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 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 8, Green Valley 6, and The Wicked + The Divine 27. Also, we discussed Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 5 on Friday, so check that out! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 8
Patrick: I love the idea of artificial intelligence struggling to process emotional information. There’s something very comforting about the notion that our brains have been successfully trained over decades of doing it wrong to quietly raise and lower the immediacy of whatever emotional baggage we cary. We all hold a lot of pain and a lot of joy in our histories, but we necessarily cannot feel all of it all the time, but TMNT Universe 8 suggests that the same is not true for the Donnie-copying AI inside Metalhead. All of his emotions come flooding back into his little metal brain all the time, and that makes him want to end it all. Unfortunately, we’re sort of left guessing as to what that sensation would be like rather than seeing it presented on the page.
I actually had a similar complaint about the last issue — this story arc isn’t nearly sympathetic enough to Metal-Don. He’s got the exact memories and personality of a character we already know and love, so it should be a short trip to loving him as well. Writer Ryan Ferrier almost actively resists giving us the story from MD’s perspective. There is a chunk of the story that is Metal-Don alone in Harold’s lab, but we only get that information when the flesh and blood Turtles see it on security tapes. And MD’s freakouts are seldom dramatized visually — the only time we ever get any indication about what’s setting him off, we get a single image of Bebop and Rocksteady’s gnarly faces. I’ll offer that, while that is an emotional moment in Donnie’s history, it is not the only emotional moment in Donnie’s history. MD is experiencing everything simultaneously, and Ferrier and artist Adam Gorham illustrate this by showing us one thing once.
It is, however, hard to argue with Gorham’s kinetic art work. Even his design for MD’s upgraded body screams “speed,” “strength,” “motion” and “violence.”
The hulking form of Metalhead 2.0 seems to take a few cues from the modern film versions of the TMNT: 8 feet tall with pecks ’til next week and shoulders that wouldn’t fit through a doorway. Gorham pairs that silliness with dramatic swoops and sharp angles, insisting on the cool, metal, mechanical aspects of the character. By the end of the issue, all we’ve really done is see Metalhead revived and placed in this imposing new body — that’s a cool destination, I just wish the trip was more compelling.
Green Valley 6
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
Ernest Hemingway (apocryphal)
Drew: I think the appeal of the legend of Ernest Hemingway’s six-word “novel” is that it seems to take his direct, unvarnished style to its logical extreme. Although, I might argue that chiseling a story down to a handful of words reveals just how decadent Hemingway (or whoever actually wrote these words) could be. That is, this story could easily be condensed to “a baby died,” but that would necessarily lose the drama and tragedy of the information coming to us piecemeal. Moreover, I think there’s something to be gained from being indirect — we understand that a baby died (perhaps in utero), even without the story being so inelegant as to simply tell us. I think we tend to favor exposition that works in this way, allowing us to fill in gaps and draw reasonable conclusions; it just feels less clunky than coming out and saying things. At the same time, some degree of directness is also necessary — it’s possible to communicate “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn” without using any of those exact words, but doing so would lose the very directness and efficiency that makes the story so effective. All of which is to say, there’s a balance of indirect and direct exposition, a point I think Green Valley 6 illustrates perfectly.
By this point in the story, we have a pretty good sense of what Cyril the Black’s story is — he’s clearly a time traveler skipping through time to steal valuables from history, and is now terrorizing the people of Green Valley in order to collect enough raw materials to repair his time machine. Nothing in the previous issues said that directly, but those were the inevitable conclusions we could draw from what we saw. Writer Max Landis had crafted this story to make heavy use of that indirect exposition. This issue, though, takes a more direct route, effectively telling us that the broad strokes we already had are correct, and filling in a few of the details along the way.
Remarkably, this approach doesn’t feel perfunctory or out-of-place — the conclusions we had been able to draw earlier relied on our familiarity with modern technology and fashion, information Bertwald necessarily didn’t have. In that way, this isn’t so much exposition as it is the release of dramatic irony — Bertwald now knows as much as we do (roughly), which will inform how he interacts with Cyril going forward. It’s a fun turn for the series, giving our heroes the information they need just when they need it the most.
The Wicked + The Divine 27
Spencer: The bulk of The Wicked + The Divine 27 is devoted to a chapter called “Phased,” where each two-page spread is a sixteen panel grid split into three or four different scenes, differentiated only by the color of the panel borders. This is yet another successful stylistic experiment for Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson — the segment is meant to show the passage of a full month, and succeeds in showing how small moment after small moment bleed into each other, growing from insignificant beginnings into something more important so gradually that it almost goes unnoticed.
The ability to pack that many different scenes into a relatively small amount of pages means that there’s a ton of incident and character development in this issue, and I think we’re gonna be looking back to this one as the genesis of what comes next for quite a while. Notable developments include Woden’s possible obsession with Persephone (indicated by his new choice of hooker), Amaterasu’s desire to be worshipped, Minerva’s building fear about her inevitable death, Persephone growing more bold and callous, and Cassandra’s total unwillingness to allow herself to have fun.
Perhaps most notable to me is the unraveling dynamic between Baphomet and the Morrigan. Ol’ Baph seems to be growing tired of being pushed around by the Morrigan (Gillen makes sure to point out in the character recap that the Morrigan voted for him, and in this issue won’t even let him make his own chess moves) but won’t leave her, even as he feels guilty for cheating on her with Persephone (yet won’t put a stop to it). The Morrigan’s tightening grip on Baphomet, meanwhile, is probably due to the fact that she suspects he’s cheating on her. It’s such a fascinatingly unhealthy relationship, I can’t get enough of it.
Of course, the way these gods are beginning to unravel may be the point of this entire storyline. Pantheon expert Professor David Blake explains to Cassandra that it’s always the second year of the recurrence when things start to get really bad, when gods begin to lose their minds, “bathe in blood.” It’s an harbinger of things to come, an omen in the form of the final shot of each god.
Is the Pantheon losing their grip? WicDiv 27 certainly provides compelling evidence that they might be, with looming “due dates” — be it for the Great Darkness’ final stand or for their own deaths — fueling their escalating obsessions. What seems absolutely certain, though, is that things are only going to get worse from here.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?