Comic POW! evolved from our Friday Morning conversations as Dan and I discussed the week’s comics. After a few weeks I came to realize that Dan and I take away very different things from comics. Dan tends to enjoy comics for the art and metaphor and he prefers creator owned comics. I tend to emphasis the story and how it relates to the wider continuity. I’m a lifelong Marvel fan and newly into DC.
So I decided to share that weekly conversation with you guys. Every week we’ll each select a new issue and see if we can convince the other person the comic we chose deserves to be called the best comic of that week. Sometimes it’ll be easy. Other times it might be an epic battle. We also have some special battles planned for the future. Just a quick note, in order for the battles to get into the details of a particular issue, there will be spoilers! That’s part of the reason why we chose to do this on Fridays instead of Wednesdays.
Well, join me after the jump, and let’s get started!
Dan’s Impression: Not a good day for Reed Richards anywhere. Reed Richards Apology-Fest 2011 continues!
Eric’s Impression: A great book that ties everything together before November’s climax
Eric: Alright, for my first Comic POW! I decided to go with FF #11. It was a tough week for me to choose which book rose above the rest, so I decided to try and see if I could win by going for the Hickman book since I know you love Hickman so much.
Dan: That’s a tricky tactic there. Go right for my weak spot! Eric uses Hickman. It’s Super Effective!
Dan: When I got to this book in my stack, I gotta admit, it came close to being my selection.
Eric: Nice! I was afraid we’d both select the same one. So let’s start off with a tiny bit of backstory for our readers in case they haven’t been following. Back in Fantastic Four #588, Reed used a machine he’d built a while back. With this machine he found a bunch of other dimensional Reeds.
Dan: Oh, wow, we’re going way back to the start of Hickman’s run, but it kind of feels necessary, doesn’t it?
Eric: It definitely does with him. Man, what would you do if you found a bunch of dimensional Dans?
Dan: We’d probably get a LAN party going or maybe I’d end up using them to revive an ancient evil. I dunno.
Eric: Tricky, tricky.
Dan: So yeah, multi-dimensional Reeds end up stranded in 616
Dan: And they start hatching a plot to get back home that puts the world in danger
Eric: But who cares it’s just 616. At least that’s their thought process
Dan: Dimensional Reeds tend to have this “the needs of the many” attitude that comes from their deep-seated daddy issues
Eric: Oh yeah. There’s a whole segment of Hickman’s run that deals with Nathaniel, but we can skip that for now. The last thing the readers need to know is about the Kree and the Inhumans. What’s up with them and their giant headed dude?
Dan: I bet the people complaining about the Inhuman digression are feeling kind of sheepish now.
Eric: Haha. Well, you probably remember the backstory a bit better than me. Who are these guys and why are they fighting?
Dan: Hoo boy … The Kree are a spacefaring race whose (bad science ahoy!) evolution has stagnated. So they tried to jumpstart evolution in a bunch of different places, like Earth to gain insight into fixing their stagnation
Dan: They created the Inhumans, blah blah blah, prophesy said the Inhumans would destroy the Kree and the Supreme Intelligence
Eric: The Earth thing, and maybe I missed this: does this make them like the unseen aliens from
Space Odessy 2001? Did they kickstart evolution on Earth?
Dan: Man… Not quite… it gets really complicated see, the Celestials were there first, they experimented on humans and created Eternals and Deviants.
Eric: I see
Dan: THEN the Kree came and spliced Eternals with Cro-Magnon dudes to make Inhumans.
Eric: So they’re trying to kill the Inhumans as preemptive strike
Dan: I don’t know if you remember this from the Kree Digression, but the Supreme Intelligence tried to destroy all the evolution seeds that he planted. For some reason he only got to 99% of the planets, which spared Earth and the planets the Universal Inhumans were from.
Eric: Lucky us
Dan: Really this is just the Supreme Intelligence completing the job he failed to do
Dan: And wiping out that which was destined to destroy him
Eric: I think that gets us up to speed with what we need for this issue
Eric: Well, except for the Negative Zone, but we can deal with that when we get there. Alright, so my first impression of what I loved in this book is that it has so much going for it. It has great humor. It has dramatic tension. And, one of my favorite moments in storytelling – all the disparate story lines are coming together. What about you?
Dan: You know, I was just typing an almost identical line. I thought that the humor in the hero meeting was way awesome and vital for breaking up the tension that fills the rest of the book.
Eric: Alright. That fares well for my plan to use this book to win!
Dan: So what was your favorite storytelling moment there? Don’t keep us all in suspense! Eric: Oh, we’ll get to it. So, page 1 we start off with the kids and a great bit of humor between Franklin and Leech.
