In the Great The Last Jedi Wars of 2017, I’m on the “I love this movie” side. Let me get that out of the way first. Writer/director Rian Johnson’s film was, for me, the most thematically rich, best-acted, best-directed, best-looking of all the Star Wars movies. I loved the way it played off and subverted established Star Wars tropes and expectations, from the first scene to the last, while still clearly being built around a deep love of the earlier movies. I’ve seen it four times as of this writing and will be trying to get in at least one more in-theater viewing. For whatever reason, it landed really squarely for me, and is currently my third-favorite of all the Star Wars films, pushing hard for the #2 spot.

So, that’s that part. I’m not interested in rebutting anyone’s complaints–we’re allowed to like different movies, you and I!–nor do I particularly feel like rehashing the moments that worked so well for me. What I do want to look at is one specific subversion of an iconic moment that I haven’t seen directly discussed anywhere, and doing that will necessitate SPOILERS after the jump.

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Previously on Baxter Building: Steve Englehart took over the Fantastic Four and immediately broke it, by writing Reed and Sue out the book forever and replacing them with Crystal and Sharon Ventura, who turned into a Thing pretty sharpish. And then Crystal got written out during an annual, which must’ve sucked for anyone not picking those up at the time. With only three members left, how can Englehart keep calling the book Fantastic Four? Does he have a plan, and if so, will editors let him carry it out? The answer to at least one of those questions, dear Whatnauts, turns out to be “No…”

0:00:00-0:04:30: The final Baxter Building of 2017 opens with us looking ahead to the final Steve Englehart issues of the series and the pseudonyms that await us there — as well as a brief mention of the professionalism of a man who’s to happy with his job but won’t quit nonetheless.

0:04:31:-0:23:55: Before we get to the fake names, though, we have to deal with that most X-Men of crossovers, Inferno! A three-part crossover of sorts starts in Fantastic Four #322, but don’t expect any explanation of what’s actually happening in the story, because Steve Englehart doesn’t get around to that, although he does feature a bicycle chasing Ben Grimm and a mailbox trying to eat someone’s hand, because… why not? Meanwhile, we discuss Englehart’s use of both magical thinking and self-empowerment, and how the latter differs from the traditional Marvel paradigm, and also get into how gravity doesn’t work. It’s a whole thing.

0:23:56-0:43:49: FF #323 keeps up the Inferno, even though the group leaves New York behind altogether, thanks to the sudden appearances of Kang and Mantis, who Jeff correctly identifies as being “kinda super-problematic.” Before we give Jeff too much credit, though, we should maybe ask him what it means to raise children in “plant-ly ways,” which is also under discussion here, as well as Johnny Storm’s first use of a car metaphor in the entire series. He’s growing up so fast!

0:43:50-0:59:39: Fantastic Four #324 features what I call “the stupidest leap of logic ever,” as we talk about the way in which a Fantastic Four without Reed Richards is actually made up of idiots, why newfound villain Necrodamus is both amazingly shit and also George Harrison, and Johnny is revealed to be the arguably the most gullible superhero of all. All this, and the most Doctor Who sound effect in all of comics!

0:59:40-1:14:38: As timing would have it, FF#325 is called “A Christmas Tale,” prompting me to go on a rant about the apparent misunderstanding Steve Englehart has about what Christmas is all about. For those already sick of festivity, there are also plant ninjas, Rich Buckler pulling out the John Buscema swipes whenever possible, Jeff voicing his dislike for the Ms. Marvel costume Sharon wears. For those wondering if Johnny Storm could seem more clueless, don’t worry, we also cover that, and the way in which it’s fairly obvious that this was the truncation of a storyline that was seemingly intended to go on for awhile. You can tell that Jeff is really having fun by the fact that he sighs “Oh God” at one point. But don’t we all feel like that?

1:14:39-1:29:59: John Harkness — really Steve Englehart under a fake name, but let’s not talk about that — takes over as writer with Fantastic Four #326, but because he writes a great Reed Richards — who is kind and respectful to his friends even though he still knows better than everyone else (and doesn’t like Sue thinking otherwise) — we let that pass without too much comment. Elsewhere, Jeff suggests a Secret Wars read through, which I’m sure we’ve already done, I underscore some great foreshadowing when it comes to the world of personal computing in the Marvel Universe, and the Thing gets turned back into Ben Grimm (because of course he does) as a result of the return of the Frightful Four, who come with a Traveling Wilburys song in their hearts. (No, really.)

