when he was still ostensibly dead), but they largely exist in a world separate from Spider-Man or Thor. Likewise, Spider-Man and Thor occupy worlds separate from each other. This obviously falls out of some practical concerns — plans for certain characters may not facilitate their appearances elsewhere — but there are also important aesthetic ones, as well. Chief among them is concerns of “fit” — while it might be fun to see a cosmic-level hero take a side adventure into some street-level action (or vice versa), it’s not exactly what fans of their series signed up for. So: team-ups between, say, Silver Surfer and Hawkeye are few and far between. I found myself thinking a great deal about fit as Falcon 2 emphasizes the demonic threat Sam is up against. Continue reading

A History and a Destiny Revealed in America 7

by Spencer Irwin

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

America Chavez is a self-made hero. She chose to follow in her mothers’ heroic footsteps instead of staying safe in utopia forever, and likewise chose her goals and domain very carefully. With the entire multiverse at her fingertips, she’s chosen to call Earth-616 her home, originally to watch over Billy Kaplan, but now because it’s where her friends are, where she’s laid down roots. This DIY image is a stark contrast to her grandmother Madrimar, who has devoted her life to following the will of the spirits and watching over her home planet, and seems to believe that it’s America’s destiny to do the same. Continue reading

Secret Empire 8: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Ryan Mogge

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

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Spencer: I’m writing this piece in the aftermath of one of the more horrific weekends in recent memory (Charlottesville), which arrives at the tail-end of one of the most horrific ten months or so of my lifetime. I don’t exactly feel an overabundance of hope right now, a sentiment shared by those trapped in Trump’s America and in the Hydra-Controlled America of the Marvel Universe alike. In Secret Empire 8, Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, Rod Reis, Sean Izaaske and Java Tartaglia finally bring the light of hope to their story, but I don’t know how well their methods translate to real life. Continue reading

Failure to World-Build in I Am Groot 2

by Mark Mitchell

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

World building is delicate business. Finding the right balance between teasing the audiences’ imagination and leaving them impatient for answers can trip up even the most skilled artist. My go-to example for successful world building is 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller immediately throws the audience into the thick of an alien, hostile world, but it’s never confusing. Miller avoids confusion in two ways: first, he uses classic archetypes when constructing characters — Max Rockatansky is the silent hero, Immortan Joe is a mad king, the War Boys are his soldiers, etc. These archetypes are well-worn in fiction and require no further justification. Second, if something or someone is introduced that directly affects the plot and its utility in the world can’t be intuited by the audience, he explains it. Providing this concrete framework for the necessary elements of the film means many other details, like the infamous Crow Fishers, can go unexplained, teasing the audience and allowing their imaginations to run wild, without causing confusion. Continue reading

The Failings of Friendship in Desperate Times in Secret Empire 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

“The power of friendship” is a popular trope in most media. The idea that most situations can be overcome through the bonds we share with our friends is powerful in a lot of ways, but it’s one that never really seems applicable to war or espionage stories like Secret Empire. Make no mistake, Hydra is not going to be defeated by friendship or optimism alone, but in Secret Empire 5, Nick Spencer, Rod Reis, Andrea Sorrentino, Joshua Cassara, and Rachelle Rosenberg do explore the effect pre-existing relationships have on their conflict. It’s not always a good one. Continue reading