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Black Cat, Taskmaster, and the Infinity Stones with Jed MacKay

Dan and Ethan are joined by comics writer Jed MacKay to talk about his work over at Marvel Comics on Black Cat, Taskmaster, his upcoming relaunch of Moon Knight, and working on a big event series centered around the Infinity Stones.

Black Cat #7 and the launch of Infinite Destinies in Iron Man Annual #1 are both out today, and Moon Knight #1 launches July 21, 2021.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Talkin’ Killadelphia with Rodney Barnes GateCrashers

Rodney was kind enough to join Dan to talk all about the first 2 arcs of Killadelphia. They spoke about some of the things that made it feel authentically Philly, horror, and discuss the future of the Killadelphia universe. Check it out and then make sure to pick up the trades!
  1. Talkin’ Killadelphia with Rodney Barnes
  2. Black Cat, Taskmaster, and the Infinity Stones with Jed MacKay
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  4. Cruisin’ the Infinite Frontier with Joshua Williamson
  5. Star Trek
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Comics

REVIEW: While Exposition-Heavy, Reptil #1 Never Feels Like a Drag

Let me preface this by saying that I am not too familiar with the character of Reptil. I have a cursory understanding of his character so I do appreciate that this issue begins with a general recap of who Reptil is and what he’s doing right now. 

To give a brief overview on who Reptil is, Humberto Lopez is a teenager who, thanks to finding an amulet on one of his parents’ (who are paleontologists) digsites has the ability to turn into any species of dinosuar. Ever since then, he’s been the superhero now known as Reptil.

Source: Marvel Comics

Since this is a four-issue miniseries, I was worried that this recap would take up space that could be considered valuable in terms of set-up. But Terry Blas does a good job of establishing the crux of its story around an aspect of Humberto’s background that is covered in the recap, which I believe could interest fans of the character. 

That being said, I still feel that even with a recap that doesn’t feel like a waste of pages a lot of this issue felt like set-up, at least until the last few pages. Normally, I’d be critical of this, but I think in the case of Reptil, it is essential for Humberto’s character. For the reader, it provides a glimpse into how he and his loved ones are feeling. He’s someone who’s dealing with that elusive beast known as uncertainty, especially after a certain event that involved teenage superheroes of the Marvel universe known as Outlawed (don’t worry about it; the issue explains what happened there). So when there is that big revelation, it felt earned and as someone who considers this series as his first foray into the character, I was also interested.

This speaks to one of the merits of the book, which is its accessibility. This is obviously a book that I am sure existing Reptil fans will enjoy but, as mentioned earlier for someone like me who has never read any of the character’s previous appearances, I didn’t have to worry about “catching up” with Reptil’s history. 

Source: Marvel Comics

Even for readers new to comics, Reptil #1 does provide a good entry point with a character who would be interesting even if he was taken outside of Marvel continuity. His dinosaur powers and excellent design showcase a character rife with potential. What was mentioned earlier about how there’s no need to “catch up” with the character’s history also means that non-comic book readers don’t have to be intimidated by any sort of prior continuity, which is oftentimes a failing of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) comic books; that they’re so obsessed with sticking to continuity to the detriment of new readers who may have the slightest of interest in comic books. Which is why this comic serves as an excellent jumping on point for readers looking to get into comics in general. For all intents and purposes, this is essentially a new character in a world they don’t have to be too acquainted with outside of a few references, which aren’t crucial to understanding the story. 

While the recap pages are beneficial in terms of the aforementioned accessibility, they are also a good opportunity for Blas to give humanity to these characters. It should also be noted that having a Latinx writer like Terry Blas tackle these characters gives them a voice of authenticity. There’s an honesty to Humberto and his loved ones that gets the readers invested into the character from the jump. And I am sure that had this book been written by a writer who is not part of the culture that Humberto and his loved ones are from, there wouldn’t be that honesty. It would have felt artificial and they wouldn’t have felt like real characters. 

Blas is also lucky to work with a good penciller. While I would have loved to see more of Enid Balám’s art, especially with Reptil’s transformation, it’s still nice to look at. The designs for Humberto’s dinosaur alter-egos are really cool to see and I do hope to see him become more unrestrained with how he draws Reptil’s dinosaur forms.

The pencils are balanced well with Victor Olazaba’s inking, which has a smoothness to it that I appreciate. And while I do feel like a series like this could have utilised bolder colours to make it stand out more, Carlos Lopez is still a good colorist. And last but not least, the lettering by VC’s Joe Sabino stays consistent and readable.

