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Batwoman Is The Best Kind of Trippy

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme Plays]

Well, damn. Those five weeks between Batwoman #1 and Batwoman #2 were torturous but it’s finally here! The question is, however, was it worth that wait? Uh, yeah. Yes. Absolutely.

Batwoman is trippy, with the work of Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox harkening back to the character-defining art of J.H. Williams III. And yet, at the same time, Bennett’s scripting grounds it in almost subtle grit. There is real pain and pathos within these pages. A carefully crafted tale of self-destruction and the things that burn around one who falls down that hole. What happens when you can’t stop punishing yourself, rather than finding a way to make peace with your actions and move on.

In other words: How many times can Kate Kane completely and utterly fail in just twenty pages? Her record is 12, so let’s see if she can beat it!

Hah, oh my God, I just really love this book. The only thing that could make it better is Renee. That’s not a joke.

Once Upon A Time In Dreamland

There’s something unsettling about the fully colored panels in the opening flashback. Those that are only black, white, grey and red appear “real”, while the rest appear to be out of some sort of fever dream or delusional euphoria. Seriously, it looks just shy of “flower crown” levels of schmaltz. The fact that Kate’s time on Coryana is called “The Lost Year” most likely means that this isn’t random (nothing ever is), so I have to applaud Cox’s coloring and Epting here for making color feel incredibly out of place.

Also the friendly little critters? And the rose bushes around the Desert Rose, something that I’m all but positive isn’t supposed to be taken literally? And the weird honeycombs? I want to draw the easy connection to the fact that bee stings really hurt yet honey is sweet but…c’mon, we’re all smarter than that. Probably has more to do with the fact that Safiyah is the “queen bee” in a “hive of scum and villainy”. Also it just looks super creepy for some reason.

Who eats honey like this?

Anyway, the muted color palette, to me, appears as if those are the moments that Kate is being fully honest with herself. She was contemplating suicide, to what degree is unclear, and she was so far gone in her drunken walkabout that she ended up in a place that would only inevitably encourage her self-loathing and apathy towards basically everything. The black and white and red only feature Safiyah’s lips, while the rest are either snapshots of Kate narrowly avoiding death or fighting herself over the morality of her situation.

Waking up in a “hive of scum and villainy” and rationalizing it as a good place for her to be had to have taken an…inordinate amount of denial. Considering how Kate mentions selling her soul to stay with Safiyah, that seems to be what the Batwoman creative team is going for.

Did you know that in Judaism, the number 13 is considered lucky?

Immediately afterward, we’re greeted to a double-page spread of Kate and Safiyah lounging in a field, with Tahani creeping up in the trees when there’s talk of things, or people, being replaced. Looks like, so far, I was right in my prediction that flashback scenes would feature Kate wearing exclusively sleeveless/low-cut top clothing. We can’t see Kate’s tattoos from this angle, but the scar is more poignant. The point was made.

Anyway, Kate and Safiyah share a conversation that Rafael aptly describes as “the darkest pillow talk”—

—which it really is yet somehow Bennett’s script reads as uncomfortably lyrical as well, and we get formal confirmation that Safiyah is basically the Godfather (I would say Godmother but that sounds pretty silly) of this island. And that Kate needs to be out of sight for some reason. Weird.

Cradle of Life and Death

I swear that will sound more clever later on. Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice something interesting about this staging.

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Safiyah cradles Kate, who then cradles Rafael. In both instances, Tahani is creeping just off to the side. Watching and waiting. This, to me, suggests pretty powerful things about the narrative. First, that Kate was, figuratively, dead or dying during her time in Coryana aside from the head wound. Safiyah “nursed her back to health” (though something tells me that’s far from the truth) while Tahani watched. Of course, that would mean that there’d have to be a knife in both scenarios, not just the present. The knife in Kate’s back could be the military kicking her to the curb, or something else entirely. Perhaps a betrayal of her own ideals? That would make sense for Kate. And Tahani screwing with her head by pulling a tactic like this, not to mention luring her back to Coryana in the first place seems to suggest that though they may not be close…they know one another pretty damn well. But we’ll come back to this in a bit.

Kate tells Julia that she’s going dark, which obviously is a pretty stupid idea and will only lead to bad circumstances for everything Batwoman related. Which it absolutely does, and Kate should know a thousand times over by now that going at it alone is not only foolish but something her instincts actively fight against. She was never trained to be a solo act, after all. So that’s, 15 for failing to safe Rafael (he wasn’t completely dead last issue) and 16 for, ironically, emulating Batman. Y’know because her whole thing right now is doing what he can’t. Oh, and 17 for clearly not being honest with herself about her time in Coryana even after all those years.

