When an award-winning author on African-American identity takes on one of the most famous (and currently particularly visible) black characters in comics, the expectation level is set sky-high. Black Panther #1 from a couple of months ago sets the scene for an extended, and clearly multi-faceted, story which author Ta-Nehisi Coates clearly approaches with no suggestion he’s planning on dumbing down for comics. Together with artistic collaborators Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin, he kicks off with a first issue that jumps straight into politics, relationships, history and tradition, and some good old-fashioned fisticuffs to keep things moving. How does it all stack up? Listen and find out.

And in honour of Coates’ transition to comics from other writing fields, Jared’s 3&1 is on exactly that – authors who made their name elsewhere first. No spoilers, but his selected Worst One Ever has been mentioned on the show before. And he’s right – he’s a terrible, terrible comic writer.

Hot off a guest appearance in Daredevil season 2 on Netflix, and last seen in comics at the start of Secret Wars killing ALL the supervillains as the world ended, it’s The Punisher’s turn to be relaunched off the back of that universe-shattering crossover with a new number one and a new creative team (ish – one of them is a very old hand at depicting the terminal adventures of Frank Castle). So among many other subjects as we cover the new Punisher #1, in this show we discuss: who to root for if you can’t root for the protagonist; heroes that kill; how best to use a character like The Punisher in a universe of heroes who don’t; whether and how this issue works for us, and Bex’s fondness for violence. With an unexpected special guest mention of Frank Miller?

This show rated explicit for one use of Bex’s favourite word. You know the one…

This is the week that X-Men: Apocalypse opens in cinemas here in the UK and its reviews are, let’s be generous and say ‘not great’. So does an Apocalypse-related comic – arguably the Apocalypse-related comic – do any better? This isX-Men: Alpha – Age of Apocalypse; the comic that starts the entire original AoA story. The kick-off of the saga that replaced the entire X-Men line for four months and plunged them into a world where Professor X died years earlier and Apocalypse arose unchallenged. Magneto and his X-Men are at the vanguard of the resistance. It’s a famous epic, the source of many stories since. But is it any good? And have we ever before spent as much time discussing the rendering of various characters’ junk?

And alternate universes being all the rage round our house, it’s also time to dip into some others for this show’s 3&1, courtesy of Jon.

It’s Captain America: Civil War week (here in the UK), so Bex, Jared and Jon marking the occasion with a Civil War show. Issue one of Civil War from 2006 marked the start of the series that saw hero vs hero in an ideological battle; should heroes be registered and licensed by the government, or should they operate free of regulation? If the government defines who’s a villain, what’s to stop them basing their decision on political grounds? But without regulation, who holds the heroes accountable when things go wrong? This promises not to be a typical all guns blazing super-heroic clash.

As Civil War was written by Mark Millar, Jared rounds out the show with a 3&1 on Millar comics. In a long career covering multiple publishers, multiple genres and no small amount of controversy, what makes Jared’s top three, and what’s his worst one ever?

XMen137Time for another Blast From The Past, as we go back to issue 137 of the first comic book series called The X-Men and the double-sized conclusion of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Having been corrupted by The Hellfire Club and almost incidentally destroying an entire planet of intelligent beings, original X-Man Jean Grey is on trial for her life and creators Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin tell one of the best-known and most lauded stories in Marvel history. Thirty-five years to the (cover-dated) month later, how does this classic hold up?

And famously, the outcome of this was subsequently undone by means of one of the biggest retcons in that same Marvel history, so in the spirit of the subject, Jon shares his Top Three and Best One Ever X-Men retcons. Well, not exactly that way round as it turns out.

Around a year into Dan Slott, Mike Allred and Laura Allred’s run on Silver Surfer, they produced an issue in an completely original format, telling a time looping story in a uniquely looping manner. This is the One Comic of that issue, last month’s Silver Surfer 11. What did the team make of the story, the structure, the relationship between the Surfer and his new(ish) companion Dawn Greenwood, and the inexplicably French space pirates? Listen and find out.

Also, apropos of nothing, Jon takes a look at ‘Replacement Heroes’ in the regular Top Three and Worst One Ever feature. Who made the cut, and who failed to make the best of the mantle they took up?

Listen below, get the feed on the right, and please tell us what you think of the show.

Crossovers don’t get much bigger than this. The Marvel multiverse faces destruction and the only two Earths left are too busy fighting each other to do anything about it.  It’s kill or be killed for both the main and Ultimate universes and frankly, it’s not looking good for anyone. We delve into the first issue of Marvel’s biggest ever crossover, Secret Wars, by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina to see how it holds up and the start of the crossover and the end of the enormous grand plan that Hickman has been weaving through the Marvel Universe for years now.

And to round the show up, Jared takes a turn at sharing a Top Three and Worst One Ever – his chosen topic: Spider Costumes. And there are a lot for him to choose from.

Who’s up for an outing? No, not a trip to the coast, an enforced confrontation with one’s own denied sexual orientation. No? Doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time? Well imagine how you’d feel if you were Iceman; just back from a tour of the universe, happily perving over one of your teachers, then POW, in comes Jean “I’m psychic” Grey to burst your bubble of macho posturing and over-compensation by telling you “I know”. There’s a lot to unpack here, not least the complications added to the situation by telepathy, time travel and the adult Iceman’s diabolical dating record. Fun.

Also, the first outing (see what we did there?) for a new feature: Top Three and Worst One Ever – in which Jon selects the best and worst X-Men spin-offs. And not to paint him as too tragic a case, he’s pretty much read all the candidates.

As always, listen here or get it on your podcast feeds via the links on the right.

So one of the “every Spider ever”s of Spider-Verse is the version where Gwen Stacy was bitten by the spider rather than Peter Parker, and things have pretty much gone downhill for her from there. Issue one of Spider-Gwen unexpectedly turns out to be the comic which divided our opinions most sharply so far. In this one we take a tour of the way people view female heroes compared to male ones, consider the way people come to comics in the “it’s all on the internet anyway” age and discuss the pros and cons of the alternate universe in comics.  Also: Bex reveals her true colours, Jared reveals his part-time identity as Cliché Man and Jon reveals he’s the kind of person who uses the word ‘shebang’. This one’s got it all, kids. Though actually: don’t listen kids – there are bad words and a drug reference (hence the ‘explicit’ tag on this one).

Listen below or get the feed over on the right.

In which we encounter pronunciation issues, find ourselves taking the ever-so-serious Kraven The Hunter somewhat less-than-seriously, and wash the unpleasant taste of last time’s Aquaman out with something completely different. That being issue one of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl from Marvel, written by Ryan North with art by Erica Henderson. And with all due apologies to those of a delicate sensibility, one or two strong words creep in again.

Listen here or via the feeds on the right.