Patrick: Violence. Abuse. Torture. Slavery. I just named, like, the four worst things in the world. They’re all awful on their own, but each act becomes unfathomably detestable the second you add the descriptor “sexual.” Sexual violence is so horrible, we don’t really know how to process it and we sure as shit don’t know how to talk about it. As a result, so much sexual assault gets swept out of our field of vision, even when we know full-well that it’s going on. The numbers vary wildly, but every study on reporting rape statistics suggests that a shocking number of sexual assaults go unreported. Studies also show that sexual assault, especially toward children, can trigger psychosis and schizophrenia later in life. It’s simply too much for brains to handle, which is why we tend to freak out whenever rape shows up in our pop entertainments. Ales Kot and Tonči Zonjić boldly express our inability to process these moments of pure, unadulterated horror in a breathtaking new installment of Zero. (spoilers for Zero 9 after the jump). Continue reading
Patrick: I’ve always considered Back to the Future Part II to the be only movie in the series that’s really about time travel. The first movie is kind of a send up of the ’50s (through the eyes of ’80s, all of which is hilarious in the ’10s), and the third one a fish-out-of-water cowboy story. It’s only really in the second film that the consequences of time travel become the subject of the story, and not just the result of the story. This isn’t a knock against the other flicks at all — you should never underestimate how much fun it is to put characters in a time which they don’t belong. Free from any worries about paradoxes and time-loops, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Time sets out to simply have fun plugging the iconic characters into a history that has no place for them. And holy shit, is it fun. Continue reading
Patrick: When all’s said and done, ‘Doomed’ will have made its way through four different series: Superman (before Johns takes it over next month), Action Comics, Batman / Superman (both of which are written by Greg Pak), and this series, Superman/Wonder Woman. The supporting casts featured in each chapter of this event vary a bit depending on the series — naturally, Wonder Woman and her supporting cast will feature more heavily here, just as Batman plays a bigger role in the series that bears his name. The slightly less visible connections come from what our authors are familiar with, or excited about writing about. Superman 31 found Super Doom trading blows with the Teen Titans, but only because they share a common writer: Scott Lobdell. Even Pak — who seems to be leading the charge here — has focused his issues on the Phantom Zone and Ghost Soldier and Mongul, all spun out of his own titles. The same things happens in this issue, as Super Doom gets a chance to beat down Soule’s other babies — Guy Gardner and the Red Lanterns. All of these developments are strange, and you can almost hear Lobdell, Pak and Soule glancing around the room, muttering “what else, what else, what else?” This reinforces their sadly generic vision for Man of Tomorrow. Continue reading
Shelby: As much as I enjoy Do-si-dos, I was never a Girl Scout. I grew up on a farm in rural northern Wisconsin, so the FFA (that’s Future Farmers of America) and 4-H were the dominant players in my household. While I never went to camp or earned badges, I can still recite the 4-H pledge from memory, so I understand the impact and importance of scout-type organizations for kids. While 4-H is for both boys and girls, and you’re just as likely to see gals struggling to show a stubborn heifer at the county fair as boys, I definitely appreciate that there are scouting and excursion groups for girls as well as boys; you may not have realized this, but I strongly support equal opportunities for both genders. Even if the series weren’t crazy and fun, I would appreciate Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis’ Lumberjanes for this very reason. Oh, and if you were wondering:
I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
my Heart to greater loyalty,
my Hands to larger service,
and my Health to better living,
in my club, my community, my country, and my world.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men 28, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Taylor: Madness fills an interesting role in our imagination. Just enough madness and you’re considered a genius. A little too much madness and you’re considered a nut. We tend to think of someone as being “mad” if they have any of a number of mental defects but retain enough of their personality to still be somewhat coherent. Perhaps the most well known madman of all time is Ahab. His singular quest to destroy the white whale consumed his entire life, even if he did retain the vestiges of a sane man. And that’s perhaps what makes him such a disturbing character. Despite (or perhaps because of ) his madness, he is charismatic. We forget that he’s insane sometimes and actually feel that his quest against Moby Dick is justified. Xavier is similarly hell-bent on killing the X-Men of the past, and similarly might have good reasons for wanting to do so. All-New X-Men 28 has me wondering if this quest is the errand of a madman or the product of love gone awry.
