Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 11/30/16

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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 Jughead 11 and TMNT Universe 4. We’ll be discussing Saga 40 on Tuesday and Star Wars Annual 2 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Jughead 11

jughead-11Taylor: Gary Oldman is an international treasure. The man who has played Zorn from the Fifth Element is also Sirius Black and also Dracula and Commissioner Gordon. Oldman is a true chameleon who inhabits every role so much that he practically disappears into it. I’m continually struck by his talent and because of this I’m immediately interested in any movie he’s in – even those which I know have no hope of being good. Oldman is just that awesome and fun that I can’t say no to anything he does. There are other artists like this who I follow obsessively as well and while Ryan North isn’t one of them, he is awesome enough that I’ll read anything he authors. Even if it happens to be a Jughead and Sabrina the Teenage Witch crossover.

After a calamitous first date Sarbina and Jughead are threatened by a an evil horse monster. She takes care of the monster with magic and also manages to not disclose her magical powers. Later though she finds herself wishing she could just tell someone about her frustrations having to keep her magic a secret while at the same time not relying on it to make her way in life. Luckily, Jughead shows up and using a spell to replace the words “witch” with “cool teens” and “magic” with “burgers” Sabrina is able to confide her feelings.

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It’s a funny scene and North gets a lot of distance from a simple joke that is basically stolen from the pages of a Mad-Lib book. Still, North is is a master at taking zany jokes and extending them to a point that the initial hokiness of the original joke is not only funny, but downright entertaining. The replacing of “cool teens” and “burgers” here isn’t particularly revolutionary and really has no right to be as funny as it is. However, North pushes the envelope with just how far this basic joke can run and that’s where the humor lies in the sequence. saying that “any fool can use burgers to get what they want” borders on the nonsensical. However, there’s just enough plausibility there to make it not totally insane. Residing on the border between the absurd and real is where North makes his bread and butter and it’s always delicious.

This humor is fun but it’s made better because it also supports the narrative of the issue. Being able to confide in Jughead, albeit in a humorous and secretive way, helps Sabrina deal with her frustrations. That the replacing of words with more silly words actually aids in the development of a character is actually genius in a way. I’m always surprised by the way North is able to leverage his humor with actual story telling and perhaps that’s why I’m willing to read anything he writes these days.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 4

tmnt-universePatrick: As Paul Allor and Damian Couceiro’s “longest night of their lives” story comes to a close in TMNT Universe 4, it’s hard to say what’s actually changed in the world of the titular turtles. One of the grunts shares a similar frustration with Agent Bishop, petulantly asking what the point of this whole siege really was. Bishop villainously mumbles his way through an explanation of the tactical advantages they have going forward (being almost comically dismissive at the loss of human life), but the real changes are too small and subtle for him to notice. The TMNT franchise is built around this undying theme of “family,” that they stronger, safer and happier together than they are apart. Where the Null Corporation has caused real damage in these last four issues isn’t in stolen technology or in human casualties, but in challenging that value of that idea.

Zodi rejecting Michelangelo’s olive branch is the most obvious example of this, but I think it even extends to the way the narrative frames Raphael’s confession / apology at the end of the issue. It’s kind of basic stuff: he’s asking to be forgiven for letting his anger drive his actions. Raph may preface his speech by saying “[this] isn’t an easy thing for me to say,” but he speaks about his own fears and emotions like someone who’s been drafting a thorough psychological sketch of himself. This happened, so I felt this, and acted this way, and I’m sorry. The joke of the scene is that all his brothers have passed out, wiped out after a night of non-stop fightin’. It’s a fine gag, but it undercuts what a family actually is – a dialogue. Zodi interrupted Mikey, with an abrupt “STOP IT,” but a lack of communication is a lack of communication.

I guess by the end of the issue, I’m not totally sure how to feel – those thematic ideas aren’t totally clear. That’s actually a complaint I have with Couceiro’s artwork in this issue as well. Couceiro is one of those kinetic artists that seems perfectly suited for the kind of bombastic grace that these characters require. And on a panel-to-panel basis, he’s largely successful, but it’s the space between the panels where he starts to fall short. It’s nearly impossible to get the lay of a room during a fight sequence, and some of the lines implied by the action only serve to lead the reader’s eye in the wrong direction. Here’s an example from early in the issue that had me kind of baffled.

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Between the second the third panels, the camera rotates like 180 degrees and swings up wildly to catch this dramatic angle down the stairwell. That third panel is great — and taps that Vertigo-esque visual vocabulary — but it’s impossible to track Raph from one panel to the next in this sequence. Like, if that third panel was flipped horizontally and took up that whole row, it’d be a million times clearer. Then even the curve of the buckling door in the first panel would express the shape of Raph’s path. Couceiro is great at creating these individual moments, but I gotta see them working together to really mean something.

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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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