Reviews

Best. Halloween. Ever!: "Action #13"

Halloween is a time for spirit to rise… like it does in Action #13.


Action #13

Publisher: DC
Length: 32 pages
Writer: Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch, Travel Foreman
Price: $3.50
Publication Date: 2012-12
Amazon

The most recent issue of Action, issue #13, is superdense with themes and plotlines and grand interconnectivity that produces an absolute masterpiece. The Phantom Stranger makes an appearance, in where else but the Phantom Zone. For that matter, writer Grant Morrison brings back not only the Phantom Zone, but also Krypto, Superman's much beloved pet from his homeworld of Krypton. And in a not-unpleasant twist, introduces the theme of a preexisting Halloween--Halloween as an idea about the world of the spirits and the human world being connected. An idea, that exists on Krypton, even before it exists on Earth, that exists without the Kryptonians even articulating it in the way we do. From that moment with heart, where Superman and Krypto are finally united, right down to the moment where Superman becomes the first Kryptonian to willingly enter the Phantom Zone, there's a lot to this issue. But the real story, the real heart of the book, is somewhere else entirely.

The real heart to the book, lies in that strange tango between the primary story and the backup story. It's a profound point about the nature of and the need for a backup story. And an even more profound point about the medium of comics themselves. And, looking out over the devastation in the Northeast this morning, it maybe says something about the idea of self-rescue that's architected into the simple act of reading comics.

By now, you'd already have read Action #13, you'd know that Krypto and Kal-El forged an immortal friendship almost at the time of Kal's birth. You'd know that, by the end of the primary story, Kal rescues Krypto from the Phantom Zone. Krypto, Dear Reader, had launched himself into the Phantom Zone in the dying moments of the planet itself. His sacrifice had ensured that Jor-El and Lara were free to launch baby Kal in the rocketship to a distant Earth. And trapped in the Phantom Zone, free from the relativistic effects of time and space, Krypto chased that rocketship down to Earth, and unseen and unheard and unfelt, remained with Kal ever since.

It's a magnificent reunion story that Grant tells in the primary. It's both haunting, and beautifully moving. And… And it's complete. So why shell out the cash to Sholly Fisch for that backup story, "A Boy and his Dog", beautiful as that story may well be? After all, that backup gets told square in the middle Krypto's story. Well after his launching into the Phantom Zone and long before his rescue by Superman.

The primary story that becomes a framing device for an "incomplete" backup story ties in flawlessly with the great and secret beauty of reading comics. Call it the "fractionated moment". As readers we're thrust into a moment we can only partly understand. Unlike television or films or prose, comics forces us to focus on one single aspect of that moment. On either a sound effect, or a piece of dialog, or the narrative caption, or the image itself. We see only part of the panel, but thrust into things the way we are, we can already imagine a point at some moment in the future, when defractionation occurs. A point, after we've read all the disparate elements and can piece them together in our own, internal, personal narrative structure.

Except of course, piecing together the panel, only leads us to the search for an even greater context. The panel we discover, is only one of several hundred panels that will appear over the course of the average comicbook. And rather than be defeated by the sheer mass of things, we find we've been empowered by the "victory" we've already achieved in reading that one panel. We already have the tools, now we get to use them on a grander scale. Comics, my parents and yours will be glad to hear how right they were all along, really does rot your brains.

Or maybe "rots" is far, far too judgmental. Maybe the word is "remodels". Remodels based on the brain's own inherent neuroplasticity. A concept we're only just beginning to understand. And that more than any other, is the reason why, a backup story needs to be told, dead in the middle of a rescue whose outcome we already understand. And if you feel like I'm not telling you the whole story, or making those connections explicit… go ahead and push those two thoughts together, it's easier than you can know…

Happy Halloween, be called, but also be safe and be warm tonight.

For those of us who found themselves in the path of Sandy, and for our own Associate Comics Editor Michael D. Stewart, our thoughts and our hopes are with you now as much during the aftermath, as they were during the storm.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image