Um, Actually… | June 28th, 2012

Um, Actually…Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

Britany (@britl) asks: If your life had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?

James: While posting a link to my guide to picking a new jam would likely suffice, I’ll also add that you could throw in any number of songs from that incredible run of albums Bruce Springsteen made from 1975 (Born to Run) to 1984 (Born in the USA), as well as any number of odd little bits, like some WilcoRyan AdamsGram ParsonsGillian Welch or Lady Gaga, depending on my mood.  However, one song stands above pretty much all others in how I would describe myself, so it’s gotta be on the list:

Brandon: I’m partial to the soundtrack from The OC, because that show was amazing and delightful and such, but so much of those songs were so bright and “California” that I don’t quite think I could pull it off. Also, James and Scott are pretty much my conduits to music at the moment (almost far too much of my attention is squarely focused on comics and iCarly so… actually, that’s probably a good enough answer for now. My sound track would be the iSoundtracks to iCarly. Because why not.

Oh, and also this song would play at least once a week. You know why.

———-

Red 5 Comics (@red5comics) asked, by way of Jay (@jayrunham): How many Atomic Robos does it take to change a lightbulb?

James: I’m not sure there’s a way to do a witty answer here, which is maybe the point of the question.  My tendency when faced with explicit requests for jokes is to just be serious and straight-faced, because being asked for a joke is like being asked for a kiss: kinda creepy.  Plus, what other answer is feasible?  Robo would do it himself.  He’s capable of it, he’s not lazy (like me, a dude who has literally had a burnt out lightbulb in the chandelier in his office for a year), he’d get it done.

Brandon: Only one, but while he does it, he’s using his other hand to flip off Edison. WITH SCIENCE.

———-

Jay (@jayrunham) asks, all by himself: If you had to make a sequel to a major film franchise, and the film had to star Wil Wheaton, which franchise would it be?

Brandon: James Leask’s Sex Dungeon Too: This Time, It’s Ball Sacks. 

Oh wait you said major film franchise and not “personal homemade collection”. Well in that case, I would say She’s The Man Again: No Seriously, This Time She Is. In which Wil Wheaton would play the titular character (because Amanda Bynes is gonna straight up go to the jails one of these days… (we’re worried about you, girl)) who is a man playing a girl pretending to be a man. Channing Tatum reprises his role as that one guy who put a tampon up his nose in the first movie, and there’s kissing.

James: I would also accept a sequel to What a Girl Wants, titled What a Girl Still Wants: The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Game” Reenacted With Her Playing Ashley Judd’s Role.  But no, let’s be serious here.  There’s one movie franchise that we’re all begging for Wheaton to join, deep in our hearts and minds, and I’m just gonna lay it out for you:

Bad Boys III.

Boom.

———

Ryan (@bakpakit) asks: Will either of you be going to see Magic Mike in theatres?

Brandon: Because I don’t generally get the televisions, I didn’t know what this was until watching Bunheads over at James’. (Seriously, you have no idea what is happening with movies if you don’t catch any commercials.) Anyway, colour me surprised that Matthew McConaughey is in a movie where he gets to “unsheathe the thunder” (which is a term I like to use to describe the act of McConaughey taking the fast train out of the sleepy hamlet called SHIRT TOWN). If he doesn’t make out with Channing Tatum a little in this movie, I will be livid.

Wait, I think I’m sensing some kind of theme here…

James: I’ll take that as a yes?  We’re going to see Magic Mike because you want to see Vanilla Thunder and Vanilla Thunder 2 have smooches?  I can live with that.

———-

Cecelia (@sandozablue) asks: If you were somehow transported into a comic, which universe would you want to spend some time in?

Brandon: Marvel, probably. Well, minus all the fear and death. Mostly, I would just want to hang out with Spider-Man all the time, and stay away from bridges and burglars or something.

James: I would say Marvel (hang out with Spider-Man!), but the reality is that the Marvel Universe’s version of New York is not a place you probably want to live, because things are constantly going wrong.  Because of that, I think the comic universe I’d most want to be transported to is the Mouse Guard universe.  In part, this is because it’s a world of adventure, chivalry and tales of daring do.  Mostly, however, it’s because the characters in it are tiny and I could rule over them like a king.  Come to think about it, it’s a medieval setting.  I could literally be the king of a world of adorable, sometimes murderous  animals.  All would bow!  All would genuflect!  Worship me as a god-king, mice of the realm!

