Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing American Monster 6, originally released May 17, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS. Maybe-not-as-always this article contains some NSFW images.
Patrick: Do you remember that day in elementary school when they split the class between boys and girls and tried to teach sex ed? I want to say it was 4th or 5th grade. It was a cursory look at the subject, content to cover some of the basic vocabulary and just get the kids past the point where they would giggle at every mention of the word penis. At the time, I thought it was a worthless exercise, but I’m starting to think it may have been counter-productive. By separating the genders, the teachers were sending the message that all this sex and body talk was somehow secretive. The boys weren’t being taught how to talk to girls about what was happening in their bodies, and whatever was happening in the girls’ bodies remained a total mystery to the boys. And vice versa. Sex is complicated, and it can have huge, everlasting effects on someone’s life, but we insist on a prudish secrecy around it nonetheless. American Monster 6 pushes its characters around on a carousel of sexual ignorance, misunderstanding and shame. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moonshine 6, originally released March 29, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
“All actions takes place, so to speak in a kind of twilight, which like a fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.”
-Karl Von Clausewitz, On War
Patrick: Lou Pirlo is, ostensibly, the protagonist of Moonshine. But he’s a man badly in need of definition. Is he an ambitious mafia man, working his way up the rungs of the organized crime ladder? Or is he a drunken fuck-up with a pretty face? Or — and this may be the most tantalizing question of all — is he a murderous wolf-man? It’s a question that requires clarity to answer, and that has never been one of Pirlo’s strong suits. As the fog of war closes in on Hiram’s Hallow, so too does the narrative confusion obscure our hero. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Moonshine 5, originally released February 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
I’ll only do nudity if it’s important to the plot.
Drew: I can’t remember when I first heard this sentiment, but I can guess with 100% certainty the gender of the person who said it. Actresses use this line to justify the choice to disrobe, but the fact that they need any kind of criteria speaks to how often they might be asked to do nude scenes that aren’t important to the plot. More importantly, I’ve never heard a male actor express anything similar to this, because male nudity is so rare — they don’t need a rule for deciding which nude roles to take because they’ll likely never be offered one in the first place. Curiously, because male nudity is so rare, it necessarily has more impact, making it feel more “important” than even the most “essential” female nudity — I can count the number of times I’ve seen male nudity in films on one hand, but I’m certain I’m remembering all of them. This may be a tellingly long-winded way of saying I want to talk about Lou Pirlo’s wang, but damnit, I think it’s important. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moonshine 4, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d?”
Alexander Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard”
Patrick: Context is an important part of the modern conception of identity. When you meet someone, you ask what they do, where they’re from, who their family is. You’re not so much asking them to look within in themselves for definition, but outward to the relationships and roles shape them. But that is a frustratingly limited definition of identity, and one that leaves the identifier out of the equation entirely. Pope’s poem quoted above meditates on the serenity granted to the person that is courageous enough to both forget and be forgotten by the outside world. Only stripped of context can we ever hope to discover who our character truly is. That’s the situation that Lou Pirlo finds himself in — his stuttering past holding him back from realizing his true potential. What he sees as “holes” waiting to be filled are actually blissfully empty memories. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Moonshine 3, originally released December 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: I remember my third grade teacher expressing regret at having sat too close to the stage at a magic show. “I could see how every trick was done,” she said, oblivious that her complaints were describing what I always wanted. To me, the “magic” of a magic wasn’t in suspending my disbelief, but knowing that they were doing something that isn’t magic right before my eyes, and I still couldn’t see it. Suffice it to say, my love of seeing the strings in art — of appreciating the thought and care that goes into those strings — runs deep. The best artists, like the best magicians, hide those strings in plain sight, such that people like my third grade teacher regret noticing them, but finding and celebrating effective uses of even the simplest techniques offers an entirely different set of pleasures. As Moonshine continues to develop its relationships in issue 3, I’d like to turn to the storytelling mechanics that make this series so remarkable. