Heightening the Conflict in Harbinger Wars II 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Harbinger Wars 2 2

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

What is the collective noun for superheroes? An immodesty of superheroes, perhaps? A bluster, a cluster bomb, a swank? Somebody ought to settle the issue soon, if we’re going to be showered with films like “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker

That quote comes from my least favorite culture review in recent memory. I’ve heard enough variations of “superheroes are dumb” over the years to keep my eyes rolling all the way to Anthony Lane’s door, but what’s particularly frustrating about his review is that it never bothers to support his dismissive attitude. It’s not a critique so much as a list of characters and events in the movie and the smug assumption that we all agree that that list is too long. To be clear, I think there is plenty to critique about that movie, not the least of which that it almost certainly would ring as paradoxically overstuffed and hollow without at least some familiarity with these characters — if we’re not already invested in Tony Stark’s worst fears or Thor’s grief or Doctor Strange’s sense of duty, they’ll read as pretty thin in the movie. Like most summer crossover events, Infinity War is mostly plot machinations, cashing in on the character work developed in its respective solo series. Such is definitely the case with Harbinger Wars II 2, which heightens the drama of the impending battle, but does relatively little to draw me into that drama. Continue reading

Harbinger Wars 2 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Michael DeLaney

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

Patrick: Let’s run a hypothetical scenario: you’ve got access to a shared universe, full of superpowered characters, all of whom you’d classify as either heroes or antiheroes. You want to pit them against each other, in a… I don’t want to call it a “Civil War” for litigious Disney-related reasons… we’ll say it’s a “Harbinger War.” How do you establish sides? Pick an ideological divide and let it split up your character base, right? That’s a fun, toothless way to pit all your favorites against each other! With Harbinger Wars 2, writer Matt Kindt is crafting a more direct criticism of structures of power, casting the dutiful soldiers and company-men as stooges. It’s a clash of superheroes with the courage to say “hey, some of these guys are wrong.” Continue reading

X-O Manowar 3

Today, Michael and Drew are discussing X-O Manowar 3, originally released May 24th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: The inner monologue isn’t a narrative device exclusive to comic books, but it’s one that we don’t raise an eyebrow to in the comics’ medium. It’s a form of narration that gives insight into the protagonist’s thoughts — insight that they themselves might not admit to out loud. X-O Manowar 3 doesn’t use the inner monologue device outright, but thematically relies on it to show us a hidden layer of its protagonist Aric. 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

X-O Manowar 1

Today, Michael and Drew are discussing X-O Manowar 1, originally released March 22nd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: One of the initial stages of Joseph Campbell’s eternal concept “The Hero’s Journey” is what is known as “Refusal of the Call.” The hero receives the “Call to Adventure” in the form of some inciting incident or another, but initially tries to ignore the call and continue to live a mundane or ordinary life. When push comes to shove, the hero will end up changing their mind and embark on their heroic journey. It’s a tried and true formula that extends all the way to the planet Gorin in X-O Manowar 1. Continue reading

Divinity 1

Alternating Currents: Divinity 1, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Divinity 1, originally released February 11th, 2015.

My feeling is, story is the apple, plot is the arrow through it. (Or, story = mountain, plot = path through the mountain.)

Chuck Wendig

Drew: I’ve often attempted to distinguish between the “story” and “plot” of a narrative, but because those terms are often used interchangeably, I’ve never felt like I was being totally clear. Little did I know that Russian formalist Vladimir Propp had actually coined the specific terms I needed almost a century ago: fabula is the chronological events of the “story”, while syuzhet is the narrative arc as laid out in the “plot”. There are a great many stories where the distinction is trivial — the events of the story are presented in chronological order — but in a world full of flashbacks, flashforwards, and other chronological twists and turns, it’s helpful to be able to differentiate the two.

