Previously on Baxter Building: Technically, last time we covered a few years’ worth of annuals, but in terms of the monthly comic book, John Byrne has settled into a comfortable rut of retro attitude and safe, if enjoyable, storytelling. Anyone expecting that to change this time out will be disappointed. Just saying.

0:00:00-0:07:12: Welcome back to the show that never ends, dear Whatnauts. (Or, at least, won’t end until we’ve reached the final issue of this volume, and that’s aways away yet.) This time around, we’re covering Fantastic Four #s 271-277, a run of issues that prompts Jeff to consider just what writer/artist John Byrne is trying to do with the series, and why it isn’t better than it actually is. Is it a failure of ambition, talent, or both?

0:07:13-0:23:58: From there, we jump straight into FF #271 and the horror of Sue’s mullet, which Jeff believes fails to conform to the truest definition of the mullet form. Thankfully, there are other things to distract us from the follicle horror, including the undiscovered secret of Johnny Storm’s powers, the unknown wealth in Reed Richards’ family, and how much fun it can be to see Byrne channel 1950s monster comics in a flashback. All this, and a revelation about Reed Richards’ health that will… not be followed up on in future issues! Truly, this is the age of Mighty Marvel Forgetfulness!

0:23:59-0:40:27: Fantastic Four #272 causes a schism as Jeff is left utterly cold and I am, well, warmer than lukewarm, at least. (I actually like the issue a bunch.) We talk about the ways in which Byrne is an unapologetic thief of other people’s ideas, iconography and images, as well as the strange mix of disappointment and potential that is Nathaniel Richards, and what that means for the parentage of the Fantastic Four as a whole. (Oh, and we digress a little about Byrne as artist, inspired by a note he writes to the readers warning that he’s about to start experimenting with his pencils. Spoilers: He doesn’t really.) Despite all of this, Jeff is adamant on the fact that the comic isn’t fun, because he likes, like, good comics or something.

0:40:28-1:00:58: You know what isn’t a good comic? That would be FF #273, which closes out this trilogy with an especially subpar issue. What’s the blame? Maybe it’s the terrible lettering, provided by Byrne himself, although it’s far more likely to be the fact that even John Byrne can’t seem to bring himself to be interested in the story he’s telling here. “It’s amazing how much Byrne stops giving a shit,” Jeff says, and he’s not wrong. Nonetheless, we give some conversation the old college try, with Byrne’s potential desire to be a “fun cartoonist” and the actual, real history of the world. Oh, and this comes up, as unlikely as it seems:

All this, and a return of Jeff’s “shadow self” theory, but this time it’s not about Reed. Will wonders never cease? Actually, just wait until the next issue.

1:00:59-1:10:39: You can tell how interested Jeff and I are about Fantastic Four #274 — which I call “what can only be described as John Byrne’s weird attempt to try and raise sales of The Thing” — by the fact that we barely actually talk about the comic, which is to all intents and purposes a Thing story in the wrong title, instead spending time on Thing continuity around this time in general. But at least Jeff likes the art — this is the first of two issues inked by Al Gordon — even though I am unconvinced by his Barry Windsor-Smith comparison.

1:10:40-1:28:03: The infamous FF #275 sees the true, as Jeff puts it, Victorian nature of John Byrne come out: not only is this the “She-Hulk photographed topless on the roof of the Baxter Building” issue — a plot that is, to be kind, more than a little flimsy and tripped up by Byrne’s own objectification of She-Hulk — it’s also the issue where the true horror of Alicia’s Cursed Vagina of Shame is revealed, as Johnny and Alicia talk about their night before in an especially cringeworthy scene. There’s much discussion over the Alicia/Johnny pairing, and whether or not we buy it. Spoilers: we don’t.

1:28:04-1:39:20: Running out of steam, we tackle Fantastic Four #s 276 and 277 pretty much together, which is mostly all that they deserve. Ostensibly a two-parter, there’s a lot of strange going on here, including the fact that the Thing’s return to Earth is covered in half of one issue that also happens to be a crossover with ROM Spaceknight (“Who gives a shit?” asks Jeff, which surely prompts at least one ROM fan to declare, “I do!”), and a Reed and Sue plot that goes nowhere not particularly entertainingly despite a Doctor Strange cameo. It’s not all bad, though; there’s a fun bunch of newspaper strip cameos, and the arrival of Jerry Ordway on inks is something that both Jeff and I find a great boon to the book’s look in general. Overall, though, things have been so much better. Is this the shape of things to come…?

