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 Animosity 1, Jughead 8, and Paper Girls 8.
Patrick: Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre’s Animosity 1 has to pull double duty. First, it has to establish the high concept premise — that animals are suddenly talking and attacking their human oppressors — and then it has to loop back around to the one notable exception in Sandor the always-friendly dog. We’re introduced to the premise through one of those turn-on-a-dime cold opens you’d expect to see at the beginning of an episode of Fringe. While it’s kind of a pat scene, the overly-philosophical conversation between a veterinarian and an exterminator is as charming as it can be. Until — dun dun DUN — the rats swarm poor Joe the Exterminator, declaring him the “rat bastard.”
That groan-inducing pun is a welcome sign, suggesting that for all of the grotesqueries associated with an animal uprising, Bennett has her sights set on humor. But de Latorre and Bennett don’t seem content to have articulated this tone once, so the next six pages are devoted to telling a dozen similar stories simultaneously, all scored with the speakerless narration “OH HOLY FUCK.” I love this sequence. Each spread gives us one more panel in twelve individual stories that follow the same basic outline as the story in the cold open, but with endings that are all over the map. In one, an elderly dog forgives its owners for putting him down, in another an orca expresses long-hidden romantic interest in his trainer, and in yet another, pandas murder each other with shotguns. The consistency between these pages is amazing. The effect is even cooler if you’re reading it digitally through Comixology, which fades one page into the next, creating a sort of uncanny animation as you turn the page.
With both the tone and the world firmly established, Bennett and de Latorre are able to take a breath and reset the focus on Jesse and the aforementioned Sandor. What follows is simple – dog protects little girl from killer animals – but the premise is so expertly established in the first 8 pages that everything that follows feels immediately meaningful. I hope we get back to Best Friend Veterinary Clinic, but even if that scene was simply seeding the idea that “man’s best friend” might be immune to this universal animal rage, it was time economically and expertly spent.
Spencer: One of the hardest things to accept about growing up is that, sometimes, the process means losing friendships. Sometimes, as you gain more experience and mobility, you discover that you were only friends because of proximity; other times your viewpoints and common interests simply diverge as you get older. Jughead and Archie have been going through a bit of a rough patch in their friendship since Veronica Lodge rolled into town, and Jughead 7 and 8 have found that tension finally reaching its boiling point.
Lost on a camping trip (all the scenes taking place at night/in the woods feature black gutters, emphasizing how disorienting an experience this truly is), Jughead and Archie have it out. Jughead proposed this camping trip simply to spend some one-on-one time with Archie, while Archie has been focused only on finding girls. Archie’s obsession with girls has always been in conflict with Jughead’s asexuality, but in such a high-tension situation, it nearly leads them to come to blows.
This feels like the kind of argument that could easily end a friendship — or perhaps lead Jughead and Archie to realize that maybe they’ve simply grown apart, as sometimes happens — but instead, the two are able to work out their issues and reaffirm their friendship. How? Believe it or not, it’s all thanks to their principal, Mr. Weatherbee, whose backstory (his friends protected him from Ted Mantle’s harassment) reminds them of how vital friendship truly is, and who (along with his wife, Ramona, who only appears on one page but seems super cool) reminds Jughead and Archie of how famously inseparable they’ve always been. Friendships may change, and sometimes even end, as you grow older, but Jughead and Archie are willing to put in the work and listen to each other in order to make sure that doesn’t happen to them.
Reiterating that Jughead’s asexuality isn’t abnormal and that he deserves affection and companionship (albeit of the non-romantic variety) as much as anyone is an important point to make, and artist Derek Charm, well, charms with his vivid colors and age-appropriate designs (with his hat and a bit of baby-fat, Charm’s Archie is the quintessential All-American 16-year-old he’s always been meant to be). I’m sad to see writer Chip Zdarsky leave the book, but, while such a relatively grounded story (there’s still an escaped circus bear at play here, but otherwise, yeah, grounded) is a bit unusual for Zdarsky’s Jughead, this reaffirmation of Jughead and Archie’s friendship is a wonderfully sweet note to end his run on.
Paper Girls 8
Ryan M.: Paper Girls continues the kind of pacing and storytelling that has made it such a compelling series. Here, we see how Mac’s revelation that she won’t survive her teens immediately affects her worldview. She has always been the bad-ass of the group, with her rough attitude and cigarette habit, and the knowledge that leukemia will kill her before her eighteenth birthday only emboldens her. She is both tragic and brave as she faces down the sticky worm monster. Because that’s the kind of book that Paper Girls is, it’s a story that can both give insight into the ramifications of a young girl’s mortality and offer bizarre and creepy monster moments.
Vaughan balance the varied tones of the issue while servicing each. The transitions between each scene feel natural and seem to be based on mood or subtext. The issue opens with the two Erins at an abandoned mall. The empty stores and broken escalator underline the theme of a lost future. The time traveler with Erin’s face has a worldview that plays with the freedom or not having to deal with consequences. She tells her driver to take chances and risk herself emotionally, because soon the present will be gone. In some ways, the time traveler story line is the least dynamic. There may be giant tardigrades, but it’s also a bit heavy on the exposition. Vaughan doesn’t let that slow the story down. The time traveler’s apparent openness and assertion that she is the “good guy” are embedded in the scene. This perfectly sets up why Mac and Tiffany may be willing to follow her sixty-eight thousand years into the future and also adds a punch to the final image of the issue.
The words carved into KT’s stick, it was a well-crafted moment that both surprised me and felt earned.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?