Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 2/8/17

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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 Star Wars Doctor Aphra 4 and Black 4. We will be discussing The Wicked + The Divine 26 on Tuesday and East of West 31 and Moonshine 5 on Wednesday, so check those out too!  As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Star Wars Doctor Aphra 4

star-wars-doctor-aphra-4Patrick: I had never asked myself the question: does Indiana Jones like being an adventure-archeologist? By all accounts, he’s good at it, and he seems to get genuinely excited when he’s piecing together clues, but any of the actually adventuring seems to be either a matter of course or an unpleasant inconvenience. Maybe my inability to get a read on Doctor Jones’ passions is part of what makes the character so iconically cool. He’s an avatar for the reader, so the fact that we like seeing him on adventures is motivation enough. We’ve compared Doctor Aphra to Jones a number of times — the comparison is inevitable — but it is worth noting that for all their similarities, Aphra is more outwardly villainous. If she’s got that same unwavering devotion to a life of adventure, we are allowed to be more critical of it. Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker’s Doctor Aphra 4 explores the possibility that Aphra just might hate this lifestyle.

Although, it’s possible that we’re just catching her at a particularly low moment. Aphra, her father, and her two murder-bots have located the coordinates they came to Yavin-4 to retrieve and now it’s simply a matter of getting past the Imperial guards. Y’know, the “adventure” part of this equation. The problem is, for all of Aphra’s expertise, things keep unfolding in ways that he hates. Here’s a fun example that becomes markedly less fun if you think about it too much: Aphra asks BT-1 to slow down their pursuers. Beetee dutifully blows them up.

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The looks of disappointment on Doctors Aphra’s faces tell a fairly complete story, right? It’s not a surprise a few pages later when Aphra, during the most thrilling part of their escape, mutters “You know, sometimes, I hate my job.”

Of course, this is amidst a war zone. The issue ends on more of an emotional cliffhanger, with Aphra et al.  discovering the every lost city they were looking for. I love Walker’s work here, which is give extra clarity by Marc Deering’s meticulous inking and Antonio Fabela’s smartly transparent coloring. The citadel is beautiful, tranquil, and instantly recognizable as exactly what we’re looking for.

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Black 4

black-4Drew: The X-Men have long stood as an allegory for the oppression of minorities in the US, but almost always from the perspective of white male writers and artists. It’s only from that perspective that Magneto’s “by any means necessary” approach could be viewed as unequivocally evil, revealing the limits of white commentary on the black experience. That may be Black‘s biggest strength — it doesn’t just set out to address race in America more explicitly, but offers the perspective of actual black people. It’s biggest weakness, then, might be that it doesn’t have the decades of stories and legion of familiar characters to draw from that the X-Men do. Fortunately, it can crib from that history without too much discomfort.

I’ve been struck in previous issues at how explicit the X-Men inspirations are — issue 3 introduced an erudite beast of a man, and issue 2 introduced a character who could control fire. This issue still has those kinds of nods in spades (a Colossus-y metal dude stands out most to me), but shifts its focus to the aleigance of these characters, introducing criminal factions and a government-funded agency of black superheroes. They clash in spectacular fashion, though it may be a few too many new characters to follow.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Unfortunately, not fully understanding everyone’s motives means that this sequence kind of loses the social commentary thread a bit. The complexities of these forces interacting may be the point of this issue, and our uncertainty certainly mirrors Kareem’s, but it makes this fight feel a bit hollow. More importantly, we don’t see how it ends, so don’t even know whether Kareem and the detainees are captured. It’s a messy ending, but again, that may be the point.

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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 2/8/17

  1. So, I’ve been reading more Valerian and Laureline. And I have to say, I love how it has evolved. I moved into the very early 80s, into that period where Star Wars was actually being released, and while the book has continued to be great, energetic sci fi. Many of the flaws I initially described (liberal use of Chandler’s Law, or Laureline’s constant capture as a plot point gets have disappeared (unfortunately, Laureline instead gets left behind in support capacities instead of being captured. Better than before, but still an example of its time), and stories feel more structured, while being full of the imagination that makes the series work. And characters get deeper, with some real contrasts between the two leads being developed that go beyond ‘good dynamic’ but position the two of them into interestingly different worldviews that fuel plotlines, like Valerian’s loyalty to Galaxity compared to Laureline’s following of her own conscience.

    And then it got even better with the first two parter (note: each part is around 50 pages, nto 20), a story that splits them up, with Valerian in 1980s France while Laureline is in the future in a distant star system, only able to communicate to each other through an unreliable psychic link in a long running mission. This was a massive step up for a book that was already really great. Themes of loneliness and culture shock set in as Valerian struggles to live in 1980s France and to live without Laureline, and both characters struggle with their need for each other – especially Valerian – while separated by space and time. It becomes textured in a way that it wasn’t before, and even better. It sound squite simple, the way they talk past each other and how Valerian makes stupid decisions sabotaging himself, but the personalities, the settings and the context so wonderfully create this story. Even the method of storytelling, where we only know of Laureline’s actions through flashbacks as she explains, are way of building this great distance, between them. Hell, even the blatant fanservice scene actually more meaningful than you expect, rooting itself in part to Laureline’s relationship and current dynamic with Valerian

    Valerian and Laureline is actually, honestly, really great. Can’t wait to read the next few albums, to see how they follow up of the emotionally textured story I jsut read

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