You always stand at 17, right? Or is that 16, but only if the dealer…is part of the casino? I can’t remember how blackjack works.

Julia reveals herself to be the mole (and also her babysitter? technically?) and launches some bat-drones to follow Kate around just in case she gets into trouble. And by “just in case” I mean “inevitably.” Kate, meanwhile, ruminates on the destruction of the Desert Rose as she climbs the hill towards the bar. Her memories of the warlords that worked through Coryana are…almost adorably childish.

Even when carrying a dead man to a place he once called home, she still holds on to what I’m fairly certain are overly optimistic misconceptions of what Safiyah told her about her associates. Or, rather, the sugar coated version of the truth that Safiyah told her, or quite possibly the one Kate created for herself to rationalize that, once again, Coryana was just misunderstood instead of a haven for some really nasty dudes. Bennett’s scripting betrays the truth with an interesting balance of sincerity and mental gymnastics:

  1. Song Tae-Ri, the Black Flag. Leader of a pirate fleet that “captures and acquires pharmaceuticals”. Drug running. Also fluent in ASL.
  2. Deadeye Dick, who, uh, well we don’t know. But there was probably no way to soften this guy up, which says a lot.
  3. Bruno Bwana Brewster, the Bruiser. “Human Transporter specializing in refugees”, ie human trafficking. Also mute? Apparently?
  4. Adelaide Stern, an assassin infamous in India (Asansol) Israel (Ashdod) and Eritrea (Asmara). We should probably remember these.

Safiyah kept everyone in check, which alludes to her namesake, and everyone else made sure that the outside world stayed out of Coryana, but…how exactly is that a good thing? There’s this curious dissonance here with what Kate did to destroy the island’s state of being (whatever that turns out to be) and what Coryana actually is. It’s a bad place for bad dudes. A place where terrorists, human traffickers, assassins and drug running pirates can congregate safely without fear of international prosecution.

To be honest, this feels like a modern Nassau, the early 18th century failed pirate republic of the Bahamas. Except this one succeeded, unhindered, for God knows how long due to globalization and the loopholes of international law. There seems to be no governance other than a loose code of conduct that probably isn’t any more complicated than “fuck the world, not us”.

So again, why would Kate feel particularly guilty about destroying a place like this aside from her self-martyr complex? Guess we’ll have to wait to find out. Also 18 for the mental gymnastics, which is somehow very different from the other form of denial she’s all but drowning in right now.

In Hebrew, 18 is synonymous with life! Or a good life! Maybe luck? Can’t remember; it’s a big thing at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. You bring a check for $18 or some multiple of that, and that’s your gift.

Trauma Center: Under The Knife

Kate arrives at the Desert Rose and quickly realizes, due to the looting and smashing and dust, that Safiyah is gone. She rests Rafael on the bar, because apparently that’s the appropriate ritual for mourning your old warlord queen lover’s right-hand man, and Tahani leaps at her from the shadows wearing a…mask? Anyway, Kate fell for the trap, so 19.

I don’t know why these are PSAs now.

Kate easily counters her with those launchable throwing knife things we haven’t seen her use in a really long time, and gets back up against the wall with a knife to her throat. So she does the only reasonable thing anyone would do in that situation.

Superheat her glove and try to melt the assassin’s face.

Which she can…apparently do? That feels like a DEO-holdover than an upgrade Harold installed. Not really Batman’s style to melt faces. Most the time. Kate then proceeds to grab some hard liquor, tear a chandelier out of the ceiling, spin it around like a helicopter blade and swing it at Tahani because why not? That’s kind of what she did last time to the giant monster except the fire was part of the package deal. And also she added a one-liner. However, she did miss and further destroy a bar that held a special place in her heart, so…

Bat-Family Property Damage isn’t normally intentional, Kate

Tahani proceeds to kick Kate through a wall and onto the very same field they once lounged—

The House Always Wins

—mounting her and removing her mask to reveal that she is…Tahani? I feel like this is an art mistake. Last issue Kate got a very clear look at Tahani without her mask being the assassin who killed her target, and now she’s surprised that the woman behind the mask, whom she already identified as one that got away from Istanbul, is Tahani.