1:39:21-end: We wrap things up by looking ahead to what we’ll be covering next episode — FF #278-284 — and, en route to wrapping things up, take an entirely unexpected detour to discussing the roll-out of the first series of X-Factor and the way it was promoted. Quite how that happened, I have no idea. As you try to work that out, think about visiting our Tumblr, Twitter and Patreon, and know that you have our thanks, as ever, for listening and reading. Next week: Back to normal with a regular Wait, What?!

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0:00-2:02: Greetings! Jeff’s asthma is acting up!  Graeme has either forgotten or eschewed the word “example!” It’s another episode of your favorite comic podcast where the words “favorite” and “comic” are both suspect, and only “podcast” can be taken for granted. (Unless “podcast” implies some level of technical proficiency, in which case it’s *all* up for grabs!)
2:02-11:05: It seems to us like it’s been a million years since we’ve done one of these?  (It’s only been two weeks if you’re keeping track?)  Is that because Graeme has read so many Wonder Woman comics in the last week as a lead-up to the release of the new movie? It’s not clear, but it is a great excuse to talk about Wonder Woman comics, as Jeff asks Graeme to summarize his findings from reading that much Amazonian Princess in that short a time.  Much discussion of Greg Rucka’s recent revision of the Wonder Woman origin ensues.

11:05-18:58: And then since Graeme has also seen Wonder Woman, the movie (but Jeff has not), there is a spoiler-free discussion wherein Graeme talks about the movie and what he thought.
18:58-39:57: And here is where Jeff’s ulterior motive makes itself known—what is the worst superhero movie? Can we agree on one?  And if not, can we at least talk about how terrible Green Lantern is?  Because talking about Green Lantern is like talking about that time you got horribly stomach-sick at your cousin’s wedding: painful and embarrassing at the time (almost to the point of genuine humiliation), but kind of hilarious to reminisce about. (hashtag I’m sorry Cousin Burt.)
39:57-47:42: Awkward segue here in that if you start on this segment you catch Graeme at the tail end of his thought about those superhero movies that were clearly compromised by reshoots, and then goes on to talk about the curious situation of the Justice League movie, now that Zach and Deborah Snyder have stepped away from the film for very good personal reasons.  Is Justice League so messy that it will be in a way, critic proof? Will any good thing coming out of the movie now being credited to Joss Whedon?
47:42-1:00:16: And for a very different kind of DC superhero movie, Jeff recommends you check out Batman & Bill, a documentary available on Hulu about the crusade to get Bill Finger the recognition he deserves.  Even if you know the contours of the story, it’s a documentary that has some very satisfying twists and turns in it.  It’s well worth a watch, sez Jeff.  But how exactly does that lead into us discussing the comic book career of Gene Simmons?  Well, you’ll have to listen to find out, but we apologize nevertheless.  (Also, as someone who has edited over two hundred of these damned things, I don’t think we’ve ever done what we do starting just scant milliseconds before the 54:47 mark!)
1:00:16-1:13:19: “Graeme McMillan, I have to say this is a very odd installment of our podcast,” announces Jeff, who is not just whistling Dixie (which is an expression us olds use and I am only now thinking I should google and ensure the saying’s origins weren’t something egregiously racist).  (Still not sure!)
Anyway, that’s beside the point which I guess is: what the fuck is Marvel doing with their sale on digital trade paperbacks on Amazon?  (Apologies if that link isn’t active—it seems my Amazon links are a little sketchy when it comes to general sections, as opposed to specific products.) Discussed:  Seriously, what the fuck?
1:13:19-1:19:09:  “When you said we haven’t even talked about Marvel,” Graeme more or less replies fifteen minutes later, “I thought you were going to talk about the revival of Runaways.”  “Is that something you’re interested in, Graeme?” Jeff asks diplomatically.  Discussed: the revival of Runaways.
1:19:09-1:40:24: Jeff wants to talk about the comics he has read. First up: Deadpool: Bad Blood by Rob Liefeld, Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, and Romulo Fajaroo, Jr. with a very special musical interlude!  Also discussed: the first three issues of the current X-O Manowar run by Matt Kindt, Tomás Giorello, and Diego Rodriguez; the most recent few issues of Deathstroke by Priest, Hama, Pagulayan, Bennett, and others. Caution: includes SPOILERS for the wrap-up of the Lazarus Contract (in Teen Titans Annual #1, I want to say?).
1:40:24-1:44:29: Another book Jeff (re-) read recently and would like blab about for a spell:  Punisher: Born by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Tom Palmer, and Paul Mounts.  Frank Castle’s final days in Vietnam?! What’s not to like about that?
1:44:29-1:48:59: Also read!  Spencer & Locke #1 by David Pepose, Jorge Santiago, Jr., and Jasen Smith! It’s Calvin & Hobbes meets Sin City!
1:48:59-1:52:10: The most recent issues of Moon Knight (#11-14) by Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire!
1:52:10-1:55:55: 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #4 by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Clare Dezutti! Jeff liked it, but you kind of can’t tell through all the complaining!
1:55:55-2:00:28: Et cetera!  Including this.

