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 Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire 3, Jem and the Holograms 8, The Wicked + The Divine 15, and Sex Criminals 13.
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire 3
Again, I don’t care how they built [the Death Star] or how they put in the toilets and the air conditioning; I just like it when it’s done and then it’s blowing planets up. That’s kind of what’s cool about it.
Patton Oswalt, Werewolves and Lollipops
Drew: More than enough ink has been spilled over why the Star Wars prequels were unable to capture the magic of the original trilogy, but I might actually trace the problem back to the twist ending of The Empire Strikes Back. I want to be clear: Empire is by far my favorite Star Wars movie, and I think it holds up fine as the centerpiece of the original trilogy. However, it significantly muddies the straightforward call to action that made Luke’s adventures in A New Hope so inviting. Rather than a story about rescuing a princess or fighting an evil sorcerer or even getting revenge, Star Wars becomes mired in a kind of sins-of-the-father fatalism. It’s that fatalism that made the prequels so boring, and its unfortunately still present in Shattered Empire 3.
That may be a bit unfair — perhaps I’m just not built for “lost chapters” — but I’m still waiting for a reason to care about Poe Dameron’s parents other than that he seems to play a key role in the next Star Wars movie. Or, rather, I’m waiting for a reason to care about their story. Writer Greg Rucka has actually done a fantastic job of selling me on Shara Bey as a determined, dedicated fighter pilot with a family she needs to return to, but I feel like I’ve seen her worry about and then reunite with her husband three times now. What is this story actually about?
I honestly don’t know if we have enough information to determine that, which again, feels more like the prequels than any of the straightforward “go to X planet to save Y person” plots of the original trilogy. Is this just about establishing Operation Cinder as a force for the rebels to fight? Is it about Kes and Shara’s relationship? Is it about putting three women (ambassadors of each era of Star Wars) in pilot seats? I’ll accept that it could be about all of these things, but I’m not yet convinced its about any of them.
Jem and the Holograms 8
Ryan M.: To call this issue of Jem and the Holograms a disappointment would be misleading but not inaccurate. I’ve loved this series from jump. I came to it with considerable nostalgia and affection, and the series re-introduced me to my childhood favorites in a fresh, fun and delightful way. Now that the introductions are sorted and the basic roles assigned, things are bound to settle down. There are developments afoot, even if there isn’t a ton of action in this issue. We have the increasingly overwhelmed and unhappy Jerrica, a hacker doing his best to access Synergy for nefarious purposes, Synergy sadly explaining the stakes of her secrecy and the Misfits needing an opener for their upcoming tour. I have faith in Kelly Thompson that all of these threads will develop into great stories, but this issue feels like set up. Even Jerrica’s mini breakdown is something we’ve seen before.
One established theme resonates as the Holograms and the Misfits are each experiencing internal discord as well as moments of success as a group. The parallel nature of their stories is reinforced by Emma Vieceli’s choice to repeat a layout. The Holograms, stunned and then psyched reactions to their newest video is mirrored strongly in a later set of panels after the Misfits find out they’re going on tour.
The Wicked + The Divine 15
Patrick: Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans take the Tara’s death as an opportunity to explore Amaterasu’s values. Er… maybe we should be calling her Hazel – we see snippets of her life from her childhood, when she’s bonded to a little Amaterasu stuffed animal that some bully knocks out of her hand. There’s a tension between the idea that there isn’t that much of a difference between Hazel and her divine identity – she finds comfort in all the same rituals that she’s supposed to find comfort in. Urdr is quick to call her out on this in a delightfully PC “check your privilege” moment. What’s remarkable about that moment, is that Cassandra is challenging Hazel’s notion that anyone should be required to be plugged in to the ancestral culture – either physically by being able to travel to their country of ethnic origin, or by being dialed in to the values and spiritualism of that country.
The series does a little bit of “cultural appropriation of its own” as Urdr and Ami find themselves fighting each other for no reason, enacting the idiot superhero cliche of “let’s you and him fight.” Urdr has the wherewithal to call it out, but it doesn’t really stop them from tussling. Of course, this display ends in Amaterasu exploding in the sky above Hiroshima, unfortunately evoking the 1945 bombing. Stephanie Hans masterfully captures both what is beautiful and what is terrifying about this, soaking the page in otherworldly reds until we pull down to the hapless normals unsure as to whether they’re about to be incinerated.
The design of that little girl also looks an awful lot like Hazel. I don’t totally know what to make of that, other than that it suggests the totality of Ami’s connection to her own spiritual and cultural tradition. Urdr may accuse her of enacting her own Fantheon, but Amaterasu’s devotion seems purer than that. Cassandra says “you’re doing this wrong” to which Hazel responds “I didn’t chose this.” That may be literally true in the context of this story, but I think it speaks to a larger truth about what parts of culture and religion speak to us. So, Gillen is moved by the superhero cliche of having the heroes fight – so what? He didn’t chose to love it.
Sex Criminals 13
Michael: From what I’ve read so far, Sex Criminals is the series that creators Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky use to say “fuck it” when it comes to conventional comic book practices. And while yes, that of course includes the obvious graphic sexual nature of the book; I’m also talking about its approach to storytelling. Sex Criminals 13 takes a little reprieve from our heroes Suzie and Jon (save a brief non sequitur in a coffee shop) and instead focuses on one individual “Quiet sexpert” — do we have an official classification besides sex criminals? The girl in question is Alix, a woman whose “sexual history” (or lack thereof) the issue explores. While the sexual hallmarks of an issue of Sex Criminals are present, Fraction tells us a poignant tale of a girl who feels like an outsider.
As a child, Alix wanted to believe that she was an alien because she couldn’t relate to the rest of these “humans”; she has no interest in sex. And though she eventually does have sex, she instead enters “The Quiet” by embracing herself and doing dangerous freefalls from great heights. “I am everything I need,” she proclaims. Notice how Zdarsky shows young Alix fantasizing about the television astronomer who has no genitals; sex is the last thing on her mind.
Fraction frames Alix as an asexual — which I suppose we can just take at face value in a book that gives us sexual super powers and semen pixies. Does she orgasm? Is that actually necessary to access The Quiet? Does her luminescent space outfit, coupled with her conversation with cum-pixie Kimiko mean that she’s one of the “Sex Police?” Are any of these actually questions worth asking? Maybe not. Regardless, Fraction and Zdarsky once again manage to deliver a comic book full of honesty both humorous and touching.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?