Ahem.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: The other day you mentioned you were glad The Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield had a personal attachment to the character.  Would you elaborate on the value of his status as a fan of the character to his casting?

James: Well, what I remember saying is that it’s “really cool” that Garfield has such an attachment to the character and is starring in the movie, and honestly, that has nothing to do with anything in the movie itself.  The idea of someone being a giant fan of the superhero they’re playing can work out well (Christopher Reeve loved the hell out of Superman, though I can’t remember if he did as a kid), okay (Ben Affleck in Daredevil) or disastrously (the  Nic Cage Superman movie that almost happened), but it’s not really a prerequisite for anything.  You don’t need to have had Batman jammies to be a good Batman, and Garfield loving Spidey doesn’t mean anything for the movie itself if he doesn’t actually perform well or his “version” of the character isn’t one that works with the rest of the movie.

All that said, the reason I think it’s so cool that the guy playing Peter Parker is a giant fan of the character is because there’s a wonderful, feel-good story to it.  The character means something to Garfield, and while that doesn’t mean anything for the movie, it’s awesome for him.  

Whatever happens with the end result, making it was the dream experience for Andrew Garfield.  He got to live out a childhood dream, and the romance of that speaks to the little kid in me who wanted to be Spider-Man when he was eight.  I want Garfield to succeed because of this, and from what I’ve seen I’m optimistic he will, but that’s no guarantee.

Brandon: Whelp, I dunno. The dude really seems to be into Spidey, which can result in two very different reactions. The first is the reverent kind, the one that will ride along with changes and react within the bounds of reason when things happen to the character (whether those things are perceived as “good” or “bad”). The second is the kind that thinks they know everything about the character, and fuck you, don’t you know anything about Spider-Man, this is trash you should be shot with a dick gun. (Which is either a gun made of dicks, or a gun that shoots dicks. I can’t be bothered to choose right now.)

Anyway, from what I’ve seen, Garfield tends to be one of the reverent fans, and as such, has an understanding, without thinking himself more important than the story or the character, which will probably wield some great results. Also something something Mondays lasagna jokes.

———-

Scott asks again, while holding his guts: Also how can I stop bleeding from every orifice?

James: So what you’re saying is… you’re asking for our… aids?

Brandon: You stepped into James’ stabbing zone. Normally, he’ll miss you, but the dude lacks depth perception. It’s a rookie mistake, and unfortunately, in the game of James Brandishes A Knife At You, rookie mistakes get you killed.

And you thought it would be the AIDS.

———-

That’s it for the fourteenth installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Capped: Ed Brubaker to leave Captain America

This weekend in an interview with Tom Spurgeon, Ed Brubaker announced to the world that his Captain America run would soon be coming to an end like the life slipping out of the eyes of a hobo that you’ve trapped in an elaborate maze.

He might not have worded it like that, but you get the general sentiment, right?

Brubaker has been on Cap since the Avengers line was relaunched by Bendis as the New Avengers, and brought with him quite a new flavour for the series. In the preceding years, the book had bounced around from being written by the likes of Mark Waid and Robert Kirkman, and included a run that was scripted and drawn by Rob Liefeld. There was also a brief period of time (just post 9-11) when the Cap book focused on hunting down and killing terrorists which was a thing that happened once.

With his time on the book, Brubaker elevated the character and the series to new heights. At the time of the launch, he was more of the unknown quantity, Bendis already having made his bones writing the very popular Ultimate Spider-Man series as well as a highly acclaimed run on Daredevil. With Bendis helming New Avengers and some bright, fresh-faced kid named Warren Ellis writing Iron ManBru was always destined to struggle to get noticed unless his ideas for the book hit hard. And they did.

He brought back Bucky and turned him into a stunning and complex character. Infused the book with a darker pulp sensibility. Turned down the “superhero” notch and cranked hard on the “super-spy” flavour. And then he went and killed off the main character. After that, a “Captain America” didn’t appear in the book for some 10 issues before Bucky begrudgingly took on the role, which created a new engine for stories that had never been seen before.

Of course, after a period of time, Steve Rogers returned to the helm (you can play with the toys, as long as you put them back in place) and Bucky is now off in his own, super-slick spy series called Winter Soldier, which Bru says he will continue as long as Marvel (and the fans) will allow him.

