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 Darth Vader 24, Empress 5 and Weavers 4.
Darth Vader 24
Michael: The Star Wars prequels are like any national tragedy: they can’t be changed, prevented or undone. In Darth Vader, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca have been crafting a story set within the timeframe of the original trilogy that regularly acknowledges the emotional and mental scars that Darth Vader would have from his days as Anakin Skywalker. Darth Vader 24 relies on that technique more than most issues thus far, as Vader’s robot body is shut down and we explore those mental scars.
The trip down Vader’s memory lane begins where it ended: on the volcanic world of Mustafar. There’s a lot to love about this sequence in particular, as it blends memory with death, rebirth and self-annihilation. Anakin battles Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel and Larroca pits the lighting-fast technique of the prequels with the slower, more “broadsworded” approach of the original trilogy. I appreciate that even though comics is a medium where physics need not apply, Larroca keeps Vader’s lumbering, yet impending doom pace consistent to what it has always been.
I did wince for a moment seeing the likenesses of Haden Christensen and Natalie Portman in this issue, but as I said there’s nothing that can undo the prequels. As this title has always done, Darth Vader 24 uses the visuals and echoes of the prequels to its narrative advantage. Once again Anakin is “breaking Padme’s heart,” but here it feels like a more deliberate decision. Vader is done lamenting on the past; he’s full-on vengeance machine.
Ryan D.: I have been having a difficult time reading Empress until I figured out the key to enjoying it: this title is a summer blockbuster- a popcorn flick. If I take it as just that, and not some vaunted Saga-killer from two incredibly well-known talents, then my blood-pressure returns to normal. The title still holds a bit of promise as it heads towards the end of its seven-issue run, but thus far it has been fairly formulaic. The family running from mad King Morax hops from planet to planet, encountering some resistance from each’s unique, sci-fi fauna, residents, or atmosphere while the big, bad Emperor chases them, punishing all those who have aided or abetted in Empora’s flight. Many of these locales have been interesting- if not somewhat cliche- and, with Immonen’s pencils, always looks spectacular. His ability to frame panels always strikes me. Also, the art does bring to life some very stock characters. The queen’s body-guard, Dane, for example, is very two-dimensional and a noticeably over-powered, but he at least looks striking with Immonen drawing him.
Aside from great art, the other thing one can expect from an issue of Empress is this:
Every issue ends in a “How will our plucky heroes escape THIS dastardly scenario??” moment, which is always surmounted in an entirely preposterous- yet stylish- fashion. While my hopes for understanding the characters’ motivations has sadly fallen to some very stilted exposition, I’m trying to let go of that to enjoy all of the pretty, hand-drawn CGI. If you are too stubborn to pay ten dollars for a summer blockbuster at the cinema, feel free to pick up Empress for roughly the same amount of money, heat up some popcorn, and enjoy the explosions and quips.
Patrick: I feel like we’re all waiting to be discovered as the total frauds we are. You haven’t always been the thing you are now — the writer, the teacher, the professional, the adult, the intellectual, the athlete — and one day you’re going to be exposed something less than the image you’ve cultivated for yourself. Weavers 4 spends a lot of time hovering around ghosts of the past that threatening to undefine both Sid and Frankie, but in so doing, grant us greater insight into how they make their real-time decisions as super-powered mafia-esque goons.
We get Frankie’s past explicitly, as a first-person admission of guilt that she psychically pushed her own mother to commit suicide. It’s a secret, but we get clued into it because she tells Sid. Sid, it turns out, it sort of our gateway to the history of these characters, and he’s a strict-ass bouncer: only those pieces of history that really need to get through get past the velvet rope. Frankie says she tells her story because it means that she and Sid can be on equal footing again – they mutually posses each others deepest secrets, and can therefore destroy each other just as mutually. The thing is, Sid’s biggest secret isn’t in the hands of some loyalty-obsessed ally in the world of organized crime, but in the quivering, outstretched palms of some heroine addicts. Turns out, Sid used to be a junkie.
That’s a slow revelation that spools out throughout the course of the issue, and it’s not entirely clear whether Sid himself is even ready to acknowledge this. When he visits the Carpool Kids — a loose gang of junkie car thieves — he takes Frankie’s advice to find them in “Crunchtown.” The attendant panel, shows Sid’s feet SCRONCHing down on some empty vials.
Crunchtown isn’t just a name for Sid – he knows what makes it go crunch, and he demonstrates this “why” to us. That’s insider info, the kind of knowledge he’d only have from experience. The junkies also recognize some stale tracks on his arms, and Sid takes it personally (to the point of entombing them all in spider-bubbles) when his fellow junkies don’t respect him.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?