Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Superman Unchained 9, originally released November 5th, 2014.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Patrick: As I sit down to write this piece, the clock on the wall above my desk reads 11:00pm. It’s the end of a long day that’s been packed with all the various activities with which I busy myself. I worked, I ran, I improvised, I saw a show, I socialized. I talked to my sister on the phone, I explored the new podcasts on the Wolfpop network, I listened to that Nintendo Direct (Mario Kart DLC on November 13!), I even found some time to read a few comics. All of my interests were active all day, occasionally shifting in immediate priority so I could focus on completing one thing. This is the only way I know how to live my life — I don’t have much of a plan for my future, because I cannot predict which of these things is going to be / should be the most important thing to me. My enthusiasms revise themselves as opportunities and proficiencies wax and wane, and I’m constantly in fear that this maleability will rob me of genuine perspective. How can a writer have a voice, or a point of view, if they’re not any one thing consistently? In his spectacular finale to Superman Unchained, Scott Snyder posits that adaptability trumps consistency, and that Superman’s lack of defining ideology is his greatest strength. Neither Superman nor Patrick Ehlers stand for any one thing — and that’s what makes us mighty. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Superman Unchained 8, originally released September 10th, 2014.
Patrick: I’d never really considered how strange it is that we refer to the biggest global political players as “super powers.” It’s…weird, right? That’s a phrase taken from our capes and cowls, our frequently immature power fantasies, and applied to governments. It might be comforting to think of the United States as Superman, swooping in to altruistically save the day, but the truth isn’t so clear-cut. How can a government take altruistic action when there is no “self” to sacrifice? One body makes a decision, another carries out the action, and a third has to deal with the consequences. Heroism comes from that internalizing the whole process, from decision-making through the consequences. With Superman Unchained 8, Scott Snyder suggests that Superman can (and should) be that singular entity. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Superman Unchained 7, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Shelby: On the surface, the phrase “fight fire with fire” doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I mean, what are you going to do, set the fire on fire? That’s not going to get you anywhere. While it’s come to mean “taking extreme measures in the face of extreme threat,” its origin is actually fairly logical. As an early fire-fighting method, people would set small, controlled fires to burn up potential fuel and prevent larger, far more damaging fires from spreading. It’s logical until you consider how easy it is for a controlled fire to turn on you, however. In the end, no matter how you use the phrase, ultimately you’re just going to end up getting burned, a lesson learned by General Lane and Wraith in the latest installment of Superman Unchained.
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Superman Unchained 6, originally released March 19th, 2014.
Shelby: Comic books have to be one of the most restrictive forms of media out there. As a writer, you’re stuck dealing with characters with 70-odd years of history hanging around their necks like a lodestone. Deviate too much, and millions of voices cry out in anger before you find yourself suddenly silenced (creatively speaking). But if you don’t deviate enough, you find yourself with a story that is at best seen as a cliché and at worse doesn’t make any sense because there’s no way to make sense of that much backstory. I have a lot of respect for the writers who walk that line, and walk it well; I don’t envy them the choices they have to make. While I have lauded Scott Snyder in the past for his treatment of Batman’s origin story in Year Zero, his take on the Man of Steel falls a little too close to territory we’ve tread before for me to really enjoy it.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 28, originally released February 26, 2014.
Patrick: There’s a persistent tension inherent to any narrative based on a lie or secret between its characters. Writer Dan Slott has been successful enough at fleshing out who exactly Otto is in the body of Peter Parker, so the issue of “will anyone find out what’s really going on?” often takes a back seat to Otto’s superheroic machinations. And yet, that tension is still there: that’s not Peter Parker, and the truth is going to infuriate people. Secret-based stories basically have two options if they’re to last — 1) reveal the mystery and let the characters deal with the ramifications of that revelation (as in Mad Men or Breaking Bad) or 2) string the mystery out ridiculously straining credibility (as in Dexter). With an end-date to the Superior franchise in sight, Slott breathlessly catapults Otto toward option one. It’s an invigorating thrill ride as all of Otto’s chickens come home to roost.
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 27, originally released February 12th, 2014.
Spencer: One of the most enjoyable aspects of a writer having a long run on a title is watching elements from earlier issues resurface in surprising ways later on down the line. I think perhaps my favorite example of this is in Jon Rogers’ pre-reboot Blue Beetle run, where Jaime Reyes managed to bring back weapons, plans, and allies from nearly every one of his earlier adventures to use in his epic endgame against the Reach. It brought a nice sense of closure and finality to the proceedings, not to mention made for a thrilling game of “catch-the-reference.” I got a similar feeling from this week’s Superior Spider-Man, where plot points writer Dan Slott has been seeding for the past 27 issues begin coming back en masse, both to Otto’s relief and to his detriment. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 25, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Spencer: SPOILER ALERT: Peter Parker’s coming back.
Of course, anybody who has been keeping up with comic news in even the slightest already knows this. With news of Peter’s upcoming return in mind, it’s hard to look at The Superior Spider-Man 25 without focusing on just how exactly his return will play out and what it will mean for Otto. Fortunately, writer Dan Slott (assisted on this issue by Christos Gage) is ramping up the intrigue as this book nears its end. I have no idea how this series will resolve itself, but I do know one of the things I’m going to miss most about it: the expansive world and cast of supporting characters Slott has built up around Otto. Continue reading →
Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Superman Unchained 5, originally released January 1st, 2014.
Mikyzptlk: Since the beginning, Kal El has been a man caught between two lives: Clark Kent and Superman. Sometimes, these two lives are shown in conflict, while other times they are shown in harmony with one another. No matter what though, these lives are a part of the Man of Steel. In Superman Unchained 5, the other superman, known as Wraith, attempts to use Kal El’s dichotomy to get Superman to see things his way. Continue reading →
Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Superman Unchained 4, originally released November 6th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Superheroes and the concept of death have a…complicated relationship, to say the least. No matter how a particular hero has died, and no matter how long a character has been six feet under, there is no way to be certain that they will remain dead forever. Bucky Barnes was dead for 50 years before Marvel shocked us all with his resurrection. In the end, all it takes to bring a hero back from the grave are some creative pen strokes and an editor’s approval. With that, the concept of dying in a superhero comic has been diluted to the point of near meaninglessness. Superman Unchained 4 talks a lot about death, more specifically the death of Superman. Of course, we all know that Superman isn’t really going to die, and even if he did, he’d just come back later anyway. So, while Scott Snyder doesn’t actually have me worried about Superman’s fate, he certainly presents one hell of a foreboding issue. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and guest writer Michael D. are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 20, originally released October 30th, 2013.
Drew: Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars? I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but for some reason, we watched the first half-hour of Return of the Jedi in my third grade class. It was the first time I can specifically remember experiencing a narrative out-of-order, and also the first time I so desperately wanted to go back to the start to put it all in context. That’s a sensation that I’ve become quite familiar with over the years (think of every time you’ve been drawn in by a random late-season episode of a TV series), but has become a weekly experience since I started reading comics. Comics can be particularly daunting in that light, as many series are building upon decades of continuity. Writers strive to balance honoring that history while remaining approachable to new readers, and none do it better than Dan Slott. Slott has always managed a careful regimen of harvesting threads he planted years before even as he seeds future stories, and Superior Spider-Man 20 finds him pushing the envelope on both fronts. Continue reading →