Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing The Infinite Loop 3, originally released June 17th, 2015.
Patrick: I like to think that these Alternating Currents are fearless. We make whatever observations we want and to hell with the consequences! Sometimes that means getting pushback from creators that used to retweet our pieces, sometimes it means getting into an argument in the comments section or on twitter. But the audience for one of these pieces is highly self-selected – anyone reading this specific piece (for example) is going to have read all the way through Infinite Loop 3 and wants to read more about it. That’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of people, likely lumped together by a shared set of values, enthusiasms and ways of thinking about and consuming culture. So when I make some dumb statement about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles perfecting action on the static page, I am, almost by definition, preaching to the choir. There’s no grander cultural risk involved – the writer and the reader are trapped in the same loop of perspective. Infinite Loop 3 makes a bold attempt to break itself out of its cultural loops by ratcheting both its science fiction elements and its lesbian erotica elements to insanely high levels, and the result is decidedly fearless.
On the run from the Foragers, Teddy and Ano retreat to a place outside of space and time that Teddy had recreated for “all her stuff.” Writer Pierrick Colinet starts off the issue with a heady sci fi idea: the paradise-pocket of time is usually something reserved for the final chapter of a cross-generational Star Trek movie, not issue three of a six-issue mini-series. Star Trek is actually a quaint point of comparison – while that show (and the rest of the television franchises) made a point of exploring social issues lightly masked by sci fi trappings, Trek always had the luxury of hiding behind it’s own metaphors. No need to pinpoint specific cultures when you can just blame otherness of Worf being Klingon or Ferengi being Ferengi. The Infinite Loop is also employing metaphor, making the taboo part of Teddy and Ano’s relationship the fact that one of them is an anomaly of the time stream, rather than the fact that they’re both women. But that’s clearly the taboo Colinet and artist Elsa Charretrier want to explore.
In fact, it’s so clear, that we’re not even firmly established in this sci-fi pocket dimension before Ano’s bare breasts are out there again, like some kind of erotic fantasy. They’re overcome by passion for each other, and before Ano can even ask “so where are we exactly?”, they have sex out on the front lawn. It’s a beautifully drawn, well paced, highly erotic scene that manages to be tasteful without really pulling any punches. But what I find most intriguing about it is the hilariously eager flow-chart that leads them to make this decision.
NOW? What follows is four and a half pages of affirmative sex scene. It’s so affirmative and so free that the words “Hope,” “Love,” “Be Proud,” “Human,” and “Equal” — among others — appear in the background.
The scene is not only nakedly enthusiastic about Teddy and Ano having sex, but also about being supportive of their relationship. And why not? They’re safe in Teddy’s personal paradise.
Things become a little different when Ano identifies this places as Teddy’s “closet.” This is a totally safe place to be gay and love being gay, just as Infinte Loop is a perfectly safe place to tell those stories (and again, just as Retcon Punch is a perfectly safe place to talk about those stories). We’re all sort of shouting into our own infinite loops, having our ideas safely reaffirmed (and I’ll just thank Michael in advance for agreeing with everything I’m saying right now). Ano gives Teddy a hard time about being so comfortably stuck in this place. It’s in the issue’s middle section that the story reads almost exclusively like a beautiful queer sex-fantasy. Everything is loving and accepting and just on the verge of boiling over with sexual energy. That’s perfectly fine genre material, but it is decidedly of that genre, with it’s own self-selected audience. How can a piece of popular culture hope to effective perspectives of those not already engaged in that genre?
Why, by reinforcing it’s other genre trappings, of course. The issue ends by an Alternate-Timeline Teddy appearing on the scene and erasing Ano before Ulysses gets the chance to. A.T. Teddy then explains that she’s been recruiting an army of Teddys from across the multiverse for the sole purpose of saving all of their Anos. That’s a crazy sci fi idea — much more at home in something like Multiversity or Rick and Morty — and yet Colinet and Charrteier pursue it with as much reckless enthusiasm as the love scene that starts the issue.
There’s some masterful balloon placement here by Colinet, who lettered the issue as well as writing it, leading the reader’s eye around in a very clear loop. Charretier helps emphasize this direction with the curve effect of the camera’s lens on the checkered floor.
