The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw 5

tooth and claw 5

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw 5, originally released March 25th, 2015.

Spencer: I like to think that I’m an optimistic person, but if there’s one thing I allow myself to be unabashedly cynical about, it’s politics. Now, I don’t think that everyone involved in politics is up to no good, but for every politician trying to do right by their voters, there’s ten thousand more looking out only for themselves. In The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw 5, Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey focus a bit on that dilemma, showing how the political maneuverings of the selfish can drown out those with more noble intentions, even in a world of magic and great champions. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 40

batman and robin 40

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 40, originally released March 25th, 2015.

Drew: Bruce Wayne’s back was broken. Otto Octavius took over Peter Parker’s body. Superman had a mullet. Steve Rogers was dead. We often talk derisively of these kinds of easily-reversed changes in superhero comics because they seem gimmicky and cheap — what better way to boost sales than to trumpet the death of Superman? — but I’d actually argue that these stories offer a clever way of exploring what makes these heroes great. Moreover, they remind us not to take what we like about these characters for granted. Fewer characters have been put through quite so many changes recently as Damian Wayne, who has both died and gained superpowers, so while Batman and Robin 40 ends with him back in his non-dead, non-superpowered state, it’s actually kind of refreshing. Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutanimals 2

tmnt mutanimals 2

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutanimals 2, originally released March 25th, 2015.

Patrick: Himato Yoshi and his four sons were murdered by Oroku Saki and the Foot Clan. Hundreds of years later, and on the other side of the world, they are given a second chance to be a family as a quartet of anthropomorphic turtles and a wizened man-rat. Mutation is the ultimate blessing: it literally allows the Himato family to beat death and live together indefinitely. But they had the fortune to be among the only accidental mutants in the world of TMNT, and are therefore beholden to no agenda, no cause but their own. Under the leadership of Old Hob, the Mutanimals have taken on the identity of avenging victims, and writer Paul Allor explorers how their weaknesses make them strong (and, maybe the other way ’round too). Continue reading

The Private Eye 10

private eye 10

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Private Eye 10, originally released March 19th, 2015.

Drew: One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from my older brother as I was preparing an essay for my college applications. I don’t remember his exact words, but he advised me to ease off a bit on my conclusion, which he pointed out was trying way too hard to wrap my essay up with a grand statment of purpose. It’s a common tendency, but it’s easy to understand why: the end is your last chance to leave an impression on your audience — better make your big point now, whether you’ve earned it or not. That tendency becomes even more treacherous when the work in question is meant as a kind of critique of modern society, where the very idea of an ending might feel forced, and any kind of grand statement would feel particularly heavy-handed. It should be no surprise that the sly-as-ever The Private Eye 10 avoids this pitfall altogether, offering an ending so subtle, it might actually be too ambiguous. Continue reading

C.O.W.L. 9

Alternating Currents: C.O.W.L. 9, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing C.O.W.L. 9, originally released March 18th, 2015.

Drew: I once saw a Q&A session with The Wire creator Dan Simon where he had to defend a moment that one audience member saw as a crack in the realism of the show. I don’t remember Simon’s exact words, but his answer boiled down to the fact that the show isn’t real — sometimes, the creators would knowingly break from absolute fidelity in order to elicit the appropriate emotional response from us. Everything we saw on that show, just like any number of less realistic narratives, was there for our benefit, not because it’s 100% true to life. What’s funny to me is that the fan’s complaint wasn’t with the credulity-straining Hamsterdam or serial killer plotlines, but with the body language of an uncredited, unnamed character. I suspect the reason those bigger pieces of fiction get a pass is because we want them to happen. The Wire does such a good job of detailing how the system is broken, we can’t help but cheer when a character attempts to buck it. It’s cathartic, so we overlook that it’s also kind of batshit. I found myself thinking the same thing about Radia’s catharsis in C.O.W.L. 9, which is so necessary, it really doesn’t matter how unlikely it is. Continue reading

Princess Leia 2

princess leia 2

Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Princess Leia 2, originally released March 18th, 2015.