Dan: You know X-Kids way better than I do. Is Leech supposed to be kind of slow?
Eric: I think just very unfamiliar with the world. I’m not sure if his origin has been changed, but he used to live in the sewers. So he may not have the best context.
Dan: Oh, so he was a Morlock?
Eric: Yeah, at least he rolled with them I think what I loved most here was how Hickman really gets into how kids think…
Dan: Well, kids with natural intelligence levels. When you start to get to Valeria…
Eric: Because when Franklin is talking about how bad things have become he mentions bad breath and wetting the bed. The next page has all the super smart kids and Moloids working on some project. We don’t know what it is yet, but they mention working on a special project near the end of Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. They seem to be most concerned with saving Johnny.
Dan: You mean Project: Kill Anihilus?
Eric: Exactly! Great memory! And there have been hints in the marketing materials that this is exactly where this is leading. The next few pages have Reed discovering the project and we get to one of my favorite things about Hickman’s run – the moments when Reed and Valeria are duking it out intellectually
Dan: It’s been stated that her intelligence outpaces that of her father and she’s, what, four years old?
Eric: Yeah, and that’s where it’s so great that Hickman can get into kids’ heads. Sure, she’s smarter than her dad but she’s got the emotional and maturity levels of a little kid. So I’m looking forward to see how this works out…. I’m thinking badly
Dan: Well what else has Valeria ruined? She did technically unleash the Dimensional Reeds upon 616. So she’s 0-1. If she gets this right she’ll be batting .500
Eric: Yeah, but she did make a deal with Doom. We don’t know yet if that’ll be a good thing or not. Sure, her future older brother told her that, but Nathatnial hatched the plan, didn’t he? And traditionally he’s been a bit of a jerk.
Dan: This comic suffered from a Doom Deficiency
Eric: That’s definitely true. I wanted to see what happened there more than anything else Dan: Suspense! That’s good writing
Eric: Anyway, I think the only real low point of this issue – is where Hickman’s usual tight consistency seems to be off. Reed tells Valeria he called in for help but at the end of the last issue Ben comes with the Avengers and it seems like it’s Ben’s doing. Thoughts?
Dan: So the low point of the book was when Reed Richards took credit for something his best friend did to look cool in front of his daughter? I didn’t read it like a consistency error. Regardless of who brought whom, Reed and company were going to work with heroes instead of villains
Eric: Well, I think it just goes to show how well I thought this book did. I don’t know it just seemed sloppy. But now that you mention it: sure maybe he was trying to look cool. I never thought of Reed being the type to care about things like that
Dan: Who knows? Reed didn’t even summon Ben, really. Spider-Man’s the one who brought him. It’s a really tiny point to harp on
Eric: I agree. The next few pages have the Kree seemingly freeing two of the inter-dimensional Reeds. Anything you wanted to mention about that?
Dan: It was nice to check in with Diablo and the Mad Thinker, the latter of which made a rather prescient point about failing to account for all the variables. Specs-Reed and Dumb-Reed end up getting a rude awakening because they missed a few vital facts.
Eric: It’s a good point to make. They also serve the trope of “those two guys” in this issue by providing something to think about – the concepts of the unexpected – in a way that doesn’t break the narrative flow because the Mad Thinker is crazy. Of course he’d be babbling on about this stuff
Eric: So that’s a neat trick of Hickman’s and a good example of why I love discussing these things with you. I’d just seen their scene it as comic relief.
Dan: That’s really the mark of a good writer. Silver Age guys get lazy and have everyone speak aloud like they have verbal diarrhea. When you’re paying attention to what you’re doing and trying to make your words and panels count, you, as a reader, have to think about what’s happening and whether or not any moment is trivial.
Eric: Knowing Hickman maybe that’s the entire reason he had the enemies assemble. We then move on to the Cult of the Negative Zone
Dan: I really dig the leader’s head tattoo. Reminds me of “Do Not Enter” signs
Eric: Doesn’t really leave any ambiguity “Are you the cult of the positive zone?” “No dude, look at my head!”
Dan: Dude is straight up negative
Eric: This whole section is mostly just setup for Fantastic Four #600.
Dan: I hope the Cult of the Negative Zone has an odd number of members…
Eric: And then we get to Reed’s speech to the Avengers and X-Men
Dan: Which appears to have some focus issues.
Eric: Very true.
Dan: “Here’s the plan guys,”
“Let’s crack jokes instead of listening!”
