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 Injection 9, Outcast 18, Sex Criminals 15, and Velvet 14.
Ryan D.: The pieces are beginning to really come together in Injection 9, and with so many members of the former CCCU meeting up after many issues of sequestration, the dynamics between characters shines through in Ellis’ writing. Beginning with a hail of submachine gun fire, the issue goes on to bringing Sim and Brigid back into contact with the eccentric and brilliant Headland. Ellis also spoils readers with a bit more dialogue coming from the elusive Injection itself, all while progressing the mystery of the human ham around which much of this past arc has orbited. This issue features everything an Injection fan could ask for: a reference to Swift’s A Modest Proposal, Red being badass, sandwiches, and some really nice subtle exposition about the role of the Breaker’s Yard and Robin Morel. I confess that I missed not having my moment of Maria Kilbride, but hearing Brigid banter with the Injection makes up for that. The feeling of unease regarding the series’ eponymous antagonist persists for me as a reader; however, I feel as if it is due time for the Injection to remind us and the team of what it is capable of so as to keep the stakes high and make sure that the need to stop it is not merely an existential one for our heroes.
Maybe my favorite moment from this comic comes in the form of Simeon doing what Simeon does:
Even this small burst of super-spy suaveness brings me back to issues two, when Sim went full Jason Bourne on a room full of thugs. With such a specialized team of experts, it is always enjoyable to see the skills which brought them to the dance put on display.
Ellis has, in my opinion, avoided the second-arc slump which plagues Trees and has played with the tone of the recent issues into something very readable despite its dense larger concepts and mature tone. I am excited to see what happens as the rising action continues to build and the characters keep getting moments to shine and interact. If you have been following Injection, I see no reason for you to stop now.
Patrick: Tragedy is tough for anyone to deal with. One of the saddest effects of going through something difficult is that it can make you sort of a dick. Justifiably, mind you, but a dick nonetheless. While the main plot of Outcast creeps forward through Kyle’s scenes, it’s Mark’s little story that has the strongest emotional and thematic resonance as he struggles to compartmentalize what’s happened to him. It starts out innocently enough: he swears at his wife when she’s asked him for the sixth
fucking time “how he’s doing?” Man, that’s a move that feels so close to my own heart – unless I’m feeling the need to update someone on my status, I almost never want to answer the question of how I am. Double it if the person asking knows my condition hasn’t changed since they last asked. That’s probably one of my least attractive personality traits, but I found myself empathizing with Mark 100%. When he and his wife arrive at their home and discover that their relatives have been hard at work installing a ramp for the now be-wheelchaired Mark, his wife loses it. She snaps, partially out of guilt for having put Mark in the wheelchair in the first place, and partially because she wasn’t in the position of power to fix it that they were. She interrupts their conversation about not swearing in front of their daughter only to exclaim “WHAT THE FUCK?!” Kindness and cruelty are eliciting the same reaction.
But that’s all born of out emotional reactions to powerful stimulus. It’s not until Mark calms down that the depths of their sad cruelty become apparent.
I like seeing artist Paul Azaceta take a break from his insert shots for this part of the scene. Those added panels necessarily draw the reader’s attention to details, but it’s not the details here that are important: it’s the board emotional picture. Showing us a clenched fist or a raised eyebrow would only serve to trivialize the emotions with spectacle.
Sex Criminals 15
Michael: Sex Criminals is a series that makes a lot of arguments against popular opinion: what we accept in comic book storytelling, the fine line where we do and don’t suspend our disbelief, and, of course, the taboo nature of talking about sex. Sex Criminals 15 is the latest example of how Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky use sex (and/or the use of sex super powers) to emphasize how vulnerable we can all feel when we open up to one another.
Vulnerability is a big part of sexuality, so it’s an overall theme of Sex Criminals, but this issue in particular found several of its characters in states of weakness. Actually, each member of the “couples” presented in this issue faces their own respective moments of self-doubt and feeling exposed. The Doc and Kegel Face both experience a feeling of guilt over their relationship and doubt of their ability to perform in the respective fields. Suzie comes to the difficult conclusion that she can no longer commit “sex crimes” with Jon while Jon tries to steel himself for what he anticipates is getting dumped. The most powerful of all is the break-up of Rachel and Robert. Robert’s level of sexual insecurity is both laughable and pitiful while Rachel’s impatience for Robert’s hang-ups makes her disinterested in the entire relationship. It feels like a true break-up because what it boils down to is two people no longer being able to speak each other’s language. Neither Robert nor Rachel really have legitimate problems with one another, but their problems with themselves are standing in the way.
While I would have loved to comment on the meta-nature of last issues, Fraction and Zdarsky give us a little taste of that same off-kilter narration. Tasked with the necessary scene of having all of our characters catch each other up-to-speed, the creative team instead comments on how boring of a necessity that is and allows the reader to fill in the blanks. I respect that move so very much — you only have so many pages to accomplish the story of a given issue, the last thing you want to do is rehash what the reader already knows for the sake of “realism.” Right, realism in a book where cumming stops time. I know, but still!
Drew: Speaking of narratives that trust an audience to fill in the blanks, Velvet 14 is too jam-packed with event to spend time holding the audience’s hand. Indeed, by the time we catch up with Velvet, she’s already captured Nixon, and while Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting do go back to detail exactly how she got to that point, her entire mission to kidnap the President unfolds in this single issue. It makes for propulsive reading, but it may also undermine Velvet’s point about just how crazy this plan is. That is, gaining access to Nixon doesn’t seem that much harder than, say, the wife of a Yugoslovian General — at least, in terms of narrative space. We certainly don’t need to see how Velvet breaks into a bathroom in the White House, or how she figures out the quickest route to the subway tunnels, but leaving those details out emphasizes just how routine this is for Velvet; of course she can do those things, so why bother showing it?
In the world of complains, “this issue moved too fast” is a minor one, especially when none of the scenes actually feel rushed. As much as I may have liked to spend more time with Velvet showing me just how hard it is to kidnap a US President, I can’t justify losing any of the time spent with Colt’s investigation. His read of Velvet’s actions has been a key consequent to everything Velvet has done in this series, and this issue manages to bring them together just before he’s able to paint a full picture of what she’s doing. Or is it just after? Whatever quibbles I have about the pacing of Velvet’s mission in this issue, there’s no doubt that Colt’s investigation was paced just right; he could go either way.
Of course, all of that may be moot. The biggest detail Brubaker holds back is exactly what Nixon tells Velvet — something that apparently makes her situation hopeless. Then again, she was able to handle the seemingly hopeless task of kidnapping the president in a mere handful of pages, so maybe it’s not so bad? That may be a shade too glib, but I definitely have confidence that, whatever this new obstacle is, Velvet will figure out some way to overcome it.