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 Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 2, East of West 26 and Tokyo Ghost 7.
Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 2
Ryan D: What strikes me most about this series is its incredibly simple and effective story-telling. Just look at this page here:
We see a wide establishing shot, an extreme close-up of Agent Duque stubbing his cigarette out on the OTHER guy’s ash tray, a double shot with Kalama in profile — their eye lines never meeting — a single on the Agent from slightly underneath giving him rank in the scene, and lastly another insert of coffee to wrap up the scene. Not only does this page steer around many of the pitfalls of talky scenes with static characters by letting the “camera” do a lot of the nonverbal communication for us, but it also moves around enough to keep the scene dramatically interesting. Aloha is replete with moments like this. While I have not read Hawaiian Dick nor the other attached series, this kind of craftsmanship makes me want to not only find out what’s happening next in this run, but to go back to read the older stuff.
The art itself, aside from being cleverly story-boarded, also straddles the wonderful line of realism and stylization. With the bevy of Noir and Private Dick titles on the shelves nowadays, it is nice to read one with such a style. Jacob Wyatt also handles the colors, keeping the the comic bright and popping instead of the go-to “bathed in shadows” motif. I am also a fan of how he comes up with ways, whether it be by using a room’s monochromatic wallpaper/paint or adding in a background wash, to keep the background minimalistic to keep focus rightly on the fascinating characters written by B. Clay Moore.
While the story line — gumshoe gets wrapped into a plot which goes deeper than he suspects and will invariably effect him personally — may not be breaking new ground as of yet, Aloha, Hawaiian Dick features lovely art, interesting character, and a deliberately paced plot. If you want The Fade Out without the blues, give it a go.
East of West 26
Taylor: There are some stories and storytellers who take their work so seriously that it runs the risk of being absolutely no fun to read. Christopher Nolan’s movies come to mind — especially his Batman trilogy. There are a lot of great things about these films, and I actually enjoy them quite a bit, but at some point the self-seriousness of each film begins to weigh it down. After all, no matter how dark you make the Dark Knight, he’s still a dude running around in a bat costume punching guys in similarly silly outfits. I’m not saying the movies would have benefited from comic relief, but the occasional recognition that Batman is inherently silly would have been nice.
Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West is similar to Nolan’s Batman in that its tone is also serious almost to the point of parody. Hickman rarely changes the tone of his series and by and large that’s worked since we are talking about the end of the whole damn world here. However, just as with Batman, I would appreciate more moments of levity in East of West. Luckily, issue 26 delivers this in perhaps the most clever way I could have imagined. When John Freeman makes his appearance at Orion’s gathering, he is pleasantly surprised to see his boyhood friend, Wolf.
When this happened Dragotta quickly flashes everyone’s face who is present at this meeting of the chosen. Hilariously, he includes Orion’s monster, with it’s disarmingly huge smile, and Crow — still in crow form. These characters not being the chosen, you wouldn’t expect to see their faces included, but the effect strikes me in the most pleasant way. It’s silly, belying the serious nature of world leaders gathering to discuss the apocalypse. The rest of this issue is the same serious tone I’ve come to expect from this series, but this one moment is enough to lighten the mood just a bit. While I don’t read this series to laugh, it is nice to have a different flavor added to the mix to wash down the otherwise dark tale about the world ending.
It would be one thing if the above page was solely there for humor alone. It’s not. Dragotta also uses different panel sizes to show the impact of Wolf’s presence on oh John. Whereas everyone else acknowledging John’s Freeman’s arrival is given the same, tiny panel size, Wolf’s takes up the space of four people. This panel, suddenly bigger than the others, is arresting and makes me pause on Wolf. It makes the moment last just a bit longer and thereby gives it more weight and meaning. Subtle, yes, but the effect on the scene is great and it totally nails the surprise and shock Wolf has at seeing his old friend.
Shelby: As someone who tries to have a somewhat active online presence, I’ve come to learn how little intentions can matter. In a land of truncated, out-of-context, text-based communication, it can be very easy to say something super terrible, even with the best of intentions in mind. It’s a hard lesson to remember when you’re faced with a disaster you’ve caused that just because you didn’t intend things to go badly, it doesn’t change the fact that you made things go badly. Rick Remender loves to remind us of this fact in the latest installment of Tokyo Ghost; just when we think things are changing for the better, we find Debbie’s good intentions may have made things go from bad to OH HOLY SHIT WE’RE DOOMED.
Led has been struggling. When he’s offline, he can start to remember what went down in Tokyo, but it’s so upsetting it drives him back online to forget. Flak is finally off to his new, hedonistic Tokyo playland, and he’s bringing Led along for security as they ride in trashy, tasteless style.
Congrats to artist Sean Murphy for somehow depicting the Americanized version of what America thinks Japan is all about. This one panel somehow contains all the stereotypes of Japan turned into a fetishized theme park, it’s stunning. The Tokyo Ghost herself is about the crash the party, however, and she’s gonna crash it hard. She very quickly ends the life of our stunningly stupid villain Flak; it’s almost anti-climactic, until we realize that in doing so, she has unleashed the full power of Davey Trauma. Without his Flak-generated firewall, he’s off the leash and about to unleash hell.
I know I’ve said it before, but Remender breaks my heart with every issue of this book. Poor Teddy, he just gets used at every turn. When Flak sees Teddy’s memories of Debbie and Kazumi, when he sees how happy they were without him and his media empire, he simply orders Davey to login to Led and change the story to suit his narrative. If that isn’t the plainest, simplest depiction of the way most media companies deal with reality today, I don’t know what is. Flak saw the truth of the story didn’t suit his purposes, so he changed the truth to his own version of it. After last issue made it very clear Flak is this world’s Trump, I couldn’t help but smile when Flak couldn’t pass his own minimum IQ requirement to board the ship to Tokyo. His version of truth was that he was gathering the best and the brightest to start over, but he himself didn’t even fit his own version of what he’s doing.
We’re back to intentions. Flak was so delusional about what he was doing, he firmly believed his idea of what his intentions were; people turned the world to shit, and he tried to help but no one appreciated it, so he and his noble intentions are bailing on the giant fucking mess they made. Debbie’s intentions were to kill the man responsible for destroying the one place she and Teddy were able to be truly happy, the man responsible for their unhappiness in the first place. What she didn’t know was there was a much smarter villain in the shadows biding his time. Davey knew what he was doing; he intentionally sent Led, the one man who could maybe stop the Tokyo Ghost, away from the fight so he could get his chance to break free. On the one hand, Debbie couldn’t have possibly known the consequences of her actions; she was there to avenge the life that was taken from her, the lives of those her presence destroyed, and there couldn’t be more noble intentions than those. On the other hand, her actions unleashed a monster who can literally take over any person he desires and make them do anything he desires; does it really matter if her intentions were for something better at this point?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?