Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 13, originally released December 17th, 2014.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
Drew: It’s easy for the neophile to be frustrated with art. As much as our society claims to value innovation, our art tends to rely heavily on the comforts of the known. That’s not to say the majority of art is devoid of surprise, just that the forms that those surprises take are so prescribed as to be relatively predictable. Whether it’s the hero returning home or the melody returning to the home key, our most tried-and-true structures leave only the smaller details to truly distinguish themselves. Zero 13 contains a masterful example of this kind of small surprise, but this issue’s biggest surprise might lie in what it reveals about the larger form of the series. Continue reading →
Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Spencer, Drew, and Patrick discuss Justice League United 7, Batman Eternal 36, Harley Quinn Holiday Special 1, East of West: The World, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual 1, Spider-Verse Team-Up 2, Rocket Raccoon 6, Uncanny X-Men Annual 1, Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, and Avengers World 16. Spencer: Jeff Lemire’s Justice League United has always been a rather straightforward title, and that often proves to be both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Issue 7 finds the various League and Legion groups fully assembled and focused on stopping Byth from using Ultra to bring about the end of the universe — there’s a no-nonsense urgency to their meeting that’s refreshing, and Stargirl’s quick smack-down of anyone looking to mercy-kill Ultra (“We do what the Justice League does and find a better way”) is again refreshing both for its bluntness and its unyielding sense of morality. That said, that same straightforwardness robs the story of any real surprises or complexity — for better or for worse, things play out exactly as you’d expect them to. Much of the fun comes from the various interactions between these disparate characters that Lemire packs into practically every panel, but outside of a few established relationships (J’onn and Equinox’s connection to Ultra, Ollie and Buddy’s pseudo-rivalry) none of those moments have any lasting impact on the characters. Ultimately, Justice League United is a book that’s a lot of fun in the moment, but doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression on the reader. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Sex Criminals 9, originally released December 10th, 2014. Ryan:Sex Criminals 9 begins with an entwicklungsroman of sorts, chronicling the development of the young woman who grows into Jon’s favorite adult actress, Jazmine St. Cocaine. It begins, like all good stories, with an inciting incident: a playground accident — seeming perpetrated by the subtly blood-speckled see-saw — leaves Rae Anne Toots with nerve damage on her clitoris and thus insensitive to that particular type of sexual stimulation. Despite this injury and the high school promiscuity (her intimation, not mine — judgment-free column here) she partially attributes to it, Ana graduates top of her class with her sights set on university. Unfortunately, her father can/will not help her with the financial strings attached, and she eventually finds that supporting herself by working forty hours plus to afford college is for suckers. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Avengers 39, originally released December 10th, 2014.
Spencer: When you read enough comics, you start to see certain repeated themes and styles emerge among various writers. Brian Michael Bendis is known for dialogue-heavy, somewhat decompressed comics. Kieron Gillen makes no attempt to hide his musical influences and knack for clever dialogue. Geoff Johns loves to rehabilitate long-forgotten or mishandled characters and concepts (and is also a bit infamous for cutting off his characters’ arms). Jonathan Hickman, meanwhile, is probably best known for his cerebral, somewhat detached style of writing that can spend years setting things up before finally letting all the dominos fall into place. With this week’s Avengers 39 we’re getting closer and closer to the end of Hickman’s Avengers epic, but the most interesting part of the issue is the commentary Hickman seems to be making on his own writing style. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Thor 3, originally released November 12th, 2014.
Taylor: Despite what you may think of them, the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are amazing for one thing in particular. No, I’m not talking about the infinite pools of blue that are Orlando Bloom’s eyes, I’m talking about the insane amount of detail present in each installment. From swords wielded by extras on down to the authentic briar used to create Gandalf’s pipe, it all is produced with detail and realism in mind. And while Thor may not be known for its realism, the series does possess a staggering amount of detail which I find positively delightful. Thor 3 is an exemplar of this and is another solid installment in this run. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Afterlife with Archie 7, originally released December 10th, 2014.
