With Fall 2022 having officially arrived just days ago, I find myself a little over a month into the new school year, my twelfth year teaching. Over the last decade I’ve gathered a few traditions to accompany the start of each new year. One of my favorites (and most helpful!) is a Spider-Man binge-reading session. Each year I pick a particular author and era (or two (or three or four)) and dive into the world of The Amazing Spider-Man. Teaching can be stressful and exhausting so, as summer falls away and work resumes, I find comfort in the familiar. I’ve had a longer relationship with Spider-Man than any other fictional character, getting my first Spidey comic when I was three-years-old and still loving him now. Plus, it’s nice to spend my night laughing when my days get harder and few characters have a better q.p.a average (quips-per-adventure, obvs.) than Peter Parker/Spider-Man. But I’ve realized there’s more to it than that. One of the most important reasons I turn to Spidey when school resumes is because of the ol’ Parker Luck.
Harry’s been a friend. You know he’s been a good friend of mine. But lately something’s changed, it’ ain’t hard to define. Harry’s got himself a girl and I wanna make her mine. It’s time for the latest installment in my series using only Spider-Man comics to examine the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)! Here we see Peter in a good place. His best friend Harry Osborn is alive! Harry’s returned from an extended stay in Europe where he got sober. He’s in a new relationship with Lily Hollister, a girl he really likes. He’s starting his own business out from under the cruel shadow of his infamous father. He and Lily are trying to fix Peter up with her best friend, Carlie. There’s so much to celebrate!!! Oh, and Peter also kinda has a thing for Lily. He thinks she’s cute. In fact, he thinks she’s a “knockout.” In fact, he kinda struggles with not thinking about her. But it happens, right? While the significant other of a best friend should set our Bad Idea Sense tingling, sometimes we can’t help but be drawn to them anyway. Oh Peter, tread carefully here…
Yes, this title is clickbait. It’s probably the most clickbait-y thing I’ve ever written. Given the MCU has earned a not insignificant $15,558,746,560 at the global box office to date (which doesn’t include all the profit it’s generated in merchandise sales and Disney+ subscribers) it’s not like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in trouble. It is a cultural juggernaut and like…well, like the Juggernaut, nothing seems to stop it. It’s not in need of saving per se so it’s not like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is salvifically sweeping in to salvage a once thriving interconnected cinematic universe flailing on the brink of cultural irrelevance. But I chose the title to be an eye-catching invitation for readers (those intrigued, those enraged, and those in agreement) to dialogue with what this piece has to say. Showrunner Jessica Gao’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is intelligent, goofy, sassy, funny, and self-aware; it’s everything that made me love She-Hulk more than the Hulk when I was a kid. It’s also important to the future of the MCU in several key ways and we should talk about it. So yeah, I said She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is saving the MCU. Here’s why.
Be aware this piece contains some spoilers for the first two episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
Sometimes I’m surprised I’ve not written of Daredevil before. I spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about the intersection of comic books and theology and teach theology at a Catholic Mercy school and am a lifelong Catholic. So Matt Murdock/Daredevil feels like a character made for me. A lawyer by day who lost his sight as a child, Matt uses the radar sense he gained, along with his extensive martial arts training, to protect the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil. As Marvel’s most prominent Catholic character, his faith and his relationship with God influence all areas of his life, superheroing included. He attends Mass. He goes to confession. His parish priest and nuns are trusted natural supports. But I never “got” Daredevil. My brother David loved him but I wasn’t interested. He felt like a bargain basement Spider-Man (when quippy) or bargain basement Batman (when dour). Then I began reading Chip Zdarsky (writer) and Marco Checchetto (main artist on the run)’s Daredevil and OH. MY. GOSH. I get it now! Twenty-seven issues in and I love it! A major story beat is Matt discerning God’s will in his life and, naturally, I was excited to explore this myself. Is Daredevil’s vocation divinely ordained or an example of someone trying to sanctify their all-too-human violence in God’s name?
