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 Barrier 2, Jughead 9, The Woods 25, Kill or Be Killed 2, and Star Wars: Poe Dameron 6. Also, come back on Tuesday for our discussion of Alters 1 and on Wednesday for our discussions of Glitterbomb 1 and Paper Girls 9! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: Language barriers may seem insurmountable. We spend so much of our lives embroiled in the specific minutiae of what exactly our words literally denote, and then there’s a whole world of unintentional (or intentional) connotation on top of that. It’s a delicate dance, and communication can feel all but impossible when you’re fundamentally using different words, idioms, and structures. Barrier 2, the long-gestating second issue of Marcos Martin and Brian K. Vaughan’s excellent, digital only Panel Syndicate series (available here at any price), sets out to both explore that frustration of the language barrier, and obliterate it. The awesome, articulate truth of the matter is that what we see and what we do are always going to be more powerful than what we hear and what we say.
Martin and Vaughan have kind of a perfect set-up for this sort of thing – two characters that don’t speak each other’s language forced to work together. Oscar can’t speak English and Liddy can’t speak Spanish. Martin starts with an easy shorthand for communication – when they meet, Liddy is naked. This communicates vulnerability wordlessly, just as Oscar’s simple offer of his jacket immediately communicates kindness and empathy. Vaughan picks up those cues and writes a conversation between this pair wherein they cue off common references. Oscar asks if they’ve died and gone to Hell, which Liddy can identify because “Inferno” is one of those culturally ubiquitous Latin words that never fell out of use. Then Liddy returns the gesture by expressing the concept of UFOs by saying “Star Wars.” They’re using global commonalities between their languages and cultures to communicate. But there’s also a moment where they express their very specific common culture that’s even more resonant – Oscar pulls a gun holster off a dead body and identifies the markings on them as belonging to a member of the Las Garzas gang. That doesn’t mean anything to me — unlike those “Inferno” and “Star Wars” references — but Liddy and Oscar are bound by a more common vocabulary than they’d care to admit.
And of course, Martin makes his most eloquent points about communicating without the use of words wordlessly. There are a lot of excellent pages in this issue that use the shapes inherent in both the space the characters are occupying and the layout to suggest movement and emotion. My favorite example is this one.
Look how the shapes of the plant body (and then that little green crest on its head) force the eye around the page in a circular motion, only to be disrupted by the thing firing goo at Oscar. It’s some stupendous storytelling, and basically every page is this good.
(Also, I know I’m supposed to keep these Round Up pieces quick, but holy shit: how awesome is that opening sequence in the radar room? Those radar technicians speak in so many acronyms and throw around so much military jargon that they’re basically speaking a foreign language. Barrier, indeed.)
Ryan M.: Crushes are hard, guys. Jughead is usually the coolest of his friends. While they’re stressing out over who is going to share a malt and straw, he’s down the counter eating a plate of burgers on his own. Jughead moves through life with confidence and ease, un-affected by the dramas that consume his friends. That is, until Burger Lady came into his life. In Jughead 9, writer Ryan North sets a new tone for his first issue. He plunges Jughead into distinctly emotional territory and opts out of the full-on fantasy sequences that characterized the previous run of the series. It allows the story to find new, grounded ways to connect with the audience. Though Jughead suggests Archie write a dating guide, North provides one of his own through Jughead’s talk with Betty. I live for Betty’s side-eye in that second panel.
Jughead is established as asexual. The issue explores what a crush is like for someone who is ace but maybe not aromantic. It’s clear that all of his friends want to help with his crush, but none of them can really relate to his perspective. Of course, he is crushing on a Burger Lady, a lady that he chooses to believe must love burgers deeply and will wear the costume throughout their fantasy life together. This is obviously very silly, but it defines the difference between a crush and a relationship. Crushes are internal things, a one-sided flight of fancy in which you can fill in the blanks to your liking. Now that Sabrina has taken off the burger, Jughead will have to make friends with a real person. A real teenage witch person. I am so excited. I want to say I have a crush on this series, but, I think it might actually be the beginning of something real.
The Woods 25
Spencer: James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas kick off the third (and, apparently, final) year of The Woods with this month’s issue 25, and that timeline doesn’t just apply to us, but to the characters within the story as well. The Woods 25 skips ahead (at least) several months from Calder’s tragic death in issue 24, and uses this opportunity to reacquaint readers, not only with the main cast, but with their families back on Earth as well, who are still grieving their lost children after all this time.
