Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Weirdworld 5, originally released October 21st, 2015.
Patrick: One of the reasons people like genre films so much is that you never really need to guess what their values are. Are you watching a Western? Great: we value tough, honest men. Are you watching a teen drama? Great: we value cleverness and beauty. Jason Aaron and Mike del Mundo’s heart-stoppingly beautiful Weirdworld wears its chief value on its sleeve (and in its title): weirdness. That may sound like a shallow value, like when someone criticizes South Park for being all about “shock value,” and that may be the case. But even if we want to call weirdness a “shallow” value, it is startling how persistently it presents itself in this series. Even a little thing like The End of the World isn’t going to stop it from expressing itself as thoroughly — and as weirdly — as possible.
Actually, that may be my favorite part of the whole series. In the middle of Akron’s battle with Morgana Le Fey, the camera zooms way out to show us Battleworld splintering and eventually exploding. It’s like the beginning of Secret Wars in reverse, only our characters couldn’t be bothered to even acknowledge it. Akron’s voiceover, from some cozy, not-in-the-moment perspective remarks on this:
“None of us knew what was happening all across Battleworld. A Secret War. The Fall of Doom. Even as everything around us was exploding, we had no idea. And we never would.”
That last sentence appears over a totally white background, as though Battleword has surrendered to the whiteness of the page. The next page snaps us back to a totally familiar, non-weird reality, the shape of an instantly recognizable Earth tipping us off to the fact that whatever crazy fun time we were having, it’s totally over now.
Or is it? A plane crashes on a floating continent and what should they discover? Akron locked in combat with a weird-ass monster. Remember that self-aware voiceover from like two-pages ago? Well, that perspective is gone, and instead we get Akron dutifully introducing himself and his quest to discover the location of Polemachus. Here’s the kicker: it’s word-for-word his opening narration from the beginning of issue 1.
(Go ahead and click to enlarge that image. I had a suspicion that they were similar narrations, but I got the shivers when I discovered they were identical.)
In an issue with Eyemazons and Magma Men, this stands out as the strangest moment. We get to bear witness to a reboot within the issue. The world ends, but Akron — and everything he’s about — just starts right back up again, presumably from the beginning, so his quest is easily understandable. He’s “All-New, All-Different.” That’s been a pretty strange transition for a lot the Marvel characters (especially because we still have three issues before Secret Wars is over), but we’re able to cognitively parse these things out. A new numbering, a new creative team, a fresh start on a planet that we understand – it all goes a long way normalizing what is actually a pretty goofy thing. Aaron doesn’t afford us that mental distance: we go from the end of one iteration to the beginning of another in the space of a scant two pages. This highlights just how fucking weird that practice is.
But, beautifully, that also makes a strong case for Weirdworld as part of the Marvel Universe. You think Akron does some strange stuff? Well, it’s nothing compared to the weird stuff the whole publishing line engages in from time to time. I’ve never had a hard time accepting the strangeness of Akron’s world, but I can totally imagine a version of myself that just wasn’t on-board for whatever reason. I mean, come on, there’s a lot on that floating world that pops up with no explanation and no logic governing it. This issue has a great example: Crystar reappears at the end to help Akron wage war against his enemies, but the last time we saw him, he was shattered into a pile of little rocks. That’s something Akron makes a point to remind us of.
How? Doesn’t matter, man. In fact, it’s more important that we don’t know. That’s the kind of thing that can be very frustrating from a reader-perspective. I don’t need a detailed account of what magic or science or whatever brought Crystar back to life, but if we can’t trust cause and effect as presented in the issue, what can we trust?
But those last couple pages almost demand that every comic fan realize that we endorse this kind of wholesale weirdness all the time. Which is, of course, liberating. The spectacular battle that eats up most of this issue’s page count is only possible because Aaron and Del Mundo play fast and loose with logic. Spencer, in the spirit of celebrating weirdness, care to share with us some of your favorite weird, but awesome, moments? Or, maybe you weren’t convinced by the in-issue reboot, and the Weirdworld is just too far removed from reality for you? Hey, either way, you have to have had your breath taken away by the moment Akron discovered upside-down Polemachus under Weirdworld, right?
Spencer: You know it, Patrick. This issue is breathtaking and wonderfully weird, and if there’s one thing you all should know about me, it’s that I love weird. My favorite weird but awesome moment? It’s the butterflies with a bomb.
Butterflies with a bomb, man.
Yet, as weird as this book gets, it never feels like weirdness just for weirdness’ sake. Every strange character who puts in an appearance (except perhaps for those butterflies, oddly enough) gets some sort of motivation and personality. Despite their appearance, they’re not monsters; in fact, they may actually be better people than our ostensible hero, Akron the Barbarian.
I’ve been rooting for Akron throughout Weirdworld because, well, why wouldn’t I wanna see the guy finally make it home? But I guess he’s not called a Barbarian for nothing, and Weirdworld wouldn’t be any better in the hands of Akron than it is now with Le Fey. In a way I suppose I’m still “rooting” for Akron to make it home simply because, if he’s back on Polemachus, he’ll have no reason to raze Weirdworld to the ground.
Of course, with the “reboot” of Weirdworld that’s a moot point, but it does go to show just how little Aaron cares about following the rules in this series. Spend the entire mini-series following a protagonist only to have him be kind of a dick, actively avoiding the central conflict embroiling Weirdworld to pursue his own goals until forced to do otherwise? Yeah, that’s a weird enough subversion of typical story structure for a book like this one. If anything, I have to wonder if Akron is meant to represent the kind of reader who wouldn’t appreciate a book as strange as Weirdworld, who would rather tear it down than make any attempt to understand it. As strange and dangerous as the region of Weirdworld is, it’s filled with absolutely haunting beauty and some genuinely decent, pleasant characters, and it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on that just because it’s so far from the norm.
Weirdworld‘s haunting beauty, of course, is courtesy of Mike del Mundo and colorist Marco D’Alfonso, and their art alone is worth anything Marvel could possibly charge you. Weirdworld simply wouldn’t work without del Mundo’s creature design, which always aims for “mythic” over “silly” even when the monsters are at their strangest (Eyemazons, right?). Then there’s the paint-esque colors, which often make the art look like more like ancient scrolls than comic book pages; again, it helps built the mythic allure of Weirdworld, helps to make it a land larger than life itself.
For all his prodigious skill, it really is that sense of scope that’s the most potent weapon in del Mundo’s arsenal. There’s a shot del Mundo uses a few times throughout this issue where one character stands in the foreground while another confronts them, rising large in the background, and it’s easy to see why del Mundo keeps coming back to it; it’s absolutely exhilarating.
In a way, these shots may sum up Weirdworld better than words ever could. As cool as whatever element of Weirdworld we’re focusing on at any given moment may be, there will always be something even bigger, even cooler, even grander in scale getting ready to reveal itself — and thanks to del Mundo, each new arrival will look more magnificent than the last. I’m pretty happy that Weirdworld has found its way to Earth-616 — in the often-predictible world of superhero comics, a bit more “weird” is always welcome.
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?