Secret Empire #2: Nick Spencer sells the joy of joylessness

Is it possible to do convincingly write up a review for Marvel’s Secret Empire that requires references to C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and Elie Wiesel’s Night? Excellent question! Your friendly neighborhood blogger gives it a try in the YouTube review below.

Be sure to check out my analysis of writer Nick Spencer’s monument to post-modernism, and then let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Marvel’s ‘America’: 50 Shades of Ororo, more race politics in 3rd issue

It was only a few months ago that Marvel Comics released America, by writer Gabby Rivera. Fans who thought Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso had reached a saturation point with politicized comics were proven wrong, as America turned out to be the perfect storm of social justice activism meeting Alonso-vision. I analyzed the first two issues on my YouTube channel and thought I would be done with it, but the sheer interest in this train wreck all but guaranteed another review.

Behold, brave readers! America #3 is what happens when Marvel superheroes mix with racial politics, the “fly girls” from the 1990s show “In Living Color,” bizarre sexual fetishes best left to 50 Shades of Grey, and elderly luchadores.

DC’s ‘The Button’ offers lesson for Marvel, Axel Alonso

I used to have an irrational disdain for DC superheroes as a child. I was a “Marvel kid.” Sure, I loved Batman, but outside of his adventures I turned up my nose at DC fare. The echoes of my own irrationality reverberated into the future as I stuck to reading The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and then occasional X-Men book as an adult. But somewhere along the line, Marvel decided to adopt a business model that needlessly alienates long-term readers. That, my friends, is where our discussion on DC’s The Button comes in.

Marvel Editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and everyone who takes their marching orders from him would be wise to look at what DC is doing under the watchful eyes of Geoff Johns. DC Rebirth was a creative home run, and now it seems as if the same can be said of The Button.

Check out my latest YouTube review on parts 1-3 of The Button, which is a great blueprint for Marvel to follow if it wants to win back fans. And, as always, I’m interested in hearing your feedback in the comments section below.

Spider-Man #27: Ends justify the means in Dan Slott’s ‘Private War’

Question: What do you get when you take 3/4 of a cup of “ends justify the means” and 1/4 of a cup of “moral relativism” and mix it in a bowl with one serving of Peter Parker and a bag of goblins?

Answer: The Amazing Spider-Man #27.

My new YouTube review details how “A Private War” is a sterling example of what happens when every character in a comic adopts a “might makes right” mentality. It’s hard to root for any character — including the protagonist — when a properly functioning moral compass is nowhere to be found. The heroes in ASM are whomever Dan Slott says are heroes, even if their idea of justice is defined as, “Whatever I want to do at any given moment.”

Check out the video below and be sure to ask yourself the following question: Would Spider-Man really make a moral equivalency between his personal vendetta against Norman Osborn and  Captain America fighting with the Allied Powers during World War II?

I say “no.”

Secret Empire #1: Hydra-Verse and Marvel PR damage control in full swing

Marvel’s comics division has been taking it on the chin in terms of bad press for well over a year now, and the official kickoff to its latest event is no exception. This week saw the release of Secret Empire #1 and a tie-in issue for Free Comic Book Day, which theoretically should bring elicit smiles across the country. Wrong. In fact, the project is so controversial that Marvel had to put out a statement earlier this week asking fans to be patient (even though the story has been building for well over a year).

My latest Youtube review covers the good, the bad and the ugly of writer Nick Spencer’s reality-warping Hydra-Cap tale. And yes, on some level it is good — but the whole situation is a bit complicated.

Anyway, check out the review and let me know what you think in the comments section below. Also: If anyone knows YouTube’s exact rules for using music clips without getting copyright infringement strikes, then let me know — I don’t want to make a habit of joke-singing songs like “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses…

Scarlet Spider #1: Peter David gives Ben Reilly his own Tyler Durden

Imagine you were a Marvel editor not too long ago and someone said, “We should totally bring back Ben Reilly from the infamous Clone Saga days. That would be cool. People liked him and his fans will flock to a book if we give him his own series.”

