Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 11/2/16

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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 The Woods 27, Bitch Planet 9, and Faith 5. Also, today we discussed The Wicked + The Divine 23, and Wednesday we’ll be discussing Mayday 1, so check those out! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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The Woods 27

The Woods 27Spencer: The Woods has never really been about solving the mystery of how and why Bay Point Prep was teleported to an alien moon — James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas instead focused their narrative on the consequences of this event, how it’s changed the main characters, and the society they’ve established so far from home. This is a smart approach; it keeps readers from focusing too much on unanswered questions, which are all too often unsatisfying once they’ve been explained. Yet despite all that, The Woods 27 devotes itself almost entirely to doling out the explanations behind so much of what’s happened over the past two years, and perhaps even more surprisingly, it manages to be not only entertaining, but satisfying.

Part of the reason why is because Tynion and Dialynas leave the door open for more twists — Isaac and Ghost-Adrian explain everything they know about the moon/supercomputer, but freely admit that they’re guessing about some aspects. Another reason is that the explanations don’t try to be radical — they fit very neatly into the gaps of what we’ve already learned. Finally, these answers are satisfying because of how freely they’re given — Tynion and Dialynas (and, by extension, Isaac and Adrian) hold absolutely nothing back, even when they’d really like to.

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There’s no frustrating misunderstandings because of withheld information or secrets kept to “protect” somebody, both of which are rapidly becoming my least favorite tropes in the world. If almost any other title or story laid out all their mysteries in such a straightforward and expositional way I’d complain, but in The Woods it’s refreshing. It’s Isaac being blunt and honest and finally letting his friends in on everything he’s been up to in his time away. More than that, it’s Isaac wanting his friends to know exactly what they’re up against as they prepare to march into the heart of the moon. It’s friendship in the form of information, and that’s something I can truly get behind.

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Bitch Planet 9

Bitch Planet 9Drew: I’m a huge fan of the Nerdwriter youtube channel. I bring that up, because the prison riot in Bitch Planet 9 immediately got me thinking about Nerdwriter’s “Saving Private Ryan: How Spielberg Constructs A Battle Scene“. The gist of the video is that Spielberg uses the texture of filmmaking — grain, lenses, shutter-speed — to make the opening battle of Saving Private Ryan feel as “real” and chaotic as possible, while the grosser elements of storytelling — composition, blocking, editing — are used to tell a very straightforward narrative. Unfortunately, I found that straightforwardness missing in Bitch Planet‘s riot, botching some of the key turning points of the issue.

The biggest miss for me is the reunion of Kam and Mo, a moment this series has been building to since the very beginning. It should have all of the impact of years of hardship and waiting, but it gets completely eaten in between panels. Look at Kam’s heroic entrance (compiled here from two non-facing pages):

Bitch Planet Riot

The first three panels are fantastic at setting the scene, giving us a scope of the chaos before pulling us in to an individual fight. The problem starts in panel 4, where Mo is surprised by something happening off-panel. Did Rose just get beaten by that guard that was standing over her? Panel 5 reveals that, no, Rose was rescued by someone who did something to that guard in between panels 3 and 5. It’s not until the next page that we realize this person is Kam, and it’s not for another two panels that we actually see her face. Kam isn’t introduced with a hero shot (even though the situation more than warrants one), so we’re not even aware she’s in the scene until after all of the characters have seen her. Apparently she was the surprising thing Mo was reacting to on the first page, though there’s no way of reading it that way before turning the page. Mo’s big moment of seeing her sister for the first time in years happens when we reasonably think she’s instead fearing for her friend’s life. I suspect that fourth panel is meant to deliberately mislead us, creating a mini-cliffhanger within the page, but all of that jerking us around emotionally robs the reunion scene of the oomph it deserved.

Unfortunately, the final reveal of the issue doesn’t enjoy any clearer storytelling. Eleanor Doane reveals herself to the rioting masses, hoping to unite them against their common enemy, before we close with this baffling panel.

Eleanor Doane

“AAAAHHHH!!!” is such an ambiguous sound effect, I genuinely don’t know how to read it here. Is the crowd cheering at the return of a figure long thought dead, or are they recoiling in horror at the sight of the trooper behind her. The trooper clearly doesn’t want to be seen — getting Doane to quell the riot is obviously part of his plan — but he doesn’t know that Maki has the power and the will to expose him from the control room. So…can the crowd see him or not? I suspect this point of confusion wasn’t quite the cliffhanger the creative team was going for, but it’s the lingering question for me.

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Faith 5

Faith 5Taylor: What makes Faith a unique comic is that it unabashedly takes on many of the sexist notions that make up our modern society. To say that the plot of the comic takes a backseat to feminist issues would be incorrect, but the comic certainly would be different without these overtones. That being said, a lot of what determines the quality of this series is how well these issues are integrated into the plot. In Faith 5, the issue of slut shaming is discussed, but it’s unclear if this enhances the plot or not.

