Wolf 8

wolf 8

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Wolf 8, originally released June 8th, 2016.

Man is a symbol-making and -using animal. Language itself is a symbolic form of communication. The great writers all used symbols as a means of controlling the form of their fiction. Some place it there subconsciously, discovered it and then developed it. Others started out consciously aware and in some instances shaped the fiction to the symbols.

Ralph Ellison

Drew: I distinctly remember asking my high-school English teacher if she really thought writers consciously employ symbolism. In 1963, Bruce MacAllister had a similar question, but rather than pose it to his teacher, he sent a survey to 150 of the most famous living writers asking them about their use of symbolism. I’m less enamored with the emphasis on authorial intent, but I’m absolutely in love with the audaciousness of that move. Or, rather, I’m in love with the fact that so many writers responded — including Ralph Ellison, whose own use of symbolism so frustrated me when I was in high school. Ellison’s comments stood out to me particularly for the allowance he makes for the symbols to take primacy over other elements, turning a literary device into the very point of the work in question. In short, turning prose into poetry. Ales Kot often attains a similar poetic quality, weaving symbols deep into the fabric of his comics. Wolf 8 finds both new and old symbols once again taking the center stage. Continue reading

The Fade Out 12

Alternating Currents: The Fade Out 12, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Fade Out 12, originally released January 6th, 2016.

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

George Orwell, 1984

Drew: I remember reading these words for the first time in high school and thinking they expressed the bleakest sentiment I could imagine. To me, Winston’s deep, sincere submission to Big Brother represented the darkness of Orwell’s cynicism far more than anything O’Brien threatens him with. In my mind, Winston’s pretense of submission in the first two books was preferable to the effective lobotomized state the novel ends with, but that’s only because his secret life held relatable pleasures. What if, instead, his secret life was filled only with turmoil and guilt? What if choosing to submit was worse than having it thrust upon you? This is the reality Charlie finds himself in at the end of The Fade Out 12, an ending that might actually be bleaker than that of 1984. Continue reading

The Fade Out 11

Alternating Currents: The Fade Out 11, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Fade Out 11, originally released November 25th, 2015.

Scientia potentia est (knowledge is power).

Francis Bacon

Drew: Anyone who’s ever seen a Schoolhouse Rock short will be familiar with the power of knowledge (or at least the sentiment), but another idiom reminds us that “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” In that case, knowledge isn’t power, is just the self-awareness of not having power. That’s exactly the kind of knowledge Charlie and Gil are grappling with in The Fade Out 11 — enough to know they’re out of their depth, but that realization may come a little too late for their own good. Continue reading

The Fade Out 9

fade out 9

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Fade Out 9, originally released September 16th, 2015.

Spencer: Those in power always prey upon those they consider “beneath” them. This is true in pretty much every aspect of life, but especially in the Hollywood depicted in Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ The Fade Out. Almost every character in this title is a victim in one way or another, and issue 9 takes a special interest in the damage those with power inflict upon those less fortunate than themselves.  Continue reading

Wolf 1

wolf 1

Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Wolf 1, originally released July 22nd, 2015.

Ryan: Stop me if you have read this comic before: a dark, supernatural noir following a seemingly immortal protagonist and featuring Lovecraftian — oh, yes, that’s Ed Brubaker’s Fatale. Or this one, then: a hard-nosed paranormal detective named Wolf tries to right wrongs in a major American city populated by folkloric — yup, you got it, that is Fables. The first issue of Wolf strides over well-trodden territory — really, we have seen this all before. So why, then, does it work so well? Better yet, what is it that Ales Kot is doing better than everyone else? Continue reading

The Fade Out 6

Alternating Currents: The Fade Out 6, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Fade Out 6, originally released May 20th, 2015.

Fuck you; I gave you a reason to live and you were more than happy to help. You lie to yourself! You don’t want the truth, the truth is a fucking coward. So you make up your own truth.