When asked why he was stepping down from the book, his answer was two-fold. The first? He’d been writing the series for nearly eight whole years and the ideas were coming to an end. And the other? The new accelerated schedule that Marvel is putting the majority of their books on. From the interview:

Marvel is trying to do this thing now that with some of their better-selling books they want to get out more copies per year than 12. They want to get out 15 or 18 issues. Amazing Spider-Man‘s been doing more than one a month for a while now; someone I know does Uncanny X-Men or one of those books, and that comes out 18 times a year.

I couldn’t keep up with that schedule, honestly. I knew I was getting to the end of my run. I wanted to wrap up my run earlier. And [Marvel Senior Vice President Of Publishing]Tom [Brevoort] was like, “Well, you’re going to leave a bunch of plot lines dangling… do you want to go out like that? It’ll seem like you threw up your hands and said ‘I can’t keep up with this schedule.'” I was like, “No, I don’t want to go out that way.” So we brought in Cullen Bunn to write an arc with me. I gave him a list of a bunch of stuff. “Here’s all the dangling plot threads and here’s where we need them all to be by the time I get to my last issue.” And then we figured out a storyline together.

It’s strange. I did all these issues as an uninterrupted run. Then there’s four issues co-written by someone. Then there’s a last issue. [laughs] It’s a little odd.

He further stated that he had hand-picked Bunn (who is amazing… everyone is reading The Sixth Gun, right?) to write the penultimate issues with. As it stands, Bru’s last issue will probably hit in October, alongside a slew of other like-minded endings. Fraction will be drawing his Invincible Iron Man to a close, Bendis will be calling it a day on the Avengers line, and a smattering of other changes are all afoot, making the tail end of the year quite exciting, in terms of new projects, ideas and voices hitting Marvel’s line in the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men.

Bru has stated that when his run ends, he will not be picking up additional work-for-hire jobs, instead focusing on his creator owned ideas, such as Fatale over at Image. Cynically, this would be a statement of some kind, but Bru frames the decision as a creative one, and not a business one.

It was less of a decision and more just following my instincts, trying to make sure I’m only writing things I really want to write. I used to have a lot of ideas for superhero stories, and they scratched a real old-fashioned pulp writer itch for a long time. But the past few years, I’ve wanted more and more to just focus on my own projects, and most of my ideas have been for new things, or things outside comics. I remember just sitting there with my Cap notebook, trying to figure out what to do after the next arc was finished, and suddenly I just was like, “I think I’m done here” and it was this huge relief. I talked to Dan Buckley at Marvel, and told him what I was thinking, and he was really supportive of me, really great about it. I mean, I know I’m still going to be doing the Winter Soldier for a while, potentially a long while, but this feels like a major change, anyway.

We here at Comics! The Blog remain quite excited at what the future holds for further Brubaker projects. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to trap a vagrant.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 26 – Shanks For Listening

We're trouble.

Another week, another exercise in the increasing self-indulgence that is two weird Canadian dudes running a podcast based around making recursive jokes.  Hey, what do you want?  It’s free.

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its wares.

Episode 26 – Shanks For Listening

It’s the half-year special!  That’s right, it’s been exactly half a year that Brandon and James have been making you regret asking for a podcast.  This week, the boys talk about two new television shows they love, The Newsroom and – for yet another week – Bunheads, and the value of optimism in media.  They also introduce the phrase “straight-up rucked” to the popular vernacular.  After talking about some recent comics they loved, they also delve into Matt “Matty Dubs” Wilson’s question over at ComicsAlliance: why aren’t comics funnier?  Send in your letters of disapproval of James’ answer to bschatz AT comicstheblog DOT COM.

Plus, James legitimately waves a knife at Brandon like a dozen times.

Download the episode here or subscribe through iTunes.  If you want to subscribe the old-fashioned way, insert the following text into your audio program of choice (in iTunes, click “Advanced,” then click “Subscribe to Podcast”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

You can also find all the episodes to date on Libsyn’s site here.

As always check us out on on Twitter at @blogaboutcomics@leask & @soupytoasterson!

Sorkinism: A critical response to critical response to The Newsroom

More as this boner develops

On Sunday night, The Newsroom premiered on HBO.  It’s easily one of the shows I’ve anticipated most in ages, and I make no bones about why: I love watching anything written by Aaron SorkinRight now, that seems to be less of a popular opinion than it used to be.  It seems like just a few years ago, people were praising his Oscar win for The Social Network, and before that they were wondering why more people didn’t see Charlie Wilson’s War while complaining about how Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip didn’t get the chance it should have and how 30 Rock should have been canceled instead.

