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 Captain Kid 5, Extremity 2, Faith 10, Star Wars 30 and Woods 31. Also, we discussed Black Cloud 1 on Thursday, Rock Candy Mountain 1 on Friday and Jughead 14 today. Also we’re discussing Eleanor and the Egret 1 on Tuesday and Paper Girls 13 on Wednesday, so check those out! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Captain Kid 5
Drew: In our close readings of comics, we aim to focus on the elements on the page for explaining whether or not a comic works. Elements like pacing, flow, clarity, and a number of other subjective assessments we draw from objective elements like layout, line quality, or color. I always strive to avoid trying to then explain why those elements may or may not have ended up on the page — I abhor “reviews” that draw conclusions about “editorial interference” or some other hitch in production. But then there are times where the story of the comic as-is is incomplete without a nod to production; issues that are so out-of-character for the creative team that something needs to account for it. Such is the case with Captain Kid 5, the apparent series finale.
When issue 4 abruptly changed the course of the series, I couldn’t help but think that it was because it was conceived as an ongoing, but had been switched to a miniseries mid-course. That is, what was meant to be the conclusion of the first arc was changed to the series finale, which meant all of the threads writers Tom Peyer and Mark Waid had been seeding needed to either come to fruition quickly, or be forgotten entirely. It’s a shame, because there are clearly a lot of fun ideas that Peyer and Waid never had time to explore. To their credit, they cram as many of those into this issue as they can: a secret archnemesis disguised as Hela, Chris suffering from hallucinations after spending too much time as Captain Kid, Halliday becoming a kind of Black Adam to Captain Kid’s Captain Marvel, and Chris’ friends and family knowing his secret. These are great ideas, but ones that need whole issues (or potentially whole arcs) to really dig into. As it is, the issue reads more like a condensed pitch for future issues than it does like a satisfying conclusion.
Still, it’s a fun pitch, full of little threads that could’ve been very interesting had they had the time to develop. Halliday being undone by one of his harassed underlings is a great turn, and Captain Kid not knowing how to fight is a fun surprise — both of which could have supported bigger stories, had there been the space. Those elements mostly reinforce the wistful fantasy of how good this series could have been. It was a sleeper hit that never had the chance to find its audience, leaving it with an odd rush to an early end. Nothing illustrates this better than the final beat, a cliffhanger that ends up serving as a kind of punchline to the series:
That works fine as a punchline to this scene, but it feels a bit misplaced as the button of the whole series, which never seemed that interested in Chris maintaining his secret identity — it was incidental at most. It’s a moment that would have worked perfectly setting up the next arc, but as the final moment of the series, it doesn’t quite land. What does their knowing mean to Chris? What does it mean to them? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Mark: One of the challenges in discussing monthly comic books (or any serialized media, really) is that you’re only looking at one small, isolated chapter of a much larger work. Problems that seem apparent in a single issue can turn out to not be problems at all when the entire story arc is considered. For instance, I really enjoyed Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Extremity 1, but left hoping that future issues would be able to bring a clarity in plot to match the clarity in emotion demonstrated. That concern is rendered moot by Extremity 2.
It turns out the Extremity 1 was not like the first chapter of a novel, but more like one-half of the first chapter (or maybe even one-fourth, time will tell). In meeting Nim, leader of the Paznina and the one who wears the horned mask in battle, a great deal of the mystery about why even of this was happening has been cleared up; Nim sought revenge against the Roto after some sort of border dispute that ended up disfiguring her and her daughter. This is the best kind of exposition, as it makes clear everyone’s motivations but still leaves further mysteries to be explored as the series continues.
The world of Extremity builds out in other ways this issue, with the discovery of Shiloh, some sort of warrior robot suffering from some sort of Robot Amnesia. We’re treated to a brief history lesson of the conflict between the Paznina and the Roto. The stakes now feel much more clearly defined, which is as it should be as we anticipate the third issue of the run.
In the back pages of the issue, Johnson sings the much-warranted praise of Mike Spicer’s colors, but Johnson’s art is equally worthy of accolades. Extremity is marketed as being in the same vein as Studio Ghibli films, which I think does the art a disservice since it’s not really aping one particular style. Like his writing, Johnson’s pencils are a pastiche of styles and influences, presented in a way that feels wholly unique.
Taylor: In every superhero series, there comes a time when the stakes are upped and the powers of evil collude to rain down misery on their enemies. Usually, this takes the form of multiple villains teaming up to take down a hero because they’ve learned that they aren’t able to do so alone. But villains aren’t always the easiest to get along with, and, because they’re bad guys, the things we hate most in people are amplified a thousand in each of their characters. This means the supervillain team is a tenuous thing. After all, who better to double-cross a villain than one of their own?
