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 Cannibal 6, Extremity 4, Injection 13, and Outcast 28. Also, we discussed Faith 12 on Thursday and will be discussing Star Wars: Darth Vader 1 and Paper Girls 15 on Tuesday, so check back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: Last time we talked about Cannibal, I mentioned that — to that point in the series — we weren’t exactly clear on how this virus was spread. The expository blurb at the beginning of the issues made it sound like its proliferation was the side effect of a drug distributed by Global Medical Management, but conventional zombie-movie-wisdom suggests that this thing could also be communicable via cannibal bites. We played out this little bit of confusion in the comment section, mirroring the kinds of medical misinformation that get spread (like anti-vaxers). The most potent parallel might have been to AIDS in the 1980s, which has this deadly mix of myth and morality, tying perceived sexual deviance to literal disease. Issue 6 of Cannibal concretely answers the question of how the virus is spread while simultaneously solidifying this metaphor, linking the virus directly (and repeatedly) to sex.
Writers J. Young and Brian Buccellato smartly deploy a handful of flashbacks in this issue, and the first of which is hopelessly void of metaphor — Danny fucks a cannibal and then becomes one. Artist Matías Bergara, as he does whenever we wants a moment to really land for the reader, goes wide.
The more unoccupied space there is in the panel, the more it forces the reader to fill in the gaps on their own. Even though we haven’t seen her bite him yet, we’re already finishing the scene in our heads. And we’d be totally right in our presumptive ending, if leaving out the detail that Nicole is thrown from the bed and killed when her head cracks on the nightstand. The consequences for Nicole are severe as fuck: she dies ignobly, naked and immediately after being called a bitch. As we see in Jolene’s flashback, Danny does essentially the same thing — biting her and spreading his disease — but the consequences for him are a night in jail. That scene is also hightened via grotesque sexuality. Danny could just as easily have gone for her exposed arms or shoulders, but instead:
What’s more, once he’s in the holding cell, he discovers that even the Sheriff’s son is just like him. Nicole fucking dies and Danny learns he’s not alone.
As it’s tied to sex, this virus holds an inherent power imbalance between men and women. The men of Willow make decisions — to hide their cannibal sons, to hold meetings at city hall, etc. — while the women can only run and hide.
Mark: The giant bug creatures in Extremity 4 are so gross and so cool, and a perfect example of why Extremity is my favorite series of 2017. Issue after issue, Daniel Warren Johnson (with colors by Mike Spicer) continues to build out the world of Thea and her clan in new and interesting ways without sacrificing the emotional core of his story. In Extremity 4, Johnson introduces readers to the Arched Island, home to Dag and Jessica Begnar. Dag was the foot soldier who executed Thea’s mother, and Jerome (Thea’s father) has tracked down Dag to exact revenge. Of course, Dag is also a breeder of some pretty cool beasts like this dude he’s raised from a baby:
And this freak:
Johnson is one of the best action writers and illustrators working in comics, and part of that is his ability to convey a sense of space and context so the action is clear and easy to follow. It’s worth scouring the margins of his panels for details, because everything fits together as it should.
If I had one minor quibble about Extremity, it’s that the beats of each issue are beginning to feel familiar: open with a reminder of why Jerome and Thea are seeking revenge, Shiloh steps in at some point to protect the family, revenge is exacted, but then the victory of revenge tastes bittersweet, leaving everyone involved feeling wistful. It’s an effective formula that helps focus each issue around a single simple idea, but I keep hoping that Johnson will expand the emotional range of the story the same way he expands his sci-fi world. Maybe next month.
Drew: Do you suppose there’s a non-luck-based explanation for “beginner’s luck”? I suppose I don’t have concrete evidence that the phenomenon exists at all, but it seems reasonable to me that beginners might be more careful and pay closer attention than someone with more experience. That is, that not being a beginner may lull people into a false sense of security, opening them up to mistakes that a beginner would avoid. Such may be the case with Brigid’s new driver, Emma, whose nervousness cues her into a bad situation before Brigid can really see it.
Honestly, it’s a classic example of the kind of beginners luck I’m talking about. It’s not that Brigid is being particularly hubristic, she’s just looking for different patterns than the ones that are right in front of her, which experience has told her to treat as noise. Emma doesn’t have that experience, so sees the trends in that noise, taking to heart Brigid’s advice to “treat everything like it’s a deal going bad.” She’s able to piece together that Kerwick knows the “mechanism” for opening the cold house, that it probably has something to do with the generator that her goons had out on the moor, and that what FPI’s crew is about to do might just trigger that same mechanism. Of course, nobody quite expected this to happen:
Yeesh. This dude is completely skeletonized in the time it takes Brigid and Emma to run to their car. It’s a startling sequence, rendered in gory detail by Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire, putting a rather graphic point on just how dangerous these mystical entities can be. That lends invaluable context to Robin Morel’s revelation that these types of “incursions” are on the rise — perhaps as a result of the Injection. Sure, the Injection may be toying with weridos and murdering people elsewhere, but it might also be unleashing unspeakable evils on the Earth. It isn’t just a serial killer — it’s a gatekeeper for a whole army of serial killers.
Drew: It’s an interesting choice to put a toxic relationship at the heart of a horror/thriller story. We naturally root for both Kyle Barnes and Reverend Anderson, but their partnership is so obviously bad for both of them, it’s almost at odds with our intrinsic desire to see them succeed. Moreover, it might be even worse for Anderson than it is for Kyle — a fact that we might have overlooked in focusing on Kyle’s familial dramas and rise to “chosen one” status. The Reverend, meanwhile, had a kind of descent into madness, killing Sidney in cold blood before being cast out of Kyle’s life. That should have helped the Reverend regain some control over his life, but issue 28 makes it clear that he’s developed a kind of dependency on Kyle that isn’t just going to go away.