Oh, that last part was just me?  Carry on, then.

Either way, what a difference a few years make.  Ever since Sorkin left The West Wing after four seasons, the general consensus has been that the show went downhill after he left because it lost the peak of the qualities he imbued it with.  Now, a decade later, I find myself in the middle of a sea change against Sorkin.  In the lead-up to The Newsroom’s premiere, the internet has been relatively alight with people complaining about how his shows are speech-y, overwritten and above all else, “unrealistic.”

“In the Sorkinland of The Newsroom, there’s no meaningful distinction between idealism in action and blatant wish-fulfillment fantasy” – The AV Club

“It’s so naïve it’s cynical.” – The New Yorker

“It’s not enough to be right; everyone else must be wrong…  At its worst, the show chokes on its own sanctimony…  The Newsroom may be right, but it’s saying it wrong.” – The New York Times

Now, I’m going to try my best to skip over the hilarious irony of The New Yorker making a statement like that (oops).  And truthfully, the Times’ review is more multifaceted than the pull quotes make it seem like, but the pull quotes are part of the problem as I see it, so I’ll keep it right there.  The most hilarious comment about Sorkin, however, arrived via a link on Twitter, to a post where someone pissily shouts, “But has anyone noticed Sorkin always gets EVERYTHING wrong?” before launching into a diatribe that shows that they’ve followed the man’s career in the most narrow-minded, willfully ignorant way possible, culminating in a Mugatu-esque, “Am I nuts or is that guy just completely unable to get shit for shit about the world right?”

No, you’re not nuts.  You’re just lazy.

I’ll put it bluntly: if your critique of The Newsroom – or any of Sorkin’s work – is about how “unrealistic” the world Sorkin shows is, you’re not actually critiquing anything, you’re just complaining.  And hey, if you’re a dude who does media criticism on your blog, that’s pretty cool.  Rock on, but maybe skip The Newsroom, just for your peace of mind, because it’s just going to make you angry.  And who wants that?  However, if you’re a professional who got paid to write anything with that word or some variation of it like “wish-fulfillment”, the security guard should already be at your desk to make sure you don’t steal anything as you’re escorted out of the building.  If you work from home, I guess you could pay a neighbourhood kid to do it.

I’m not saying it’s not true.  The Newsroom is absolutely wish-fulfillment, much like each of the man’s other three TV shows were.  And do you know how I know that?  Besides the fact that I have been watching these shows for years, he said it, explicitly, himself:

“There’s something about live television that I find very exciting and romantic—I’m gonna use the word ‘romantic’ a lot. But you’d be closer to the truth to say it’s a quartet, with The West Wing, that lives in that place of wish fulfillment, what Will calls ‘a mission to civilize.’ And it keeps failing miserably—he keeps slipping on banana peels.”

That’s from the man himself, in a lengthy, interesting interview with Vulture.  He’s not hiding from it, and the critics who mention it haven’t stumbled across some hidden insight.  They’re not speaking truth to power.  They’re just lazy.  They, generally, got to that line and stopped thinking critically, which, for the record, is actually their job.

That’s not to absolve Sorkin of the wish-fulfillment.  He also says stuff like, “I’m not trying to change your mind or teach you anything.  I’m not able to teach you anything,” which is, all things considered, a pretty pat answer.  The point isn’t that by acknowledging his own tendencies or being a bit evasive about them, he gets to not be critiqued.  My point is simple: if your big “idea” is something that the subject themselves will readily shout from the rooftops, you’ve got nothin’.  You’ve been scooped.  Try harder.

The Newsroom is not a perfect show.  There’s stuff to be critical of.  Talk about whether the choice to set it in 2010 is a nice narrative trick (writers don’t have to basically invent an entire news cycle every week, gives the show some dramatic irony, lets the heroes get it right) or a little too easy (lets the heroes get it right).  Talk about whether Sorkin’s style still has the same impact now as it did when he was earlier in his career, or his tendency to repeat himself with dialogue.  Talk about how he got the facts wrong, and Don Quixote really did ride a horse!  Talk about the women!  Talk about anything but how it’s “unrealistic” or “naïve”, because if you do, you’ve already missed the point.  You’ll end up doing something like the New York Times and open with a critique of the perceived moral absolutism and then contradict yourself later with an entire paragraph about how Sorkin’s style lends itself to more complex antagonists.

