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, we discuss Calvary S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary 1, Godzilla in Hell 3, and Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual 1.
Calvary S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary 1
Drew: Why aren’t there better stories about teachers? Aside from The Magic School Bus and a few saccharine movies about white women working at inner city schools, teachers are mostly depicted as evil, stuffy, or just generally out of touch. I can’t deny that there’s truth in that experience — I’ve definitely had my share of crummy teachers over the years — but I’ve also been lucky enough to have some truly inspirational teachers. For better or for worse, our relationships with our teachers are some of the most important we’ll ever have, so it’s a shame there aren’t more teachers-as-hero stories out there.
Enter The Cavalry: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary 1, which tells the story of a cadet training gone wrong. The threat itself couldn’t be more generic — unexplained robot wolves that attack and retreat at random — putting all of the emphasis on May’s loyalty to her students, and their own abilities in the field when it comes time to step up. The fact that they all survive is enough to get a pass from May, but cadet Avery is really the only one who distinguishes herself from the field. Hopefully, the other characters will be fleshed out more in subsequent issues (no word from Marvel on that front, but the robo-wolves are too strange to leave unexplained), but for now, seeing May make a connection with one student was enough to warrant a read.
Godzilla in Hell 3
Patrick: One of the things I’ve never really understood about anime or comics books or action movies is that scene where the good guy and the bad guy square off for the last time (or maybe, just the last time for now). As all of the obstacles have been removed and all of the moral questions answered, the only thing left is for these two adversaries to battle. And the outcome of that battle is going to be largely arbitrary: Goku’s Spirit Bomb can wipe out Fajita because… well, y’know, it’s supposed to. Godzilla in Hell 3 — which, to this point, has focused largely on the aesthetic effects of Godzilla fighting his way through Hell — makes a meal out of the Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla fight. Curiously, the issue almost seems to start before Godzilla’s descent into Hell, and he and Space Godzilla brawl in the ruins of Rio de Janeiro, in the shadow of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Space Godzilla, space-heathen he is, obliterates the statue while charging up a blast of space breath (or… something), and sets our favorite Kaiju on fire. Artist Buster Moody is being about as blunt as humanly possible here, often giving the statue equal weight in the panel as Space Godzilla – there’s just no missing the fact that Jesus Christ is part of this fight.
Normally, I’m all about this series recklessly co-opting powerful imagery and just forcing its audience to deal with the fact that none of it adds up in a meaningful way, but the symbolism is almost too literal here. There’s a clear morality that’s being set up here: Godzilla = good, Space Godzilla = bad, and those terms are being defined with generically christian images. Godzilla ascends a mountain, and gains his strength from the people, while Space Godzilla dwells in the pits of hell and wants to block Godzilla’s pathway to peace. I don’t know, maybe I just have a hard time buying into a story that presupposes God, Heaven, or Hell mean anything to a 200 foot tall radioactive lizard. It makes all the chest puffing and kamehameha-charging seem that much hollower.
Spencer: But Patrick, what this issue seems to be saying more than anything is that God, Heaven, and Hell absolutely don’t mean anything to a 200 foot tall radioactive lizard! Upon dying, Godzilla is offered passage into Heaven if he will only submit to peace, and what does he do? He squashes an angel between his claws! After falling into Hell, these angels again try to enlist Godzilla to their side, but while he takes advantage of their strength, after winning his battle Godzilla again makes his opinion of their offer abundantly clear.
Does that look like a kaiju who cares about any sort of authority, heavenly or otherwise? Absolutely not! Godzilla isn’t an agent of heaven or even objectively “good,” but neither is he “bad” — Godzilla just is. He doesn’t follow anybody’s rules or guidelines of morality — they bend to him, or else they get trampled and destroyed.
Like Patrick, I do find the continuity here a bit curious. Unless each issue is meant to be a different interpretation of Godzilla’s trip to Hell, this story appears to be a flashback to Godzilla’s “death” and entry into the afterlife at the hands of Space Godzilla. Perhaps the most interesting part of that (besides the wreckage of Gundams and Mecha Godzilla littering their battlefield) is the fact that the Earth is destroyed in the process; even if Godzilla can escape Hell, does he have anywhere to return to? Does it even matter in a story with continuity this lax? Whether it does or doesn’t, Godzilla don’t care; that kaiju thrives no matter where he goes, and I can’t see that changing even in the deepest depths of Hell.
Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual 1
Ryan M.: The canon of our childhood is a safe place to express our adult anxieties. When the Holograms crash in front of TV after a concert, each of them retreat into their favorite worlds to dream and deal with the issues that have been bubbling under the surface throughout the first arc of the series. Kelly Thompson perfectly balances that kind of insight with the fun of seeing these characters in fresh ways. The dream sequence is a trope that can easily make for ineffectually surreal or excessively literal storytelling. The issue doesn’t try to evoke the feeling of actual dreams or even reveal secrets. Instead, it offers mash ups between the Jem universe and several 80’s properties. The time period of these pop culture references may not line up. Do 20 year olds still watch Teen Wolf at slumber parties? For me, it doesn’t matter, because I sure did and it’s a delight to see Jerrica in this form.
Drew: No, I definitely think something is up with Synergy. In addition to those coughs and sneezes, her final exchange with Kimber sure makes it seem like she has something she wants to say.
Sneaking a little exposition into what otherwise feels like a one-off anthology of (albeit psychologically insightful) fantasies is a masterstroke, potentially burying a key plot point right under our noses. Ultimately, though, this issue is all about character development, and each Hologram gets a chance to shine.
I’m most impressed at how different their attitudes are about one another. While Aja sees her sisters as her heroes and Kimber is almost indifferent about them, Shana sees to see them as a burden, and Jerrica casts them as actively hostile to her self-worth. That’s quite a range of opinions, and while I’m always well aware that dreams don’t necessarily represent our opinions of others, a lot of this is new information. I would have thought everyone had a more Aja-like vision of their family, so this diversity adds a great deal of depth to these characters and their relationships. Now let’s just figure out what’s up with Synergy!
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?