Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 5/31/17

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 Hadrian’s Wall 7, Sex Criminals 19 and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 7. Also, we’ll be discussing Saga 43 on Tuesday and Kill or Be Killed 9  on Wednesday. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Hadrian’s Wall 7

Spencer: There’s no such thing as a painless break-up. Even the most amicable split is sure to leave behind some level of pain, confusion, or resentment, while the more overtly hostile ones find partners reveling in hurting each other. Throughout Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis’ Hadrian’s Wall we’ve seen that kind of pain exemplified in Simon Moore, who’s still reeling both mentally and physically from his break-up with his ex-wife Annabelle years prior. In issue 7, though, the creative team applies this theme to the series’ broader plot as well — the Thetan rebels want to “break up” with Earth, and specifically want to do so in the most painful, spiteful way possible.

In this penultimate issue the creative team also gives us the full story behind their driving mystery. Edward, Selina, and Marshall had been using their authority to hide and sell a variety of Anzinite potent enough to destroy the Earth to the Thetan rebels, but when Edward discovered that the Anzinite would decay beyond use before it reached Earth, he got cold feet, and Selina and Marshall killed him before he could betray them. It should be noted that Selina and Marshall don’t share the rebels’ goals: they just want money, something they gloat about as they sit around a table which Reis portrays as a massive white blank space in the page (does this represent how empty their hearts are, or their heads?). By the end of the issue, though, both are dead, a result of their underestimating how passionate the rebels truly are.

The rebels — led by Commander Willow — want Theta to be independent of Earth, but their plan to achieve it involves blowing up the Earth! They don’t just want to “break-up” with the Earth, they want to do so in the most painful way possible. That appears to be more out of spite than necessity (blowing up the Earth is their Plan A, not a back-up), something that carries over to just about every choice Willow makes throughout the issue.

Willow and the rebels are the kind of partners who absolutely destroy their relationships and all involved on the way out, and their example only emphasizes how much Simon has finally grown. The objectivity he was eventually able to show in realizing that Annabelle had been framed and his ability to fake an argument with Annabelle as bait (instead of devolving into a real one) show that he’s moved beyond wanting her to hurt, a step the Thetans have been unable to take. With all this growth it’s a shame Simon and his fellow captives appear doomed. With so much at stake, issue 8 will no doubt be one hell of a finale.


Sex Criminals 19

Drew: For me, the joy of studying an artform is understanding the choices available to the artist. Whatever “unadulterated” joys there are to glean from, say, your favorite song are only enhanced when you understand that the melody didn’t have to resolve that way — that it was  a deliberate choice made for a specific reason. Artists can lean into that effect, drawing our attention to the choices they’re making, perhaps as a kind of post-modern self-awareness, perhaps as a way of simply emphasizing the effect of the choice. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky make a choice that walks the line between those two, resulting in a sequence that manages to be totally about itself while also perfectly serving the story.

I’m speaking, of course, about the Doc’s nervous info dump on his date with Dr. Kincaid:

Doc and Dr. Kincaid

By any measure, that’s a ton of text. Under different circumstances, though, you could see this team handling it by giving Doc a series of panels, each with a little bit of this monologue, and each with a unique expression. But that’s really not the point here. Fraction and Zdarsky want to emphasize just how overwhelming the wall of text is, so display it as such, having it physically disrupt the space. That choice definitely draws attention to itself, but it also perfectly fits the heightened world of SexCrims, perfectly capturing Doc’s self-consciousness as he vomits up this flood of words.

It’s an issue full of interesting choices — especially as Jon’s fantasies become ever more surreal — but as ever, it’s the earnest emotional through-line that grounds this issue. Even here, as Doc’s monologue knocks people over, it’s revealing both his nervousness, and giving us a hint of just what Dr. Kincaid might find so endearing about him. Things are looking decidedly less bright for Jon and Suzie, who are struggling through Jon’s lie-of-omission, but Fraction and Zdarsky manage to give us shippers something else to hold onto even as they (however temporarily) drag their central romantic leads over the rocks.


Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 7

Patrick: If there’s one reservation I have about Marvel’s Star Wars comics, it’s that they too often rely on the themes already explored in the movies. I was kind of excited to see Princess Leia, Han Solo and even the main Star Wars series address more ambitious, abstract ideas, like the franchise’s responsibility to its own legacy, but The Force Awakens was all too happy to take that ball and run it in for a touchdown. Rouge One stayed a lot closer to classic Star Wars thematic fare, effectively doubling down on the power of friendship and the nobility of sacrifice. Doctor Aphra 7 takes the first part of that equation — the power of friendship — and puts it under the ugly-microscope, forcing the uncomfortable question of what we expect to get out of our friendships.

By the end of the previous issue, Aphra was pretty callously treating Luke like little more than a bargaining chip to get what she wanted from the Queen of Ktath’atn. Luke — kind lil’ farm boy that he is — refuses to hang on to any kind of animosity, and jumps to Aphra aid when Sana tries to blast her. Artist Andrea Broccardo draws just about the dopiest Luke Skywalker you can imagine, and it’s absolutely adorable.

And writer Kieron Gillen stuffs Luke’s mouth with equally dopey/endearing dialogue. The example above pretty much sums it up: “I hope.” Oh, Luke, you’re cute.