There has been good writing about The Newsroom.  Writer extraordinaire Warren Ellis wrote about the show’s strengths and some of its weaknesses.  Legendary TV journalist Dan Rather took the Times to task for presuming he’d be likeminded about the show in his own article.  Rather writes:

 “Sure, I’ve got my nits to pick with it; and, no, it’s not perfect. But there’s a lot to like in what Sorkin and his cast have done here. There is a newsroom authenticity to what’s presented and much that gets to the heart of modern American journalism’s problems.

“There is a battle for the soul of the craft that goes on daily now in virtually every newsroom in the country. It’s a fight that matters, not just for journalists but for the country. It centers on whether news reporting is to be considered and practiced—to any significant degree, even a little—as a public service, in the public interest ,or is to exsist solely as just another money-making operation for owners of news outlets.”

It’s important and interesting that it was a journalist – and not entertainment writers – that had this response [Ed. Note: The CBC’s journalists had a variety of other responses, most likely befitting their status as working for a public entity and not a private corporation, O Canada, etc], because it speaks to the difference in outlook.  A reviewer for the AV Club doesn’t, as a rule, have to be concerned about capital-J-journalism, and really, neither does any reviewer, even one at the ol’ Grey Lady.  Their job is to talk about a show’s value to the viewer, and griping about how it’s “unrealistic” is, I think missing the point at a fundamental level.

Rather cuts to the core of the show’s value: it’s about the fight, a fight that’s going on right now, and it’s one that is being lost more often than it’s being won.  It’s blatant, glorious wish-fulfillment about a world where Sam Waterston wears a bow tie and runs a news network like a combination of Josiah Bartlet, Leo McGarry and Glen Allen Walken.  It’s about the feeling the show gives people who like it, a rush of optimism and sense that not only should things be better, but that they can.  It’s about those little moments, in the newsroom or the living room.

When the credits started to roll on Sunday, I looked over at Brandon and announced, “We’re starting a news network!”  After he left, walking back into the living room, I punched the air before decimating it with a wicked jump kick.  I might have also let out a gutteral, Caruso-taking-off-his-sunglasses-esque “YEEAAAAAHHH!”  It’s kind of a blur, really.

Besides the unique dialogue cadence, beyond the talented actors, beyond the fact that I finally got to watch an Aaron Sorkin show with cussing, the reason I liked The Newsroom‘s first episode was because of its “Aw heck, let’s put on a show!” attitude.  It’s a show that, despite its flaws, seems to be all about being better and pointing out some of the ways in which the real world lets us down.  Is it subtle?  Heck no.  But it’s talking about something that should be talked about on a show that’s not on Comedy Central.  It’s a soapbox, but shows like The West Wing and M*A*S*H long ago instilled in me a romantic belief in the soapbox.  The soapbox can make us better.

That’s what Rather is getting it, and that’s what some of the previously mentioned reviews missed.  Maybe they didn’t feel it!  That’s not banned or anything, but why they didn’t emotionally connect is certainly more useful than pretend gotcha journalism, as if they weren’t the last people to discover that fiction takes creative licenses.  For me, The Newsroom fed that flame of optimism inside me, like it was supposed to, and Rather‘s piece is the only one I’ve seen that addresses that in a significant, non-smirking way.  Pointing out that Dan Rather did something better than other people isn’t really a gotcha either, but it’s an appropriate mirror to the show and its notion of how asking the right questions is the key to good media.  I think some of the critics of The Newsroom are asking the right questions, but even more aren’t, which is why a show like it is necessary in the first place.

You Read These With Your Eyes! June 27th, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #688 (Marvel Comics)

Fresh off the huge Ends of the Earth storyline, Dan Slott is launching immediately into a big story starring The Lizard – who will be in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie.

Of course, the internet has given Slott quite an eyeroll for his choice of villain, but as the man has said in interviews, he would’ve been stupid not to put the Lizard into the book during this month. Plus, it will be interest to see how Slott plays things this time around. When we last had an arc focusing on the Lizard, he sorta, kinda ate his own kid, thus shattering the Doc Conners persona locked within, allowing the Lizard to fully take over. This story promises to revisit that, as Spider-Man tries to cure Conners in this altered state. It should be interesting to see the results!

