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 Star Wars 24, Star Wars: Poe Dameron 7, Jughead 10, TMNT Universe 3, and Outcast 22. Also, we’ll be discussing Saga 39 on Tuesday and Descender 16 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Star Wars 24
Spencer: Star Wars 24 has a lot of moving parts, and the fun of this issue is seeing them all collide at the worst possible moment. Split up by the Scar Squad’s assault, each group of characters has their own unique challenges to face, as aptly summed up by the following page:
Sana’s may be the most interesting to me; her struggle to survive reveals some uncharacteristic vulnerability. Writer Jason Aaron doesn’t manage to mine anything new from his cast in the rest of these scenarios, but that probably isn’t the appeal of Star Wars in the first place; this series has generally hung its hat on watching these classic characters do what they do best, and it’s hard to complain about that. Han and Leia bantering? Luke in a lightsaber duel? C-3P0’s cowardice? They’re all tried and tested.
I wish the Scar Squad worked as well. They’re most interesting — and terrifying — when off-screen; that cut to the Rebel bodies floating outside the Star Destroyer is legitimately chilling. Once they appear, though, they’re mostly depicted as especially-competent Stormtroopers, and while that may be a step up from normal Stormtroopers, it’s still a step down from the Batman-esque unseen terrors they were before. The cliffhanger also cheapens the Scar Squad — while it’s hard not to get excited about Darth Vader, I think he’s a well Aaron has returned to a few too many times throughout this series, and his reappearance robs the Scar Squad of their big-bad status, pushing them even further down the villain ladder.
Jorge Molina’s art isn’t exactly the strongest, either. He puts in competent work throughout most of the issue — and seems to especially be having fun with the ships — but a lot of his designs are inconsistent from page-to-page, and the battle sequences (namely Luke and Chewie’s respective duels) feel rather lifeless. His faces especially get pretty wonky, with Luke and Sana sporting what I can only describe as “cat eyes” a few times throughout the issue.
Star Wars has been the straightforward adventure book at the forefront of Marvel’s Star Wars line, and it fills that position well, occasionally even achieving greatness within those confines. I just can’t help but wish, sometimes, that it could be a bit more than that.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron 7
Michael: Star Wars: Poe Dameron is Charles Soule’s petition to make Poe the lead of the next Star Wars movie right? Even if Star Wars: Poe Dameron 7 is a bit of a step down from previous issues, the titular pilot himself has got charm for days my friends. He’s handsome, carefree and probably the best pilot in the galaxy – a worthy inheritor of the Han Solo throne if you ask me.
Angel Unzueta steps in for Phil Noto this month and provides a scary realistic portrayal of Oscar Isaac’s memorable features. It’s so on point that it reminds me of one of those Instagram features that makes your photos more abstract and cartoonish. Unzueta also draws a handful of aliens that make me think of the strange circle of life that sci-fi pop culture has gone through. First and foremost we have Suralinda Javos who is a dead-ringer for Zoe Saldana’s character in Avatar. Second is a tiny glimpse we have of one of Suralinda’s pursuers who reminds me of Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road. I love to think how Star Wars inspired so many creators to come up with wild designs and now we’ve come to a point where Star Wars is taken inspiration from those creators itself.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron 7 is a fun, fast-paced one-shot issue whose purpose seems to be to introduce us to Suralinda Javos – who joins the Resistance at the end of the book. There’s a couple of narrative fake-outs before we reach that point that don’t really seem all that necessary however.
Ryan M.: In Jughead 10, Jug’s date with the girl inside the giant hamburger goes as well as you might expect. By that, I mean he gets in his own way, treats Sabrina like she is an obstacle rather than a person and, ultimately, Archie demonstrates again why he is the worst. Jughead doesn’t want to be there and he doesn’t want to hurt Sabrina’s feelings. It’s a dynamic intensified by Sabrina’s magic and Jughead’s “help” from his friends, but it’s a familiar dynamic. When you’re young, it can feel scary to be honest about what you want, resulting in quasi-dates or semi-relationships in which one person is just being “nice” instead of truthful and both people end up feeling bad. Sabrina and Jughead do like each other and we see it as they share nachos and she admires his eloquence about food. But that’s not enough for Jughead to feel comfortable on a date. He may not want to hurt her feelings, but he sure enrages her by constantly texting and enlisting his friends for interference. Jughead is both empathetic and tone-deaf when it comes to feelings. Part of why he gets along so well with Archie is that Archie wears all of his feelings on the outside. Jughead never has to intuit his emotional state because Archie will say it within twenty seconds.
