Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Sword of Sorcery 8, originally released May 15th, 2013.
Taylor: It’s hard to believe, but we haven’t been able to buy Surge — that neon green, sugar-saturated soft drink — for thirteen years now. For whatever reason, I remember Surge being incredibly popular with my peers in primary school. The reasons for this really evade me at the moment. It wasn’t all that great or different from other soft drinks and it certainly didn’t offer any benefits aside from its taste. I don’t remember the ad campaign for Surge but I’m guessing that it must have had something to do with everyone’s fondness for the slimy soda. I seem to remember that everyone thought it was so chock-full of sugar it would drive a sane student nuts. If we wanted to stay up late or feel energized my friends and I would gulp down the snot-colored soda and pretend we instantly felt the effects. So that was Surge, and now it is gone. Even though I only liked it as a kid I still have fond memories of that stuff. Similarly, even though Sword of Sorcery is going the way of Surge and leaving shelves indefinitely, I’ll always look back on it with cheerful glee, glad that existed even for a short time.
Today, Ethan and Taylor are discussing Avengers Assemble 15AU, originally released May 8th 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Ethan: It’s always tempting to poke fun at other cultures. Humans seem evolutionarily predisposed to draw lines between Us and Them, and in the present, enlightened point in the development of our species, we like to use humor to act on that where our paleo-ancestors might have used a nice, big stick. Humor’s got more uses than pushing others away though; sometimes it’s a good way to navigate the gap between the familiar and the different, and to draw people together. All of this is a bit overblown for introducing this issue. What I’m really trying to say is that writer Al Ewing really went to town on those silly Brits in this issue. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Constantine 3, originally released May 8th, 2013.
Taylor: We all have that friend or know that guy. You know the one, the one who for whatever reason is lucky as all hell. Fate, in its ever fickle nature, has determined that fortune always favors this person whether they are deserving of it or not. While we don’t hate this person necessarily, we do begrudge them. Why should they get all the luck while we seemingly get none? Things become more frustrating when the fortunate person in question seems to do relatively little to achieve their luck. Whether they’re stupid, lazy, mean or any other disparaging adjective you can think of, it just seems like they don’t deserve the fortune that has fallen in their laps. Is John Constantine one of these people? Is he unreasonably lucky or is he actually deserving of his laurels? Is he actually the cause of his success or is something else? In the third issue of Constantine we ponder this question as well as experiencing London in ways few would expect.
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing A + X 7, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Spencer: We live in an era of comics where six-month storylines are the norm and accusations of decompressed storytelling abound. Some stories are worth the space, but others just feel like they’re grasping for ways to fill out a trade paperback. Regardless, I’ve found myself greatly appreciating shorter storylines as a result, and as a writer who often struggles in vain to be concise, I admire a creative team that can fit a complete story into a small amount of space and not have it feel lacking. This month’s A+X not only tells two such stories, it even manages to throw in a twist ending; color me impressed!
Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Dial H 12, originally released May 1st, 2013.
Taylor: There comes a point in issue 12 of Dial H where after a series of very chaotic series the Fixer, who we were introduced to last month, is utterly confused. The cause of his (her, its?) confusion is the product of spell put on it by another character in the issue, as opposed to it actually just being confused by the events it’s undergoing. While this is a different type of confusion than readers of Dial H are used to experiencing, the reaction it elicits are basically the same.
What exactly does all this crazy shit mean? Dial H has always reveled in its own weirdness, an aspect of the series that has almost been aggressive in its persistence. At some point, however, all this weirdness has to go somewhere and actually mean something; weirdness for weirdness’ sake simply isn’t enough to carry an entire title. China Mieville seems to know this. Just as Dial H gets almost too weird for its own good, we are offered a glimpse behind the universe and what makes it tick, a process which maybe saves the title from going too far off the rails.