Oh plus, if you haven’t jumped in on Dan Slott’s run yet…. seriously, what’s stopping you? Each story he’s done is making the book better and better, and he’s building up to some more craziness, what with a 50th anniversary issue coming up, and the year ending with issue 700. Get this now!

DEFENDERS BY MATT FRACTION VOL. 1 (Marvel Comics)

“Take it from The Defenders kids: don’t have a sex and do drugs.”

Immortal words from Fraction himself, describing the series quite succinctly. The real experience of reading the issues contained in this volume is far more mind blowing – and much like the object at the core of this series, I can’t really talk about it. Not without spoiling some pretty cool things. Plus, we’ve talked about it quite a bit already on the site and the podcast. But if you really need something to sell you, there’s always this panel of Iron Fist talking about the thing the team is up against.

And that’s rad.

FATALE #6 (Image Comics)

Has it seemed like a long wait to get to issue six of Fatale? That’s because it has been. The last issue shipped at the beginning of May, and this one is coming to us at the tail end of June. That’s a pretty long time to wait, but honestly? It’s going to be more than worth it when all is said and done.

The sixth issue starts the second arc in this three arc tale, a perfect jumping on point for those who might be a little behind. And what’s more, the first collection will be on the stands with it, so you really have no excuse but to get the full story and continue from there.

Fatale is a fantastic book that mixes the noir elements that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have become known for along with some creeping horror elements that give the events an overwhelming sense of unease – and what’s more, unlike a noir tale where you can sort of track a downward spiral towards its inevitable end, with this series, you really have no idea where it’s going to take you next. It’s a great read, and one you should seek out this week.

HYPERNATURALS #1 (Boom! Studios)

You guys, I am not going to lie to you: if you’re looking for the next best superhero book, you’re gonna wanna check this out. Hypernaturals is a new book from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – two industry vets who are probably known to most as the architects behind Marvel’s cosmic line a few years back, or the guys who are currently writing Resurrection Man. Well, the pair are back, and this time they’re rocking some characters that they created whole cloth. There was a preview of this new series out on Free Comic Book Day – and if you enjoyed that, you’ll definitely like this. Hell, if you just like a little bit of sci-fi with your superheroes, you’re going to enjoy this.

MORNING GLORIES VOL. 3 (Image Comics)

And finally, this week sees the long awaited release of the P.E. arc of Morning Glories, collected in full for your reading pleasure. Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have truely outdone themselves with this arc, proving that they can not only pose the questions, but answer them in equal measure, with satisfying conclusions to boot.

But look, don’t go in expecting everything to be wrapped up in a neat bow – the end of this run will shock you to the core. Seriously, I can’t wait until you all read it. Get on that and come back here when you’re done. We need to talk.

These are some of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

C!TB’s Best of the Week | June 25th, 2012

Ta-daaaahhh

I think we speak for everyone when we say holy cats there were a lot of good comics last week.  Seriously, it was a terrifying amount.  Now, I hear you wondering, internet people, “Which ones were the best?  I haven’t gotten to reading my pull list yet and I want to get right to the great stuff!”  Never fear, dear hypothetical reader, we have you covered.

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

SURE PLAYS A MEAN PINBALL!

Settle down, dear readers, and prepare for a lesson.  Not from me, though.  I’d probably teach you about Boy Meets World.  No, prepare for a lesson in how to make a modern superhero comic, from Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Daredevil #14.

Throughout his run on the relaunched title, Waid has portrayed Matt Murdock, the Man Without Fear, as a changed hero, one dedicated to being unburdened by his horrific past and pushing on into a bright future.  In the process, he and his artistic collaborators have brought a lighter, swashbuckling side of Daredevil out, a hero who smiles as he travels the rooftops and fights Megacrime.  As someone who had previously avoided the character because of the sheer darkness of his stories, this was my Rosetta Stone into the character, and I’ve become a fan, even as shadows have started to appear.