Source: Marvel Comics

Considering this issue as a whole, I’d say that it is good at keeping readers invested in the titular character and his loved ones, especially with its accessibility. And while I would normally be concerned with a four-issue series that begins with this much exposition, the ending is proof that this series is about to kick into high gear.

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Comics

Fun-Size Round Table: Fantastic Four: Life Story #1

To the CEO of GateCrashers LTD,

My apologies for not getting back to you sooner; our enquiries into the life story of the superheroes known as the “Fantastic Four” have taken far longer than we first anticipated. We have only now finalized their activities during the “Swinging Sixties” and are now hard at work investigating the team’s turmoil during the 70s.

Enclosed, you will find a copy of the comic we produced as a means of communicating their history in a way you will understand. We’ve named it Fantastic Four: Life Story #1. It was created by Mark Russell, Sean Izaakse, Nolan Woodard, and VC’s Joe Caramagna.

You will also find attached work by our best critics on the events depicted in this comic and hope it brings some clarity to the history of the Fantastic Four. We look forward to working with you in any future endeavours.

Yours faithfully,

Ethan Chambers,

The FSRT.

Rob Secundus


Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

I should love this; I love Mark Russell’s comics, I enjoy Izaakse’s art and Woodard’s colors, and I love the Life Story gimmick that recontextualizes sliding timescale continuity into real history. I would expect Russell to go wild with that gimmick, given his facility with political satire, but he’s weirdly restrained here, and as a result I don’t think the comic has much to say about either the FF or the 60s. It also seems to abandon parts of that Life Story gimmick; rather than retain the general events of the FF’s story as they were published, this is a story that imagines their first decade without Namor or Doctor Doom. The one brilliant thing for me is the centralization of Galactus and his reimagination as the Great Filter, the answer to Fermi— but that’s not enough to save what was ultimately for me a baffling first issue.

Katie Liggera


Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

I am preface my thoughts by admitting that I don’t know much about the Fantastic Four’s comic origins, but I know a lot about Mark Russell. Historically, Russell excels in writing hilarious social satire in comics. I was unfortunately a bit underwhelmed by his moderated writing style in this comic, when I was hoping for more of his astute wit. Regardless, Russell is a comic book writer I enjoy 99% of the time. Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 still manages to reshape Fantastic Four narrative beginnings filtered through the lens of the highly popular 60s historical era in the smart and entertaining manner I expect from Russell. 

The issue parses the historical backdrop realistically, seamlessly weaving the setting together with the Fantastic Four’s presence in the era. I’ve also gleaned enough about FF over the years to understand some problematic portrayals of Sue. Fantastic Four: Life Story seeks to present Sue with an appetite for motivation and resilience during challenges. Depicting these character traits in Sue is refreshing. The issue pays homage to FF character roots while exuding their personalities in a short time frame. Despite the lack of satire I was hoping for, Fantastic Four: Life Story is intriguing enough to entertain and propel readers toward introspection. And the incorporation of Galactus is delightful.

Brandon Masters


Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

For myself, I still fondly remember Mark Russell’s time on DC’s The Flintstones comic as a fantastic social satire. However, I was actually more excited to see how Russell would take the vast tapestry of Marvel’s first family and the thousands of comics they’ve been in, and craft it into something that’s a cohesive story set in real-time. Having read nearly all of The Fantastic Four at some time or another throughout their various incarnations, there was a small thrill that went up my spine to see how it would play out, with the world changing as the Marvel Universe grew out of the 1960s.

I was not disappointed. Not only was Russell able to craft a few one-shot throwaway issues into a long-running plot thread that made those same events feel organic, but the real world genuinely felt influenced by the rise of super powered heroes rather than the other way around. Little touches like the Fantastic Four appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show alongside the Beatles was a fantastic touch. Sean Izaakse is also in top form here, rendering the fantastical in a more realistic world. It still comes across with the old Marvel flair, but is a welcome reinterpretation.

However, this is coming from a long-time fan of The Fantastic Four. Those who aren’t as big a fan will certainly find the issue a little more dense to read, and the revelations of those referenced issues can come out of left field without the “ooooh” factor of the reference. Here’s hoping the rest of the comic holds up to the promise, but I have high hopes.

Ethan Chambers


Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

While I know a fair bit about the Fantastic Four thanks to long nights on Wikipedia and through cultural osmosis, I’ve not actually read many of their stories. Especially not their earliest adventures, so getting to see these play out was fun, and thanks to Sean Izaakse and Nolan Woodard’s amazing work on the art.