Michael: Having just started its sixth season, Community is a completely different show from what it was in its first three seasons. Series creator Dan Harmon was fired after season 3, but returned for a 5th and now 6th season. The show has wisely tip-toed around most developments from Season 4, which, for it’s Harmon-less-ness, is universally considered to be the worst season of the series. While Harmon has salvaged some ideas from that season, it is probably best to leave Season 4 alone for the most part, not having its particular stink effect the future storylines too heavily. I’d argue that Disney and Marvel should take the same approach to the dreaded Star Wars prequels. I’m not gonna go on a huge diatribe about why the prequels were bad, the internet is full of such litanies. Listen, I get it. I was 10 years old in 1999; The Phantom Menace was my jam and I played ridiculously hard Star Wars games on PS1 like Jedi Power Battles. But let’s call a spade a spade: the prequel trilogy = not so great. So when examining a book like Princess Leia 2, where our heroine visits her birthmother’s home planet of Naboo, it’s hard not to think of less pleasant experiences in a galaxy far, far away.

Continue reading

Zero 15

zero 15

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Zero 15, originally released January 28th, 2015.

Patrick: Last time we talked about Zero, Drew was interested in the discrete loops of experience necessarily unshared by the artist and the audience. This came on the heels of two issues which seemed to actively push the audience away — largely wordless volumes soaked cover-to-cover in intense, non-romantic violence with cryptic references to half-remembered song lyrics — so it was easy, almost necessary, to rely solely on the reader’s perspective of the events in question. With issue 15, Ales Kot and artist Ian Bertram re-introduce the concept of the meta-narrative first explored in issue 10, and along with it, a fictionalized version of Williams S. Burroughs, as the author of this story. The move simultaneously buys into the culture of exploring authorial intention and discounting it all together, as the experiences, reality, dreams and non-reality of creator and creation merge, both on the page and off. Continue reading

Batgirl 40

batgirl 40

Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Batgirl 40, originally released March 18th, 2015.

Mark: One of the seminal Batman stories, Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, was released in March 1988, almost exactly 27 years ago. In that story, Barbara Gordon is shot by the Joker, paralyzing her and confining her to a wheelchair. The controversy spun out from Moore’s decision to use Barbara as a plot device has been defining her, for better and for worse, for almost three decades now.

I have sympathy for comic book writers. It has to be hard to balance respect for canon with the need to constantly create new stories. Too much disregard for history and you’ll alienate your audience, too much reverence and you risk stifling creativity. DC tried pretty valiantly with The New 52 to split the difference between honoring the old and building towards the new, but their solutions were usually messy at best. When it comes to reinventing a well-regarded character, there’s no way to please everyone. But with Batgirl 40, writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart come pretty close. Continue reading

Chrononauts 1

Alternating Currents: Chrononauts 1, Ryan and Drew

Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Chrononauts 1, originally released March 18th, 2015.

Ryan: On September 13th, 1959, the Soviet Union made history by landing the first man-made object — the Luna 2 — on the moon.  The Soviet success allowed their premiere, Nikita Khruschev, a scientific triumph to laud over President Eisenhower demonstrating the virtues of Communism. After a decade of dominating the Space Race, the USSR lost the ultimate prize to the USA and its space program, which had been kicked into high gear under the watch of President John F. Kennedy, when the first feet to touch the surface of the moon belonged to American astronauts on July 20, 1969. Despite the years of rivalry and the mires of the Cold War, when Apollo 11 touched down, the Russians cheered. As Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov wrote, “Everyone forgot that we were all citizens of different countries on Earth. That moment really united the human race.” Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy’s new title, Chrononauts, seeks to recapture the magic of families across the world crowding around their televisions and radios as science catches up to imagination. Continue reading

Loki: Agent of Asgard 12

loki 12Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Loki: Agent of Asgard 12, originally released March 18th, 2015. 

slim-banner

“It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”

Rachel Dawes, Batman Begins

Spencer: If there’s one character who’s taken these words to heart even more than Batman, it’s Loki. From its very first issue, Loki: Agent of Asgard has been about Loki attempting to change his destiny by erasing the sins of his past and replacing them with noble missions. If nobody could remember his crimes, then surely that would make him a good person, right? On that same wavelength, King Loki poses a threat because his actions threaten to trap his young counterpart in the role of “villain” for all of eternity. It’s this idea of a narrative defining a character, established over 12 issues, that makes King Loki’s big twist hit so hard: actions mean nothing. Loki is Loki, and nothing can change that. Continue reading