Zero 18

Alternating Currents: Zero 18, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 18, originally released July 1st, 2015.

Drew: I don’t love fetishizing endings. I resent the idea that the final moments of a work of art are somehow more important than all of the other moments that came before. I do, however, appreciate that it’s not until the end of a work that we can properly understand what it is. It’s not that the last piece of the narrative puzzle is necessarily more important than the rest, it just happens to be the last one added, which makes it the one that completes the image. True to that analogy, most endings are increasingly predictable as they approach — by that late in a narrative, we have a sense of likely conclusions. But then there are those narratives that aren’t so easily tied down. Zero started as a relatively straightforward spy series, but became increasingly postmodern, turning itself into a pointed commentary on the artificial division between “life” and “art.” Even with that trajectory in mind, issue 18 offers a conclusion of such bizarre beauty that nobody could have ever predicted. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 6/24/15

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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, Patrick, Drew, Shane, and Michael discuss Kaptara 3, Southern Cross 4, Sons of the Devil 2, Jem and the Holograms 4, Effigy 6, Gotham by Midnight 6, We Are Robin 1, Flash 41, Superman 41, Howard the Duck 4, and The Black Hood 5.

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Spencer: The sheer variety you’ll find among comic books today is just staggering. Just in this week’s offerings alone we’ve got sci-fi, horror and supernatural, gritty crime noir, superheroes, and a talking duck, just to name a few. Moreover, we’ve got new stories being launched, beloved stories wrapping up, stories taking off in surprising new directions, and stories sticking to what they’ve always done best. No matter who you are, I think you’ll find a book you’ll love being discussed in today’s Round-Up. Continue reading

Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues released 6/24/15

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Today, Patrick, Spencer and Drew discuss E is for Extinction 1, Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies 1, Infinity Gauntlet 2, Planet Hulk 2, M.O.D.O.K. Assassin 2, X-Men ’92 Infinite Comics 3, Black Widow 18 and Loki: Agent of Asgard 15

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Patrick: How do you tell an alternate-reality version of a story? What elements of the original do you need to keep and which do you need to invert? How different is too different? How samey is too samey? Secret Wars is starting to show the full depth of its commitment playing with concepts that we’ve become so comfortable with over the years. Maybe now it’s cool to be a mutant. Maybe now M.O.D.O.K. stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Kissing. More than simple re-imaginings, Secret Wars gets to explore some truly re-invented and re-conceptualized worlds. Continue reading

Batgirl 41

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Batgirl 41, originally released June 24th, 2015.

Spencer: One of the defining moments of my childhood was watching the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Over the Edge” in its initial broadcast. For any of you who aren’t familiar with the episode, it the one that ends its first act with Batgirl falling from a building to her death, proceeds to Jim Gordon, who feels betrayed that Batman never told him that Batgirl was his daughter Barbara, raiding the Batcave and capturing Alfred, and only gets more insane (and more violent — I never saw the episode reran) from there. The sheer spectacle of the episode captured my young heart, but it also garnered its fair share of detractors for its ending: the whole story was a nightmare of Barbara’s after being gassed by the Scarecrow.

The “it’s all a dream” ending never bothered me because, as exhilarating as the action was, the true heart of the story was Barbara’s fear of what would happen if she never told her father she was Batgirl. The conflict over Babs’ identity and Jim’s reaction to it is one I’ve seen rehashed in the comics numerous times since, but with diminishing returns. With Jim Gordon now taking the mantle of Batman, it seems inevitable that Batgirl 41 would again focus on this aspect of Jim and Barbara’s relationship, but I feel like I’ve seen this story a few too many times at this point. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 6/17/15

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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, Patrick, Drew, Michael, Spencer, and Ryan discuss Doctor Fate 1, Martian Manhunter 1, Robin: Son of Batman 1, Secret Six 3, Prez 1, Archie vs. Predator 3, Mad Max Fury Road Furiosa 1, The Kitchen 8, and Secret Identities 5.

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Patrick: DC Comics continues to roll out it’s new universe this week, and that means a lot of new series that look like new series, a lot of new series that look like old series, and a lot of old series that… still look old. It’s a mixed bag that reveals that there may not be any single underlying philosophy to DC’s new approach to publishing.  Continue reading

Trees 10

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Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Trees 10, originally released June 17th, 2015.

