Drew: Adults are very good at pretending to know what they’re doing. Indeed, they’re so good, most folks don’t figure this out until they’re already in the midst of pretending to know what they’re doing themselves, and by then, they’re already adults. It’s almost a secret that there’s basically nothing that qualifies us to have jobs, pay rent, get married, have kids, and whatever else it is that grownups do. You’re not going to be adequately prepared for these things by the time you start doing them, and you’re only going to get better through trial and error. It’s that “error” part that’s scary — nobody wants to lose their job, home, spouse, or kids — but fortunately for us, the stakes of any single mistake are relatively low. Batman, on the other hand, has always played for much higher stakes — typically the wellbeing of his hometown — and Batman 30 explores just what happens when he isn’t up to the challenge.
Scott: Horror is a difficult genre for me. I have a tendency to avoid it because I don’t like gore. It’s to my own detriment, I’ll admit, since I love the tension that only comes from good horror stories. I love that sense of dread, that pervasive fear of the unknown, the idea that something — anything — could emerge from the dark at any moment. That sort of tension is interesting to me, because it doesn’t imply that anything scary is happening, or even will happen, just that it could, at any moment. I swear there’s an episode in the final season of Breaking Bad with a low, ominous tone running through the whole thing, start to finish. It’s almost comical, really, but it made for a damn compelling hour of TV. Tension like that has to be earned, and when it is, it’s the best. American Vampire: Second Cycle 2 is at that level. For my money, this is as good as horror gets.
Shelby: Mistaken identities and their resulting confusion have got to be one of the more commonly used plot devices out there. I think just about every play I did in high school drama involved people being mistaken for someone else and a lot of hiding in closets/multiple door antics. It’s commonly used because it’s one small moment that can quickly telescope into an entire story; each person’s unexpected reaction based on the mistake triggers another unexpected reaction, and so on and so forth. It’s so easy when we’re outside observers to see that if everyone would just calm down and think for a second, everything would make sense. As Carol Danvers is about to learn, however, sometimes mistakes happen so fast, you don’t even have a second to spare to think about it. Continue reading
Scott: He’s back! The recent Amazing X-Men arc found Kurt Wagner, AKA Nightcrawler, being brought back from the dead, an excellent set-up for a new Nightcrawler title. Nightcrawler 1 not only reintroduces Nightcrawler to the land of the living as the star of his own series, it reunites him with ex-X-Men writer Chris Claremont. There’s a lot of catching up to do, and Claremont seems more interested in writing about Nightcrawler the way he remembers him, rather than concentrating on the things that have happened to the character in the interim. Repercussions of Kurt’s death and new life are strangely absent, making for an uneven and perplexing first issue. Continue reading
Scott: Segues: you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. I’ve listened to enough standup comedy to know that I’m a fan of the clean break, the abrupt change of topic. Lengthy transitions are just a waste of time. In longer storytelling formats, such as monthly comic books, there’s more of a virtue in spinning many plates at once. Even though stories are broken into defined arcs, some elements carry over from one arc to the next, making the clean break impossible. It results in issues like Action Comics 30, where writer Greg Pak’s first major arc comes to an end while also introducing important pieces of the story to come. The issue looks fantastic, but the story gets a little messy as it tries to connect the old with the new, making me wonder if Pak might have been better off nixing the segue.
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Drew: Two figures arrive in the big city for the first time. It’s the start of many a classic story of city life — including this issue — but it also accurately describes Manapul and Buccellato’s “move” to Gotham. After a stellar run on The Flash (ha), Manapul and Buccellato have brought their signature meta-commentary to DC’s namesake, opening with the quote above. The line is not necessarily spoken — it could plausibly be said by Elena or Annie Aguila (the two figures we see arriving in Gotham), but is rather explicitly not represented as dialogue, or even internal monologue — there’s no speech balloon, no voiceover box, not even a quotation mark, suggesting that this really is the creators speaking directly to the audience. It’s a bold move, but exactly the kind that gives me confidence that this does indeed have the potential to be great.
Today, Scott and Taylor are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 13, originally released March 26th, 2014.
Scott: It always amuses me when a character voices my same feelings towards an in-story event. It can be so tragically ironic. In this case, Gamora wondering if the Guardians’ involvement in rescuing Jean Grey is worth the heat it’s going to draw from the Shi-ar echoed the feelings I’ve had towards their role in ‘The Trial of Jean Grey’. The finale to this six-part event hits some emotional beats, but like the previous installments, the personal moments tend to revolve around the X-Men, leaving this series’ protagonists feeling left out. Ultimately, it’s an awkward goodbye to a crossover that never quite gelled and, frankly, probably wasn’t worth three issues the Guardians’ time. Oh, and Groot gets weird with some trees.
Drew: I have a friend who used to love Law and Order – er, he liked it as much as a person can really like an episodic primetime drama — the point is, he was happy to tune in every week to see how the team handles the new case. That is, until his son pointed out to him how formulaic the show really is — right down to when in the episode they’ll nab the wrong suspect, find that key clue, or offer a plea bargain. It ruined the show for him — knowing what would happen next robbed every development of any drama, so he just stopped watching it. In some way, we all have this same experience with storytelling in general: the more stories we consume, and the more familiar with common formulas we become, the better we are at predicting what happens next. We recognize foreshadowing, we notice if we’re being intentionally misled — we just become harder to fool. Many of us are willing to put that aside to suspend our disbelief that maybe the hero won’t make it out this time, or maybe the lead couple won’t end up together, after all, but sometimes a writer still wants to surprise us. This often requires going into DEEP left field, which can make the resulting developments feel arbitrary, or even nonsensical. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of final act reveals we get in Flash 29.
And the best part of all was that one day… when they were all real old and had lived happily for a long, long time, they would die, too…
Scott: This statement, made by a four year old finally processing the meaning of her brother’s death, underlines the tragic nature of the final issue of Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. It’s both the realization her father, Buddy Baker, needed her to make, and the promise he knows he can’t keep. Not every family gets to live happily ever after, especially not when the patriarch has as many responsibilities as Animal Man. This issue shows Buddy doing whatever he can to make sure everyone around him gets the happiest ending possible, even if it’s not the fairly tale ending they desire. In the face of uncertainty, maybe that’s the best you can do.
Patrick: Twitch Plays Pokemon allowed thousands of people all over the world to play one game of Pokemon Red together. This means the poor game was getting thousands of simultaneous inputs from players across the globe all with different agendas. Cultures sprang up on Reddit around specific Pokemon (which were all nicknamed hilarious things because actually typing a name in the game resulted in total nonsense) and weird little quirks of playing the game cooperatively (most famously, the Cult of Helix Fossil worked tirelessly to get the character to use a context-specific item in all contexts). Shit got weird, but it was a weirdness of consensus, a horrible democracy that gave shape to what “Twitch Plays Pokemon” means. This is largely true for long-lasting comic book characters as well — they pass through so many hands that the meta story of how they came to be can often eclipse the in-world origins. That’s why all your favorite heroes are irreconcilable messes of conflicting stories and ideas, and mixed together into one semi-coherent identity. Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman looks to change that for the titular heroine, giving her purpose, direction, vision and identity without having to wait for thousands of players to agree on the same input. Continue reading