Narrative Efficiency in Captain America 704

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 704

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

Superhero stories are high-concept endeavors. Beyond the origin of the hero’s powers and commitment to justice, there are villains and supporting characters that might require just as much explanation. Monthly comics tend to smooth this over by taking our knowledge of those high concepts for granted, cramming all of that exposition into a logline on the cover page in order to make room for actual action. It’s a popular solution, so ubiquitous that explaining it in this way feels almost unnecessary. But then we encounter those superhero stories — perhaps it’s a miniseries with a new character or an alternate universe — that have to fit that logline into the story itself, forcing us to recognize just how much explaining really is necessary in the genre. Captain America 704 is one such story, catching us up with (and ultimately thwarting) a multi-generational plan and addressing some long-standing Cap mythology. Continue reading

A Head-Scratching Flashback in Captain America 703

by Spencer Irwin

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

It’s a generally understood rule of storytelling that any detail included in a story should be there for a reason — extraneous plots, characters, or ideas can be distracting at best, or derail the entire story at worst. This rule goes double for flashbacks, which are so often useful, even essential storytelling tools that, nonetheless, stick out like a sore thumb when used without purpose. This is unfortunately the case in Captain America 703, an otherwise enjoyable issue that’s dragged down by an almost inexplicable flashback. Continue reading

The Shield as Excalibur in Captain America 702

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 702

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

Drew: Comics historians are obsessed with Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. There’s fun parallels to draw between the lasso and Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s invention of the lie detector, but another essential point is that a lasso isn’t a phallus in the same way that a sword or gun is. That is, it’s a feminine weapon, designed to entwine Wonder Woman’s enemies, rather than pierce their flesh. I think that reading certainly has utility, but I think practically, the effect of that choice is that Wonder Woman is less concerned with injuring and maiming her enemies as she is neutralizing them — her weapon of choice embodies her compassion. I think Captain America’s shield represents a similar compassion, positioning as a defender, rather than an aggressor. That fact becomes particularly salient as Mark Waid and Leonardo Romero explicitly draw parallels between the shield and Excalibur, effectively highlighting the difference between a shield and a sword. Continue reading

Secret Empire 6: Discussion

by Ryan Mogge and Michael DeLaney

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

Ryan: Wednesday is the worst day of the week for soap operas. The storylines all build to a Friday afternoon cliffhanger, so by mid week you are still wrapping up the fallout of last week and are too early for this week’s storylines to be very juicy. Nick Spencer and Leinil Francis Yu are mid-run in Secret Empire 6, and rather than an issue with a self-contained arc that can be completed, we get bits and pieces of several arcs, with only limited links holding them together. 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

Captain America: Steve Rogers 17

Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Steve Rogers: Captain America 17, originally released March 25, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: Secret Empire has, thus far, been an intensely relevant crossover event. Exhaustingly so. If there’s anything that allows the reader a little distance between the democratic crisis within the pages of the Marvel Universe and our own, it’s that we can recognize the supernatural cogs at turning in Hydra’s machine. Cosmic Cubes, inter-planetary defense shields, the motherfucking Darkforce dimension — these are all superhero specifics that grant us some much needed distance from the tyranny of Steve Rogers. Captain America Steve Rogers 17 mercilessly grounds Rogers’ fascist techniques through the vehicle of reporter Sally Floyd, who is manipulated, bullied and ultimately imprisoned in an issue much more rooted in reality than fantasy. It’s enough to break my heart in real life.
Continue reading

Captain America: Steve Rogers 12

Alternating Currents: Captain America: Steve Rogers 12, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Steve Rogers: Captain America 12, originally released February 22nd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: To say that Captain America: Steve Rogers 1 rocked the comics world would be a profound understatement. It caused an uproar unlike any I’ve seen in my time writing on comics, and it continues to be a point of controversy nine months later. It set the tone for a Captain America story unlike any we’ve seen before, built upon one huge, jaw-dropping twist. The downside of kicking off a series with a twist that large is that it’s hard to match. Writer Nick Spencer has struggled admirably in this regard — and may have actually topped himself in Civil War II: The Oath — but a twist that required the rewriting of reality as we know it is a nigh-unreachable bar. Case in point: this issue’s return of Elisa Sinclair. Continue reading

Steve Rogers Captain America 1

capt america steve rogers 1

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Steve Rogers Captain America 1, originally released May 25, 2016.

Patrick: The most troubling thing about any inspirational figure is that they are necessarily mutable. Human beings are never only one thing, but we often reduce them to a single trait or value so that we may incorporate that into our own view of the world. John Lennon believed in peace, Martin Luther King Jr. believed in equality, Steve Jobs believed in innovation. Those are all trite reductions of fantastically complicated people, but it is useful to have avatars of these qualities and principals. Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz’ Steve Rogers Captain America 1 sets out to complicate one of the most inspirational figures in comics — which I feel is a necessary exploration of the Greatest Generation — but the issue is almost more interested in the concepts of inspiration and legacy than the specific twist deployed on the final splash page. Continue reading