Recently, a teen star in the vein of Hanna Montana (in this case named Zoe Hines) had her phone hacked and revealing photos were released to the world. With the loss of her “wholesome” image she is no longer able to find acting work and becomes the vessel for a magic evil. The story of Zoe’s downfall is not unique. Sadly it is a story that has played out in real life on several occasions. As Faith reflects on Zoe’s career, her downfall is all too familiar to modern readers.

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Tragic as the story may be, it’s hard to feel exactly sad for Zoe. When we first meet her character she is laughed out of an audition because everyone knows her supposedly shameful life story. Immediately after she is co-opted by an evil cat to seek revenge and then she almost disappears completely from the issue. While her story is full of injustice, it’s difficult to feel sympathy for a character who I’ve only known for a few pages. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to enjoy the issue much at all since Zoe is the pivot point upon which the entire issue swivels. I should feel sorry for her or outraged at her story, but since I’ve known her for such a short time, I just don’t.

And that’s the shame here. Zoe could easily be a sympathetic character. If I had been shown the her emotional response to her trauma, I could more easily sympathize with her. The embarrassment of having her private life made public and the shame she’s made to feel by news pundits would convincingly make her a character to root for. Ultimately, that’s why this issue fails to impress. While I think it’s important to discuss the issue of slut shaming, it does little to further the conversation about it if it’s used merely as a prop to make a girl the tool in an evil cat’s plans for revenge. Make Zoe a human and this issue is immediately more entertaining and more meaningful in the way it delivers its message.

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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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One comment on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 11/2/16

  1. Sheriff of Babylon: Tom King has to be getting an Eisner, right?

    Between Omega Men, the Vision and Sheriff, I think that Sheriff has the best ending. And considering both Omega Men 12 and the Vision 12 are among the best issues of the year, that is fucking impressive. It just refuses to satisfy. It refuses to give us a clean ending.

    Last issue was the climax, and revealed that everything went to shit. The entire story was revealed to be lies and cover ups. There was no terrorist mastermind. Just CIA Everything the cast had fought for and lost for was… meaningless. And so this issue jumped ahead, and showed their response.

    The story begun with a random corpse on the side of the road. Three people’s quest for justice for a forgotten man. And in this issue, having failed, they instead choose vengeance. And leave another random corpse at the side of the road.

    Except, it is more complicated than that. They think they know who is responsible. They think they know who is leading the CIA Op that caused everything to go wrong. They actually met him. But when they kidnap him, he insists he is just an ordinary contractor. According to him, he was asked to pretend to be in charge, because of his grey hair. He looked authoritative, and the CIA used him because of that. And here is the difficult thing. This is exactly the sort of thing the CIA would do. But it is also the sort of thing that the CIA would say to persuade them not to kill him. And so, when our heroes shoot him, we are robbed of the satisfaction of any form of justice, any form of vengeance. With no idea what the truth is, all we have is our heroes executing a man and throwing him on the street, in the exact same place as our first victim. Our heroes have gone from those trying to help to those causing the random, senseless violence that instigated the story.

    But it gets better. Because soldiers find the corpse, and then start discussing how things have actually got better in Baghdad. Not because such deaths are less frequent. But because there is now a car to help move the bodies. A perfectly cynical moment to end the story.

    Omega Men, the Vision and Sheriff of Babylon are united in the theme of people with good intentions going into a dark place and falling. The ending shows these characters broken. Kyle Rayner loses his faith, and sits defeated and broken. The Vision his so lost in his obsessions that he starts again, making the same mistakes and never redeeming himself, even as he stands side by side the Avengers. But I think Sheriff of Babylon gets it the most right. The others are restricted by the fact that the characters can’t be broken. There are Kalistas and Virginias whose job is to do the true evil so that Kyle Rayner and the Vision aren’t broken beyond repair. It is a testament to Tom King’s skill that Kalista and Virginia’s character arcs are so well developed that these moments feel like the perfect ending of their arcs series long arcs, and not a narrative cheat. And that Kalista and Virginia’s actions are also the perfect conclusion to many of the other themes that run through the books.
    But here, in the world of creator owned, Tom King can truly emphasise that final thrust. The situation is the same as the other two books. The choice to kill a defenceless man. A man who has caused evil, but whose situation is much more complex than the heroes wish it to be, whether it is because of the cruel calculus of saving lives, the struggles with drug addiction or the simple fact that this man may only be a stooge. And here, there is no need to protect Chris, Sofia and Nassir. And, instead, we get the perfect moment to tie up every single theme that Sheriff has, as our heroes do what everyone else so nearly did. No matter how good their intentions, in such a toxic environment, you cannot escape corruption.

    And you want to know what the best part is? Due to Tom King’s past in the CIA, he had to send the script of every issue of this book to the CIA, to be vetted to make sure that it revealed no secrets. So every month, a CIA agent had to read this book, this scathing criticism of America and the CIA’s involvement in Iraq.

    The Trilogy of Good Intentions is a masterpiece, and I think this issue is my favourite issue of the year. A masterpiece among masterpieces. I am going to miss reading Tom King books every month, in my wait for Season 2 to begin.

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