Greg: It’s interesting to see how longform installment-based storytelling, like comics or TV, has transitioned from being primarily self-contained stories that one can jump into at anytime to telling one long, overarching story that one must view from beginning to end using individual units simply as content demarcators. Obviously I’m way the heck oversimplifying and generalizing, but comedies in particular have a storytelling hurdle to jump: to keep laughing at characters’ fundamental behaviors, their behaviors must remain fundamentally the same, yet in this new vanguard of serialized storytelling where folks binge lots of content in a row, we kind of demand characters to change. Slightly paradoxical, I am thus unsurprised, if just a tad disappointed, that in its second issue Bob’s Burgers seems to be going purely episodic, settling into a formula that shows just how rigidly defined this title will be. And yet, the issue is just so damn funny that I have trouble complaining too much.
Cars Can Be Blue, Dating Batman
Drew: It goes without saying that the lives are superheroes are kind of weird — that’s the reason they’re of interest — but they’re often so removed from any frame of reference that it’s easy to forget just how strange a superheroes daily life actually is. Over the last year and a half, Deadpool has learned that he has an estranged daughter, befriended a group of mutants engineered using his DNA, mourned the loss of his baby mamma, gotten married, and antagonized Dracula. It’s a long, strange list that only feels more disjointed when they’re listed together like that, which is of course what Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn do in Deadpool 35, hanging a lantern on just how weird it is to be Wade Wilson. Continue reading
Drew: Organization is a fundamental element of life. Our genes organize to create cells, our cells organize to create organs, and our organs organize to create living, breathing people. Because the unit we care about is “people”, we don’t really think about any of those smaller units as sacrifice anything in order to contribute to a whole, but when we zoom our scope out to societies and organizations, suddenly existing within them requires profound sacrifices from the individuals. Social insects, like bees and ants, seem particularly alien to us, as the vast majority of the hive will never procreate, and couldn’t do so even if they had the inclination to go rogue. It seems like a loss of free will, but is it really any different from the role a random blood cell plays in our body? So long as the unit we care about survives — the hive for the bees, or the body for the blood cell — the “sacrifice” was worth it. But what if the blood cell does have free will? Or, as is the case in C.O.W.L. 5, what if the organization is made up of humans with free will? How much we’re willing to sacrifice depends a great deal on how much we value those organizations. Continue reading
Drew: In looking for an epigram for this piece, I sifted through about a dozen quotes that boil down to the same point: fiction is a lie that tells the truth. Ultimately, I chose Moore’s quote because it goes into a bit more detail (and because Alan Moore has a bit more cachet on a comics site than, say, Albert Camus), but I think its the pervasiveness of this notion that is truly remarkable. I understand the sentiment — fiction is by definition not true, but must be emotional honest in order to succeed — but I’m not sure I agree that fiction and lies exist on the same continuum. Lies exist to obscure the truth, either for the benefit of the liar or the person being lied to, while fiction simply seeks a novel way to approach the truth. There’s a difference between fiction and lies, a notion that Saga waded into in its fourth arc, and one that absolutely permeates issue 23. Continue reading
Spencer: New Avengers hasn’t really been a title with an antagonist, at least in a traditional sense; the Illuminati are trying to stop the Incursions, but such a mysterious, primal, multiversal threat can be hard to fathom, and they largely act as the impetus behind most of the title’s action rather than the “big bad”. Instead, the Illuminati mainly grapple against themselves, dealing with matters of morality and conscience. In New Avengers 24, Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti skip ahead eight months from the climatic final pages of issue 23, giving them time to establish the Cabal as a group of horrific, homicidal monsters. In a way, they may be serving as the more physical, black-and-white antagonist this title’s been missing, but that seems to be far from their only purpose. Both the Illuminati and the Cabal have done horrific things with a noble goal in mind; the methods of these two groups, and how the world at large have responded to them both, is where the differences lie. Continue reading
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Drew: I kind of resent that works of art need titles. I appreciate the necessity of distinguishing one book from another, but titles seem to always inelegantly summarize or gracelessly fix some piece of authorial intent I’d rather not be privy to. I’m the least offended by more utilitarian titles, (coincidentally) like Romeo and Juliet, which doesn’t assert anything beyond the play’s focus on those two characters. With Trees, writer Warren Ellis certainly captured that utilitarian spirit by simply naming the thing that makes his science fictional world unique, but then he goes and re-muddies the waters by ending each issue with a pull quote. He removes them from any context, stripping them of any attribution or even punctuation — as if to hint at some kind of greater truth in his characters’ words — but that repetition alone is enough to lend those words an unwieldy significance that asserts someone’s subjectivity. As issue 5 takes an even closer over-the-shoulder view of many of the characters, the nature of that subjectivity becomes a central concern. Continue reading
Return of the Jedi
Drew: If I had to point to a line that hooked me on Star Wars, it would be this line from Return of the Jedi. Maybe I should back up. I had somehow made it to age 9 without ever seeing a Star Wars movie when my 3rd grade teacher perplexingly allowed us to watch the first half-hour of Jedi in class. Knowing nothing about the movies, I was thoroughly enjoying my introduction to the Star Wars universe when the above exchange blew my mind straight out of my eyeballs. There are other adventures like this one? I honestly don’t think I could have been as hard up for the other movies if I had seen them in order. I suppose that’s my way of saying beginning a story at the end can be a rewarding, if unorthodox approach. It’s a particularly intimidating prospect in a world as steeped in its own mythology as Fables, but I’ll be damned if issue 144 doesn’t give me that same “I’ve got to go back and read them all” feeling. Continue reading
Drew: Of all the ways a writer can use to emphasize their storytelling beats, shuffling the chronology of the events always demands my attention. I almost called it “distracting” but I think I mean “demands my attention” — I absolutely appreciate that it’s a handy tool in the savvy writer’s toolkit, but we’re so used to perceiving events one after the other that flipping them around feels noticeably alien. Again, I don’t want to imply that it’s inherently bad — there are lots of compelling reasons to tell a story out-of-order — but that it draws attention to itself in ways that aren’t always accounted for. Fortunately, Matt Fraction has routinely proven himself capable of handling (and justifying) these types of stories, making Hawkeye 20 an excellent example of nonlinear narrative done right. Continue reading
Greg: When’s the last time you dorked out in public? For me, “dorking out” is a simultaneously freeing yet embarrassing experience. The feeling of visceral pleasure and physical high you get from an unbound joy something gives you, crashing into the realization that the folks you’re dorking out too don’t have much of a frame of context, and can’t join in. I once spent five minutes dorking out over a long-take fight scene in Skyfall to my parents, who in response, coughed awkwardly and said “That sounds nice.” They’re gonna have to look out, though, because Velvet is so staggeringly good and checks every box of stuff I love, that it’s 100% being added to my “dork-out” pile.
Drew: There’s a scene late in Lazarus 11 that finds Malcolm Carlyle dictating a message for Forever to deliver. We’ve seen Forever take on the role of messenger/negotiator before, but what’s remarkable here is how open Malcolm is about his means of manipulation. He’s considered every action and reaction that will happen as Forever carries out his orders, and is able to maintain exacting control in spite of being thousands of miles from the actual negotiations. It’s an unsettling display of raw power, but also opens the possibility that Malcolm is himself being manipulated — it would only take a mind equal to Malcolm’s to have anticipated all of his actions here. With all of this subterfuge, it’s easy to see why Forever might question if she’s getting the whole truth from her father about her parentage. Continue reading