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moonshine 2, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: My father grew up in Theresa, Wisconsin. It’s a small, rural town a good 50 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Most of his side of the family is still there, cheering on the Packers and living lives I’m going to charitably call “old fashioned.” My father must have envisioned a better — or at least different — life for himself, and he got out, went to college and become an engineer. He worked in northern Illinois, the greater Chicagoland area, so the physical distance he traversed wasn’t enormous, but the philosophical distance he traveled was. He values education and art and compassion — a departure from what he was raised on. In turn, my siblings and I have all also moved away from our Wisconsin homestead and embraced cultural, societal and philosophical ideas even further from where we were raised. And not even in the same direction — my older sister is in the army, and my little brother is a crusader for homosexual homeless teens in Colorado. And I’m an artsy-fartsy comedian in Los Angeles. We’re allowed this room to grow with relatively little violence or conflict precisely because of the distance we’ve given ourselves from our stomping grounds. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine 2 shows just how traumatic that transition from one generation to the next can be when everyone stays in one place. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: What do you think of when you hear the word “sequel”? Do you imagine a story that deepens the themes established in the original (a la The Dark Knight or The Godfather Part II) or do you imagine a story that returns to the well more out of obligation than any artistic impetus (a la The Dark Knight Rises or The Godfather Part III)? Do you imagine a continuation of the original narrative, taking the characters in bold new directions, or do you imagine a barely disguised repetition of the original narrative, taking the characters in safe, predictable directions? While I try to keep an open mind, I’ve been around the block enough times to recognize that most sequels tend to rely heavily on nostalgia, carefully recreating situations to replicate the thrills of the original. Unfortunately, that phenomenon means even my disappointment in The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 all too familiar. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Moonshine 1, originally released October 8th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
It’s the notes you don’t play that matter.
Drew: I don’t think this quote means what people think it means. It’s often extrapolated into the hackneyed quote put in jazz snobs’ mouths that “you have to listen to the notes they’re not playing,” as though jazz is somehow about carving melodies of negative space in solid blocks of sound. To me, this quote suggests almost the complete opposite, reminding players that jazz isn’t about playing all the notes, and that a well-placed rest can be remarkably effective. It’s the corollary to the art axiom that every line must have a purpose — a good artist must omit whatever doesn’t meet that criteria.
Obviously, “purpose” carries some value judgements that can vary from artwork to artwork, but for comics, we might understand the purpose to be “conveying the narrative.” Again, this will vary from instance to instance — sometimes, set-dressings will be important for establishing the setting or a specific mood, other times, they might needlessly clutter a moment of action or emotional turbulence — which is why good artists will vary that level of detail. I’d like to suggest Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are masters of that kind of precision, giving their readers exactly what information they need when they need it — no more, no less — and that Moonshine 1 stands as a shining example of this mastery. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Ryan are discussing Dark Knight III: The Master Race 5, originally released June 29th, 2016.
Mark: Be careful what you wish for.
When Dark Knight III was initially announced—with the subtitle The Master Race, for God’s sake—I feared the worst. Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 pushed Frank Miller over the edge and into a world of hate. I don’t fault anyone who lived through the mindless death and destruction in New York City for being affected by it, but Miller became unhinged, his work borderline unreadable. Lows seldom get lower than 2011’s Holy Terror. Still, The Dark Knight is a name that’ll sell, and DC hasn’t exactly been lighting up the charts, so a resurrection of Miller’s most famous book was inevitable. My hope at the time of the announcement was that having trusted DC talent Brian Azzarello attached to the project as co-author would perhaps temper some of Miller’s more…flamboyant flourishes.
Now, five issues into Dark Knight III, I find myself wishing for a bit more of that Frank Miller lunacy. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing American Monster 3, originally released May 11th, 2016.
Michael: Brian Azzarello is an excellent storyteller who often takes us to the depraved depths of humanity’s soul to teach us something about ourselves. While the specific “hows” and “whys” of this revenge tale are still a mystery, American Monster 3 in particular maintains a very existential theme for its characters. “Why do I exist?” “How do I go on?” “What is my life worth?” Continue reading →