Connect with us

Comics

The Wicked + The Divine: The Trials of Patience

Published

on

We’re approaching the endgame supreme, lovelies. The players are all more or less in their places. All but a vital one, who has chosen to follow his heart and go to the Underworld for friendship’s sake. Sounds kind of Orpheus-like, doesn’t it?

Issue #30
“Beware the honest.”

The time spent below in the Underground last issue was draining. But although Persephone is free to mindlessly indulge in whatever she desires, the day isn’t over for Valhalla’s “R&D Department”. Woden, the Valkyries, and the non-Godly day workers have been busy preparing both the grand mysterious machine and Valhalla’s grounds for the upcoming gig.

Speaking of which, let’s do a quick recap of the specifics. Exactly 44,444 people in the grounds, ripe for Dionysus to pull his party hivemind thing, thus powering up the machine… and then see what happens. It’s a plan running entirely on uncertainty, both with regard to the gig actually containing the precise number of attendees and the outcome. A considerably more civil Woden assures Urdr the Valkyries can do crowd control if this event goes belly up.

But there is yet another concern on the preliminary side of things. Will Dionysus be around to do his thing? Urdr tells Woden Dio will make it. But this line straddles two possible senses: knowledge and desire. So, more uncertainty on our laps. Nothing quickens the pulse quite like uncertainty before some huge thing goes down, eh?

 

We find Dionysus sitting cross legged (a position conveying tranquil defiace) in the Underground. Right off the bat, we can say the scenario of waiting to be allowed to talk to Baphomet is something of a play in three acts. Obviously, each act will have Dio speak with Baphomet’s captor, the Morrigan, or rather each of her three personae. We begin Dionysus’ trials with The Morrigan’s more lucid side, her default goth queen personality. Despite her refusal to let Dio speak with Baph, she establishes some common grounds with the Wine God. They both want what’s best for those they care for. The Underworld Gods in this narrative have never actually been evil, not even Persephone. However, their fundamental difference from Dio is a matter of pure hubris.

Whereas Dionysus recognises that he doesn’t know what is best for everybody, the Morrigan thinks she does. Therefore, she declares that she will never allow Dionysus to speak with Baphomet. This doesn’t deter Dionysus from his attempt. In fact, a particular phrasing hints that his action doesn’t stem from a spontaneous decision, but an actual plan. The score so far: The Morrigan, 1; Dionysus, 0.

Meanwhile, at the Shard, Woden meets up with Baal, Minerva, and Amaterasu. What follows is something of an amusing means of ‘sweeping the rubbish under the carpet’ as Woden adds functionalities of tracking and recording to their gadgets. In truth, he does fuck all since he already did this ages ago. Woden’s dickishness has been considerably toned down since Persephone took him down to hell, but some of his entertaining features thankfully remain. At this time, he also remarks that he may have to create some pretty gadgets for the Goths if they show up. They’re basically the wild cards, the people who click maybe on a Facebook event, which can get annoying.

 

Back in the Underground, Dionysus continues to wait. The second trial of patience begins with a punt from The Morrigan’s second persona, the furious Badb Catha. She is not pleased at all that Dionysus would dare ‘disrespect her authority’ and judge her. In her infamous warlike fashion, Badb invites Dionysus to bring his crowd with him, for her to kill them all. His retort is a serene assertion of his efforts being only his own, which Badb takes offense to. So she has her birds claw and peck away, leaving him bloody. Once more, she leaves him declaring she won’t allow him to see Baphomet. Still, Dionysus waits. The score is now: The Morrigan, 2; Dionysus, 0. And his face probably hurts now.

We get an interlude of sorts in the story, courtesy of Instagram (or a legally-friendly stand in). On the one hand, we see the casual side of the Pantheon’s prominence in social media, despite the controversial recent events (as well as Amaterasu’s horrible taste in captions). On the other, we get the sense that Dionysus has been waiting in the Underground for a while. Soon enough, by the natural succession of threefold motifs and entities, we are now at Dionysus’ final trial. The Morrigan’s third persona, Gentle Annie has come to check up on him.

