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 Archie 13, Jem and the Holograms 20, and Faith 4. Also, we will be discussing Hadrian’s Wall 2 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: I think we may spend too much time looking for compelling characters in fiction. Surely there are interesting people in reality, but you’re not likely to find someone whose psychology is as compelling as Batman’s or Walter White’s. No, human beings are much more compelling in terms of the relationships they comprise. Archie understands this, and always has — there’s no single character that can carry this series alone. So when a relationships end, as Veronica & Archie’s, Veronica & Betty’s, and Betty & Sayid’s have, it’s like a character has died. Archie 13 sees the characters mourning these “deaths” while Ronnie finds herself embroiled in a brand new rivalry with Cheryl Blossom.
I love the way writer Mark Waid and artist Joe Eisma depict these losses — leading with probably the most clever, and definitely the most graphically satisfying depiction of a literal Veronica-shaped-hole in Archie’s life. From then on, it’s not quite so explicit, we just get before-and-after shots of Veronica and Archie. Here they are driving, here Archie’s alone; here they are singing songs, here Archie’s alone. Eisma will reprise this duality in expressing loss later in the issue when Jughead and Kevin are comforting Archie and Betty with similar activities. It’s a cute way of reminding the reader that for as much as they miss these relationships, they do have great friends that are already with them. Further, Archie and Betty are experiencing the same pain, at virtually the same pace, so, y’know, they’re gonna have to turn to each other for comfort sooner or later, right?
But that’s all sad-sack Archie stuff — let’s talk about Veronica’s adventures at the snootiest boarding school imaginable! Waid pulls some of the best bougie specifics when her new classmate, the aforementioned Ms. Cheryl Blossom, tries to offer her an olive branch. Her pitch: “Hey, let’s you and me go to Dubai next weekend and do some skiing. I know a fantastic kombucha bar.” Now, nevermind that they’re already in the mountains of Switzerland, it’s insane to travel to the desert to going skiing. But, the mega rich love INDOOR SKIING. Also take that kombucha drinkers (I love kombucha). But for all of Waid’s acrobatic logophilia, it is once again Eisma that tells their story the most interesting way.
And again, look at all the relationships in those speech balloons. Even when being abstract and clever, the series is always about those relationships.
Jem and the Holograms 20
Ryan M.: When I was younger, I hated reading stories about infidelity. If the protagonist of any novel I was reading cheated, I immediately lost empathy and actively rooted that they be punished for their indiscretions. I never saw the romance in illicit affairs or felt the choice to cheat was justified. I don’t see things in black and white as I once did, but I still found myself getting quite judgmental in Jem and the Holograms 20 as Jerrica made a date with Riot.
While its a bit of a trigger for me, it’s a pretty daring move for writer Kelly Thompson to make with Jerrica. So far, the conflicts that drive the series are based on misunderstandings or malevolence from the Misfits. Here, Jerrica is making questionable moral choices and the series is made more complex and interesting for it. When Jerrica as Jem blushes and flirts with Riot, her boyfriend Rio is far from her mind. Her sisters have already started to notice her behavior with Riot, but once they discover the dating, the ensuing conflict will be more than what can be solved with an honest conversation. For the first time in the series, Jerrica is making a mistake and there is nowhere else for the blame to be placed. Thompson has started down a path that requires a more sophisticated worldview to understand. Good people make mistakes. They hurt each other. Making a selfish choice that negatively affects others needn’t be fatalistic. You can fail to do the right thing and recover. For Jerrica, that means both her nascent relationship with Riot and her willingness to accept his gift of having the Misfits dropped from the label.
Thompson makes the connection between these two shady feelings by having Riot use the same justification for both.
Thompson has Riot roll directly from his philosophy of “bad feels good” into asking her for a date. It’s clear that he is offering her more of the bad side of life and Jem accepts. While it’s not the healthiest choice, it’s a good sign that Thompson is interested in stretching her stories beyond good girls having trouble thrust upon them.
Spencer: I just like Faith Herbert. While she’s clearly designed to be (and succeeds at being) inspirational and aspirational — even down to her name — Faith also just seems like someone who would be a lot of fun to hang out with. Those two attributes are at the forefront of Faith 4, which features double the Faith for the same low price!
As would be expected from a geek of her caliber, Faith’s first reaction to finding herself duplicated is to accuse her double of being evil, but both Faiths quickly learn to trust each other, and eventually embrace the idea of co-existence, even fantasizing about how fantastic it could be to have each other around to keep them company. As an only child who spent the lion’s share of his childhood with only himself and his favorite characters to keep him company, I can relate to this a lot, and it truly emphasizes Faith’s every-fan nature.
Yet, where this issue really shines is when it comes to Faith’s inherent goodness. Faith’s duplicate realizes that she‘s the duplicate when her counterpart is the first to volunteer to sacrifice herself to protect the ComicCon from the self-destructing amulet, yet the duplicate proves — even if she’s somehow “less” good than the original — that she’s still inherited enough nobility from the original to sacrifice herself instead. Even in diluted form Faith is a sterling inspiration! Writer Jody Houser smartly refuses to undercut the consequences of this sacrifice either — duplicate or not, Faith and Archer are allowed to feel the pain of loss. It’s powerful, and again, much of that power comes from being allowed to see Faith’s humanity in the first place.
Artist Pere Perez, meanwhile, seems to be having an absolute blast with this issue. Having two Faiths on page much of the time creates the opportunity for quite a bit of symmetry, and Perez leaps at the challenge, using his panels and layout choices to create elaborate designs on the page. My favorite instance, though, comes early in the issue, before the multiple Faiths have gotten a handle on each other yet.
If the symmetry between the Faiths on subsequent pages represents their in-sync partnership, then the right-angles here almost seem to be boxing them in, representing their initial confusion, suspicion, and antagonism. It’s also just one of many truly striking images in this issue, and it’s a joy to see Perez evolve like this. His work has been pleasant and professional from the very start of Faith, but with issue 4 his work truly has truly started to stand out.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?