After all, while Waid has done his best to show a seldom-seen side of Matt Murdock, he’s also persistently hinted at cracks in the new persona and his relationship with his friend and partner, Foggy Nelson.  As it turns out, Waid wasn’t ignoring anything about the character’s past; only Matt himself was.  In Issue #14, this comes not only in the form of Foggy, having discovered something about Matt, about to make a big decision, but in Matt’s superheroics themselves.  Trapped in Latveria, he’s held captive by an economic official furious about Matt’s recent upheaval of the lucrative business of laundering Megacrime’s money.  Hes subjected to a mysterious gas and told he can leave, but it soon becomes apparent that things are far more sinister: Daredevil, a superhero whose powers are heightened senses, is gradually losing them all one by one.  For all his troubles, Matt’s never been truly blind; he’s always had this to fall back on.  What could be more terrifying than not just losing his superpowers, but losing all his senses?  He’d truly become helpless for the first time, and, as we see at the end, the results are heartbreaking.  I’m half-blind; every day, a part of my brain is constantly worrying about what I’d do if I ever lost all of my vision.  Every day, that little gnawing fear, however slight.  I can’t imagine what Matt’s going through.

And all in the wake of maybe his biggest victory!  It was only minutes after dealing Megacrime a calamitous blow that Matt finds himself, whether he really knows it or not, about to lose everything.  From one of his finest hours to being on the verge of defeat.

Now, I know that Matt will survive, that he’ll still be Daredevil, that things will change but still stay the same.  That’s comics, I’m not dumb.  But in that world of capes and tights, Mark Waid has been very subtly crafting the series not only into one that, thanks to the art of geniuses like Chris Samnee, is not just visually reminiscent of another era, but which is also such an eminently modern take.  It’s not dated, it’s timeless.  It’s utterly unique and yet it reminds us of other books we’ve loved.  It’s a reminder of not just superhero comics’ glorious past, but everything it’s become and where it’s going.  It’s perhaps the ultimate superhero comic out there.  It’s earned the Tommy Award for Excellence in Hellen Kellering. (J)

DON’T BE DINO-SAUR

Listen, there are a few sure-fire ways to make sure that I’ll love your comic book. The first, as always, is including a bear. Preferably a talking one, with a jetpack.

(An aside: isn’t this the future? Yeah, I know, blah blah, we were promised jetpacks, but more importantly, I want a god damn flying bear. Science, stop being dicks and get on this.)

Higher Earth is a book that doesn’t have a jetpack bear, but it’s first issue did feature a hollowed-out, nuclear-powered cybernetic bear which is just as good. And in this issue? Dinosaurs. Do you remember dinosaurs? It’s been a while since Denver was around, and with him being the last, a few of you younger kids might not fully comprehend what I’m talking about.

Dammit, I’m rambling.

In the newest issue of Higher Earth, Sam Humphries continues to astound. The story is set up as a big multiple-earth revenge story – like Doctor Who meets… ohh, let’s say the time/space-fucked version of a Richard Stark’s Parker but with a few little twists – mainly, the females character we were introduced to last issue, the one who seemingly didn’t know about the multiple earths, is being recognized by the folks who are after our protagonist. Coincidence? Fuck no. Just another intriguing question present in an already intriguing series.

Issue two apparently sold out from the distributor faster than any Boom! book ever has – but to be fair, the orders placed for the second issue were embarassing. Not for Boom! or SHUMPHRIES, but for the retailers. I know what kind of store I am and what kind of traffic I can muster. I know the ratio that I seem to sell books at, and where that stands in the industry as a whole. When I seem to be ordering five times the amount of that ratio, and I’m selling through, it means alla y’all fucked up five times over. This book should be moving five times the amount that it is. It deserves to be doing that well, and by god, if the re-orders don’t at least double the sales, I swear I am coming after each and every one of you. Maybe not here, but on another earth. Get on the ordering people.

Oh and also, if your shop doesn’t have copies of Higher Earth? Demand that they re-order. Since its gone to a second printing, you might need to help out the lazier stores with ordering, as they will probably just lazily look up the old order code and tell you that they can no longer get a copy. Spit out THIS (APR128386) at them and make sure they try and get a couple more for shelf. Tell them the book has received the highly coveted Shit in the Future is Crazy Award from Comics! The Blog. And if they still claim they can’t order it? Find another shop. Seriously. Because those guys are liars and dicks, and they’re gonna do you no good in the long run.(B)

Better than alllll the rest

Not pictured: The Sextillion

In its fourth month, Saga once again continues to up its game, and considering this is a book that we’ve singled out as one of the best every week it’s been released, that in its previous issue introduced one of my (immediately) favourite comics characters in recent memory, that’s saying something.  It’s shocking how consistently creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have been able to keep on improving, young though the series might be.

