This article containsSPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Drew: What moral do we take away from heroic self-sacrifice? We undoubtedly see nobility in a hero prizing the life and safety of others more than their own, but our own takeaway is likely much more modest — we might sacrifice our material comfort or time for the benefit of others, if not our lives. But is “self-sacrifice is good” the only way to look at those stories? Is it possible to look at a hero laying down their life for others and identify with those others — not the hero making the sacrifice, but the beneficiaries of that sacrifice? Is it possible that we see the hero’s death less as a noble choice and more as satisfying a cosmic need for heroes to die — a “sacrifice” in a very different sense of the word? It’s the kind of conclusion you might expect of a world-ending sci-fi computer to draw, but it’s also embedded in the idiosyncratic resolution of John Layman and Sam Kieth’s Eleanor and the Egret. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
We call this story “Man in Hole,” but it needn’t be about a man and it needn’t be about somebody getting into a hole — it’s just a good way to remember it: Somebody gets into trouble and gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get sick of it.
I’ve always been attracted to the kind of abstract narrative shapes Vonnegut famously catalogued in his Master’s Thesis — there’s something fascinating at the thought that virtually all stories draw from a narrow range of narrative trajectories. But, of course, looking at narratives in such an abstract way overlooks a lot of the texture and details that actually makes stories so thrilling in the first place. That is, while we might take it for a given that the man gets out of the whole, we can still be surprised at exactly how that happens. Those details are what distinguishes one narrative from another, yet even then, they can often feel rote and predictable. Not so with Eleanor and the Egret 4, which uses the cartoon logic of its high-concept premise to deliver some truly unexpected twists. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
One of my favorite Loony Tunes premises was that of “Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog,” the rival canines attempting to eat/protect a herd of sheep, respectively. Those cartoons are full of all of the great slapstick and expressions that make classic Chuck Jones cartoons such a pleasure, but by favorite gag is that, at the start and end of the day, Ralph and Sam punch their timecards — they’re just doing their jobs. Any other adversarial relationship in Loony Tunes, whether it’s Elmer Fudd and Bugs, Sylvester and Tweetie, or the (similarly designed) Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, needs no further explanation; the motivations of the characters are enough to carry the gags. Ralph and Sam, though, have a reason beyond their apparent animal natures, something that tilts at the nonsensical task of explaining the cartoon logic of these characters. It somehow grounds them in reality while simultaneously heightening the absurdity of the situations they’re in. Eleanor and the Egret has always reveled in its own kind of absurdity, but issue 3 starts to reveal Eleanor’s backstory, hinting at some human emotions at the core of this cartoony world. Continue reading →
Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss Archie 20, Curse Words 5, Eleanor and the Egret 2, Star Wars: Poe Dameron 15, Wicked + The Divine 455 AD 1, and World Reader 2. Also, we will be discussing Star Wars 31 on Tuesday and Jughead 15 and American Monster 6 on Wednesday,so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Ryan M are discussing Eleanor and the Egret 1, originally released April 5, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
Patrick: Comic book fans have a weird relationships with the medium. For as much time as we spend staring at visually stunning works of art, we tend not to place too much value on what the art itself means to us. Oh sure, we can complain that some something is too cartoony or too pin-up or too grim-dark, and we can praise action sequences and cool-looking costumes, but all comic art is necessarily tied to something beyond the art itself. There’s a story, a message, a political point of view, a joke — the art straining to express something other than itself. Eleanor and the Egret is poised to flip those priorities, insisting on both the value and the meaning of the art by making it both subject and medium. The first issue is delightfully soothing, and nearly impossible to analyze against psychological and narrative norms. It’s so singularly beautiful, I wish I could eat it. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 13, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Patrick: One of the bigger driving forces within Batman Eternal is Carmine Falcone’s desire to rid Gotham of “freaks” like the Penguin and Professor Pyg. In effect, Falcone is trying to drive all the fantastical elements out of Gotham City — whether they’re heroes or villains doesn’t seem to matter much to him. He’s even gone so far as pit the police directly against the Bat Family, furthering the absoluteness of this idea of fantasy vs. reality. But there’s a point that Falcone is missing — or willfully ignoring: everyone engages in a little bit of fantasy to get what they want. What Jim Gordon experienced in the train station – was that fantasy or reality? Covering up a gang war: fantasy or reality? Issue 13 brings that dichotomy into stark relief, showing how embracing fantasy can be equal parts advantageous and horrifying. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 12, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Spencer: Batman Eternal is a loaded title. In our world, Batman is already 75 years old, and it’s easy to see this character, with his endless reinterpretations, existing on in perpetuity. Yet, within the narrative, Batman is very much fallible, and has already died once, with Dick Grayson taking up the mantle in his absence. Bruce Wayne may not be eternal, but the legacy he leaves behind will be, be it the good he does for the city or the crimefighters he raises, trains, and/or inspires. Of course, Batman’s not the only one in this title with a legacy.
Today, Drew leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 11, originally released June 18th, 2014.
Drew: Happy belated Fathers’ Day, everyone! I know I’m close to a week late, but hey, it’s not like your my dad, right? Okay, I may have missed the moment there, but Batman Eternal 11 actually hits a bit closer to the mark, landing only four days after the actual holiday. Still seem a little late? Consider how non-topical other comics tend to be. It makes sense; a six-issue arc may span a matter of days of narrative time, but would cover six months in real time — how do you sync that up to fixed holidays? It’s still done from time to time, but it’s usually relegated to one-off anthologies, or even commemorating events a few months after the fact. There are a few notable exceptions, which manage the feat largely by synching their narrative rate to their release schedule, like The Long Halloween or 52, two series to which Batman Eternal obviously owes a great debt. The weekly format truly gives the writers an opportunity to line events up on the calendar, giving us just a bit more to relate to in the pages. Far from hackneyed or forced, this issue reveals one of the primary perks of such a large ensemble cast: it’s easy to find occasion-appropriate themes when so many plates are spinning at once. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 10, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Shelby: I have some friends who are legitimate circus performers, one a pole dancer and the other a trapeze artist, and so I naturally have attended a cabaret-style circus performance held in an old warehouse. It was exactly as awesome as it sounds, with acrobats of every flavor, a hoop dancer, clowns, and a juggler. This guy was incredible, he used a rainbow array of balls that lit up, and they shut off all the lights in the place so all we could see were the glowing orbs and the trails they left behind. Comic books aren’t totally dissimilar; we don’t see the creators specifically, just the art they leave for us. Also, sometimes it feels like a team is juggling waaaaaaay too many ideas, and it’s only a matter of time before things fall apart. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 8, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Spencer: Last time I wrote about Batman EternalI praised how quickly the plot seemed to be coming together, but in the five issues since, things have slowed down dramatically. The end of issue three saw the genesis of a brutal gang war that threatened to rock Batman’s city down to its core, but the resulting conflicts haven’t looked all that more dangerous than any typical Gotham evening. There’s a lot of fun stuff going on in Batman Eternal 8, but these pacing issues sap much of the tension from the developments, leaving a final product that’s not quite as awesome as it should be. Continue reading →