Three Interrogation Scenes in Old Man Hawkeye 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Old Man Hawkeye 2

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

The conventional wisdom in improv is that transaction scenes — like those between a customer and a storekeeper — are inherently uninteresting. The relationship between the two characters is impersonal and perfunctory, and the transaction is void of any tension. Any of those elements can be changed to rescue a transaction scene, but beginners are encouraged to avoid those setups altogether in favor of those that have relationships and tension built in to the premise. (At least, this is my understanding, though I’m prepared to have our improv contingent correct me in the comments.) Interrogation scenes definitely have that tension built in, as one person wants information the other is reluctant to share, but the relationships are often still impersonal. Moreover, they’re scenes we’ve seen a million times, whether they’re taking place in a police station or as Batman dangles a crook from some rooftop. Which is to say, the tension isn’t quite enough to carry those scenes. Like a transaction scene, an interrogation can be rescued if complications are added in the right places. Unfortunately, those complications are largely absent from Old Man Hawkeye 2, leaving two of its its three interrogations feeling pretty limp. Continue reading

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Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Omega Spoils Itself

by Drew Baumgartner

Venom Inc Omega

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

How do we feel about Marvel’s “alpha” and “omega” strategy to crossovers? That is, mostly embedding the crossover in already-running monthlies, reducing the event series to just the first and last chapters of the story. They’re harder to skip by design — where you might be able to simply ignore an entire event series, you might be pulled into a crossover if a book you’re following is participating — but that can be frustrating to otherwise disinterested readers. Another downside that I hadn’t considered is that the stakes of an omega issue are kind of necessarily neutered — their inessential nature means they lack the ballast to make any changes that would be too earth-shattering to its participating series. Any big changes must have already happened in the series it would most effect, leaving the omega to tie up the loose ends with as little disruption to the status quo as possible. I don’t love to lead with these kind of meta-critiques of an issue (honestly, most superhero story arcs wrap up with the same kind of predictable return-to-normal), but Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Omega seems determined to keep it at the forefront of my mind, stymying any tension at every chance it gets. Continue reading

A Different Set of Stakes in Old Man Hawkeye 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Old Man Hawkeye 1

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

There are plenty of valid critiques of individual prequels, but I’ll never understand the argument that prequels are robbed of stakes because we know who survives the story. This ties into my wariness of spoiler concerns that privilege plot over all other aspects of consuming a story, but with the added twist of fetishizing death as the only stakes a story could possibly have. It falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny — the protagonist’s survival can be assumed for the vast majority of stories, and I reject the notion that this fact inherently makes those stories inferior. We know Vito must survive the flashback story in The Godfather Part II, but it is also regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time — held in higher esteem than virtually all movies where the protagonist might maybe die in the third act. Not all stories are life-and-death stories, and not all life-and-death stories require us to actually believe that the character might die. Such is the case with Old Man Hawkeye, which tells the story of Clint Barton before he went on that fateful road trip in Old Man Logan. (So, you know, heads up about spoilers for that series after the jump.)  Continue reading

Heroes and Villains Alike Assemble Their Armies in Amazing Spider-Man 793

by Spencer Irwin

Amazing Spider-Man 793

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

By the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 793 — the fourth installment of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom Inc.” crossover — the many various players that have filled out this story have essentially grouped into two opposing sides. What’s interesting is the way these factions differ from each other. Continue reading

Middle-Chapter Blues in Amazing Spider-Man 792

by Spencer Irwin

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

The middle chapters of multi-issue storylines sometimes suffer a bit. They’re not a beginning, they’re not an ending — sometimes all they can do is move a few plot points forward, hopefully in the most entertaining manner possible. The Amazing Spider-Man 792, the second installment of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom Inc” crossover, is decidedly one of those middle chapters, but even in comparison to other middle chapters it suffers a bit. Continue reading

Everybody Wants to be Venom in the Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha

by Spencer Irwin

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

Legacy heroes (and villains!) always present a bit of a conundrum. The inheritors of the mantles tend to bring much needed diversity and fresh perspectives to their stories and quickly amass fanbases, but of course the original characters have lifelong fans who aren’t happy to see their beloved heroes pushed aside, even temporarily. To me, the obvious solution has always been to have multiple characters share names and roles: why not have two Captains America or two Hawkeyes, four Flashes or a million Green Lanterns?

Both this conflict and this solution seem to be the core of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s new crossover event, Venom Inc. It’s a story that finds the various men who have been Venom fighting over their right to symbiote, and which, at least for the moment, seems to be finding great joy in including as many Venoms as possible. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1

ASM Renew Yor Vows 1 header

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1, originally released June 3rd, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check back tomorrow for our Secret Wars Round-Up!

secret wars div

Spencer: Becoming a parent requires a serious reshuffling of priorities. Unlike what a lot of movies will try to convince you, it doesn’t mean that a new parent has to drop every activity they ever loved, but it does mean that those activities — and literally everything else in the world — takes a back seat to the duty they have to raise and protect their new child. It’s a staggering responsibility, even to someone like Peter Parker, who, as Spider-Man, has devoted most of his life to shouldering great responsibility. What happens when Peter puts his family before his duties as Spider-Man? That’s the question at the heart of The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1, and the answer is rather startling. Continue reading

Spider-Verse 1

Alternating Currents: Spider-Verse 1, Drew and SpencerToday, Drew and Spencer are discussing Spider-Verse 1, originally released November 12th, 2014.

Drew: I tend to jump to conclusions about media before I’ve ever consumed it. I know that seems problematic for someone who reviews media, but with so many movies, shows, and comic books out there, it’s impossible to try them all, so I tend to gravitate towards the ones I think I’ll like. Of course, it’s an imperfect system, meaning I sometimes bet on a dud, or miss something truly great, but without any other way to pre-filter content, I continue to defer to my gut. After weeks and weeks of buildup to Spider-Verse, which seemed to pimp the event as a high-stakes affirmation of Spider-Man’s necessity in not just our universe, but ALL universes, my gut was telling me that this event was not for me, but I decided to give it a fair shot. Fortunately, my gut turned out to be wrong, with Spider-Verse 1 serving not as a herald of doom and gloom, but as a celebration of what makes the idea of Spider-Man so fun in the first place. Continue reading

Guardians of the Galaxy 16

guardians of the galaxy 16

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 16, originally released June 25th, 2014.

Patrick: I very vividly remember being first introduced to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – it was late in the summer of 2003, and I was visiting my buddy Scott at his parents’ house between our Freshman and Sophomore years of college. Scottie had been playing the game on a borrowed console and the whole thing felt like a kind of wish fulfillment: suddenly there was a whole galaxy of Star Wars characters, stories and locations to explore, and all without leaving the confines of a single video game. There’s a promise inherent in KotOR’s premise – the depths of your imagination are already on display here, you only need look hard enough. This immediately becomes overwhelming. Even when alien races and spaceship designs look the way you remember them, you realize that any emotional connection you make with the material must be generated in-game. Without my core band of plucky rebels to get my automatic-love, I was left without a rudder, and instead of sailing the high seas of Star Wars adventures, I was mired in meaningless ephemera. This is often how I feel about the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. I may be able to recognize Broods and Spartax and Skrulls and Grand Inquisitors, but without someone to actually care about at the heart of it? Not a lot to hang a story on. Brian Michael Bendis addresses this issue head-on by spreading the Guardians of the Galaxy out among the cosmos. Suddenly, even the muddiest mythology has emotional resonance.

Continue reading

Thunderbolts 21

Alternating Currents: Thunderbolts 21, Drew and Shelby

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