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Detective Comics Digs Even Deeper

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme Plays]

You know, a lot of people seem to think that nothing happened in Detective Comics #954. I find that rather strange, since to me, a ton of stuff happened. Sure, everything is subjective and I guess if someone’s not reading the dialogue and just looking at Marcio Takara’s wonderful inky shadows, then I suppose they’d have a point. But that’s not really how you read, uh, literally anything, since to read requires actual reading of text.

I guess my overall point is that I’m one of those people that loves feeling smart for paying attention. And that’s just how Tynion writes scripts for Detective Comics, so perhaps that means I’m also easy to please. Well. That’s certainly possible, but Kate wasn’t even in this issue and I still loved it. Bam, proof it’s not just Kate existing that makes me love this book.

Anyway, tons of stuff happened and just like my War Games theory back during The Victim Syndicate, I was right on the money! It’s all about an earthquake. But we’ll come back to that. For now, actual thoughts on other things. Not too many this time, (shocker, I know!) as this was super straightforward for how complex it actually is. Just what happens when you seed things so well.

Well, that, and when you trust your audience to come to the right conclusions.

The Batman Gambit: Demon’s Head Edition

It doesn’t matter what or who Bruce believes. Distrusting Jacob and locking him in a cell gets him screwed over with the League of Shadows. Trusting Ra’s Al Ghul with information about the League of Shadows and releasing him from a different cell screws him over. And that’s kind of great because in neither situation did he actually make the wrong choice with the information he had at the time. Ra’s played his hand perfectly here, as he almost always does, and got the Dark Knight to do exactly what he wanted him to do: shut up and think.

No, really. That’s it. That was the whole point. Take it step by step: he leads Bruce through the sequence of events that caused him to forget the League of Shadows—which by the way is an awesome subversion of Bruce not being aware of another ancient conspiracy; he was!—the how and why of it, lying just enough to convince him that he’s not up to something else. Bruce buys it, lets him out and is immediately paralyzed by something the anti-toxins in his system could not possibly counteract. See, the choice of paralytic is important to note, though. Yes, Ra’s mocks that he will still be able to think unhindered while unable to move, but…

That’s his entire plan. That is Ra’s Al Ghul’s last hope to beat Shiva. If he knew how to beat her, he would have. He doesn’t, but he’s willing to risk everything on the chance that Batman can figure it out if given just the right motivation and circumstances: a situation where he can’t fight back, but is forced to think of a way out with all of his knowledge of the League of Shadows restored.

It’s the perfect set-up.

But that doesn’t answer another question I’m sure many of you are having, and boy is this a fun one. You’re probably wondering, unless you’re a giant DC nerd and can somehow remember a 13-year-old polarizing mini-series and/or who Zatanna is (or her father Zatara), just what on God’s green earth this was supposed to be:

Oh, my friends. What we have here is one of the single gutsiest things Tynion could do. Rebirth’s all about bringing back the old and merging it with the new, but this? This is one of those things a lot of people would have rather forgotten about altogether.

Identity Crisis: Redux

Back in 2004, DC published a limited series called Identity Crisis centered around the mysterious murder of Ralph “The Elongated Man” Dibny’s wife, Sue. Those two were the heart and soul of the JLA for decades, and it was heartbreaking to see Sue murdered. And it was especially disconcerting that even Batman was having trouble figuring out who the murderer was! Yeah, long story short that tale is not as awesome as it sounds. It was super dark and depressing and weird.

Oh, sure, I know it sounds pretty freaking amazing to watch the entire superhero community of the DCU band together to solve and unsolvable murder of one of their dearest friends (Doctor Mid-Nite did the autopsy for God’s sake!) but that’s not at all what happened. To make a weird story much shorter: Ray “The Atom” Palmer’s ex-wife Jean Loring killed Sue because…she was jealous? It didn’t make sense then, still doesn’t. And also she killed her by stealing Ray’s belt and growing inside of Sue’s brain.

Anyway, at some point during this investigation, Captain Boomerang killed Tim Drake’s father for some reason (I told you this was weird and dark), and also it’s revealed that Doctor Light (the first one) actually broke into the JLA Watchtower years ago and raped Sue Dibny. Yup.

