Simultaneous Silliness and Sincerity in Marvel Two-in-One 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: Does writer Chip Zdarsky leverage humor to find pathos, or does he exploit genuine emotion for comedy? It’s almost impossible to tell. Zdarsky often rides the line between celebrating the absurdity and celebrating the sincerity of his characters and his stories. Marvel Two-In-One somehow achieves both simultaneously, giving the reader a sad, almost Venture Brothersian look into the loneliness and ennui of the last remaining members of the Fantastic Four, while never letting go of the inherent weirdness of these characters. It’s a stupendous feat of writing, emboldened by Jim Cheung’s reverent artwork. Continue reading

Advertisements

Secret Wars 9

secret wars 9

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Secret Wars , originally released January 13th, 2016. 

secret wars div

“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

Secret Wars 8

secret wars 8

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Secret Wars 8, originally released December 9th, 2015. 

secret wars div

Spencer: I recently got into a bit of a debate with the AV Club’s Oliver Sava on Twitter about whether Doctor Doom is the hero or the villain of Secret Wars. Sava argued that he’s the hero because he saved the universe — I argued that he’s the villain because he then proceeded to rule his salvaged universe as a brutal tyrant and dictator. In a way, we’re probably both right, and writer Jonathan Hickman seems less interested in laying blame at any of his character’s feet than he is in exploring their motives and varying levels of morality. Secret Wars 8 is a full-on action issue, but each confrontation changes the rules a bit in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong, who wins and who loses.  Continue reading

Silk 4

silk 4

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Silk 4, originally released May 13th, 2015.

“My body can stretch all around this building. It’s natural state is a giant puddle of, well, me. It takes everything I have to hold myself together. So, yes. I’ve had anxiety.”

Reed Richards, Silk 4

Patrick: For obvious reasons, most superhero narratives that deal with mental illness stay pretty close PTSD or anger management problems. While debilitating issues in real life, in the realm of fiction, that all sounds very sexy — these afflictions either steam from or drive a character to action. Usually both. And it doesn’t much matter how negatively a writer tries to paint Bruce Wayne’s grief- and guilt-ridden revenge episodes, the reader always wants to see Batman kicking ass. Punisher may not be able to sleep without a gun under his pillow, but we sorta like that. Silk 4 toys with the idea that mental illness isn’t always so obvious and often isn’t so action-packed. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Avengers 42

avengers 42

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Avengers 42, originally released March 4th, 2015. 

“We don’t view our history as being broken or something that we need to fix. If anything we think we are building upon that history and we are taking the best and biggest pieces of it and seeing how easily they coexist with one another. We don’t expect all our moves to make everyone happy, but we think it will make for a really fascinating read through ‘Secret Wars’ and beyond.”

-Axel Alonso, Secret Wars Press Event

Patrick: The grander hyper-textual implications of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers have been apparent for some time, but the importance and meaning of the meta-textual reasons have been something of a mystery. By Alonso’s own admission, Marvel doesn’t really need a Crisis-style reboot, but Secret Wars and Battleworld seem to bear all the multiversal signatures of one of DC Comics’ rebooting events. The problem with Crises (and it’s a problem that I think both DC and Marvel are starting to experience) is that the real world drama trumps the in-narrative drama. We’re more interested in answering the question “What’s going to happen to Batman?” than “What’s going to happen to Batman?” — and that means that we are necessarily less interested in the stories themselves than the companies telling those stories. Avengers 42 tries to reclaim some of that drama for itself, representing what appear to be conflicting editorial voices as characters within the Marvel Universe. Continue reading

New Avengers 30

new avengers 30

Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing New Avengers 30, originally released February 25th, 2015. 

slim-banner

Spencer: Jonathan Hickman and Dalibor Talajic’s New Avengers 30 reads a bit like a textbook on multiversal theory. It’s about as dry as beef jerky, and is focused so strongly on explaining every minute detail about the Ivory Kings that it largely fails to address why they’re doing what they’re doing. The information contained within its pages will likely prove important as Secret Wars grows closer, but for the moment, New Avengers 30 feels like an issue that highlights the greatest weakness of Hickman’s Avengers books: a focus on plot that supersedes “story” or characterization.  Continue reading

Avengers 40

Alternating Currents: Avengers 40, Drew and Mark

Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Avengers 40, originally released January 14th, 2015. 

The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Drew: I think it would be fair to say that Dostoevsky’s polyphonic style — one built upon the perspectives of an array of characters — is antithetical to the notion of the hero’s journey. Indeed, Dostoyevsky’s philosophies (as articulated in the quote above) suggest that there’s an active tension between caring about an individual and caring about humanity at large. I’ve always been partial to the depth of understanding achieved by sticking with one protagonist — especially when it comes to comics — which has made me wary of the kind of expansive, Dostoyevskian scope of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. In my mind, a tight focus on a single character more accurately reflects how we experience the world, but with Avengers 40, Hickman makes a compelling case for how his dense interconnectedness reflects how the world actually is. Continue reading

Avengers 39

avengers 39Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Avengers 39, originally released December 10th, 2014. 

Spencer: When you read enough comics, you start to see certain repeated themes and styles emerge among various writers. Brian Michael Bendis is known for dialogue-heavy, somewhat decompressed comics. Kieron Gillen makes no attempt to hide his musical influences and knack for clever dialogue. Geoff Johns loves to rehabilitate long-forgotten or mishandled characters and concepts (and is also a bit infamous for cutting off his characters’ arms). Jonathan Hickman, meanwhile, is probably best known for his cerebral, somewhat detached style of writing that can spend years setting things up before finally letting all the dominos fall into place. With this week’s Avengers 39 we’re getting closer and closer to the end of Hickman’s Avengers epic, but the most interesting part of the issue is the commentary Hickman seems to be making on his own writing style. Continue reading

New Avengers 19

new avengers 19Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 19, originally released June 11th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: The more I look at the following panels, the more I realize how succinctly they sum up the primary conflict of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s New Avengers 19.

Are we monsters, or are we DEVO?The Illuminati are no longer concerned about whether they can stop the Incursions without destroying inhabited worlds (spoiler alert: they can’t), nor are they any longer concerned about their mission turning them into monsters (they seem to have realized that it’s all but inevitable, and the title of this issue is even “We Are All Monsters Now,” as if to dissuade the reader of any hope otherwise); instead, the million dollar question now seems to be whether it’s better to die with one’s morality intact or to save the universe, but at the cost of one’s own soul.

Continue reading