Plastic Man 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney 

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

Spencer: The first JLA comic I ever read was an issue from Joe Kelly’s early 2000s run. The story found Martian Manhunter corrupted and turned against a hopelessly outmatched League. The only hero who could stand up to him was, surprisingly, Plastic Man, whose shapeshifting skills were on par with J’onn’s and whose elastic brain resisted his telepathy entirely. Plastic Man was also an interesting contrast to the rest of the uber-serious League, a walking visual gag who cracked wise even as he fought the most powerful being on Earth one-on-one. That issue impressed on me the value of Plastic Man and the unique charm he adds to the DC universe. Gail Simone and Adriana Melo clearly understand the character’s appeal, and it’s ultimately Plastic Man’s charisma that carries Plastic Man 1 in its shakier moments. Continue reading

Archie 23: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Ryan Mogge

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

Spencer: One of the few consistencies throughout all iterations of Archie is that Archie Andrews, as a character, catches a lot of flak, not just from his friends, but from readers and viewers especially. Whether it’s his inability to choose between Betty and Veronica in classic stories or his almost complete cluelessnes/uselessness in Riverdale, there’s a lot to rag on the poor kid about. Why does he continue to endure and work as a lead character, then? Mark Waid and Audrey Mok pinpoint the reason in Archie 23: whatever his faults, Archie loves his friends with all his heart. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 4/26/17

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 Bitch Planet 10, Hadrian’s Wall 6, Kill Or Be Killed 8, Lumberjanes 37, and X-O Manowar 2. Also, we’re discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 9 on Tuesday and Black Monday Murders 5 and Old Guard 3 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Continue reading

Shade, the Changing Girl 1

Alternating Currents: Shade, the Changing Girl 1, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Shade, the Changing Girl 1, originally released October 5th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

slim-banner

Drew: Last week, I saw a program of animated shorts at a local film festival. I’ve always loved shorts, but seeing a dozen back-to-back highlighted just how effectively vastly different worlds could be established in just a few short minutes. This is especially true of animation, where the “rules” of the world — from its physics to the question of whether animals can talk — can often take unexpected turns. Indeed, I think discovering those rules is one of the joys of cartooning; examples from the shorts I saw include “oh, this is a world where a crow in a shirt and tie might become a young boy’s step-father” and “oh, this is a world where someone’s bomb shelter might be at the top of an impossibly tall tower“. That’s a joy that’s just as true of comics, and creators that take full advantage of just how weird their worlds can be often come up with something magical and unexpected. Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone are clearly willing to go weird in Shade, the Changing Girl, and issue 1 suggests that they might be on to something very special. Continue reading

The Black Hood 6

black hood 6

Today, Patrick and Ryan M. are discussing The Black Hood 6, originally released October 28th, 2015.

Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s like the only disease that you can get yelled at for having. “Damn it Otto, you’re an alcoholic.” “Damn it Otto, you have lupus.” One of those two doesn’t sound right.

Mitch Hedberg

Patrick: Addiction is ugly. It can make a human being totally (and literally) self-destruct, and in many cases there’s nothing that friends and family can do to help. The extra psychological stress of knowing that addiction is a disease that the addict seemingly inflicts upon himself can be downright devastating. Hedberg himself died of a drug overdose, despite the fact that he had been in treatment and had a strong support network and friends and family invested in his well-being. On some level, someone succumbing to their addiction seems like a personal failing, as though they lacked the willpower to simply overcome it. That’s one of the dangers of depicting addiction in fiction – so often, “getting clean” is the final step in that addicted hero’s journey. But addiction isn’t a dragon, or a witch, Darth Vader, it’s a disease that rewards someone for behavior that will ultimately lead to their undoing. It’s a heartbreaking thing to witness, and everyone involved feels powerless to it. Greg H. is an addict, but not just to painkillers: he’s addicted to being the vigilante known as the Black Hood. Duane Swierczynski and Howard Chaykin embrace that ugliness and helplessness as Greg’s addiction comes back to routinely bite him in the ass. Continue reading

The Black Hood 4

black hood 4

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Black Hood 4, originally released May 27th, 2015.

Drew: There’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to heighten drama. As much as I love the verisimilitude of more relaxed pacing, I can’t help but get excited when everything has to happen RIGHT NOW. I suppose those timebomb moments reflect their own kind of reality — deadlines can force us to rush through everything from our morning routine to the intro paragraph we need to write about the latest comic from Dark Circle — but knowing that there’s no time for second chances can really make a story gripping. Of course, just about every timebomb, whether it’s the inevitable arrival of a character or a literal timebomb, has been done to death. Or so I thought. Remarkably, Duane Swierczynski finds a totally novel timebomb in The Black Hood 4, giving Greg Hettinger the urgency his mission has been so sorely lacking. Continue reading

The Black Hood 2

Alternating Currents: The Black Hood 2, Drew and Mark

Today, Drew and Mark are discussing The Black Hood 2, originally released March 25th, 2015.

Drew: Means, motive, and opportunity. We’re familiar with how these play in a criminal case — a prosecutor must convince the jury of these three elements in order to convict — but I’d argue that they’re just as important in crafting a compelling superhero origin story. “Means” would be the superpowers (or lack thereof): the radioactive spider-bite, the alien DNA, the years of martial arts training; “motive” is their reason for fighting: the death of a loved one, the morals of a father-figure, some huanting mystery from their past; and “opportunity” is the wealth of villains: bankrobbers, intergalactic warlords, or even the corruption of their hometown. As with a criminal case, means and opportunity are pretty open-and-shut — the basic whos and whats of the story — but motive is much more subtle. An audience will dismiss a far-fetched or unbelievable motive just as quickly as a jury will. Of course, that also often makes motive the most elusive of these elements — a feature Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos highlight in The Black Hood 2. Continue reading

The Black Hood 1

Alternating Currents: The Black Hood 1, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Black Hood 1, originally released February 25th, 2015.

Drew: Superhero comics are a trope-filled medium. That’s doubly true of origin stories, which need to explain what would drive a normal person to dress up to fight crime. It turns out, there aren’t a whole lot of explanations out there. Was their family murdered in front of them? Were they the victim of some kind of science experiment gone wrong? Have they inherited some kind of mythical power? Every variation has been done, but so few have been done well. Indeed, the drive to get to the actual superheroics tends to leave origins rushed and expository — not the best recipe for a great story. The Black Hood 1 manages to avoid the tropes and the gratuitous exposition — while still taking its lead from regular guy to masked vigilante — trading our expectations in for some good old fashioned mystery. Continue reading