What in the Ever Loving Hell is Happening in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 299?

by Taylor Anderson

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 299

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

You know those Russian dolls where you find smaller and smaller dolls inside one another until you’re left with just a tiny, little one? Sure you do — everyone knows about them even if they might not know that they’re called Matryoshka Dolls. Well what’s the opposite of these dolls? One where the dolls somehow continue to get bigger and bigger in some brain-twisting way that defies physics and space? I doubt there’s a name for such a doll, but if there was one, it would be called Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 299. Continue reading

Advertisements

Rise of the Black Panther 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Rise of the Black Panther 1

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

“Spinoff!” Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?

Troy McClure, “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase”

Drew: That epigraph might seem a bit glib, but while I understand the criticisms spinoffs get for being uninspired or safe, I’d never dismiss a spinoff as a matter of course. Case in point: The Simpsons is technically a spinoff from The Tracey Ullman Show, but that didn’t stop it from becoming arguably the greatest sitcom of all time. And actually, the discrete nature of The Tracey Ullman Show might just have been part of what makes The Simpsons so successful — there isn’t the temptation to feature cameos from the original show, the way Frasier might with Cheers, for example. That is, The Simpsons could operate in its own world, untethered to the sensibilities of its origin. Unfortunately, despite the decades that separate The Rise of the Black Panther from its main series, it never really manages to form its own identity. Continue reading

Focus vs. Multiple Fronts in Black Panther 168

By Ryan Desaulniers

Black Panther 168

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

Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box

Whether you’re writing an indie comic title or trying to pen the next billion-dollar Star Wars film, a great place to start is by asking, “What is the hardest thing for my characters to do?” True character, after all, is revealed through the most difficult decisions they’re forced to undertake. After a very interesting tangent in Black Panther 166 to meet the new Klaw, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates tries to pile on the challenges facing King T’Challa and the rest of his royal court of protagonists, but is it better to assault a character from all sides, or to offer one clear, powerful opposing force? Continue reading

The (Re)Introduction of Klaw in Black Panther 166

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 166

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

There’s a lot to be excited by in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther run, but one we rarely comment on is that it’s bringing in new readers. As an already popular author and journalist, Coates has an established audience that is much, much larger than the typical comics creator. For evidence, we need look no further than his twitter followers, which number 1-3 orders of magnitude more than most comics creators — heck, he has more followers than most comics publishers. And, importantly, the vast majority of those followers (and Atlantic and Between the World and Me readers) aren’t comics readers. I’ve covered plenty of comics in our 7 years as a site, but tweets about Coates’s Black Panther represent the only times I’ve been asked “where can I buy this comic?” And that’s happened multiple times. Coates is bringing new people to the medium, and that’s something special.

Of course, it also puts him in a bit of an unusual place as a writer. T’Challa is a character with a rich, half-century-long history, and comicdom is notorious for fans who know every bit of that history. How do you reconcile the interests of those fans with those of total neophytes? From the start, Coates has struck an elegant balance, acknowledging many specific beats of that history while also creating entirely new mythologies for the character and his world. No one element represents that better than Ulysses Klaw, whose introduction at the end of last month’s issue crashed one of T’Challa’s oldest enemies into that new mythology. Continue reading

Superherodom Encroaches in Black Panther 18

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 18

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

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther has always vacillated between concerns for greater Wakanda (civil unrest, history, religion) and more straightforward superheroics. It perfectly captures the multiple directions T’Challa is always pulled in, blowing up the typical Marvel interpersonal dramas into matters of state. In recent arcs, those two worlds seem even further apart, as issues almost seemed to alternate between these two concerns. The results have been fantastic — the previous two issues represent opposite ends of that spectrum, and are among the strongest Coates has written — but threatened to split this book into two series running in parallel. That is, until issue 18 reveals that everything might be connected, after all. Continue reading

Oppression Makes Strange Bedfellows in Black Panther 16

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 16

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

The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy. The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).

Kautilya, Arthasastra

Understood more colloquially as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the above sentiment was first recorded in a 4th Century treatise on statecraft. That is, while we might be most familiar with the concept as its used in interpersonal dramas or forming political coalitions, it was first composed to conceptualize a concept in city-state diplomacy. More importantly, Kautilya is quite specific in when this attitude should be applied — basically, only when the “conquerer” stands to lose nothing from the alliance. Such is the case when T’Challa approaches Dr. Eliot Augustus Franklin (better known as Thunderball of the Wrecking Crew) — T’Challa has nothing to lose, and Franklin has everything to gain from cooperating. Continue reading

Nagging Consistency in Black Panther 15

By Ryan Desaulniers

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

All comic series are, in their own way, their own brand, and with a brand comes the idea of offering consistency in the same way that you expect a Big Mac to taste like a Big Mac, no matter where the McDonald’s is. So Spider-Man makes quips and deals with great responsibility, Batman broods, Deadpool makes pop culture references. We expect it. And while creative team changes in long-running series may offer variety, some hallmarks generally remain.  Fifteen issues into the Ta-Nehisi Coates run of Black Panther, the consistencies are starting to wear on me as a reader. Continue reading

The Failings of Friendship in Desperate Times in Secret Empire 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

“The power of friendship” is a popular trope in most media. The idea that most situations can be overcome through the bonds we share with our friends is powerful in a lot of ways, but it’s one that never really seems applicable to war or espionage stories like Secret Empire. Make no mistake, Hydra is not going to be defeated by friendship or optimism alone, but in Secret Empire 5, Nick Spencer, Rod Reis, Andrea Sorrentino, Joshua Cassara, and Rachelle Rosenberg do explore the effect pre-existing relationships have on their conflict. It’s not always a good one. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel 18

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Ms. Marvel 18, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Supporting characters exist, well, to support — to highlight and contrast the protagonist’s various personality traits. Even when supporting characters deal with trauma and plot twists of their own, creators and readers alike have a tendency to only think of those events in terms of how they effect the protagonist. I’ll admit that I’d been thinking that way of Bruno Carrelli, the (former?) best friend of Kamala Khan, after everything he’d gone through in the Civil War II tie-ins; my number one concern was whether he and Kamala would ever be able to repair their relationship. Writer G. Willow Wilson shines the spotlight on Bruno in Ms. Marvel 18, and by doing so, gently reminds her readers that Bruno is his own man with his own unique struggles that are worth considering and empathizing with. Continue reading

Black Panther 11

Alternating Currents: Black Panther 11, Drew and Ryan D

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Black Panther 11, originally released February 22nd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Comics is a medium of juxtaposition. We derive meaning from seeing two images next to one another, understanding some causal link that only exists in our minds. The magic, then, is crafting those images such that the reader can piece together the causality in a natural, intuitive way. That includes both the content of the images and the arrangement of those images on the page, which is remarkably complex. Indeed, in his seminal Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud points out that arranging panels is so complex “that even seasoned pros will sometimes blow it.” While the clarity issues in Black Panther 11 have more to do with content than layouts, I feel this sentiment is particularly apt, as the issue was drawn by not just one, but a veritable army of seasoned artists. It’s odd to argue that this artistic team failed to make this issue clear, but I’m afraid that’s really the lynchpin upon which all of this issue’s problems turn. Continue reading