Spencer: Lex Luthor has basically been the main character of Justice League ever since Forever Evil ended, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. It’s inevitable that Lex will go back to being a full-time villain at some point (unless writer Geoff Johns manages to pull off the biggest reformation in DC history and make it stick), but I’m not sure how much that should influence my reading of Luthor’s intentions. There are two things I do know for certain, though: 1. Luthor’s presence has finally made the rest of the Justice League the competent, inspirational team we’ve been hoping they’d become since the New 52 began, and 2. even if Luthor’s reformation is somehow 100% legit, he still has plenty of misdeeds in his past to face up to. Continue reading
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Drew: How long do you suppose sexism has existed? The Bible would have us believe it’s basically as long as human sexes have existed — Adam was created first in God’s image, with Eve following up as an afterthought of sorts, made of Adam’s spare parts. Coincidentally, she’s also the one who is tricked (or at least talked into) eating the apple from the tree of knowledge first. Sin may be conceived in the mind of Satan, but it’s brought to humanity in the shape of a woman. I appreciate that this is a bit of a tunnel-vision reading of the creation myth — the Bible is full of men who sin without the aid of women — but the notion that women are lesser beings who tempt men to evil continues to pervade our culture, from how much women are paid at work, to blaming women for “provoking” physical attacks (or threats) against them. Gallons of ink have been spilled over this very subject, but Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula manage to find a new angle in Veil 5, providing an anti-Eve story that — no surprise — feels decidedly more empowering than the original. Continue reading
The term ‘archetype’ is often misunderstood as meaning a certain definite mythological image or motif…On the contrary, [it is] an inherited tendency of the human mind to form representations of mythological motifs — representations that vary a great deal without losing their basic pattern…
Drew: I’ve spent a lot of time on this site maligning the over-reliance on tropes in comics, but I think I have a clear understanding of why they’re used — sure, we may have seen the loose-canon cop or bumbling working class husband a few too many times, but they’re only used because they’re effective springboards for drama (or comedy, as the case may be). However, I haven’t put very much thought into where the tropes actually come from. The Worf Effect gets its name from Star Trek: The Next Genneration, but it was already a well-established trope by that point — at least as old as Greek myths (where Ares often has his ass handed to him). Again, this makes sense given how effective these tropes can be — an interesting premise/situation/character is bound to be repeated as long as it can bear new narrative fruit. But what if the first attempt at a given premise isn’t particularly successful? As a series built on these very archetypes, Fables has always had an unusual relationship with tropes, which gives issue 145 a unique perspective on that very question. Continue reading
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 39, originally released October 15th, 2014. Taylor: Whenever we think about the 1950’s we inevitably think about the Cold War between Russia and the USA. The Space Race and a setting for alternate histories aside, the Cold War did little for either country. In the USA, fear of communism ran amok to such an extent that senators were able to persecute people on mere suspicion. In the USSR, money was spent so much on military and the like that the basic needs of many citizens were forgotten. In both cases there is a strong lesson to be learned: don’t let fear dominate your decision making. Despite these warnings, people continue to make this same mistake over and over again. In TMNT 38, we see that even the very wise and powerful are susceptible to the pull of fear. The question is, when they succumb to it, just what are the consequences? 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 and Drew discuss Justice League United 5, The Amazing Spider-Man 7, Rocket Raccoon 4, Sabrina 1, Hawkeye vs. Deadpool 1, and Superman/Wonder Woman 12.
Spencer: Justice League United is team that’s just chock-full of white blonde people — like, distractingly full of white blonde people. Thankfully, Issue 5 finally debuts Cree superhero Equinox, whose ties to the native tribes of Canada are something rather unique for superhero comics. Admittedly, the issue doesn’t give Miiyahbin’s origin much room to breathe, which means there’s a lot of telling and some rather familiar beats to her story, but it’s the added elements of Cree lore that make Equinox shine. Continue reading
“How did they build those pyramids?” They just threw human death and suffering at them until they were finished. “How did we traverse the nation with a railroad so quickly?” We just threw Chinese people in caves and blew ‘em up and didn’t give a shit what happened to them. There’s no end to what you can do when you don’t give a fuck about particular people. You can do anything. That’s where human greatness comes from: that we’re shitty people and we fuck others over.
