East of West 15

Alternating Currents: East of West 15, Taylor and DrewToday, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 15, originally released September 10th, 2014.

Taylor: Some of the oldest and most enduring philosophical questions ever asked have to do with the nature of reality. Actually, maybe that’s basically a working definition of the subject in general. The question of what is reality is one that spans the world. The Taoist philosophers of Ancient China believe that what we perceive is actually an illusion. Likewise, in the West, the Ancient Greeks believe that reality is but a shadow of some ideal world crafted in our minds. That two such disparate cultures should come to similar conclusions shouldn’t be surprising. After all, it’s long been known that we can’t trust our senses to accurately inform our world view. Given the ubiquity of this idea, it’s not surprising to see it spring up in the latest issue of East of West. The series is nothing if not philosophical and the question of reality seemed like a matter of ‘if’ not ‘when’. While this doesn’t surprise in issue 15, what does is just how destructive this question might prove to the world of the Seven Nations.

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Uncanny X-Men 25

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Uncanny X-Men 25, originally released September 3rd, 2014.

Taylor: While comics readers know it not to be true, there is a stigma that hero worship is something juvenile. Why this stigma persists I can’t say — after all, we have grown men who wear the jerseys of their sports heroes on a weekly basis. Why superhero worship is considered nerdy in comparison to these other idols, I don’t know. Still, it says something about people that we love to have heroes, even after we’ve reached an age where we like to think we don’t need them anymore. But the weird thing about heroes is that they seldom live up to our conception of them. We seem to never outgrow this aspect of hero worship, and as Scott Summers learns in Uncanny X-Men 25, this can be a bitter pill to swallow.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 37

Alternating Currents: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 37, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 37, originally released August 13, 2014. Drew: By the time I was watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, it was already airing in syndication 5 days a week. That was awesome for the part of me that wanted to see sweet ninja turtle action on a regular basis, but decidedly less awesome for whatever part of me was supposed to learn patience. I could wait exactly one day between episodes, but no more. Indeed, I didn’t even have patience for scenes on the show that didn’t feature the turtles (to my credit, they almost never ordered pizza at the technodrome), so the finer points of plotting were often lost on me. Intrepid youtubers have aimed to rectify my ignorance, compiling all of Shredder’s scenes with Krang into bite-sized videos, but life has offered a much more fulfilling second chance in the form of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 37, which focuses exclusively on Shredder and Krang’s first (er, second) meeting. Continue reading

Zero 9

zero 9Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Zero 9, originally released July 23rd, 2014.

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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Time 1

tmnt in time 1Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Time 1, originally released June 18th, 2014.

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

Superman/Wonder Woman 9

superman wonder woman 9Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Superman/Wonder Woman 9, originally released June 11th, 2014.

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

Lumberjanes 3

lumberjanes 3Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Lumberjanes 3, originally released June 11th, 2014. 

slim-bannerShelby: 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.

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All-New X-Men 28

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.

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The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12

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.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 34

tmnt 34Today, 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