Spencer: One of the most enjoyable aspects of a writer having a long run on a title is watching elements from earlier issues resurface in surprising ways later on down the line. I think perhaps my favorite example of this is in Jon Rogers’ pre-reboot Blue Beetle run, where Jaime Reyes managed to bring back weapons, plans, and allies from nearly every one of his earlier adventures to use in his epic endgame against the Reach. It brought a nice sense of closure and finality to the proceedings, not to mention made for a thrilling game of “catch-the-reference.” I got a similar feeling from this week’s Superior Spider-Man, where plot points writer Dan Slott has been seeding for the past 27 issues begin coming back en masse, both to Otto’s relief and to his detriment. Continue reading
Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Drew and Ethan discuss Thunderbolts 18, A+X 14, Superior Spider-Man Annual 1, Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe 2, Young Avengers 12, Uncanny X-Men 14, X-Men 7, and X-Men: Legacy 20.
Drew: Our Infinity-fatigue is pretty well catalogued at this point, but Charles Soule continues to find a fresh angle in Thunderbolts 18. Where other series are preoccupied with piecing together a monolithic narrative by retracing the same steps, Soule has stayed very street-level, keeping his team focused on the mission at hand, even as New York crumbles around them. They manage to succeed in that mission in spite of each of them being focused on their own problems. Indeed, with a significant portion of the resolution arriving via the coincidental overlap of those problems, this series feels all the world like the superhero version of Seinfeld. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 21, originally released November 13th, 2013.
Patrick: Any time I join a new social group, I like to think that I’m starting over in terms of my identity. Like, I get to use all the skills and stuff I picked up over my lifetime, but I can newly define myself with a whole new set of activities and goals and values. All the previous versions of me inform this, of course, but it’s too simplistic to say that their sum is my new persona. Current Patrick isn’t Orchestra Dork + Magic: The Gathering + Ska Bands + Drama Club + RA + all the other things I’ve been. Sometimes that means letting go of things that used to seem the most important (I haven’t played a game of Magic in over a decade, and yes it feels like I’m in AA when I say that). I’m not saying I know exactly what Otto is going through, but I know, exactly, what Otto is going through. Continue reading
Drew: Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars? I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but for some reason, we watched the first half-hour of Return of the Jedi in my third grade class. It was the first time I can specifically remember experiencing a narrative out-of-order, and also the first time I so desperately wanted to go back to the start to put it all in context. That’s a sensation that I’ve become quite familiar with over the years (think of every time you’ve been drawn in by a random late-season episode of a TV series), but has become a weekly experience since I started reading comics. Comics can be particularly daunting in that light, as many series are building upon decades of continuity. Writers strive to balance honoring that history while remaining approachable to new readers, and none do it better than Dan Slott. Slott has always managed a careful regimen of harvesting threads he planted years before even as he seeds future stories, and Superior Spider-Man 20 finds him pushing the envelope on both fronts. Continue reading
Today, Greg and Taylor are discussing Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special 1, originally released October 30th, 2013. This issue is part of the three-part Arms of the Octopus story.
Greg: Towards the end of Mike Costa’s swiftly engaging issue, Cyclops asks Bruce Banner a grim yet oddly understandable question: since the Hulk causes so much wanton, uncontrollable violence and destruction, why doesn’t Banner just kill himself and save the world the headache? Banner responds with a simple, poignant mantra he lives his life by: “Hulk smashes, Banner builds.” By performing humanitarian efforts like a water purification system, Banner seeks to provide tip the scales in favor of life, of constructive rather than destructive efforts. This issue, the conclusion to the Arms Of The Octopus trilogy, follows this line of thinking in its narrative construction. We see each faction come up with logical solutions to each problem they face (it’s telling that Octavius-as-Spider-Man’s plan to “pummel” Dr. Jude “with all my strength until he falls down” is met with a striking blow to the face), with one final Hulk smash to tighten the screw and save the day. Continue reading
Shelby: Self-awareness is a very important strength to have. You need to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, to exist in the world with other people. Sometimes you need to put your head down and push through a situation, and sometimes (more importantly, I think) you need to know when you can’t do something and ask for the help you need. The problem comes in when the help you need is in the form of erased memories of a man who used to be in the body you currently occupy.
Today, Greg and Taylor are discussing Indestructible Hulk Special 1, originally released October 16th, 2013. This issue is part of the three-part Arms of the Octopus story.
Greg: A friend of mine asked me the other night, “If a guy teleported in front of you, told you he was a time traveler, and asked what year it was, how would you respond?” We’re both comedy folks, so I imagine he was looking to start riffing. Yet rather than fire off any number of instinctual punchlines (“What year is it? Why, it’s Christmas Year, sir!” is one of the many perfect ideas I had), I decided to pause, think, and mull over what I, Greg Smith, human being, would actually do if that actually happened.
“I would probably try to ask him who he was, stammer out panicked words, and then fall over.” And that truth, over any dumb joke I could’ve invented, made him laugh.
Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 18, originally released September 11th, 2013.
Shelby: I think Otto Octavius would be a terrible scientist. I know he’s brilliant, but he’s so arrogant he thinks he’s always right. He’s got no curiosity about anything because he believes he already has the right answer. He doesn’t ask questions or believe he can learn anything from anyone else. It’s a classic villain’s trait, really: the inability to think of the myriad of ways your latest scheme will fail because you are so convinced that you have all the answers. It looks like Otto is finally going to pay the price for his hubris, as his actions today could both kill him and all his friends (or, Peter’s friends, anyway), as well as destroy the future.
In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
— Homer Simpson
Drew: Conservation of both matter and energy are such fundamental concepts, we sometimes take them for granted. Or misunderstand them completely. Folks may choose to ignore the water cycle or how they keep gaining weight, but we’re generally pretty keen to the notion that systems have inputs and outputs. Of course, fiction allows us to break these rules, leading to notions of perpetual motion and unlimited energy — but what if we took those for granted, too? What if the boundless energy of an alien race of children distracted us from the fact that they don’t eat? What do you do when your kids start violating the laws of thermodynamics? In Avengers 13, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer explore this idea, throwing in a bad guy for good measure. Continue reading
Today, Spencer and Mikyzptlk are discussing Avengers 12, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Spencer: One thing I’ve never really associated with Marvel Comics is sidekicks. While there was once a point in DC’s history where nearly every hero had a young partner at their side, Marvel’s adolescent characters tend to act autonomously or stay out of the fray entirely, and even Peter Parker premiered as a full-fledged Spider-Man. There are upsides to both approaches, but what it boils down to for me is that, while I could write volumes on how Batman or Green Arrow treat their protégés, I really have no idea how most of the Avengers fare as mentors. In Avengers 12, Jonathan Hickman (and new co-writer Nick Spencer, of Morning Glories fame) mine this unexplored territory for both laughs and some insightful character moments.