Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
It’s mailbag time!
Jeremy writes: These pages just made me miss the days when we had narration. No, I don’t think everything needs to be explained, but we aren’t even given a decent idea of how the characters experienced it. We as readers get flashes of stuff thrown at us, but there’s no context for what it means to the characters within the story.
I can certainly understand the frustration you express here. As a reader, a lack of explanation and/or clarity can expose flaws in a story. However, as someone who makes his living explaining what comics mean to the thousands of readers struggling for answers, I must come out in favour of these caption-less pages where ambiguity reigns and I can turn those pages into a long series of posts positing numerous theories (each more crazy than the last) about what they really mean. What’s especially appealing is that, even if the writer were to explain what they meant, I would dismiss it, because intention is meaningless. All that matter is what’s on the page. And what was on those pages is so open to interpretation that I could easily spend the rest of my life trying to one-up myself with theory after theory.
Or, to put it another way: I enjoy comics that allow me to think a little bit and make decisions about what I’ve read.
sgt pepper writes: I seriously hope you are planning on doing a post a day for the entire year and all on Age of Ultron 10. Such an amazing, absurd concept. Keep going!
Sorry, but there’s no way that I could keep this up for a year.
dekko writes: Yeah, I neither know nor care who Angela is anyway…
She’s an angel. And one of the causes of one of the more high profile comic book lawsuits that prompted many to question why anyone would argue over who created the character and who gets to own her. Similar reactions were heard far and wide when she appeared in Age of Ultron #10. Reading her subsequent appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy, she’s still an angel and is kind of mysterious and violent. She’s also not the new Ms. Marvel. That’s about all I know.
Bizzle asks: How much is Bendis paying you for this? I mean this is crazy.
Bob asks: Random thought: how many articles can you wring out of this turd monkey of a series?
Other Chris writes: Just repeating what was already well said: you spent way more time thinking about this than Bendis did.
Oddly, I’ve gotten many, many letters along the line of these three and I don’t understand the mentality. What I’m doing here has very little to do with Brian Michael Bendis. This is being done for entirely selfish purposes where the comic in question is somewhat meaningless. In fact, it was chosen somewhat at random. While I know some of these letters are sarcastic, the idea that Bendis would pay me to dissect this issue is somewhat laughable – as is the idea that I’ve spent more time thinking about it than he has. Both ideas are rather insulting to Bendis and casually dismiss what he does for living – and does quite successfully (far more successfully than most of us in our respective careers, actually). Why the need to get personal? The closest I’ve come to that (I believe) is pointing out that he has some recurring themes and ideas in his work. Otherwise, it’s been entirely about the comic, because that’s what matters here. Or, as much as the specific comic that I’m discussing can matter in an exercise like this. No one is forcing me to write these posts and no one is forcing anyone to read them (except for maybe Cronin, because I think he reads everything on the blog… sorry, Brian).
Dan Coyle writes: Random thought: Chad, give up and admit to yourself Bendis, when it came to the Avengers, just wasn’t a very good writer, and likely cared about what he was doing far less than you do. He’s bad, and you should feel bad.
Why would I admit this when I clearly do not agree with… well, any part of what you have said? In 2013, I reread the entire Bendis Avengers group of comics and it was rather strong. Lots of good character work, some great recurring plots and threats, a surprising amount of cause-and-effect storytelling… What impressed me most of all was how everything in his run is seen in some form in Avengers Disassembled. It’s all laid out there and the rest is him unpacking it all and exploring it all from as many angles as possible. I love that. That you didn’t enjoy it is fine. It is. But, this odd desire to bring it down and insult people who enjoy it? That’s a little weird, man.
Adam writes: I think this is where you’re going to lose a lot of people. It’s nice to WANT to maintain the integrity of a story by saying “this happened and the tie-ins didn’t,,” but neither the readers at large nor Marvel see it that way. Officially, the tie-ins happened. Officially, Spider-Man was Otto in Peter’s body. You have to suspend your disbelief to read Bendis’ main issues to understand that Spider-Man-acting-like-Peter is actually Otto. You also have to accept that when Bendis wrote the story, the “Otto as Spidey” hadn’t happened yet because the series was delayed by two years.
For me, it’s a matter of ‘personal canon.’ I don’t care how anyone else sees it. The only way that I can read comics at this point is to wall things off from one another, creating little worlds that don’t really interact unless I’m forced to recognise an overlap. Bendis’s corner of the Marvel Universe is one such area. While it may be central of the MU as a whole sometimes, I tend to view it as its own little thing. Same with the world of Warren Ellis or Joe Casey or any other writer whose work I like. Take Thanos. While Marvel has published numerous comics with Thanos that Jim Starlin did not write, I don’t, personally, count those as ‘real’ Thanos stories. That’s the only way for me to make sense of the inherent contradictions. Or, in the case of other works, I just separate them into two little piles, liking each one, but not seeing them as related despite sharing characters per se. Bendis’s Avengers work is very much separate in my mind from Hickman’s Avengers work, for example. That Bendis’s run led into Hickman’s and Hickman has clearly drawn inspiration/plot points from Bendis’s work is more a nice intellectual fact rather than something that actually impacts how I view the works.
Also, it comes down to this: why in the world would I care what happens in comics that I didn’t read? I’m discussing Age of Ultron #10 having only read the previous nine issues of the series, no tie-ins. Why would I then consider those tie-ins when formulating any thoughts or opinions on this issue? I wouldn’t. That wouldn’t make much sense. While not every comic that I haven’t read has gone unread by choice, many have, including tie-ins to events that I read.
Sorry, that probably came off more aggressive than I meant…
Brian Cronin writes: Age of Ultron #1 took place “today” because it was set in the Marvel present, but a Marvel present where Ultron went back in time and succeeded back in Avengers #12.1. So Bendis could honestly say “this is happening right now in current continuity” and be truthful, while it also not working for stuff like Otto as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four away from Earth.
You just blew my mind, sir. And you also expose what I kind of love/hate about an issue like Age of Ultron #10: every theory makes sense to some degree. Almost every explanation you or I could come up with to explain the various contradictions is validated by the fact that time travel is involved – and, time gets ‘broken’ near the end of the issue in a vague manner that could have undone any contradictions we previously saw. It’s a perfect comic in that way. It’s continuity-proof. Goddamn Bendis and his genius ways.
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