How Layouts Drive Tension in Death of the Inhumans 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Death of the Inhumans 3

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Deep, thoughtful analysis is a rarity in the world of comics criticism. While it’s easy enough to dismiss itinerant continuity policing or grumbling about plot-holes as braindead drivel, there’s a much more insidious kind of shallow analysis that suggests that there are simple aesthetic rules that govern the medium. It may be possible to identify trends that are true for even a very large sample of comics, but there are just as many exceptions to those “rules.” Truly deep analysis, on the other hand, can introduce us to new analytical tools that can be applied to many other comics, even if the conclusions we draw from those applications have no universal trend. Such is the case with Matt Fraction’s “cover version: daredevil 230 and cutting techniques,” one of my favorite comics analyses of all time. I highly recommend taking the time to read that piece, but the short explanation for why I love it so much is that it introduced me to ideas I had never encountered before. Most important was the thought that the invisible structures that guide our reading experience might be only just invisible, and that we can unearth them by paying close attention to things like panel counts and layouts. Fraction identifies a triangle motif in Daredevil 230 that is obvious enough on some pages, but on others just loosely describes the areas of the layouts we might most pay attention to. Using those same techniques, I recognize a similar pattern on some pages of Death of the Inhumans 3, though they elicit a decidedly different effect. Continue reading

Death Roulette in Death of the Inhumans 2

by Patrick Ehlers

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The title Death of the Inhumans makes one specific promise: some Inhumans are gonna die. But y’know, this is a comic book, and odds are just as good that the title is sensational hyperbole that they are of the title being literal. Writer Donny Cates and artist Ariel Olivetti spend the entirety of issue 2 insisting on three simple things:

  1. The Inhumans who have been killed already.
  2. The Inhumans left to kill.
  3. Vox’s ability to kill any Inhuman.

By the end of the issue, the reader is forced to take the threat of the title seriously. Cates and Olivetti cash in on that seriousness with one hell of a gut punch. Continue reading

Death Of The Inhumans 1: Discussion

By Ryan Mogge and Patrick Ehlers

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

Ryan: Narration can be a crutch, a device used to add exposition where story cannot carry itself, the epitome of “show don’t tell.” However, when it’s done well, it can be fantastic. In Death of the Inhumans 1, the narration’s tone and point of view work in concert with the story as it unfolds. At times, it feels as though the visual and the narration are two paths that run alongside one another and intersect intermittently. They inform each other and create a balance that elevates both elements to something more nuanced and affecting. Continue reading

Lockjaw 1: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Patrick Ehlers

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

Taylor: Ancient wisdom states that you should never judge a book by it’s cover. We’re all familiar with this phrase and know that this metaphor extends far beyond assessing books by their cover art. Don’t judge people by the way they look and don’t assume a video game is good based on the franchise it hails from. Yet while I’m familiar with this sage advice, I often find it extremely hard to follow. Take Lockjaw 1, for example. It’s tempting to think this comic will be about its titular character, given his name splayed across the cover and the oversize likeness of this same dog. However, that’s not the case here, so how much you are inclined to judge a book by its cover might determine what you think of this issue. Continue reading

Karnak 6

karnak-6

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Karnak 6, originally released February 1st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: I’ve cited tvtropes.org so often on this site that doing so might reasonably constitute its own trope. Indeed, I tend to use that site in the same way that writers use tropes: as a shorthand to lay the groundwork for more complex and original ideas. It’s not that tropes are bad, necessarily, but they certainly represent some amount of artifice in the story — recognizing those tropes necessarily pushes us out of the narrative. In the world of comics, tropes are almost obligatory, as characters and situations have to be introduced in 20-page installments. Those elements can be complicated later, but tropes become the basic currency for the broad strokes. This may seem like an odd way to open a discussion of Karnak 6, which is remarkably inoffensive on the tropes front, but I’d like to suggest that writer Warren Ellis has adopted an entirely different, less artificial currency to round out this six-issue arc: Karnak’s own cognitive biases. Continue reading

Daredevil 12

daredevil-12

Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Daredevil 12, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: What is art? I suppose if I had to answer that question, I’d say that art is something one creates that’s intended to elicit some sort of emotional reaction, but even that incredibly broad statement doesn’t cover the full spectrum of what art is, or isn’t, what it can or can’t do. What truly is or isn’t art is subjective, yet the debate rages on; in a way, it even defines the conflict between Daredevil and his new villain, Muse. Muse just wants Daredevil to like his work, while, of course, Matt doesn’t because his work is murder. Can murder be art? Muse certainly seems to think so, and in his mind, that justifies everything he does. Continue reading