This honestly reminds me of what happened in 52 #9, where Kate Kane’s first appearance as Batwoman was spoiled two weeks early. There’s a moment when where she’s spying on Renee and Charlie, and due to a miscommunication she was fully rendered instead of being drawn as a totally blacked out silhouette of something that looked just like Batman. Anyway, mistakes happen, and this one just happens to be pretty funny, but until I know for sure it’s a mistake…that’s gonna cost Kate. 22 for not recognizing Tahani in the first place, and 23 for not smashing Knife over the head with the bottle. Feel like that would’ve been easier.

I love that we made these analog. It’s so much more fun!

Anyway, Tahani claims that she is now known as “Knife” since Tahani was “Safiyah’s plaything”, which again begs the question: was Safiyah the kind of warlord queen bee that kept a harem, or does she just discard those she’s done with? That doesn’t explain why Tahani appeared to be involved in Safiyah’s business, despite Kate’s presence, but what she says later, about Kate being a “siren”, really supports the whole “you stole my lover” thing. Which would be cool and intensely personal. Just feel like there’s something more to that going on here, though.

But, before that bit happens, Kate, instead of A.) melting something else of Tahani’s with her molten gloves B.) using her other arm to block the knife thereby stabbing Tahani in the forearm C.) using her taser gloves on Tahani’s exposed skin D.) detonating a flash grenade in her face E.) punching her in the throat/nose/face F.) breaking Tahani’s other wrist or G.) a few other dozen ways of getting out of that hold, the Batwoman decides to call in her bat-drones. Like that thing with the bottle-to-the-face I mentioned earlier.

G through Z were probably all Sondheim-based musical escape routines. Kate and Julia have A LOT of free time on that boat.

Just gonna lump all those together for sanity’s sake…

I bet Julia did the nose-art. That sounds like something she’d spend time doing because how many things are there to do on a boat when you’re not banging your partner?

Which are awesome, because they have cool WWII style nose-art but at the same time…coulda just given her some second to third degree burns or knocked her out with a taser instead of all the melodrama.

Then again, this is Kate we’re talking about. It’s why she grabbed the liquor in the first place. Oh, and now she has to do all the dishes. And owes Julia another drink. Y’know, when I was wondering if Kate could break her record, I was half-kidding. This is just amazing. Though it does beg the question of just how many dishes could two people possibly have to do? Are they cooking five course meals every single day? Do they just…not clean them? For two women who possesses extreme levels of discipline to order, that seems pretty farfetched. I guess they just make that many martinis all the time.

What dirties a martini glass faster? Shaking or stirring? Asking for a friend.

The lantern gets lit, which means that Kate did do the smart thing by actually briefing Julia on a decent amount of what Coryana is and how it works, otherwise she couldn’t have possibly known what she needed to do with the booze. Tahani begins mocking Kate for trying to summon the warlords. Then she tries to suffocate her, leaving herself open for the exact same things I listed above when Tahani first tackled Kate, which once again she just sorta…doesn’t do any of them. Though this time there’s probably a good reason for it. Still, it counts.

Were you expecting a joke? PTSD’s not funny.

Suffocation seems to be a common theme for Batwoman more than you might think. There are a few other examples (like one that involves a certain vampire), but I think you’ll get the idea. In reverse chronological order, of course.

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Keep that one about cyanide in your brain pocket. It’s gonna come back. Yes, this big trip down memory lane probably puts Kate in a state of emotional and psychological vulnerability. This is too specific for Tahani not to have planned for, as she’s clearly trying to exploit that crack in her armor now that she made it. Not enough to kill Kate, but enough for Tahani to, presumably, trigger her PTSD and gain the advantage.

But Kate’s been dealing with this for a long, long time so whatever coping mechanisms she has would probably have kicked in had the warlords not showed up to break up their reunion. Which also subverts that whole Kate-gets-stabbed-again thing, so that’s pretty cool.

Tahani runs off like a spoiled child who can’t understand why everyone doesn’t think she’s the best, cutting a dude and stealing a motorcycle before doing one last thing. Telling everyone on the hill that hey, that weird masked lady? That’s Kate. Awkward, so let’s add two more to the board! 28 for Tahani getting away, and 29 for even more people finding out about her secret identity.

Kate, are you even trying at this point? Do you just not care who knows?

As for how the warlords got their so quickly, that one is pretty easy. Kate was slowly walking up the hill towards what was basically a throne. Dressed as a bat. In broad daylight. Yeah, if these people have any sense at all considering the battle they’ve been fighting against corporate invaders they’re going to have an eye trained on the harbor looking for literally anything out of the ordinary. Things like a fancy yacht with its own helicopters and a one of Gotham’s famous vigilantes hopping off of it being visibly shaken by Rafael, a guy they also all knew, dying in her arms. It wouldn’t have been hard to watch what was happening from a short distance away, considering how deep Kate was in her own head, and how Tahani only cared about killing Kate.

