Gravediggers Union 1 and the Art of the Cold Open

by Drew Baumgartner

Gravediggers Union 1

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

My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at Albuquerque, New Mexico. To all law enforcement entitles, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now. Skyler you are the love of my life. I hope you know that. Walter, Junior you’re my big man. There are going to be some things things that you’ll come to learn about me in the next few days. I just want you to know that no no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart. Good-bye.

Walter White, Breaking Bad

What’s your favorite cold-open? Breaking Bad had some doozies, to be sure, but the most memorable almost all fall into the category of “flash forward,” usually dropping us into the climax (or aftermath) of the episode in question before winding back to explain how we got there. It’s an approach that’s understandably popular — why not open with the most exciting moment of the story? — but is far from the only option when kicking off a story. I personally am a bit more partial to the 2001: A Space Odyssey cold open, taking place millions of years ago, connected to the plot of the movie proper only by the thematic connections we can draw between them. That opening clearly appeals to Wes Craig, who kicks off Gravediggers Union 1 in a remarkably similar fashion. Continue reading

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy 3

lumberjanes gotham academy 3

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy 3, originally released August 10th, 2016. 

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Taylor: It’s the time of year where kids start heading back to school, which means it’s time for me to rise from my summertime hibernation and teach the future leaders of tomorrow. This is always an exciting couple of weeks. It’s when I get to see who has grown over the summer, who’s changed, and basically witness the miracle of organic life. I’m always shocked when a 7th grader shows up and he’s four inches taller from the last time I saw him two months ago. While this is a fun time, it also makes me horribly cognizant of my age. These kids are still growing, while my body has effectively begun its long descent into dust. Born in a different millennium than me, these kids have vastly little worldly experience and I see it as part of my job to pass on what little I know about the world. As Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy 3 agrees, this is an important thing for all elders to do.  Continue reading

Lumberjanes 22

lumberjanes 22

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Lumberjanes 22, originally released January 20th, 2016. 

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Taylor: Freshness is key. Tell this to any chef and they’ll certainly agree with you. Fresh things just taste better, that’s just common sense. If you were to ask a critic the same question, they would almost certainly have the same reaction. It’s important for media to have a certain modern and unique feel to it. Certainly there are timeless classics that transcend the need to be fresh, but those are the types of media that come along once in a blue moon. Looking at the average comic book issue, freshness is hard thing to achieve constantly. The monthly demands and deadlines of a creative endeavor can be trying on the most talented of creative teams. Considering this, it’s interesting to read Lumberjanes 22. On its surface the comic is unique and fresh. That being the case, why then do I like it’s beginning to turn? Continue reading

Trees 5

Alternating Currents: Trees 5, Drew and RyanToday, Drew and Ryan are discussing Trees 5, originally released September 17th, 2014.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Drew: I kind of resent that works of art need titles. I appreciate the necessity of distinguishing one book from another, but titles seem to always inelegantly summarize or gracelessly fix some piece of authorial intent I’d rather not be privy to. I’m the least offended by more utilitarian titles, (coincidentally) like Romeo and Juliet, which doesn’t assert anything beyond the play’s focus on those two characters. With Trees, writer Warren Ellis certainly captured that utilitarian spirit by simply naming the thing that makes his science fictional world unique, but then he goes and re-muddies the waters by ending each issue with a pull quote. He removes them from any context, stripping them of any attribution or even punctuation — as if to hint at some kind of greater truth in his characters’ words — but that repetition alone is enough to lend those words an unwieldy significance that asserts someone’s subjectivity. As issue 5 takes an even closer over-the-shoulder view of many of the characters, the nature of that subjectivity becomes a central concern. Continue reading

Lumberjanes 3

lumberjanes 3Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Lumberjanes 3, originally released June 11th, 2014. 

slim-bannerShelby: As much as I enjoy Do-si-dos, I was never a Girl Scout. I grew up on a farm in rural northern Wisconsin, so the FFA (that’s Future Farmers of America) and 4-H were the dominant players in my household. While I never went to camp or earned badges, I can still recite the 4-H pledge from memory, so I understand the impact and importance of scout-type organizations for kids. While 4-H is for both boys and girls, and you’re just as likely to see gals struggling to show a stubborn heifer at the county fair as boys, I definitely appreciate that there are scouting and excursion groups for girls as well as boys; you may not have realized this, but I strongly support equal opportunities for both genders. Even if the series weren’t crazy and fun, I would appreciate Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis’ Lumberjanes for this very reason. Oh, and if you were wondering:

I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
my Heart to greater loyalty,
my Hands to larger service,
and my Health to better living,
in my club, my community, my country, and my world.

Continue reading