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

Best of 2014: Best Issue

Best of 2014: Best IssueEpisodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 14 issues of 2014.
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Zero 13

Alternating Currents: Zero 13, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 13, originally released December 17th, 2014.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Drew: It’s easy for the neophile to be frustrated with art. As much as our society claims to value innovation, our art tends to rely heavily on the comforts of the known. That’s not to say the majority of art is devoid of surprise, just that the forms that those surprises take are so prescribed as to be relatively predictable. Whether it’s the hero returning home or the melody returning to the home key, our most tried-and-true structures leave only the smaller details to truly distinguish themselves. Zero 13 contains a masterful example of this kind of small surprise, but this issue’s biggest surprise might lie in what it reveals about the larger form of the series. Continue reading

Batman: The Dark Knight 26

dark knight 26

Today, Shelby and Greg are discussing Batman: The Dark Knight 26, originally released December 31st, 2013.

Shelby: Whenever I think of a “silent episode” of something, my first thought is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Hush from season 4. The Gentlemen come to Sunnydale and steal everyone’s voices, then proceed to cut people’s hearts out and no one can scream. It’s delightfully scary. Anyway, even as a dumbass high schooler, I was really impressed by that episode, and not just because it scared the bejesus out of me. I was impressed  by how much the actors could convey without dialogue, by how much tension could be built in the silence. Silent comics can do the same, can show the same range and build the same tension, and that’s what Greg Hurwitz and Alberto Ponticelli give us in this issue appropriately titled, “Voiceless.”
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Best of 2013: Best Issues

Best of 2013: Best Issue

It’s that time of year again: where we suck up all of our grumblings about art being unquantifiable and compile our best-of lists. Today, we’re looking at our favorite single issues. Love or hate the subjectivity of this list, at the very least, it serves as a great reminder of all of the fantastic comics we’ve read over the past year. We’re sure your list will be different (and welcome your thoughts in the comments), but here are our top 13 issues of 2013. Continue reading

Green Lantern 23.3: Black Hand

black hand 23.3

Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Mark are discussing Green Lantern 23.3: Black Hand originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Villain’s Month event. Click here for our Villains Month coverage.

villain div

PatrickLook, we all know we’ve reached a point of over-saturation when it comes to zombie stories. World War Z was the surprise anti-flop of the summer; The Last of Us taught us that video games know how to make us feel; AMC announced that we’re going to be getting a spin-off to The Walking Dead. If we look back into the recent past, the examples are basically everywhere: Dead Rising, Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, and every conceivable adaptation of The Walking Dead. Zombies have some kind of inherent draw, but, like… aren’t you kinda getting sick of them? Continue reading

Dial H 15

dial h 15Today, Ethan and Taylor are discussing Dial H 15, originally released August 7th, 2013.

Ethan: The week leading up to graduation from college can be a manic blur. You try to squeeze in all those conversations you never made time for before, you cram for those final exams, you put the finishing touches on that thesis paper hours before it needs to be bound and turned in, you book that flight home. Maybe your four-or-so years on campus jaded you a bit – the ceremony’s just going to be a fancier version of its high school equivalent; I’m going to have to smile at everyone’s parents; this place has grabbed me and changed me and turned me into someone new, but… I’m ready to leave. And then the day comes. You hear your name, you walk the walk, you manage to remember to shake with the right and take with the left, and then you wade into the sea of chaos as everyone tries to make that last connection before you never see each other ever again. The prospect of leaving China Mieville’s run of Dial H elicits a lot of the same emotions for me. There were highs and lows, and to be honest, I thought I was ready to set it down and move on, but the final issue goes out with a “shhhkaBOOM” and I’m wishing we didn’t have to say good-bye.

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Dial H 14

dial h 14

Today, Taylor and Ethan are discussing Dial H 14, originally released July 3rd, 2013.

Taylor: Why do superheroes exist? Why do the worlds they inhabit even need them? Looking at our own world, it seems that superheroes aren’t necessarily needed for us to survive in relative peace. Sure, it would be nice if Superman could do something to stop global warming but we don’t need him exist to stop that. If humanity could get its collective shit together, then we could easily curb global warming along with the vast majority of other problems that plague our little planet. Of course we don’t live in a world with superheroes and it would seem that the reason they don’t exist is that we don’t need them. However, in other universes — especially those in comic books — superheroes are needed to face the incredible dangers that plague their homes. Killer comet heading towards your planet? Undead wizards? Malevolent aliens? Your local superhero has you covered. But why are certain worlds and universes subjected to these life threatening situations and others not? Is there a reason for that or is it blind luck? In typical self-exploratory fashion, issue 14 of Dial H explores these questions as Nelson Jent and company race to stop the Centipede from achieving his nefarious goals.

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Dial H 13

dial h 13

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Dial H 13, originally released June 5th, 2013.

Patrick: The Retcon Punchers tend to get flowery in our language when we describe Dial H – we’ve called it “aggressively weird” and ” gleefully surreal.” When the pages are stuffed with goofy characters like Captain Lachrymose and Bumpler Carla, it’s hard to escape the fact that the weirdness of the title is kind of the point. In issue 13, China Mieville digs into the background of Open-Window Man — a character we had previously only known as a compatriot of Boy Chimney’s — and discovers a moving truth about superheroes, comic books and the value of repetitive storytelling. Continue reading

Dial H 12

dial h 12

Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Dial H 12, originally released May 1st, 2013.

Taylor: There comes a point in issue 12 of Dial H where after a series of very chaotic series the Fixer, who we were introduced to last month, is utterly confused. The cause of his (her, its?) confusion is the product of spell put on it by another character in the issue, as opposed to it actually just being confused by the events it’s undergoing. While this is a different type of confusion than readers of Dial H are used to experiencing, the reaction it elicits are basically the same.

An Excellent Question

What exactly does all this crazy shit mean? Dial H has always reveled in its own weirdness, an aspect of the series that has almost been aggressive in its persistence. At some point, however, all this weirdness has to go somewhere and actually mean something; weirdness for weirdness’ sake simply isn’t enough to carry an entire title. China Mieville seems to know this. Just as Dial H gets almost too weird for its own good, we are offered a glimpse behind the universe and what makes it tick, a process which maybe saves the title from going too far off the rails.

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