How The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 37 Hides Everything in Plain Sight

By Drew Baumgartner

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 37

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

Doreen Green’s honesty is a key part of her character. It allows her to find nonviolent solutions to so many of her conflicts, helping her adversaries find a better path forward. But it also means she’s not great at subterfuge. It’s a weakness that Ryan North and Derek Charm lean into hilariously, as Doreen and Nancy don some truly absurd costumes in order to infiltrate Squirrel Girl’s own funeral.

Bass Lass and Fish Miss

As silly as these costumes are, they also reinforce Doreen’s natural honesty — she’s simply incapable of selling a lie convincingly. It’s a philosophy that North and Charm use to inform the whole aesthetic of the series, which tends to overshare and lampshade niggling details we might have otherwise overlooked. But unlike Doreen’s compulsive honesty, North and Charm can use our trust against us, landing a thrilling twist in this issue’s final page. Continue reading

Zeroing in on Spidey’s Humanity in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 310

by Michael DeLaney

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

slim-banner

Chip Zdarsky brings his time with Spider-Man to a close as he sends off the ‘ol webhead in a personal manner in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 310.  Spider-Man has amazing powers and arguably some of the best villains in the Marvel Universe, but Zdarsky zeroes in on what keeps this character consistently relevant: his humanity. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1 Presents a Feminist History

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

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

Pixar

As a kid, I always suspected the inanimate objects in my life had secret lives of their own. It wasn’t so much that I thought they got up and walked around when I wasn’t looking, but that they had feelings and aspirations and friends that they cared about. That was the bit about Toy Story that really hit me when it came out — that my toys were desperate for my love and attention, and they felt neglected when I turned my attention elsewhere. Worrying about the feelings of inanimate objects speaks to some of my most well-worn neuroses, but I’d defend those early experiences as helping me practice sympathy for other humans. I hesitate to call Toy Story a feminist history, since the marginalized perspective it adopts is entirely fictional, but it certainly has the shape of a feminist history, cuing us (or, at the very least, eight-year-old me) into the heretofore ignored plight of children’s toys. (To be clear: “feminist history” isn’t the history of feminism, but feminist approaches to history — approaches that highlight otherwise overlooked perspectives and narratives in history.) With Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, Saladin Ahmed and Garry Brown achieve something similar, retelling the classic arc “Alien Costume Saga” from the perspective of the Venom Symbiote. Continue reading

It’s Power vs Responsibility in The Amazing Spider-Man 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 5

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

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

We tend to define power optimistically — we might list the duties of say, the President of the United States, for example, with the expectation that they’ll wield their power responsibly. But there’s another (perhaps more timely) way to define power, not by the amount of good it allows someone to do, but by the amount of harm it allows someone to inflict. Try as we (or Uncle Ben) might to link the two, power and responsibility are independent variables. That is, “With great power must also come great responsibility” isn’t a statement of some inviolable rule of the world, but a goal to strive towards. That’s why the “must also” part is so essential (and so missed from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) — it makes it clear Uncle Ben isn’t just stating a fact. Indeed, that power can be separated from responsibility is precisely what this first arc of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man has focused on, demonstrating the inefficacy of either without the other. Continue reading

Connection and Humanity in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 308

by Spencer Irwin

Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man 308

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

It’s been fascinating watching Chip Zdarsky evolve as a writer. While I once thought of him primarily as a humorist, over the last few years it’s become apparent that his greatest strength is actually his ability to find the humanity in any character he touches, even villains. Throughout his run on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Zdarsky’s turned that into a strength of Peter’s as well, having him “defeat” several of his opponents (J. Jonah Jameson, The Tinkerer) by connecting and empathizing with them, by appealing to their shared humanity. Issue 308 pulls off the same feat with a particularly tricky character to humanize: The Sandman. Continue reading

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!

slim-banner

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