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 Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw 7, Slash and Burn 1, Limbo 1, Descender 7, Chewbacca 3, and Darth Vader 12.
The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw 7
Spencer: One of The Autumnlands‘ greatest strengths has always been its complex, fascinating world-building, and in issue 7 Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey put on a masterclass in the art. This issue also acts as the first installment of a new arc, and throughout the first few pages it’s amazing how nimbly Busiek is able to recap the previous storyline, provide some exposition, and plant hints of things to come; I couldn’t help but to start speculating even that early in the issue. Things get even juicier as the issue progresses and Busiek and Dewey shift their focus to Dusty and Learoid and the mechanics behind magic. The exposition couldn’t be more straightforward, but it’s livened up not only by Dewey and colorist Jordie Bellaire’s gorgeous work, but by Busiek’s nearly lyrical exploration of the idea.
I think what’s got me most interested, though, is the hints Busiek seems to be laying about the nature of this world. Learoid comes from a world of technology and aliens, aliens who seem to have followed him to the Autumnlands (even if no one else can see them), but the Autumnlands is a land of magic, peace, and Gods. Learoid is supposed to be the one who gave the Autumnlands magic in the first place, but he can’t remember it at all. I get a distinct feeling that time travel could be involved, but more plausibly, I think that Learoid’s technology and Dusty’s magic might be one and the same. What ties it altogether are those aliens.
This ominous crow calls Learoid a Godkiller; there are probably a lot of explanations behind that, but with this issue’s focus on the aliens he once fought on his own world, I have to wonder if they are the “Gods” Learoid’s killed. If Learoid’s aliens are Dusty’s gods, it would tie together both their worlds into one tidy mythological bow. I could be totally off, but even if I am, I still love the clues and tidbits of information Busiek’s doled out about this world that makes it so easy to get caught up in speculating about in the first place. The Autumnlands is a riveting read.
Slash and Burn 1
Drew: I don’t love reducing stories to their elevator pitches, but every once in a while, you come across one that’s too perfect not to use. Such is the case with Slash and Burn 1, which is “Dexter, if the thing he killed was fires.” That doesn’t sound like it makes a ton of sense, but Rosheen makes it clear from the beginning that she sees herself as a murderer — not because she makes fires that kill people (though we can’t rule out that this may have happened earlier in her life), but because her job as a firefighter forces her to “kill” fires. That’s a metaphor that would be dead in the fire hydrant water if it weren’t for Rosheen’s evocative descriptions of each fire she encounters. Some are disappointing, some are familiar, but all have a unique flavor that Rosheen turns into poetry.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much beyond those descriptions to really hook the reader. “Pyromaniac firefighter” is significantly less contradictory than Dexter‘s “serial killer cop,” and avoids any of the moral questions that makes Dexter so intriguing. Rosheen’s actions throughout the issue are undoubtedly heroic, and if anything, her pyromania makes her a more effective fire fighter. There are hints of a mystery rooted in Rosheen’s childhood, but without enough information to understand why the sudden appearance of a friend is strange, the issue reads more cagey than mysterious.
Drew: Speaking of cageyness vs. mysteriousness, Limbo 1 finds a much better balance, introducing a richly realized — but decidedly bizarre — world. Much of that richness comes from Caspar Wijngaard’s distinctive art, which bathes a hard-edge cartoonyness in atmospheric colors. Perhaps more importantly, Wijngaard is able to modulate that atmosphere from scene to scene, giving the opening bar brawl a decidedly different feel than Sandy’s dance to communicate with voodoo spirits, or Bridgette’s introduction in Clay’s office.
That atmosphere goes a long way to distinguishing Clay from the countless other paranormal investigators that have gone before him, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the cleverness of Dan Watters’ writing. Clay’s amnesia may seem like an exposition-buster, but there’s plenty that Watters is able to convey without bogging us down in backstory, from Sandy’s relationship to Clay to the supernatural nature of Dedande. That specificity also adds nuance to the archetypes Watters is playing with here, again helping elevate the issue beyond a derivative homage.
Watters gives us plenty of explicit threats to hang on to, but I’m even more intrigued by the ones left mysteriously hanging at the end of the issue. We know they’re ominous, but how or why isn’t entirely clear. This issue does that better than anything since the first season of Twin Peaks, so you can bet I’ll be back to see what happens next.