Actually, on that note, lighting the torch is more likely something Kate intended to do in the first place. It’d be the most direct way to test exactly how much had changed since her departure. To find out if old loyalties and routines still applied, even with the dilapidated Desert Rose. It’d also piss Tahani off, and make her do the stupid thing of strangling Kate instead of killing her in a far easier manner. Like, I dunno, with knives?

Fireside Chats

And now it’s night, for…some reason. I think the idea is that they buried Rafael, but I don’t see a headstone. Or shovels. They can’t have just stood around and debated whether or not to just kill Kate for about six hours. Or maybe they did? Beats me.

Either way, their bikes are gone, as are the rest of the mooks, so it’s just the important people standing with Kate. Somehow, she convinces them not to kill her, despite the fact that she killed their home. But maybe the fact that she had the guts to return at all is enough to show them that she’s not the same lost, stupid girl who washed up on the shore all those years ago. Or maybe it’s just that they’re also trying to serve something greater than themselves, even if what they are trying to serve is kinda not so great?

Also everyone is super vague about why Kate left the island, so they must really hate talking and thinking about it. Anyway, Kate quickly learns that the warlords have never heard of the Many Arms of Death, but hey, things are about to get a whole lot worse? Sort of. It goes back to the whole “why is this island a good thing?” question but I assume there’s an answer to that question we just haven’t gotten to yet.

Brewster, by way of Black Flag because I guess Kate doesn’t know ASL (which is super weird when you consider that Kate had to have met Harold at this point who is also a mute and speaks with ASL; maybe she didn’t want to interrupt the woman who uses swords and guns?), explains that over the past year a bunch of corporations have been buying up all the land through legitimate means and due to the warlord’s infighting (I think?), they didn’t listen to Safiyah. And then she left, which is also apparently Kate’s fault since the old Safiyah, before whatever Kate did changed her, would have been able to solve this problem.

If it turns out you for sure don’t know ASL that’s gonna be another one.

The Taming of Coryana is being carried out by the Kali Corporation which Kate is clearly aware of. She asks Julia to give her a visual of the Kali Corporations CEOs, which…also projects a hologram in front of her that the warlords can see? Seriously, first the monitor, and now this? I mean Adelaide recites the logline at the bottom of the screen—look, Kate knew that there was more than one CEO. And she wanted to see their faces, not financial data or intel on their off-shore illegal holdings or really anything remotely tactically useful in a larger sense.

Stop wasting Julia’s time! Even if she has a ton of it, that’s just rude.

Of course, the cameraman filming that interview is having just a terrible day since he placed it directly behind the CEOs, instead of at an angle where we could see their faces. They are so fired.

Anyway, we zip on over to the Kali Corporation, which is relatively close to Coryana since it looks like it’s the same level of…night. I think. I want to say Dubai but I honestly have no idea. The scene plays out as if the final reveal of the CEO’s faces is meant to be shocking, but it’s…not? I’ve never seen these people before, so it’s just really creepy. Though, that is most likely the point.

They have such punchable faces, though!

These continue to repeat one another’s sentences as they entire the big fancy door, revealing a sanctum for the Many Hands of Death with a fancy logo featuring ten hands and an eye. Also Knife is there to remind us that everyone in this story knows who the Batwoman is.

Why are you so bad at this

Also these guys are clearly nazis so that’s kind of fun. I guess it’s either Nazis controlling Coryana, or not Nazis. Think I’ll go with the ones who aren’t Nazis.

All Of The Other Stuff

You’re probably wondering what all of this religious symbolism means, since as everyone knows Kali is the Hindu Goddess of—okay, I’m going to be honest and say that I can’t figure this one out yet. Safiyah, the whole “the nazis perverted the swastika from its ancient Buddhist and Hindu origin”, the “third eye” of the evil logo, the ten hands of said evil logo, the Mahakali (Kali, but with ten arms just like the evil logo and also even more hardcore) imagery on Batwoman #4’s cover where Kate subs in for Shiva (no not that one) as the one beneath her boot despite that being contextually wrong, Tahani’s mask made to look like Kali, “Kalimah!” with the still-beating-heart stuff, Kate fighting modern nazis both explicitly and figuratively… There’s something here, but for now I can’t quite put my finger on it. There are a lot of pieces here and they add up to something a whole lot bigger than the sum of their parts. As for what that is, I can’t help but think that the final bit of information just hasn’t been revealed yet. Or maybe I missed something super obvious, which is entirely possible.

