This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. […] We need not wait to see what others do.
You might be more familiar with this quote as it is often paraphrased, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” It’s a (hilariously self-actualized) misquote that kinda sorta captures the sentiment of the original, paring a nuanced sentiment down to something that could fit on a bumper sticker. But we only need to think about the cheery optimism of that bumper sticker for a moment to see the pessimism inherent in it. We can be the solution to the world’s problems, sure, but only because we’re already the cause of them. We need to change because we are what the world is — any problems in it are caused by us (whether by malice, ignorance, or complacency).
It’s a lesson many Americans learned (too late) after Donald Trump was elected. Not because we voted for him, but because we thought not voting for him was enough. We thought we were the solution to the problems we saw in the world, but didn’t appreciate how we were also the problem. We saw the battle over the future of this country as an “us vs. them,” failing to understand that there is only an “us,” that we can only be the solution when we accept that we are the problem. We thought fascism was a thing that happened in other countries, and that America would band together to reject it. We were wrong. Few people understand this (or have articulated it quite as clearly) as Ta-Nehisi Coates, which makes him the ideal writer to tackle Captain America, a series also coming to terms with its own in-universe convulsions of fascism. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Thunderbolts 26, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Shelby: It’s really hard to write about a new creative team on a title; how do you manage to discuss the book as a stand-alone piece without comparing it to the previous issues? It’s even harder when you liked the title before the change, because now you have to make sure you stay objective. If there are things I dislike about the new team, is it because I genuinely dislike it, or is it just because it’s different from how it used to be? I’m faced with this dilemma now as I consider the first issue of Thunderbolts without Charles Soule at the helm, and some of the decisions Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have made with this book definitely have me scratching my head.
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 26, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Patrick: Every time you meet an enemy of the Hulk, you gotta ask yourself: this guy’s not really a bad guy, right? Thaddeus Ross — in his platonic, Hulk-huntin’ phase — is a totally rational individual. Who wouldn’t want to find a way to stomp out the big green guy? Oh sure, he’s more or less learned to control himself now, but Ross’ goal is fundamentally noble. That’s part of the reason the anti-hero label never stuck to him all that well in Thunderbolts. He’s not like the rest of these guys – they’re all amoral killers only looking out for their own selfish ends. But should that make them any more expendable than anyone else? With his final issue on Thunderbolts, Charles Soule reinforces that Ross’ view of his teammates, past and present, is precisely what makes him worthy of their company. But like most of the darker revelations in this series, its tinged with eventual sweetness, and we’re allowed to love these monsters all the same. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 24, originally released April 9th, 2014.
Spencer: It’s rough to start picking up a new comic in the middle of a storyline. If I can’t buy a book starting with issue one, I try to wait for a new storyline to begin, and I’m far from the only person with this strategy. Charles Soule wisely takes advantage of this in his and Paco Diaz’s Thunderbolts 24; while much of the issue is devoted to establishing the new storyline to come, there’s enough focus on the characters and team dynamic to make this the perfect first issue for any Thunderbolts-newbie. If you aren’t already picking this book up, now’s the time to give it a try! Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Thunderbolts 22, originally released February 26th, 2014.
Shelby: Kids love “…and they lived happily ever after.” It’s an uncomplicated and rewarding end to a story; the good guys are rewarded, the bad guys punished, the boy gets the girl, and the plucky sidekicks probably got some action as well. It’s not until you get older that the everything-worked-in-the-end approach grows stale. It’s too neat and clean; we want our stories to reflect the complexities of every day life, not tie everything up in a nicely resolved bow. Personally, I find a too-happy ending where everything works out to be insincere and frankly a little boring. It might be surprising, then, that I love Charles Soule’s latest issue of Thunderbolts. Leave it to Soule to deliver an end to the recent Thunderbolts arc that gives the “good” guys exactly what they want and leaves the bad (by comparison) guy with a mess to deal with, without once appearing insincere.
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 21, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Drew: Life is complicated. It’s an axiom that we’re all familiar with, but in a vacuum, our own lives are pretty simple: we have basic needs that must be met, and additional wants that we try to meet. It’s only when people, with their own conflicting needs and desires, start interacting that things get messy. That’s the stuff narratives are made of — a hero encounters some opposition to what he wants or needs — but what if the team itself is a source of opposition? What if your heroes can’t even decide what their wants and needs are? That’s when thing start to really resemble the complexities of life, and is exactly the kind of situation the team finds themselves in in Thunderbolts 21. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Thunderbolts 20, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Patrick: With issue 20, Thunderbolts enters All-New Marvel NOW! territory. Functionally, this means that this issue should serve as a good jumping-on point for new readers, and the cover broadcasts that in a variety of ways: note that the issue’s number is technically 20.NOW; there’s a second issue number in the upper right corner, declaring this “No Mercy #1”; the All-New Marvel Now logo is emblazoned along the bottom; and finally, the cover prominently features a character that’s not normally on the team. The contents of the issue follow suit, giving us another start to a delightfully self-contained adventure. With it’s one-job-for-you-one-job-for-me structure, Thunderbolts might be the series most perfectly suited for this periodic refreshing of the Marvel line. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 19, originally released December 11th, 2013.
So, that’s what life would be like if I invented the Finglonger. A man can dream through… a man can dream…
Dr. Hubert Farnsworth – Futurama, Anthology of Interest
Patrick: What’s the point of a what-if story? We only ever see those kinds of stories once we really know a set of characters. The conceit — such as I understand it — is that our connection to the characters is so strong that it trumps our connection the rest of their reality. We love Bruce Wayne enough that we can see him as a Green Lantern, we love Bart and Lisa enough that we can see them run for their life from cannibalistic lunch ladies. It’s a chance to look at those characters few a different lens. So what does it mean when a character within the story is generating his own ‘what-if’ scenarios?
[This article will contain SPOILERS – even beyond that which I teased in the intro.] Continue reading →