Ryan North uses this combination of kindness and obliviousness to set up a fun dynamic with Sabrina. Sabrina tries to ruin Jughead’s day at school, but her every attempt is thwarted by his good fortune. North, whose footnotes provide a meta-commentary that gooses the narrative, also gives Jughead and Reggie a perfect day of friendship. Reggie is usually written as a jerk antagonist whose jealousy of Archie and disdain for the group make him the disliked butt of Jughead’s jokes. But Reggie just wants a friend, y’all. I mean, look at this.
It’s an adorable montage, but it also shows that if Reggie and Jughead drop their guards, there is no need for animosity. Reggie and he have the kind of fun, relaxed hang out that Jughead was incapable of sharing with Sabrina. I don’t know what the big amnesia spell that Sabrina casts on the final pages of the issue will mean, but I hope that we get to see more unguarded moments like the above.
TMNT Universe 3
Taylor: By now everyone knows the personalities of all the Ninja Turtles even if they haven’t consumed a single story about them. Even though they might not know the names, even the individual with the most nascent knowledge of pop-culture knows that there’s a party turtle, a leader, a smart turtle, and of course that there is the hothead. Raphael’s penchant for losing his cool is well-known, but what remains more of a mystery is just exactly why he flips his shit so often. In the third issue of TMNT Universe, light is shed on this enduring mystery, and suddenly Raphael becomes less hot head and more, dare I say, human.
The turtles are in a furious fight to escape Baxter Stockman’s lab and the government. In doing so they become trapped on the roof of Stockman’s lab where Michelangelo confronts Raph and asks the question all us have been wondering for so long: “why the crappy attitude?” The expected blowup from this questions doesn’t come, however. Instead, Raph is retrospective and and clues everyone in on why he acts the way he does.
That Raph’s attitude comes from his love for his family isn’t that revelatory of an answer. After all, that’s been explored and given as answer in almost all of the iterations of TMNT. What’s striking about Raph’s answer here is that he reveals he’s basically scared of death. Again, this isn’t shocking in and of itself — most people and mutants like the idea of being alive. However, this shows that Raph has some more existential angst than he’s usually given credit for. Here, we learn that Raph’s moodiness is a product of his worry about the meaning of his life. He’s angry because he wonders just what it means if all he and his brothers do is fight nonstop. Just what kind of life is that?
Credit needs to be given to Paul Allor for writing a story that so seamlessly develops Raphael in a subtle yet meaningful way. Plenty of spin-off series fails to do anything meaningful with their characters, perhaps because writers don’t want to mess with the continuity of the primary series. Allor isn’t afraid of that here, and the results are wonderful. Really though, this shouldn’t be at all surprising. All of the TMNT spin-offs are meaningful in some way in regards to the primary series so I shouldn’t expect anything less in this instance. Luckily that proves the case here.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Sigmund Freud (Apocryphal)
Drew: It’s doubtful Freud ever said this oft-quoted phrase — surely he would have recognized the hypocrisy of excusing the phallic symbolism that applied to himself (an avid smoker) — but I do think there’s some merit to the idea that objects aren’t always laden with symbolic meaning; especially when it comes to fiction. Sure, a cigar can be used as a phallic symbol (perhaps sexily, perhaps skeevily), but it could also be used as a cigar (perhaps to show us that a character is wealthy or is celebrating the birth of a child). Point is, not everything in a story is symbolic — indeed, many elements may be strictly functional — so the challenge is parsing what, if any, elements might have additional symbolic meaning. In the case of Outcast 22, the element that caught my eye is the potent image of the lone wolf.
The wolf first threatens the possessed Giles (who seems ready to fight back) until Kyle and Reverend Anderson arrive and scare it off. Kyle and Anderson manage to capture Giles and drag him to a nearby barn, but Scott and Caleb are on their trail. Just when it seems Kyle and Anderson are going to be captured, the wolf returns to attack and chase Scott and Caleb away. Obviously, that a sickly wolf without a pack might attack a human is a thing that happens, and the fact that we knew one was in the immediate area makes its return less a coincidence than the firing of a Chekhov’s gun, but it’s clear that something else may be going on here. The initial scene with Giles and the wolf squaring off strongly suggests that the wolf somehow senses that something is wrong with Giles, as though the natural world is trying to fight back against this evil. Anderson chalks it up to “the lord provid[ing]”, and for once, I’m almost inclined to agree with him.
The actual exorcism plays out in the pattern we’ve now become familiar with — the initial attempts fail before a final push succeeds. In fact, the pattern is so rote, Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta render the first half of that equation as a wordless montage:
Their eventual success does have a few surprises, including a “demon” so powerful it lifts Kyle off the ground before dissipating completely and the fear that the process may have killed Giles. It didn’t (quite), but seeing how close it came may put Kyle in a strange position when it comes to exorcising folks who have been “fully merged.” Maybe his new wolf pal can help him 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?