The critic encounters standard elements of comics work — word balloons, square panels, standard layouts — and immediately interprets them as meaningful to the content of the work. This is another example of the critic’s own ignorance coming out to play. Imagine if a critic wrote (of a prose novel) that “the straightness of the lines of text reflect the narrator’s matter-of-fact perception of the world, and the ordering of the letters from left-to-right functions as a subtle reference to his growing political conservatism as he comes of age over the course of the novel.”
Michael McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Drew: These two statements might seem contradictory, but I firmly believe both of them. All elements of any work of art are meaningful, but not all are uniquely meaningful. Meconis makes this distinction later in his essay, acknowledging that even the elements we tend to take for granted can be full of meaning, but I tend to agree that they aren’t always worth noting in a discussion with a limited word count. The problem, of course, is in distinguishing which elements are uniquely meaningful to the work at hand, and which can be understood as “standard elements” — an easy task when you’re familiar with the medium (or genre) in question, but becomes a bit more treacherous when you aren’t. In those cases, we have to weigh the value of those fresh eyes (which might be more valuable for a discussion aimed at people equally unfamiliar) vs. doing more research (which will be better for an audience already well-versed in the medium/genre). I’ve opted for the former in this discussion of Afterlife with Archie 7, so my apologies to anyone who is no longer as excited about the novelty of Archie! With! Zombies! Continue reading →
Today, Suzanne Drew and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 37, originally released December 10th, 2014. Drew: I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that Barbara Gordon has one of the least memorable origin stories in the Bat-mythos. In fact, without the inciting incident of murdered/criminal parents, or simply figuring out Batman’s identity, it’s arguable that she doesn’t have an origin “story” — she just kind of became Batgirl in the same way someone becomes an adult. That means she doesn’t have the same motivations built into her character that Bruce, Dick, Jason, Tim, Cassandra, Steph, and Damian all have. That’s not to say she’s a lessor character — indeed, she’s been the center of several great stories — just that her “mission” isn’t as strongly defined or as personally motivated as those of her peers. With Batgirl 37, writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart turn that lack of definition into a huge asset, making Babs an infinitely more believable 20-something. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Ryan are discussing Escape From New York 1, originally released December 3rd, 2014.
Taylor: A lot has been written about the Millennial generation and the good and bad (but mostly the bad) habits that make us unique. A common complaint is that Millennials suffer from a prolonged spell of adolescence, or at the very least. a desire to shirk responsibility and the traditional trappings of adulthood. Authors have suggested many reasons for this, but one that has always struck me as catching goes like this: because we live in times of relative upheaval, Millennials have begun to look to the past for comfort (think of our fascinations with the ’80s). With that in mind, is the latest comic based on John Carpenter’s Escape From New York simply a cashing in on Millennial nostalgia or something more?
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 11, originally released December 10th, 2014. Spencer: My biggest pet-peeve with Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern was all the business about Hal Jordan being “the greatest Green Lantern ever.” Maybe it’s just me, but it never felt like Hal earned the title or like Johns was providing much evidence to back up his claim — it always came across like a “he’s the greatest because I say so” moment from Johns. I initially feared a repeat of this situation when, at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 9, writer Dan Slott claimed that “our” Peter Parker from Earth-616 was the most important Spider-Man of them all, but fortunately, this week’s The Amazing Spider-Man 11 convincingly demonstrates why our Peter is worthy of leading the assembled hoards of “Spider-Verse”.Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 41, originally released December 2014. Patrick: I saw The Expendables when it came out in theatres in 2010. I ended up really enjoying the experience, if only because the flick ends up being a comedy of unintended juxtaposition. Stalone and company think they’re making an uber action movie, but the truth is that Jason Statham movie is not the same genre as a Jet Li movie is not the same genre as Sylvester Stalone movie. It’s a mess that so blindly and courageously moves from one “here’s what’s cool about this guy” scene to the next, with no regard for its own identity. There are also a lot of genres buried in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and while issue 41 has a lot of work to do to step up how all of these pieces will come crashing into each other, the creative team leverages the hilarity of the same kind of juxtaposition The Expendables does. Only, y’know, on purpose. Continue reading →