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:
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?