2:00:28-2:05:39: Graeme does a terrible thing! A cross-examination about what Graeme is like in bars! And then…
2:05:39-end:  Closing comment!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
In two weeks:  Baxter Building Ep. 30!  Covering Fantastic Four issues #271-277 by John Byrne.  Join us in 14!
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0:00-16:42: Greetings! Although after a bit of appreciation for people’s clarification of the first appearance of Black Bolt’s full name, we downshift to a more subdued discussion about the passing of artist Rich Buckler, a fact we learned about approximately an hour before recording. Jeff was a big fan of the man in his prime, Graeme has a reawakened appreciation for Buckler during his DC era, and we take a time to talk about  our knowledge of the man’s work, an appreciation of his skill and talent, and a certain amount of wondering about what might’ve happened if Buckler had entered the field just a few years.  RIP, Mr. Buckler.
16:42-28:24: And somewhere in there we start talking about some of the lost indie publishers of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the popularity of dudes like Gerber and Englehart and McGregor, and the continuing brain boggler that is Chris Claremont’s unlikely triumph as the most popular and influential creator of the era.
28:24-1:20:59: And then there were technical difficulties! And then we keep talking more about Claremont! Plus: the rise and fall into obscurity of creators over the years; the amazing work of Margaret Millar and its return to print; whether or not Fantastic Four is returning during Marvel Legacy; the cancellation of Black Panther and The Crew, and a lot of speculative discussion about Marvel generally; what Marvel and DC are doing for Kirby’s hundredth birthday; and much, much more.

1:20:59-1:45:16: Here’s the part where we talk about why we’ve been too busy to sit down and just read comics!  Also, a discussion of our current TV obsession and the things we will or won’t do to get it, a certain trepidation over the return of Twin Peaks, and more.
1:45:16-1:58:00: But somehow! We manage to return to the topic of comics and the few that we’ve read recently!  (Always nice to hear in a comic book podcast, I’ve been told.)  Graeme runs us through the new X-O Man of War series by Matt Kindt and Thomas Giorello; Immortal Brothers: Tale of the Green Knight by Fred Van Lente and Cary Nord; Swordquest by Chad Bowers, Chris Sim and Scott Kowalchuk; Vampirella by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton; The Sovereigns by Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins, Johnny Desjardins, and Jorge Fornes; and The Greatest Adventure by Bill Willingham and Cezar Rezak (with covers by Cary Nord).
1:58:00-2:22:21:  And in case you care what Jeff has been reading, he runs through his list very quickly:  amazing old issues of The Brave & The Bold by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo;  Interviews with Monster Girls Vol. 2 by Petos; ‘Namwolf #1 by Fabian Rangel Jr. and Logan Faerber (with another shout-out to Kyle Starks’ Rock Candy Mountain); Vol. 1 of Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca; Darth Maul #1 by Cullen Bunn and Luke Ross; America #1 by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones; and Medisin #1 by Jeff Dyer, Mark McKeon, and David Brame.  Jeff also read a lot of Deathstroke recently, and promises to talk about that on a future episode.
2:22:21-2:25:50:  And in a future episode, Graeme really wants to talk about Tom King’s Batman.  “It’s giving me the feels, Jeff,” Graeme confesses and goes on to lay down the bones of what he’s interested (SPOILERS for the end of The Button), leaving us hardly any place to go but to…
2:25:50-end: Closing Comments! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Next week:  Skip week!  Read some comics, and join us back here in two weeks, won’t you?
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In the latest sign that you’re totally old, no matter how fresh of a hoodie you’re rocking with your beaten-up jeans, the “new” superheroes that were spawned (sorry) when Marvel’s top artists bolted for greener, creator-owned pastures in 1992 have been around longer now than The Vision had when they were created. To celebrate that fact, Todd McFarlane has released a “Director’s Cut” of Spawn #1, featuring the “original” art pages in black and white, and commentary from writer/artist/creator McFarlane himself.

