So I was thinking… You know what we haven’t done in a while? Just a bunch of random reviews with no connecting theme. And it’s probably a good time. We’ve got a couple of new number ones in the stack, some old favorites returning, some on-going concerns we can’t escape from… So let’s get right to it.
Eternity Girl 1
by Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew
I bought this book primarily off the strength of the previews of it that ran as back-ups in last month’s Milk Wars comics. I didn’t like Milk Wars all that much, but man, did I ever dig the back-ups. They chronicle the entire (completely fictional) publishing history of Eternity Girl, a character who never existed but feels like she could have. Each back-up is presented as a two-page excerpt from a comic of a different era. They play like miniature love letters to funnybooks, each one forming a paragraph celebrating all the different styles and approaches super hero comics have seen over the years. And together, they form a commentary on the “endless reboot” cycle so many funnybook characters find themselves in. That commentary is quite literal in the final strip, which features the lead character breaking the fourth wall, and… Well, here. Check it out:
Yeah, I know. It’s all weird and meta and shit. Some would call it pretentious, I’m sure. But I dig that stuff. It’s got enough of a sense of humor about itself that it doesn’t come off as self-important so much as… I dunno… Fun? In an intellectual sense? A nerdy, aware-that-you’re-staring-at-your-own-navel kind of sense? It puts me in mind of guys like Grant Morrison and Pete Milligan (or, well, PRECISELY those two guys), and I, you know… like I said… I dig that stuff.
(Plus, there’s a Rocky Horror gag in those last three panels, and I’m always a sucker for that.)
At any rate. The first issue isn’t nearly so… direct. Eternity Girl does narrate the story, and she does seem to be at least vaguely aware of her publishing history. But she doesn’t specifically turn to the audience and talk about how she’s a comic book character suffering through yet another a gritty reboot. Rather, she just seems… exhausted. She’s seen too much, been pushed too far, and now she’s just ready for it to all be over. She wants to die. But because of who and what she is…
So while all the meta stuff and the jokes and what have you are fun, the thing that really makes Eternity Girl tick is its frank and all-too-realistic depiction of suicidal depression. It’s not about the pain and the angst so much (those are in the past). It’s more about the numbness. The fatigue. The just being tired of dealing with it all, and wanting to move on the only way you know how.
Except she can’t.
So when her dead arch-enemy (or maybe a hallucinatory facsimile thereof) tells her that the only way she’s going to be able to kill herself is to destroy all of space and time… Eternity Girl is down for it. In fact, she kind of takes it as a challenge.
Which is one hell of a premise. Handled poorly, it could be a disaster. The most EXTREME of the EXTREME! Or the most pretentious of the pretentious. Fortunately, however, it’s neither. Writer Magdalene Visaggio and artist Sonny Liew thread the needle, coming at the idea with exactly the right mix of humanity, ridiculousness, and black humor. It’s my favorite new comic of the month, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Mage: The Hero Denied 7
by Matt Wagner
The first six issues of the current Mage series were, I hate to say it, a little dull. Wagner spent a lot of time establishing Kevin Matchstick’s domestic life. His wife, his kids, the way they’re hiding to protect the children from his enemies… All important stuff, but maybe not six issues’ worth of important stuff. There was some action, and some cool monsters, and it was fun, I suppose. But it all seemed kind of lightweight and inconsequential. Even when he went on the road fighting monsters for a while, the book seemed aimless. He’d have an encounter that seemed important, then he was just back at home again. Nothing felt like it mattered much. None of it actually felt dangerous.
This issue, that changed.
Now, everything Our Hero cares about is in jeopardy. His home has been destroyed. His wife is a prisoner of the Umbra Sprite. His son’s been stolen by Redcaps. And his daughter… is just missing. The stakes went from zero to everything, in the space of just one issue, and I am officially engaged with this story again.
It’s about damn time.
by Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell
I almost didn’t pick this comic up. In spite of the striking cover, it kind of blended in with the rest of the indies on the rack. I’d already paid for my weekly stack, in fact, and was just waiting around the funnybook store talking to friends before I noticed it. But during a lull in the conversation, my eyes fell on it, and it captured my attention. Interesting design. Nice art. Hmm.
Then I opened it up, and saw this:
That’s page two. And while I won’t say it gets more messed up from there… No, actually, wait. It DOES get more messed up after that. But not before settling down to establish character, setting, and the issues at play. Infidel is about Aisha, a young Muslim woman who’s married to a white guy, playing stepmother to his young daughter, and dealing with all the cultural baggage that comes with it. So there’s racist neighbors, and family pressure for marrying outside the faith, and some serious misunderstandings with her mother in law, who’s trying and often failing to understand.
Also? There was a mass murder in their apartment building a few months back, and she keeps hearing sounds coming from inside the empty unit where it happened. The landlords haven’t been able to keep a construction crew in there long enough to finish remodeling the place, either, so… We’ve got some serious modern urban decay going on here, and an oppressive atmosphere that ratchets up the tension.
