War is hell, there’s no arguing it. As a child, the world around me sold the idea that war, or by proxy, being a soldier, was the coolest thing ever. Whether by action figures, or epic poems narrating the warrior’s honours, the glamour fades eventually. That is, if you’re fortunate to afford looking at it from the outside. For all the romanticising of war one may draw with glee and even entertainment, reality paints a much different picture. For every fleeting fantasy about killing ‘bad guys from a bad country’, there is a rude awakening, often via Apocalypse Now.
War is also nowhere near as simple as good versus bad, or more realistically put, us versus them. Though Prince Robot IV has provided with amusement through his deeds and persona, there is much more to him. He is a war veteran, and those experiences seep into his deeds and judgments.
Issue #12 “Which way to the author?”
The art of flashback never grows old, except when it does, but we’re not there yet. In matter of few pages, we see in frightful detail the reason to the Prince’s initial reluctance to pursue the fugitives. Everybody bleeds at the impact of a bullet, no matter if they literally bleed blue. During an experience fighting alongside the Landfallian army, PRIV fell gravely wounded. A rodent-headed field medic is quick to treat him back on his feet. The conversation throughout alludes to the grand scheme of the war. All kinds of species and planets have become involved whether by sympathies or occupation, much to the Prince’s surprise.
Soon enough, a spell in gaseous form spreads on the battlefield: magical biological warfare. In gruesome fashion we get a taste of the by-proxy implications of the war. Aiding one side may give you the colours and appropriate uniform, but not necessarily the full gear. Having a different bodily constitution to the Landfallian forces, the medic didn’t receive a gas mask like the rest of the soldiers. She only gets to fear for a moment before blowing apart, showering the Prince with her blood. This flashback is only a dream in PRIV’s head, whose screen-face transparently reveals what goes on in his mind. It’s quite clear that he suffers from some manner of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and this is only one instant from the war.
He doesn’t get to dream or restlessly sleep further as he receives a transmission from Landfall Secret Intelligence. Agent Gale. a known asshole by the readership, gives him a proper chewing out on his modus operandi. He believes that the Prince’s hunch on the fugitives heading towards Quietus to be waste of time. The agent is quite in the shamelessly cozy position to do the chewing out as he’s attending a fancy political event at the Robot Kingdom. It turns out Landfall’s president is concerned about the war effort supplied by the Robot folk and the possible implications of the fugitives’ deed for the upcoming elections. The Agent lets out a subtle threat concerning the Prince’s wife (clearly pregnant) attending the event in order to give him a gentle push.
In thinly veiled terms, bureaucracy and war politics are a cruel, uncaring behemoth, callous devourer of the masses.
PRIV, probably incensed by Gale’s words, climbs out of the ship landed on a peaceful shore in Quietus. He encounters a seal-y guy leading his land-sea-lion mount and laconically asks for directions. The seal-y guy proves a bit of a lovable simpleton as he innocently reveals that the man the Prince is looking for enjoys lady folk and alcohol. The author of Alana’s favourite novel, D. Oswald Heist kind of lives the dream. He inhabits a cozy lighthouse by the misty shore, wasting away in front of his typewriter and drinking generous amounts of the Saga equivalent of whiskey. Of course, he has a big bushy beard, an old man jumper and a permanently bored look on his one eye. This is my favourite caricature of a novelist ever.
In very polite manner, the Prince asks the author if he’d received a visit from a Landfallian woman and a Wreathborn man. The question does appear to shake the author a bit. PRIV reasons that they’d come to visit him, inspired by his novel A Nighttime Smoke, which we’ve talked about on previous recaps. Amusingly, Heist is more interested (and offended) that PRIV had come because of that particular “piece of shit”. Clearly, he’s a novelist who’s had to write rubbish to gain a pay check, and I can sympathise. The Prince assumes this as false modesty to conceal a most subversive political message in his novel: radical pacifism. Nonetheless, Heist assures him it’s simply not the case. As a nod to the world of English majors, he acknowledges that interpretation is the finishing touch of literary creation.
I’m not saying it is a deliberate nod, or even slightly intended. Just saying, it’s kinda true. It’s basically the essence of what we do as readers. We complete the making of the book/painting/sculpture/film/etc by imprinting significance and signification through artistic appreciation. It is through such way that Prince Robot IV has come to this quiet lil’ planet. He inferred a meaning, same as Alana and Marko. Therefore, he’s completed Heist’s book beyond his role as writer. Now, as usual, I digress… but I shan’t apologise. Okay, back to the unfolding events.
In spite of dodging the Prince’s judgment on his intent, the author is still no stranger to the war. His son was part of the Coalition Forces for Landfall, as seen on a framed picture on a wall. Nonetheless, as the countless boys of the Somme, he too passed away. PRIV offers his sympathies, and parenthood becomes a point of affinity between both men as the Prince will become a father soon. Congratulations are in order, and all seems well until Heist tells the Prince his son had actually killed himself after the war. One of the unspoken laws of creative narrative is that if things are going too well, they shouldn’t for much longer. Let’s take the opening flashback into consideration, as well as the setting for The Stalk’s death at his hand. It can’t hurt to remember the images that pop on his screen either.
For every moment that he manages to keep his temper and arm-cannon in check, there must be a lapse of impulsiveness. It’s not just quite about mood swings, it’s about very real triggers. PRIV is nonetheless, a dick, so the result to this sum of circumstances won’t be pretty. He takes offence at Heist’s allusion to PTSD, and goes as far as insulting the man’s son. Quite clearly, this is no way to behave at your host’s place. Still, the Prince has all liberty to cause a ruckus, being royalty, military and all. Things escalate with snide remarks up until Heist pulls a gun on the Prince, as you do. In response, PRIV fires his arm cannon on the author’s kneecap, and all semblance of civility is gone. Yeah, things were going a tad too smooth.
Things take a turn for even worse as the Prince appears to contemplate killing the writer. It’s more than plausible given his character. However, at the end, the tension defuses with a calm decision to ‘lodge’ at Heist’s humble abode. It’s the most sensible way to go about his plan. PRIV is so convinced of the validity of his interpretation that he’s sure the fugitives will come by. He got the timing wrong though. They’d been staying there for a week already. He’s quite right about it, he just got the timing wrong. They’ve been staying there for a week, and now they know their safety is compromised.
At the end of this issue, I am left with one conclusion. The baddies tasked with hunting down Alana, Marko and Hazel are merely the very fingertips of the true antagonist: The war institution. The big shots call the… shots, and then after it’s all matter of whether you are the bullet or the target. Although both The Will and Prince Robot IV are tasked with a similar missions, they’re ultimately pressured into it by motives beyond their own. Although the former is still on the chase, he’s proven to be more than just his mission. Will it be likewise for Prince Robot IV?
Saga Issue #12 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
All images courtesy of Image Comics
Barbarella, Still Stunning After 55 Years, Gets New Comic
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
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life Excels At World Building
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”.
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
Wonder Woman’s enemies practically defeat themselves in “Heart of the Amazon”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
What’s the story here?