The Mutability of Truth in East of West 39

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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apocrypha: apoc·ry·pha | \ə-ˈpä-krə-fə

  1. writings or statements of dubious authenticity
  2. capitalized
    1. books included in the Septuagnint and Vulgate but excluded from the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament
    2. early Christian writings not included in the New Testament.

Why, in any discipline, can one work be canon while another is disregarded? This is one of those petulant questions I used to spit back at my confirmation teachers in high school. How can anyone be expected to believe a text over their experience of the world if there’s any room to believe the text could be false? Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin’s East of West 39 finds all of its characters in various states of deciding what to believe, sometimes even in spite of what they see. Continue reading

Eddie Learns He Knows Nothing in Venom 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in middle school. I woke up thinking about it, I fell asleep thinking about it, I viewed everything through the lens of Magic. Friends were people I played Magic with, and school was just something I had to do before I could play again. I was in love: for almost three years, that game completed me. In 1995, my friends and I went to Gen Con in Chicago, a massive hobby-store convention, which mostly meant Magic and Warhammer. That’s when I realized just how miniscule my obsession actually was. I wasn’t a Magic expert, I was a kid with a hobby in a convention center full of adults who had been living this nerdiness since before I was even born. Magic opened me up to a love of gaming and fantasy, but for these folks, it was the culmination of their lifestyle. Issue 3 of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom gives Eddie Brock his very own Gen Con ’95 moment as he comes face to face with the god of the symbiotes. Continue reading

The Symbiote Stands for Addiction in Venom 2

by Ryan Desaulniers

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

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If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict.

William S. Burroughs, Junkie

Is it possible to explain addiction to someone who has never been addicted? The closest parallel I can draw is the deep, resounding heartache felt when ending a long-term relationship, when the hurt is so big that it is all-encompassing, physically affecting you, turning your stomach, switching your brain off from rationality. Maybe that’s close, but there’s plenty less stigma associated with heartbreak than addiction and its corresponding mental health cycles. Different forms of media endeavor to bring addiction out of the shadows and prove that it is no indication of a flaw in a person’s character, but even a well-told story like that of Requiem for a Dream might offer the non-addict a catharsis based upon their security in never living that experience as opposed to an understanding of those who have. Venom 2 offers a compelling look at a character in a narrative rife with addiction imagery and symbolism which might just lend a window into the life of someone struggling with their relationship to a substance. Continue reading

Setting a Mood in Venom 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

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First issues have a lot to do, and Venom 1 checks off many of those requirements with subtle aplomb. It establishes its hero’s goals, modus operandi, and morality in a casual, understated way, and spends plenty of time looking towards the future, expanding Venom’s world in intriguing new directions. Despite all that, though, more than anything Venom 1 is interested in creating an atmosphere, setting a mood. It’s an issue that’s bleak and relentless, and for once, I mean that as a compliment. Continue reading

Embrace the Immensity of Infinity Countdown Prime 1

By Michael DeLaney

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

With all of the backstory it lays out, Infinity Countdown Prime 1 should probably be renamed “Infinity Countdown Primer.” The book is equal parts past and prologue. Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato Jr. set the stage for Infinity Countdown, cushioned between a Marvel editorial recap of what the Infinity Stones do and what their history is. And while it does throw a lot of information at the reader at once, it feels like one of the more successful starting points for a major comic event in recent memory — especially if you aren’t heavily versed in all things Infinity. Continue reading

Thanos 1

thanos-1

Today, Drew and Ryan D are discussing Thanos 1, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Traditional

Drew: This line is often used to sell a given story as some kind of ultimate showdown, but it always strikes me as thoroughly self-defeating: either one or both of those adjectives simply prove to be false. That is, the answer can’t be as interesting as the question suggests, since the answer necessarily reveals that the question was built on a false premise. Or, if you’re feeling more diplomatic, you might take Superman’s answer to this question from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman: “they surrender.” It’s an elegant solution, but is ultimately far less entertaining than the premise suggests — “they surrender” isn’t exactly the white-knuckle conclusion the question implies, and again, betrays the falsehood of those adjectives.

