Different Kinds of Powers and Responsibilities in Incognegro Rennaisance 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Incognegro Renaissance 1

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

Way back in August of 1962, Peter Parker learned that with great power must also come great responsibility. It’s an important lesson, though the fact that Peter’s “power” manifests as literal superhuman abilities seems to leave some readers confused about what their own responsibilities are. In the intervening years, our discourse on power has gotten a lot more nuanced than whether someone can or can’t stick to walls, which has in turn changed our expectations of individual responsibility. Of course, the predominantly white, predominantly male world of superheroes might not be the best place to explore the more subtle (but no less powerful) issues of power and responsibility that come along with race and gender, which is exactly what made Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro so remarkable when it hit stands in 2008. Indeed, the obvious differences between Incognegro and the superhero genre may make the comparison seem absurd — and it may well be — but their prequel series, Incognegro: Renaissance, takes on the familiar (and appropriate) form of the superhero origin story, complete with its own call to action about power and responsibility. Continue reading

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Hungry Ghosts 1: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Hungry Ghosts 1

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

They found her body sprawled across the grave. Without realizing it, she had plunged the knife through her skirt and had pinned it to the ground. It was only the knife that held her. She had died of fright.

Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Drew: Like every kid who grew up in the ’90s, I’m intimately familiar with Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories books — the perfect camp fire/slumber party fodder. But “The Girl Who Stood on the Grave” (sometimes known as “The Dare”), whose punchline I spoiled above is the only one that ever actually scared me. Even as a kid, I never believed in ghosts, so stories of long-dead apparitions leaving their sweaters behind or whatever felt more like jokes than anything. But the thought of scaring oneself to death felt all too real when watching my friends get spooked by the other nonsense in the book. I doubt I knew who FDR was at that point, but even then I understood that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Which is to say, I’m far more interested in the telling of ghost stories than I am in the stories themselves. And I suspect we’re all a little that way — it’s why Tales from the Crypt had the Crypt Keeper and Are You Afraid of the Dark? had those terrible child actors — the ritual of telling scary stories is just as important as the scary stories themselves. It’s a notion that Hungry Ghosts taps into twofold, offering a framing story within a framing story, as a Crypt Keeper type tells us the story of people sitting around telling ghost stories. Continue reading

Hellboy – Krampusnacht: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Taylor Anderson

Hellboy Krampusnacht

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

The Christmas tree, where did that tradition come from? It sounds like the behavior of a drunk man. I can picture it now: ‘honey, why is there a…pine tree in our living room?’ “I like it! Tomorrow, we’re gonna…we’re gonna decorate it…for Jesus.”

Jim Gaffigan

Drew: Traditions are weird. Even if you understand the origins of holiday gift-giving or decorations or whatever, the reason you do it actually boils down to the fact that you always have, or your family always had. That is, the reason traditions are traditions is because they’re traditions. It’s not a super satisfying answer, especially when you’re questioning why we do these silly things in the first place, but the simple fact is that we tend to do things the way we’re used to doing them, even if we also think they’re silly. It takes some doing to break out of those habits, as the Krampus learns in Hellboy: Krampusnacht. Continue reading

American Gods 1

Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing American Gods 1, originally released March 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Shelby: I love the power of pagan mythology. The magics of these stories seem more raw, more chaotic, more basely elemental than what you find in newer, monotheistic religions: like a no-holds-barred Old Testament. And I’m not even talking Greek and Roman pantheons, here; I’m talking ancient Egypt, Norse, Slavic. This is the unfiltered magic that shapes the earth, sea, and skies around us. This is the kind of mystic power Neil Gaiman taps into in his novel American Gods; Gaiman imagines an America populated with these ancient beings, brought here by our immigrant forefathers and forgotten, left to fend for themselves as the world changes around them. I’m sure it will come as no great surprise to you, gentle readers, that I am a big, big fan of this book (and all things Gaiman), and am already enjoying the comic book adaptation with writer P. Craig Russell and artist Scott Hampton. Some NSFW images to follow, so consider yourselves warned.  Continue reading

Once and Future Queen 1

Alternating Currents: Once and Future Queen 1, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Once and Future Queen 1, originally released March 1st, 2017. As always this article contains SPOILERS.

Louise: Say I taught them chess instead of English. Every conversation is a game, every idea expressed through opposition — victory and defeat. You see the problem? If all I ever give you is a hammer…

Colonel Weber: …everything’s a nail

Arrival

Drew: Man, I loved Arrival. That movie is particularly good at crystallizing its themes in single moments — there’s a ton of them in the film — but the one quoted above is my absolute favorite. It’s a key turning point for the plot, but more importantly, it reasserts the notion that language influences the way we think; a key concept that had only only been playing in the margins before that moment. Of course, it may just be that “everything’s a nail” is a favorite pet theme of mine, explaining a good portion of human interactions, from minor conversations to declarations of war. It remains to be seen whether that theme will be important to Once and Future Queen, but I couldn’t help but remember this quote as this issue puts the welfare of the planet in the hands of a chess prodigy.

