Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Spencer, Drew, Patrick and Michael discuss Spider-Woman 9, Kanan: The Last Padawan 4, All-New Hawkeye 4, Sons of the Devil 3, Archie vs. Predator 4, Archie vs. Sharknado 1, Effigy 7, and The Infinite Loop 4.
Spencer: With more and more great books hitting the stands each week, we’ve recently taken to splitting our Weekly Round-Up into several installments so as to make each one easier to digest. Now that we have Round-Ups specifically covering DC and Secret Wars, it could be tempting to think of the books we cover in this Round-Up to be the leftovers. I just want to emphasize to you all that this is absolutely not the case. Every book we cover this week features unique concepts, or even unique takes on familiar ones, and almost all of them are high quality to boot. It’s an eclectic line-up of comics, but one that’s just as worth your attention as anything else we’ve written about this week.
Spencer: Jessica Drew is a bit of a contradictory character. She’s a super-competent spy and Avenger, but since she was raised in isolation and spent much of her childhood only socializing with villains, she’s rather awkward when it comes to social interactions. Considering her past, it’s easy to see how she turned out to be a bit of a loner, and that propensity to do everything herself is a weakness Dennis Hopeless addresses head-on in Spider-Woman 9. In this case, I can’t blame Jess for wanting to handle things on her own; Porcupine is a screw-up of epic proportions. But Ben Urich isn’t wrong when he says that Porcupine needs to be given a chance if he’s ever going to reform (and Hopeless does an excellent job showing the goodness that’s still inside of Porcupine), and Jess clearly can’t handle everything by herself — at one point she is literally overwhelmed by a hoard of (either robotic or brainwashed) cowpoke. I’m not sure how Jess will ever learn to delegate when her assistants seem so helpless or how Porcupine will learn to contribute, but I’m eager to find out, especially with Hopeless’ imaginative, comedic hand guiding the outcome.
Javier Rodriguez matches that unique tone perfectly, capturing the lighter moments but also providing a dazzling, cinematic take on the action sequences.
Seriously, that’s some gorgeous, effective visual storytelling. This creative team knows how to play to each others’ strengths, and it sure makes for one smart, charming comic book.
Drew: No kidding. I’m particularly enamored of the short adventure montage that establishes the team dynamic of this road trip, giving us several examples of Porcupine’s ineptitude before Jessica finally snaps. I think you’re right to identify her poor people skills as a big weakness, Spencer, and it looks like she may have to learn the value of Porcupine’s contributions in order to get out of this particular jam. Of course, he’s also the one that got him into this particular jam — they’re only on the Sheriff’s radar because Porcupine wanted to visit Dodge city. Then again, the Sheriff is clearly up to something, which may have gone unnoticed for who knows how long if Porcupine hadn’t brought in Jessica. It’s not a “win,” necessarily, but it’s possible Porcupine will have made this world a safer place by the end of this arc.
Kanan: the Last Padawan 4
Indiana Jones: Brutal couple of years, huh Charlie? First Dad, then Marcus.
Charlie: We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving things and starts taking them away.
Indiana Jones and the Legend of the Crystal Skull
Patrick: I’m sure I don’t win any points by quoting everyone’s least favorite Indiana Jones movie, but this particular line of dialogue always struck me as weirdly powerful. In fact, when I looked it up to use in this piece, I had forgotten where it came from. To this point in Caleb Dume’s life, he’s only known loss – this is his origin story after all: something has to put the chip on his shoulder. That means that the series has been kind of a downer, albeit a thematically rich downer, for the majority of its run. Issue four, while not steering away from any of the series’ darkness, finally allows Caleb to have a little bit of hope and adventure. If age only comes with loss, then the opposite is also true: youth comes with potential. There’s an awesome moment early in this issue that signals this shift, as Caleb is busted out of both a literal and figurative prison.
That robot is about to tear those bars out of the wall and then it’s smooth sailing to adventure. Caleb finally gets the chance to just be a bad-ass smuggler, zipping around the galaxy doing awesome shit with Kasmir. Later in the issue, he’s confronted by a former Separatist General, but both characters are so eager to ignore their previous roles so they can get down to the very serious (and very fun) business of getting Caleb his own ship. He may not get to make a totally clean break here — those damn clones just won’t stop hunting him — but there’s certainly more to be hopeful for in this issue.
