Captain America: White 2

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Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Captain America: White 2, originally released September 30th, 2015.

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Taylor: For some reason, when I think about World War II, it doesn’t seem like it happened all that long ago. Maybe this is because the war shares many of the same things we see in warfare today like airplanes and tanks and machine guns. Or perhaps the reason it seems fresh is that WWII was a substantially photographed and filmed war, making it an frequent topic of documentaries. Still more, WWII has been the backdrop for much of the pop-culture that has pervaded the 20th and 21st centuries, and with each new story set between the years 1939 and 1945 the war comes alive once again. But WWII ended 70 years ago and few still live who actually saw or took part in its events. It’s a weird dichotomy, this difference between perceived and actual length of time, and if nothing else, Captain America: White 2 has me considering this subject deeply.

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Captain America: White 1

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Today, Andrew and Taylor are discussing Captain America: White 1, originally released September 16th , 2015.

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Andrew: After being unfrozen from the ice after 7 years, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have delivered on their long teased series dissecting our favorite Nazi kicking boy scout, Steve Rogers. In line with their color series (including Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Grey, and Spiderman: Blue), Captain America: White presents a retelling of what made Loeb and Sale fall in love with Captain America in the first place, focused through a thematic color. Loeb and Sale paint a critical picture of this icon without being cynical. The Cap we’ve seen so far is calm, confident, but above all, naive. He is a soldier but not a leader. He has the enormous privilege of superhuman abilities which separate him from ever truly sharing the average soldier’s experience. This privilege and optimism blinds him to the dangers he puts Bucky through. It’s his relationship and loss of Bucky that is put at the forefront of this issue and what ultimately makes him into the nuanced Marvel character that he became today. Continue reading

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos 2

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Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos 2, originally released July 8th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.

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Spencer: One of my best friends and I quite often find ourselves arguing about how “realistic” a story should be. He loves stories that could take place in our “real” world, while they sometimes rub me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s quite a few stories that benefit from a sense of gritty realism (The Black Hood is an excellent, recent example), but I resent the idea that all stories need to be realistic. Our world is quite often an awful place, and fiction is my way of escaping it — I get a lot of joy out of stories that can break the restrictive rules of our reality. Gerry Duggan and Salva Espin’s Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos 2 is just such a story, one which takes great pleasure in transcending the limits of both reality and traditional narrative structures. It’s a hoot. Continue reading

Black Widow 18

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Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Black Widow 18, originally released May 27th, 2015.

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“All these voices / All these memories / Make me feel like stone.
All the people / Make me feel so alone.”

-Brian Wilson, “Midnight’s Another Day

Patrick: One of the universal experiences of the comic book reader is the gradual sense that you’re actually getting to know these characters. Readers watch them grow and evolve, and there’s frequently running voiceover to add extra context to their actions. You ever notice that comic fans are much quicker to refer to Superman as “Clark” than people that just know him as a cultural icon? Surely, everyone knows that Superman is Clark Kent, but only those of us that feel close to him would have the audacity to use his first name. But what happens when a comic series actively keeps the protagonist’s perspective at arm’s length? Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow shows off a Natasha Romanova that can only really be herself when hidden from everyone else. That includes Bucky Barnes, the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., you and me. Continue reading

Black Widow 12

black widow 12Today, Suzanne and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 12, originally released November 19th, 2014.

slim-bannerSuzanne: Have you ever looked at your job description six months into a new job and chuckled to yourself? Rarely do expectations and generally-worded guidelines from corporate align themselves with real-life experiences. How about that summer internship when you felt more like a barista than a business student? Natasha Romanova feels your pain in Black Widow 12, as jobs constantly pull her away from her preferred role as a spy. Continue reading

Punisher 4

punisher 4Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Punisher 4, originally released April 2nd, 2014. 

slim-bannerPatrick: I can’t think of a superhero with a more troubling psychological origin story than Frank Castle. The circumstances are as cliche as they come: Frank’s family is murdered, driving him to take revenge on those responsible. But Frank’s able to abstract that responsibility and extend it to All Criminals. Very pointedly, he is not an agent of justice, and he’s not looking to make anything right — his goals and his ideology are so neatly wrapped up in his code name. Punisher. Obviously, his approach requires a horrifically oversimplified view of criminals, there’s no room for mercy or subtlety. But that also means there’s no room for complication: Frank’s MO is too pure for corruption. The world around Punisher isn’t so simple, and as issue four simultaneously focuses in Frank’s character and broadens out to illuminate his world, it’s clear that he’s up against threats on a scale totally inappropriate for a street-level executioner.

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Punisher 2

punisher 2Today, Spencer and Greg are discussing Punisher 2, originally released February 19th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: As Frank explains in Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’ The Punisher 2, there’s a strata of villains too big for the cops to handle, but not big enough for the superheroes to take notice of. This is the league of villains the Punisher usually goes up against — the kind that can give him a proper fight — but it looks like all that’s about to change. Not only are the Howling Commandos on Frank’s tail, but the Dos Soles gang also has a powerful new weapon that’s out of Frank’s usual league; this is some definite superhero-level business Punisher’s got himself tangled up in here.

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Punisher 1

Alternating Currents: Punisher 1, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Punisher 1, originally released February 5th, 2014. 

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Drew: What defines a character? This is a question at the crux of many narratives, but takes on an added importance in comics, where characters may be written by different writers, and the grind of publishing stories into perpetuity may squeeze characters into ever stranger situations. Is Superman still Superman if he doesn’t wink at the end of his stories? What if he doesn’t wear a cape? What about Batman? Is it still a Batman story if it takes place in Iowa? How many of these details can change before the character is no longer recognizable as the character? Editor Jake Thomas acknowledges this phenomenon directly in the letters page of Punisher 1, where he suggests that Punisher is remarkably capable of being put in different scenarios while staying true to his character. Unfortunately, I see that flexibility as emblematic of Punisher’s lack of distinguishing characteristics, and this issue does little to convince me otherwise. Continue reading