Spencer: I didn’t realize how much I actually liked Descender until I read its first new issue in three months. Dustin Nguyen’s art instantly sucked me back into Descender‘s bleak, atmospheric world, but what issue 7 drove home for me more than anything is how vital Tim-21 is to the series’ success. It’s easy to empathize with Tim — and thus the plight of the oppressed robots in general — when Nguyen makes him so darn adorable, but issue 7 also introduces Tim-22, who looks identical to Tim-21. Despite their equally adorable appearances, though, writer Jeff Lemire easily distinguishes the two through their personalities. 22 is cold and robotic, following his “father’s” commands to a “T” and murdering a man in cold blood without a moment’s hesitation. In contrast, Tim-21 is just a scared little kid who wants his friends and his dog and his brother. Tim-22 comments that 21’s emotion settings are too high, but it’s those very emotions that make us root for Tim-21, and which shows that The Hardware may not be the saviors they at first appeared to be. Readers may be concerned about the fate of the UGC and the surviving robots, but deep down, we’re rooting for Tim-21 as an individual over any faction. It’s that kind of focus on a sympathetic, likeable lead that makes Descender such a compelling — if at times emotionally draining — read.
Patrick: Last time we talked about Chewbacca, I mentioned how much I liked the fact that “wookies” are apparently a universally recognized entity – people have sayings about how to let them win, or make sure they are killed. This issue continues that trend with everyone — even a man whose eyes have rotted out of his head — able to recognize Chewie as a wookie right away. Interestingly, Zarro has no such hang-ups or preconceived notions about what it means to be a wookie – she only sees Chewy as a kind of benevolent guardian angel pal. In fact, she just straight up calls him “Wookie,” like it’s his name. (I’ve always maintained that it’s strange that Chewbacca has a name he can’t pronounce. At least Groot can introduce himself.)
But it interesting to see a child’s perception of a whole race of creature formed from her interactions with a single member of that species. In that regard, Zarro ends up in the same seat as a first-time A New Hope viewer: not quite sure what to make of Chewbacca’s rage, but totally charmed by his heroism. There’s a pretty stellar sequence in the middle of the issue where Chewbacca digs up through a tiny shaft, securing rescue for all the abandoned slaves. It’s a great scene that artist Phil Noto connects back to Chewie’s own captured past, and less explicitly to the moment that I was in love with from the previous issue. Instead of being so terrified of enclosed spaces that he backs down, Chewie does just the opposite… well, sorta: he pushes through, but he continues to roar and growl his anxiety out.
This issue also serves as an interesting pivot-point. Zarro and Chewbacca head into town so out hero can collect some of the parts he needs to repair his ship and the Empire sets their sites on Andelm IV. After two and a half issues of letting Chewie fill the role we’re used to seeing him in — that of the awesome sidekick — it looks like writer Gerry Duggan is poised to make the story about him.
Darth Vader 12
Michael: Darth Vader has been a series that has impressed me for its ability to maintain Vader’s imposing power while also showing me a vulnerable Anakin Skywalker that (thankfully) is not Hayden Christensen. Though he’s been under the boot of one Imperial officer or another, Darth Vader 12 is a return to form for the Dark Lord.
In a go-for-broke last resort, Vader saves his ass (and Aphra’s) by calling Inspector Thanoth’s priorities into question. Instead of wasting time on one meager informant, Vader suggests that they should be seeking out the root cause of their problems: The Rebel Alliance faction known as “The Plasma Devils.” This is the kind of Walter White maniacal manipulation that is always fun to watch. It’s a pissing contest between Vader and Thanoth; and Thanoth doesn’t want to have his authority or skill come into question. This move is a twofer for Vader: he gets Thanoth to lose his scent and gets to stick it to the twins Morit and Aiolin by accomplishing their mission for them.
Oddly enough it seems that Thanoth now trusts Vader, so he might not be a problem anymore. The force augment Karbin however will most definitely be a problem. The end of the issue reveals that Karbin was spying on Vader as he was speaking to Aphra. Whether or not he gleaned anything about their heist cover-up is yet to be seen. Karbin’s immediate concern is that Vader will steal his assigned mission (finding Luke Skywalker) just like he did the twins. I love Salvador Larroca’s sequence where he details Vader single-handedly taking down the Plasma Devils.
Despite what we have seen in video games, the Star Wars films have always depicted Vader as this slow-moving harbinger of death. I felt that same deliberately-casual pace as Vader lunged his lightsaber into the Rebel ships. Just like the killer in slasher flicks, Vader is the predator that takes its time because the kill is inevitable.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?