Patrick: There’s a problem with most disaster narratives: there’s seldom an obvious antagonist. For as much as “Man vs. Nature” is one of those fundamental conflicts, it’s just harder for an audience to emotionally commit to a series of atrocities committed by a force or phenomenon with no willpower of its own. Think about every zombie movie you’ve ever seen – who are the real bad guys? The zombies? Nah: people pushed to desperate measures are far more dangerous. Twister, Titanic, Alien – all of these movies feature the deadly forces of nature, but there’s no sense of antagonism until we meet rival storm chasers, or understand how big of a dick Rose’ boyfriend is, or until Bishop reveals Weyland Yutani’s coroprate greed. Trees has done something similar in previous issues – focusing on the cultures of corruption, control, and ambition around the trees, ultimately casting man as his own worst enemy. Issue 10, however, reminds us just how terrifying the trees themselves actually are.

Continue reading

Lazarus 17

Alternating Currents: Lazarus 17, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Lazarus 17, originally released June 17th, 2015.

Narrative art must be clear, but it must also be mysterious. Something should remain unsaid, something just beyond our understanding, a secret. If it’s only clear, it’s kitsch; if it’s only mysterious (a much easier path), it’s condescending and pretentious and soon monotonous.

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Drew: I’m fascinated by the relationship Lazarus has with clarity. It’s actually one of the most clear comics I’ve ever read — I’ve often remarked upon both Greg Rucka’s deceptively organic exposition and Michael Lark’s ability to keep track of every character in a scene — but it also leaves a great deal unsaid. The most obvious piece is the world-building — our focus has remained relatively tight on a small handful of characters, but every detail implies a much larger, more complex world beyond the edge of the page — but I’m much more interested in the things literally left unsaid; the subtle glances and body language that permeate the artwork, leaving the audience to interpret how characters are feeling. This all but forces us to project our own feelings onto the characters, drawing us further into the narrative. Issue 17 opens with what amounts to reversal of this trick, forcing the characters’ subjectivity onto us, and it is incredibly effective. Continue reading

Black Canary 1

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Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Black Canary 1, originally released June 17th, 2015.

Mark: It’s well-worn wisdom that you can’t run away from your past. Humans are an accumulation of their past experiences, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so. And if that’s true for real-life humans, you know it’s doubly true for fictional characters. Any character setting out to start a new life will invariably have their past catch up with them.

Now using the alias D.D., Dinah Lance is on the road with the fortuitously named band Black Canary as their lead singer. But whether it’s the sins of the past coming back to haunt her, or if trouble just has a way of finding her, Black Canary can’t seem to make it through a show without D.D. taking out some baddies. Continue reading

Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues released 6/17/15

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Today, Drew, Patrick, and Spencer discuss Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars 2, Thors 1, Runaways 1, and Old Man Logan 2.

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This is an imaginary story…aren’t they all?

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Drew: Comics continuity is a funny thing. We generally understand characters in their broad strokes, but those broad strokes can change from time to time. Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” was written at one such juncture, saying goodbye to one era of Superman before Crisis on Infinite Earths ushered in a new one. But that goodbye doesn’t have to be permanent; events can be revisited, recontextualized, altered, or even undone. All of those approaches are fair game during Secret Wars, which affords us more time with characters, settings, and situations we might have thought were gone forever. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 6/10/15

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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, Drew, Patrick, Michael and Spencer discuss Catwoman 41, Detective Comics 41, Batman Superman 21, Earth 2: Society 1, Constantine the Hellblazer 1, Starfire 1, The Fox 3, Kanan: The Last Padawan 3, Spider-Gwen 5, Descender 4, and Chrononauts 4.

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Drew: What could be more optimistic than a new beginning? Comics culture has long embraced reboots of all kinds — in-continuity, out-of-continuity, soft, hard — but I think they all stem from the necessity to make stories accessible to new readers. The end of DC’s New 52 may seem like the conclusions of one such attempt, but this week finds DC publishing several first issues, and offering logical jumping-on points for virtually everything else. But DC doesn’t have a monopoly on new beginnings, as the rest of the comics we picked up this week put characters in ever more pressing (and character-defining) situations. Continue reading