Chemistry in Dead Hand 4

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Chemistry between characters is one of those things that’s almost impossible to fake. Either a group of people crackle with common charisma or they don’t. That’s very easy to recognize on TV or in movies, but how does that translate over to a comic book page? Snappy dialogue is one way to get that across, but that only works if your characters are the quippy type. So, sure, you can show that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have chemistry with each other, but good luck showing me Frank Castle has chemistry with anyone. In Kyle Higgins and Stephen Mooney’s Dead Hand 4, chemistry is expressed through non-acting visual cues, allowing the storytelling flow to express quality of the relationship. Continue reading

The Virtues and Dangers of Information in Paper Girls 22

By Spencer Irwin

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

Like with most of Brian K. Vaughan’s books, one of Paper Girls’ best qualities is its letter column. Issue 22’s column ends on one of the more interesting letters the series has received; Vaughan’s avatar, Dash-Dash Dot, rightly calls out the writer for his regressive politics and use of cringeworthy expressions like “beta male,” but as much as I hate to admit it, I also found the writer echoing some criticisms I myself have stated on occasion, particularly his assertion that “twenty issues in, and [the Paper Girls] (and the reader) still don’t know what is happening, or why, or what to do about it.”

I haven’t been shy in calling Paper Girls out on its nearly impenetrable lore and over-arcing plot myself — thankfully, the characters, art, and the individual stories of each arc are strong enough to make Paper Girls a must-read comic despite those larger flaws. But this most recent arc has made it more clear than ever that Vaughan — and Paper Girls itself — has a complicated relationship with information, and that no matter how frustratingly paced its doling out of information may sometimes be, it’s a deliberate, meaningful choice. Continue reading

A Fitting End in Kill or be Killed 20

By Drew Baumgartner

Kill or be Killed 17

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

Mr. Helpmann: He’s got away from us, Jack.
Jack Lint: ‘Fraid you’re right, Mr. Helpmann. He’s gone.


Drew: There are plenty of worthy contenders, but I tend to think of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil as having the most contentious final cut in film history. Indeed, as the film languished in post-production hell, both Gilliam and the chairman of Universal Pictures, Sid Sheinberg took out competing ads in Variety, imploring the other to release their preferred cut of the film. And much of that disagreement came down to the two lines quoted above; the ones that reveal the frenetic, phantasmagoric escape our hero makes is actually his dissociative fantasy — it turns out he never escaped his torture chamber. Since this is a Gilliam film, it’s easy to argue the whole movie is frenetic and phantasmagoric — and it definitely is to some degree — but the ending flies off the rails in a way that really only make sense as a fantasy. It’s an over-the-top “coincidences help the hero” ending that reads as a straight-up parody of Hollywood films, so it’s kind of hilarious that Sheinberg would insist on that ending not being a fantasy. Any savvy viewer would recognize that something is seriously wrong with Winston’s escape, so to insist that there’s nothing is an insult to our intelligence. That is, we know that it’s a fantasy, we just need the movie to be smart enough to agree with us. With their final issue of Kill or be Killed, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips lean into a similarly impossible-to-believe fantasy, along with a twist very much like the one Gilliam always intended for Brazil. Continue reading

Sex Criminals 25: Discussion

By Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers

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

Literally none of this makes any sense to me but I am fascinated

Dr. Glass

Michael: In the Western world — America in particular — we like to think that everything happens for a reason. In times of struggle we try to see it as a challenge or part of some greater purpose laid out for us by God, fate or the universe. And like anything, the only important meaning of something is what we ascribe to it. In Sex Criminals 25, protagonists Suzie and Jon both respond to their situations as if narrative meaning or consequence are an absolute. Continue reading

There’s No Escaping History in The Wicked + The Divine 37

by Spencer Irwin

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

History is an intrinsic facet of The Wicked + The Divine in multiple ways. Its story — and deities — have existed for the majority of recorded human history, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have gone to great lengths to accurately reflect that throughout the series. History is also a far more personal thing in WicDiv, though. There’s not a single character who can escape the pull of their own personal history, be it the baggage of Ananke/Minerva’s own six thousand year long existence, or the brief-yet-intense history behind the Morrigan and Baphomet/Marian and Cameron’s complex, tragic romance. Both tales reach inevitable — yet very different — climaxes in WicDiv 37. Continue reading