Such is often the case in superhero comics, where villains are routinely trotted out as unstoppable, only for our hero to miraculously give lie to that claim. It’s enough to make anyone doubt the increasingly hyperbolic claims made of villains. This becomes especially true of big name villains, who continue to be heralded as some kind of ultimate threat, in spite of the fact that they’ve been beaten in virtually every appearance. Thanos is a prime example of this — the seriousness of his threat diminishes with each subsequent return (especially after that time Squirrel Girl defeated him) — leading to even more hyperbolic claims made next time. Cleverly breaking that pattern, Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s Thanos 1 sidesteps the Worf Effect by lampshading the inevitable conclusion in the first issue. Continue reading

Punisher 1

Alternating Currents: Punisher 1, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Punisher 1, originally released May 4th, 2016.

Drew: The intro copy of Punisher 1 reminds us that “Frank Castle died with his family. Now there is only… The Punisher.” It’s a classic premise for a comic series — one that has been used long before and long after the Punisher’s debut (The Spirit and Spawn spring immediately to mind) — but not one that makes for the most compelling central character. Writer Becky Cloonan embraces the vaccuum of Frank’s personality, treating him in this issue more as a rarely-seen force of nature than a human being with real emotions. The result is something closer to Jaws than Kill Bill, but distancing us from Castle forces us to see his actions as truly monstrous, creating a much more unstable lead than could be achieved with a more empathetic approach. Continue reading

East of West 17

east of west 17

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing East of West 17, originally released February 4th, 2015.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars

Drew: Myths are almost all told from a third person omniscient perspective in the past tense; not only do we get a glimpse into the separate actions of both the Tortoise and the Hare, we understand that this race already happened. That second part is natural to storytelling in general — everything from personal anecdotes to the high-flyingest science fiction is told as if the events already happened. Curiously, both tense and narrative mode tend to disappear when working in a visual medium — the illusion that these actions are actually playing out in front of us is strong enough to override any confusion about who is telling this story, and when. To give visual storytelling a mythic quality requires making the past tense nature and omniscient narrator explicit, perhaps with a framing device a la The Princess Bride, or perhaps just with that innocuous introduction I included above. East of West 17 finds writer Jonathan Hickman slipping his narrator in, lending the proceedings the mythic qualities they rightly deserve. Continue reading

Original Sin 1

original sin 1

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Original Sin 1, originally released May 7th, 2014.

Do we… check for a pulse or… did he even have a pulse? Do we know?

Captain America, Original Sin 1

Patrick: Superhero murder mysteries are a trip. In a traditional murder mystery, the audience should all have the same basic understanding of the rules of the game. That way, we’re able to play along as detectives in our own right. Half of the fun in watching a fictional detective solve a crime is feeling like you’re one step behind, just a shade less insightful than hero of our story. But superheroes live in a different universe, with scores of different rules that change and contradict each other throughout the course of history. The abilities and motives of the murder suspects could be…literally anything — you know how many of these characters can alter reality? The first proper issue of Original Sin sets a wildly complicated stage, and while I don’t think I have a chance in hell of reaching the conclusion before our heroes do, I do have a sense of what’s at stake for our lead detective: the original Nick Fury.

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East of West 8

east of west 8

Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing East of West 8, originally released December18th, 2013.

Shelby: The occasionally tempestuous relationship between the church and the state has a longer relationship than one might realize. In ancient times, being a ruler often came with the title of deity; your word was law because it was divine. Martin Luther was one of the first to begin to call for a separation of the two, and by the time the First Amendment of the United States was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was speaking of “a wall of separation between the church and state,” in order to guarantee religious freedom. Personally, I believe very strongly in the idea of the separation of the two, namely because there are many religions in the world, and I see no point in a government forcing someone to follow a set of beliefs. That is not genuine worship. In East of West, however, Jonathan Hickman presents a trickier situation; there is no religion, there is no government, there is only The Message, and if the Message demands political leaders keep the populace dumb and under control to prep them for the four horseman of the apocalypse, the politicians hasten to obey.

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