Batman 50: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 50

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

Drew: Bruce Wayne understands that his responsibilities as Batman demands sacrifice. He devotes his time, body, and earthly resources to his mission to fight crime, and generally takes that mission very seriously. All of which can look like he’s sacrificed his own happiness in order to be Batman. Or, more precisely, that his happiness is a necessary sacrifice for his existence. Batman’s drive, the argument goes, comes from his grief, anger, and sadness, so anything that blunts or dilutes those feelings weaken his mission. It’s a position DC Editorial staked out back in 2013, when Dan DiDio explained why Batwoman’s marriage could never happen, but it’s not necessarily a philosophy writer Tom King ascribes to. Indeed, King has argued that Batman’s happiness is a valuable source of drama, stating “There’s no conflict in having Batman be sad. There’s conflict in having Batman be happy.” That may mean King sees Batman’s happiness as only a temporary condition, but it’s obviously not out of the question. The point is, it’s a hotly debated topic, and one that King cleverly allows to play out in the pages of Batman 50. Continue reading

Genuine Jump Scares in Infidel 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Infidel 4

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

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I’m so enamored of Infidel‘s social commentary, it’s easy to neglect just how skillful of a haunted house story it is. And I say that as someone who isn’t into horror generally or horror comics, specifically. I’m sure the social commentary elements help make the ghouls of this series feel so insidious, but this series manages to be scary far beyond its concepts. That is, the effectiveness of the horror relies on the skills of writer Pornsak Pichetshote and artist Aaron Campbell, and issue 4 perfectly demonstrates how they deliver scares in totally unexpected ways. Continue reading

The Worst Horrors in Infidel 3 are Real

by Drew Baumgartner

Infidel 3

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

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Last month, Patrick remarked on how both real and scary Infidel is — that is, the horrors of this book come from societies worst (but all too real) problems. And they really do seem to come from those problems. For some reason, when I read the solicit for this series, I imagined that the specters in this series somehow caused the islamophobia that runs rampant throughout Aisha’s building; that it was somehow responsible for making people hateful. As we spend more time with them, however, (and as more residents seem to encounter them), it seems like they aren’t so much the cause of the bigotry, but the result of it. That is, they are the manifestation of the fear minorities feel when encountering bigotry. Continue reading

Axes of Horror in Infidel 2

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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Infidel is tough for me to write about because it is so damn real and so damn scary. To look at how Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell are successful is to look deep into what scares me about the world. We’re talking about highly entrenched societal ills like racism, xenophobia, terrorism, murder. Infidel delivers on what’s scary about all of those enormous concepts, but perhaps more importantly gives similar horrific weight to the mundane inconveniences and atrocities of modern life and connects them to the aforementioned huge horrors. Do you feel safe, a few steps removed from accidentally throwing a loved one down the stairs? Well, joke’s on you: the spectre of Infidel is as close to you as a package of strawberries rotting on your kitchen counter. Continue reading

Hungry Ghosts 1: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Hungry Ghosts 1

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

They found her body sprawled across the grave. Without realizing it, she had plunged the knife through her skirt and had pinned it to the ground. It was only the knife that held her. She had died of fright.

Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Drew: Like every kid who grew up in the ’90s, I’m intimately familiar with Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories books — the perfect camp fire/slumber party fodder. But “The Girl Who Stood on the Grave” (sometimes known as “The Dare”), whose punchline I spoiled above is the only one that ever actually scared me. Even as a kid, I never believed in ghosts, so stories of long-dead apparitions leaving their sweaters behind or whatever felt more like jokes than anything. But the thought of scaring oneself to death felt all too real when watching my friends get spooked by the other nonsense in the book. I doubt I knew who FDR was at that point, but even then I understood that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Which is to say, I’m far more interested in the telling of ghost stories than I am in the stories themselves. And I suspect we’re all a little that way — it’s why Tales from the Crypt had the Crypt Keeper and Are You Afraid of the Dark? had those terrible child actors — the ritual of telling scary stories is just as important as the scary stories themselves. It’s a notion that Hungry Ghosts taps into twofold, offering a framing story within a framing story, as a Crypt Keeper type tells us the story of people sitting around telling ghost stories. Continue reading

America 1

america-1

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing America 1, originally released March 1st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: I’ll never forget a piece of advice a friend once gave me: “You’ve learned everything you can from this job. It’s time to move on.” That statement has always stood out to me because, up until that moment, I had never considered the challenge provided when looking at a potential job; I’d grown up thinking of a job only as a means to an end, a way to get money to survive and pursue more meaningful hobbies. Now though, while I recognize that there’s a certain amount of privilege involved in that advice, I also recognize the truth in it. I think that statement is certainly going through America Chavez’s mind in America 1 as well, as the hyper-competent Ultimate embarks on a new stage of her career: college. Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Issue

Best of 2014: Best IssueEpisodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 14 issues of 2014.
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Trillium 8

trillium 8Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing Trillium 8, originally released April 2nd, 2014.

Spencer: A good ending can make or break a story. While there are many stories that are beloved due to endings that managed to respect its themes, satisfactorily tie-up loose ends, or even just provide a thought-provoking twist, there are just as many rotten endings that manage to ruin everything that came before; look at the controversy over the recent finale of How I Met Your Mother?, for example. Going into the final issue of Jeff Lemire’s Trillum, we’re left with more questions than ever and almost no idea how things might wrap up or what a satisfying ending to this series would even entail; will the ending make or break Trillium?

Alright, I won’t keep you in suspense: it makes it. This is one of the best finales I’ve ever experienced. Continue reading

Trillium 7

trillium 7

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Trillium 7, originally released March 9th, 2014.

Time has stopped before us / The sky cannot ignore us / No one can separate us / For we are all that is left

  The Beginning is the End is the Beginning, Smashing Pumpkins

Shelby: While the execution is a little more angsty than I might prefer at my advanced age of 29, the lyrics to The Beginning is the End is the Beginning from the soundtrack of The Movie Which Shall Not Be Named very well match Jeff Lemire’s penultimate issue of Trillium. More than anything else, the song’s title (as well as its partner, The End is the Beginning is the End) seem to capture Lemire’s whole approach to time and the relationship of William and Nika. It’s an interesting love story that finds its beginning at the end of the universe, possibly at the end of time itself.
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Trillium 6

trillium 6

Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Trillium 6, originally released February 5th, 2014. Shelby: I’ve lived alone for about 3 years. It’s not always the easiest thing to do; sometimes you want more than anything to have some other person around. It doesn’t have to be someone you talk to, or even know. There’s just something about the presence of another person that is comforting. Now, luckily, I have dear friends who live pretty close, so whenever I get that urge to talk to someone other than a houseplant, I can do something about it. Not everyone is so lucky; there are some who, for reasons physical or mental, have no choice but to be alone. Jeff Lemire takes a look at what it is to be alone in his latest installment of Trillium.
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