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 Black Hood 8, Citizen Jack 3, Huck 3, Injection 6 and Limbo 3.
Black Hood 8
Drew: “Predictable” has become a dirty word in assessing a narrative. I can understand taking a story to task for relying on tired plot-points, but plotting (and the novelty of that plotting) isn’t always the most important element to consider. Police procedurals, for example, tend to follow rather prescribed paths from crime scene to conviction (or, often, just apprehension), but getting upset that each new piece of evidence incrementally lead to that ending seems absurd — you don’t go to cop shows or romantic comedies for unexpected narrative arcs. Indeed, sometimes “predictability” is more of a vote of confidence that the internal logic of a given narrative is sound, as point A leads to point B in a coherent manner. Which I suppose is my way of saying that, while The Black Hood 8 is predictable, I actually see that as a strength.
Greg’s latest investigation has landed him in yet another pickle: after getting bashed-up and losing his patrol bike, he has no new leads, but plenty of questions to answer. Those questions come from the logical places — Devon and Jessie — and force Greg to make the logical denials; this all falls out logically from the situation. Even more logical (though surprisingly un-predicted by Greg) is the fact that reporting his patrol bike missing has tipped off the bad guys to his secret identity. Or maybe not. Classic superhero storytelling suggests that the world might believe the inevitable “the Black Hood stole my bike” story, but writer Duane Swierczynski has kept the series much more grounded than might be necessary there. Which means a series of predictable beats has lead to an unpredictable one — there are a lot of ways the series can go from here, but with Swierczynski’s commitment to credulity, the predictable has been more or less ruled out.
Citizen Jack 3
Patrick: One of the more stomach churning moments in any political drama is the moment that the protagonist compromises their ideals to achieve their political goals. Usually, that’s because the audience feels aligned with the character’s values or he or she has demonstrated the purity of their vision. That’s not the case with Jack Northworthy, a candidate the creative team seems to openly mock on every page. Jack stands for non-elitism – that particularly vile brand of anti-intellectualism that will sell a college degree as a strike against someone. It’s a repulsive perspective, and Humphries and artist Tommy Patterson make a point to show just how ridiculous Northworthy’s supporters the dictionary definition of ridiculous. If there was ever any doubt as to how the creative teams views this guy, the Freedom Party Convention confirms: he a fucking circus.
But the thing is: he’s also effective. Or at least, he would be effective if all of the cold, calculating cogs in the political machine weren’t more effective simply by being more pragmatic (or having more money). But that’s where Marlinspike comes into play. It’s not totally clear what — in anything — Marlinspike represents. Is he political willpower? Or maybe he’s ideology made manifest? Or maybe he’s just a demon and metaphors just complicate the issue. Emboldened by his demon, Jack murders Honeycutt and claims the nomination for himself, again expressing the dark dark political soul of this series. That’s surprising, but the more surprising move ends up coming from Jack un-prompted by Marlinspike. Jack’s a strong enough political animal that he’s able to spin the murder to his credit and get the rest of the party on his side. Shit, maybe Marlinspike represents the mob mentality of political parties?
Michael: Huck 3 is the first issue of the series that feels like a Mark Millar comic book. To make it a little clearer I mean the kind of Millar book that is more interested in exploring classic superhero structures (Superman: Red Son) than it is making superheroes murdering sociopath cuss-buckets (Kick-Ass and many more.) Why does Huck 3 seem more Millar-y to me? A teeny tiny dose of cynicism, basically.
Simple hometown hero Huck has gained some national attention, but he still goes about his everyday business of crossing off his checklist for helping people. Governor Mitchell has his sights set on Huck and seems determined to milk the gentle giant for all he’s worth. Huck attends the Governor’s Ball, where he’s put on display like the Governor’s prized pet. Despite the lure of food, women and power, Huck is not swayed. Huck’s not the swayable type after all; he really only wants to help people. Then again he is still pretty broken up about never knowing his birth mother. But with the arrival of his brother Tom, it sounds like Mom is just around the corner.
