Doctor Strange: Damnation 2 is Basically a Heist Movie

by Taylor Anderson

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

Just as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Steven Soderbergh will reemerge from “retirement” now and again to make another heist movie. One can’t blame him for this: heist movies are fun, and Soderbergh has shown that he’s become very good at making them. Still, why is it that our thirst for these can’t be sated? Is it seeing familiar faces from different walks of life team-up? The notion of stealing for a just cause like Robin Hood? Or perhaps it’s serving comeuppance to someone who deserves it. Whatever the reason may be, the heist story is here to stay, and, as Donny Cates and Nick Spencer show, is easily transferable to the superhero genre. Continue reading


Doctor Strange: Damnation 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

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

Spencer: Since our audience has excellent taste, I’m going to assume that you’re all watching NBC’s The Good Place, right? Essentially a show about lost souls trying to earn their way into Heaven by becoming better people, one of the more interesting concepts percolating beneath the show’s surface is the idea that the rules dictating what afterlife you’re sent to are inherently flawed and unfair. It’s almost impossible to earn your way into the Good Place — only the most selfless and charitable of souls make it — leaving plenty of folks who led wholly mediocre lives (or whose greatest crimes were being born in Florida) facing an eternity of torture and punishment. I couldn’t help but think of this while reading Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, and Rod Reis’ Doctor Strange: Damnation 1, which finds the city of Las Vegas, the Avengers, and perhaps the entire world being judged by equally biased, unfair rules. Continue reading

Doctor Strange 385: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Michael DeLaney

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

Patrick: Where does trust come from, narratively speaking? It’s almost a process of subtraction: audiences trust what they are presented with until they are given a reason not to. We’ll be dubious of anything a villain says because they demonstrate themselves to be dishonest, or greedy, or whatever it is that triggers our own feeling of moral superiority. Heroes are, of course, the opposite: we will trust them, even give them the benefit of the doubt when they make bad calls. Ultimately, we’re acting on our faith in narrative structure and we trust our hero to be in the right by the end of the story. Doctor Strange 385 twists our assumptions about right and wrong, about heroism and villainy without ever truly violating our expectations for Stephen Strange or Loki. Continue reading

Friends Start as Foes in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 29

by Taylor Anderson

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

Back when the first Avengers movie came out, audiences were thrilled to see a fight between Thor and Iron Man. Fast-forward to last year, and many of the same audiences were similarly thrilled to see Thor fight the Hulk. That audiences love to see heroes fight each other is nothing new. There’s a very specific reason why people enjoy fights between comic book protagonists so much: it’s essentially a cinematic version of arguments comic book nerds have been having for ages — “who would win in a fight?” And truthfully, it isn’t only comic book fans who have been asking this question. Comic book creators have been discussing the question in issues for decades now. This debate continues in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 29, only now it’s accompanied by Ryan North’s distinctive humor and irony. Continue reading

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 28 Piles on the Grifts

by Drew Baumgartner

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 28

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

Loki stories are fun — and have been for literal millennia — because of the dynamic way storytellers let us in on his tricks. Sometimes, we’re only tipped off to the trick after the fact, allowing us to be fooled along with his audience. In other cases, we get to be “in” on the trick, effectively seeing it from his perspective. Or our perspective can shift at any point, allowing us to be fooled for a time before revealing the trick to us halfway through, introducing that bit of dramatic irony that makes trickster stories so fun. Ryan North and Erica Henderson understand the fun of all of those approaches, and mix and match them to glorious effect in Squirrel Girl 28. Continue reading

All-New X-Men Annual 1

Alternating Currents: All-New X-Men Annual 1, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men Annual 1, originally released December 24th, 2014.

Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Emma Coates,  “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling”

Drew: This is a pretty well-worn axiom of fiction writing, and while I don’t have any qualms with the assertion that good coincidences are bad, I think it’s important to acknowledge that bad coincidences aren’t necessarily good. We’re all familiar with how deflating a Deus ex Machina resolution can be, but I firmly believe that an arbitrary, unlikely problem — a Diabolus ex Machina, if you will — can be just as bad. Actually, it might be worse; while we might understand a writer painting himself into a corner (thus requiring a miracle to get out of it), there’s no such justification for a coincidence up front. The arbitrary rules of sci-fi technology has always been a pet peeve of mine, but as the laws governing time-travel take center stage in All-New X-Men Annual 1, the conflict became a full-on Diabolus ex Machina, derailing what could have been a thrilling, emotional journey. Continue reading

New Avengers 27

Alternating Currents: New Avengers 27, Drew and MarkToday, Drew and Mark are discussing New Avengers 27, originally released November 26th, 2014. 

slim-bannerDrew: I suppose it’s no surprise that the phrase Deus ex machina is ancient in origin, but I was surprised to learn that it originally described an actual machine used to levitate actors playing gods in ancient tragedies. Of course, it’s more popular meaning as a totally lazy plot device are also ancient in origin — Aristotle took Euripides to task for using a dragon-drawn chariot to whisk suddenly Medea to safety — which speaks to just how long people have been hating it. I dislike unlikely reversals of fortune or sudden interventions by benevolent higher powers as much as the next guy, but the thing that really annoys me about the thought of meeting the man behind the curtain is the expectation that it will be in any way satisfying. I’ve had enough experience to know that the more interesting a question is, the less interesting its answer will inevitably feel, which makes the presence of a being with all the answers extremely unappealing to me. Jonathan Hickman manages to avoid this a bit in New Avengers 27 by answering some of the less interesting questions, though that unfortunately also doesn’t yield particularly satisfying answers. Continue reading