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 4, Archie 10, East of West 28 and Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens 1.
Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 4
Mark: Back in April I was skeptical about Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 1. Outside of Jacob Wyatt’s art, I found the issue confusing and just a little bit boring. But here we are at Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 4, with the threat of issue #5 drawing this series to an end, and I can’t sing the praises of of this book enough.
The art remains both beautiful and impressionistic. Yes, some of the panels get messy, but the enterprise never feels lazy. The issue is even lettered in a custom font, and, along with the art, the whole thing has a lovely handcrafted feel. But what swayed me is that the story has come into focus in a way I wasn’t expecting. Writer B. Clay Moore deserves a lot of praise for incorporating elements from previous Hawaiian Dick stories in a way that is digestible for new readers like myself, but also setting up a compelling new story.
I’m assuming the budgetary limitations of the Kickstarter are why everything’s wrapping up with the next issue, because it definitely feels like things are getting cut short. I’d be willing to throw down some cash to read more adventures of everyone’s favorite dick.
Spencer: Mark Waid and Veronica Fish’s Archie 10 is a masterclass in conflict. The actual “battle” that threatens to tear Riverdale apart may spring up over the course of a single issue, but the roots of the conflict trace back to the beginning of this volume, and are based on natural, familiar conflicts that dig deep into the insecurities of Archie‘s cast.
The man at the center of this conflict is Betty’s uncle, Riverdale High teacher and Mayorial candidate Greg Collier. Collier makes a perfect powder keg; his controversial teaching style and long history at Riverdale means that pretty much every citizen under the age of 50 has strong feelings about the man, ones that can easily be ignited with the slightest spark.
This rang so true to me; memories, be they fond or bitter, from our youth tend to stick with us stronger than most, and figures like Collier are always polarizing (it reminded me of a debate fellow Retcon-Puncher Patrick and I once had about J.K. Simmons’ character in Whiplash). What also rings true here is the way this conflict hits a personal chord with each citizen, and especially with Archie, Betty, and Veronica.
For those three, things add up to a lot more than just a fight over a public official. For Archie, it only emphasizes how bad he is at helping the people he cares about most, and how much damage he can do even when he has the best of intentions. Betty’s using the Lodge’s role in this fiasco to vent her own frustrations about Veronica, which only become more painful when she finally realizes what Archie sees in her. Veronica feels guilt about her own role in the incident, but is also frustrated by the way Riverdale continues to judge her based on her father’s actions, even when she disagrees with them entirely.
Waid and Fish create conflict out of relatable issues and long-gestating character beats, then use those conflicts to even further explore their characters, then mix all that drama in with their trademark humor and larger-than-life visual metaphors. It’s an unbeatable combination; this issue is everything a modern-day Archie story should be.
East of West 28
Taylor: A big part of the Prophecy of East of West is that Babylon, the son of Death himself, will be the one to destroy the Earth. From what we’ve seen of Babylon so far in the series, it is unclear how this will happen, as he only has himself and balloon on his side. Indeed, it seems like Babylon doesn’t even have the true desire or disposition to destroy every living thing. This character trait is made abundantly clear, once again, in issue 28 of the series.
When he’s “attacked” by a wild boar, Babylon opts for taming the animal instead of killing it. This goes counter to Balloon’s plans who, as always, makes the boar look more monstrous than it really is using Babylon’s optic implants. This deception on Balloon’s part had always been at the heart of Babylon’s story and it seems like if Babylon ever has a reason to destroy the Earth it’s because Balloon has made it look like a hellscape full of monsters and fire. That Babylon still finds beauty in this false presentation of the world is a testament to how innocent and wonderful of a person he really is.
This episode of taming the boar gives me hope that Babylon will eventually opt to not destroy everything. In saving the boar he not only undermines Balloon’s manipulative plan, but shows he is capable of his own independent thought.
In doing this, Babylon has come to realize that conditioning affects how a person behaves. This realization obviously hits close to Babylon’s own situation where Balloon is hoping to condition him to see the world as a place that needs to be destroyed. However, Babylon goes on to say people need schools to be taught how to think critically and act compassionately. This kind of talk certainly doesn’t sound like someone who wants to destroy the world. In fact it sounds like quite the opposite. Could this be a hint that Babylon, instead of destroying the world, will save it? Could the destruction he brings about be the destruction of hate and evil and greed? It’s an optimistic thought and severely out of joint with the tone of the rest of this series, but perhaps because of that it seems all the more probable and desirable.
Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens 1
Patrick: By this point, “Alien vs. Predator” isn’t really a mash-up of mythologies. By all rights, the AVP franchise is its own beast, and say what you will about those two crappy movies, but it’s a fairly compelling beast. Why else would we see so many comic series and video games and at least one crummy collectible card game? It’s telling that the title of John Layman and Chris Mooneyham’s new series injects “vs. Judge Dredd” right into the middle of the title into tacking it on to the end. While Alien and Predator material of this issue gleefully plays with horror, science fiction and mystery tropes, the Judge Dredd portions feel like a crass interruption – somehow too needlessly violent and campy even for Aliens vs. Predator.
The structure of the issue also dutifully follows the order laid out by the title as the first creature we see is a lone Predator, stalking through the jungle. Mooneyham sets a haunting precedent for the character, giving his introduction in kinetic silhouette. Colorist Michael Atiyeh matches this tone perfectly, coloring only the backgrounds in subtle blues, while letting Mooneyham’s absolute inks keep all but the faintest of details from getting to the reader. But it’s on the second page where both artists let the visual vocabulary of Predator start to take over. Atiyeh gets to use this amazing shortcut of the Predator’s snot-green blood to tell this story with shocking efficiency – not only do we get that the dude’s hurt, but he’s using the same cues used by the films to convey this. It’s followed up almost immediately by some kind of Predator beacon, which glows red, again evoking the very specific imagery from the predator films.
I love this shit, but things take a weird left turn when the Predator encounters Doc Reinstöt and his band of mutated man-animals. As far as I can tell, Doc Reinstöt is an original creation, hailing from none of the three franchises listed on the issue’s cover. Unfortunately, by the issue’s end, it becomes apparent that the mutants are going to be the source of most of the conflict for this series, so any fighting between Predators and Judges and Aliens is going to be incidental to the machinations of villain we’re not invested in. I may not love the macho-bullshit of the Judge’s raid on Isotope Gulch, but I can at least identify that as part of a quintessentially Judge Dredd story. I can knowingly squirm as a Face Hugger is held up with a pair of forceps, and I can chuckle about the various settings on the Lawgiver pistols, but when it comes to Reinstöt’s animal-men? I got nothing.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?