Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 8/24/16

roundup25Look, 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 Star Wars 22, Godzilla Rages Across Time 1, Lake of Fire 1, Snotgirl 2, and Faith 2 — and come back on Tuesday for our discussion of Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 5 and Wednesday for our discussion of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 61! As always, SPOILERS after the cut.

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Star Wars 22

Star WarsMark: I gave up on Marvel’s relaunched Star Wars about two issues in, and it came down to a single reason: I just couldn’t believe that the events of the comic actually happened between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. In my mind, moments like Luke and Vader coming face to face in the comics robs Empire Strikes Back of its power. But by “events of the comic actually happening…”, I really mean “events of the comic ‘actually’ ‘happening’,” since, of course, none of the events in the Star Wars universe actually happened.

Star Wars 22

I have not picked up a mainline Star Wars comic since issue #2, and I was eager to check in on the series with Star Wars 22. I’m happy to see that it’s really grown into itself. I have no context for what’s going on here, but seeing Luke, Leia, Han, and Sana (even though I haven’t read the comics, regularly browsing the nerdier corners of the internet has armed with my the knowledge that she’s Han’s wife or something) steal a Star Destroyer is a lot of fun. I still think that the idea that all of this happens between Episode IV and Episode V is completely bonkers, but with the added distance of time I can understand the decision to root the comic there. It’s exciting to read new adventures starring some of our favorite heroes, and this time is the only time that these adventures can happen in their most fun configuration. So, yes, I technically wish this wasn’t canon, but at the end of the day who really gives a shit?

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Godzilla Rages Across Time 1

Godzilla Rages Across TimeRyan D: For all of the nights I stayed up late with my dad watching terrible giant monsters fighting after renting a whole marathon’s worth from Blockbuster, Godzilla Rages Across Time 1 is actually my first Godzilla comic, which I found to be fairly entertaining in a very light, nostalgia-fueled way. The plot conceit is simple, but engaging: this series will be taking different historic scenarios and adding in some Godzilla goodness, perhaps as part of some deep government conspiracy to cover up kaiju existence throughout time. First up is the Mongol invasion of Feudal Japan. As anyone who enjoys the history of Japan knows, a typhoon destroyed the invading Mongol hoards, but this issue kindly disagrees with that assertion.

The comic opens with two samurai rivals fighting, and it is clear how much the illustrator — touted as “Godzilla superstar artist” Matt Frank — cares about the time period and his titular monster. The art style mimics that of the ukiyo-e genre so synonymous with Japanese wood prints and paintings, and is lovingly applied to this fairly predictable but fun romp.

Godzilla1I really enjoy some of the choices and risks that Frank takes, from the stylized panel borders to the signature Japanese lineation of the waves and the atomic breath. Cool.

The writing by Jeremy Robinson is totally fine, handling the fairly insane universe in as grounded of a manner as possible; though I do not imagine that many people come to a Godzilla title looking for incredibly deep or pervasive catharsis. I suppose the one thing that I wish could come across more is the fundamental ideas which made Godzilla a part of the zeitgeist in the first place: a monster who is representative of something, originally the man-made, nuclear horrors we let loose upon the world. With Godzilla standing in for a typhoon in this issue, I feel that comic book nerds like me — who delight in applying critical analysis to even the schlokiest of B-films, always searching for some allegory which may reveal something deeper about the collective unconscious or societal trend -s- may feel a bit unsatisfied from this first issue if looking for more than a caring attention to visual styling and a monster punch-up. If that’s what you are in the market for, then check this title out, because Godzilla in Ancient Rome could be pretty fun, as well.

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Lake of Fire 1

Lake of FireDrew: What is it that makes you pick up a first issue? An editor recently told me that she looks for at least two of the three “C”s when evaluating the marketability of a new series: creator, character, and concept. This puts creator-owned upstarts at a bit of a disadvantage — they’re never going to have a recognizable character driving sales the way, say, Batman does, which makes a bankable creator and hook-y concept all the more essential to their success. I’m not sure my own decisions quite follow the three “C”s rule; it can be a useful rubric when trying to avoid adding too much to your pull list, but sometimes taking a risk on an unknown pays off.

