East of West 36: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Taylor Anderson

East of West 36

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

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

James A. Baldwin

Drew: The sci-fi trappings of East of West can at times make its alternate history feel particularly exotic, but for better or for worse, much of its history resembles our own. I mean, sure, our own Civil War ended in just over four years, and there was no comet that brought with it an apocalyptic prophecy, but most of the makings of that world lie in the very real history of the antebellum United States. Indeed, the ugliest parts of East of West‘s history are based entirely on the truths of American slavery and Manifest Destiny — the legacies of which we’ve never truly reconciled as a nation. Case in point: the Union’s capitol is built on the literal bones of the Endless Nation, turning a symbol of our own shameful past into a potent image that had heretofore given the Union power over the Nation. It’s only by — again, literally — digging up that history that any progress can be made. Continue reading

Superman 28: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney

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

Spencer: I’ve never considered myself very patriotic. I appreciate the freedoms and privileges I enjoy as an American citizen, of course, as well as the sacrifices so many have made in order to ensure them, but it’s hard for me to fully support a country built on slavery and genocide, a country that’s struggled to properly care for minorities and the poor, a country that effortlessly and thoughtlessly kills foreign innocents in their own homes. I’m not comfortable putting my faith in an organization whose agendas so often shift (or can so easily be bought); I’d rather put my faith in individual people.

On paper, then, I probably shouldn’t like Superman 28, the conclusion of Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Scott Godlewski’s brief “Declaration” storyline. In many ways Clark, Lois, and Jon’s road trip is patriotism at its finest, yet what endears me to this story is the focus the creative team puts on people; on the people who sacrificed so much to fight for their beliefs, and on the very human cost of America’s many wars. That’s a thesis I can get behind. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 16

wonder-woman-16

Today, Taylor and Mark are discussing Wonder Woman 16, originally released February 8th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: When you look at where the genre of superhero comics comes from, it’s unwise to overlook the influence of pulp fiction. Pulp fictions were serialized stories printed on crappy paper that told stories ranging from the bizarre to the terrible. While it’s easy to dismiss these stories and their authors, they had an undeniable influence on generations of writers to come. While the quality of pulp fiction may be suspect, there’s no denying the stories were innovative and daring. And even though the monthlies we read nowadays are printed on better paper, it’s always fun to look back and pay homage to these stories that influenced so much of our modern pop culture, just as is done in Wonder Woman 16. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 12

wonder-woman-12

Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Wonder Woman 12, originally released December 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: There was a lot of emotions on both sides of the recent U.N. decision to drop Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador. Detractors believed that the fictional character was “the epitome of a pin-up girl,” while lifelong fans see her as a figure of peace and equality. Regardless of your personal feelings, when you step back and look at the whole thing, it’s just another example of us defining what Wonder Woman – and women in general – are allowed to be. In both “Year One” and “The Lies,” Greg Rucka has been exploring how we have historically defined Wonder Woman, while building towards what she is today. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 35

Alternating Currents: Wonder Woman 35, Patrick and DrewToday, Patrick and Drew are discussing Wonder Woman 35, originally released October 29th, 2014

Patrick: A lot has been made of Hollywood’s apparent inability to adapt Wonder Woman for the screen. Is that driven by the sexism inherent in action film-making? Probably, in part. But Diana, Princess of the Amazons, suffers from a pretty severe case of “what the hell is she about?” We have easily understandable slug lines for just about any other bankable superhero: Batman is the mortal knight of vengeance; Superman is invincible alien boy scout, etc. There’s a how and a why expressed in both of those descriptions. Those attitudes have aged well, but for some reason, the essential nature of Wonder Woman is harder for creators to assert in perpetuity throughout the decades. What Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have done in their 37 (and a half) issues of Wonder Woman is reassert just who this character is, and why her fundamental qualities are every bit as iconic as truth, justice and the American way. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 34

wonder woman 34Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Wonder Woman 34, originally released October 1st, 2014

“Hey mouse, say cheese.”
<Bart takes a picture of the Itchy robot, scrambling its circuits.>
“With a dry cool wit like that, I could be an action hero.”