Teddy, Memento

Drew: The more I think about Memento, the more I love it. It’s easy to see the backwards structure as gimmickry, but I’m absolutely enamored of how it draws us into Leonard Shelby’s subjectivity. And I mean “draws us in” — that the scenes are shown to us in reverse order doesn’t just put us in his shoes, it forces us to trust him in spite of his obvious shortcomings as a narrator. His unreliability is front-and-center from the start, but because we’re lost with him, we have no choice but to trust him. Charlie Parish’s unreliability is decidedly less tangible, but no less central to his story — the whole mystery surrounding Valeria’s death hinges on him not remembering what happened. As The Fade Out ramps into its second arc, his subjectivity becomes an ever more important element of the series. Continue reading

The Fade Out 5

fade out 5

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Fade Out 5, originally released April 15th, 2015.

One of the most dangerous of literary ventures is the little, shy, unimportant heroine whom none of the other characters value. The danger is that your readers may agree with the other characters.

C.S. Lewis

Drew: I’ve been quick to praise Charlie Parish as the ideal audience surrogate, a virtually featureless cypher we’re free to project all of our emotions on to. Part of that falls out of his role as the protagonist, no more or less aware of the mystery at the heart of The Fade Out, but writer Ed Brubaker has carefully cultivated a character who’s conflicted about just about everything — he supports multiple readings so well because he’s feeling multiple things at any one moment. It’s a remarkable feat, but his openness also makes him a waifish anchor for the series. I’ve often seen that as more of a feature than a bug, allowing the series’ tone to vary widely based on the influence of the supporting cast, but as the cast begins asserting their opinions in issue 5, they run the risk of running away with the story entirely. Continue reading

The Fade Out 4

fade out 4

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Fade Out 4, originally released January 7th, 2015.

Patrick: I was at my parents’ house this past week for a funeral. My grandmother passed away at 96, so I flew from Los Angeles to Milwaukee, reconvened with my family and then drove down to Dixon, Illinois for the service. There were a lot of people at the funeral that I hadn’t seen in decades — friends, family, that bizarre mix between the two. Over the course of catching up, I found it difficult to express who I am right now. I’ve lived a couple different lives since they knew me last: student, musician, legal secretary, Hawaii, Chicago, California. How much of any of that is the person they saw in front of them on Thursday? The Fade Out 4 pushes these questions to the forefront as Charlie’s past versions of himself — be they heroic or black-out drunk — clash with the Charlie Parish he’s presenting. Continue reading

The Fade Out 2

Alternating Currents: The Fade Out 2, Greg and DrewToday, Greg and Drew are discussing The Fade Out 2, originally released October 1st, 2014.

Greg: There are good mysteries, and there are great mysteries. Good mysteries tend to emphasize plot above all else; they’re called “whodunnits” because discovering the identity of the criminal through the minutiae of procedural clues is the utmost goal. If the story isn’t revealing who did it, it’s narrowly focused on the search for it, and nothing else. Great mysteries are concerned with plot, too, but less so than mood, dread, ambiance, and internal conflict. If the story isn’t revealing who did it, that’s okay, because it has many other avenues its interested in. The Fade Out belongs in this latter category, as the world and feeling is so compelling, I don’t think I would mind if they never solve the mystery of starlet Valeria Somers’ death. You could call it a “whydunnit”.

Continue reading

The Fade Out 1

Alternating Currents: The Fade Out 1, Drew and RyanToday, Drew and guest writer Ryan are discussing The Fade Out 1, originally released August 20th, 2014.

Drew: Without getting too abstract, I’d like to suggest that western art is really about the development of ideas. The beginnings and ends of our books, plays, symphonies, movies, jazz tunes — virtually any art form that can said to have a “beginning” and “end” — are largely prescribed, but everything in between is totally open. For someone who is largely suspicious of rules in art, those middle sections — the rising action, the development, the open solos — are my favorite parts, where the artists are free to express, explore, and fully realize their creative potential. Of course, that also means that I’m often bored by beginnings and endings; especially in genre fiction, where the rules of exposition and resolution are even more specific. What differentiates one noir mystery from another tends to be a little subtler than can usually be communicated in the first issue of a comic, which is why Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips The Fade Out 1 is such a pleasant surprise. The issue doesn’t shy away from its genre trappings — if anything, it leans into it — but the result is something that transcends its boilerplate outline, creating an alluringly familiar late ’40s LA. Continue reading