Death of the Inhumans 5: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

Patrick: I’m not sure I “get” Black Bolt. Like, as a character, his perspective is borderline impenetrable. He’s a centuries-old king, with the power to demolish a city with his voice, and one hell of a prophecy hanging over him. He is also, famously, silent. So maybe my inability to get to the heart of his motivations is built right into the character’s DNA. In the finale of Donny Cates and Ariel Olivetti’s Death of the Inhumans, Blackagar’s motivations are just as clouded as they’ve ever been. Sure, he saves some Inhumans, but why and how largely remains a mystery not revealed to the reader. 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

Being The Hero, and Being the Sidekick in Lockjaw 4

By Spencer Irwin

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

Lockjaw is a pet, Black Bolt’s (and sometimes Ms. Marvel’s) faithful companion, so often a sidekick in their adventures. Daniel Kibblesmith and Carlos Villa’s Lockjaw miniseries has provided a chance for the teleporting canine to step into the spotlight and become the hero of his own story, a fact that takes center stage in the series finale. Continue reading

Lockjaw 3 is a Cartoony Romp

By Drew Baumgartner

Lockjaw 3

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

Gordie: Alright, alright. Mickey’s a mouse. Donald’s a duck. Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?
[…]
Teddy: Goofy’s a dog, he’s definitely a dog.
[…]
Chris: He can’t be a dog. Wears a hat and drives a car.
[…]
Vern: God, that’s weird. What the hell is Goofy?

Stand By Me

There are no rules inherent to a cartoon world. Maybe this is one where dragons exist. Maybe this is one where elephants can fly. Maybe this is one where an anthropomorphized mouse can own a regular (albeit cartoon) dog. We can accept those conceits on the terms they’re given, because it’s a cartoon. Audiences balk at other media for being “unrealistic,” but “cartoony” — effectively stylized unrealism — is a compliment. At least, that’s how I tend to think of cartooniness: a fun relaxations of the “rules” that govern fictional worlds, making room for a heck of a lot more imagination and fun. Such is certainly the case with Lockjaw 3, which finds even more fun to mine from relaxing its already madcap rules. Continue reading

Reconciling with the Past in Black Bolt 12

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Bolt 12

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

The superhero genre is littered with emotionally scarred men. Whether it’s a murdered loved one or a superpower-generating freak accident, trauma of one kind or another is a ubiquitous motivator for superheroes. Indeed, for most characters, that tragic backstory is so central to who they are and why they fight that it’s all but impossible to truly confront it — remove the psychological pain, and you “solve” the character’s motivating problem, effectively ending their story. So most of these characters are doomed to never resolve their issues. But what if why they fight has little to do with their trauma? What if that emotional baggage isn’t their motivating force? What if a superhero could confront their problems without destroying the conflicts that make them a hero in the first place? These are questions posed by discerning fans for decades, but rarely have those questions been answered as effectively as they are in Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt 12. Continue reading

Finding Purpose in the Journey in Lockjaw 2

By Patrick Ehlers

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

“Animals may not understand our every word, but when it comes to tone? They understand perfectly.”

-Ka-Zar, Lockjaw 2

Throughout this issue, D-Man repeatedly states his confusion about what’s going on. He doesn’t know what it takes to survive in the Savage Land, he doesn’t know what Lockjaw is really up to, he doesn’t know what “the Beast” is. And it’s not just a good running gag: he doesn’t know what the D in D-Man stands for anymore. Writer Daniel Kibblesmith gifts the reader with Dennis’ confusion, greedily keeping most of the series’ explanation and exposition off the page. We are left to intuit was is right and what is wrong, just like D-Man does. We’re reading tone — and we understand that perfectly. 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

Reconciling Black Bolt in Black Bolt 9

by Patrick Ehlers

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

After surviving every possible kind of of mythological encounter in the ancient world, Odysseus returns home to find his quiet domesticity in shambles. His home has become a campground for suitors intent on stealing his wife away from him. Odysseus isn’t much for subtlety by this point in his journey, so his solution is to slaughter the lot of them and forcibly reclaim the seat he was forced to vacate so long ago. Black Bolt is also returning from an unexpected journey and is forced to reconcile his time away with his desire to return. Unlike Homer, writer Saladin Ahmed does not allow his hero to slay his way back to normalcy.  Continue reading

There’s No Such Thing As “Down Time” in Black Bolt 7

by Patrick Ehlers

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

I think it’s fair to ask where superheroes find their peace. Zipping through space, or ruling ancient kingdoms, or even fighting street-level crime leaves very little time or energy for self-reflection. Realistically, all these guys would be suffering from PTSD, so even those quieter moments would be rife with unease and conflict. As Black Bolt heads back to Earth, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Frazer Irving demonstrate how, even when the weary do get to rest, it’s not very restful. Continue reading

Agency and Sacrifice in Black Bolt 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Bolt 6

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

“Freedom isn’t free” has become the insulting platitude gun advocates offer to justify the United States’ unrivaled gun violence numbers. Never mind that countless countries enjoy similar freedoms without the same body counts — the freedom to own a gun, the logic goes, is worth the lives of any number of concertgoers, congressmen, nightclubbers, pedestrians, or schoolchildren. It’s strange that the notion of the cost of freedom has gone from personal costs one might make in order to secure freedom for themselves and their country to some kind of blood sacrifice we demand of others, since the two couldn’t really be more different. One is about noble sacrifice, the other is about throwing someone else under the bus to save your own skin. It’s a point that Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward make elegantly in Black Bolt 6, as the mad scramble for freedom yields some unexpected costs. Continue reading