(Re)defining the Hulk in The Immortal Hulk 1

by Drew Baumgartner

The Immortal Hulk 1

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

It might be stating the obvious to suggest that the Hulk’s identity is fraught, but I don’t mean it in the Jungian dualistic sense. Obviously, the tension between Bruce Banner and the Hulk is the primary source of drama for the character, but the Hulk has long suffered from a different kind of identity crisis, in that no two writers ever seem to agree on who and what he is. Is he a senseless destructive force, or is he capable of reason? Is he a monosyllabic brute, or a brilliant physicist? I’ve only occasionally checked in on Hulk’s solo series over the past five or so years, and I’ve seen takes that pretty much run the gamut, if that’s any indication of how rapidly and wildly consecutive runs can change the character. And to be clear, I don’t necessarily see this as a weakness — I’d argue that the flexibility of superheroes to fit the themes different creative teams are most interested in exploring is a huge part of their longevity — but I do think it demands a strong statement of purpose at the start of a run; something to clarify exactly what kind of Hulk we should expect to see. Something like Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk 1, which introduces the specifics of this particular iteration with remarkable efficiency. Continue reading

Hope Springs Eternal in Captain America 700

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 700

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

Superheroes don’t get endings. They might die, sure, but are inevitably resurrected months, years, or decades down the line. And they’re brought back for the same reason superheroes don’t get endings: there’s always another story to tell (and another dollar to be made telling it). Fans may sometimes get jaded about this — especially when a hero is killed off for the umpteenth time — but that lack of closure keeps superheroes in a holding pattern in the middle of the hero’s journey. They may have momentary successes, sure, but they never get to kick up their heels at the end of a career well-served. You know, unless you can find some kind of alternate universe/timeline workaround that allows your hero some sense of closure while still allowing him to carry on the fight tomorrow. That’s exactly the kind of workaround Mark Waid and Chris Samnee cook up in Captain America 700, giving Steve the kind of heroic end he can only have if there’s some kind of trick. Continue reading

The Burden and Joy of Public Service in Captain America 699

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 699

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

For many superheroes, superheroics are a means of righting some cosmic injustice — the death of a loved one a the hands of a criminal, for example. Indeed, that particular motivation is so ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that many heroes are motivated not out of some personal vendetta, but because they feel morally compelled to help when they can. We tend to think of Spider-Man (death of a loved one at the hands of a criminal notwithstanding) for that kind of power/responsibility stuff, but I’ll suggest that Captain America might embody those ideals even more thoroughly. For Cap, superheroing is a public service, no different from volunteering at a soup kitchen or picking up trash at your local park. He’s able to make the world a better place by being Captain America, so he has to be Captain America. Again, it’s not an attitude that’s entirely unique to Steve Rogers, but as Mark Waid and Chris Samnee crank that aspect up to eleven in Captain America 699, it’s hard to imagine any other character living that ideal so perfectly. Continue reading

Secret Empire 6: Discussion

by Ryan Mogge and Michael DeLaney

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

Ryan: Wednesday is the worst day of the week for soap operas. The storylines all build to a Friday afternoon cliffhanger, so by mid week you are still wrapping up the fallout of last week and are too early for this week’s storylines to be very juicy. Nick Spencer and Leinil Francis Yu are mid-run in Secret Empire 6, and rather than an issue with a self-contained arc that can be completed, we get bits and pieces of several arcs, with only limited links holding them together. 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

Spider-Woman 11

Alternating Currents: Spider-Woman 11, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Spider-Woman 11, originally released September 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

The five stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Drew: As a psychological heuristic, Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief is arguably as well-known as Freud’s id, ego, and super-ego structural model. However, that may make it one of the most misunderstood, as Kübler-Ross explains in the quote above. We often talk about those five stages as if they fall into a prescribed linear order, but it was never really meant to be understood in that way. Which is to say: someone experiencing grief may feel any or none of these feelings in any order or any combination. Grief is a remarkably complex phenomenon that everyone experiences differently — some might feel mostly depression or mostly denial, while others, like Jessica Drew in Spider-Woman 11, feel mostly anger. Continue reading

Avengers 39

avengers 39Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Avengers 39, originally released December 10th, 2014. 

Spencer: When you read enough comics, you start to see certain repeated themes and styles emerge among various writers. Brian Michael Bendis is known for dialogue-heavy, somewhat decompressed comics. Kieron Gillen makes no attempt to hide his musical influences and knack for clever dialogue. Geoff Johns loves to rehabilitate long-forgotten or mishandled characters and concepts (and is also a bit infamous for cutting off his characters’ arms). Jonathan Hickman, meanwhile, is probably best known for his cerebral, somewhat detached style of writing that can spend years setting things up before finally letting all the dominos fall into place. With this week’s Avengers 39 we’re getting closer and closer to the end of Hickman’s Avengers epic, but the most interesting part of the issue is the commentary Hickman seems to be making on his own writing style. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men 25

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Uncanny X-Men 25, originally released September 3rd, 2014.

Taylor: While comics readers know it not to be true, there is a stigma that hero worship is something juvenile. Why this stigma persists I can’t say — after all, we have grown men who wear the jerseys of their sports heroes on a weekly basis. Why superhero worship is considered nerdy in comparison to these other idols, I don’t know. Still, it says something about people that we love to have heroes, even after we’ve reached an age where we like to think we don’t need them anymore. But the weird thing about heroes is that they seldom live up to our conception of them. We seem to never outgrow this aspect of hero worship, and as Scott Summers learns in Uncanny X-Men 25, this can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Continue reading

New Avengers 19

new avengers 19Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 19, originally released June 11th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: The more I look at the following panels, the more I realize how succinctly they sum up the primary conflict of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s New Avengers 19.

Are we monsters, or are we DEVO?The Illuminati are no longer concerned about whether they can stop the Incursions without destroying inhabited worlds (spoiler alert: they can’t), nor are they any longer concerned about their mission turning them into monsters (they seem to have realized that it’s all but inevitable, and the title of this issue is even “We Are All Monsters Now,” as if to dissuade the reader of any hope otherwise); instead, the million dollar question now seems to be whether it’s better to die with one’s morality intact or to save the universe, but at the cost of one’s own soul.

Continue reading

New Avengers 18

new avengers 18Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 18, originally released May 14th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: As I’m sure most of us do, I love the big, climatic final battles that usually come at the end of superhero stories. That said, I’m perhaps even more fond of the moments before the final battle, the calm before the storm, the time where the heroes prepare and steady themselves for the horrors to come. Many heroes use this as an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve lost or to visit with their loved ones, but the Illuminati — as pragmatic as ever — mainly use it to steel their resolve and to prepare to do the unthinkable. After all, for them this is only the final battle if they lose; if they win, they get to continue on dealing with an infinite number of Incursions. No wonder they’re so grumpy. Continue reading