I mean seriously I’m jumping from parallels to the Jewish Diaspora to just…so many things. Just can’t quite connect the dots. Yet.

But aside from that, did you know that both sarin gas and Zyklon B specifically target the respiratory system to kill? Or that Zyklon B isn’t a nerve agent (to be fair, that line beats accuracy via Rule of Cool by about forty miles), but rather a chemical weapon most famously used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz?

Well, that all just links back to suffocation and—there’s no reason to sell Zyklon B other than to ask if the client would like their terrorism in modern flavoring, or classic Nazi. There are more effective forms of airborne cyanide to kill mass amounts of people. Like cyanogen chloride. Yeah. You really do not want to think about Beth’s plan during Elegy too much. Focus on happy things! Like the fact that the bad guys don’t want Kate’s literal heart this time around.

Just for her to be dead! Which is way simpler. Okay, maybe that’s bad.

I guess that brings our total to 32, meaning Kate beat her previous record by 8! Wow! That is…one per page. At this rate, we could be in triple digits by Batwoman #6! But, that also means that it’s time to wait another four weeks. Which is kinda funny, since the last time I did one of this reviews, I was saying that we’d find out if Kate survives getting stabbed or not, and we still don’t know! Well, we don’t know specifically how. But she totally did.

Four weeks until Batwoman #3, so that’s not as bad. Hopefully.

NEXT WEEK: I dunno, like…Cass Beats Up The World? Something like that.


BATWOMAN #2

Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV

Pencils/Inks: Steve Epting

Colors: Jeromy Cox

Letterer: Deron Bennett

Images courtesy of DC Comics

Griffin is an Entertainment Writer operating out of the Chicago area. He likes puzzles, deconstructing other puzzles, and talk show branded ice cream flavors.

Comics

Saga: On the Nature of Tragedy

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This comic doesn’t run short of terrible moments, which occur ripe for our enjoyment. This alone plays into the theatrical character of tragedy. That is, narratives surrounding the fall of the mighty and the despair of the innocent. Curiously, this issue begins with Gwen, Sophie and Lying Cat watching the news of Phang’s traversing the Timestuck, while knowing better on the true outcome to unfold. We’ve all watched news in a similar fashion, not necessarily knowing or suspecting a different dynamic at play. After all, real life also doesn’t run short of terrible moments, never to anybody’s enjoyment.

But what sets these characters apart is the fact they’ve had a hand in the writing of that narrative. One way or another, it’s a case of the author beholding their handiwork. Feeling horror at best, indifference at worst. This is how we’ll approach the climax to the darkest story arc in Saga so far. The Sophoclean dynamic is known to us already. Knowledge, however, doesn’t soften the impact, nor the horror.

Issue #42
“Of course hell is real.”

The Phang scheme has now been exposed as something of a manufactured catastrophe. A risky play in a game board where countless lives are at stake. Such is war. In spite of the religious zealotry, the introduction of Jebarah, Kurti, and their tribe has nuanced our impression of Phang. Suddenly, the comet is not just Sophie’s homeworld wherein she was sold to serve in Sextillion. It’s now a piece on the board, a pawn intended to serve the long game. But as Sophie is quick to observe as we open this issue, there is a great cost to pay in spite of the damage control via massive evacuations. Here she asks Gwen a more than pertinent question. At what point do the necessary casualties become too many to win a war?

Gwen, in her cool, analytical demeanour, can’t give an actual answer to that question. But no matter, the subject is put to rest for the night as Gwen’s wife, Velour, comes in…with cupcakes. Talk of cold pragmatism in war and cupcakes simply cannot co-exist under the same roof. Let nobody tell you otherwise.

Interestingly, we get a little of that Hazel-retrospective-narration during the transition from Wreath to Phang. She addresses the concept of evil as something arbitrary and depending on the perspective of the accuser. This may well be a caution against observing some questionable means as simple ‘evil’. Then again, mileage varies. A taboo coupling is nowhere in the vicinity of a potential genocide in the making.