Eric: I’d like to say first about this page that just has a bunch of Reed panels: I’m kinda getting sick of Reed apologizing. And I don’t mean to say that Hickman is doing a bad job. What I mean is that someone needs to take Reed aside and tell him they aren’t going to abide his arrogance causing problems all the dung time.
Dan: FF really has been the “Reed Apology Tour 2011”
Eric: Yeah. For a second there, I actually thought Sue might end up separating or divorcing him out of rage. That this stupid apologies weren’t enough anymore
Dan: Wow, you read their interactions a lot more harshly than I ever did. Last issue’s apology and knowing smile seemed pretty playful to me
Eric: Oh yeah, I mean more in terms of across Hickman’s entire run. Including when she gave him the week ultimatum. I mean Hickman’s not crude enough to come out and say or or maybe I’m not remembering it right, but on top of ignoring his family, he was straight up not doing his husbandly duties. And that’s part of a healthy marriage – on top of all the other neglect issues.
Dan: There’s no elderly aunt to die to separate their marriage. I think the prevailing image that Hickman has been trying to convey is that this is one of the most stable relationships in the Marvel U
Eric: Hehe. I agree with you there after Reed and Sue worked things out. It just seems like eventually Marvel Universe may imprison Reed because “I’m Sorry” won’t be enough anymore.
Dan: You really should read the Ultimate FF books. It’s weird how well it integrates with Hickman’s work. Ultimate Reed is a threat to humanity most of the time and Ultimate Reed is the first “big bad” The Ultimates are facing in the reboot.
Eric: Hehe. Anyway, we get the meeting with its humor but what really turned me around for this issue was what happens next.
Dan: Before we move on, It’s a nice touch to have it be She-Hulk getting so chummy with Sue since she was a former F4 member
Eric: Yeah that whole scene was great. So, for the next scene: I don’t know if you felt the same way, but I thought the Kree were freeing the Richards to get them to work together. And I thought the Reeds were going to end up double-crossing them
Dan: I definitely wasn’t expecting Ronan to use the Reeds as fertilizer for the Supremor Seed
Eric: When that thing started eating their brain and he kicked them into the pit 300-style – I was like “OH SNAP!”
Eric: Yeha, for a sec I thought he was all #Spiderlsland-ed up
Dan: The result is truly bizarre too: a Supreme Intelligence with two sets of eyes versus his normal one pair look. Considering that he was created in the High Evolution Engine (or whatever it was called) by two Reeds makes me wonder if this is a more-evolved Supreme Intelligence instead of just an ugly one
Eric: Oh, I guess that’s possible So then he sends the Kree armies against Earth. da da dum! So it’s got everything: humor, betrayal, drama, suspense.
Dan: Even a little body horror
Eric It’s really a mixture of all the best ingredients for a story and it works well.
Dan: It’s a tough act to follow
Eric So, have I convinced you that you chose the wrong book? Mwahaha! Dan: Give up before I even counterattack?
Dan: No way
Dan’s Impressions: What if yin and yang became yang and yin?
Eric Impressions: Extremely beautiful! Now if someone could just tell me what happened!
Dan: It was tough coming up with my choice for the bout today. On one hand I had Daredevil, a pure comic book that is, honestly, the absolute minimum that we should expect in comic quality, and on the other I had Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger’s beautiful resolution. Since C&D illustrates the potential that mainstream comics have better than Daredevil, I’m submitting SI: C&D #3
Eric: A bold choice
Dan: It’s definitey denser and less approachable. I wonder what other people will think of this book. To start with, I think it’s gorgeous
Eric: Definitely agree with you there. Emma Rios’ artwork is extravagant. In fact, my first impression was that it was pretty, but what the hell happened within these pages?
Dan: Ok, well let me talk a little bit about Cloak and Dagger’s history to get you up to speed on that. Remember in the 70s and 80s when Marvel was into comics with a social slant? Cloak and Dagger was another one of their anti-drug comics
Dan: Both Ty and Tandy were runaways for different reasons, but they were kidnapped by a drug dealer and injected with a designer drug called D-Lite (Dark-Light) meant to mimic heroin and it gave them their powers.
Eric: Man, I’d like that drug
Dan: Well, maybe not because it only awakened latent powers within them and killed everyone else
Eric: Oh, darn
Dan: The duo contrasts perfectly: Tandy has light (and can cure drug addiction with her light daggers) and Tyrone has dark. She needs to let off light or she dies and he needs to take light or he dies. It’s symbiotic. They need each other.
Eric: Can they get this light from the sun? Or does it have to be power light?