That seemed like a Roundtable-worthy occasion, but Jeff is out of commission. So Graeme and Matt decided to have a two-person Roundtable (also known as “a table”) on this momentous occasion.

Time for a Roundtable celebrating 25 YEARS OF SPAWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNN! [metal guitar lick]

MATT: I remember biking to the comic store and buying Spawn #1 off the shelf–yes, honest, swear-to-god-it’s-not-Spielberg bicycling, as my driver’s license was still a few months away, and they had just punched through a gorgeous, clean stretch of jet-black asphalt connecting my neighborhood to the nearest commercial strip. I didn’t love the story–more on this later, I’m sure–but was of exactly the right age to love McFarlane’s kinetic, twisty expansion on Michael Golden’s gorgeously cartoony art style.

I stuck with it through the first year or so (that’s where I first found the more commercially accessible incarnations of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman) and then moved on to other things for a couple of years. (Turns out that when you start driving, there are other places to go besides the nearby comic store.) I never really returned to the character longterm, dipping in occasionally when a guest creator did something with the line (Moore’s weird fixation on the Violator family of characters, his Days of Future Past riff in a WildC.A.T.S. crossover, Grant Morrison’s two-issue stint, Gaiman’s Angela miniseries, etc.), but this Director’s Cut was a powerful nostalgia punch for me.

But Graeme, you come at this thing very differently, yeah?

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So Marvel’s Secret Empire event chugs along, amidst what is–based on my Twitter timeline, anyway–a shocking lack of the internet pearl-clutching that they’re clearly trying to create

You might recall that my previous comments on this event have included such searing insight as “Well, it’s kinda dull but really not that big of a deal” and “It’s all kinda familiar, isn’t it,” but until these two issues I would’ve characterized it as a competent if uninspiring superhero event. Now…well, it’s still uninspiring, I guess.

There are, to me, three major problems with the series as it winds through its second issue and its Free Comic Book Day episode, which I’ll enumerate after the jump. Fair warning, though–this one includes pretty direct SPOILERS for events in those issues, especially issue #2, including screenshots of theoretically exciting moments.

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Previously on Baxter Building: Actually, forget any previouslies — while the last episode saw us get into the midway point of John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four, we’re skipping out of continuity this time around to read some Fantastic Four Annuals. All you need to know is that the Fantastic Four exists, but the 1970s wasn’t the best decade for them.

0:00:00-0:11:06: We get into things pretty quickly, with the introduction about the fact that we’ll be covering Fantastic Four Annual #14-18 and What If? #36 turning into a brief discussion about the eternal disappointment of annuals in general: the possibility they offer and the way they almost never live up to that.

0:11:07-0:24:06: That brings us to Annual #14, in which Salem’s Seven returns, Agatha Harkness suggests the world’s worst vacation, and neither Jeff nor myself are particularly interested in a plot resolution that can be summed up as “Franklin Richards can love everyone so hard it stops the bad guys.” But we are slightly more impressed by the comic’s surprising Nighthawk representation, Iron Man’s sick burn, and Nick Scratch’s resurrection as Flaming Wario. Take the pleasures of life where you can get them, dear readers.

