Lucifer 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Lucifer 1

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

…it’s attempts at rising are hopeless. As all attempts are.

Lucifer, Lucifer 1

Drew: When I spoke with Lucifer writer Dan Watters about the teaser pages for this series that appeared in Sandman Universe 1, he was unequivocal about the symbolic meaning of the death of a character named Hope:

I’ve made it quite clear, at least I tried to, that this is going to be a dark book. This is the darkest corner of the Sandman Universe — at least that’s being explored right now. Which, you know, by the nature of the character, by the book, I think it should be. It’s definitely a statement of intent.

And the book is definitely dark. Lucifer‘s assertion that all “attempts at rising are hopeless” comes on the first page, before the issue plunges us into the present day of a status quo Lucifer clearly wishes to rise out of. A character learning to embrace hope would normally be an upbeat moral, but it takes on a twisted meaning here — whatever it is that could force Lucifer into retreat must be truly harrowing. And this is the story of what that experience was. Continue reading

Infinity Wars 4 Pits Novel Mash-Ups Against Classic Characters

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“In a life of weird experiences, this one is up there.”

-Bruce Banner, Infinity Wars 4

In the quote above, Bruce Banner is referring to the experience of having his soul un-merged from Scott Lang’s by the combined magics / telepathies of Loki and a Power Stone-wielding Emma Frost in the barren wastes of Soul World. It’s a jumble of virtually impenetrable Marvel Universe jargon, but it’s also sort of the appeal of the event as a whole. The Infinity Warps issues that have spun out of this story are sold almost entirely on the wackiness of the premise: a Captain America Doctor Strange hybrid! A Moon Knight Spider-Man mash-up! But with Infinity Wars 4, writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mike Deodato, Jr. start making the case against the novelty of these mash-up characters by asserting the strength and usefulness of the vanilla versions of these characters, to say nothing of just how appealingly weird they are to begin with. Continue reading

Clark Controls the Narrative in Superman 4

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Earth is trapped in the Phantom Zone and Superman is being attacked by Rogol Zaar and an army of Phantom Zone prisoners! It’s a dire situation, and not one that Superman has any confidence that he can solve by punching it. Instead, Superman has to redefine his terms of victory, drawing Rogol Zaar out of Earth’s atmosphere just long enough for Ray Palmer to shrink the planet and slide it out of the Phantom Zone. Clark is able to accomplish this because he controls the narrative, even as Rogol thinks he has the upper hand. Rogol’s tactics are better, but Superman controls the goals those tactics are meant to achieve. Artist Ivan Reis and writer Brian Michael Bendis fill the issue with examples of Superman controlling both the stories about him and the method and medium in which those stories are told. Continue reading

Border Town 2: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Spencer Irwin

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

PatrickBorder Town hinges on an obviously loaded concept: the membrane between the monster world and the human world lies along the border between the US and Mexico. All the xenophobia, all the paranoia, and all the actual danger is exaggerated. But there’s another component of the traditional border dispute narrative that’s cranked up to ten — culture. Writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos take care to bask in the cultural specifics of our heroes, while only hinting at the implied culture of the monstrous villains. It’s a fascinating look at what humanizes people on either side of either border. Continue reading

Pastoral Horror in Cosmic Ghost Rider 4

by Patrick Ehlers

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

The entirety of Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett’s Cosmic Ghost Rider has been about enthusiastically mashing up disparate elements of the Marvel Universe to create singularly compelling ideas. Our hero, if we wanna call him that, is a mix between Punisher, Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer. He spent the whole last issue battling teams of What-If cross-over mash-up characters until grown-up Punisher-Thanos came back in time from the future to rescue him. But the fourth issue finds the creative team juxtaposing disparate qualities that are far more elemental and aesthetic. Instead of a Juggernaut that is also a Duck, Cosmic Ghost Rider 4 give us a pastoral fantasy that is also a post apocalyptic nightmare. Continue reading

Debunking the Myth of the Prepared Hero in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro-Series: Donatello

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Why does Batman win every fight? Because he’s prepared for every conceivable eventuality. Superman goes nuts? Batman’s got magic. Or Kryptonite. Or both. This same sort of logic has been applied all to all the genius superheroes. Sure – why wouldn’t Tony Stark have armor designed specifically to fight the Hulk? Even Infinity War (the movie) depicts Doctor Strange literally experiencing all possible outcomes until he stumbles upon the one way to defeat Thanos. But those stories never really take the time to explore what that process of hyper-perparation looks like, or the toll in takes on the heroes’ relationships. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Macro-Series: Donatello shows just how damaging it is to always only prepare for disaster. Continue reading

The Punisher 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers

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

Michael: Comic book readers are probably familiar with the idea that “Batman always wins” – he’s an inevitable force of nature. I think that The Punisher is similar in this respect. Frank Castle is primarily a hunter, but when the roles are reversed he’s as wild as a cornered animal, finding any and every way to disarm opponents and escape. Such is the case in Matthew Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski’s The Punisher 2.

Frank Castle isn’t a complicated man – at least he probably doesn’t consider himself to be. He’s got two rules: kill criminals, don’t kill cops. That second part tends to make Frank’s life a little more difficult, as he has to get creative when he is evading New York’s finest – as well as its superheroes. Continue reading

Batman Damned 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

Patrick: What is the first thing you do when you pick up your copy of Batman Damned #1? You’ve got fifty pages of stunning Lee Bermejo art on oversized, oddly-shapped pages, and a script from the legendary Brian Azzarello. It’s a mature, confident riff on Batman and crime and dark magic, but you eagerly thumb through that intrigue and drama and blah blah blah until you find the panel where you can sorta see Batman’s dick. Can you spot it without someone else increasing the contrast and circling it? It’s a rush — a taboo look at Bruce Wayne’s dong flopping lazily to right. And now, because you have this comic in your hands, you’re one of the people that saw it first hand.

It is a quintessential “made you look” moment. Bermejo and Azzarello have such command over the readers’ eye that they are able to direct us to one specific panel before we’ve even considered buying the book. Once this masterpiece is in your hands, you discover that it’s all about misdirection, slight of hand, and controlling what the reader sees and when they see it. Continue reading

Full-Page Cutaway Gags Establish Tone in Superman 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: In its abstract, the story of Superman thus far is bleak. The Earth has been stranded in the Phantom Zone, everyone on the planet is suffering from Phantom Zone-related environmental poisoning (including the superheroes), and all the scariest Kryptontian villains have teamed up with Rogol Zaar to defeat Superman. That’s pretty dire, right? This thing is even dark down to its artistic team: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado work with realistically shaped and shaded characters, which sort of insists that all of this is happening to real human beings with real human physiology. Luckily, writer Brian Michael Bendis sets aside real and relevant space in the issue to make jokes and have fun with this Superman adventure. Continue reading

Subjectivity in Symbols and Characters in The Seeds 2

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Ann Nocenti and David Aja’s Seeds is, on the surface, about a race of aliens that comes to earth to document, or possibly expedite, the extinction of the human race. But even from the end of the first issue, this tidy sci fi premise has already been upset: one of these aliens has feelings for a human woman. Those are clearly defined roles for the humans and the aliens, right? And even that little twist falls into the dramatically convenient theme of love blossoming on the battlefield. Issue 2 of Seeds more thoroughly explores the difference between what is expected of an actor and how they actually act. Continue reading