Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Constantine: The Hellblazer 4, originally released September 16th, 2015.
Michael: I’m going to tell you something that you’ve heard so much already that you’re going to want to stop reading after I tell you (but please, don’t): fiction is escapism. The simplest bit of escapism is tossing our problems aside and putting ourselves in the shoes of someone sexier, stronger, more likeable and generally just better than what we’re working with. There’s an equal amount of catharsis and distortion at play in this escapism. John Constantine isn’t the guy you are wishing you could be – he’s the guy who you’re thanking your lucky stars that you’re not. I mean, afterlife existential grief/survivor’s guilt makes your last break up look pretty vanilla. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Swamp Thing 37, originally released December 3rd, 2014.
Men have become the tools of their tools.
Henry David Thoreau
Drew: I think it’s safe to say that technophobia has always been a thing. From fire to electricity, somebody was always more concerned over what we were losing than what we were gaining. Stories of people fearing electrical vapors or locomotives seem quaint to us now, but it wasn’t so long ago that buying things through this new internet thing seemed like an absurdly risky endeavor. In fact, I think consumers were so scared of online shopping that we were kind of oblivious to the impacts it could have in offline shopping. If anyone should have been scared of online shopping, it was brick-and-mortar establishments like Blockbuster and Borders (and, you know, countless small businesses) that couldn’t compete with the convenience and selection. The comics industry is still recovering from its most recent bout of technophobia, having only recently fully embraced same-day digital releases and content designed specifically for screens. Those growing pains are very much at the heart of Swamp Thing 37, which checks in on how the various avatars are reacting to the space technology is carving out for itself. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick leads a discussion on The New 52: Futures End 5, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Patrick: In the first and second season finales of LOST, our heroes encounter a gigantic green bird that screeches “HURLEY” as it soars over them. Fans, because they are so damn clever, starting calling this thing the Hurley Bird. The thing was introduced as one of those “maybe we’ll pay this off later” sort of things, but they never really had any idea what they were doing with it. In retrospect, the creature’s second appearance served as an admission of this fact, and a cheeky way to dismiss the entire concept. What happens is that Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley and Michael are making their way across the island, when the Hurley Bird divebombs them (naturally howling “HURLEY” at the top of its bird lungs). Michael tries to shoot it, but Jack never loaded his weapon — that was the point of the scene: now Michael knows the others don’t trust him. But the notable part of the scene is that Hurley asks the audience surrogate question: “Did that bird just say my name?” Sawyer, acting as the voice of the creative team, sarcastically responds “Yeah, right before it crapped gold.” That translates to “who fucking cares?” And you know what? Fair play to LOST — I wouldn’t have wanted to halfheartedly explore some bullshit bird. Futures End 5 has that same dismissive attitude toward all of its real story points, making me believe that the writers care just as much about this bullshit as I do. It’s not a comforting feeling. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-Star Western 26, originally released December 31st, 2013.
Drew: I’ve always been suspicious of happy endings. Not that I’m a grump or a pessimist (or, not just because I’m a grump and a pessimist), just that I think the tendency to wrap stories up with a nice bow tends to make them same-y. Knowing everything will work out in the end robs stories of most of their drama, and more importantly, they tend to ring false. Still, there’s something undeniably alluring about a happy ending — a gentle reassurance that the characters will be okay specifically, and that things tend to work out generally. It’s incredibly tricky to acknowledge both aspects of the happy ending, but Alan Moore’s classic “For the Man Who Has Everything” does it beautifully by presenting (and ultimately rejecting) a classic “what if” scenario. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti aim to tap that same magic in All-Star Western 26, but as is the case with most comparisons to Moore, they come up just a little short. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 24, originally released October 23rd, 2013.
