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 Archie 5, Paper Girls 4 and Woods 19.
Drew: While I appreciate that some never grow out of this habit, over-involvement in friends’ lives strikes me as a particularly teenage affair. Which, of course, is why teenagers make for such good drama — mature attitudes about respecting the decisions of others and being honest about your feelings aren’t all that exciting to watch. Fortunately, Betty and Jughead are far from mature in Archie 5, goosing a banal situation into a heightened, tenuous one.
Hoping to drive a wedge between Archie and Veronica at all costs, Betty turns to Reggie Mantle for a devious plan. That plan is remarkably simple: expose Veronica for the jealous monster that she is, and Archie will be disgusted. They’re forced to abort when Reggie puts Sheila in Veronica’s crosshairs, driving Archie closer to Veronica, and exposing Betty and Jughead as in cahoots with the guy Archie describes as “the closest thing Riverdale has to a super-villain.” Archie may not abide bullies, but he doesn’t have any more patience for underhanded schemes to break up his relationship.
It’s a bold choice to put these characters at odds in this way, but the other great thing about teens is that they tend to be able to forgive and forget relatively easily. Archie won’t be mad at those two forever, and may even come to thank them for what they tried to do. Or not. I honestly have no idea how to modernize the Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle in a way that allows it to go on indefinitely, but I absolutely trust Waid to walk me through it.
Paper Girls 4
Spencer: So, I can’t even begin to explain or understand what Paper Girls‘ ongoing plot is about, guys. It’s a complete mystery, but I mean that in a good way — with each new issue, Brian K. Vaughan continues to consistently surprise me with new twists and turns. In the meantime, despite any lack of comprehension each issue still sings, and there’s two reasons for that.
First is the attention to detail, both when it comes to characters and to the setting. In fact, those two elements often go hand-in-hand — I’m thinking specifically of the scene where Tiffany’s life flashes before her eyes.
There’s just so many little details that makes this scene feel real and lived-in. The corded-phone dragged out into the living room. Rainy/snowy days spent in front of the TV. Even ignoring a party to play video games — I’ve been there. It’s details like these that make these characters relatable, and makes this world feel all the more tangible.
Then, of course, there’s the art of Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson. Just look at the way Wilson uses color to depict mood in the spread I posted above — phenomenal stuff. And Chiang’s art works on so many levels.
Here Chiang doesn’t just depict the typical 80’s environment — he’s also doing a top-notch sci-fi monster, something creepy and mechanical yet unnervingly organic all at the same time. Even the lettering ties into that; between its cry and the blood, the Editrix seems far more alive — and thus far more interesting — than your typical killer robot.
Man — with a book this good, you almost don’t need to understand what’s going on to love it.
Spencer: James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas’ The Woods 19 marks significant turning points for three of its characters. For Calder, it’s the moment where he finally stands up to his horrific older brother. His fear of Casey has always kept Calder from standing up for himself, but Casey’s involvement in such a widespread massacre has finally made Calder more angry than afraid. While his attack was ultimately ineffective, it was still a needed (and cathartic) moment in Calder’s development — he’ll never be a partner (unwilling or otherwise) to Casey’s schemes again.
Then there’s poor Maria. She’s always been a character in a frustrating position, often stuck on the sidelines as the main action plays out, and often thought of by other characters as annoying for her attempts to run the school. Tynion and Dialynas dig deep into Maria’s past in this issue, showing us that, whatever Maria did, it was always done for the benefit of others, not herself. That kind of self-sacrificing attitude ends up being her undoing, but Maria is able to take pride in her final stand. In death, she’s proven that she was always the leader Bay Point deserved.
Finally, there’s Karen. When first introduced, Karen was aimless — she’d even avoided applying for college because she had no idea what she wanted to do. In the year since Adrian’s death Karen’s become a skilled and fierce hunter, but she did so as an attempt to escape her guilt, not because it’s a role she particularly desired. She’s still aimless, but this issue finally finds her embracing a role — one of leadership. It’s one Maria bestows her before her death, but before then, Sander has to beat into Karen’s head that she’s not only worthy of the position, but that they need her at the school more than they need her running off to get killed.
Karen turning away from Tashio and his men and returning to the school represents her actively, purposely embracing her role as the school’s leader and “hero,” and that may be the most significant turning point of all. Things are never going to be the same at Bay Point.