But the cynical rubber meets the road when Triple Zero starts taking control of the situation. He is cruelly calculated, leveraging both Beetee and Black Krrsantian to give himself an edge in the battle against this armored juggernaut. Leia is appalled, asking about Triple Zero could possibly be so monstrous, but his answer reads less malevolent and more pragmatic. Sure, it means he’s literally sawing in the Krrsantian’s skull to implant an alien parasite DIRECTLY INTO HIS BRAIN, but it also means that he’s saving everyone in the process. Plus, y’know, Wookies aren’t allowed on this planet, so we can assume that ol’ BK will show some resistance to the parasite’s control.

So, what do you know: there is room to explore new themes in Star Wars.


The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

2 comments on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 5/31/17

  1. Patrick, I’m surprised you said that Rogue One stayed a lot closer to classic Star Wars thematic fare, since I find it hard to discuss without discussing how themes of terrorism and the cost of war are introduced. It has similarities, but it is also the film that treated Jadha like a movie ont eh War of Terror and had character arcs built around things like child soldiers, vetreans tha tlost the war and most importantly, people who do bad thigns for the good guys. THe massive difference between the original movies and Rogue One is tha tRogue One’s heroes straddle the grey in a way the originals never did. Can’t ignore that difference


    Criminal: Decided to read Brubaker and Phillips Criminal as, likely due to its anthology nature, it appears to be the centre of the Brubaker/Philips work. THough honestly, I was initially disappointed.

    The first couple of comics all have the same structure. A guy who has nothing to lose gets involved in something they don’t want to do, but feel they have to. They also get involved with a femme fatale figure that they really shouldn’t, and as events collide, realise they did have something to lose after all, ending up with nothing. There is artfulness to it, often, but it feels like it is playing the depressign notes too often. Dark is great, but you can’t be pitch black all the time. There is never a win, never a victory, never a sense of thigns getting better. THere needs to be some true successes, even if they have to be temporary, before the hammer falls to end the tragedy.

    And the repetitive nature makes the treatment of women inescapable. Brubaker has history with great female characters in his runs of Catwoman, Fatale and Velvet, btu I feel he can easily fall into traps when he’s writing from the point of view of men. Each of those first few stories has, essentially, a single female character. THe femme fatale whose job it is to be beautiful and connect with the protagonist. Even the Sinners, which has a second female characters, adds ‘woman that the bad guys think the protagonist is sleeping with, which causes problems’.

    But with the Last of the Innocent, things really change. From here, Brubaker and Philips starting playing with pastiche, riffing on other genres by paralleling them with noir. Last of the Innocent is the best, taking on Archie Comics. Essentially, Archie grows up, marries Veronica, and moves to the city. But when he returns to Riverdale, he finds himself summoned by the siren song of nostalgia, to murderous consequences. Mixingf Archie style comics with noir perfectly represents the way that nostalgia is romanticised, and how it warps our view of events. Especially as Brubaker has great fun writing Archie style gags, except using mature content. Like a classically done ‘Betty gets herself a week’s detention, so she can spend a week with Archie in dentention instead of with Veronica’. Except this time, Betty gets detention for using very inappropriate language and slut shaming Veronica.
    Instead of being an attack on Archie, it actually ends about being a great story about a man who thought he had everything, and realised he had nothing. And a story about a man who also thought the world revolved around him, only to struggle with the realisation that it wasn’t. And a man who can’t deal with either reality, so destroys everyone around him to return to that nostalgic view of before. He gets everything he wants, but jsut ends up a more pathetic figure, trapped in perpetual arrested development. Archie just happens to be the perfect set of tropes – highly nostalgic 50s Americana, the world really does revolve around Archie, and the Betty and Veronica dilema perfectly represents the problem the lead is facing. Fantastic.

    FOllowign this are stories pastiching Conan and Silver Age superheroes, that each use them really effectively to explore the characters and their isolations (more importantly, what traits leave them so isolated). Criminal turned from a noir crime comic that needed a kick up it boot to a really fantastic, unique book based n mixing noir with other genres to create powerful parallels.


    Scarlet: Can Bendis do more creator owned stuff? I’m the biggest Riri fan there is, btu I will happily sacrifice her for more Scarlet. Hell, considering Maleev is doign the disappointing Infamous Iron Man, why don’t they just cancelt hat and do more Scarlet?

    In all honesty, Bendis is a fantastic creator owned writer, better there than as a corporate guy, and I would love to see him work with some of the great artists he have worke dwith and do more stuff like Powers (what I would do for another Legends-The 25 Coolest Dead SUperheroes of All Time metastory). But Scarlet may be his best.
    The story of a revolutionary, an ordinary girl who gets screwed by the system and decided to blow it up. Mr Robot, but not hilariously stupid. Apparently, Bendis has big plans for the book to go worldwide, and that’s part of the fun THe way this book is about a social movement, starting in Portland and growing bigger and bigger. Between the storng characterisation built on ordinary yet horrible injustices, the strong cause and effect and the powerful use of fourth wall breaks… I could go on and on. THis book is honestly amazing

    Bendis and Maleev push themselves to the limit, creating a book where the reader themself is a participant in the story. Grounded in the truly real, things grow and grow, providing no simple answers, just a scream in the air for all those that felt injustice. But a clear, articulate and intelligent scream. Genius

    • Rogue one definitely has a more granular and nuanced exploration of themes of war and sacrifice, but I think the themes are pretty familiar. Like, no doubt the tone is different, and the moral conclusion the film reaches is murkier, but the themes still seem like Star Wars standard to me.

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