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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.

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Barbarella, Still Stunning After 55 Years, Gets New Comic

Dan

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After three decades without a comic, kitschy sex icon Barbarella is returning to the printed page thanks to Dynamite Entertainment.

Barbarella exploded onto comic pages for the first time in a 1962 issue of  V Magazine, and since then has been stiffening hearts and minds of readers the world over. Created by Jean-Claude Forest, the comic follows the (often controversial) titular heroine as she travels the galaxy engaging in adventures as exciting as they were erotic. It was labeled as the very first pornographic comic.

Created to represent the author’s ideal of a sexually liberated woman, the comic became a fixture of the sexual revolution. But the world was not yet satisfied, and Barbarella came to the big screen in 1968 with Barbarella.

The film starred Jane Fonda as Barbarella, the camera firmly affixed to her every movement and gyration. Accompanied by the sexy angel Pygar, Barbarella must defeat the evil Dr. Durand-Durand and his sinister Orgasmatron. It famously featured the first female orgasm in US theaters. Despite derision from contemporary reviewers as “schlock,” and condemnation from the Catholic Church, the film did well and even became the second most popular film in the UK for that year.

Since then the legend of Barbarella has only been a grower, as the camp and fun of the movie has made it a fixture of midnight movie showings. Its influence has been felt up and down the globe, from the designs in The Fifth Element to the name of Duran Duran.

Io9 reports that the series will be written by Mark Carey (X-Men, Lucifer, The Girl with All the Gifts) with art by Kenan Yarar (Hilal). It will be Barbarella’s solo title since 1982, and her first appearance in an American comic. Its release will celebrate 55 years of Barbarella.


Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life Excels At World Building

Matthew

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Yes, friends, it’s time to revisit the Scott Pilgrim comic books for the work of art they are. First published in 2004 and being both written and drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the six-part series is about the eponymous title character, Scott Pilgrim, and what happened to him when he sort of started juggling two relationships at once. In this article, we will discuss the first volume “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life”.

Recap

Scott, 23, is the bass player for the underachieving band Sex Bob-Omb which also stars Stephen Stills singing and Kim Pine on the drums. We meet Scott as he is talking about his new high school girlfriend, Knives Chau, to his friends and then to his roommate, Wallace Wells. When his sister finds out, she calls Scott and asks him why he decided to start dating someone much younger and he tells her “it’s just nice, it’s just simple”.

Being the broke young adult he is, Scott’s options for hanging out with Knives usually involve the band practice (which Knives absolutely hearts) and low budget places like Goodwill and CD stores — this was 2004, so bear with it. Their conversation flows nicely because Scott seems genuinely interested in Knives’s day-to-day high school intrigues like who-likes-who and whatever happened at the yearbook meetings. However, at one of these hangouts, Scott sees a pink-haired roller-skating woman that catches his eye because he had seen her before in his own imagination/dreams.

After some obsessing, Scott finally has the chance to introduce himself to the girl of whom not a lot is known about, with the exception of her name, Ramona Flowers, and that she left New York after a breakup with some guy named Gideon. Scott tries to make conversation, but his sheer awkwardness gets the best of him and he ends up leaving her alone.

However, Scott was still stuck on Ramona so, armed with the information that she worked doing deliveries for Amazon, he placed an order just so she would go to her house, which she eventually does, and actually agrees to go out with Scott on a date after some persuasion. We also see that, after Ramona’s introduction, Scott became distinctively uninterested in Knives’s stories which culminates in him running away after Knives make a move to kiss him.

Stephen Stills is able to set up a gig for Sex Bob-Omb against Crash and The Boys. At their date, Scott and Ramona have a nice time getting to know each other and Ramona finally explains that she uses these subspace highways to get to one place to another faster and it is because of those that Scott was having visions of her. They end up at her place, but they don’t engage in sex right away which is not only okay but preferred to Scott.

It’s showtime and everybody is there which includes Stacey and Jimmy (new boyfriend), Wallace, Ramona, and even Knives who totally got a makeover to become more “rad”. Naturally, Scott ends up freaking out about both of his girlfriends at the same place and tries to run away from the discourse. It’s worth pointing out that, at this point, pretty much everyone has told Scott to break up with Knives, but he simply can’t bring himself to do it.

