Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 7/13/16

roundup19Look, 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 Lumberjanes Gotham Academy 2, Weavers 3, and The Wicked + The Divine 21.

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 Lumberjanes Gotham Academy 2

Lumberjanes Gotham Academy 2Taylor: Anytime I read a story involving people who are younger than me, I forget that they’re not my age. I suppose it is a natural human tendency to project ourselves onto the stories we read, but forgetting that a character is different from you runs the risk of not reading a story correctly. In the second issue of the crossover between Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy, the creators make sure there’s no way I misattribute the age of the ‘Janes or the Academy goers. Nicely, this happens to also fit in with the theme of time displacement in the issue as well.

As the Janes and the Gothamites scramble to come up with a plan to rescue Olive and Rosie, much is done to bring attention to their age. Sounding like an old man complaining about “kids these days,” the issue makes fun of the Gothamites in particular for not knowing anything about the pre-digital age. In particular, much fun is made at their being unable to comprehend how people looked up information before Wikipedia existed.

Blast From the Past

By no means is this a novel joke, but it’s funny all the same given how true this situation. In my classroom I have a set of dictionaries which my students groan about anytime I ask them to lookup the spelling of a word rather than letting spell check fix it. Maybe that just makes me old, but at least this issue of Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy makes me feel alright about that because I’m not alone.

And while I like that this joke reassures me about the shortcomings of the The Youth these days, I’m curious to see how long this joke can be stretched out. The mysterious cabin Olive and Rosie find themselves in is locked into the year 1986. This setting is ripe for the young generation of the ‘Janes and Gothamites to plunder for laughs, just as Rosie and Olive have already done, and I wonder how long the authors will milk this conceit. Assuming the amount stays tasteful, as in this issue, I think the next should continue to build on these first two, strong issues.

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Weavers 3

Weavers 3Patrick: There are a ton of layers of deception going on in any given scene from the third issue of Weavers. The whole series is basically a barrage of psych-outs, misdirects and half-explained alliances and motivations – hell, I’m not sure I totally understand the Weavers’ spider powers yet. Writer Simon Spurrier is always careful to couch any explanation or exposition in an actual character’s voice, which means there’s a lot of hemming and hawing (often in the form of smaller, grayer text) clouding the actual meaning of their words. Series illustrator Dylan Burnett, colorist Triona Farrell, and letterer Jim Campbell all contribute to this sense of confusion throughout the course of the issue, in spectacularly dizzying ways. There’s a transition from Sid’s nightmare to him springing awake in bed where Farrell employs the exact same red color palette in and outside of the dream, blurring the line between dream and reality. For Burnett’s part, he will often swing the camera incredibly low or high, which achieves the double-effect of making the series feel more cinematic while also disorienting the reader in space. I love the way he does this during Sid’s confrontation with Terry – the camera stays high and wide, making sure to catch the city at its rainiest and most distant.

But the true moments of brilliance come when both Spurrier and his art team decide to be crystal clear for a couple panels. This panel, during the horrifying Silence interrogation, is a great example.

silence tortures

Check it out – Burnett is giving us a clean proscenium perspective and eliminating any detail that’s not actively contributing to the head Weaver’s threat to torture Sid. He’s matching Spurrier’s script which is also laying that threat bare. And look how Farrell’s colors slyly imply the difference between Sid and the rest of the Weavers by making him blue and everyone else red. Burnett employs the same technique a couple pages later when Pneema reels after throwing herself at Sid.

pneema and sid

I’m a sucker for this kind of persistent staging anyway, but within the context of a visually disorienting issue, these moments of clarity are the point. Sure, they’re vicious magical spider-gangsters, but the story is about Sid navigating these relationships.

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The Wicked + The Divine 21

The Wicked + The Divine 21Spencer: Watching Ananke’s motives come more and more into focus with each issue of The Wicked + The Divine has been fascinating. When discussing issue 19, I mentioned how it seems like Ananke believes her actions to be 100% justified, no matter what the truth is, but I’m starting to doubt even that.

far from my best

Even Ananke admits that she may have lost her mind — she just doesn’t care. That may apply in more ways than one: even Ananke’s excuse of “this pantheon is a disaster” is sounding increasingly like an “old man yells at cloud” kind of situation. You know who this line of reasoning reminds me of? The Fantheon speaker who claimed that Laura’s generation didn’t “deserve” a Pantheon way back in issue 6. Both are using the supposed “faults” of the current generation in order to justify their own biases. In Ananke’s case, I think her own desire for ultimate power may also be a factor. Probably a major, major factor.