Only by fully embracing the storytelling quirks and trappings of both of its primary genres can The Infinite Loop hope to impress its ideas on readers that haven’t already bought into them. I don’t mean to suggest that the audience for wonky time travel narratives and queer loves stories are mutually exclusive — I mean, I’m standing right here — but it is rare to see a story that is simultaneously so nakedly sexual and nakedly nerdy. I especially love to see those genres reflected in cultural two references Teddy makes in this issue: Wizard of Oz and Forbidden Planet. Can’t get much gayer and much nerdier than those.
Michael: Patrick, how dare you assume that I will agree with everything you say – this comic is an anomaly that must be suppressed!…Ok, not really. And naturally, I do basically agree with everything you said. I played a little catch up on the first two issues and man oh man does The Infinite Loop have some heavy themes and ideas! The Infinite Loop does indeed have the trappings of other sci-fi adventures of its kind and happily marries them to the concept of the LGBT struggle. The story has been one of a sexual self-discovery transplanted onto the “company man goes native” archetype. It’s a transition of a few different kinds – a horse of a different color, if you will. (Sorry?) I don’t think that Patrick was exactly critiquing The Infinite Loop by stating that it hasn’t fully embraced both of its genre influences; either way I think that it makes sense. The Infinite Loop 3 is the halfway point of this miniseries, so it makes sense that our characters spend it in Teddy’s “closet” – it’s a safe house, a metaphorical transition, an intermission and a vacation all-in-one.
Sure, Teddy made the decision to abscond with Ano last issue but she’s kind of coasted on that decision for almost half a year instead of moving forward with it and advancing their relationship. Ano and Teddy were at the safe house for 209 days – I can never wrap my head around fictional characters hiding out for that long without going batshit crazy. Spending that much time alone with only one other person would probably have most pairs ready to bite each other’s heads off; let alone a normal human being and an artificially created person who is really only a few days old…but I digress.
What I’m getting at is that I believe that Colinet and Charretier are fully aware of their hesitation to go all in, as far as their genre commitment goes. The narrative of The Infinite Loop 3 is about getting your toes in the water – eventually you’re going to half to decide if you’re getting in the pool or not. As purveyors of pop culture we know that this little reprieve from conflict won’t last. If Ano and Teddy merely swam, watched Forbidden Planet and did the naked dance for the rest of eternity, a dull story that would make. The only choice for Teddy is to make a choice. In Joseph Campbell terms Teddy is “crossing the threshold” by deciding to leave the comfort of her hideaway (we assume) to commit to something greater than herself.
Or should I say her selves? I gotta say that I nerded out a little when A.T. Teddy came onto the scene and revealed that The Forgers were really a coalition of alternate Teddys determined to save their respective Anos. It’s something we’ve seen more recently in books like The Amazing Spider-Man and Invincible but a Multiversal team of the same person always gets me jazzed nonetheless. And what a brilliant move by Colinet to make the mysterious bad guys of the story turn out to be the hero that we have been following from the start of The Infinite Loop. Not only is it something reminiscent of great mystery twists (ya know, like M. Night Shyamalan’s stuff before The Village) but it reinvests the reader in the larger conflict of the story. Upon their introduction, I was vaguely interested in the concept of The Forgers and their time travel meddling. Now that I know that A) The Forgers are the good guys and B) The Forgers are actually a bunch of different versions of the hero we’ve rooting for? I’m definitely on board.
As much as The Infinite Loop is a story about embracing your own identity and sexuality, it also a story about the free will to embrace that identity. By now we are familiar with the character thought process that Colinet and Charretier have given to Teddy via flow-chart, as Patrick referenced above. We see her weighing her options when confronted with a big decision; even if the ultimate result is the same, every choice has a consequence – even inaction. The Infinite Loop 3 is a representation of Teddy’s choice to not make a choice. She is again faced with this choice at the end of the book: if Teddy chooses to join “The Teddy Corps” then the story continues. If she chooses to stay in her hideaway however, the story is over.
This is a book that presents a lot of big ideas: free will, sexuality, existentialism, you name it. Like the flow-chart: before we can get to more specific conversations we have to first address the topic overall. I think the best sci-fi think pieces have this kind of approach where we broach the subject a bit before jumping head first into the issue at hand. So yes, like Patrick I think that The Infinite Loop has ridden the fine line of sci-fi and lesbian erotica, so it will be interesting to see what happens on the other side of the threshold; will we still be enthralled? Or will the metaphor and social justice message become heavy-handed and preachy? Also Ulysses is a tool.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?