1:30:00-1:45:37: FF #327 is a big dumb fight issue, but it kind of works, somehow? As Jeff puts it, there’s “a high degree of competence” on show here, which frees us up to talk about the Frightful Four as an avatar of the early (and arguably pre-great) days of Lee and Kirby, which might be an intentional move on Steve Engleart’s part, and a tease of things to come. I also suggest that this issue might have been when I think he decided to quit the book, and ask the question, is Ben the most interesting character in this entire series
1:45:38-end: We wrap things up by promising the end of the Englehart era next episode (That’s Fantastic Four #s 328-333, for those reading along), and reminding everyone about our Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon accounts. Thanks for all those who waited patiently for the shownotes — blame the holidays for the delay — and for reading along, as always. We’ll be back with a regular Wait, What? in two weeks. Happy Remainder of the Holidays!

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What’s that? You thought that you could make it to Santa’s visit without a helping of Wait, What? Oh, faithful Whatnauts, we’re not a Charles Dickens miser. Do you seriously think we’d leave you without our favorite books of the year and a potential distraction from family and friends when you need it the most? We recorded this minicast thirty-five minutes ago. (Okay, two days, but I was on a roll.)

Topics discussed in today’s minicast:

  • My personal news.
  • Graeme’s Top Not Actually 10:
    You and A Bike And A Road by Eleanor Davis
    The Interview by Manuele Fior
    Spinning by Tillie Walden
    Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads
    Batman by Tom King, Lee Weeks, Clay Mann, et al
    The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
    Extremity by Daniel Warren Johnson
    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
    Giant Days by John Allison, Max Sarin et al
    Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero
    The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
    (I totally didn’t mention My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris, and I should have, because it definitely belongs on there. )
  • Jeff’s AAA Top 10:
    Batman Annual #2/Batman/Elmer Fudd by Tom King, Lee Weeks and Michael Lark
    Legends of The Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vols. 1 & 2 by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo
    Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Yukito Kishiro
    The Complete Crepax Vol. 2: The Time Eater and Other Stories by Guido Crepax
    West Coast Avengers: Lost in Space-Time by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott
    Interview with Monster Girls by Petos
    Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun by Izumi Tsubaki
    Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui
    Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda
    Steaming Sniper by Marley Caribu and Tadashi Matsumori
    Rock Candy Mountain by Kyle Starks
  • Jeff’s runners-up, because of course he has runners-up:
    Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr, Andy Kubert et al (Ignore Jeff getting the creative team wrong.)
    The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
    The Unbelievable Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings and Guruhiru
    Rocket by Al Ewing and Adam Gotham
    Deathstroke by Christopher Priest, Diogenes Neves et al
    I’m Not Okay With This by Charles Forsman
    The Hookjaw Archive by Pat Mills, Ken Armstrong and Ramona Sola

Shownotes for the new Baxter Building — which can already be found here! — will be up on Tuesday, because it’s the holiday season and I don’t want to spend the day writing show notes. Happy merry, everyone. May all your Christmases be a thing.

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Hello, Whatnauts!

Here’s episode two hundred and thirty-nine for your yuletide ears!  Due to some tech problems, the episode ran short (and turned out to be even shorter once you cut out the “Hello, Graeme, hello?” “Jeff?” “Graeme?” “Hello?” joshery).  Nevertheless, it is our hope we will scratch that hard-to-reach comic book podcast itch.

Topics discussed in today’s episode:

Our statement about the upcoming changes to Patreon’s fee structure;
*Jeff’s epitaph;
*An annotated readthrough of the lead story of World’s Finest #251, “Invasion of the Deathless Brain,” by Bob Haney, George Tuska, and Vince Colletta (oh, and good catch by Walter!  Here’s that amazing fan-drawn facial hair on Speedy below);


*The roundtable by Matt and Graeme about Justice League #34 by Priest and Pete Woods, and Batman #36 by Tom King, Clay and Seth Mann, with some additional commentary here by Jeff;
*But Jeff also read and wanted to talk about three kinda recent first issues: John Wick #1 by Greg Pak, Giovanni Valletta, David Curiel and Inlight Studios; Fence #1 by C.S. Pascat, Johanna The Mad, Joana LaFuente; Ninja-K #1 by Christos Gage, Tomás Giorello, and Diego Rodriguez; and the (not a first issue by super-excellent) Rock Candy Mountain #6 by Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer, and Dylan Todd.
Also:
*The 2000AD 2017 Christmas Special;
*Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History… by Pat Mills;
*The 2000AD Sale currently on their website (update: and thanks to editing this episode, Jeff now also has a digital copy of the Complete Harlem Heroes);
and more!

We will return in two weeks for the last Baxter Building of the year!  Read Fantastic Four #s 322-327 and come join us!

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It’s a truism of writing about comics on the internet that first issues get a lot of attention and hyped issues get a lot of attention but no one ever bothers to talk about anything from issue #3 onward. With that in mind, Graeme and Matt decided to get together to do a good-old-fashioned Roundtable on Justice League #34 and Batman #36. Enjoy!