Exposure Helps the Cause in Outcast 36

by Drew Baumgartner

Outcast 36

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

For nine years, Koresh had relentlessly drilled his followers to prepare for Armageddon, had preached its inevitability, had forecast its imminence. This was the ending that Koresh had prayed for and staked his reputation on — the final battle, the trial by fire. It didn’t matter if the fire came from automatic rifles or a match and a can of kerosene; this was what Koresh had promised. Anything less would have been a monumental betrayal of his claim to be David Koresh, Angel Warrior of the Armageddon. Did anyone really expect the prophet of Ranch Apocalypse to meekly surrender his sheep to the enemy and come out with his hands up?

Gary Cartwright, “The Enemy Within”

What do you know about the Waco siege? I admittedly don’t know a ton — it happened when I was five years old — but as with any event with conflicting stories, “what you know” may matter less than “who you believe.” In light of the beliefs of the Branch Davidians, the events of the eventual raid, and especially the presence of the stockpiled weapons the ATF was originally there to seize, it’s hard for me to imagine the Davidians as anything other than dangerous zealots. That is, the plausible deniability of their threat dissolved under scrutiny — the more light shed on the situation, the crazier they looked. Rowland Tusk has orchestrated a surprisingly similar situation for Kyle, preparing for a siege of his own religious “cult,” but with the truth on Kyle’s side, it sure seems like things are actually stacked in his favor. Continue reading

Saga 53: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: In recent months our Saga coverage has focused quite a bit on how Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan have been taking their time, luxuriating in a slower pace and revealing more and more about their characters as they move pieces into place, setting up for a no doubt explosive finale. That said, no matter how much build up they have, grand confrontations don’t work the same way in Saga as they do in many other similar pieces of media; there’s no monologue-and-metaphor-filled matches of will, no intricately choreographed fight scenes, no thirty episode long battles as Namek slowly burns in the background. Instead, Saga’s finales reflect real life violence. They’re quick, brutal, often random, and care very little about the events that have led up to them or who’s right or wrong.  Continue reading

Genuine Jump Scares in Infidel 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Infidel 4

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


I’m so enamored of Infidel‘s social commentary, it’s easy to neglect just how skillful of a haunted house story it is. And I say that as someone who isn’t into horror generally or horror comics, specifically. I’m sure the social commentary elements help make the ghouls of this series feel so insidious, but this series manages to be scary far beyond its concepts. That is, the effectiveness of the horror relies on the skills of writer Pornsak Pichetshote and artist Aaron Campbell, and issue 4 perfectly demonstrates how they deliver scares in totally unexpected ways. Continue reading

The Poetry of Days of Hate 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Days of Hate 6

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

/inˈjambmənt, enˈjam(b)mənt/

  1. (in verse) the continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza.

Comics has its share of unique jargon, but much of the vocabulary we use when analyzing it is borrowed. More often than not, we’re borrowing language from the world of film and photography, where we might understand issues of the relative location and sizes of images within the panel as matters of placing a camera in a physical space. We’ll also draw parallels to prose, as the language — and especially narrative modes — of comics can often resemble that of a novel. But prose isn’t the only literary media, and while it’s lamentably rare, comics can draw from the world of poetry, as well. Aleš Kot and Danijel Žeželj’s Days of Hate has always lent itself to elegant turns of phrase, but canny use of the decidedly poetic device of enjambment turns issue 6 into a goddamn love poem. Continue reading

Moonshine 11: 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: Hey, how fast is a comic? I’ve read twenty-page comics that take me over half an hour to get through, and there are some issues I can breeze through in less than 10 minutes. Some comics take place over the course of 60 in-universe seconds, while others stretch on to tell stories that take entire lifetimes. So the answer to my question is: variable. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine 11 masterfully commands pacing to create breathless swings between compression, tension and release. Continue reading