The Many Irreconcilable Definitions of Redemption in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 34

By Spencer Irwin

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

Kraven the Hunter is not only the very first enemy Doreen Green defeated way back when Ryan North and Erica Henderson launched The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but he’s also the first enemy she reformed. Unlike the other villains whose lives Doreen has helped turn around, Kraven has continued to pop up as a recurring character ever since, allowing the creative team to explore life after redemption and just what, exactly, Kraven looks like as a “good guy.” With this image now firmly in place, North and artist Derek Charm use The Unbeatable Squirrel 34 to muddy and complicate it in fascinatingly complex and nuanced ways. What redemption means for Kraven may not be the same for Doreen, or Spider-Man, or the police, or the people of NYC, and there may simply be no way to reconcile these various viewpoints.  Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 1: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Amazing Spider-Man 1

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

Drew: If you only had one word to describe Spider-Man, what would it be? Strength? Responsibility? Verbosity? These are all great answers, each with plenty of classic Spidey stories that emphasize those characteristics, but they aren’t quite perfect. Plenty of heroes are as strong and/or responsible, and a few even talk as much as Spider-Man, but there’s something else that makes him unique. With Amazing Spider-Man 1, Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley offer up their own answer — one I had never considered, but feels obvious on reflection: Karma. Beyond his powers and the responsibilities that come with them, Spider-Man is a person plagued by the consequences of his past mistakes. Continue reading

The More Peter Changes, the More He Stays the Same in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 306

by Spencer Irwin

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

Peter Parker’s been a lot of things in his 50+ years of existence — a bullied high school student, a harried college student and photographer, a loving husband, a clone, a CEO — but none of those roles have ever changed who Peter really is inside. This holds true in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 306, an issue that asserts that, no matter how much Peter changes, he’ll always be a hero. Continue reading

Eddie Learns He Knows Nothing in Venom 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in middle school. I woke up thinking about it, I fell asleep thinking about it, I viewed everything through the lens of Magic. Friends were people I played Magic with, and school was just something I had to do before I could play again. I was in love: for almost three years, that game completed me. In 1995, my friends and I went to Gen Con in Chicago, a massive hobby-store convention, which mostly meant Magic and Warhammer. That’s when I realized just how miniscule my obsession actually was. I wasn’t a Magic expert, I was a kid with a hobby in a convention center full of adults who had been living this nerdiness since before I was even born. Magic opened me up to a love of gaming and fantasy, but for these folks, it was the culmination of their lifestyle. Issue 3 of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom gives Eddie Brock his very own Gen Con ’95 moment as he comes face to face with the god of the symbiotes. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 801: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: Dan Slott has written more issues of The Amazing Spider-Man than any other creator ever. That’s not something one achieves if they merely “like” a character — Slott clearly loves Spider-Man in a way even the most die-hard of fans can only dream of. Writing his adventures has certainly changed Slott’s world for the better, and that’s a sentiment he expresses beautifully in The Amazing Spider-Man 801, his final issue on the title. It’s a love letter to the power of Spider-Man told in the only way that kind of story really can be told — through the perspective of a fan. Continue reading

Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 1 Offers a Secret History for J. Jonah Jameson

by Drew Baumgartner

Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 1

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

All fictional characters — especially in the compressed world of superhero comics — start as types. It’s only as we spend more time with them that they can be fleshed out into more fully-realized, nuanced characters. But, of course, being a type is often all a given character may need to be. And so, for decades, J. Jonah Jameson was little more than the irritable, muckraking editor of the Daily Bugle. That’s not a failure — it’s all he really needed to be to move the story forward, and he was still plenty entertaining. But as with any character that’s around for the better part of a century, those little glimpses we got of him started to add up, and creators started exploring who he was behind all of that bluster, giving us the JJJ we all know and love. He’s still that irritable muckraker, but we understand that there’s more too him. Indeed, there’s enough there that Jameson can anchor a story himself every now and then, as he does in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 1. Continue reading

The Tantalization of Other Timelines in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 305

by Taylor Anderson

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

Every time I read a news story about a tweet our current commander in chief sends out, I can’t help but think how his predecessor or opponent in the election wouldn’t debase themselves in such a way. This inevitably leads me to wonder what an alternate timeline might look like where the current president didn’t win the election. What would the country look like? Would the oval office still be dignified and one that engenders respect and appreciation? I have some ideas about that, but I can never be sure exactly what that timeline holds. This idea, of other timelines, is tantalizing and one all people think about, and as such, it dominates the narrative of the Spectacular Spider-Man 305. Continue reading

Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

by Spencer Irwin

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

Spider-Man has one of the most iconic, expansive, and enduring supporting casts in all of superhero comics, and that’s a fact Dan Slott has used to his advantage throughout his long tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man. He especially leans on his supporting cast in issue 800, the penultimate issue of his run and the grand finale of “Go Down Swinging.” It’s an issue all about the power of the people in Peter Parker’s life, be it the power he gives them, or the power they give him. Continue reading

A Big Goodbye in Invincible Iron Man 600

by Drew Baumgartner

Invincible Iron Man 600

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

Grant Morrison Animal Man

The ends of long creator runs in comics are a strange thing — an ending that isn’t an ending, a goodbye that isn’t a goodbye — but are also relatively commonplace. Indeed, those “final issues” are common enough to create a kind of map of morphologies, from those that send the characters in bold new directions to those that more or less put things back to neutral. One of the most common features, though, is that writers step out from behind the curtain to acknowledge their own departure. Some do this in a self-consciously postmodern way (a la Animal Man 26, excerpted above), but any hint of goodbye from the creative team breaks the fourth wall at least a little. We’ve written about plenty of those final issues over the years, but none quite as final as Invincible Iron Man 600, which isn’t just the finale of Brian Michael Bendis’s three-year run with the series, but of his 18-year run with Marvel. That is, he’s not just saying goodbye to the cast of Invincible Iron Man, but the Marvel Universe as a whole, which demands some kind of acknowledgement, which Bendis of course puts his trademark spin on. Continue reading

Ambiguity and Closure in Doctor Strange 390

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I had a writing teacher in college that used to say there were four kinds of stories. The first is the most common: the hero wants something, gets it, and is happy he got it. We see this one in superhero media all the time, right? Batman wants to catch the Riddler, he does, feels great about it. The second type of story is the hero wants something, gets it, is unhappy he got it. This is the old Twilight Zone twist — “I can live forever, BUT AT WHAT COST?” The last two kinds of stories are similar: hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is happy to have not gotten it, and; hero wants something, doesn’t get it, is unhappy to have not gotten it. Doctor Strange 390 manages to be a weird mix of all these types of stories, where even the question of who our hero is leads to some fascinating ambiguity. Donny Cates’ send-off to Doctor Strange is as mysterious, and true to the tone of the character, as a reader could possibly hope for. Continue reading