Huck sprung from Millar’s dissatisfaction with Man of Steel; and while Huck is not a perfect Superman stand-in (nor does he need to be) he is a classic, uncompromised hero. Like I said, this is the kind of Mark Millar story that I like. A Millar with less restraint could’ve thrown in an obvious parody character of any creative higher up from DC, Marvel or any of their derivatives. I’d like to think that what makes this choice so successful is that Millar trusts we can make those creative jumps on our own.
The fact that the covetous Governor Mitchell could be a stand-in for any powerful executive in charge of the superheroes that we love is equal parts amazing and maddening. At the same time you have our hero Huck enter this den of temptation and he still comes out clean on the other end is beautiful. I love Huck’s rigid morals – I love more that they’re so hardwired into him that he doesn’t even consider the notion of breaking them.
Vivek Headland plays the role of the enigmatic, inscrutable know-it-all throughout the series thus far, and Injection 6 offers a window into the life of this hyper-rich sleuth as the problem of the Injection rears its head in unexpected ways. This issue paces itself as a “day-in-the-life” account of what Vivek keeps up to while Maria is off running around slaying spriggans, and offers some wonderful characterization. Thus far, we have only really seen Headland in context of his teammates from the Cross-Cultural Contamination Unit, and here we get to see him in the privacy of his own head and home while learning about his role models — everyone from French philosopher of deconstructionism, Jaques Derrida and German Enlightenment philosopher GWF Hegel, both of whom share Vivek’s passion for well-roundedness in a scholar and person. We also get some lovely moments seeing Vivek display his knack for deductive, Holmesian reasoning:
Or is it inductive? Ellis will try to explain it to us.
Declan Shavley brings his tools to the table by showcasing his ability for range in locale: from the sterile blue-greens of Vivek’s antechamber to the burning charnel-fields of Sumatra to a bizarre flashback scene to some good ‘ol fashioned backyard gourmet human flesh taste-testing. Yeah. While at first glance, some may be disappointed that the other staple characters do not make outright appearances, or that we do not see the direct movements of the Injection like we did last issue; however, after learning that the Injection possesses all of the skills of every member of the CCCU, all of Vivek’s brilliance displayed here only serves to heighten the threat of the titular antagonist. Tune in for a slice of a life that you are far too poor for, and to see how strange one case — and one detective — can get.
Spencer: Lately I’ve noticed many mediums making a conscious effort to push back against certain cliches, and one of the most prominent is the idea of men keeping secrets or sacrificing themselves to keep a woman safe. Once upon a time most stories played it straight, with the man coming across as a hero, but more recent stories (I’m thinking particularly of the first season of the Flash television series, though there are plenty of other examples) have instead ended with the man being in the wrong and forced to apologize. I’m sure that was a transgressive move once upon a time, but after a while it’s begun to feel just as cliche as its original incarnation — moreover, invoking this trope still involves spending long stretches of time condescending to female characters, which generally isn’t worth the lesson learned at the end.
I bring this up because there’s a moment in Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard’s Limbo 3 that, at first, seems like it might play into this cliche, but ends up veering in another direction entirely.
Clay plays the “Knight in Shining Armor” card, but instead of choosing any of the easy, common endings available to them, Watters and Wijngaard allow their protagonist to fail and instead set-up Sandy — the very character Clay was trying to protect — to play hero for a while, to rescue Clay. In fact, if Limbo 3 has an overarching theme, it’s the hidden sacrifices Sandy’s made to keep Clay safe, even when she’s secretly scared of what he could become.
I find the way Watters and Wijngaard handle this moment — small as it may be — encouraging, because it means they’ll likely handle other common tropes with the same delicate, unconventional touch. I’m thinking specifically of the issue-ending revelation that Bridgette set Clay up. The “femme fatale” is the biggest noir cliche in the book; I’m kicking myself for not figuring this twist out earlier, because in these kind of stories the woman who hires the detective always ends up being in on things. In a lesser series I’d be worried that things were getting too predictable, but Watters and Wijngaard have given me every reason to have faith that they’ll surprise me with where this goes.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?