However, there’s something about the book that makes it feel breezy, it rushes past what feel as if they should be major events. I think it comes down to Mark Russell’s attempt to look at the entirety of the 60’s in one single issue that makes everything feel a bit less than. Except, that is, for Galactus, and Reed Richards’ first encounter with the World Devourer, which is given the necessary pomp and circumstance to really let the moment pop on the page. I’ll be sticking around for the full story because it can easily get its story on the right track, and as mentioned, the art is fantastic, but right now, it’s a good book that should be, and excuse the pun, fantastic.

Sean Dillon


Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

One of the stronger aspects of Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man: Life Story that the Fantastic Four counterpart lacks is focus. With Spider-Man, we largely looked at a singular moment from the decade being explored. Be it the protests of the Vietnam War or the Death of Gwen Stacy, there was always something within the comic to keep things glued together. In turn, the moments where we look back at what we missed over the rest of the decade are emphasized.

By contrast, Fantastic Four: Life Story opts to explore the whole decade, much to its detriment. There’s a sense with Russell’s efforts that they’re trying to cover far too much. Whole strands of the book that could have been explored in a whole issue are regulated to a single panel or an off-handed mention, if that. For example, Ben Grimm has a whole character arc that takes place largely off screen. What is focused upon feels rushed and underdeveloped. It’s a so-so comic. But with a bit more focus, it could have been great.

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Comics Film Television

The Undoing of WandaVision

The below article contains spoilers for WandaVision.

WandaVision is one of the best shows of the year. It follows Marvel’s Wanda Maximoff and The Vision as they navigate life through a strange world of various sitcoms from across the ages, from the ’50s to present-day mockumentaries. A well-acted drama with a huge budget and a very intriguing and engaging premise, WandaVision was well on its way to being my personal best show of the year. That was until the very last episode where the awesome setup and conflicts didn’t pay off that well. I would even say the show shied away from the greatness it was showing.

Marvel had done an awesome job crafting an intriguing mystery, all the while creating a compelling drama about grief and loss. The only problem was closing the deal. The downside of the Marvel mold of filmmaking reared its head, the company had gotten so used to having a clear good and bad guy that they brought upon themselves a major problem come the finale. The show had an awesome villain, Mephisto. Just kidding. No, the great big bad of WandaVision was Wanda herself, not Agatha, not Hayward, Wanda. And this had amazing potential, the only issue was the writers and the show itself didn’t seem to realize it, or, they did realize and tried to cast others in a more negative light and walk back on that choice.

They had us with “Agatha All Along”, except It wasn’t. Agatha was maybe right, her only flaw was trying to steal Wanda’s powers (well, and threatening her kids), but Wanda kidnaped hundreds of people and tortured them for weeks. Should Wanda really be in charge of such power? In the final episode the directing, writing, and narrative choices seem to make a concerted effort to state that If there was a villain, it was not Wanda. But the truth is, no matter how we slice it, Wanda was the one who kidnapped an entire town and traumatized them.

Having Hayward be a sneaky villain makes no sense. The United States government wanting a powerful weapon like Vision is incredibly on-brand, no need to be sneaky about it. And more importantly, Wanda taking over the town pretty much gives him carte blanch, his being sneaky and duplicitous makes no sense. Lastly, and sadly for me, the biggest victim of these story decisions was sadly Monica Rambeau. Monica was a pretty cool and interesting character. Initially our guide into this world, who was trying to figure things out right alongside us, the audience. But after a while, she became fixated on Wanda and not the many victims in The Hex. Even when it became clear Wanda was the cause of it all, she didn’t have any wariness of her. It was particularly odd of Monica to absolve Wanda. How does Hayward stealing Vision’s body make him a bigger villain than Wanda? I still like Monica but hopefully she gets treated better in future instalments of the MCU. Regardless, wandavision is a great show but that last episode held it back from becoming a truly fantastic entry in the MCU.

By Bolu Ayeye.