Their presentations finally start and the Crash and The Boys’ last song is powerful enough to knock everybody in the audience out for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, a little after Wallace ends up kissing Jimmy and a not too far into Sex Bob-Omb’s song, the unexpected happens: a man flies from the sky, breaking the roof, and announcing himself as Matthew Patel, the first of Ramona’s Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends.

Clueless at first, Scott picks up the thread and engages in the fight: apparently, Scott is known as the best fighter in the province and is able to turn this around. Matthew even brings out sexy demon women to help with his fighting/musical choreography, but Scott is able to flip it and reverse it to his benefit. In the end, Matthew Patel is gone leaving behind $2.10 in coins.

During the subway ride back home, Ramona and Scott finally define the relationship as she tells him that, in order for them to be a free couple, Scott will have to defeat Ramona’s League of Evil Exes. Pilgrim acquiesces to the proposal, but, upon asking whether Gideon is one of them, Ramona’s head starts glowing weirdly.

So… what was that?

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that not only the Scott Pilgrim series is one of the few comics I’ve read, but also it’s downright my favorite. The work Bryan Lee O’Malley put into each of the 180-paged issues is astonishing and, as much as I love a visual gag, I have to hand it to the self-aware and genuinely funny script: it’s tight and, from the very beginning, it serves the mission to set us up for a complex and detailed ride.

Now, if you’ve read the comics, you know what I am talking about: the drawing is purposefully inspired in Japanese manga while still having a style of its own. If I had to pick up one word to describe it, it perhaps would be “irreverent”, because the lines and coloring help the story develop even with its larger-than-life and ludicrous storytelling.

The best part about the volume is how well the world building was done. The Scott Pilgrim reality is quite obviously very whimsical and it’s only semi-grounded in reality (or maybe it is fully grounded in reality? I honestly wouldn’t know because I’ve never been to Toronto so I can’t testify to Toronto’s whimsicality). This is a story that includes a wormhole-like subspace highway that is absolutely ubiquitous to Ramona, but not for Canadians, apparently. Not only that, but Crash and The Boys physically knocked people out with music and Matthew Patel brought in demons and ended up turning to coins. It’s quite clear that Scott Pilgrim’s world is one inspired by the possible plausibilities of video games and cartoons.

As for the characters, from very early on, we see how Bryan Lee O’Malley, a half Korean man, wanted to integrate his own culture on the story as he has talked about on his Tumblr account, giving a very straight answer about the lack of POC in his story:

So anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, what I knew in the first 20 years of my life was white people and a little bit of asian people and so that’s what I put in Scott Pilgrim. I had an unexamined non-attitude towards race and I didn’t think about it until years later.

In the first volume, we do meet Knives and her friend Tamara, who appear throughout the series. Sadly, Matthew Patel bit the dust right after his introduction.

A nice point I always love when I read this comic is Wallace’s relationship with Scott and everybody else. Reading Wallace as a “gay best friend” is quite easy and he does fall victim of hypersexualization during some time, but I still love the tiny moments that include LGBT+ characters in the story and, spoiler alert, there are quite a few still to come.

It’s also nice to point out how quick everyone got concerned when Scott, 23, said he was dating a high schooler. While Scott says it is “easier” for him and Knives seems to genuinely like Scott, their relationship appears sketchy to the reader on most occasions, especially after Ramona is introduced. Knives own arc of self-discovery, independence, and love is amazing and definitely worth the price of admission on its own.

As far as Scott and Ramona, the duo still has a lot of ground to walk. One moment that usually gets praise is the non-intercourse that happens after the first date. I don’t particularly think that Ramona was aware of Scott’s anxieties regarding being intimate with someone for the first time after getting his heart broken a year before, but it was a nice touch that he ended up getting what he needed: an intimate moment, sure, but one that didn’t have to appease to pressuring dating rules. This moment also probably doubles as when the couple really started connecting, putting down the basis for the relationship to become believable.

Well, that’s about it for Vol. 1. Join me in a couple of weeks to talk about Vol. 2 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World!