0:24:07-0:46:01: How much did we love Fantastic Four Annual #15? “If we only had done a Baxter Building where we were just discussing Annuals #14 and 15, you me and every one of our listeners would kill ourselves before the end of the episode,” Jeff says, and that’s about it. Because the meat of the comic is lackluster, we find ourselves discussing how disappointing Skrulls are in general, the specific disappointment of 2008 crossover Secret Invasion (and its similarities of DC’s Millennium) and the bargain basement Philip K. Dickness that writer Doug Moench brings to proceedings in this annual. But we did enjoy the back-up strip a lot more, which I then liken to the Return of Superman story from the 1990s. No, really.

0:47:02-1:08:00: This brings us to Annual #16, which bears the shame of being the only annual in this run not on Marvel Unlimited… although, when you read the issue, you’ll understand why Marvel is happy to leave this in the virtual vaults. The powerhouse creative of team of Ed Hannigan and Steve Ditko deliver the Dragon Lord, AKA the sensational character find of 1981! “Jeff! Do you like this one? “It is migraine storytelling.” So, that’s a no? “I remember getting two-third of the way through this book and thinking, there’s fucking more?” Okay, then.

(We also discuss Jeff’s love of Avatar, my own Avatar PR experience, this annual’s similarities to Ditko’s Shade the Changing Man, and Jeff’s idea of how fathers and sons relate to each other. And then we read ads.) Jeff, one more time, how do you feel about this issue? “Depending on what your tastes are, FF [Annual] #16 is either a can’t miss, or a dear god, please miss.”

1:08:01-1:19:06: From the ridiculous to the… dull? Who could have suspected that John Byrne of all people would turn out to be too pedantic to fully take advantage of the “What If?” concept? What If #36 sees Byrne answer the question “What if the Fantastic Four had not gained their powers?” by writing the story, “Oh, they’d become a boring version of the Challengers of the Unknown.” I call it “an interesting oddity, but not an exciting one,” which on reflection might be far too generous.

1:19:07-1:32:27: By far the best issue of this episode, Fantastic Four Annual #17 sees John Byrne succeed in large part by completely ditching the eponymous heroes for half the issue and creating a surprisingly tense horror story in the process. I mean, sure, things fall apart when the F.F. do show up, bringing with them Byrne’s larger problems when it comes to the series, but still; the first half of this issue really is pretty great. Of course, because this is one of the most digression-y episodes in some time, we also manage to work in talk of both Skrull Kill Krew and the median age of Americans. Why wouldn’t we?

1:32:28-1:50:32: Finally, we arrive at Annual #18, which sees two great ideas brought together for one very mediocre comic book. Thankfully, we find better things to talk about, including the idea of Reed Richards as Marvel’s Great Cosmic Un-Fixer, Jeff’s amazing “Sad John Byrne” theory, and Grant Morrison showing up in (and being killed in) Suicide Squad. I said this was the most digression-y episode, right…?
1:50:33-end: As we wrap things up by badmouthing that which came before, Jeff reveals that I am Darth Vader to his Luke Skywalker and I get confused about just when the next episode is. We also wrap things up by reminding you to check out our Tumblr, Twitter and Patreon, and thank you for sticking with us. Also, Jeff really was remarkably sick while recording this, so let’s thank Jeff for sterling work, as well. A well-deserved round of applause for everyone, I think.

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0:00-12:06: Greetings! Greetings and a long, perhaps too-detailed story about Jeff’s niece’s walkathon. So we discuss physical fitness for kids today, and what it was like back when we were kids.  SPOILERS: Graeme’s story is a lot like this:

