Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden 1

by Patrick Ehlers & Michael DeLaney

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

Patrick: I saw the new Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs, this weekend. It’s cute, moody and starkly graphic — it fulfills the promise made by the phrase “Directed by Wes Anderson.” But the film also has a weird relationship with its setting: the Japanese language and and culture represent the alien in its own country. The dogs that we follow around, who are the heroes of this story, are all voiced, speaking English, by white American actors. A note tells us early on that barks and translated into English, but Japanese will remain untranslated (unless when done diegetically). For whatever argument you can make for Anderson’s reverence of the language and the culture (to say nothing of employing a bunch of Japanese actors and film folk), there’s no denying that the Japanese-ness of Isle of Dogs is meant to be novel and out of the ordinary. Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden 1 takes the exact opposite route, making damn sure that the East is familiar and the West is exotic. Continue reading

Advertisements

Doctor Strange Damnation 3 is Cool

By Patrick Ehlers

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

“Okay, sounds cool.”

-Blade, Doctor Strange Damnation 3

There’s a lot of heady framework supporting Doctor Strange Damnation. Writers Nick Spencer and Donny Cates are playing with some of the most amoral and immoral heroes in the Marvel Universe as they navigate the fallout of the biggest heel turn in comics history. Plus the goddamn devil is there collecting the wages of sin. So, y’know: a lot of loose morality to sort through. Issue three of this miniseries lets all of that set-up take a back seat. For 20 glorious pages, Spencer, Cates and artist Szymon Kudranski just let cool shit happen. Continue reading

Moonshine 8: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Moonshine 8

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

Dyin’? Boy, he can have this little life any time he wants to. Do ya hear that? Are ya hearin’ it? Come on. You’re welcome to it, ol’ timer. Let me know you’re up there. Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it.

Luke, Cool Hand Luke

Drew: It’s hard for me to read genre fiction through anything other than a deconstructionist lens. I mean, it’s hard for me to read anything through anything other than a deconstructionist lens, but this is especially true of genre fiction, where by definition conventions must be explicitly followed. Fortunately for me, that postmodern generic awareness is just as prevalent in creators as it is in audiences, so I’m never struggling to find multidimensional, self-aware, fully postmodern genre fictions. But the good ones, the ones that actually force me to reexamine the genres they’re deconstructing (rather than just having fun with some winking references), are few and far between. But Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s collaborations have always gone a step further. Beyond cute self-awareness or even symphonic use of references, Azzarello and Risso’s work offer new perspectives on the foundational genre pieces they take on. That is to say, their comics don’t just gain meaning from their references — their references gain meaning from the comics. They’re almost a purer form of postmodernism, digesting entire genres in a few issues, offering new readings to even the most familiar works of art. Continue reading

Order in the Slow Chaos of Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story 0

by Patrick Ehlers

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

January’s Secret Weapons 0 was all about Nikki’s growth from high school senior to effective super heroine. It’s a straight line of dissolving relationships and withering opportunities, a chain of events where one cause naturally leads to the next effect. That’s moving, effective storytelling. But that’s not always reflective of life, is it? Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story 0 takes a similar concept and muddles it up, making Owen’s saga less like a line and more like a web of trivial connections. Writer Eric Heisserer and artists Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín lean on the oddly symmetric structures present in a series of seemingly unrelated stories, and though they arrive at a slight conclusion, it is all the more meaningful for being fully earned. Continue reading

Dumbass Details in Sideways 2

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Last month, I praised Sideways 1’s hyper-specificity. Writers Dan DiDio and Justin Jordan crafted an excruciatingly detailed world for the would-be superhero Derek and his geek-culture-obsessed best friend Ernie. Artist Kenneth Rocafort dutifully filled the pages with visual details, whether painstakingly realizing the Gotham City skyline or Ernie’s shrine to cosplay and video games. The high I was feeling from that issue has all but evaporated during the second issue as the details began to feel awkward, forced, or generic. Continue reading

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 30: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Patrick Ehlers

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

Taylor: A couple days ago, Erica Henderson announced on Twitter that she would be stepping away from artistic duties on the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. For fans of the comic, particularly those who have been reading it from the beginning, this comes as crushing news, which is only moderately softened by knowing Henderson is stepping down of her own accord. While that makes the situation a bit easier to swallow it’s still is weird to consider a Squirrel Girl comic not drawn by Henderson. Luckily, there are still a few issues left to appreciate Henderson’s artwork and the 30th issue provides a great example of why she’ll be missed so much. Continue reading

Grief is Messy in The Fix 11

By Patrick Ehlers

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

I know this is hypocritical immediately following a spoiler alert, but I don’t believe in spoilers. They’re something I respect because I know other people believe in them (like God), but the threat of a spoiler doesn’t change the articles I will read or the conversations I’ll have (huh, also like God). If a movie or tv show or book is so slight as to have the experience of it ruined by simply knowing what’s going to happen, it probably wasn’t worth experiencing in the first place. The Fix 11 starts with a seismic shift, fully acknowledging the trope that Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber are subverting for shock value. “Surprise” reads the narration box. But the surprise isn’t the point, the fall-out from the surprise is. Continue reading

Shortcomings of the Lone Wolf in Black Bolt 11

By Patrick Ehlers

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

It might be sorta odd to cast one of the founding members of a famous superhero team as a loner. You’re always going to have your Raphaels, or your Wolverines, characters that bristle at the thought of getting too chummy with their teammates, but always end up affirming the value of teamwork before the issue is through. Black Bolt is a different animal entirely; separated from his people by the nobility of his birth and his inability to communicate, he may genuinely be more content to walk the world alone. Black Bolt 11 teases an origin for this misanthropic streak while also testing its strength. Continue reading

Scaling Back in X-Men Red 2

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Last time we wrote about X-Men Red, Spencer and Ryan saw the series as somewhat foundational — asserting the attributes that makes an X-Men comic and X-Men comic. That means both the soapy sci-fi details of the characters’ pasts and the political commentary were turned up to 10. The scale for both was just huge — I mean, Jean addresses the United Nations and was framed for murdering the UK ambassador for crying out loud. X-Men Red 2 continues to engage in the same kind of character- and political-work, while scaling back to considerably more personal levels, and the result is almost intimate. Writer Tom Taylor and artist Mahmud Asrar have such a strong handle on these characters’ voices, the moments don’t need to be huge to make them impactful. Continue reading

Hawkeye 16: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

X marks the spot.

treasure map, traditional

Patrick: How do you know where to look? I’m asking a holistic question here. When you’re walking down the street, what draws your eye? When you’re deciding what to do next with your life, how do you decide what people and what activities are of value to you? Maybe we’re following signs, or bright lights, or that warm feeling of belonging. It’s something. Hawkeye 16 shows both Kate and Eden coming to terms with what they’ve been looking for, all while Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero expertly show the reader where to look. Continue reading