Images Courtesy of Oni Press

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Wonder Woman’s enemies practically defeat themselves in “Heart of the Amazon”

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The “Heart of the Amazon” arc has had its ups and downs for Wonder Woman.  It started very strong with a meaningful and emotional first issue, but then petered out when its attempt to build on top of that with action couldn’t quite bring it together.  It finally seemed to get a handle on itself in issue #29, where they managed to have both an action/adventure setting while still retaining the friendship and family connections.

Unfortunately, despite having a very satisfying main body, issue #29 of Wonder Woman closed with a “twist” that was severely wanting: Hamilton Revere, the man behind Dr. Crawford’s attempt to grant herself superpowers using Diana’s blood and also behind the bounty hunters sent after her, works for the US Government.  That twist — if you even want to call it that — didn’t make sense, and it lacked any sort of emotional punch.

So now we are on to Issue #30, part 5 of “Heart of the Amazon”.  This is the last issue of this story-arc, and let’s see if they manage to pull out a victory.

Recap

At the Evil Lair

Wonder Woman speaks to Hamilton Revere and the various soldiers under his employ, and Revere reaffirms his statement from the last issue.  He is an operative of the US government, and what’s been going on is a sanctioned mission to gain superpowered soldiers.  The surrounding guards aren’t mercenaries or villains-for-hire, but soldiers who have been personally inspired and saved by Wonder Woman who volunteered to gain powers themselves in the hopes that they can help the world.

What was a lie was the claim that the research would be immediately applicable to diseases and medicinal cures, which is why Diana had walked into this “trap” willingly.  Though he says that it might lead to medical breakthroughs eventually, Revere admits that the goal of their research was purely about the combat side of superpowers.  His previous talk about how their research would help the world referred to his belief that all other nations would surrender to their authority and they would have “peace” once the US had an army of super soldiers.

Obviously, Diana wants no part in this plan, so there’s the obligatory fight scene.  It turns out that the soldiers present have already been given superpowers, so they can fight Wonder Woman on even terms, although some of them still use their plain olds guns as well.

Eventually their numbers overwhelm her, and Wonder Woman is strapped down for Evil Medical Experiments.

Generally speaking, it undercuts the argument that you just want to help people if you’re attacking somebody as you say it

At the Picket

At the beginning of the issue, Etta Candy and Steve Trevor were sullenly sitting at the Picket after being ordered to reman there as Diana goes off into who-knows-what danger.  They idly swat at some of the ants crawling on the table (Again?  Seriously, what is up with the ants in this arc?), and then Sasha Bordeaux asks to see them in her office.  She explains that General Thomas (Aha! His name is General Thomas.  It only took five issues to get this) has been ordered to keep them there, lending credence to Revere’s “we are the government” bit.  In a parallel to her conversation with Etta in the preceding issue, Sasha says that she has picked her side and helps them sneak out so that they can go help Diana.

I do have to wonder how many people accidentally placed their hand right there while innocently using the restroom

Etta and Steve race to the Evil Lair, scope out the defenses (Steve even recognizes one of the soldiers on guard), and then launch an attack/distraction.

Wonder Woman manages to break out of her restraints, and with Etta and Steve’s assistance (Plus the help of one of the soldiers who regrets her involvement) they defeat and disable all of the super soldiers.  Just as with Dr. Crawford at the beginning of the arc, Wonder Woman removes all of their superpowers through the use of the Lasso of Truth, since it can separate the lie of their powers from their true beings.

Aftermath

When Revere is being carted away by the cops, he again claims that he works with the military and the police say that they checked with the Pentagon and they claim they never heard of him.  I’m assuming this is the military disavowing his actions rather than a reveal that it was a lie all along, because if he knew nobody at the Pentagon would back him then why would he still play the role when it will just make things worse for him?  Before the cops put him into a car he is intercepted by two EMTs who say they need to check him over, only to be revealed as two of his soldiers who abscond with him so that he can give them powers again.

Diana, meanwhile, is recuperating at Etta Candy’s apartment with Steve and Destiny, Etta’s niece that Diana had bonded with at the beginning of the arc.  They talk, laugh, and love, and that brings us to a close.

I’m not gonna lie: I really want to try some of Steve’s cookies

Review

Let’s get this out of the way: The Villain in this issue just torpedoes any attempt at drama or complexity that the story tries to offer up.  From any perspective the Evil Plan makes no sense, and is actually self-defeating.

