Taylor: While it’s not glamorous, there’s something to be said for the home life. True, this statement probably doesn’t carry much weight from a homebody like myself, but — like a Hobbit — I just love the comforts of my own digs. While some people seem mentally disposed to this lifestyle, others have come to appreciate it because they haven’t always been able to enjoy it. Edward Zero is certainly the latter of these two. After being a spy his entire life, he seems to long for nothing but the quiet life. A house, a partner, and maybe a few chickens sprinkled on the side are all he needs. However, in the case of Zero he didn’t choose the spy life, it chose him. And when that chooses you, it can be difficult — if not impossible — to escape.
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
Patrick: Have you ever watched a video of a baby eating a lemon for the first time? There are hundreds of these videos up on YouTube, and while it always strikes me as a little mean-spirited, it’s fascinating to see the purity of these babies’ reaction to the sourness of the lemon. There aren’t any videos of adults eating lemons, because: who cares? Adults have filters and modesty and the knowledge that they can make that sour taste stop. The baby, meanwhile, just has to stew in this unpleasant, unfamiliar experience. The same is true of emotions — adults have enough perspective to realize that their emotions are temporary or irrational or perhaps just resultant from a changeable attitude, but children are largely at the mercy of their emotions. Basically, adults can will themselves to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but as far as a child knows, the tunnel is all there is. The Marvel villain the Purple Man is a scary presence, with his ability to impose his will on others, but the Purple Children introduced last issue are something much more terrifying: the entire slate of childhood emotion projected outward. 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
Patrick: Comic books aren’t exactly a safe space for women. Like any medium with a long enough memory, comics carry some pretty ugly baggage when it comes to the depiction and treatment of female characters. It seems things are even rougher for residents of Gotham City, arguably the quintessential “comic book city” — not only are the police corruption and organized crime families stuck in the 1930s, but an awful lot of those gender politics linger there too. You needn’t look any further than the most recent Catwoman series to know what I’m talking about. A lot of the same specifics that plagued that series are present in Batman Eternal 27 — themes of sexual slavery, Selina’s dangerous naivety, gratuitous ass shots, even a cameo from Mr. Bone — but the issue manages to present these problems as a contrast to the world Batman Eternal seems hellbent on cultivating. Is the BE team’s Gotham a better place for female characters? Continue reading
Bart Simpson, Itchy & Scratchy Land
Patrick: It’s a good thing all of our action heroes have a team of writers working quietly behind them, because audiences hold this irrational expectation that heroic actions be punctuated by hilarious, insightful, precise quips. This is a trend that I’ve come to hate, largely because those pure little micro-tweets are so seldom earned. How do you put a character through the paces so thoroughly that acerbic wit feels natural tumbling out of their victorious mouths? They’re not poets or comedians or scholars — they’re warriors, but somehow they know to belch out a characteristically perfect “Yippy-kai-yay, motherfucker” or a “Welcome to Earth” or even a “get away from her, you bitch!” Thing is: those three examples all work because we’re there with Bruce Willis, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. It’s not just about having the dry cool wit, but waiting until the audience and the character need the release of such a quip, instead of handing them out willy-nilly. As Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang narrow in on their epic Wonder Woman conclusion, they’re cashing in on all those cheesy action movie beats. And they’ve earned every damn second — the result is unadulterated climax, satisfying on just about every level. 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
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
Patrick: I’d never really considered how strange it is that we refer to the biggest global political players as “super powers.” It’s…weird, right? That’s a phrase taken from our capes and cowls, our frequently immature power fantasies, and applied to governments. It might be comforting to think of the United States as Superman, swooping in to altruistically save the day, but the truth isn’t so clear-cut. How can a government take altruistic action when there is no “self” to sacrifice? One body makes a decision, another carries out the action, and a third has to deal with the consequences. Heroism comes from that internalizing the whole process, from decision-making through the consequences. With Superman Unchained 8, Scott Snyder suggests that Superman can (and should) be that singular entity. Continue reading
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