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Taylor: The excellent blog kottke.org recently brought to my attention a video on visual comedy. In this short feature, Tony Zhou makes a strong case for the lack of visual comedy in your typical comedic film. He also highlights a lot of movies, like Hot Fuzz, which make excellent use of visual comedy. It got me to thinking about how difficult it is to pull off visual comedy in film, much less in comics. Like in writing, something about pulling off a comedic still frame is surprisingly difficult. As with movies, I think we often aren’t treated to great visual comedy. However, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12 bucks this trend and shows just how funny a comic can be based almost entirely on its visual elements alone.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 34, originally released June 4, 2014. Patrick: Are you ever at a party and meeting someone new and they ask what you do? Conventional wisdom says that you should just tell the person what your day job is — “I work in an office;” “I’m a teacher;” “I work in fundraising” — but we all know that’s a woefully inaccurate representation of what you do. We’re all hobbies and clubs and jobs and passions and interests. Prioritizing those identities is hard, so we tend to just slide back to describing ourselves by where we’re employed. But maybe we should all be introducing ourselves by saying “I read comics and foster daily online conversations about them” or “I’m an improviser” or whatever. Our priorities say more about who we are than where we burn eight hours in the middle of the day, right? The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are currently having their unified identity challenged by this very idea, as the looming threats of Krang and Shredder vie for the top of their priorities list. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Taylor are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 15, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Tell my father that I’m in. I’ll be Star-Lord. If he lets the rest of the Guardians go free. I’ll be what he needs me to be. In return I promise the Guardians will disappear. They won’t give Spartax any more trouble. You have my word.
Scott: Not everyone is cut out for improvising. Believe me, as a twenty-something living in LA, I’ve been to enough improv shows to tell you it isn’t for everyone. Most people are better off sticking to a plan. I know I am. I have a writer’s mentality; my strength lies in my ability to think through a problem and come up with a creative solution. Put me on the spot in a room full of people, however, and I’m a bumbling mess. I’ll say just about anything to get through those awkward moments, whether I believe what I’m saying or not. When Quill says the passage above, it doesn’t ring true for a second. It’s one of those “say whatever you have to” moments, and no one within earshot is buying it. Quill can hardly make it through those words before moving onto an even more poorly though-out idea. In fact, all of the Guardians are operating without much of a plan in this issue, and they don’t seem to be cut out for improv.
Drew: In a time when serialized storytelling is very much in vogue, it’s easy to forget that some characters are designed for a specific narrative. That is, the situations that they endure during the story so define them that they can’t really exist outside of it. Would we even recognize Hamlet if he wasn’t having an existential crisis? The only way to reuse a character like that is to put them in essentially the same situation again, which obviously yields diminishing returns, and might just undermine the power of the original. Unfortunately, as Winter Soldier: The Bitter March ramps up to its conclusion, it’s clear that Bucky Barnes may only have one important story to tell. Continue reading
Spencer: I’m a pretty big fan of Doctor Who, and one of my favorite aspects of the show is that its premise has infinite possibilities; the writers can literally take the Doctor to any location or time-period they can imagine. The only problem is that the network created a rule that every episode has to feature a monster of some sort. This isn’t a huge deal — monsters are an essential part of the Doctor Who mythos — but it becomes rather frustrating when there’s an episode that doesn’t need a monster, but has one shoehorned in anyway; at its best it’s distracting, but at its worst it can derail episodes completely. Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’ The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers from a similar problem; while the scenes about Peter are quite enjoyable, everything about Electro’s inclusion feels shoehorned, and it threatens to derail the entire issue. Continue reading