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: Poe Dameron 8, Cannibal 2, Glitterbomb 3, Green Valley 2, and Shipwreck 2. We also discussed Namesake 1 on Friday, so check that out! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron 8
Patrick: There is — presumably — a mole in Black Squadron. Up until issue 8, that’s been acknowledged as an inconvenience, a military-intelligence hurdle to clear once things have calmed down a bit. But now that Poe & Co. are back on D’Qar, the cold reality has set in: a mole in Black Squadron means that someone in Poe’s inner circle is actively working against him. Betrayal. Poe, for his part, is barely accepting this as a reality, and he’s echoing a lot of the language I’ve been hearing/using since last Tuesday’s election. He’s sick over the possibilities, but has so few choices left to make. Poe had assumed he knew everyone on Black Squadron, but evidently, “knowing” someone isn’t enough.
That’s where the rubber meets the road and the creative team of Charles Soule and Phil Noto (reunited after one issue apart) pivot to the origin story for a character we don’t know particularly well – Agent Terex. It’s a sad story, tracking the journey of two Storm Troopers at the end of the war between the Rebels and the Empire. Terex, then known as TK-603, and his partner Corlac, cobble together the wireframe of a life without the Empire, and while Corlac is all about moving on, Terex is too well-indoctrinated to let the dream of Palpatine die. He may be a member of the First Order now, but he’ll always be driven to by his Imperial duties. Soule and Noto cast this quirk as both empowering and tragic, juxtaposing Terex’ defiant actions in the present with his obedient actions in the past.
Terex is, like most of the characters in The Force Awakens, tasked with determining his own identity in the Star Wars Universe. Rey plays with Rebel helmets and lives among the ruins of their last great battle, Finn rejects his First Order training, Kylo Ren cosplays as his father and openly confesses to having to reject “the pull to the light.” If there’s one strong unifying and powerful theme to episode seven, it’s this idea that there’s no escaping the past – it happened and it will inform who you, no matter what — but you have the ability to embrace or reject whatever future is implied by that past. (Which, incidentally, is why I like that movie so much: it’s so aware of the weight of its own legacy. It’s a Star Wars movie about Star Wars movies – how cool is that?)
That brings us back to the question of who the mole is. Soule is planting some hints that could very well be red herrings, like Threepio’s network of droid-spies (if the Rebels can do it, why can’t the First Order?) or Oddy’s insipid humility. Whatever the final reveal, it will undoubtably play into the notion that someone had an identity before joining up with Black Squadron that they have refused to let go of. Every act of betrayal can be seen as loyalty to another group, and I trust that’s what Soule and Noto are driving towards.
Patrick: There’s a reason there’s a professional crime-solving class. Not only does it actually take years and years of training and experience to become a successful detective, the person investigating the crime needs to have a measured objectivity that only comes from someone doing their nine-to-five. Cannibal 2 finds Cash investigating his own
fiance’s girlfriend’s disappearance. The upshoot is that he’s much quicker to hold someone accountable, but, y’know, that means beating an innocent — albeit creepy — man within an inch of his life.
The whole issue might actually be about the need for measured, reasonable reactions to horrible things. Writers J. Young and Brian Buccellato open on Danny’s son and sister, on their way to visit the boy’s father. They stop at a gas station, and Louise gives in to Boone’s hunger, allowing him one snack. She regrets this almost immediately when the cashier refuses to sell a regular a pack of smokes without his ID. Things get heated, but only momentarily. The costumer, however, comes back later and eats the cashier. Remember: cannibals. This ends up demonstrating the main story of the issue in miniature – Cash will have a similarly valid reason to be angry with Carl, but the fact that both men resort to cathartic violence shows just how thin that line between monster and man actually is.
The obvious artistic triumph from this issue is the scene wherein Cash loses it and wails on Carl. Artist Matias Bergara tosses clarity right out the window, favoring the chaos of a rage-fueled beat-em-up. Everything in this sequence is unruly – the lighting, the shadows, a totally erratic camera. The steadiest thing in the sequence is colorist Brian Buccellato’s thematically-loaded sunset.
Ryan D: Glitterbomb 1 surprised me in a lot of ways. I mean, straight from the second page we saw an incredible, horrifying murder committed by our protagonist, followed by a very patient look at an actor”s life, rife with narrative potential. My worry was that the gimmick featured in the first issue- which was a creature feature with soul commenting on Hollywood’s mistreatment of performers, specifically women- would be just a gimmick. Instead, the creators have treated us to a very compelling narrative which seems to delight in telling its story however it damn pleases.
