Hacking a Path to Character in Secret Weapons 3

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.

Short form and episodic storytelling often relies on character tropes – this is doubly true in genre stories, where the character types are so well established. Eric Heisserer, in an incredibly tight three issues (of four total), refuses such predictability, finding exciting, engaging and innovative ways to insist on the very real nature of his characters. Heisserer seemingly has shortcuts into the human psyche, hacking his way in through seldom-used sociological and emotional channels. The whole series premise is about not taking even the dumbest superpowers for granted, but this issue starts to turn to a much more simple mantra: don’t take these people for granted. Continue reading

Dark Nights: Metal 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Mark Mitchell 

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Patrick: Throughout Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman, the creative team valued invention over archeology. The character of Batman has been around for so long that deconstruction of the character is practically in his DNA, and while Snyder and Capullo found ways to riff on Batman’s history, their stories were always new. New threats, new allies, new secret identity. With Metal, the latest DC event, Snyder and Capullo turn inward, to explore, refine, and recontextualize the mythology and iconography that is already part of their multiverse. There’s a premium on re-arranging existing pieces into an entirely new whole. Continue reading

Accepting Happiness in Silver Surfer 13

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Sometimes I think I ask too much of comic books. I always want them to be grand statements about morality or the price of heroism or contain some other largely unknowable truth about the world. Silver Surfer is one of those series that sets this expectation for me, and the creative team of Dan Slott, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred obviously have a lot to say about life, love, and adventure. The penultimate issue of this series slows that all down by speeding up time, allowing the reader to bask in the simple sweetness of a life lived together. It is a rarity among comics — something nice just for the purpose of experiencing something nice. Continue reading

No Funny in the Prose Gutters of Rocket 4

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.

The strength of Deadpool’s joke-telling is directly proportional to his awareness of the medium he’s in. He’s a fourthwall-breaking stinker, and love ’em or hate ’em — Deadpool’s shtick is is built on being knee-slappingly self-aware. But not every Deadpool story is a bucket o’ laughs, and Gerry Duggan’s run with the character has explored Wade’s darkness as effectively as his jovial irreverence. Writer Al Ewing taps into that same darkness in Rocket 4, leveraging the one thing Deadpool will always have reverence for — the form of the medium. Continue reading

Mister Miracle 1: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers


This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World tales were weird, wild, and ultimately short-lived. In spite of this they have left a lasting impression on the DCU, inspiring later generations of writers to try to emulate the spirit of Kirby’s original saga. Jim Starlin, Grant Morrison and more recently Robert Venditti have shown us their take on The New Gods and now Tom King and Mitch Gerards add to the mythos in Mister Miracle 1. Continue reading

Mythological and Emotional Mystery in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 26

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan are interesting characters. They’re all men with tremendous baggage, and perhaps the decades of dragging around said baggage have trained them to just blurt out their feelings with the blunt force of a green-light mallet. All of them are reeling from Soranik Natu Sinestro’s heel turn, and the defection of the Yellow Corps, and maybe they’re all a touch too eager to yell about their feelings. That emotional transparency is at odds with the opaque plotting of issue 26. The inherent mystery in “what is Orion doing here again?” makes the reader double back on those seemingly clear emotional statements. Continue reading

The Visual Language of History and Myth in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 13

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

When we talk about character perspectives, we’re usually referring to lens crafted by their specific values, experiences, passions, fears — their view on the world. It is telling that I’m not able truly able to define perspective without using two different metaphors for perception (“lens” and “view”). Sophie Campbell and Erik Burnham’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 13 continues to explore Karai’s perspective, presenting it almost entirely visually, letting the reader draw their own cultural connections. Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dimension X 1: Discussion

By Patrick Ehlers and Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: I recently spent the week with my three year old niece. Like all three year olds, she’s totally incapable of not expressing her emotions — everything that upsets her triggers a screaming fit and everything that delights her… triggers a screaming fit, but just a different kind. Spending the day with her is, of course, equal parts charming and exhausting, but the thing that struck me the most was how honest that time is. She’s got no way of hiding, muting or dulling her emotional reactions. As a crusty ol’ adult, I’ve got decades of training tamping those things down, to the point where I have to actively attempt to express what I’m feeling. There’s a strength to being able to feel without filter, and the young simply haven’t developed that filter yet. Paul Allor and Pablo Tunica’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dimension X 1 explores how that strength manifests itself in our heroes as they visit a planet that makes emotions manifest physically. Continue reading

Jessica Earns the Ring in Green Lanterns 28

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Part Two of Sam Humphries and Eduardo Pansica’s “Out of Time” story arc is a rarity for superhero comic. Save an opening flashback, and a final page stinger, the entire issue is a single scene, taking place in one location over the course of a matter of minutes. That’s the closest thing you’re going to see to “real time” in a comic. There are no cuts around to more exotic settings or events, just the simple insistence on working out nine non-complementary personalities.  Continue reading

Vader Abandons Emotion in Darth Vader 4

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

We’re told that the strength of the Dark Side comes from tapping into one’s emotions. Basically, the more Anakin hates, the more strength he has. Jedi are trained to stomp out their emotions, which makes their control of the force more measured, but also markedly more dispassionate. That’s what makes Luke such an expectedly effective Force user — while he sorta learns from ancient Jedi masters, he’s too old and emotional to keep his feelings in check. He’s like 80% Light Side, with some Dark Side mixed in, just for extra oomph. But why wouldn’t the reverse be true? Darth Vader frequently draws on his rage, his grief and is isolation to make him powerful beyond measure, but it’s ultimately his dispassionate moves that make him most intimidating. Choking an officer to death to make a point? That shit’s calculated, not emotional. In Darth Vader 4, we see where the Sith Lord learns the power of not giving a fuck. Continue reading