Of course, this moment is just one tiny scene, but amazingly enough, almost every character in the issue manages to get a moment that’s just as insightful. Woden grows a conscience, but not a spine. Dionysus reveals both his pacifism and his prowess, while, in contrast, Persephone hints that she’s out for blood. Baal begins to question Ananke’s propaganda, and Amaterasu reveals how much she really fears her own strength. In terms of characterization, writer Kieron Gillen has put out an issue that’s remarkably balanced and insightful.

Just as impressively, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson more than match that with their grand, candy-colored action scenes. As astounding as the massive set-pieces are, though, I’m equally enamored by the small moments.

resignation

This is such a smart scene. The break in the panels indicates the passage of time, letting the readers know that the moment with Beth and her interns is happening after Ananke’s completely left the room, but McKelvie leaving the “camera” static reinforces the fact that Beth and her crew were there throughout this entire scene. McKelvie and Wilson bring that deft touch to every page of this book, and it never stops astonishing me.

Yeah, The Wicked + The Divine combines smarts and spectacle, and is a better book for it. Most superhero team books could learn a thing or two from this one.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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One comment on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 7/13/16

  1. Paper Girls: So, I picked up the first volume of Paper Girls, and really enjoyed it. And now having read the first volume, a lot of what I said last week was true.

    The key idea of Paper Girls is that every time period has problems, but how success is defined by whether we move past those problems or retreat into false nostalgia. Despite being set in the 80s, it is a story you can’t discuss without thinking of today – a big part of Vaughn’s depiction of the 80s is based on a realistic depiction of its problems, as proof of the dangers of nostalgia. The 80s isn’t rosy, and instead they spend their time being scared of problems that we have mostly solved. Meanwhile, our present day fears are shown to be something to be moved past by evidence of a future, a future where language is based on the continuation of current language trends and yet, is old and out of touch.

    Everything about Paper Girls seems to be about the wish to retreat backwards v the need to go forwards – even the genre, which is a throwback. I compared it to the Nice Guys, and it takes the same thematics and turns it into a universal constant.

    It is unsurprising, in retrospect, how the first volume ends. There is no way that Paper Girls could escape the present day. It is entirely about the present day

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    Hack/Slash: Managed to find the first ongoing! Haven’t had too much chance to read it, but it continues to be this fun, interesting book.

    The first issue of the ongoing is prettily cleverly done. At its most basic, Cassie tied up by a slasher psychologist as an excuse to flashback and recap key parts of Cassie Hack’s world is standard. But the interesting thing is how the villain both introduces the basic idea of slashers and shows Hack/Slash is willing to go wider by being a move away from slashers and towards torture porn. It also permanently disfigures Cassie, in a shocking move for a book that is so ‘sexy’. It is only two toes, but it is still a powerful statement.

    But in all honesty, subversion of sexiness is baked into this book’s DNA, I think. Which is why I positively responded to that first omnibus all that time ago. The fanservicey appearance is quickly subverted by, say, a story where Cassie works with a stripper who is first introduced casually, fully clothed and whose choice not to have sex is a key character point. Especially when that story’s main interest (other than having Elvis Presley, evil demon lord) is honestly having a frank discussion about the complexities of Cassie’s relationship with sexuality and Cassie starting a process to actually explore her sexuality (and ask whether she is possibly gay).

    This is an early Seeley work, and the writing is rough. But it does transcend its lesser impulses. This isn’t Bitch Planet, where the exploitation elements are completely recontextualized into a powerful feminist screed (it doesn’t want to be Bitch Planet), but it is certainly related. Hack/Slash wants to be an exploitation story with an actual heart, an attempt to enjoy the baser pleasures in a healthy way.

    So many of the stories in Hack/Slash come down to sex (unsurprising considering the sexual politics of slasher movies), and Hack/Slash’s answer is always ‘sex is a complex, emotional thing that can’t be simplified’. It is rarely perfect, but it is trying in a way I truly appreciate

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