(Okay, okay. JL #34 is Christopher Priest’s first issue as regular writer, with Pete Woods on art. And Batman #36 is something of a Very Special Issue guest-starring Superman, written by Tom King, pencilled by Clay Mann, inked by Clay & Seth Mann, with colors by Jordie Bellaire. They’re also the first issues to feature DC’s (frankly lovely) post-Rebirth trade dress. Anyway: ROUNDTABLE!)

 

MATT: I cannot help but approach this Justice League title feeling happy for Priest. One of his most common refrains in anecdotes and essays and what-not, is that he (understandably) hated the fact that in the later years of his career he only ever got calls to write black superheroes.

Actually, no need for me to paraphrase him. Here’s Priest in a 2011 essay: Continue reading

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Greetings!  Just in time to close out the first weekend of December is Wait, What? Ep. 238! Here’s a quick breakdown of what Graeme and Jeff talked about in their two and a half-hour episode, in more or less the order they talked about it in:

Advent calendars;
Some of the best books of the year Graeme’s been reading;
Frankenstein’s comic book swap;
What we bought in the recent DC Sale;
Cinder and Ashe;
Batman Annual #2;
speculation about the end of Doomsday Clock;
Bug: The Adventures of Forager by the Allreds;
revisiting Multiversity;
Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville;
C.B. Cebulski and the legacy of Akira Yoshida;
and a little bit more!

And if that wasn’t enough for you, all you have to do is wait a week and we’ll do it all over again!  (Well, different topics next time, one would hope.)  Thank you so much for joining us, and we hope you enjoy!

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Sure, it should be a skip week this week, but in the spirit of the holidays, here’s a compilation of the previously Patreon-only Baxter Bungalow episodes, in which I talk about (deep breath) Alpha Flight #4, The Uncanny X-Men #167, West Coast Avengers #10 and The Thing #s 5, 6, 8, and 10-23, all of which tie in, to greater or lesser extents with John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run. For those who’ve wondered what Ben Grimm got up to on Battleworld, or even worse, what he got up to when he got back to Earth, now is your chance to find out. Spoilers: It’s weirder than you think.

(There’s no Jeff on this, sorry; it was always intended as a solocast, but his absence does point out how necessary he is to regular Baxter Buildings and Wait, What?s.)

Even more than usual, this episode is brought to you by the kind Patreon supporters, who heard these as they were released first time, and who make Baxter Building and the lesser-known Bungalow possible in the first place. On this Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., Jeff and I are particularly grateful for the support shown by them — and all of you who listen — to our comic book ramblings.

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I almost skipped Justice League, mainly because I expected to hate it. I was lukewarm on Man of Steel—liked it more than many people did, but found Zack Snyder’s whole worldview pervasive and unpleasant—and I loathed Batman vs. Superman. My comic book Justice Leagues are the Giffen/DeMatteis version (as mentioned many times before), and the Grant Morrison big-seven version.

The strengths of the first of those include humor, light interpersonal comedy, and strong characterization. The strengths of the second are epic scale, reliable undertones of hope, and a love of the bombastic grandeur of the DC superheroes. Zack Snyder’s cinematic interpretation of the team seemed unlikely to exhibit any of those strengths, and I’m way too frazzled-dad to have time or energy to hatewatch things in the theater. So Justice League was a skip-until-cable-and-maybe-not-even-then.

But my daughter, now nine, declared in no uncertain terms, “If it has Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, I am all about it,” so off to the theater we went. And, much to my surprise, I totally, unreservedly enjoyed it. It wasn’t flawless—far, far from it—and it certainly wasn’t deep. But it pushed a lot of the same buttons as Morrison’s JLA run in the comics: it was all the big-name DC heroes, interacting and fighting a thin, unambiguous bad guy. And sometimes, that’s enough.

After the jump, some slightly more SPOILER-y thoughts….

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Previously on Baxter Building: Steve Englehart arrived, and immediately changed things forever (Really, about twenty issues, but still) by sending Reed and Sue off to domestic bliss in Connecticut and bringing in two new members of the team: Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura; Kamala Khan wouldn’t be created for another quarter of a century) and Crystal of the Inhumans. As if the soap operatics of that shift wasn’t enough, Ms. Marvel and the Thing flew through more cosmic rays, and became She-Thing and Even-Thingier, respectively, leading to an issue where one character kept trying to kill themselves repeatedly. (No, really; she got better.) Meanwhile, Doctor Doom is still out there, waiting to cause trouble. Spoilers: He’s about to cause trouble.

0:00:00-0:10:49: After an extended cold open in which Jeff complains about the lack of visual appeal to the current incarnation of the Fantastic Four — by which I mean, the ones we’re covering, not the current incarnation, 2017-style, because there isn’t one — we talk about the issues we’re going to cover and accidentally lie to you. We really meant to cover Fantastic Fours #314-324 and Annual #21, but… well, we just weren’t up to the task. We only make it as far as #321, and even that was a struggle, as you’ll hear.