Now, let’s hold on to that thought for a moment. Evil can also be construed as a misguided harmful action or intent against the innocent. Thus the definition of ‘evil’ may also apply to someone like Sir Robot, who had Alana and her baby at gunpoint last issue. Fadeaway influence and an ocean of guilt notwithstanding, such an action would put Sir Robot in a place beyond redemption. His intent no longer comes into consideration, because the character would have become a verb, encompassed only by his despicable deed. Marko is very aware of this, which is why he proceeds to execute Sir Robot. In turn, this would also affect Marko, if his apparent definite return to violence last issue is for real.

However, Petrichor interrupts him with a more important subject. She has found fuel in the The March’s ride, which should allow them to escape Phang before it hits the Timestuck. All of this is news to Sir Robot who asks why they haven’t left yet. The answer is no peaceful matter to Petrichor, as she tells them Alana has offered Jebarah and her tribe a ride. Petrichor addresses the potential smell problem of an overcrowded treehouse rocketship. But one has to take the tribe’s devotion for the Timestuck into consideration before giggling about the prospect. And indeed, Jebarah’s answer to Alana’s offer is just what we dread.

The matron only sought Alana at this moment to return Marko’s blade. As for her family, however, they have no intention of ever leaving this comet. Her kind of faith is one that blinds her to imminent destruction. Under the circumstances, it’s more than frustrating to hear Jebarah’s assurance that the Creator will see them through this catastrophe. Alana attempts to threaten Jebarah into coming along by pointing her rifle at her, but the latter pays no heed. Her parting words are a name suggestion for Alana’s baby. ‘Kurti’, which means ‘sunshine’ in their tongue. Should Alana indeed name her child that, Hazel’s brother would be a living eulogy to the friend she’s about to lose. And she doesn’t even get to say goodbye to him.

Quoting Hazel’s narration, this farewell is as sudden as it is baffling.

Elsewhere, someone else is trying to cope with a different farewell. The Will, or Billy if you would, seems to have relapsed into heroine after the second parting with Lying Cat, Gwen and Sophie. As we’d expect, this features The Stalk’s return as his mental projection of choice. Such is the form his wish fulfillment takes. The one that tells him to get back on Marko’s pursuit to win his companions back. The opposing drive, the one to move on, then appears, taking the form of his sister. Of course, this makes for a very ‘peculiar’ twist of the ages-old debacle between the Angel and Devil on each shoulder. All the while, Sweet Boy keeps vigilance while his Master masturbates.

The black humour in this setting takes a wrong turn as an unknown presence shoots Sweet Boy, killing him. (Insert a several weeks-long NO here, thank you very much.) The strange-looking killer shows up from the shadows, shooting The Will as well, but only to incapacitate him. They claim to be exacting revenge on the former Freelancer for killing someone they loved. Billy seems to have gone from being accessory in a vendetta to being the recipient of another. Something of a snack in the middle of the main course indeed. Nothing to sneeze at in regards to disturbing and heartwrenching, though.

Back to Phang’s orbit, where we learn the purpose of that cube thing Agent Gale obtained from Gwen last issue. After blasting a friendly Robot Kingdom craft intended to secure Phang’s safe passage through the Timestuck, two Landfallian dudebros use the cube Gale obtained from Gwen. Obviously, this is what those shady orders led to, and the source of Sophie’s inner conflict. The cube is a device to awaken the Timestuck, turning it into a living bomb. Instant apocalypse right there. And here is where it all gets really dark, really quick.

A lot of detail went into facial expressions. But the faithful capturing of emotions onto paper may do the reader’s heart a disservice. Hazel’s narration also adds a good deal of pain. In just two pages, Saga becomes truly merciless.

The Timestuck’s destruction occurs on the background while Jebarah rapturously speaks to her people. Fat load of good that will do. An explosion inside the giant baby’s body violently shakes the family’s rocketship just as they’re about to take off. Hazel’s family manages to escape in the nick of time, thanks to Petrichor’s quick fuel recovery.

However, although they get away safely, the impact has cost Alana her unborn child. Through alternating panels, we see Alana and Marko mourning their child, as well as the doom befalling Phang’s population, in frightful detail. The final actual image we get is Kurti falling under the black tides of Phang and the Timestuck’s entrails, desperately pleading for his life.

… and the rest is silence. 

Alana, Marko and Hazel have all left something of themselves behind in a world become synonymous with catastrophe. Innocence and hope lie both sunken in the Phang’s dark waters.

Alas, the story goes on. Stay tuned, my friends. The sunrise follows even after the longest, coldest of nights.