Anderson has started proselytizing out in the barn, cultivating an ever-growing flock of…soldiers? He refers to his followers as “a righteous army,” and tells them that they will face the darkness “in battle,” though his knowledge of Kyle and Simon’s unique abilities means that he must understand this isn’t really possible. Some people are equipped to fight the “darkness,” but Anderson is just recruiting cannon fodder. Moreover, he’s doubling down on his belief that these are demons, interpreting Simon’s story about their origins as a sign that Kyle is an Angel. Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta play that moment neutrally enough that we can’t be certain that the Reverend is wrong, but it’s hard to deny just how zealous he looks during his sermon.
As depressing as it was to see him lose his direction over the last several issues, him regaining it (or, at least, regaining it in this particular way) might actually be worse. He’s convinced he’s helping because he’s convinced he’s helping. But, you know: who is he helping? Himself? His followers? Kyle? God? Unfortunately, the lack of evidence that he’s helping any of those hasn’t deterred him (and I suspect it never will). The only good news is that Kyle seems more determined than ever NOT to enable the Reverend’s delusions.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?
Robin’s scene in this issue of Injection has strong overtones of the twinkie scene from Ghostbusters — we’re picking up on this story right as an uptick in paranormal activity is happening all over the globe. Only in this case, we already have a pretty strong inclination for what’s causing it. I doubt Robin will ever have to explain the consequences of failing to act (dogs and cats living together!), but I am kind of digging the parallels to Ghostbusters.
I didn’t get a Ghostbusters vibe from that scene, largely because it lacks the humour of the Ghostbusters scene. But it is interesting the way that Injection references other, iconic work of fiction. It feels like a key part of the text. In fact, the same sequence reminded me of Kingsmen: The Secret Service. While the blades are a legitimate prosthetic to replace feet, spy with blades for feet, drawing attention to flexibility, reminds me a lot of Sofia Boutella’s character. And the interesting thing about a Kingsmen reference is, like Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who and James Bond, this is very specifically British – not just in origin, but in essence.
The way that Injection is so often so very British is fascinating, especially how it relates to the key ideas around mythology. Just as the characters confront British mythology, the series constantly confronts specifically British stories. The book itself seems to constantly be dealing with the same ideas that its characters are
Drew, I highly disagree that Emma’s actions are down to beginner’s luck, or anything like that. In fact, I think Brigid chose her specifically for her skillset.
A key theme of Ellis’ is the idea of expertise, and the way different sets of expertise come together to create results and change the world.. And one of the most important things is how broad Ellis’ definition of expertise is (leading to something like Global Frequency, where any sort of expertise can save the world).
I think Emma is successful this issue not because she is a beginner, but an expert. In fact, Brigid made very clear that Emma was chosen because she was an expert. It is a very different type of expertise to Brigid, but that’s the point. Brigid chose a drug dealer, drug mule and getaway driver because, as Brigid said, she wanted someone who had seen some shit. Emma has a skillset that Brigid doesn’t, a skillset honed by bad drug deals and quick escapes. She is an expert at detecting when and why a deal will go bad, making her the exact person to realise what was about to happen
A key idea of Injection, like a lot of Ellis’ work, has been people of different expertise working together to achieve results they couldn’t separately, and this is just Brigid doubling down on the same idea. Brigid has found another expert to help her. In this case, the expert isn’t a supergenius like our leads, but someone with the street smarts to survive a situation like this. Not all expertise is strict intelligence, and this has been key to Ellis’ philosophy since the beginning. It is a big reason why I love his work so much. People come together, and combine their skills, because that is how we create results. No one person is an expert at everything. Brigid, as smart as she is, as deep gaps that requires help. Emma is the best possible option to fill that gap.
Also, damn I am happy whenever there is a new issue of Injection. Always so perfect. Ellis should stop wasting his time with Wildstorm, and just commit to creator owned work. This is where Ellis truly should be
Did Brigid choose her? I guess I need to look back at the previous issue, but I got the impression that she was simply researching the driver Maria had hired for her. That is, the vetting Brigid did was only after Emma had already been hired for the job. Again, I could be wrong on that, but my read was that Brigid only expected someone capable of getting her from point A to point B, not someone with a specific skill set to compliment her own. She recognized that Emma was capable of more, but it wasn’t something she was hired for.
Yeah, Brigid specifically chose Emma, despite being offered someone else as a driver. She looked around the entire site and found the person with the best CV. She chose, as she describes, ‘the only one there worth anything’.
And interestingly, Emma was hired by FPI for the same skillset that Brigid chose her, but for different reasons. FPI wanted a person with a criminal past that could be blamed if any of FPI’s unsavory activites were revealed (‘It isn’t our fault. Emma did it and we had no idea she was a crook’).
Now, no one is an expert at what Brigid is doing, not even Brigid. Dealing with the Injection is in a league of its own. But that doesn’t mean it comes down to Emma’s beginner’s luck. She was chosen from a pool of candidates because she was best qualified, with a history of experience backing those skills up. And it was those skills that helped her in this issue. She used the exact expertise Brigid hired her for.
It is hard to say the experienced drug dealer following the order of ‘treat this like a drug deal gone bad’ was using her beginner’s luck. As much as anyone can be when facing the Injection, Emma was in her element
Oh, yeah, I completely misremembered that. Geez, that issue only came out a month ago. I read too many comics.