Such is the premise of Faith 10 when the unlikely quartet of Sidney Pierce, Murder Mouse, Dark Star, and Chris Chriswell team up to try an take down Faith once and for all. It would be a boring premise if not for the unique makeup of this team which consists of an alien, a movie star, a cat, and dark arts user.
They form a bizarre foursome that doesn’t immediately seem threatening, given that none of them are particularly dangerous on their own. But that’s the fun here. With all of these villains working together, it seems only a matter of when, not if, they fuck things up. Now, whether they fuck things up for themselves or for others is yet to be seen. What is clear though, is that chaos will happen and that it will be fun.
That the fun is a given is a testament to writer Jody Houser, who cleverly spends most of the episode building character relationships among these new, unlikely allies. Faith actually makes very little of an impact on the issue and the best lines and funniest moments are saved for her nemesis. Because of that, it seems that the relationship between the villains in this next arc will take center stage. If that proves to be true, from what I’ve seen in this issue, it should be fun read.
Star Wars 30
Patrick: I hate the idea that one work of art could somehow retroactively ruin art that came before it. Like, I don’t care how much of a turd Crystal Skull is, we’re always going to have the perfect action/adventure gem that is Raiders. It gets harder to make that case where Star Wars is involved, as each film builds on not only the mythology, but the narrative and cinematic vocabulary of the previous films. The Prequel Trilogy has its numerous sins, but one of its most baffling is Attack of the Clones‘ handling of Yoda — instead of being a zen master hiding behind a shroud of wackiness, he’s a tiny magical ninja. In Star Wars 30, writer Jason Aaron and artist Salvador Larroca attempt to reverse this, by reminding the reader that Yoda’s badassery comes from his patience, his compassion, and his desire for peace.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for the most exciting comic book. Five issues into this arc and we’re still cutting back and forth between Luke in the present and Yoda in the past. Only, now there’s no assumption that Luke is reading any of this story. In fact, the framing device of Luke reading a story Obi-Wan wrote about Yoda crumbles as Aaron can’t quite make meaningful connections between those characters — even failing to pay off the suggestion that Garro met Obi-Wan on Tattooine years ago.
So at the risk of sounding like a broken record: man, would this have been a satisfying story if it was simply an isolated Yoda adventure with no connection to the on-going Star Wars narrative. I actually really love the idea that Yoda finds victory in empathy, and that he’s able to heal a fractured world by simply insisting that they not fight. Yoda represents peace and peace is so small, you guys! Larroca’s command of scale here is incredible.
That’s the Yoda I want to see, complete with a bewildered “how is he doing that?” But connecting that to Luke arriving on the planet only to conveniently not hear Garro say Yoda’s name and somehow re-start the heart of the mountain seems superfluous. Hell, I’m not even sure what to take from the narrative that plays out between the pages wherein all the original inhabitants left the planet because Yoda gave them hope that there were better worlds and better cultures out there. Garro’s all pissed about it, but it basically has no bearing on this story. Did Yoda make a mistake in being so impressive? Or is it good that those people left and found other homes among the stars? It’s a thematic mess.
The Woods 31
Spencer: There’s much to love about The Woods‘s sci-fi elements, from the twists and turns of the alien moon’s technology and politics to the trippy, otherworldly art and colors of Michael Dialynas, but what I love most about this series is the emotions these elements elicit in the characters. The Woods 31 finds Dialynas and James Tynion IV splitting these two elements between their two storylines, so while there’s a lot to get excited about in regards to Karen’s adventures on the alien moon, it’s Sanami’s more grounded story back on Earth that truly captured my heart.
Of course, I’ve wanted to see Sanami’s family issues explored since the very beginning of this series, so in that sense it’s like this issue was written just for me. Trapping Sanami and her father in the same room allows for her resentment to finally reach its boiling point — she feels that her father treats her more like a source of income than a daughter that he actually cares about, an accusation triggered by his wanting to use her account of her traumatic experiences on the alien moon to rekindle his career, but one which has obviously been supported by their interactions throughout her entire life. Dialynas does tremendous work with silent panels this month, conveying subtle emotions in single, simple shots, but the best example of this comes when Mr. Ota finally puts his daughter before his career.
There’s very little change between panels 3 and 5, yet the way Sanami’s pupils shrink show how stunned she is by her father’s proposition. I hope he can stick to this path even as things get tougher, as they undoubtedly will.
The Earth plot also creates the potential for plenty more stories just as emotionally satisfying as Sanami’s. Dr. Robot allows for the “reunion” of Adrian — or at least his spirit captured within the alien moon’s database — and his mother, and Karen is able to see her mother as well thanks to her hallucinations back on the moon. As remarkable as the moon’s spectacles — such as what I can only assume is Isaac bursting forth from the chest of one of the Horde’s soldiers, Alien-style — can be, it’s those human elements that give The Woods its heart, and that’s always what I’m going to love the most about any comic.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?