Take Lake of Fire, for example. Its creators aren’t exactly unknowns; we’ve often celebrated Nathan Fairbairn’s coloring on this site, but we’ve never seen him write (or letter) before. And its concept — aliens invade 13th-Century France — is by no means boring, but “aliens invade X historical period” is starting to feel like a genre unto itself. If I was following the three “C”s rule, I might have missed what turned out to be a stellar first issue.

Fairbairn crafts a compelling period drama that transcends its genre trappings, wholly hooking me on the characters long before they encounter their first alien. That’s no mean feat, given just how many parties he introduces, each with their own agenda and relationship with one another. He’s mostly held to loose sketches at this point, but I’m most intrigued by Baron Raymond Mondragon, a jaded warrior who’s far more observant than he seems. There’s a lot of exposition to get all of the pieces in place, which saddles artist Matt Smith with a lot of talking heads, but the few quieter (or action-packed) moments demonstrate just how strong his narrative chops are. I suspect he’ll have more opportunity to cut loose as the series winds on, especially as Fairbairn settles into his writing duties. This creative team hasn’t quite hit their stride, but this series has a lot of potential. More importantly, this issue does exactly what a first issue needs to: make me want more.

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Snotgirl 2

SnotgirlRyan M.: The more we get to know about Lottie Person, the eponymous Snotgirl, the less we can trust her perspective. The first issue established the gulf between Lottie’s online image and her true snotty self. In Snotgirl 2, we see how her guilt over Charlotte’s death drives away her sanity. Lottie is not a good person. She secretly hates her friends, displays very little empathy, and left a woman bleeding in the bathroom. She also acts as an unreliable narrator. She is a woman consumed with her own neuroses to the point that she is unable to form connections with others. She even admits to herself, albeit briefly, that she may be losing her grip. Lottie’s internal voice is in “blogger mode” during this panel, but even that bubbly facade drops for a moment for her to note that she’s “going crazy.”

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Bryan Lee O’Malley’s writing is sharp and funny, with the world feeling well-observed while Leslie Hung’s art presents a candy-colored heightened reality that serves both OOTD realness and Lottie’s emotional turmoil. But without anything grounding us, the issue feels untethered. At this point, I don’t trust Lottie as a narrator, and the rest of the established characters are not given enough room to let us know what is real. This isn’t necessarily a problem at this point in the series. Instead, it is a strength, as the suspense becomes not just about the discovery of the murder, but also clarity as to what is real and can be trusted.

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Faith 2

Faith 2Spencer: Every hero needs an archenemy, and Jody Houser, Pere Perez, and Marguerite Sauvage have crafted the perfect nemesis for Zephyr in Faith 2. Chris Chriswell is a dark reflection of Faith: he too adored comics as a child, but while Faith found inspiration in superheroes and followed the example they set in creating her own persona, Chris admired the villains’ ability to do whatever they wanted, and funneled his acting payout into starting his own criminal empire.

It’s a premise that, combined with Faith’s pre-existing crush on Chriswell, has a ton of potential, but Houser doesn’t really tap into it during the issue’s climax. Faith’s takeaway from their skirmish is that she shouldn’t let people control her image, which kinda comes out of nowhere. I mean, yeah, Chriswell wanted to turn Zephyr into a martyr, but that’s more of an attempt to use her image for his own gratification than an attempt to change how Faith views herself or lives her life. Houser doles out Faith’s revelation — in the form of a Zipline article — over a scene of Faith and Klara opening up to each other, but besides a quick panel where Faith turns down Klara’s costume suggestions, there’s nothing here that really plays into Faith’s image or self-identity either. It’s a puzzling juxtaposition.

The thematically confusing back-half of this issue is a letdown after the first half not only establishes a perfect nemesis for Zephyr, but follows it up with an exciting and confident battle. Thankfully, Chriswell’s still in play — I’m excited to see what he’ll do when he pops up next. He’s still got a lot of untapped potential, and I hope the creative team can take advantage of that when he appears again.