Dan: I’m not 100% on the specifics, but I think it’s just regular-ass light
Dan: Visible spectrum stuff. One last little detail: the drug was created by D’Spayre and Ty and Tandy’s powers are the light and dark manifestations of his power. You might recognize that name as the dude who appears at the end of the book
Eric: Yeah. I was wondering who he was
Dan: He causes despair, hence the name (read it really quickly).
Eric: Yup, I got that – I just thought he was a generic demon with a silly name
Dan: I think he comes from that awesome time when Marvel didn’t really hide character names well. Diablo was once Esteban Corazón de Ablo
Dan: Never mind that Ablo is not a place
Eric: And they should have made him Italian so it’d be di Ablo :). But now we’re off on a huge tangent
Dan: Right, back on track. Now, I’m cheating here a little because I want to draw upon the previous two books in this mini. I know you read them too, so I’ll keep the pertinent points clear.
Dan: Tandy appears to be tired of Tyrone smothering her and she’s been attending a local community college, hungering for knowledge and normalcy. Tyrone, on the other hand, has been trying to provide for Tandy and goes out of his way to protect her. With that I think we’re ready to go into the book itself
Eric: Sounds good
Eric: Well, the first page with the girls and Suan Ming is great. Suan is watching Spidey on TV and the girls are cleaning with the help of spider powers. A nice bit of levity before things get really dark
Dan: I loved that little moment. It feels like a throwaway, but it emphasizes that Suan Ming is always right. She warns that the darkness is coming and the girls think she means literal night, but she’s really talking about Tandy, who shuts off the lights hungering for light. The little, “I’ve still got it” joke is well-earned there
Eric: I didn’t even catch the girl walking on the ceiling until the second time around. So the next bunch of pages involve Mr. Negative, who’s captured them, and Cloak flaking while Dagger is spouting a bunch of…nonsense?
Dan: You know, I tend to check on these things. I try typing them into Google to see if the author is quoting something that’s just too obscure for me to recognize, but I got nothing. Her speech does actually make sense on the surface.
Eric: Yeah, I just wasn’t exactly sure what she was saying or why?
Dan: Apparently the Darkforce is pretty overwhelming? She’s definitely not all there.
Dan: The general theme being that she’s out of control, hungering, and barely on the edge. Her life is in serious danger here. If she doesn’t get light
Eric: I’m also curious if you have any insight on Mr Negative’s words to Cloak: “Corrected your mistakes, Mr Johnson. Don’t you even feel the slightest bit responsible for all you’ve done?” If D’Spyre injected them – what about this is Cloak’s fault?
Dan: Well, D’Spyre didn’t inject him, but that detail is inconsequential. I really feel like it’s Mr. Negative goading Cloak into taking his bargain later by insulting Tyrone’s inability to protect Dagger. It sounds like Mr. Negative is telling Cloak that if he were better, neither of them would have been captured and Dagger wouldn’t be dying. If he had done a better job of providing for her, she wouldn’t have pulled away from him and been by herself when she was captured. That kind of thing
Eric: I see. As far as “start a war” – bait for a future C&D series?
Dan: Most likely. So Cloak takes Mr. Negative’s deal, the same one he offered Tandy, really, becomes Light-Cloak, and he saves Tandy by totally making out with her
Eric: Yeah, we read the climax of the book. No pun intended?
Eric: Because I was left a little unclear on whether it went further than a kiss mostly because of what Tandy says when they land
Dan: You’re always reading way too into this. Where are you reading sex?
Eric: I saw it as possibly they went further or maybe she was just weired out because they were like a brother and sister and made out. Well, basically from when she surveys the damage and says “Was that us when we — um — was that us?” Why not say kiss unless it was more than that? Maybe all of the DCnU’s fan service has messed up my perceptions
Dan: I think we saw all of it, but it’s more than a kiss. It was a direct transfer of light into her dark (ok, now that sounds kind of dirty) that was super explosive.
Eric: That’s right his light went into her dark!
Dan: Before I move on, I do want to mention that the two spreads, the kiss and the explosion, were definitely well done by Rios and Javier Rodriguez. The way that darkness and light take on almost tangible form in this series has been great
Eric: It’s funny because, having read Buffy Season 9 this year, this is the second time in 2011 that “love” has had destructive consequences (6:55:01 PM) Eric: In this case, flattening part of Chinatown
Dan: Love always has destructive consequences, man
Eric: Dude, that was beautiful, haha. It really does bring home what they were saying there, doesn’t it?
Dan: Oh, totally. Theirs is a relationship that is codependent and scary powerful. They really do rely on each other and absolutely need each other and they need to be opposites of each other
Eric: There’s actually another bit of dialog that supports that they were just kissing – Tandy: I can’t believe we swapped spit and powers.