Drew: The lone wolf has always been an alluring figure. Every continent has their tales of solitary, wandering soldiers — most often period stories (knights, ronin, cowboys) — but comics have always featured that notion pulled into the modern day. All-Star Western has always been about playing with that line, often in reverse, pushing our expectations of superheroes back to the old west, but the current arc makes that relationship explicit, pulling Hex into the modern day DC Universe. Surprisingly, he fits in quite well. Continue reading →
Scott: Some villainous behavior is justifiable — if you get all sides of the story, you can at least understand why someone would commit such seemingly evil acts. This is a big part of Villains Month, understanding why villains act the way they act. In fact, many of these issues have taken advantage of a little trick: when you tell a story from a character’s perspective, that character immediately becomes more sympathetic to the reader, even if that character is not such a great person. But there are some villains whose actions cannot be justified, who have an inherent evil to their ways that a normal person just can’t understand. Anton Arcane is one of these villains. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Constantine 6, originally released August 14th, 2013.
Patrick: As comic book fans, we’ve grown used to the idea that death is but a temporary obstacle. You can kill anyone you want really – DC’s five biggest (Clark, Bruce, Hal, Barry and Diana) have all been dead atleast once. So we can be forgiven for speculating just how a hero could come back from the dead within minutes of their passing. We totally do that too – don’t believe me? Check out our 90+ comments on Batman Incorporated 9: many of which address the permanence of Damian’s death. We’re jaded assholes, and we know that at the end of the day, this magical storytelling aparratus is a business. I’m happy to report that DC’s resident asshole — Mr. John Constantine — takes much the same attitude, even when it comes to his own untimely end.
Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing Swamp Thing 23, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Patrick: Alcohol is weird. It’s dulls our senses, it shortens our lives, it gets us into trouble – and yet we engage with it time and time (and time) again. Why? Because it’s fun. Because when we dial back our inhibitions a little bit, we find the casual courage to do something we’ve always wanted to do. All of that freedom is great, until you cross that line. YOU KNOW THE ONE I MEAN. The moment in the evening where you don’t make decisions with your complete mental faculty. I’ve always had people tell me that drinking brings out who someone really is, but that’s faulty. If anything, booze dulls the prowess of the super-ego, allowing the baser urges of ego and id to take priority. But the id isn’t a person’s “true self” – the psyche isn’t a list of three psychic apparatuses, but the relationship between the three. What you are can more accurately be defined by how you deny the more destructive urges deep in your Freudian well. That’s the kind of thematic material Charles Soule mines in his story about a magician, a plant-man and a booze-tree. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Constantine 5, originally released July 24th, 2013.
Shelby: We’ve all heard the cautionary tale of the boy who cried wolf. He was a shepherd, and since watching sheep is a super boring job, he would shout that there was a wolf coming; everyone would run to save the herd, and he’d laugh and laugh because he was kind of a dick like that. After a few rounds of this, when a wolf actually appeared, no one believed the boy when he cried for help, and all the sheep got eaten. Lesson learned: if you’re going to be an ass and lie to people all the time, no one will believe you when you tell the truth. Now, who in the comic book universe do we know who’s a lying ass all the time… Continue reading →
Patrick: Did any of you guys ever play Warhammer? If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a table top war game where you assemble an army from your race of choice and battle against your friends’ armies. It’s the least pick-up-and-play game you could ever imagine – understanding the basic rules means reading a 100+ page manual, and keeping a cheat sheet with charts and tables with you at all times. And then there’s understanding your own army, for which you need yet other book completely dedicated to that race. Then you need the little metal figures to represent the members of your army (sold separately), and if you’re really hardcore you can paint them. Then you need a surface large enough to play on – one time my friends and I took a door off its hinges and used that when we were denied the dining room table. Ideally, this surface will be populated with trees and terrain and stuff like that. Setting up the Trinity War has felt an awful lot like setting up a Warhammer game. Everyone’s been reading extra books they don’t really want to read just so they can play in the big game. Now the event is actually here and I can’t believe I’m surprised that all the characters feel like pieces in a game. Continue reading →