Categories
Episodes

Jordan Blum Interview

We are joined by Jordan Blum, co-creator and co-showrunner of Hulu’s MODOK and co-writer on MODOK: Head Games! Jordan joined us to chat about his upcoming show, his comic, and the greatest character in all of animation, Roger Smith. MODOK: Head Games is available now from Marvel Comics! MODOK on Hulu coming soon.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Talkin’ Killadelphia with Rodney Barnes GateCrashers

Rodney was kind enough to join Dan to talk all about the first 2 arcs of Killadelphia. They spoke about some of the things that made it feel authentically Philly, horror, and discuss the future of the Killadelphia universe. Check it out and then make sure to pick up the trades!
  1. Talkin’ Killadelphia with Rodney Barnes
  2. Black Cat, Taskmaster, and the Infinity Stones with Jed MacKay
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  4. Cruisin’ the Infinite Frontier with Joshua Williamson
  5. Star Trek
Categories
Comics

Excalibur #16 Charts A New Course Ahead

Excalibur #16 is written by Tini Howard, drawn by Marcus To, colored by Erick Arciniega, lettered by VC’s Ariana Maher, with designs by Tom Muller, and published by Marvel Comics. The main cover is by Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson.

**Spoilers For X Of Swords and Excalibur #16 Ahead**

A Rocky Return

After the groundbreaking event that was X Of Swords, the Reign Of X has begun across the X-titles, and Excalibur is at the center of that. The biggest loss from the event was the apparent death of our still-fairly-new Captain Britain, Betsy Braddock. With her death occurring in Otherworld, her resurrection won’t be as simple as usual, as the potential consequences are horrifyingly dangerous, given what happened to Rockslide in the event.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

Everybody is pretty bummed out, unsurprisingly so given how close they are to Betsy. We get some adorable time with Rogue and Gambit together, which I am always a sucker for. Whereas Rictor especially is hit hard by the loss of Apocalypse, his mentor and friend, even though he left of his own volition. There’s day drinking and even Fred gets in on it, still having some feelings remaining for Betsy after Age Of X-Man it seems. Folks are uncertain of the future and rely on each other to get through, making this a very appropriate comic for the end of 2020.

Where In The World Is Betsy Braddock?

Unwilling to take Betsy’s death as certain, Rogue and the gang push further into the circumstances of her death, courting X-Factor in the process. Tini and Marcus do a great job emulating Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s team, making Excalibur #16 feel like a communal issue with slightly more significance. X-Factor still performs their function, but they don’t arrive at the answer that Rogue and the team are looking for. Alas, poor Betsy was lost via magic, which is something they just don’t know enough about.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

The Excalibur team realizing that they themselves are the only ones capable of handling this situation sets us forward on our path, and the hunt for Betsy Braddock begins in earnest. Finding Betsy isn’t what I think is interesting here, but more where it leaves the team and what they have to do next. They’re leader-less and at their lowest point, but they have to find a way to pull together and forge ahead. Excalibur just feels like more of a team book as a result.

Rictor’s Evolution

Rictor’s trajectory from his entrance to the series to now has been fairly incredible. He joined the team due to Apocalypse helping him control his powers, and even though their relationship seemed sketchy at times, he ultimately imparted his mission to Rictor. Looking at Apocalypse through the eyes of someone who is motivated by him, who feels like he was a great unifier of mutants, and in some ways actually was, is so fascinating. Coming off the most captivating Apocalypse story ever told, the legacy that he leaves behind is similarly interesting. The sheer growth that Rictor makes, inheriting the philosophies of mutant magic that Apocalypse was trying to bring to their people. If I had to pick one character who isn’t Betsy to have my eye on especially going forward, it’s Rictor.

Where Do We Go From Excalibur #16?

“Back to basics” is a stupid approach in comics that never actually works. Luckily that’s not what’s happening here. Sure, there are similarities from the old Excalibur book and this one, but it only informs the lore and storytelling on display. I don’t feel like we’re taking Excalibur back to square one, but rather it’s being reinvigorated by being pointed in a new direction. The team’s relationship with magic is changing, becoming more profound, and that’s the most exciting thing I could ever hope for here.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

The Visual Storytelling Of Excalibur #16

Marcus To and Erick Arciniega are back together and in fine form to say the least. Marcus’ work is always incredibly clean yet sharp, with gorgeous lines that highlight the characters’ features. There is power in the way he renders expressions, able to convey every conversation without the need for scripting even, though I’m delighted to have it. Erick only enhances the work of Marcus, as they’ve been a dream team for much of this run so far, complementing each other well. He captures warmth excellently when it’s needed, but is equally capable of bringing forth an atmosphere that FEELS magical. May they see many more issues together. Ariana Maher, my personal favorite letterer at Marvel these days, is bringing the heat too. The whimsical feel when Meggan is singing is delightful, and you can see the effort brought to every issue she works on, elevating the lettering to a level that is beyond just blending into the book. Some say good lettering shouldn’t be noticed, but the truth is good lettering only lifts a story up.