The creative team also uses this new beginning to shake things up art-wise, with series artist and co-creator Michael Dialynas taking over colors from Josan Gonzalez. Dialynas’ colors are more etherial than Gonzalez’s bold palette, a change that seems to parallel the cast’s growing maturity and the increasingly murky moral choices they’re now faced with. Dialynas’ updated character designs serve a similar purpose, especially in the case of Ben.
Ben’s a far cry from the kid we met back in issue 1; he’s grown into himself, not just physically, but mentally too, displaying an unprecedented level of confidence. The fact that this growth comes with a New London-er boyfriend and a seat in their council is significant. After spending the first half of the issue with those the Bay Point kids left behind on Earth, Tynion and Dialynas spend the second half emphasizing what’s since become important to them on their moon: Ben’s boyfriend, Karen’s soldier friends, Sander (who “officially” joins the main cast this issue), even Calder’s memorial.
These kids have made a life for themselves on their moon, and that adds a whole new dimension to the issue’s cliffhanger. When Isaac — reappearing after nearly a year of honing the power he and Adrian sacrificed so much for — asks his friends if they’re ready to go home, it’s no longer a question of whether Isaac should wield such power, but a question of whether the Bay Point kids want to go home, if they’d even be able to reacclimatize to life on Earth, and what they’d be willing to leave behind if they do. That’s a question I can’t wait to see answered.
Kill or Be Killed 2
Mark: The cycle of abuse and violence continues to compound in Kill or Be Killed 2. This is a bleak issue with a dark soul, and as much as I find myself drawn in by the beautiful packaging, I’m hoping that by the end there’s something to be gained from the relentless nihilism. But maybe Ed Brubaker would laugh to read that. Maybe it shows I’m missing the point.
During his killing spree at the beginning of issue 1, Dylan explains, “There is no justice.” And so far that’s true. As his first sacrifice to the Demon, Dylan shoots and kills Mark, the older brother and sexual abuser of his childhood friend Teddy. But Mark’s execution is not justice. It’s likely that Mark has no idea why he’s being shot, and to him he’s merely the unlucky target of a mugging gone wrong. But even if Dylan did manage to squeak out a combination of words that brought recognition to Mark before he died, his death in no way brings atonement for his crime. Teddy is still dead. Teddy will always be dead.
The shit in this world rolls down hill, children are poisoned by the sins of their elders, and no one ever, ever really gets what’s coming to them. This is the promise of Kill or Be Killed‘s first two issues.
I left out part of what Dylan says in the first issue. His full thought is: “There is no justice. Bad people get away with everything.” And for now this remains true. Dylan is not delivering justice — there is no justice — but he is a bad guy. Yet how long can he keep getting away with it? This isn’t The Tale of the Hunchback.
Taylor: As we’ve discussed previously on Retcon Punch, Poe Dameron has an extra challenge when telling its story. Unlike most comics, we know that Poe is alive and well by the time The Force Awakens takes place. This means that Poe is virtually invincible in his comic and it’s not a matter of if he wins the day, but how.
The style in which he wins in issue 6 is different from previous issues, and that also happens to be the issue’s greatest strength. While Poe is involved in a riot on the prison planet Megalox Beta, it is BB-8 who ends up saving the day. He does this with the help of a couple other astromech droids who shut off the artificial gravity on the planet, which neutralizes all of the conflicts, suppressing them under 10 times the weight of normal gravity. It’s no secret that BB-8 is beloved by the world and it’s a lot of fun seeing him be the hero of the day in this issue. Not only does he get to show off his smarts but also some new, cool gadgets he has in that big ol’ ball of his. And while one could argue he’s just a cog in Poe’s master plan, it’s clear nothing would have gotten done without the little droid’s help.
This is nowhere more clear than in the scene where BB-8 takes down a prison droid ten times his size. Despite being out-muscled and without the use of conventional weapons (something his opponent has) BB-8 is able to get past his obstacle and achieve his goal.
The resourcefulness of BB-8’s is wonderfully rendered by artist Phil Noto, who interjects fun and emotion into a scene full of mechano-men. There’s something about each panel that is wonderfully clear in creating a scene that, as a whole, is super easy to understand, despite the fact that neither droid talks or gives away his moves ahead of time. From this, we are given a wonderfully fun (but short) scene that interjects some life into a comic that too often feels like it’s just going through the motions.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?