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 Star Wars: Poe Dameron 12, East of West 32, Kill or Be Killed 7, and Sex Criminals 17. Also, we discussed Archie 18 on Monday, and we’ll be discussing American Gods: Shadows 1 on Tuesday, and Injection 11 on Wednesday so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS. Continue reading
A bad workman always blames his tools.
Drew: People don’t like to accept responsibility for their failures. If there’s anything else that can take the blame, it probably will. Of course, there’s always something that can take the blame — even absent tools, we can blame vague forces like “office politics” for holding us back. Indeed, when there are no more tangible forces to pin our failures on, we’ll will sooner make up concepts like fate than hold ourselves accountable. As with any tool blaming, that equation is flipped when things are going well — our successes aren’t the result of outside forces or inanimate objects, but our own effort and ingenuity. Taken to the extreme, that illusion can utterly disorient our ability to judge our own actions; if we can effectively do no wrong the very notion of “wrong” loses all meaning. This is the precipice Dylan finds himself on in Kill Or Be Killed 5, as he attempts to reconcile his actions with his own sense of morality. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Kill Or Be Killed 3, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: Narrative modes in comics are a particular fascination of mine, as the visual “narrator” isn’t necessarily tied to any of the modes we understand in prose — indeed, while comics may have an explicit narrator in the text, the visual storytelling isn’t necessarily tied to the perspective of that narrator. Film may be a better analogue, because the visual storytelling can similarly be divorced from, say, voiceover narration, but I’d argue that such explicit narration is FAR more common in comics than film. Point is: narrative modes are complicated in comics, yet are rarely remarked upon. Unless, of course, we’re talking about a comic by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, in which case, I struggle to talk about anything but the narration. I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why their use of narration draws my attention in this way, but Kill Or Be Killed 3 reveals that the idiosyncrasy may be more with their visual narration than their textual one. Continue reading
Today, Spencer and Ryan D. are discussing Kill Or Be Killed 1, originally released August 3rd, 2016.
Spencer: Maybe I’m just sheltered, but even at 29 years of age, I have trouble wrapping my head around the concept of people killing other people. I obviously understand that it happens, but there’s a difference between accepting that and actually being able to put yourself in the headspace to understand being capable of such a thing. As much as I may dream of justice in such situations, I’m equally baffled by the people who are actually able to fight for it, be they police or simply someone out for revenge; I can’t even imagine taking a life to save my own, much less purposely killing someone, no matter how evil they are. What pushes somebody to that point, allows them to take such a drastic step? That’s one of the primary questions explored in Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweizer’s newest collaboration, Kill or be Killed, which opens with its protagonist, Dylan, working as a Punisher-esque vigilante, before rewinding the clock to see how he became one in the first place. Continue reading
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
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Fade Out 11, originally released November 25th, 2015.
Scientia potentia est (knowledge is power).
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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