All-New Hawkeye 4
Patrick: I think I’ve been a little reticent to herald Jeff Lemire and Ramón Pérez’s All-New Hawkeye as a worthy successor to Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye for a couple reasons. Perhaps most important among those reasons: Hawkeye had not yet ended when All-New started, so I still needed closure on that series’ legacy. But, just in terms of the new series itself, I wasn’t totally convinced that the flashback structure was serving the narrative or the characters in ways that were anywhere nearly as exciting as the cool-but-never-cold street level adventures we used to read. The idea of a real-time adventure that fleshed out its characters through flashbacks feels pedestrian – not bad by any measure, but certainly not revolutionary. All-New Hawkeye 4 challenges our assumptions about what the series is on such a fundamental level, that I feel like I need to reassess all four previous issues. Instead of using flashbacks to inform the present, as all three previous issues have, issue four allows the present to inform the past. In their youth, we get to see how Clint develops his expert marksmanship and the discipline that would allow him to eventually become an Avenger, while Barney learns a different set of skills altogether. And then, running along the bottom of the page, we get to see the fruits of Clint’s childhood labors, kicking dudes in the face and lodging arrows in their chests. It’s a beautiful inversion of the format, and of everything this series has shown us so far.
Spencer, did you enjoy this shift in focus? It sorta reminds me of Lemire’s approach to writing Trillium in that the scope of the story could reasonably change at any individual panel. Also, any guess as to whether and/or how we’re going to see Barney in the present? We have to, right?
Spencer: When this series first began I actually thought part of the flashbacks’ purpose was to create an avenue to keep the now-dead Barney active in the story, but now that we know he’s not dead? Yeah, he’s showing up at some point, although I doubt it will be in this storyline.
Anyway Patrick, our reviews here have well documented the trouble I’ve had figuring out how to read this series (despite my rather enjoying it), but I feel like you’ve really uncovered the secret behind Lemire’s format here, to the point where I can’t even add anything useful to your analysis, just nod in agreement. So instead, I’m going to marvel over not only how good the art is, but how effectively it supports the narrative. It’s impressive how well Pérez’s present-day runner at the bottom of the page tells a story with no words, and that makes it all the more effective when the words finally come on the last page, and that tiny runner expands with the Tykes’ explosion to take up the whole page. That’s some effective storytelling there.
Then there’s this spread, which cuts between three different scenes (Clint’s training, Barney’s crimes, and the circus act) seemingly at random. It would be chaotic and hard-to-follow if not for Ian Herring assigning each scene a different color, transforming the image into something orderly that the reader can tackle in any order they want. Through both the narrative and the visuals Lemire, Pérez, and Herring make All-New Hawkeye as different from its predecessor as possible — all the better to help them establish their own take on the franchise.
Sons of the Devil 3
Drew: One of my favorite criticisms of Jurassic World is that Chris Pratt was presented as such a flawless character, it was impossible to care about him. He was a badass, sure, but he was also always right, always capable, and always reactionary. More importantly, without any motives other than survival, he never betrayed any feelings that we might actually relate to him. I struggled with this same problem in the first two issues of Sons of the Devil, but this month finds Travis breaking his cool exterior to give us a taste of what’s really going on beneath the surface. We also get some more backstory, meet a few more of Travis’ siblings, and, unless I’m mis-reading Melissa’s refusal of a drink, we learn that Travis might be having a kid. That is to say, basically every aspect, from character development to world-building to plotting is being developed here, and all to masterful effect. The first two issues were intriguing, but I put this one down fully hooked.
Archie vs. Predator 4
Spencer: What is it about Archie that lends itself to so many surprising crossovers, especially ones with properties that have tones as drastically different as Predator? I think it has to do with how exaggerated the world of Archie has become — maybe it was a realistic comic in the 40’s, but by 2015 there’s enough strange sci-fi inventions in the Archie canon to keep up with anything, and the characters have become broad enough to react plausibly no matter how absurd the situation they find themselves in. Moreover, Archie’s world has become increasingly deranged in its own low-key way, and it’s Alex de Campi and Fernando Ruiz’s exploration of that side of Riverdale that’s made Archie vs. Predator a success.
Issue 3 used Dilton to comment on how strange it is that Riverdale is so obsessed with Archie, and this month’s finale continues to explore this through Betty and Veronica, who can only articulate why Archie means so much to them as he lies dying. Can there even be a Riverdale without Archie Andrews? The solution is so clever and surprising that I’m not going to spoil it for any of you who may pick up this book in the future. If you’re thinking of picking up Archie vs. Predator just to see how gory an Archie comic can get, then you’re certainly going to be satisfied (especially with this issue’s final battle between the Predator and Archie, Betty, and Veronica), but this mini-series’ greatest strength has without a doubt been its exploration of how bizarre and unbalanced the dynamics of Archie truly are if you put them under even the tiniest bit of scrutiny. It’s a blast.