12:06-25:15: And from there, we get into the comic book discussion, with Jeff talking about downloading the first trade of Power Man/Iron Fist Vol 1 by David Walker and Sanford Greene from Comixology Unlimited, in part so he can give a special shout-out to the double-barrelled Kurosawa tribute in issue #5.
Also discussed: the fact that Marvel is now on Comixology Unlimited, which is a news story from this week that nobody really seems that excited by but is kind of a thing. We also discuss Marvel Unlimited, and the pros and cons there.
25:15-55:24:  This was recorded on Free Comic Book Day, and so Graeme has a story about the differences between the print and digital copies of the FCBD books, as well as a review of his five favorite free issues this year.  (As for Jeff, well, you probably saw the picture making the rounds of Twitter from this year’s Spongebob comic, but if not, it’s at the top of this post!)  And then we go on to discuss, among other things, the Secret Empire FCBD issue and some of the confounding story choices that are made.  Graeme also covers some speculation concerning future issues of the event, as well as reception, rumors and what-have-you.  (Yes, the ever-fascinating *what-have-you*!)
55:24-1:16:01: Only tangentially related to Secret Empire (in that it involves the digital copies offered by SE #0), Jeff wants to talk about reading Mockingbird issue #6 by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk, and how that got Jeff to read the other two issues via Marvel Unlimited *and* about the unexpected retcon that messes with the West Coast Avengers story by our beloved Steve Englehart.  Come for the trepidation, stay for Jeff’s clumsy re-read of Mockingbird #8.
1:16:01-1:26:46: In other “Jeff is kind of a terrible person” news, please overlook his failed attempt to tease Graeme for seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (not in a press screening, but at an actual damn screening!)  I mean, Graeme was kind enough to overlook it, so you can too, right?  (FWIW, Jeff still feels terrible about it.)  But enough about Jeff!  Graeme saw GOTG, Vol. 2, and so we discuss the film.  There is a casting spoiler from 1:18:43 to 1:19:28, general spoilers about characterization from 1:19:28 to 1:19:52 or so, and then there’s a spoiler for one of the post-credit sequences we talk about at 1:20:44.  So this section is pretty spoiler-heavy for a movie that just came out this weekend (which is generally unlike us, I hope?).  Maybe skip over the whole thing and come back to it after you’ve seen the film, I guess?  No plot spoilers, but we do not couch talking about the film much at all.
1:26:46-1:39:52:  “But is it better than Suicide Squad?” asked nobody ever.  And yet that is the road we sort of go down as Jeff admits he watched Suicide Squad recently (thanks to good ol’ HBO Now) and he wants to revisit what he understood to be some of Graeme’s statements about it.  We discuss how the theatrical release was made, what things (no matter how slight) worked, all the many things that didn’t, and more.
1:39:52-1:55:29: Then, as a complete change-up to the way the conversation has been going, we finally get around to talking about a bit of excellent superhero stuff in a non-comic medium:  the first season of Legion (currently on Hulu) which we both pretty much love the bejesus out of.  Full spoilers for this one, right down to how Jeff thinks the cliffhanger at the end of S2 is going.  So if you haven’t seen it yet, just go see it and then come back and listen to us talk about all the stuff we found truly fascinating about it.  But for those of you who saw it (probably long ago), please hang out and listen to the blather.
1:55:29-2:08:23: Wow, has it been almost two hours already?  It has!  But we have barely talked about actual, you know, comic books, so we get a chance to chime in about a thing each we’ve read and loved, with Graeme being in the tank for the first two hardcover volumes of Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, and Jeff grooving on the first two omnibi of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Yukito Kishiro.
2:08:23-2:27:24: But we are just getting our second wind so Graeme jumps off of that to talk about the four collections of Strontium Dog by John Wagner, Alan Grant, and the amazing Carlos Ezquerra he has read recently and very much loves.  And Jeff follows up that up with a spoiler-free review of Walking Dead #167 since it’s a pretty major issue and also because Jeff can’t figure out why he is still reading the damn book considering how much he dunks on it.
2:27:24-end: And so but finally:  Closing Comments! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast. PLUS: a beautiful little plug from Graeme which he quite appropriately calls, “a payoff for anyone who stayed with us two and a half hours.”  Oh, and you can also check out Jeff role-playing the mysterious and glamorous Cha-Cha X on the FCBD Exiled podcast episode.
Next week:  Baxter Building Ep. 29!  Covering Fantastic Four Annuals #14-18 and What If? #36! Read them, then join us here, won’t you?
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After reading Secret Empire #1–after all the tumult and fanfare and Wagnerian bombast of the run-up to the event–I found myself not only non-enraged, but mildly bored. This is, it seemed to me, writer Nick Spencer’s take on exactly the same event Marvel has done at least half a dozen times before: [BAD GUY] has successfully taken over [AMERICA] and now our heroes are down to their last-ditch hope to turn things around. Ultron, Doom, Apocalypse, Sentinels, Doom again, and now Hydra–the details change, but the feel of the whole story stays depressingly the same.