So, the JLA arrives and subdues Doctor Light, and Batman quickly leaves because he’s got stuff to do in Gotham. The rest of them, having realized that Doctor Light is totally aware of their secret identities, take a vote on whether or not Zatanna, the Mistress of Magic, should wipe his mind and basically lobotomize him into someone totally ineffectual. It’s not a unanimous vote, but it passes and Zatanna wipes Doctor Light’s mind.

Except this happens right at the very same moment that Batman returns to the Watchtower, as he was still concerned for Sue’s well-being. And he is not happy with the whole lobotomizing thing. So the JLA calmly talk to him and explain—I’m just kidding they mindwipe the last ten minutes from his brain.

Obviously, he eventually figures out that this happened, since he is a detective, and that paranoia and distrust nearly destroys the world since the spy satellite he created—okay, look just go read Infinite Crisis if you want that story. It was awesome, but this part wasn’t.

It’s all kinds of messed up, and for Tynion to bring it back, especially for Zatara-based magic to be the source—hooboy.

Thankfully, it makes perfect sense this time around! It was a supervillain that wiped Bruce’s mind from figuring things out he wasn’t supposed to figure out, not his closest friends and allies! So, yeah. That’s about ten thousand times better, in my opinion. Plus…right, yeah, Zatanna and her father Zatara are famous for their use of magic by saying the words backwards. In times long past, Bruce trained with Zatara in order to understand how to defend himself against magic when he was learning how to be Batman, and he and Zatanna kinda had a thing during that time. So that’s back! But, ideally, not the other part. Where she wiped his mind.

Everything make sense? Awesome. On to the Earthquake! Sort of.

7:03 To Midnight

After Jacob, Cooper (who is totally Shore Leave from The Venture Bros.) and Dom are rescued by Simon-sans-Garfunkel and The 90s Kid, along with the rest of the Colony. Jacob immediately asks about Kate’s body, and Simon tells her that Shiva took her.

And these two small moments are incredibly heavy. For one, Cooper, who gets pretty far into Camp Gay territory, has to be a clear and present reminder of what happened to Kate at West Point. This is a soldier he trusts, but I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t also hate him on some level for forcing him to think about the literal years that Kate lost due to what more or less amounted to bad timing.

There’s that, and then there’s the bit about the body.

Bad enough that Jacob thinks he murdered Tim, a kid not that much older than Beth was when she was taken from him, but now he’s got to focus on not making the same mistake he did almost twenty years prior: never finding Beth’s body.

If you’re wondering why Jacob isn’t chewing losing his freaking mind right now, it’s not because he doesn’t care or because he’s that hardened a soldier. We just saw him punching industrial super-glass until his fists were bloody in a vain hope to get to Kate. No, this is him trusting her to still be alive. Because if he doesn’t, then he’s making that same mistake he did with Beth. Giving up before confirmation.

Anyway, just before the Colony exfiltrates to their airship, The 90s Kid does something to Tim’s memorial display. I figure there’s a fifty/fifty shot that he stole the costume and is gonna run around in it. I don’t think he defaced it; he really seemed to like Tim even if it was as a rival. Maybe he left some tech there he always wanted to share with him, like he said way back in Detective Comics #937.

Moving on to the earthquake:

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Fault line. Sink. He said swallow” back in Detective Comics 951. Yup, that’s an earthquake machine of some kind.

But who’s going to stop them? Oh, most certainly not Simon-sans-Garfunkel. Batman? I doubt it. He’s a little busy. Batwoman? Probably too preoccupied with the whole bleeding out thing. Even if they were still in the fight, Jacob’s right in his assumption that there’s no way they could take on this army on their own. Once again, subverting the Inverse Ninja Law. Even more than that, though, Clayface is goop while Azrael and Batwing are MIA.

So, that must leave…

I was actually going to say Midnighter since he has teleporter doors, but that works too! And it’ll be way more awesome. Those are ninjas are only mostly dead, by the way. Probably.

NEXT WEEK: BATWOMAN #2! And absolutely nothing else.


DETECTIVE COMICS #954

Writer: James Tynion IV

Pencils/Inks: Marcio Takara

Colors: Marcelo Maiolo

Letterer: Sal Cipriano

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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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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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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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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