Dan: Indeed. Here’s where the book got me, though. The power swap didn’t click in my mind until I was going to bed last night thinking about this book.
Dan: Tandy spent all of the mini hungering for something more, never satisfied with what she had while Tyrone spent all of the mini desperately trying to protect and provide for the gaping hole that appeared to be opening up in Tandy’s heart.
Eric: Ah, good catch!
Dan: One sounds more like the Darkforce and the other sounds more like the light to me!
Eric: I have to say that I felt the whole “love conquers” theme to be both cliché, but also perfect for the themes of this mini-series
Dan: It’s inescapable when you’re writing about Cloak and Dagger. They both desperately need each other just to survive. 1/3 of this mini was spent driving a wedge between them
Eric: So after that they basically have a nice moment, affirming they need each other
Dan: And we get a nice bookend to the dual-perspective intro to the mini
Eric: There’s an epilogue that seems mostly pointless unless there’s a C&D ongoing.
Dan: That’s true. The end of the book exists to pump up a C&D ongoing. Having their first encounter be with the source of their powers isn’t a bad plan. It’s nice to catch glimpses of them fighting crime with their flip-flopped powers, too
Eric: Yeah. And there’s no reason they can’t end up tagging along for a while with the Avengers or someone
Dan: I suppose that’s true, but I don’t think a group book would allow a writer to explore much about their dynamic
Eric: Oh, definitely. But perhaps they don’t have to disappear until the next event mini-series
Dan: I follow you now
Eric: So, reading this again with you has helped me understand what happened a bit better
Dan: I’m glad I could help. A lot less “happens” in this book because it’s an action‑ish climax to the story, but it was a cohesive part of the puzzle and I dug that about it
Eric: Perhaps it’s time to battle, then?
Dan: It’s funny that throughout our entire FF section we didn’t touch upon the art once. That’s not to say Kitson isn’t any good (he’s among my favorite FF artists), but it does bring to mind what a proper comic book balance should be.
Eric: That’s true. I thought about bringing it up early on because I think the facial expressions are right-on with FF. It’s something a lot of artists forget about – they focus on the bodies of these gods, but forget the faces
Dan: Oh, absolutely. That should be comic book art 101, honestly. We have words to tell us what the characters are thinking, but the pictures can and should show us emotional states
Eric: Yeah, the faces on the Reeds when they are interacting with the Kree are priceless, but there’s no denying that this C&D issue, in fact the entire mini-series, has been absolutely beautiful
Dan: You want to talk expressions, right? I will concede that the art is almost too beautiful and busy, which can make it tough to see what’s going on
Eric: It’s true, but Rios does an amazing job with Cloak’s face. When he’s in agony watching Dagger die…that panel really got me both times I read it
Dan: The cracks on Dagger’s face as darkness seep out were particularly well-done as well. It’s funny that Nick Spencer is one of the big up-and-coming Marvel writers, but he’s more than ok with letting art take the front seat in this issue. FF is a writer’s book and C&D is an artists’ book.
Eric: If we were judging based on art alone, I’d throw in for C&D. But what about the writing on these two issues?
Dan: There’s not much of it going on in C&D because it’s mostly an action book. In fact, the biggest impacts come from bookending with the narrative convention he started with and the whole thematic consistency of the light/dark dichotomy. It’s well-written, but is it better written? Should we be judging these books on a standalone basis?
Eric: Just to clarify, I mean the plot as well as the dialog. The metaphors and everything that goes into writing upon which I think both books can be on a more equal footing
Dan: It’s not like Hickman is slouching either. His book is calling upon all kinds of things set up from F4 #588
Eric: I certainly think within these competitions the books should be able to stand alone or at least lightly lean on the rest of them. No book other than a one-shot can truly stand alone
Dan: Hickman’s writing is more natural, less obtuse, and funnier, so I’m prepared to give him the nod. He’s prone to having dialog that doesn’t make sense at times (the Mad Thinker comes to mind), but Tandy’s dialog seemed random
Eric: Yeah, I think C&D did a wonderful job – especially with only 3 issues vs Hickman’s last few years. But I think FF comes out on top as the best of these two issues. (
Dan: It’s a tough decision for me to make. I had a much stronger emotional reaction to Cloak & Dagger, but I know that FF was a better book.
Eric: Yeah, C&D got me even more emotional the second time around. So do we call it, is FF 11 the first winner?
Dan: I’m gonna have to concede defeat
Eric: Huzzah! Although, it was a very tough one
Dan: I’ll Get You Next Time Gadget!