In most cases, the syuzhet is crafted to enhance the audience’s experience (to obscure a key detail of a mystery or to remind us of a detail as it becomes important), but it can also be used to reflect a character’s subjective experience of the fabula. LOST did this well, showing the audience proustian memories brought about by triggers on the island, but there are a few stories that take that concept a step further, where the character’s experience of the fabula is more explicitly achronological, allowing the syuzhet to track the fabula, even though neither is arranged chronologically. The “backwards” order of Memento simulates Leonard’s anterograde amnesia, and the “Watchmaker” chapter of Watchmen simulates Dr. Manhattan’s omnipotent experience of time. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine’s new Divinity clearly has a great deal in common with that latter example, even if the subjectivity of the syuzhet is less explicit. Continue reading

Mind MGMT 22

mind mgmt 22

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Mind MGMT 22, originally released May 28th, 2014.

Drew: It would be foolish to attempt to define Art in a write-up of a single issue of a comic book (even if that issue happens to dance on the edge of that definition), but I do think we can easily define “art,” the colloquial term we use to describe any care put into the effect of something that could otherwise be “artless.” It’s what makes a story compelling, a building inviting, a meal delicious. With that definition, I’d like to posit magic as the purest form of “art” — it’s all about the effect. We’d never walk away from a magic act questioning it’s meaning, but we’re often impressed by the execution. Intriguingly, those effects are controlled in much the same way they are in other artforms — by setting up and defying our expectations — the only difference being that other art uses these effects as means to an end — a way of eliciting specific responses from the audience — whereas magic views those effects as an end unto themselves. It’s an intriguing duality, and as usual for Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt pitches this issue along the continuum between the two. Continue reading

Star Wars Rebel Heist 1

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Star Wars Rebel Heist 1, originally released April 30th, 2014.

Taylor: Recently the cast for Star Wars Episode VII was announced. As long rumored, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, and Harrison Ford will be reprising their roles as Luke, Leia, and Han in this installment, which is cause for mixed bag of emotions. I appreciate that the new Star Wars movies will attempt to link themselves to the original trilogy, but I also want the thing I loved preserved. George Lucas has given us ample reason to fear further Star Wars movies, and I worry that casting original actors in the new movie will somehow taint what came before it. At the same time, I’m also aware that my beloved characters have been taken out for a spin by multiple writers in the past. This hasn’t ruined my love of the original trilogy in the slightest, so maybe I just need to relax. With these ideas fresh in my mind, it’s interesting to pick up Star Wars Rebel Heist 1. Can it assert that use of beloved characters in new stories is okay? Or will it show they are best left to our memory? Continue reading

Mind MGMT 18

mind mgmt 18

Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Mind MGMT 18, originally released January 22nd, 2014.

Patrick: I got back to the Midwest over Christmas – neither of my sisters live there anymore, but our parents do, so it made a handy centralized location for us to all be together. This means that I was also able to spend some time with my niece Leah; she’s four, tells people she’s fives, loves Spider-Man and independently started calling me “Silly Uncle Patrick.” One day, we went to downtown Chicago for high tea at the Drake Hotel. It was full-on Chicago-cold, so none of us were too eager to walk around the loop after tea. But, like, what else are you going to do? After much protest, we got Leah to bundle up in her jacket and mittens and hat and scarf and shuffled her outside. The adults all went into city-walkin’ mode; understandably, we wanted to minimize our time spent outside. But not Leah. She’d take three steps and then stop to crane her neck so she could see the tops of the tall buildings she was moments away from shouting about. My favorite observation of hers from that afternoon was “some buildings are churches, but others aren’t.” I lived in Chicago for four years, the buildings don’t impress me, and the cold is a familiar nuisance, but this kid was having an experience. Matt Kindt taps into that same childhood enthusiasm in issue 18 of Mind MGMT, letting the reader be excited for one girl’s experience – injecting a familiar concept with renewed vigor. Continue reading

Mind MGMT 17

mind mgmt 17

Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Mind MGMT 17, originally released November 27th, 2013.

Mikyzptlk: I’m normally not the type to start a series with anything other than issue 1, but being an editor for Retcon Punch requires you to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while. I started this series with issue 16, and since it was a one-shot, it felt like an interesting experiment. Analyzing issue 17 feels like an experiment too, but of a different sort. Today, I’ll be trying to figure out what’s going on underneath the surface of issue 17 of Mind MGMT while trying to piece together the events of the previous issues. Hoo-boy.  Continue reading