Bart Simpson, Itchy & Scratchy Land

Patrick: It’s a good thing all of our action heroes have a team of writers working quietly behind them, because audiences hold this irrational expectation that heroic actions be punctuated by hilarious, insightful, precise quips. This is a trend that I’ve come to hate, largely because those pure little micro-tweets are so seldom earned. How do you put a character through the paces so thoroughly that acerbic wit feels natural tumbling out of their victorious mouths? They’re not poets or comedians or scholars — they’re warriors, but somehow they know to belch out a characteristically perfect “Yippy-kai-yay, motherfucker” or a “Welcome to Earth” or even a “get away from her, you bitch!” Thing is: those three examples all work because we’re there with Bruce Willis, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. It’s not just about having the dry cool wit, but waiting until the audience and the character need the release of such a quip, instead of handing them out willy-nilly. As Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang narrow in on their epic Wonder Woman conclusion, they’re cashing in on all those cheesy action movie beats. And they’ve earned every damn second — the result is unadulterated climax, satisfying on just about every level. Continue reading

The Last Fall 1

last fall 1

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Last Fall 1, originally released July 16th, 2014.

Patrick: You know what’s wrong with the narrative in the Star Wars prequels? I mean, beyond “everything” — if you had to pin-point what’s so awful about the story itself, what overarching storytelling philosophy leads that series astray? I’m sure everyone has their own answer to this, but for me, the biggest culprit is Lucas’ refusal to make the interstellar conflict personal. All the motivating factors for going to war are tariffs and alliances — which could be effective if only our characters had some sort of relationship to how futile and trivial their efforts are. That’s a damn shame: there’s a lot of compelling mileage to mine from the futility of war. Tom Waltz and Casey Malone’s The Last Fall is set to explore just that thematic territory.

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East of West 11

Alternating Currents: East of West 11, Drew and TaylorToday, Drew and Taylor are discussing East of West 11, originally released April 9th, 2014.

That’s when the attack comes — not from the front, no, from the side, from the other two raptors you didn’t even know were there.

– Alan Grant, Jurassic Park

Clever girl…

– Robert Muldoon, Jurassic Park

Drew: I’m not sure I can explain why, but some of my favorite movies feature surprises that are actually spoiled within the movie itself. Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy perfected this idea, basically using it to structure each film, but my all-time favorite example has to be the raptor attack from Jurassic Park. The attack doesn’t come until towards the end of the movie, but is actually explained, virtually point-for-point, by Grant within the first ten minutes. In the excitement of the scene, we forget what Grant said about raptor attacks, and can only piece it together after it happens — after we realize that we already knew what would happen. While Jonathan Hickman doesn’t hide anything quite as shocking as a surprise velociraptor in East of West 11, he does blindside us with an element that has been hidden in plain sight since the beginning: the Endless Nation.

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East of West 10

east of west 10

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 10, originally released March 12th, 2014.

Taylor: Anyone who’s been reading the news lately has been spoiled by a surprising amount of entertaining stories. The mystery of the vanished Malaysian airliner has captivated the world since each day new and more confounding information is released about its fateful voyage. Then there’s the ongoing political crisis in Crimea. Vladimir Putin’s bizarre quest to take back a former Russian province has set the Western world afire. With stories such as these making the news one would wonder why we need to read fiction since the real world seems capable of delivering enough entertainment on its own. As if in answer to this question, East of West 10 tells us why fiction and comics are important. This issue seems to hold a mirror up to the world and the reflection, while twisted, is all too recognizable as belonging to nothing but humanity.

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East of West 9

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 9, originally released January 29th, 2013.

Taylor: When successfully writing a story about a fictional world, there is one thing the author must do if they want their work to be believable. It’s not necessarily high-flown concepts or a strong thesis, though those certainly help. Instead, it’s important for the author to create a world that follows its own rules and mythologies. The author must not break away from these or else the world he or she so deliberately built will come crashing down. In the land of comics where fantasy worlds become reality on a regular basis, Jonathan Hickman has established himself as a skilled observer of this rule with such titles as The Manhattan Project and of course East of West. In the latter, Hickman has created a bleak landscape where death roams the world, both literally and figuratively. The world Death inhabits, along with its inhabitants, is fascinating and dark, and learning more about it is part of the joy of reading East of West. Issue 9, like issue 8 before it, indulges the reader with world building which is both a delight and a little frustrating at the same time. Continue reading