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 Godshaper 2, Green Valley 8, and Rock Candy Mountain 2. Also, we discussed Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel 1 on Friday, and will be discussing The Fix 9 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: People, unfortunately, are capable of justifying almost anything to themselves. Most of America’s slave-owners would’ve admitted that it was immoral to own human beings, so they convinced themselves and others that black people were somehow sub-human in an attempt to justify their own vile practices. We see similar rhetoric running throughout Simon Spurrier and Jonas Goonface’s Godshape 2 — even coming from the narrator itself!
I hadn’t given much thought to their identity throughout issue 1; I suppose I had assumed it was your average omniscient narrator. If they are omniscient, though, they certainly aren’t impartial; their narration reeks of anti-Shaper discrimination.
We can see attempts at justifying society’s hatred and discrimination towards Shapers here. Aside from their typical distrust of anything different, those with gods are also scared of Shapers. That fear isn’t totally without cause — Ennay proves early-on in this issue how easily a Shaper can decimate a god if they desire — but it certainly doesn’t warrant mass-discrimination (and as we see, Shapers ultimately have far more reasons to fear god-folk than vice-versa). Ultimately, though, god-folk will use any perceived transgression as an excuse to justify their discrimination. Shapers are promiscuous? See, that just proves how terrible they are; we’re right not to want them in our neighborhoods! It even applies on a micro-level; Hitchville uses Clench’s transgression not only as an excuse to crack down on Shapers, but to specifically attack Ennay in retribution for Clench’s crime (showing how they don’t view shapers as individuals as all, but simply as a single hated group of “others”).
Speaking of Clench, Spurrier uses Godshaper 2 to explore the complicated ways Shapers interact as well. Clench and Ennay speak of rules and guidelines for Shapers — in this case, to specifically protect and guide their youngest and most vulnerable — but their doesn’t ultimately appear to be much unity between them. Ennay mentions how rare it is for Shapers to run across each other on the road, and Clench is more than willing to sell Ennay out and steal the entirety of his Earthly possessions even after a night of passion together. The Shapers should be uniting and working together, but that scares the god-folk, so they make survival so hard that Shapers feel forced to sell each other out just to make it to the next day. In a way, we can even see this reflected in Ennay; issue 1 portrayed him as a reluctant hero, and that carries over this month as well. He clearly cares about people and about morality, but he works hard to hide it, lest those emotions make him vulnerable. The hero part of that equation is who Ennay actually is; the reluctant half is what society’s made him.
Goonface continues to shine on art and colors too. There’s so many moments I love this month, but my favorite comes when Ennay confronts the mob in Hitchville.
The angle that makes the man’s fist look twice as large as it should is such a fun trick of perspective, but it also supports the narrative Spurrier’s building. As powerful as these gods are, the real danger here are the humans who worship them.
Hm. Methinks there may be a metaphor here somewhere.
Green Valley 8
Drew: We often talk about narrative surprises in terms of moment-to-moment plot points, like when an ally actually turns out to be a villain, or when Bruce Willis turns out to be a ghost. But there are also surprises at a formal level — that is, a story can surprise us with how it surprises us. Indeed, as media-savvy readers, surprising us on that meta level may be more important, as we’ve already seen the most common narrative arcs hundreds of times over. Green Valley‘s distinctively anarchic take on those arcs was one of its biggest appeals, but issue 8 loses some of that magic, playing out last month’s twist more or less how we might have imagined it.
That’s not to say there aren’t some great moments. Gulliver fulfilling his destiny as dragon-slayer is a lot of fun, but much of that satisfaction comes from it being exactly what we want.
The heroic turn for a cowardly character is decidedly familiar, as is the maybe-a-heroic-sacrifice, maybe-he-survived-after-all “death” by going over a waterfall. They’re exciting moments, but moments that we’ve seen before, carrying this series from an exotic twist on a favorite dish to straight-up comfort food.
The biggest culprit in that regard is Bertwald enacting the plan he kicked off at the end of issue 7. It’s an incremental advancement, failing to really give us any new information, simply showing us what happens next. Ralphus tries to stop Bertwald. They get separated, but Bertwald is at least sent back to the night of the barbarian attack on the castle. There’s drama, there’s excitement, and the set-up for the next issue is solid, but there’s none of the surprises that made this series so fun in its early issues.
Maybe I’m too enamored of the “time traveler story from the perspective of medieval onlookers” premise, but this series becoming a straight-up time-travel story leaves me a little cold. And I say that as a huge Back to the Future Part II fan. I don’t doubt that the final issue will be as fun as that movie, but I fear that it may not have any more surprises.
Rock Candy Mountain 2
Patrick: I always find it fascinating what people choose to believe in. I’m neither a religious or a superstitious man, but I do believe in the power of story and art to help provide mental, emotional and moral framework for life. That belief is arguably a product of its time — if I were farming in the dust bowl, I might need to embrace the promise of an eternity among the clouds to muscle through another scorched summer. Rock Candy Mountain 2 plays with a lot of different characters’ beliefs, and in so doing, reflects those beliefs back to the reader. There are some that we’re easy to toss off as wrongheaded or antiquated, and some that might just feel goddamn enlightened.
And writer/artist Kyle Starks is not particularly interested in subtlety in this department. The first scene in the issue is set at the FBI offices. Some of Babs Bardoux’s underlings are openly undermining her explicitly because she’s a woman. Quote the third-biggest asshole in this issue: “ain’t no skirt a boss of me.” Obviously, this guy’s a product of his time, but it’s impossible for a reader to let him off the hook for that kind of comment, and Starks is happy to rain down sweet sweet karmic justice on this sexist oaf. Bardoux whips him into shape, invoking the cross-dressing of J. Edgar Hoover to make her point. Starks is working on a couple different levels here, playing with the readers’ understanding of history and our opinions about that history in the same breath. It’s easy to say “yo, this dude is misogynist,” but it might take a more nuance mind to parse out the morality of the shit Bardoux is talking, even though both are based on societal expectations of gender.
That kind of question only gets further complicated when we skip ahead to the end of the issue, and Jackson has succeeded his fight club scheme; Black Orchid offers him free access to “the prostitute room.” First of all — gross, let’s find a better word for that. Second — we get three separate reactions to this offer: Jackson declines (he’s married); Slim recoils (that’s “not his kind of thing”); and Hundred Cats calls dibs on the opportunity. All three reactions are given the same kind of weight, and none of them are praised or chastised for their choices — essentially no moral judgements here. At least, none that Starks is willing to put forth. That’s echoed earlier in the piece by Cookie at the small hobo encampment. He espouses lettings men believe whatever they want if it helps them through life. Y’know — just so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. I suppose your definition of “hurt” has to be pretty loose let both fighting and prostitution fly under that radar, but the general point stands. Believe in something.
Just don’t be racist.
Racist dudes get one-punch-killed. Maybe all beliefs aren’t created equal after all.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?