Got it? Now ask yourself this question: If you wanted the base of your book to consist of long-time Ben Reilly fans, would you a.) Turn the character into a crazed man out of something from Fight Club, or would you b.) Try to woo loyal readers with something resembling the character in their mind’s eye for almost 20 years?

Marvel went with the first option for Scarlet Spider, which is rather odd. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Peter David seems to be doing his best with the marching orders he’s been given in the first issue.

There’s much more to say, but for that I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

Iron Man #6: Brian Michael Bendis’ Riri sadly no Jessica Cruz

Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis recently gave an interview with Marvel on his approach to writing, and during the exchange he took time to discuss Invincible Iron Man’s Riri Williams. He said that at this stage in the game the character “doesn’t know who she is yet,” which is interesting since it appears as though he is equally lost.

It is perfectly okay for a character to lack self-awareness, but readers should generally be able to peg the character and empathize with him/her within the first or second issue.

The problem with Mr. Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man after six issues is that he seems to think readers should just love his character because the entire Marvel universe loves her. Unlike DC’s Jessica Cruz, who became a hero after overcoming crippling anxiety and fear, Mr. Bendis’ creation stresses out because too many individuals and groups want to experience her awesomeness first-hand.

For those who have been wondering why Marvel’s sales have faltered over the past year while DC’s Rebirth continues to impress, look no further than IIM #6. It should serve as a case study in what not to do if you want to build momentum for a new character.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube review for a full rundown of why IIM fails while books like Green Lanterns: Rage Planet have guys like me saying, “Who is this Jessica Cruz character? She seems kind of cool.”

Secret Empire #0: Nick Spencer pens love letter to postmodernism

Marvel’s next big event, Secret Empire, has arrived with issue #0. For those who wondered over the last year if writer Nick Spencer could craft an interesting Hydra-Cap tale, the answer appears to be “yes.”

The problem, however, is that once again a hero’s legacy is offered for sacrifice at the alter of postmodernism.

Just because a man could do something, it doesn’t mean that he should. While I must admit that Mr. Spencer is an intelligent and organized writer, at the same time he is rightly being criticized by fans who are disgusted with the idea of turning a cultural icon into a tool of Nazi Germany. No matter how much Marvel protests the Nazi-angle, there really is no denying it.

There’s much more to say on the topic, but for a full run-down I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. As always, feel free to sound off with your thoughts in the comments section below.

Renew Your Vows #6: Gerry Conway, Ryan Stegman give Marvel blueprint for success

The sluggish sales of Marvel comics as of late is no secret. The “House of Ideas” is on fire, and anyone who has paid attention to the industry for the last couple of years knows it. Luckily, there is a way to extinguish the flames, and the answer comes from the creative springs of writer Gerry Conway and artist Ryan Stegman.

If Marvel truly wants to fix what ails it, then it will look to Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6.  Sound storytelling, strong art, respect for classic characters and an absence of weird political preaching is the key to motivating readers who are disgusted with the Marvel brand.

For more on this topic, check out my latest YouTube review and hit the “subscribe” button if that video format is up your alley.

As always, I invite you to leave your two cents (or more!) in the comments section below.

Dan Slott’s moral relativism takes Peter down Otto’s path in Amazing Spider-Man #26

Moral relativism is a problem in Marvel comic books these days. If you ever wanted to see what it can do to a good character, then look no further than The Amazing Spider-Man #26 by writer Dan Slott. The character who recently resorted to corporate espionage to gain access to another company’s intellectual property rights now has decided to risk everything to topple a sovereign nation.

Yes, that’s right, Parker Industries is supposed to be a technology empire worth billions, but its CEO is willing to risk it all — the jobs of his employees, the Uncle Ben Foundation, the livelihood of his shareholders — all for some out-of-the-blue quest to take down Norman Osborn. Peter Parker under Dan Slott has turned into a Captain Ahab-ish character who is on the hunt for an elusive green whale. And to find the mysterious Goblin Whale he will do anything — no matter what the costs or who he hurts in the process — to make it happen.

In short, when Doctor Octopus calls Spider-Man a “self-righteous twit” in an issue of ASM, the reader should never side with the villain. Sadly, that is exactly what happens in ASM #26.

For more details, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section below, as always.