Issue three goes out of its way to put the readers on the spot again. Much like the Brubaker Kill or be Killed, the audience is held again responsible for a murder committed byFarrah:
Well, that was horrifying and awesome. It’s an interesting thing: watching a character I like struggle through life, building my empathy for her, then forcing me to reconcile with her barbaric act of revenge. Was that guy a dick who certainly deserved some punishment? Yes. Did his head deserve to explode? Is that some allegory for the follies of ego in the acting industry? I dunno, man! And I like not knowing. Glitterbomb isn’t holding my hand and allows me questions while telling a surprisingly snug, paced narrative. Though it leans on some conventional plot devices, these characters feel very real to me- complex and troubling and lovely- and I admit that it has its dirty tentacle wrapped around me.
Green Valley 2
Spencer: I never learned how to study. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was bright enough to score A’s and B’s in all my classes without trying, and by the time some of my classes got more difficult I was too used to breezing through my work to put the effort into learning to study. That’s a problem I still struggle with to this day; if I’m not immediately good at something, I tend to just give up instead of pushing myself. In Max Landis and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Green Valley 2, the Knights of Kelodia deal with a similar problem: they never learned to lose.
I was expecting this issue pick up right where Green Valley 1 left off, with the Knights going on a rip-roaring spree of revenge against those who destroyed their kingdom, but instead, Landis and Camuncoli skip ahead a year to find the Knights still moping around in the ravaged remains of their former home. Loss has destroyed the Knights of Kelodia, and particularly Bert, who is still broken by the death of his love, Amalia, to the point where he even contemplates suicide. Their grief is understandable, and of course I feel for them, but it’s also indicative of men who have never before tasted defeat, and thus have never learned to pick themselves back up and move forward. They wallow in their grief, and with no more enemies to fight, they take out their frustrations on each other instead.
This moment particularly stood out to me in that regard. We spoke a bit last month about how Bert and Ralphie’s bromance had some ambiguously romantic overtures, and this moment continues that thread — was Ralphie jealous of Amalia in a romantic fashion, or simply because it meant Bert would no longer be able to continue his adventures with the Knights? Is there even that much of a difference between the two? No matter what, this shows that even the two closest Knights of Kelodia have resorted to the most pointed, personal barbs in their repertoire and turned them on each other. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The young boy’s request for aid is a much needed chance for these four men to get back in the saddle, then, but they may need more than simply an opportunity to win more battles; that won’t solve the problems that led them to this point in the first place. That’s where magic and dragons come in: the Knights of Kelodia are up against something even they’ve never dealt with before, and while I’m sure they’ll eventually win and save the day, they’ll almost definitely suffer and face some losses along the way. Learning to endure that, get back up, and keep fighting anyway is exactly what the Knights need.
Drew: For me, the appeal of David Lynch is his utter fearlessness in leaving the audience utterly confused. Virtually every Lynch film has at least one moment that completely baffles me, throwing my expectations of what could happen right out the window. Lesser filmmakers might inadvertently make something unclear, but what makes Lynch unique is that those moments of confusion are often some of the most confidently directed. That is, we understand that it’s not the storytelling, but the story itself that is confusing. That distinction is difficult to pull off, so it’s rare that we are told truly confusing stories, making Lynch’s films all the more unusual and disorienting. Warren Ellis and Phil Hester manage something similar in Shipwreck 2, casting us adrift in a world we still know remarkably little about, challenging us to find anything to hold onto.
The crows Jonathan has been following leads him to a sky burial, and to the strange world that practices this particular method of body disposal. The details are truly bizarre — the bodies are those of travelers who make pilgrimage to a bell in the desert in order to be killed by its sound — establishing a world whose rules are so fluidly different from our own, its all but impossible to separate their literal and symbolic meanings. Indeed, while we do learn a bit more about the mission that ruined Jonathan’s life and the man that ruined the mission, the biggest details to glean might be more symbolic in nature. Look at the way Hester renders Valeska Halter, a seeming zealot of the bell, though she knows more about Jonathan than she initially lets on.
We don’t learn much about who Valeska is or where she comes from, but Hester often depicts her in silhouette and/or nests one image of her within another. It’s not entirely clear what we can glean from this peculiar motif, but Hester uses it quite specifically for Valeska — no other character is treated in this way. Perhaps the nesting represents her duplicitous nature, perhaps the silhouettes her mysteriousness? There aren’t hard answers, but it’s rare that a narrative forces these kinds of formal questions so deliberately — with so little conveyed in the dialogue, we have no choice but to scrutinize the art a bit more. I love it.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?