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Veil 5

Alternating Currents: Veil 5, Drew and GregToday, Drew and Greg are discussing Veil 5, originally released October 15th, 2014.

“Thus it shall befall Him, who to worth in women over-trusting, Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook; And left to herself, if evil thence ensue She first his weak indulgence will accuse.”

John Milton, Paradise Lost

Drew: How long do you suppose sexism has existed? The Bible would have us believe it’s basically as long as human sexes have existed — Adam was created first in God’s image, with Eve following up as an afterthought of sorts, made of Adam’s spare parts. Coincidentally, she’s also the one who is tricked (or at least talked into) eating the apple from the tree of knowledge first. Sin may be conceived in the mind of Satan, but it’s brought to humanity in the shape of a woman. I appreciate that this is a bit of a tunnel-vision reading of the creation myth — the Bible is full of men who sin without the aid of women — but the notion that women are lesser beings who tempt men to evil continues to pervade our culture, from  how much women are paid at work, to blaming women for “provoking” physical attacks (or threats) against them. Gallons of ink have been spilled over this very subject, but Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula manage to find a new angle in Veil 5, providing an anti-Eve story that — no surprise — feels decidedly more empowering than the original. Continue reading

Mind MGMT 22

mind mgmt 22

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Mind MGMT 22, originally released May 28th, 2014.

Drew: It would be foolish to attempt to define Art in a write-up of a single issue of a comic book (even if that issue happens to dance on the edge of that definition), but I do think we can easily define “art,” the colloquial term we use to describe any care put into the effect of something that could otherwise be “artless.” It’s what makes a story compelling, a building inviting, a meal delicious. With that definition, I’d like to posit magic as the purest form of “art” — it’s all about the effect. We’d never walk away from a magic act questioning it’s meaning, but we’re often impressed by the execution. Intriguingly, those effects are controlled in much the same way they are in other artforms — by setting up and defying our expectations — the only difference being that other art uses these effects as means to an end — a way of eliciting specific responses from the audience — whereas magic views those effects as an end unto themselves. It’s an intriguing duality, and as usual for Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt pitches this issue along the continuum between the two. Continue reading

Veil 3

veil 3

Today, Greg and Shelby are discussing Veil 3, originally released May 7th, 2014.

Greg: Think about someone you adore spending time with. Someone who adds a unique spark to life, who brings out the best in you, who seems to possess complementary qualities to your flaws. Have you ever spent time with this person only to find that they’re in a funk? That their spark is gone, their energy depleted, their pizzazz evaporated? It’s a dreary social situation that can really take a lot out of you. This person is supposed to be your fuel; how are you gonna get anywhere if they don’t have the gas? Reading this issue of Veil is a little like that; because I’ve loved this comic immensely thus far, watching it narratively sputter and momentarily declaw its main figure of intrigue was an unfortunately deflating experience.

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Star Wars Rebel Heist 1

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Star Wars Rebel Heist 1, originally released April 30th, 2014.

Taylor: Recently the cast for Star Wars Episode VII was announced. As long rumored, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, and Harrison Ford will be reprising their roles as Luke, Leia, and Han in this installment, which is cause for mixed bag of emotions. I appreciate that the new Star Wars movies will attempt to link themselves to the original trilogy, but I also want the thing I loved preserved. George Lucas has given us ample reason to fear further Star Wars movies, and I worry that casting original actors in the new movie will somehow taint what came before it. At the same time, I’m also aware that my beloved characters have been taken out for a spin by multiple writers in the past. This hasn’t ruined my love of the original trilogy in the slightest, so maybe I just need to relax. With these ideas fresh in my mind, it’s interesting to pick up Star Wars Rebel Heist 1. Can it assert that use of beloved characters in new stories is okay? Or will it show they are best left to our memory? Continue reading

Veil 2

veil 2Today, Greg and Patrick are discussing Veil 2, originally released April 2nd, 2014.

Greg: I see a therapist regularly, and while it may be unhealthy to view therapy in a win/lose sports binary, I feel like I scored a big “victory” at my last session. She told me I seemed to be good at “living in the present,” that all-encompassing mantra that, to me, means the healthiest choice is to let go of what you can’t control in the “then,” and instead, find peace in the “now.” It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life, which might explain why I responded so positively to the newest issue of Veil.

Basically what I’m saying is, if Dante needs to talk to someone, I can give him a number to call.  

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