The relief in this scenario is palpable. Just check out Dio’s expression of a fond long-time-no-see. Some of this derives from the fact that Gentle Annie is, well, gentle; the security that she won’t harm Dionysus does play its part. But the main bulk of the sensation is Annie’s acknowledgement that she’s the part of Marian that doesn’t get to come out and play much anymore. That’s no surprise considering we’re this far into the Imperial Phase, where there appears to be little room for leniency and kindness. Nonetheless, Annie’s awareness of Badb and The Morrigan’s current states feels like a calling her full-self out on her latest actions. This truth about herself invites honesty towards Dio.

 

Gentle Annie is very concerned about Dio’s willingness to endanger himself for the sake of others. And she feels a sense of  finality approaching. Thus, she bids her farewell to Dionysus (and perhaps to the readers as well), after which she grants him his wish, much to the anger and spite of her other selves. This is possibly what Dionysus intended all along, to chat with the one part of Marian that he could still reason with. As he would, Baphomet is quick to tell Dio how bad he looks.

Meanwhile, the mood grows tense as the Gods’ task force to capture Sakhmet comes to action after a sighting of the Cat Goddess. Minerva plays the Oracle to Baal and Amaterasu’s birds of prey, as they close in on Sakhmet.

However, before they catch Minerva’s command to abort, Baal crashes through a wall, ready to take his chances against perhaps the deadliest of the Gods. This turns out to be a waste of time, though. It was merely a girl who styled her attire after Sakhmet for the sake of an autograph. Anti-climatic as fuck, but still a good simulacrum. Yet again, as per the conventions of a narrative, an actual attempt at capturing Sakhmet may not go as smoothly. And then, we may return to this moment as a rueful retrospective.

Back to the boys in the dark. Baphomet is back in his usual pun-gent mood. But it no longer feels as right as it used to, not after seeing how badly his relationship with The Morrigan has decayed. By now, his wise-cracking has become a flagrant masquerade to hide the damage. Furthermore, when touching on the matter of the fine line between co-dependence and abuse, Baphomet tells Dionysus of the moment after his ascension. It was cool and all, until Baph realized he was made a God like The Morrigan, bound to live only for two years since. Although one could say he went ahead and presumed something else, Marian didn’t bother to bridge this communication gap before the deed was finished.

 

Therefore, Baphomet sees this relationship as an inescapable situation for Marian and he, perhaps from the very beginning. This is somewhat mirrored by Dionysus’ own situation, as he reveals he has feelings for Urdr, whose sexual orientation and current relationship status with her fellow Norns make a relation between them impossible. Such is life.

At the end of this heart-to-heart, Dionysus leaves a device in Baph’s hands, a means of communication in case he needs help. Although he doesn’t seem to care much for help now that things are reaching rock bottom, he may as well use it sometime in the issues to come.

Finally, bringing this issue to an end, The Morrigan pays Persephone a visit. Baph has told her the way, it seems, and she has a few words for the Destroyer. After ridding herself of the part that would forgive her (a dreadful implication for Gentle Annie), she delivers a threat for Persephone to stay away from her and Baphomet. Her tone turns cautionary as she warns Persephone of the things some people would do just to feel honest and clean.

Thus, Marian walks away, unaware that, though she came with the threat, she was the one in peril. Sakhmet was waiting to strike and kill just out of sight. Unbeknownst to the Queen of the Underworld, the Destroyer has just saved her life.

 

When questioned by Sakhmet on why she allowed The Morrigan to talk like that, Persephone says they’re too close to their inevitable doom for displays of vengeance and pride to matter. Finally, they share a kiss. Little does Sakhmet know or care, a furtive tear streams down Persephone’s face.

There’s no better way to portray a doomed, depressing romance. The Morrigan’s words may well apply in this case, somehow. It takes no more than common sense to know that there is a large difference between Sakhmet and Persephone. At this point, even one sliver of a conscience counts aplenty. Casting this statement as a reflection back on The Morrigan, one can only hope she hasn’t taken permanent leave of hers.


The Wicked + The Divine Issue #30 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

Images courtesy of Image Comics

Advertisement
Comments

Comics

Saga: On the Nature of Tragedy

Published

on

By

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

Continue Reading

Comics

Air Capital Comic Con Sticks To Its Roots

Dan

Published

on

By

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

Continue Reading

Analysis

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

Annedey

Published

on

By

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.

Continue Reading

Trending