Clashing Tones in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42

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

It’s hard to separate a character from the types of stories they inhabit. Indeed, it’s an idea that doesn’t even really make sense in most media, where characters tend to inhabit just the one story, but it kind of runs amok in comics, where there are countless forces pushing characters into other types of stories. There’s crossovers and cameos, which will pull the guest-starring character into the (potentially very different) tonal world of the home series. There’s cross-media franchises, which will accentuate the parts of the character that best suit the medium, whether it’s an action movie, a video-game, or a kids cartoon. And, perhaps more than anything, there’s the monthly grind of telling yet another story with this character, inspiring creators to think outside the box to find something new and exciting to show us. Those forces compound over the decades, such that a given character is less defined by the type of stories they inhabit than the range of stories they could inhabit. Such is the case with Spider-Man, who is so famously versatile to have teamed up with basically everyone in the Marvel Universe, has appeared in countless film and television iterations, and often stars in multiple comics series at once. Even so, there seem to be a few types of stories that Spider-Man isn’t quite suited for, as The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 42 illustrates. Continue reading

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Fisk Keeps His Enemies Closer in Daredevil 597

by Drew Baumgartner

Daredevil 597

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

What rock did these morally pure creatures crawl out from under and, more important, how do you go from innocent millipede to White House staffer without becoming soiled or disillusioned by the dirty realities of politics along the way?

Heather Havrilesky, “Will The West Wing go south?”

There are a lot of things to nitpick about The West Wing, between its heavy-handed Sorkin-isms and its penchant for too-saccharine resolutions, but the one criticism that I can’t stand is that it isn’t realistic enough. Of course it isn’t — it’s fiction. No, these aren’t how actual White House staffers would talk about issues, because how they actually talk would be totally impenetrable to the audience the show is actually made for. Tone-deaf critics would dismiss this as dumbing-down, but the alternative is a highly accurate but totally unwatchable bore. Policy wonks may lament that there’s no television truly tailored to their niche interests, but the rest of us want something, you know, entertaining. Moreover, we understand that in order to generate drama, characters in fiction may need to speak and act in ways that real people wouldn’t (hint: real people don’t only sit on one half of a dining room table or speak in iambic pentameter). Which means the hero sometimes has to be naive in their hopes and dreams — if they know they’re going to crash on the rocks, they might just call the whole adventure off, which doesn’t leave us with much of a story. Such is the case with Matt’s attempt to keep a watchful eye on Fisk. Continue reading

The Limits to Resistance Daredevil 596

by Patrick Ehlers

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

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I took comfort in some of the facts of the matter. For starters, while he won the electoral college, he actually lost the popular vote by more than a million votes. This wasn’t some nation-wide referendum on misogyny and white supremacy, but a statistical loophole exploited by opportunists and trolls. Trump may be in office, but with a historically low approval rating, he is not representing the interests of the people he was elected to lead. But this is a cold fucking comfort. A man in power, even if a widely reviled one, still commands the resources and the authority to make some terrible stuff happen. Wilson Fisk, in his mayoral victory, is an obvious and easy stand-in for Trump, and while Daredevil may be confident that the people of New York City aren’t actually behind Fisk, there’s no denying that the office itself has power. Continue reading

Capturing the Tension of a Post-Trump America in Daredevil 595

by Spencer Irwin

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

The Kingpin, a literal supervillain, has just been elected the Mayor of Marvel’s New York City. If you can read that sentence and not immediately see parallels to the United States’ current political climate, then you’re clearly far blinder than Matt Murdock. In Daredevil 595, Charles Soule and Stefano Landini tap into the confusion, shock, fear, and paranoia that have come to define the last year for so many of us.  Continue reading

It’s Hard to Take Peter Seriously in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

The fact that Chip Zdarsky would be writing his own ongoing Spider-Man series intrigued me from the moment it was announced. Zdarsky’s sad-sack take on Spider-Man was one of the most consistently funny gags in Howard the Duck, but seemed difficult to translate into the star of a monthly title. Even now that we’re three issues into Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man I’m honestly still not 100% sure how it’s worked out. Zdarsky and Adam Kubert ace the series’ humor and have come up with some interesting plots, but their Peter Parker is almost too stupid to function. Continue reading