It’s like Marvel knows it’s my Birthday Week! On July 1st it was announced Dan Slott will be returning to write a new monthly Spider-Man book – the adjective-less Spider-Man, which first debuted in my youth as a vehicle for the artist/writer Todd McFarlane in August of 1990 – this October. Dan Slott was part of of the Webhead Braintrust of writers who launched Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day” Era in January 2008 alongside Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, and Zeb Wells and grew to include Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Fred Van Lente, Roger Stern, Brian Reed, and Tom Peyer before BND ended in November 2010. He then took over as solo writer for The Amazing Spider-Man which he wrote from that November’s #648 through June 2018’s #801. Dan Slott can be a bit of a divisive writer among Spider-fans so I wanted to take this chance to reflect a bit on his writing and why I’m pretty excited for the return of such an amazing (heh) Spider-Man writer. THWIP onward for Spider-Reflections!
I try to guard myself against the “it’s newest so it’s the best EVER” reaction that often permeates fandoms. We can tend to live and breathe a movie or a show as soon as it premieres, reworking our rank lists to show how this is the best ever…until the next new movie or show in that universe comes out. I get the excitement. I often share it myself! But I’m always cautious about saying “best” when reflecting on a new movie or show. Yet it’s impossible to deny the sheer beauty and joy of Disney+’s Ms. Marvel show. Each episode fills my heart in a way nothing else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has. As far as I’m concerned, it is easily the most joyful entry in the MCU. I think it’s far and away the most important show Disney+ has done so far, too. And it may well be the best. We’ll see ;D. So I want to explore these emotions through the lens of how Kamala’s powers changed for the Disney+ show…in a way that’s far closer to her comic roots than I first realized.
Jason Aaron took over the writing duties on Avengers in May of 2018. His Avengers roster boasted one of the most powerful lineups in the team’s history, with T’Challa/the Black Panther serving as the Avengers’ chairperson and Steve Rogers/Captain America, Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Thor Odinson, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and Avengers newcomer Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider filling their roster. Soon, Blade the Vampire Hunter would join their ranks. Their headquarters is the body of a dead Celestial, a race of cosmic space gods responsible for the creation of much of the universe, located in the unforgiving terrain of Antarctica and imbued with all sorts of universe-shaping tech. T’Challa’s Agents of Wakanda, led by Okoye, fill the information gathering and covert action void for the Avengers in a post-S.H.I.E.L.D. world. Together they have battled Celestials, waded into a vampire civil war, faced the Phoenix force’s return to Earth for a new host, halted Namor’s holy war against a pollution-spewing surface world, and juggled the always-mounting international tensions as all countries of the world wonder whose interests the Avengers serve.
Then one morning Blade woke up to a world where the Avengers never formed and he was the only one who remembered the way it was supposed to be. And I can’t stop thinking about this!
The time has come for this series using only Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) to hit LUCKY NUMBER THIRTEEN!!! What lays ahead to consider in ol’ Peter Parker’s romantic misadventures? Only one of the most vexing (and potentially awkward) of all romantic quandaries – how do you know if you’re actually on a date with someone or not? Warning: Reading this piece may yield spontaneous full-body shame cringes which involuntarily rise when we remember awkward memories so proceed with caution. If there’s one thing looking at all Peter Parker’s romantic exploits teaches us, it’s we’re never alone when it comes to awkwardly pursuing love. When the web-head meets Danielle, the woman working at a jewelry store he returns stolen diamonds to in the all love stories-oriented Amazing Spider-Man #605, sparks fly. Emotions run high. She actually talks to him. It’s a tractor beam – vzzzzzzzt – and it sucks Peter right in. But, regardless of sparks and emotions we feel when we meet someone new, how do you know when your hanging out has become a real date?
That’s right, dear reader, you read that correctly. I wrote a book! A year ago I announced I had signed a contract with Claremont Press to write a volume for their Religion and Comics Series. I promised to update you all with more information when I had it and when I could and…(drum roll please)…that time has come! Ahhhhhhhh, I wrote a book AND I get to tell you about it. It’s a super exciting day :D. So read on, dear reader, and I can tell you all about my upcoming book. YAY!
This weekend, in anticipation of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I returned to a favorite tradition of mine – marathoning old movies before I see the new one! The size of the Marvel Cinematic Universe means the last time I watched every movie was my marathon for Avengers: Endgame. Now, saner (and healthier!) parts have prevailed. Instead of ruining my life by trying to watch the twenty-eight different films and nineteen different TV series with thirty-six seasons between them that make up the MCU (at the time of this writing), I’ve just chosen to watch Doctor Strange (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), WandaVision (2021), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Rewatching Doctor Strange a question struck me: whatever happened to Dr. Christine Palmer?