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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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3 comments on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 8/24/16

  1. Star Wars: Mark, what is your opinion on the large amount of oversight that Lucasfilm has on all the supplementary materials? Because from my understand, the Lucasfilm Story Group is placing a lot of effort on these books and managing the new canon. In fact, I am hearing rumours that Sana is going to be in the Han Solo movie. So the fact that Luke had a short confrontation with Darth Vader is something that was carefully decided as something they wanted to have in the canon.

    Personally, I thought the first story did a good job with how it handled Darth Vader. Jason Aaron wanted a big story to act as a starting point, instead of using A New Hope (the right choice, as it means that his Star Wars stuff works as a self contained story, even as it is part of a greater story). Darth Vader is used to incite Luke into his arc, but I feel it didn’t undercut Episode 5 because the scene is contextualised within the arcs of the movies. The scene plays an important but previously unseen part of both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s arcs.

    I guess it also helps that I never thought that Empire Strikes Back was the first time since the Death Star that Luke and Vader met. The movies always suggested a long history of adventures between movies. And a big part of those adventures was the fact that Darth Vader was seeking Luke. That isn’t to say that Darth Vader was always there, but that every so often, Vader would turn up and everything went truly wrong. A big event. And I think that is how Jason Aaron has used Vader. I’m a bit behind on the Star Wars books, but I feel that they have done a good job of enhancing the overall Star Wars saga, instead of undercutting the movies in their attempt at having great moments

    • Theoretically, I’m a fan of the hand the Lucasfilm Story Group has in everything Star Wars-related. I think keeping tighter control on the canon is a worthwhile goal, and an ambitious one— has anyone’s tried something like this before across so many different forms of media?

      But I also can’t comment on how successful their efforts have been. Outside of watching Episode VII, reading a handful of comics, and trying (unsuccessfully) to make it through one of the first new novels, I haven’t kept up with New Star Wars. With so many balls in the air, it’ll be many years until we really know if the Story Group’s planning pays off.

      And I only read the first two issues of Star Wars before bouncing, so I don’t even really know what Luke’s arc in this series *is*, but I can definitely believe that as the story has grown it has given context to events in a way that make them a solid contribution to the canon. I’m all for the Continuing Adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han.

      • I haven’t been tracking everything either. I watch the movies and Rebels, as well as slowly catching up on the comics. Though like you, I love the ambition of turning Star Wars into a multimedia story of that sort of scope. I don’t think anyone has tried that either. Still, it is a fantastic idea. And I feel that the fact that this is something planned and organised instead of ad hoc is what makes Star Wars the one non-franchise I am interested in reading the comics of – this book exists because they want to use comics as part of a massive multimedia story, not just so that they have a comic they can sell to fans. That’s why I challenged your piece – to me, Star Wars is the one thing that doesn’t make me feel like that

        And it will be interesting to see how the multimedia elements come together. Rogue One is going to have a character from Star Wars the Clone Wars as one of the leads (and Rebels has been using Clone Wars elements), but they can do that because the show was already completed when the Story Group started their plans. So maybe the first major multimedia thing will be Sana Solo?

        And if you are interested, the way I would describe Luke’s arc is that Luke having to deal with the fact that just because he destroyed the Death Star, he isn’t a Jedi. The Hero’s Journey he completed has not made him the Great Hero he thought he was, and that he is still powerless against threats like Darth Vader. That with Obi-Wan dead, Luke needs to rethink his path. It is about his quest from ‘I am the all powerful Jedi who destroyed the Death Star’ to becoming Commander Skywalker, the Rebel soldier whose every success as a Jedi has to be balanced with both his successes as a soldier and his successes as a student. What is Luke’s place in the Rebellion, when the greatest resource he can offer the Rebellion is useless without the knowledge on how to use it? Honestly, it is a good arc. And it begins with Darth Vader very clearly destroying the illusions that Luke had about himself after the Death Star

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