Drew: Has the phrase “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” ever been used for anything other than falsely justifying horrific acts? It’s so strongly associated with evil advisors, it’s a wonder that it could ever persuade a unsure advisee, but it also has the unfortunate quality of being true to our experience of the world. Few, it seems, ever reach the top without the boost of standing on someone else’s neck. It’s easy to become bitter about people being used as pawns, but it’s also the stuff of great dramas — to what lengths are people willing to go in order to attain power? Manhattan Projects obviously has more in common with those heightened fictions than reality, but issue 24 never minimizes the monstrosities its protagonists commit in order to hold on to power, focusing on one of the more traumatizing events in US History. Continue reading
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers hasn’t exactly been a character-driven book; that’s not to say Hickman doesn’t have an excellent grasp on the various voices of his cast, but to say that this title is very much driven by the plot, with the characters often feeling like cogs in his Avengers machine. Starting with Avengers 35, though, the title skipped eight months into the future; catching us up to the activities of the various Avengers in this new setting has given Hickman a chance to refocus on his characters, as well as on some of the many plot points that have fallen to the wayside in the last nine months or so. Avengers can sometimes be a hard book to love, but issue 36 continues the return of the kind of storytelling that made me pick up this book in the first place.
Drew: Referring to the setting of a story as a character has always irked me. Never mind that it’s a total cliche, but it’s almost invariably applied as a shorthand for a sense of place we all recognize that the story relies on as a crutch. In that way, I suppose settings are used as characters, but they’re stock characters, no more remarkable than, say, “high school jock” or “loose cannon cop.” The genericness of locations-as-characters only becomes more exaggerated in the fictional cities of comics, which have seen just as many interpretations over the years as the heroes that occupy them. When Gotham has been interpreted as everything from gothic to neo-gothic to art deco to just straight-up modern, and from post-apocalyptic to post-corruption, it’s impossible to generate any sense of setting without elaborating on this particular interpretation of the city. Fortunately, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher do just that as they take the helm of Batgirl, lending specificity to their Gotham by, of all things, co-opting the stock character of Brooklyn. Continue reading
Taylor: What with all the recent fanfare over vampires and the occasional werewolf, it’s easy to forget they are but a distant second to the most used Halloween costumes. While Frankenstein is always a crowd pleaser, I’m of course referring to witches. Yes, the pointed hatted women riding broomsticks with black cats are perhaps an even more iconic symbol of spookiness than any number of vampire fangs. So why aren’t they as popular as their Vampire counterparts? How come for every one book about witches there are ten about blood-suckers? With these questions in mind I dived into issue Scott Snyder’s new series, Wytches. While I didn’t necessarily have all of my questions answered, I did get enough to pique my interest. Continue reading
Ryan: I love when comic books try new things. Whether the point is to advance the relatively young medium or simply to offer some variety to a landscape that sometimes feels dominated by the same handful of big names and tried-and-true styles, it excites me to read a daring, non-linear narrative or to see adventurous use of graphic design in a title. I spent the entire summer haranguing a friend to read the copy of Jonathan Hickman’s The Nightly News which I graciously let him borrow. Hickman, responsible for both the writing and art, confessed in the afterword of the trade paperback that he intentionally made the comic difficult for the reader’s eye to follow by cluttering the pages with infographics and non-sequential art. Luckily, this calculated risk works perfectly in the total package. Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier showcases a fun, new direction for the former covert operative/Captain America and art that looks unlike anything I have read lately, but do these strong choices translate into a great read? Continue reading