Today, Greg and Shelby are discussing Astro City 9, originally released February 12th, 2014.
Greg: I don’t know where I stand on free will versus fate. Sometimes the idea of everything happening for a reason brings me comfort; sometimes the idea of me being the only author of my universe does. This type of unsettled philosophical flip-flopping (phlip-phlopping?) may suit me in my regular life just fine, but in fiction, we often demand clear lines drawn in the sand. While this latest issue of Astro City may not be this specific (probably wisely), it does delineate what it wants to do stronger than previous Winged Victory issues, to highly effective results.
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Phantom Stranger 2, originally released November 14th, 2012.
Shelby: To me, the Phantom Stranger is a very old-fashioned kind of “hero.” There’s virtually no way to make the hard-boiled, fedora-wearing, mysterious man in the shadows seem like anything but old-fashioned. With his current origin as (probably) Judas Iscariot, he fits into that nebulous, religious category with The Spectre (of God’s Vengeance, for those of you keeping score). Unsurprisingly, he’s in here too; also not surprising, he’s an old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective. So, when Dan DiDio includes these characters with far more contemporary references, like kiddie soccer games and Star Wars quotes, it doesn’t fail so much as it just feels disingenuous.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Phantom Stranger 1, originally released October 10th, 2012.
Taylor: A long time ago I was talking to a friend about how we enjoy the use of biblical imagery and myth in our media. Neither of us is particularly religious but we both had to admit that there is something really engaging about the use of stories and symbols that have been a primary pillar of western civilization for over 2000 years. When an author is able to integrate religious themes into his or her work without bludgeoning you over the head with theology, the result is often highly entertaining, as fans of John Constantine will attest. However, it can never be stated enough that the author must have a clear vision in mind when alluding to religious imagery. While borrowing from a story here or a symbol there is fine, the most important thing is that it all hangs together with a clear vision held by the author. Phantom Stranger teeters on the edge of this abyss and in the proper first issue of the series the reader has to wonder on which side it will fall.
Today, Drew and Peter are discussing Phantom Stranger 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Phantom Stranger 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Drew: I don’t remember when it is that I first stumbled across William Safire’s cheekily ironic Rules for Writers, but the last rule, “Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives,” has managed to nestle itself in my editing subconscious. I make a point of eliminating any cliche I see on the site (the odd exception aside), which has effectively lowered my tolerance for reading them. It rarely becomes a problem — this is one of the most well-known axioms in writing, after all — but every so often, I’ll come across a piece that indulges in cliches to excess, it’s beyond distracting. The Phantom Stranger 0 is one such example, offering sequences that are so dense with cliches, it’s hard to remember that this story was published in 2012.