And I don’t like being depressed! I’m a cheerful, upbeat guy! I like liking things!

So I decided that the only logical thing to do was create a positive, happy review of the book–but, to be true to the spirit of this issue– to cobble it together entirely of text from reviews of 2013’2 Age of Ultron #1. I changed character and creator names and the occasional pronoun (in [BRACKETS]) but left everything else intact. The numbers in parentheses link back to the original source texts, and the list of references directly follows. So, without further ado, [MY] happy review of [SECRET EMPIRE] #1.

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0:00-51:46: Greetings! Greetings from the first day of the Marvel Legacy announcement, and if you think we’re not going to lean into that piece of news, well, I suggest you listen to our other two hundred and twenty-two episodes just a little more closely.  So settle in as we we talk about what Graeme justifiably calls “the most Marvel version of DC’s Rebirth you could imagine.” A one-shot! A reboot! Legacy numbering! Value stamps? FOOM?!  To quote ourselves, “Wait, what?”
51:46-1:02:34:  On the DC side of the fence, we have the announcement of Dark Matter.  Just as Marvel is in some ways doing stuff we’ve been suggesting for years, Dark Matter looks like DC picking up the mantle of new IP generation, getting the artists more involved in the creation and crafting of books, and (we’re hoping!) more creator participation in the generation of new IP.  And yet…it also has some stuff worth scratching your head over…
1:02:34-1:18:24: “Graeme, let’s talk about comics!” is the exhortation from Jeff, and so we discuss the just-released Batman #21, the first part of “The Button” by Tom King and Jason Fabok.  We are pretty decisively split on the book, and discuss it, as well as King’s run on Batman since Jeff has now also read “I Am Bane” in Batman issues #15-20, and part 2 of the story in Flash #21, which Graeme has read already.
1:18:24-1:57:27: And, of course, we discuss the also-just-released Secret Empire #0 by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna.  Also discussed: Fear Itself, Secret Invasion, the Nazi Superman section of Multiversity, Civil War II: The Oath, and much more. Oh, and as long as you’re here, scroll down (or click here) and check out Matt’s take on the issue.
1:57:27-end: Closing Comments! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Oh, but before we go, we work in a quick thumbs up for two comics we’ve read:  the first issue of Rock Candy Mountain by Kyle Starks, and the most recent Stumptown collection by Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood.
Next week:  A skip week!  And then in two weeks, a Wait, What? Ep. 224! Join us, won’t you?
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I’ve been having trouble with the “Cap is a Nazi” story. Not the in-comics story itself, really, but the real-world response to it. I started writing this post a while back but got derailed by life. With the release of Secret Empire #0 and a few prologue tie-ins today, it seemed like an apt time to revisit. In addition to the zero issue kicking off the big event, I also bought and read Captain America: Steve Rogers #16, Thunderbolts #12, and U.S.Avengers #5.

There are some spoilers for those books below (including the seemingly major revelation from the prologue to Secret Empire #0 which I spoil in the very next paragraph), but the main point is me trying to grasp the reaction to the overall event.

Also, a caveat: with the exception of those four comics, I’m six months behind on the story, because I’ve been following via Marvel Unlimited. So I may well be literally missing something crucial that appeared clearly on-panel in a comic from that six-month gap.

The recap as I understand it goes something like this: when Kobik, the child-like personification of the Cosmic Cube, rejuvenated an elderly Steve Rogers, she actually rewrote his entire history in a way that was shaped (unbeknownst to Cap) by the Red Skull. The crucial What If…? deviation sees Rogers’ mother brought into a Hydra cell in World War 2, which in turn puts young Steve into their clutches and lets them shape him as the ultimate sleeper agent. Secret Empire #0 further clarifies that in 1945, Hydra hid Steve–by then established as Captain America, pretty much the ultimate sleeper agent–in a magic pool to protect him when the Allies (allegedly) used a crude Cosmic Cube to rewrite reality so they, not Hydra, won the war. (The main point of that reveal SEEMS to be, as far as I can tell, to explain how Cap has completely different memories from everyone else in the Marvel Universe.)

Secret Empire, it appears, will be the story of what happens when Cap reveals his true allegiance to the Marvel Universe of 2017.

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