Call for Book Reviewers and Bloggers

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Aug 10, 2009
'Big things are waiting for you just around the corner... Move forward to meet them. Don't spend your life frozen with fear.'

All these years later, it is still a thrill ride. Waid crafted a truly endearing vehicle for Flash, six or so months or major storyarcs, and six or so months of fillers.


Issue 91, ‘Out of Time’ is one such filler issue. Effectively both coda to the ‘Trial of Wally West’ storyarc told over the four issues prior, and prologue to runaway hit, ‘Terminal Velocity’. ‘Out of Time’ fits in with another long-running creative project of Waid’s; the superhero neurosis of Wally West. In the watershed ‘Return of Barry Allen’, Waid established the Wally West character as an essay in superhero psychology. Wally’s powers were waning, we discover, because of an insecurity limiting his capacity to adopt the mantle of his mentor Barry Allen.


But after defeating the villainous Reverse-Flash, and excising the ghost of Barry Allen, could Waid still tap the psychological as source material for Wally’s story?


In ‘Out of Time’, Wally (overcome by an incapacity to save all lives) uses Johnny Quick’s speed formula to boost his already impressive superspeed. But the plan falls apart. The boost of superspeed means Wally’s frozen in time. Once time starts up, the lives of three helicopter pilots might be lost. Zen guru and speedster, Max Mercury, boosts his own speed to deliver a message to Wally: ‘Don’t be afraid, live in the moment’.


The real treat of course, is Mike Weiringo’s hyperreal cartoonish style. As Max Mercury slows down, colorist Gina Going uses the masking effect to illustrate his return to ordinary human speeds. But beyond the colors, it is the tilts and outcroppings that make this sequence what it is. With Wally catching the falling Max, then donning his mask Ringo illustrates how Max’s point has hit home. Ringo’s playful artwork reminds us of the ordinary heroism of facing our fears, and thriving.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Aug 6, 2009

John Constantine has been written as a character that murdered his twin brother in the womb, pumped his body full of demons blood to fight cancer, made fools of representatives of both heaven and hell, and, perhaps most importantly, sang for a punk band in 1977.  Fortunately, he is a man with baggage he can’t seem to drop.  All of these life events feed into Constantine’s persona and come into play as he encounters new ordeals.  The character has been re-invented many times through the over 20 year run of the Hellblazer series by re-interpreting the meaning of these memories in relation to whatever problem Constantine is currently trying to sort through.


Aside from setting up a traumatizing demon conjuring mishap at Newcastle, Constantine’s role as singer for the fictional punk band ‘Mucous Membrane’ is a story often returned to in order to define his character as cautiously chaotic, as in Jason Aaron and Sean Gordon Murphy’s beautiful run last year.  A slightly different take on this history has been explored by several other teams, however, emphasizing other aspects of the diverse punk culture of the time. 


In a 1995 issue from Paul Jenkins and Sean Phillips, they explore Constantine’s friendship with some more ‘Crass’ inspired peace punks.  In possibly the only story in which Constantine can be seen riding a bicycle, we find a touching work on his loss and recovery of a friend after a punk show at Edgewood.  One night the friend bikes off into a time warp and goes missing for a couple of decades.  In this panel, Constantine has found his friend displaced in time, and they ride against a medieval battle back towards the present. In the midst of this onslaught, he can only think of Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s film score “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head”.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Aug 5, 2009

It seems it is impossible to be a moral citizen in Mega-City One, the dystopian future city for which Judge Dredd serves as law enforcement and quick judiciary.  Pretty much everyone is breaking a law, often even those who are filing complaints, so any time one gets near a ‘Judge’, they are probably going to receive a relatively harsh sentence.  Young perpetrators, or “Y.P.s” as the judges call them, receive equally cruel sentences for their misdemeanors.