The Evil Plan

The first problem is the premise that this is an official government operation and not a rogue operation aiming for Revere’s personal wealth or advancement.  I’m not saying that I have a problem with a story concept of the government running unethical medical experiments to try and bring about superpowers (That kind of thing happens in real life, Project MKULTRA being the one that first springs to mind), but I do have a problem with them deliberately  shooting themselves in the foot like this by.  Diana is already willfully working with them, so why are they trying to force her compliance at gunpoint?  Why not just say “We think studying your blood can give us cures for diseases, will you agree to a regular blood draw once a month for research and application?”  They obviously considered that point and they believed it would work, since that is the lie they use to lure her in, so why not just do it?

Then there’s the fact that the soldiers they’ve recruited are deliberately all personal fans of Wonder Woman.  One of them talks about how Diana inspired her to believe that a woman could accomplish great things despite being opposed by the patriarchy, and another says her life was personally saved during combat in Iraq.  Since Revere lied to them about Diana being a willing test subject, indicating that he knew that they wouldn’t go along with attacking their hero, why didn’t he get soldiers drawn at random?  Or even people with a grudge against Wonder Woman?  There’s got to be plenty of soldiers who are envious of her powers, or resent the fact that she hasn’t gone into all of the combat zones and single-handedly taken out all of the enemy combatants.  Why surround himself with people that he specifically knew would have moral oppositions to his plan?

BTW: She isn’t the one decides to help Wonder Woman. Interesting fact, that.

This all means that Wonder Woman is going to fight against him instead of politely acquiescing, and she is going to have help from his own side once they realize that she is there under duress (Only one of the soldiers actually does change sides, but still).

A lot of this could have been avoided with the simple reveal that Revere had gone rogue and was operating outside of his orders.  That would cover why he has to steal Diana’s blood, because he’s going to use it for his own ends and not the government’s.  It would also explain why his underlings are all Diana fanboys, since he had to work within a structure that honestly thought it was helping Diana.  “Rogue government agency” isn’t exactly a new or unique plot, in fact it’s been done a half-a-dozen times with Wonder Woman herself, but at least it would make internal sense.  As it is, I spent the entire issue shaking my head.

The Rest of the Comic

Okay, leaving aside the villain’s plan, the rest of the comic is…well, it’s “okay”.  Not groundbreaking, but not horrible.

They finally named the as-yet-unnamed General that has been hanging around the Picket.  It’s nice to finally attach a name to the face, especially with the way he had been introduced at the start of the arc as a Reasonable and Benevolent leader before being ordered to obstruct Steve and Etta here.

Even though she wasn’t involved in the fight itself, they managed to include Sasha Bordeaux in the narrative by having her help Etta and Steve sneak out.  By having her state that she picked her side, a direct quote of what Etta had said to her in the previous issue, it manages to include why she is helping them without bogging the action down in a page of dialogue.

Etta explains why she chose to renew her friendship with Diana in Issue #29

It’s brief, but there was also a very quick panel of might-have-been flirtation between Etta and Amelia Medina, the one soldier who turned against Revere and assisted them.  It’s a lightning fast exchange, just a single panel of Etta telling Amelia that she can call her by her first name instead of “Commander Candy”, but I’m going to grab onto that and hold tight.  Ever since they introduced ‘Marc’ in the first issue of the arc, combined with the complete lack of any mention of Barbara Ann Minerva, I’ve been dreading the day when this new creative team might try to introduce a boyfriend for Etta.  The inclusion of her flirting, no matter how small, is a little reassurance that the new creative team hasn’t forgotten that she is a lesbian, even if they haven’t shown what happened to her girlfriend.

The one thing I don’t get is the continued inclusion of ants at the Picket.  This has been an ongoing event since the first issue of the arc, with references to the building being fumigated and renting temporary office space.  I keep expecting it to become a critical plot-point (Are they alien ants?  Mind-control ants?  Spy ants?  Demon ants?), but they keep just being ants.

If those are superintelligent ants, I’m guessing they’ll hold a grudge

What’s the story here?


Wonder Woman #30 and all images courtesy of DC Comics

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