Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2017.Continue reading →
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 →
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.
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 →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Winter Soldier: The Bitter March 4, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Drew: In a time when serialized storytelling is very much in vogue, it’s easy to forget that some characters are designed for a specific narrative. That is, the situations that they endure during the story so define them that they can’t really exist outside of it. Would we even recognize Hamlet if he wasn’t having an existential crisis? The only way to reuse a character like that is to put them in essentially the same situation again, which obviously yields diminishing returns, and might just undermine the power of the original. Unfortunately, as Winter Soldier: The Bitter March ramps up to its conclusion, it’s clear that Bucky Barnes may only have one important story to tell. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Winter Soldier: The Bitter March 3, originally released April 16th, 2014.
Spencer: Considering its Cold War setting, it’s no surprise that Rick Remender and Roland Boschi’s Winter Soldier: The Bitter March has been a story filled with pawns and masterminds, a story populated almost entirely by people who are being used and the people who are doing the using. What’s interesting about issue 3 is the way the players begin to transcend those labels. What happens when pawns tire of being pawns? And what role does Ran Shen play in all of this?
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Winter Soldier: The Bitter March 2, originally released March 19th, 2014.
Patrick: Enigmatic super-soldier spies are tough to characterize. How can you reveal someone’s true nature when they’ve been trained to be a tool of their government, forsaking all personal interests? Rick Remender’s new Winter Soldier mini-series attempts to paint a picture of a man by presenting his surroundings in as much detail as possible. Even when we get a flashback to Bucky’s more formative years, it’s his mentor’s perspective we see stated directly, and not Bucky’s. It’s addition by subtraction, and the sum is a tantalizing character sketch, made all the more compelling by a faithfully realized period thriller.