Karnak 5

karnak-5

Today, Mark and Taylor are discussing Karnak 5, originally released September 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: Given the opportunity, would you go back in time to correct the mistakes of your past? At first blush, it’s an appealing prospect; we all have moments of regret in our past — a situation we wish we would have handled differently, a choice we want to unmake, words we want to take back. But people are an accumulation of their choices, and taking back one would necessarily lead somewhere new. Whether our changed self would be truly appealing comes down to how happy we are with current selves.

Continue reading

The Uncanny Inhumans 13

Alternating Currents: Uncanny Inhumans 13, Drew and Patrick
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Uncanny Inhumans 13, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Most people believe that the 20th century was a death struggle between Communism and Capitalism, and that Fascism was but a hiccup. But today we know better. Communism was a fool’s errand. The followers of Marx gone from this earth, but the followers of Hitler abound and thrive. Hitler, however, had one great disadvantage. He lived in a time when Fascism, like a virus… like the AIDS virus… needed a strong host in order to spread. Germany was that host. But Germany did not prevail. The world was too big. Fortunately, the world has changed. Global communications, cable TV, the internet. Today the world is smaller and a virus does not need a strong host in order to spread. The virus… is airborne. One more thing. Let no man call us crazy. They called Hitler crazy. But Hitler was not crazy. He was stupid. You don’t fight Russia and America. You get Russia and America to fight each other… and destroy each other.

Dressler, The Sum of All Fears

Drew: I’m not sure if the above quote appears in Tom Clancy’s novel, but it sure plays a key role in its film adaptation, where a group of fascists run a false flag operation in hopes of pitting Russia and the US against one another. The narrative of a neo-nazi faction gaining by pitting the two powers that be against one another certainly has real-world resonance in the rise of the alt-right during this election cycle, which I suppose highlights the danger of steamrolling any narrative into a simple dichotomy. The US and Russia may have been the only superpowers left, but they were far from the only interests that could benefit from their antagonism. Unfortunately, international relations aren’t always subtle enough to fully understand those smaller interests. The same could be said of superheroes, which, even when they’re fighting with one another, tend to be almost entirely two-sided. The Inhumans already represent a kind of third party to Captain Marvel and Iron Man’s “Civil War,” but an even subtler point is how even smaller factions might exploit that conflict to their own ends. It’s The Sum of All Fears, but with superpowers in place of, well, superpowers. Continue reading

Karnak 3

Alternating Currents: Karnak 3, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Karnak 3, originally released April 20th, 2016.

Drew: When we talk about superhero weaknesses, we tend to focus on the physiological ones — the ones that exist within the narrative. That’s because we’ve all agreed to ignore the more obvious logical weaknesses any superhero story has. Punching will never be the best solution to systemic corruption in Gotham (especially when you can personally finance political campaigns of local, state, and federal officials), and “heat vision and a mirror” doesn’t actually explain how Superman shaves his indestructible beard. These are the weaknesses we choose to ignore to maintain our suspension of disbelief — that is, until some smartass chooses not to ignore them, usually by assuming they’re just smarter than everyone else. I call them “weaknesses,” not because they can be exploited by readers who are as simple and obvious as the weaknesses themselves, but because such exploitation is generally off-limits for the characters themselves. How Superman shaves is a question that can’t be satisfactorily answered, so it’s best to avoid the subject altogether. With Karnak 3, Warren Ellis aims to do the opposite, charging headlong into the very weaknesses Karnak would have identified from the start. Continue reading

Karnak 1

karnak 1

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Karnak 1, originally released October 21st, 2015.

Taylor: We live in a highly litigious society. If you make a claim about something — anything — you better be able to prove it. While there’s no one point in history that can be marked as the beginning of this litigiousness, the nadir point just might be that fateful morning in 1992 when a hot cup of McDonald’s coffee was spilled on the lap of an elderly woman. While it might seem obvious to most people that coffee is hot and should be handled with care, the fact that the cup didn’t say so opened up an avenue to lawsuits. Since then, many of us have bemoaned the state of our society, where a person can sue for the smallest of reasons. If you’re like me, then Karnak, both the man and the comic, is a breath of fresh, if not stiff, air. Continue reading