Saga Issue #42 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Comics

Air Capital Comic Con Sticks To Its Roots

Dan

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The comic convention used to be exactly what it sounds like: a way for the “Marvel Zombies”, “Batmaniacs”,  “Shellheads”, and “Wingnuts”  who braved the comics shops of the world for their monthly dose of multi-colored, multi-panel heroism; to get together with their own people. They traded old comics and new ones, wore homemade costumes, and argued over nonsense. The guests were artists and writers of the comics themselves, and the con was a chance for them to meet the people who loved their work.

But slowly but surely, the TV and movie conventions began to merge with the comic cons. With most of the con-goers belonging to multiple fandoms, for many, it was a no-brainer for them to consolidate. The nerds of the world rejoiced as they could at one stall meet the creator of Batman and in the next meet the Adam West who played him on TV. But, slowly but surely, the movie and film stars became the attractions at these cons. While no comic-con has truly shaken its comic book roots, it can be hard to find one today that still maintains that old school purism. But don’t fret true believers, there’s one in Wichita, and I attended it last weekend.

Air Capital Comic Con was co-founded in 2013 to help give the city of Wichita a yearly comic convention of its very own. Since then, it has only grown. The fans in Wichita that for years had to travel hours to Kansas City or Oklahoma City to scratch their nerd itch now only had to drive downtown. But Wichita is not a large city, and the convention itself reflects that.

Taking up a single exhibition hall iatWichita’s Convention Center, it’s easy to walk from one end of the con to the other. I felt strange walking by some of the same booths as I wandered around and took everything in. But size matters not, as they say, and the number of guests in attendance would no doubt be in line with a con twice the size of Air Capital.

The guest list, as I alluded to before, was almost entirely pulled from the halls of comics. Creators from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Boom! and the indie scene made for a stacked roster for fans to mingle with. Big names included Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight, Dream Thief),  David Gallaher (High Moon, Box 13),  Steve Ellis (Skinwalker Studios), Alexis Zirrit (Space Riders) and Kevin Nowlan (Tomorrow Stories, Superman vs. Aliens). But it was not all old school, as the con also invited multiple high profile cosplayers as well, such as The Hive (Resident Evil Cosplay Collective), Children of Proteus (Aquatic Steampunks), Deadpool’s Chimichanga Shack., and the local chapter of the 501st Legion.

The vendors and artists in attendance ranged from toy shops and comic stores to cosplay gear and jewelry, to a “psychic cartoonist” named Lord Julius Pandhandle. The actually quite healthy Wichita writing scene (cough) was in attendance as well, with bestselling fantasy author Tamara Grantham, sci-fi scribe Tim Hunter, and master William Schlichter all meeting, greeting, and signing books alongside newer writers like AR Crebs and Dakota Caldwell (in character as his book’s main villain).

The attendance was a mix of the old, hardcore nerds who’d met Stan Lee when he wore gold medallions, parents bringing their kids for a day out in their best Spider-man costume, and teenagers dressed as anime characters hanging out with their people. And there was something for everyone. Local game shops and developers had a board gameplay area, and Wichita’s video game bar and e-sports org helper put together a huge array of consoles from the NES to the PS4 for people to play to their heart’s content. On the upper balcony, panels ran every few hours discussing things like villains and the comics industry. It even hosted a nerdy version of The Dating Game.

Overall, it really was a good con. I’m spoiled in that my home city of Indianapolis hosts multiple huge cons, including GenCon, every year.  And Air Capital isn’t near that big or exciting. That is no slight, however. I loved the heart that Air Capital Comic Con had, and the real sense that it was part of a thriving community. There was no flash or glitz, just passion, and good old-fashioned nerdiness. They know there is nowhere to go but up, and they maximize everything they can.  If you’re in the area next November or are wanting to add a stop for a promotional tour, you won’t find a better home than Air Capital Comic Con.


Images courtesy of Air Capital Comic Con

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Analysis

A Bride’s Story is the Women’s Story You Were Waiting For

Annedey

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A Bride’s Story is a manga by Kaoru Mori (also responsible for Emma). Started in 2008, the series is still running and counts 9 volumes. It takes place in 19th century central Asia and follows several characters in their daily lives. The story is mainly focused on women of the region, but there is also the point of view Henry Smith, an English researcher. Anything else notable? Oh, I just remembered: it is really good.

Talking about a really good manga series could be enough on its own. But you know what’s even better? It is focused on women and their lives. Different women, with different lives, their work, their achievements, their pains. And it is written in a total love of all women. A good manga series, written by a woman about women? What else could we be asking for?