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 21, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Taylor: Cities are dirty places. Go to any major city and it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will see litter piled in gutters, blowing across streets, and randomly dispersed in unsuspecting front yards. It’s not that people in big cities like litter (does anyone?) or care about the environment any less than people in smaller urban areas. Rather, it’s simply a matter of when you throw a huge number of people together they create a huge amount of waste. Keeping all of this waste together can be a hard thing to do, thus in cities like Chicago, my base of operations, litter and dirtiness are just something you get used to. This grime that accumulates in big cities gives them an unmistakable urban feel which most people can easily recognize, whether they have ever lived in such an environment or not. Kevin Eastman recognizes this aspect of cities and it is reflected in issue 21 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which he both wrote and drew. The result is an issue that realigns the series with a new plot while at the same establishing a dark and ominous tone for the future.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 19, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Drew: Time travel does weird things to stories. Leaving aside whatever chronology wankery that usually goes along with it, time travel stories actually require pretty specific things of their characters. If they are going to the past, for example, they must not know history that well (or events have to play out in a way different from what they learned). Sure, having a character aware of the hands of fate sounds good, but knowing everything before it happens sure sounds boring. Making the time traveler relatively unaware allows for all kinds of neat dramatic irony — we know how things play out even if the characters don’t. This is especially true of historical events we might recognize, but it’s also true of smaller period details. We laugh when Bill and Ted high-five Napoleon, or when Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Goode because we understand that that’s not how someone from that time period would behave. It’s this smaller-scale dramatic irony that permeates All-Star Western 19, as Jonah Hex runs into a time-displaced Booster Gold. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 19, originally released April 24, 2013.
Taylor: There’s nothing like having a little time to yourself. This proves to be especially true after you’ve completed a large project or gone through an important life event that required a lot of your time or energy. Having just completed a stint as a student teacher, I understand how nice it is to regain a little bit of time for yourself. Suddenly, I have ample time to pursue my own interests, to take care of things I’ve been putting off for too long, and to generally dedicate myself to laziness and slobbery. Comic book writers and artists, along with the characters they give life to, similarly get to enjoy these moments of re-centering when they come to an end of a story arch. Without the obligations of having to progress a plot or defeat absolute evil, comic creators have the chance to spend a little more time on their characters and enjoy their company. Additionally, this is a chance for writers to reassess where they would like the focus of their series to fall and on whom. Justice League Dark, having wrapped up the Timothy Hunter arc, is enjoying one of these precious moments and in issue 19 it’s a pleasure to see what effect that has on the series.
Today, Taylor and Ethan are discussing Wolverine and the X-Men 27AU, originally released April 17th 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Taylor: Expect the unexpected. On a scale of one to ten that measures cliché sayings that enrage me, this one is at about a 9.3. How can you expect the unexpected? By its very nature a person can’t prepare for the unexpected. If something is unexpected that means you cannot see it coming, so how can you prepare for it? I understand that some of the charm people derive from this saying comes from the very paradoxical nature of it that I hate so much. However, I think a lot of people have forgotten this aspect of the saying in eschewing its true meaning. Rather, those who employ the saying often seem to use it as a way of preparing people for wild times ahead, not caring that the dribble coming out of their mouth is useless and confusing. However, occasionally this phrase is useful, like when you really have no idea what to expect from your present circumstances. I think time travel is one of the times when it’s safe to say you should expect the unexpected if for no other reason then temporal mechanics are wonky. So when Wolverine and Sue Storm travel back in time in Wolverine and the X-Men 27 AU, I think it’s safe to use the phrase I deplore so much.
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Birds of Prey 18-19, originally released March 20th and April 17th, 2013.
Shelby: I have the most trouble writing beginnings and endings. Beginnings are hard because you have to draw the reader in, entice them enough to keep reading. Endings are hard because you have to conclude your message with enough finality that there’s a sense of closure without being too abrupt. My biggest complaint about Duane Swierczynski’s run on Birds of Prey was his endings; story arcs just sort of … stopped. There is little I find more frustrating than a well-written story that doesn’t deliver on the ending, that simply ends. Birds finds itself with a new beginning, though, as Christy Marx wraps up Sword of Sorcery and takes over writing duties here; her strong, female-centric take on Nilaa won me over from day one, and would seem to make her a perfect fit for this superheroine team title. Continue reading →