Writer John Wagner and artist Ron Smith addressed the issue of graffiti and youth crime in two 1981 issues of 2000 AD, the comics magazine that to this day serializes the ‘Dredd’ stories.  Following the teenage Marlon Shakespeare through his school days, in which he attends a compulsory class about his future titled ‘unemployment’, he is instructed to find a hobby and stay out of trouble.  After all, finding a job in a city with an 87% unemployment rate is highly unlikely, another class lesson.  The hobbies of his family are absurdly boring, so Marlon has decides to be the biggest ‘scrawler’ (graffiti artist) in the city. Using the tag name ‘Chopper’, Marlon gets into a graffiti war with a rival scrawler who goes by ‘The Phantom’. 


The art war escalates from skyscrapers to monuments, until the final scene in which the two scrawlers plan to tag the Statue of Judgement, a giant statue of a judge that overshadows the Statue of Liberty.  In the panel above, Chopper finds out the surprising identity of his rival and the meaning of resistance in his ungovernable police state before tricking the Judges in a surprise ending.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Aug 3, 2009

The first issue of The Invisibles introduces us to Dane McGowan and his isolated rebellion.  Dane’s background as a teenager from a British industrial town, raised in a single parent household sets him up to be a young nihilist, our favorite kind.  Fittingly, by the end of this issue, he has stolen a car, burned a library and a school, and seen the ghosts of two of the Beatles and a demon.  The above panel takes its sequential place after Dane has assaulted his teacher, who is trying to stop him from burning the school.  Earlier that day, the teacher had asked the class, “Can anyone tell me the name of the anarchist writer of ‘Mutual Aid’ who denounced the Bolshevik Revolution?’


It is appropriate that artist Steve Yeowell captures enraged Dane looking down on us from a skewed angle while yelling about Kropotkin, not only because it ties into that earlier question, but also because of the foundational Russian Anarchists’ popularization of ‘propaganda by the deed.’ Often misunderstood as a political strategy of using property destruction and violence as a scare tactic, more recent works like Benedict Anderson’s Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-colonial Imagination have argued that these acts were used to create media around anarchist ideas.  The anarchists on trial would use their court time and final statements before execution to give speeches about their beliefs that were carried around the world by the increasingly global, news media. 


Though Dane is being built up as a smart kid who is lashing out, this moment feeds well into the relations of the sign system Morrison built with the series.  The Invisibles is well-known for its abundance of cultural references that resonate into the strange meta-physics he was proposing.  And though I read this work as metaphor, giving it less power than the realism Morrison has attributed to it in his interviews, one would be hard to argue that the series did not gain a significant depth from its use of affective cultural undercurrents.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Jul 27, 2009
Heroes are heroes for a reason, Brubaker reminds us

James Buchanan Barnes, Captain America’s former kid sidekick ‘Bucky’, glowers at the tribute erected to fallen Captain America Steve Rogers. From this view Barnes remains unseen, but his reflection expresses both his intensity and his distress. The only ‘actual’ object appearing in this panel, Cap’s empty costume and shield fully convey the sense of loss experienced with the demise of a legend.


Barnes will shortly, after reading a letter from Steve Rogers requesting he do so, take up the mantle of Captain America. For the moment however, the icon remains out of reach. Ironically an awareness of the shield and costume as fake, do nothing to alleviate the burden of memory. However close Bucky may once have been, the icon of Captain America has now become interminable.


The construction of the panel, the hero of the story remaining off-panel, while separated from an iconic role by a panel of glass offers the briefest of essays on the superhero. In a common-sense understanding, it is the icon, and not the hero that endures. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting however provide a careful criticism of this notion, the same one that underpins generational superheroes like Lee Falks’ the Phantom or the modern Flash lineage. While the icon, Cap’s costume and shield, at first glance seem substantial and enduring beyond Steve Rogers, it is ultimately the absence of both Rogers and Barnes (whose emotion animates this panel) that has the greatest effect.


Heroes are heroes for a reason, Brubaker seems to be saying. Without them the icons they drape themselves in, are just empty suits.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
Win a 15-CD Pack of Brazilian Music CDs from Six Degrees Records! in PopMatters Contests on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.