The Story of A Bride’s Story:

I am starting to not like this choice of title very much. But anyway, the manga opens on Amir and Karluk’s wedding. Amir is twenty whereas her husband is twelve (don’t worry there is no weird sexual content between the two). It is not the only thing that separates them. Karluk comes from a mainly sedentary village. Amir’s tribe still has a pretty nomadic way of life. Both spouses are pretty different so the first chapters of the manga follow their adaptation to each other (and to her in-laws in the case of Amir). The presence of Smith also allows the point of view of an outsider into the family.

The story then expands to other members of the family, friends, and neighbors, as well as people Smith will meet during his travels. Yet the story isn’t all over the place. We follow their lives and emotional development. And when Kaoru Mori focuses on one character she takes the time to tell their story. Even if she has to leave aside other characters for some time. But this is not a problem, as it is crystal clear she loves all her characters and will do them justice in time.

Good guy Kaoru Mori by herself.

A Bride’s Story is going to focus on every aspect of the characters’ lives. There is high drama(military attack of one family on another) but also daily life (learning how to sew, finding your vocation).

In short A Bride’s Story is a really good read. But it is not the only thing that draws you in the narrative.

Art so gorgeous it sucks you in the story:

Another strings to Kaoru Mori’s bow which help you being completely absorbed in her world is that…

…her art…

…is…

…gorgeous.

Which, considering the time we spend speaking about craftsmanship, is important. Having a visual representation worthy of the script is only doing it justice. If you don’t want to travel to central Asia to discover their handicraft after reading A Bride’s Story you are a liar, and that’s all there is to it. The characters and the details are insanely comprehensive. But we are also given amazing and dynamic action scenes.

This incredible art and interesting story combine to give us a narrative uplifting women at every turn.

An Hymn to women’s lives:

A Bride’s Story focuses, as its name clearly spells out, on brides. Sometimes young brides, sometimes bride-to-be, sometimes widows, but always women facing married life. And no it is not reductive. During the 19th century, marriage was (and still is in some cultures) one of the main events of a woman’s life. It was a literal change of family, of environment, and the real beginning of her adult life. So focusing around this event is not reductive. Quite the contrary. It reminds us that, as long as she is a good person, every woman’s life is worth telling.

Kaoru Mori spends a lot of time on women’s daily activity. Sewing of course (if the manga doesn’t give you a mighty need to start sewing you are a liar), but also cooking, taking care of the herd etc. Everything is worth the author’s attention, and ours. Do you know why? Because it is important work done with care. And this ask for our interest and respect.

Another thing which is incredibly well done in A Bride’s Story is the relationship between this women. They are supportive of each other. There is a mother-in-law ready to sacrifice herself to save her daughter-in-law. When Amir learns that she should go back to her family to marry another man because all the brides they have sent are dead (killed by their husband) she is not only crying because she is terrified. She is crying because she knew both of this girls and is devastated by their death. And the person reassuring her and saying that she is « not going anywhere » is her husband’s grandmother.

There are as many positive women relationship in there as there is stars in the sky. And not always just filial relationship. But also mentorship, friendship and emh…

I am sorry but there is no heterosexual explanation to this and yes Kaoru Mori acknowledges it in the author’s notes.

And the icing on the cake is that every single one of these women is different from the others.

No wrong way of being a woman:

Truly it is refreshing to read about women helping each other. It is even better when they are allowed to be different. Because let’s be real, often in fiction women are created to oppose each other. The “good” kind of woman opposing the “wrong” kind of women. Just look at The White Queen and The White Princess, in which motherhood is glorified and “good” women are rewarded with it whereas “bad” women, women having a “man’s” ambition, became sterile and loveless.

Well, in A Bride’s Story we have traditionally feminine women who are soft gentle and love sewing. We have unconventional women who like to hunt and ride but are still good at feminine tasks (but let’s be real Amir is an amazement in universe too) and others which are not. We also have what other media often depicts as “failing” women, but are just unsure of who they are.

Let’s be real we all want to be Amir but we are Pariya who, conveniently, wants to be Amir.

In short, Kaoru Mori is standing on her mountain screaming “They are all my daughters and I love them all!”. And trust me ,it feels good to be, as a reader, welcomed into this story.

Conclusion:

To the surprise of no one, I heartily recommend reading A Bride’s Story. As a first manga, if it is your first, it might be putting the bar a bit high for future dives into the medium. But there are worse problems to have. Just to add to all I’ve said above, we also have good and interesting siblings relationships (my passion), making this manga almost without fault. It is worth a try. It really is.


All images courtesy of Yen Press.

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