Secret Empire 0

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Secret Empire 0, originally released April 19th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: It can be incredibly dangerous to put too much faith in one person, especially if it means neglecting other connections and relationships. While this can be true on a personal level, it’s far more important to remember on a political level, where not even the most well-meaning politician can be trusted with too much power — not even Captain America himself. Continue reading

Hadrian’s Wall 5

Today, Patrick and Mark are discussing Hadrian’s Wall 5, originally released March 29, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Patrick: Simplicity is an illusion. Every relationship that falls apart, every job that is lost, every hope that is abandoned comes at the end of a long, complicated road with no singular culprit. But it’s human nature to try to compartmentalize these things: she left because I cheated; I was fired because I was always late; I don’t have time to pursue my dreams. That’s clean, almost absolving us of our sins of disappointment. Hadrian’s Wall 5 delivers the answer to the series’ central mystery to this point, only to pivot from solution to inevitably more-complicated problem, insisting on the non-simplicity of this narrative. That dovetails nicely with Simon’s own memories of his failed relationship with Annabelle, which failed not through a singular action, but because these people were incompatible. Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis’ story of murder-in-space refuses to be anywhere near as simple as the first four issues would have you believe. Continue reading

Civil War II: The Oath 1

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Civil War II: The Oath 1, originally released January 25th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Why is Steve Rogers being transformed into a Nazi such a terrifying idea? It’s because we all trust Steve Rogers, both in universe and out. Not only can he use that to gain influence that should never, under any circumstances, be given a Nazi, but that trust means that we’re probably inclined to think the best of him — out of sheer habit, if nothing else — even though he’s never deserved it less. Well, no more. Civil War II: The Oath drives home that this altered Steve’s heart is as black as they come. If only the rest of the Marvel universe was privy to that fact as well. Continue reading

Hadrian’s Wall 2

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Today, Spencer and Ryan D. are discussing Hadrian’s Wall 2, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Spencer: When discussing the first issue of Hadrian’s Wall, we were pleased to report that the series was more about the fallout of Simon and Annabelle’s former relationship than about sci-fi tropes, or even the actual murder mystery. With Simon’s very specific scenario now thoroughly established, though, Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis are free to use issue two to dive more into the mystery, and specifically, into introducing the list of suspects. Even in the middle of all this very necessary groundwork, though, the creative team never loses sight of Simon, his past, or what makes him tick. Continue reading

Hadrian’s Wall 1

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Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Hadrian’s Wall 1, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Patrick: When you look at the landscape of genre fiction, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s an unforgivably small number of genres that modern storytellers deal in. Fantasy, mystery, science fiction, horror, superhero, spy, crime, romance, adventure – it sounds like an exhausting list, but it’s frustrating to consider just how many stories end up regurgitating the tropes and story beats of a dozen proto-stories. Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis’ Hardian’s Wall 1 struggles with its own genres — a murder mystery set on a space ship in the future — before revealing that their protagonist has a much more nuanced, much less plug-and-play story to tell. There is no genre called “living in the world with your ex fiction” (as far as I can tell), so the fallout of Simon and Annabelle’s relationship plays out among the stars. Continue reading

C.O.W.L. 11

cowl 11 Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing C.O.W.L. 11, originally released July 22nd, 2015.

Spencer: One of my favorite expressions is “would I do it all again?” Usually it’s only uttered after a long string of consequences (“So I ended up breaking both legs…but would I do it all again?”), and it’s never an actual question — if you’re asking “would I do it all again,” you’re basically admitting that yes, you would. No matter what consequences you faced, it was worth it. This phrase has an opposite as well — “Was it worth it?” Just like “would I do it all again,” “was it worth it” is rarely a question — it’s almost always an admission that no, whatever you did was not worth the consequences. It’s a phrase uttered by Geoffrey Warner in the final moments of Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis’ C.O.W.L., leaving the readers with the impression that even Warner knows that the actions he took to keep C.O.W.L. in business aren’t justified. No matter what C.O.W.L. goes on to accomplish in the future, Warner’s actions will forever be hanging over the organization like a dark cloud. Continue reading

C.O.W.L. 9

Alternating Currents: C.O.W.L. 9, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing C.O.W.L. 9, originally released March 18th, 2015.

Drew: I once saw a Q&A session with The Wire creator Dan Simon where he had to defend a moment that one audience member saw as a crack in the realism of the show. I don’t remember Simon’s exact words, but his answer boiled down to the fact that the show isn’t real — sometimes, the creators would knowingly break from absolute fidelity in order to elicit the appropriate emotional response from us. Everything we saw on that show, just like any number of less realistic narratives, was there for our benefit, not because it’s 100% true to life. What’s funny to me is that the fan’s complaint wasn’t with the credulity-straining Hamsterdam or serial killer plotlines, but with the body language of an uncredited, unnamed character. I suspect the reason those bigger pieces of fiction get a pass is because we want them to happen. The Wire does such a good job of detailing how the system is broken, we can’t help but cheer when a character attempts to buck it. It’s cathartic, so we overlook that it’s also kind of batshit. I found myself thinking the same thing about Radia’s catharsis in C.O.W.L. 9, which is so necessary, it really doesn’t matter how unlikely it is. Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Colorist

Best of 2014: Best Colorist
From lines at conventions to the internet petitions every time an assignment changes, its clear comic fans put a lot of stock in who writes and draws their comics, often to the exclusion of the rest of the creative team. While colorists have slowly been gaining more recognition, they are still largely the unsung heroes of the comics world, adding depth and meaning to the storytelling in ways so subtle as to be almost invisible. As we started preparing our year-end lists, we realized that we, too, had been overlooking the contributions of these indispensable artists, and decided it was high time to offer the best the praise they so rightly deserve. These are our top 14 colorists of 2014.
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C.O.W.L. 7

cowl 7Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing C.O.W.L. 7, originally released December 24th, 2014.
Spencer: Crime is a constant, which is why we need forces in place to combat it on a full-time basis. Superheroes are trickier, though — they need a continuous supply of larger-than-life, world-threatening opponents to battle, or else there’s no point in them even existing. With the last of the Chicago Six captured that’s exactly the situation Geoffrey Warner finds himself facing, leading to his drastic decision to enlist superpowered mobsters so that C.O.W.L. has somebody to fight. Is this only a short-term stop-gap? Has C.O.W.L. truly outlived its usefulness? Only time will tell, but chances are, Geoffrey’s actions aren’t doing it any favors. Continue reading

Commentary Track – Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel Discuss C.O.W.L. 6

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C.O.W.L. is the story of a superhero union in mid-century Chicago. That logline heaps on the atmosphere, from the period setting to the particular climate of organized labor in Chicago, giving writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel a ton of space to explore. With issue 6, they offer a bit of a sideways approach to that world-building, giving us an in-universe comic book with an obvious in-universe political agenda. Parsing that agenda uncovers layers of meaning, telling us a great deal about Geoffrey Warner, even if the story isn’t entirely true. Patrick sat down with Kyle and Alec and went through the issue page by page, so get your copy handy and join us on the Commentary Track.

Retcon Punch: Let’s just start right from the cover: we’ve got a wildly different approach, right from the get-go.

Kyle Higgins: This cover is illustrated by Joe Bennett and it’s inked by Marcelo Mueller and colored by Rod Reis. Joe and Marcelo were originally supposed to do the entire issue when we were putting together the idea for the one-shot. Alec and I love the idea of world-building, and the opportunity to have this comic be something that’s of the world, we realized we were killing a couple birds with one stone, you know? Continue reading