It’s a good recipe for horror. I won’t say that this comic actually scared me, though. I’m a pretty tough audience for that sort of thing. Also, being fairly well-versed in macabre folklore, I think I have some idea of what’s going on, and that always lessens the scare factor. But I do appreciate how gruesome and weird it gets by the end. Sometimes, you admire these things for their craft, even when they don’t hit you on that gut level you want.
Sometimes, you admire them for the art, too, and that’s definitely the case with Infidel. I’m sure I’ve seen Aaron Campbell’s work on something before, but I couldn’t tell you what. And I’m not sure it hit all the same notes it’s hitting here, either. It gets a bit scratchy in places, but overall he puts me a bit in mind of Bruce Jones’ work on the Warren horror magazines in the 1970s. That’s fine company to be keeping, with a good pedigree for the genre.
But I’m undecided on whether I’ll be coming back for more. I like horror, and I like this book. But I’m not sure I like it enough to spend four dollars a month on it. We’ll see when the time comes, I suppose. But for now…
The Wicked + The Divine 34
by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
I had planned, after that masterpiece of a special they did earlier this year, to re-read this book before the next issue came out. Well, here it is. And I didn’t do it. But I think that’s okay. Because I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it now. Granted, those are famous last words for me in regards to this book. I’ve overlooked and misconstrued any number of things over the last three years, and I’m sure I’m not done doing it. Of course, I also don’t pretend to understand everything just yet. There’s more to be revealed in the final year, I’m sure. But overall… For the most part… In all the important ways… I think I’ve got it.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Gillen and McKelvie open this issue by explaining everything.
That scene takes place 6000 years ago, when two old women lay down the rules that will govern the game of the gods from that point forward. They were the first (or among the first), and they define how things will go.: there will always be twelve, they will always die, and etc. We don’t get it all here; the scene ends just before one last rule is put into place. But we get enough. Plus, we get something we didn’t know before: one of these women will live forever (or at least continuously), while the other will be continually reborn without memory of her past. One of them (the one drenched in blood) looks an awful lot like Ananke. And the other one, though age masks it somewhat, looks an awful lot like Laura.
So, hmm. We’d already been tipped off to this idea, or something close to it. But this redefines things. Going back to that first panel up above… We already know that Ananke is Necessity. But the speech there would seem to frame Laura as Desire. Which makes a lot more sense than “Destroyer,” as Ananke labeled her. Of course, there’s no reason she can’t be both. And considering that she set the rule that all the gods have to die every century, I can see why Ananke might see her that way. But, still… Desire makes even more sense. Laura (Fan-Girl turned God) is all about desire. She wanted to know the gods before she was one, and wanted godhood for herself rather badly. She voted “Do as thou wilt” on the matter of tackling the Great Darkness. And at this point, she’s slept with at least three other members of the Pantheon. Maybe more, if you want to read between the lines a little. So, yeah. Desire works.
As for the cliffhanger we were left with last year, that’s what the back half of the issue deals with. The action moves forward very little, though. Mostly, it’s conversation and realization. Cassandra and Laura stay in Wotan’s cage. But that’s alright, too. After the last arc, the book needed to shift gears a little. And considering that we’re heading into the final year, I’m sure the body count will pick back up eventually…
Sex Criminals 22
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
This one’s been out a little longer than most of the books in this week’s column. But considering how infrequently Sex Criminals actually comes out, I think that’s okay.
(Watch; now we’ll get a new issue this week, and every month thereafter like clockwork, and I’ll feel like a jerk for bringing it up. But, still. THERE HAVE BEEN DELAYS, is all I’m saying…)
I don’t really have that much to say about this issue, specifically. But this series is one of the best things on the funnybook market today. It’s funny and smart, a sci-fi relationship comic about sex in all its many and varied forms. It’s adult not just in terms of content, but in its handling of all the complex emotions that surround any sexual relationship. Plus, it’s got all the dick and boob jokes you could ever want.
So I just wanted to acknowledge that a new issue was out, and it’s very very good, indeed.
East of West 36
by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
Another long-standing favorite that’s suffered from delays of late. But I think East of West has a more narrow appeal than Sex Criminals. I mean, just about everybody likes sex. But sci-fi alternate history political apocalypse adventure dramas attract a more… rarefied audience, shall we say. And this particular example of that sub-genre (super-genre?) is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. I’m still enjoying it, still appreciating the world that Hickman and Dragotta have created here, even as they begin the process of tearing it down. But some of the thrill is gone.
Jonathan Hickman has been accused of being too clinical a writer, and while that doesn’t bother me with most of his work, on this book it’s starting to feel a little like he’s just going through the motions. Or maybe it’s just that he’s got so much going on that it’s taking too long to deal with it all as thoroughly as he’s doing. I’m losing the thread of the larger narrative here, and that makes me care less about each of the individual moving parts. A re-read may very well be in order.
But until I get around to that… As good as each issue is, I’m afraid my enthusiasm is going to be dampened a bit.