History With Comics: While the X-Men will always hold a special place in her heart, Shelby’s first love was Batman. Between Michael Keaton and Kevin Conroy, she fell hard. Like many, her first graphic novel was The Watchmen in college, followed by a handful of the Batman must-reads. Fast forward to last year: Shelby discovered the awesomeness of the DC universe through Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern Rebirth and Blackest Night. She once again fell in love with a comic book character, but this time it was Neil Gaiman’s Morpheus from his Sandman series, and now all her thoughts are translated into 8 or 9 panels per page with the occasional 2-page spread.
New 52 Favorites: Batgirl, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Batman
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Fearless Defenders 12, originally released December 4th, 2013.
Lisa: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Bart: Not if you called ‘em stench blossoms. Homer: Or crapweeds. Marge: I’d sure hate to get a dozen crapweeds for Valentine’s Day. I’d rather have candy. Homer: Not if they were called scumdrops.
The Simpsons, The Principal and the Pauper
Patrick:Fearless Defenders spends an awful lot of its time collecting. Characters, Maidens (both Doom and Shield) and — of course — Defenders. But with so much time spent fretting about who’s agreed to be called what, the series finds very little energy left over to focus on the individual characters. Issue 12 takes that ball and runs it in for a cold, distant touchdown. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing Velvet 2, originally released December 4th, 2013.
Shelby: I do so enjoy a good spy thriller. There’s something about the James Bonds, the Jason Bournes, the Ethan Hunts that is just impossibly cool. They’ve got the neatest gadgets and the most impressive skills. The life of a spy is built on lies, no one can really be trusted. The story is intrigue layered on mysteries, usually layered on top of betrayal. That’s why I think the mole-hunt/double agent story is my favorite kind of spy thriller; it transforms the necessity of the secrets and lies into a liability. Who better to hide from spies than another spy? Who could take down a secret agency other than one of its own? How is an agency supposed to find a mole when all its own tricks are being used against it? Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting take on these questions in their spy thriller Velvet, and it is exactly as fun as you would think. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 26, originally released December 4th, 2013.
Drew: I always get awkward when meeting new people: between my own anxiety over making a good impression and trying to size them up myself, genuine interactions often get squeezed out. These problems are only exacerbated when it comes to meeting new coworkers, where there are actual stakes that you get along, and the specter of “professionalism” adds pressure to the situation. I should mention here that I have a great relationship with my coworkers, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel super awkward on my first day, and probably postured more than necessary to make them like me. Jason Woodrue faces similar awkwardness as the new Avatar of the Green, and works way too hard to impress his new bosses. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Trillium 5, originally released December 4th, 2013.Shelby: Like all the issues of Trillium before it, this one has a trick to it. Again, like we’ve seen before, there’s a separation between Nika’s story and William’s; Nika’s story runs along the top half of the page, with a note to “…read upper section of report first.” At the end of the issue, you flip the book upside down, and read back along the bottom to get William’s story. Nika’s end is his beginning, his beginning her end. That in and of itself is beautiful, but being the stubborn fool that I am, I read the whole thing straight through first, flipping the book over and over. Between my correct and incorrect readings of Jeff Lemire’s sci fi/apocalypse/time travel/romance, a beautifully balanced set of parallel stories emerged. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Saga 16, originally released November 27th, 2013.
The best-laid plans of mice and men
Often go awry
Robert Burns, To A Mouse
Drew: I used to get so disappointed when the plans of a protagonist would change. It took me a long time to understand that those changes are the engine of drama, and even longer to appreciate that they reflect reality on a fundamental level. Our plans are always changing, sometimes due to external forces, and other times due to internal chances to our own priorities. Most narratives are loaded with the former type, but that latter type is rare. Rarer still are narratives where every character has their plans upended in both ways. Saga has long been one such rarity, and issue 16 reasserts the fragility of its characters’ plans. Continue reading →
Today, Greg and Shelby are discussing Pretty Deadly 2, originally released November 27, 2013.
Greg: There’s a difference between something feeling “challenging” and “hard”. The way I visualize it – and be forewarned, this is going to be super dumb – a brain approaches a thing that’s “challenging” like a cocky knight approaching a dragon: he knows he will be tested, but he knows he can ultimately triumph based on his skills. Conversely, a brain approaches a thing that’s “hard” like a cocky knight approaching a titanium wall that goes on forever: try as he might, all he’s gonna be able to do is bash his head against the wall.
This issue of Pretty Deadly feels like a titanium wall. One that’s particularly pretty, mind you.
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Hawkeye 14, originally released November 27th, 2013.
Shelby: There’s a very idealistic romance to being young and on your own. It’s easy for me, at the ripe old age of 29, to see younger people’s enthusiasm and just roll my eyes. I’m just jaded enough to have very little patience for that sort of thing. As Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye continues with the adventures of Hawkeye (not Hawkguy) Kate Bishop in L.A., we get a heavy dose of romance, both of the idealistic-youth type and the couple-in-love type. Is Fraction laying it on thick to crack through my jaded, exterior shell? Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing The Wake 5, originally released November 20th, 2013.
Shelby: I love being surprised by a story. There’s the smug satisfaction of thinking you’ve figured it all out, followed by the shock of things playing out completely differently. If the storytelling is good, you don’t even care that you were wrong; it’s like the ground just opened up beneath you and you find yourself dropped into a totally different story. These last five issues of The Wake have given us a sci fi, underwater horror tale as Lee Archer fights horrifying mer-monsters at the bottom of the ocean. We’ve gotten glimpses at a much bigger picture, but the bulk of the story has taken place on the ghost rig. At the end of the book, Scott Snyder tells us that was all setup, that now the real story starts, and shit is gonna get crazy. That’s a paraphrase, mind you: Scott Snyder is far more eloquent in his delivery.
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Animal Man 25, originally released November 20th, 2013.
Scott: As a writer, it’s my perpetual fear that whatever idea I’ve just come up with has already been done. Even if I believe an idea to be entirely my own, I’m always a little afraid someone out there will find a similarity to some other work, and I’ll be branded an idea thief. Writers and artists accused of stealing or copying material are ridiculed to no end on internet forums. Think of the hit Dane Cook’s reputation took when he was accused of stealing material from Louis C.K. Of course, it’s entirely possible for two creative people to independently come up with the same thought. That makes it all the harder to judge two concurrent works that share strong similarities. It’s impossible to know which creator had the idea first, and unfair to blame either one for sharing what is, to them, an original concept. Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire is fighting the perception that his story is too similar to semi-sister comic Swamp Thing. Fair or not, an otherwise strong issue of Animal Man suffers from feeling a little too familiar. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Indestructible Hulk 15, originally released November 20th, 2013.
Shelby: Games have rules for a reason. Everyone has to know how to play (and how to win), and rules lay that out. A game without rules is chaos, which for a game like Calvinball is precisely the point. The only rule of Calvinball is you can’t play the game the same way twice: essentially, the only rule is whatever rules are made are to be broken. When there are no rules, you can do whatever you want. Worried about consequences? Why bother, there’s no rule that says there will be any! While it might be kind of freeing to play a game with no rules, when you’re dealing with time, history, and your very existence, rules are pretty damn important. So when Bruce Banner finds himself facing his own past, an irradiated Hulk, a potentially Hulk-less future, and a timestream so broken it can be shaped like clay, he knows he needs to act fast before it’s too late, if it isn’t already. Continue reading →