Projection and Toxic Masculinity in West Coast Avengers 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

When discussing West Coast Avengers 2, we went into significant detail about how B.R.O.D.O.K. represented the worst traits of toxic masculinity, of entitled, deluded men who think of women as objects or prizes rather than real people with their own needs, personalities, and desires. With issue 3, Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli continue to explore this topic, but come at it from a slightly different angle. This time, their attention is focused less on the delusions that drive B.R.O.D.O.K. and more on how his actions effect the women around him. Spoiler alert: things don’t go well for them. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 2: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney

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

Spencer: Kate Bishop’s California adventures — under the pens of both Matt Fraction and Kelly Thompson — have all more-or-less revolved around the idea of appearance, on Hollywood’s obsession with beauty, fame, and youth. On first glance, M.O.D.O.K.’s transformation into the chiseled B.R.O.D.O.K. in West Coast Avengers 2 seems fueled by the same kinds of obsessions, but there’s actually an even greater danger lurking deep within: B.R.O.D.O.K.’s preoccupation with appearance is driven entirely by dangerous entitlement and toxic masculinity. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers 

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

This is the true story of seven strangers picked to work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

The Real World.

Spencer: Despite that famous tagline, reality television rightfully has a reputation for being anything but real, with contestants purposely taking on certain roles for the camera and producers editing footage in misleading ways to construct particular narratives (whether they’re “true” or not). Part of what makes West Coast Avengers so interesting, then, is that, despite its “superhero reality show” concept, creators Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli seem devoted to depicting the sad realities of their cast’s lives, to finding the truth behind their day to day existences, even when those existences are patently absurd. 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

Invincible Iron Man 3

invincible-iron-man-3

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Invincible Iron Man 3, originally released January 18th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Brian Michael Bendis is a polarizing figure in comics. I know plenty of people who consider him to be one of the best writers working today, but I know just as many who find his writing to be aimless and self-indulgent. I tend to think that he’s a very good writer with some very bad habits — I think he writes charming dialogue, but tends to write too much of it, for example — but I had been impressed at how well Bendis had curbed those habits in Invincible Iron Man, keeping scenes tight and efficient, and staying very close to the perspective of his protagonist, Riri Williams. That last piece really played to Bendis’ strengths, keeping the focus on his charming and well-written lead, avoiding the kind of wandering perspective that so often bogs his narratives down. Unfortunately, issue 3 loses some of that momentum, opening with a corporate power play between characters Riri has never met. Continue reading

Invincible Iron Man 1

issinvincible-iron-man-1

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Invincible Iron-Man 1, originally released November 9th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!

Taylor: For many, it is a dark time. The forces of prejudice, greed, misunderstanding, and hate have conspired to elect a man of questionable values to the highest office in the United States. Unlike a lot of bad situations, many people are finding it difficult to find any sort of silver-lining to this circumstance. When the nation so emphatically states that they would rather choose a man who would divide us rather than a woman who promises unity, it’s hard not to see the logic in this thinking. But there are still wonderful things in the world. Just because ugliness triumphs for a day, it doesn’t mean that the beauty society has created thus far has been destroyed. Maybe that’s hyperbole, but on a day like today, Invincible Iron Man reminds me that all is not lost. Continue reading

Avengers 44/New Avengers 33

avengers 44

Today, Spencer and Ryan are discussing Avengers 44 and New Avengers 33, originally released April 29th, 2015. 

Spencer: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga has gone through three different phases. The first, which lasted from the series’ debut through the end of Infinity, found Avengers exploring the forced evolution of the planet Earth via Ex Nihilo’s Origin Bombs while New Avengers established the threat of the Incursions and the drastic measures the Illuminati would have to take to combat them. The second phase found Avengers essentially spinning its wheels, waiting for the Illuminati in New Avengers to reach their limit and, ultimately, fail. Then the books skipped ahead in time eight months, and both lost a bit of their former identities as they became swallowed up in the Incursions storyline. New Avengers has spent most of phase three explaining the mechanics of everything that came before, while Avengers explored the personal fall-out between the members of all these various teams. While the Incursion storyline is continuing into Hickman’s upcoming Secret Wars, the final issues of Avengers and New Avengers focus on wrapping up the ideas they’ve been exploring since phase three began. One is decidedly more engaging than the other. Continue reading

Avengers 42

avengers 42

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Avengers 42, originally released March 4th, 2015. 

“We don’t view our history as being broken or something that we need to fix. If anything we think we are building upon that history and we are taking the best and biggest pieces of it and seeing how easily they coexist with one another. We don’t expect all our moves to make everyone happy, but we think it will make for a really fascinating read through ‘Secret Wars’ and beyond.”

-Axel Alonso, Secret Wars Press Event

Patrick: The grander hyper-textual implications of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers have been apparent for some time, but the importance and meaning of the meta-textual reasons have been something of a mystery. By Alonso’s own admission, Marvel doesn’t really need a Crisis-style reboot, but Secret Wars and Battleworld seem to bear all the multiversal signatures of one of DC Comics’ rebooting events. The problem with Crises (and it’s a problem that I think both DC and Marvel are starting to experience) is that the real world drama trumps the in-narrative drama. We’re more interested in answering the question “What’s going to happen to Batman?” than “What’s going to happen to Batman?” — and that means that we are necessarily less interested in the stories themselves than the companies telling those stories. Avengers 42 tries to reclaim some of that drama for itself, representing what appear to be conflicting editorial voices as characters within the Marvel Universe. Continue reading

Avengers 38

avengers 38Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Avengers 38, originally released November 19th, 2014. 

You can’t tell the players without a program!

Traditional

Spencer: I actually bought a program at a ballgame once, and while it made a nice souvenir, I can’t say it helped me follow the game any better — if anything, it was a bit of a distraction. I didn’t need to be able to tell the players to follow the action on the field, but the same isn’t true for Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers epic; thankfully, Avengers 38 provides us with a pretty snazzy program of its own, free of charge!

Program

While only the characters in color actually appear in this issue, almost all of them play some sort of role in its story, making me increasingly grateful for this handy run-down. Actually, in its own way all of Avengers 38 is a program; the issue sets up the players in the upcoming conflict between the various Avengers teams as well as their motivations, allegiances, and weapons, and I have a feeling we’re going to be referencing this issue for quite a while to come. It’s place-setting, but place-setting is rarely this entertaining. Continue reading

Avengers 36

avengers 36Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Avengers 36, originally released October 8th, 2014. 

Spencer: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers hasn’t exactly been a character-driven book; that’s not to say Hickman doesn’t have an excellent grasp on the various voices of his cast, but to say that this title is very much driven by the plot, with the characters often feeling like cogs in his Avengers machine. Starting with Avengers 35, though, the title skipped eight months into the future; catching us up to the activities of the various Avengers in this new setting has given Hickman a chance to refocus on his characters, as well as on some of the many plot points that have fallen to the wayside in the last nine months or so. Avengers can sometimes be a hard book to love, but issue 36 continues the return of the kind of storytelling that made me pick up this book in the first place.

Continue reading