Prioritizing Responsibilities in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man 2

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

It’s always easy to score political points against the president by suggesting they’re spending too much time relaxing. Folks of every political persuasion have made this argument at some point or another, and it always sounds reasonable because the President obviously has more important things to be doing. With great power, as the saying goes, must also come great responsibility. But of course, even Presidents are people, and while we should certainly hold them to a high standard in terms of workload (that it’s a stressful job is part of the job description), expecting them to never take a vacation is inhumane. This is a point Peter Parker has always fluctuated on. He obviously respects the responsibilities that come with his powers, but he’d also like to be a human being with a fulfilling professional and personal life. Usually, that means he’s constantly running out on dates or jobs to save the day, but Chip Zdarksy and Adam Kubert find a decidedly different approach in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 2. Continue reading

History Deepens in Doctor Strange 23

by Taylor Anderson

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

The Marvel universe is as deep as the Mariana Trench, which is to say it’s practically bottomless. After more than fifty years of continuously pumping out serialized stories, it’s fair to say that no person knows everything about the Marvel universe no matter how much they’ve read. The breadth of its history gives writers a leg up when writing their stories: when you have deep pool to draw from it’s unlikely it will run dry any time soon. Even with the vastness of this narrative landscape, Doctor Strange stands out because it always hints at an even deeper world history beyond the Marvel pages. This is something Dennis Hopeless knows and uses to his great advantage in Doctor Strange 21.

Continue reading

Understanding Golden Age Tropes is an Asset in Doctor Strange 22

by Taylor Anderson

Doctor Strange 22

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

No matter how much success comic book movies have in crossing over into the mainstream or how dark and gritty Christopher Nolan, Alan Moore, or anyone else can make their comic book universe, monthlies will never be able to escape the shadow of the goofiness of the Golden Age. In some ways, the silliness of Golden Age comics have been celebrated by serious comic book fans and writers. They knowingly acknowledge that comics of the past weren’t great, but also pay homage to the stories that gave birth to some of today’s most beloved heroes. Doctor Strange is a product of the Golden Age, and in issue 22 Dennis Hopeless both celebrates and takes a dig at these roots. Continue reading

Doctor Strange 21

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Doctor Strange 21, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

Taylor: Here are Retcon-Punch, we read a lot of comics. This is great in so many ways, but primarily because at no other time in history has their been so many quality options for monthly reads. However, the deluge of great comics can take its toll. Given too much of something good, even great comics, a person quickly becomes numb to their pleasures. Reading so many wonderful series means that it becomes easy, on occasion, to overlook just how amazing and unique some issues really are. It’s for this reason that Doctor Strange 21 stands out to me. Not only is it an excellent issue on its own, but it reminds me why comics are some of the most innovative mediums going today. Continue reading

Daredevil 18

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 18, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Daredevil 18, originally released September 2nd, 2015. 

Act three: The climax occurs as well as the dénouement, a brief period of calm at the end of a film where a state of equilibrium returns. In other words, it is simply the resolution.

Wikipedia, Act (drama)

Drew: It might be reductive to call the final act of a story the most important, but it certainly defines what kind of story it is; is it a tragic or optimistic? Is it about how people and things change or about how they stay the same? Is it about satisfying resolutions for the characters, or satisfying resolutions for the plot? I’ve presented some obviously false dichotomies there, but the point is, the exact nature of a story, from its ultimate message to its storytelling sensibilities, can’t be defined until that final act. That puts a lot of pressure on the final act — a pressure that is doubly true in comics, where the final issue may make up a tiny fraction of the series’ run. Of course, it’s under pressure that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil has always had its highest moments, from moving Matt and company across the country to gracefully integrating into whatever crossovers Marvel cooked up to simply resolving the daring cliffhangers they came up with the month before. Daredevil 18, their final issue, is no different, which is exactly why it’s such a remarkable ending. Continue reading