Archie vs. Sharknado 1
Patrick: Oof, this was kind of a tough one for me: it’s got all the problems of an Archie comic, with all the problems of a Sharknado movie, and very little of the charm of either. Just like in the movies, the solution to the Sharknado problem is a combination of chainsaws and explosives in the eyes of the tornadoes. It’s cute that the franchise is so slavishly devoted to this solution, but the issue seems slavishly devoted to a lot of things from the films. There are shit-eating Jaws references all over this thing – one DC tourist wears an Amity Island t-shirt, and the Pussycats are introduced to “the boys from Quint,” and I can’t tell if “Quint” is supposed to be a town or another band or something. Clearly, that’s a reference to Robert Shaw’s character from Jaws, but I can’t for the life of me determine who these guys are supposed to be. Any guesses?
Sharknados 2 and 3 have a really bad habit of dropping in cameos just for the sake of having celebrity cameos, and while I’m not always savvy enough to identify them on-screen, they’re almost entirely lost on me in comic book form. Riverdale is populated by people with totally non-Archie-lookin’ citizens that are obviously supposed to be references to real people, but I can’t tell you who any of them are. I did begrudgingly like the references to Melody (of Josie and the Pussycats) being a character that people would recognize in the Sharknado Universe because she was played by Tara Reid in the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie. There’s even a cute nod to her finding her own arm (which a shark had bitten off of Reid’s character in… maybe the first Sharknado?).
But even if we accept that references and internal continuity confusion is part of the Sharknado brand, I can’t say that this issue is a lot of run to read. Conceptually, I’m all about Archie and his pals fighting off Sharks on a boat, but the whole thing is just such a wordy, unclear mess. I wanted to like this so badly, I actually used the phrase “Sharknado Universe” in the paragraph above, but I just didn’t like it.
Spencer: If you’re reading this website, then I assume you probably have a rather special relationship with comic books — and really, if you consider yourself a “fan” of something in general, it’s probably because it holds a special place in your heart. Peoples’ entire lives can be shaped and transformed by the things they love, and for some fans, those things can even become a religion of sorts (or in the case of certain Star Wars and Star Trek fans, it’s even become a literal religion). This is the idea at the heart of Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s Effigy 7, a flashback issue that chronicles the life of Laurence Lauritz, creator of both Star Cops and the strange new religion at the center of Effigy‘s overarching murder mystery. It’s fascinating watching how, even as a young child, Lauritz used science fiction to reach out and connect with people, and as he grew older, how he attempted to use that connection to genuinely benefit his fellow man. Lauritz also looks to his body of work as a way to be remembered even long after he’s gone, and I think that’s something every creative individual can relate to.
Where this issue loses me a bit (as has been the case throughout Effigy‘s run thus far) is when Lauritz actually sees a vision of a literal Eternolos in the sky. Eternolos is a city from a sci-fi book Lauritz enjoyed as a child, which seems to be yet another sign that Lauritz is just turning his imagination into a religion, yet the previous six issues have shown that there’s some legitimate supernatural elements surrounding Lauritz’s religion. What exactly’s going on here? I don’t think we’re meant to know for sure yet, but now that I can start to see how this all fits into Effigy‘s general theme of how people relate to fandom, I’m finally starting to get intrigued by this aspect of the series.
The Infinite Loop 4
Michael: Teddy has gone all kinds of bananas as she messes with the time stream in an attempt to draw out “the bosses” who erased her beloved Ano. The Infinite Loop 4 takes the book’s already fragile temporal structure and bends it a little further. Pierrick Colinet shows us what happens when Teddy’s present and future collide to affect her past. Any fan of the genre knows that messing with time travel comes with a fair share of consequences. There are always a couple of different theories when it comes to time travel, but Colinet seems to be building towards the theory that Lost used: “whatever happened, happened.” Teddy discovers that her name was not given to her by her mother but by herself, through her time stream tinkering. I think this kind of explanation can sometimes be too convenient but at the moment I’m satisfied with how it’s being presented.
I can pretty much wrap my head around all of the time travel quandaries that are occurring. What I do find myself scratching my head at however is the “Coalition of Teddys.” Instead of being butterfly effect Teddys, they talk as if they are future versions of our Teddy – remembering what Teddy is experiencing. Is their some kind of Teddy hive mind at work? I liked how Teddy herself was confused as to whether she was talking to the alt Teddys or the Teddys in her head. So many Teddys. Quick art note: I liked Elsa Chartetier’s mirroring of the crucifixion in 1964 and Teddy’s attack on Tina.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?