This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The only limits in comics are those of the imagination and the page itself. That sounds grandiose, but I genuinely believe that to be true. There are no CGI budgetary restrictions or limits of practical effects that could make a shot or a sequence impossible (though time constraints may make big crowds on horseback less likely), no locations on earth (or off) that can’t be used, no detail to small that can’t be captured in a panel. That means comics are a medium with nearly infinite potential for flashy epicness, which can easily hog our attention. But its the fundamentals — nearly universal to all storytelling — that ultimately make a comic sing: characters, clarity, and heart. Sometimes those flashy elements can help connect us to those fundamentals, but sometimes it’s the simpler details that sell the story. Such is the case with G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon’s Ms. Marvel 34, which utilizes one of the most basic givens in the medium to remarkably effective results. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing She-Hulk 12, originally released February 18th, 2015.
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Drew: I fully appreciate what’s disturbing about historical revisionism — the above passage is undoubtedly the scariest thing I read in high school — but I’m less certain why people seem to be so opposed to similar revisions to fictional continuities. Retcons (or retroactive continuity) might be one of the most reviled devices in all of comicdom, but I honestly don’t understand why. Nobody is more invested in the idea that each issue matters than the publishers (or at least their marketing teams), so fears that a single retcon represents a first step on a slippery slope strike me as totally alarmist. Instead, publishers tend to use retcons to clean up continuities that have become overly complicated after decades of embellishment. Still, being told the opposite of a fact we know is unsettling, even if the “fact” describes something in a fictional world. It’s that exact phenomenon — that the facts both do and don’t matter — that makes She-Hulk 12 so much fun. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Taylor: The excellent blog kottke.org recently brought to my attention a video on visual comedy. In this short feature, Tony Zhou makes a strong case for the lack of visual comedy in your typical comedic film. He also highlights a lot of movies, like Hot Fuzz, which make excellent use of visual comedy. It got me to thinking about how difficult it is to pull off visual comedy in film, much less in comics. Like in writing, something about pulling off a comedic still frame is surprisingly difficult. As with movies, I think we often aren’t treated to great visual comedy. However, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12 bucks this trend and shows just how funny a comic can be based almost entirely on its visual elements alone.
Today, Taylor and Greg are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 8, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Taylor: Since the dawn of pop-culture, antiheroes have been those ill behaving scallywags we love despite their flaws. They may not act right all the time, but we love them despite, if not explicitly for, their flaws. In the annals of American culture, the antihero has frequently eclipsed their more traditionally heroic counterparts — just look at Han Solo or Walter White. This trend has naturally extended to comic books and while many protagonists of comics are antiheroes, few are outright villains. In case you couldn’t tell by its title, The Superior Foes of Spider Man focuses on a villain, who by virtue of his narrative is an antihero. And while we all enjoy a good antihero, it is a perilous line they walk, and issue eight displays how precarious their position is. It begs the question, just how shitty can a protagonist be before we’ve had enough?
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 3, originally released September 4th, 2013.
Taylor: We all know the origin story of Spider-Man. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains the sensational powers of a spider. At first, he doesn’t use his powers for good, instead choosing to indulge himself in a world of personal gain and selfishness. An indirect consequence of the path he chooses is that his Uncle Ben is murdered by a thug he previously had failed to apprehend. Because of this, Peter comes to fully understand his uncle’s saying: “with great power comes great responsibility,” which leads him on the path to superherodom. But what if your path is different from Peter’s? What if instead of choosing to be a hero, you choose to be a villain? What creed or mantra would you follow then? What expectations would you have of yourself and those you call your allies? In a surprising change of tone, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 3 explores this question and the result is a deepening of Boomerang’s character that, while unexpected, is a welcome addition to the series.
Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 2, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Taylor: Comics inherently are a silly thing. Now, before you haul off and yell at me about how comics are a legitimate art form, cool your Rocketeer jets and let it be known I agree with you. But just hear me out. The fact that comics primarily deal with people in goofy costumes running around fighting crime can’t be ignored. That in and of itself is pretty damning evidence that comics are a little bit absurd. However, this is but one element of what goes into the makings of a comic book, and as with so many other things, comics are more than the sum of their parts. Still, reducing comics down to some of their most basic elements can have comedic results, just as reducing a basketball game to the idea of giant men throwing around a sphere for an hour or so makes it seem especially silly. While comedic gold can result from the acknowledgment of the pulpy origins of comic books, there remains the question of how lasting this humor can be. Can it go on for an entire series? The Superior Foes of Spider-man has you covered.
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 1, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Ethan: It’s easy to make snap judgements about people when you’ve only known them for a short time, whether it’s a new face at a house party or a new coworker or neighbor who’s just moved in. Once you get to know someone better — say you decide to start renting with your partner, or you share a cubicle with the new guy long enough that he’s no longer the new guy — your opinion of them shifts, often for the better and the worse all at once. You learn about their ambitions and family and past experiences, and little things you didn’t even notice at first become pet peeves or endearing quirks. In Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1, writer Nick Spencer is betting the farm on that phenomenon with a more personal look at the day-to-day lives of the latest Sinister Six.