This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.
Peter spends the majority of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 297 out-smarting, out-punching, and out-maneuvering both the NYPD and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Mintz. And he does it all while being underpowered and trying to keep his identity a secret. It’s the kind of Spider-Man story that wordlessly plays in the fantasies of Spider-Man fans — scrape after scrape, close-call after close-call, until he finally escapes. It’s thrilling, wonderful stuff. Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Adam Kubert use this issue to set up these thrilling heroics as the stakes of this arc, rather than the actual substance thereof. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 28, originally released July 7th, 2017. As always, this article containersSPOILERS.
Drew: When we’re frustrated with superhero comics, we’ll sometimes blame the serialized format for robbing endings of any tension (or even mocking the very idea of “endings”) — as much as a given comic may try to convince you of the danger its hero is in, we all know they’ll be back to fight again next month. And actually, genre conventions are much more prescriptive than that, generally insisting that the villain also live to fight again (though maybe not until the hero has cycled through the rest of their rogues gallery). I added the caveat of “when we’re frustrated,” because I ultimately don’t think anyone’s assessment of a story comes down to how rote certain genre conventions are — predictable stories can be great, and unpredictable ones can be terrible — just that we might misidentify (or overemphasize) “predictability” as the reason for disliking a given story. Writer Dan Slott may be most famous for throwing those presumptions out the window, but Amazing Spider-Man 28 reveals just how adept he is at making even the most familiar genre conventions feel exciting. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Karnak 6, originally released February 1st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: I’ve cited tvtropes.org so often on this site that doing so might reasonably constitute its own trope. Indeed, I tend to use that site in the same way that writers use tropes: as a shorthand to lay the groundwork for more complex and original ideas. It’s not that tropes are bad, necessarily, but they certainly represent some amount of artifice in the story — recognizing those tropes necessarily pushes us out of the narrative. In the world of comics, tropes are almost obligatory, as characters and situations have to be introduced in 20-page installments. Those elements can be complicated later, but tropes become the basic currency for the broad strokes. This may seem like an odd way to open a discussion of Karnak 6, which is remarkably inoffensive on the tropes front, but I’d like to suggest that writer Warren Ellis has adopted an entirely different, less artificial currency to round out this six-issue arc: Karnak’s own cognitive biases. Continue reading →
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 →
Today, Ryan M. and Spencer are discussing Mockingbird 8, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan M.: When the cover of an issue includes the eponymous heroine wearing an “Ask me about my feminist agenda” t-shirt, you have no choice but to examine the work therein with a feminist lens. I will admit that going into the issue, I expected it to contend with Bobbi’s reactions to her rapist stalker and how she deals with being a trauma survivor, possibly with irreverent jokes about corgis and effortless flirting with Hunter. Instead Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk deliver those corgi jokes and Hunter-flirting as they reveal the feeble heart of the patriarchy and use the Phantom Rider to skewer it.
Today, Mark and Taylor are discussing Karnak 5, originally released September 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Mark: Given the opportunity, would you go back in time to correct the mistakes of your past? At first blush, it’s an appealing prospect; we all have moments of regret in our past — a situation we wish we would have handled differently, a choice we want to unmake, words we want to take back. But people are an accumulation of their choices, and taking back one would necessarily lead somewhere new. Whether our changed self would be truly appealing comes down to how happy we are with current selves.
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Karnak 3, originally released April 20th, 2016.
Drew: When we talk about superhero weaknesses, we tend to focus on the physiological ones — the ones that exist within the narrative. That’s because we’ve all agreed to ignore the more obvious logical weaknesses any superhero story has. Punching will never be the best solution to systemic corruption in Gotham (especially when you can personally finance political campaigns of local, state, and federal officials), and “heat vision and a mirror” doesn’t actually explain how Superman shaves his indestructible beard. These are the weaknesses we choose to ignore to maintain our suspension of disbelief — that is, until some smartass chooses not to ignore them, usually by assuming they’re just smarter than everyone else. I call them “weaknesses,” not because they can be exploited by readers who are as simple and obvious as the weaknesses themselves, but because such exploitation is generally off-limits for the characters themselves. How Superman shaves is a question that can’t be satisfactorily answered, so it’s best to avoid the subject altogether. With Karnak 3, Warren Ellis aims to do the opposite, charging headlong into the very weaknesses Karnak would have identified from the start. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing All-New Hawkeye 5, originally released March 23rd, 2015.
Taylor: Growing up, we have total faith in our parents. Not only do they know everything, but most of the time they are viewed as paragons of virtue, morality, and justice. Basically, to the small child, parents are knowable because they represent the perfect person. As we get older, however, we learn that our parents aren’t always these things. This leads us to wonder what else we don’t know about mothers and fathers and ultimately, one day, we have the realization we don’t know exactly who they are because we no longer hold them in such high esteem. It’s a tough lesson to learn, made all the more so when you learn your parent might be a criminal. All-New Hawkeye 5 explores the issue of figuring out who parents are and in doing so also makes a statement finding your own identity. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Ryan M. are discussing Mockingbird 1, originally released March 9th, 2016.
Taylor: Being a middle school teacher, I’m around people trying to be something they’re not almost all day. That’s no dig against the kids I teach — I remember when I was in middle school I was in a similar state. When you’re young, you try on different personalities all the time. Some fit, most don’t, and the result is most of the time you’re left attempting to be something alien to your core self. Barbara Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird, may be an adult, but like the bird that is her namesake (and middle schoolers), she’s still in search of her identity. This defining aspect of her first issue is both its strength and weakness.
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Karnak 1, originally released October 21st, 2015.
Taylor: We live in a highly litigious society. If you make a claim about something — anything — you better be able to prove it. While there’s no one point in history that can be marked as the beginning of this litigiousness, the nadir point just might be that fateful morning in 1992 when a hot cup of McDonald’s coffee was spilled on the lap of an elderly woman. While it might seem obvious to most people that coffee is hot and should be handled with care, the fact that the cup didn’t say so opened up an avenue to lawsuits. Since then, many of us have bemoaned the state of our society, where a person can sue for the smallest of reasons. If you’re like me, then Karnak, both the man and the comic, is a breath of fresh, if not stiff, air. Continue reading →