0:10:50-0:31:19: We begin with Fantastic Four #314 and #315, in which the team gets lost and only finds a way home through the kindness of strangers who just so happen to take over their comic book, kind of. Jeff and I talk about the appeal of the Thing as the center of the Marvel Universe, the “Emotional Dysfunction Engine” that is Johnny’s relationship with himself and the slightly shifting, kind of repeating monologues it includes, and whether or not the series fulfills the promise of the Lee and Kirby era, despite barely resembling it. As Jeff puts it, there two issues are “an amazingly off-kilter read” that break “so many rules and probably John Byrne’s heart,” and if that isn’t the best pull-quote, what is?

0:31:20-0:52:27: FF #316 explains the secret history of the parts of the Marvel Universe you never cared about, but does it matter without the emotional through line to keep the reader engaged? We discuss that, because I liked what happens in the second half of this issue far more than Jeff did. Also, we get into the FF as passive participants in their own comic, the very ideal of what it means to be the Fantastic Four in the first place (and whether Steve Englehart has a different idea of what it means to be heroic than contemporary writers), and Jeff raises the idea of an Englehart version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which still blows my mind a little.

0:52:28-1:05:31: By the time we get to Fantastic Four #317, it’s time to talk about Alicia and Johnny’s relationship and whether or not it’s a believable one, especially given the awkward bit at the start that Jeff is sold on, and I’m not. Other topics of discussion: Alicia as being the emotionally mature one in the Ben/Alicia/Johnny bizarre love triangle, the strange notion that AIM apparently works in intergalactic currency, and what happens when Steve Englehart has an enemy… and it’s Steve Englehart! (No clones were involved with the creation of this comic, to the best of ur knowledge.)

1:05:32-1:23:50: As we careen into FF Annual #21, we talk about the strange stuttering effect of these issues and how “Wait, how the fuck did we get here?” works as a hook to get readers interested in each issue. Meanwhile Crystal leaves the team, Quicksilver returns to the series (and leaves both of us confused about an apparent rehabilitation that neither of us believe), Steve Englehart becomes Jim Shooter in the strangest way possible, and there are the finest pin-ups any comic has ever displayed. No, really:

1:23:51-1:31:19: Doctor Doom arrives in Fantastic Four #318 and everything immediately gets better. What is the best thing about Doctor Doom? Jeff and I pretty much agree it’s his seeming inability to stop himself betraying everyone around him even when he really doesn’t need to. (As Jeff points out, this might make Master Pandemonium smarter, but Doctor Doom is still far cooler.) Plus, Blastaar returns and he’s taken care of so quickly, it’s as if Steve Englehart and Keith Pollard understand how shit he is.

1:31:20-1:47:47: Is FF #319 — which is really called Secret Wars 3 — a better ending for the Beyonder than Secret Wars II? I certainly thought so when I was 13 years old, and knew no better. The story of the Beyonder gets a particularly Englehartian wrap-up that also includes the Molecule Man, as Jeff and I discuss philosophy, Millennium and the nature of existence, as you do. Oh, and we decide that we have to just ditch the last three issues were going to cover, because it’d taken us this long to do these ones. We’re only human, Whatnauts. Sorry.

1:47:48-2:01:01: From the sublime to the ridiculous, and the one-two punch of Fantastic Four #320 and 321, in which the Thing fights the Hulk, and then Ms. Marvel fights the She-Hulk… kind of. Jeff’s into one of these issues, but I didn’t really enjoy any, in part because it seems like Englehart is producing these stories under duress. (Also, #321 is just terrible, and gets us talking about the difference between John Byrne’s She-Hulk and Steve Englehart’s, and why Byrne’s might be… better…? Nobody wants to hear that, not even us.)
2:01:02-end: We look ahead to what’s coming in the future briefly, and remind you all how tired we were when we recorded this. No, wait, I mean, we remind you all about our Tumblr, Twitter and Patreon. In a month, we return hopefully somewhat rested for Fantastic Four #s 322-327, which might mean a shorter episode for once. (Who am I kidding?)

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Hello, wonderful Whatnauts!  If you’ve been paying attention, you know that we are scheduled for a Baxter Building this weekend.

And!  I am happy to say you will indeed be getting a healthy dose of Jeff & Graeme in awe of what Steve Englehart is doing to the Fantastic Four.

But! Considering how crazy the comics news has been the last few weeks, and considering Marvel announced a new Editor in Chief just two days ago, we thought it might be a good idea to convene a quick 2017 check-in with what happened, what will happen next, and classic ’70s TV show, What’s Happening!!  (Sadly, I’m only joking about that last one…for now.)

So! Join in on the bemusement with this episode: it’s barely over an hour but still chock full of the quality bemusement you expect from us!

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