The biggest way the creators do it is in how they make the world of the comic get bigger and bigger without ever ever straying too far from the focus on the three four characters at its core.  Plus, killer cliffhangers.  Last issue, it was a near-death new dad muttering something shocking to the woman he loves about her maybe not being the woman he loves.  As we soon find out, the actual story is of course much more reasonable than, “Baby, tell this other woman that I loved her,” would have it sound, which is admittedly not hard to limbo under, you know? But along the way, we discover more about Marko’s past and what he’s left behind, the interesting babysitting arrangement and relationship Alana has with Izabel – Alana’s dismissive description of Izabel when she tries to give child-rearing advice is maybe the funniest thing I have read all year – and, ultimately, the reason why this little family is worth following and deserving of a break.

Saga is filled with dozens of details, each issue, that are meant to reinforce how callous and uncaring its universe is, and how stacked against our heroes the odds actually are.  It’s an expert move, albeit a jarring one, that the scenes with the family alternate with ones of a bounty hunter visiting a depraved sex planetoid (the Sextillion, natch) to get his rocks off.  There isn’t a single thing – okay, maybe one little event – about that place that isn’t brutally dehumanizing.  That’s what Alana, Marko, Hazel and Izabel are up against, more than royal robots, monsters or even their own warring species.  What Saga #4 shows better than anything else so far is that what they’re up against is a whole universe, a place where a killer can fuck himself comatose using any variety of participants, willing or otherwise, and nobody cares because that’s just the way it is.

That’s horrifying, and it’s why those little moments like Alana cracking a joke about Marko or Izabel making faces at an infant are so important.  That is what this series is about, those little moments and little people who just want to have a moment where they’re not tired or afraid.  It’s there in Vaughan‘s jokes and in Staples‘ astounding art, with its alternating moods, its expressive faces and the little things she does that make it a joy to look at.  This family is worth saving, and Saga is absolutely worth reading.  (J)

[NOTE: You may notice that Casanova: Avaritia #4, a book we heaped praise on, is absent from the list.  Diligent readers will remember that we inducted the book into our own Anthony Michael Hall of Fame so that we could highlight other books we love while still writing other pieces about the series in other formats.  You may also notice that Dark Horse Presents #13, featuring the first look at Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto‘s relaunch of Ghost, is missing.  It’ll be getting its own write-up later!]

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

The Blue and Gold: Get Cancer

The fight started over Topher Grace. 

Roughly ten years ago, during the relatively short span of time Judd Apatow’s Undeclared was a TV show, Apatow was having a chat with Fox about bringing the gangly That 70s Show star onto his show in a guest slot. What followed was a bit of a horrow show as That 70s Show creator Mark Brazill blocked all moves in this direction, due to an alleged slight that happened years previous. You can find a full e-mail exchange between the pair of then TV-show runners by clicking here – but the short version is this: Brazill thought Apatow willfully stole an idea from him, and ruined his chances at selling a pilot. Ever since then, he had harboured quite a hatred for Apatow, that came to the fore when Brazill ended one of his e-mails to Judd with two little words.

Get cancer.

Classy, yes? Well, let’s take the class down a further notch. Let’s talk about Cheryl Blossom.

01. She was ruining everything.

In 1994, Archie Comics made me a promise. After what had been decades of drama (condensed into a span of years as I glimpsed at their lives through the pages of various digests), Archie was finally going to man up and resolve the love triangle between himself and Betty and Veronica. The story would take place over the course of the four part Love Showdown storyline, culminating with Archie’s final choice. At the time of publication, I was pulling for Archie to be a man and pick Betty, who was clearly the better of the two… but in the end, he didn’t pick either of them. Instead, he went with some other girl… a tramp named Cheryl Blossom.

This, I was not happy with. Not at all. I felt empty. Cheated. Probably like what a person feels like when some two timing dick reveals the fact that he’s actuallythree timing dick which hey James do we have a line to the sex dictionary people because I think I just came up with new sex move.

Where was I? Oh yes, using cusses to explain my dismay at the fictitious events happening in Riverdale.

I decided right then that I did not care for this… Cheryl Blossom. Years later, I still don’t, even if I recognize the fact that my hatred comes from quite a dubious place.

02. The thing is this: Cheryl Blossom? Is not a real person. She doesn’t exist. Nor does Archie or Betty or Veronica or Jughead or any of the gang. Their actions, imaginary as they are, should not merit such a visceral response within me. And yet I still get miffed at Archie when he starts playing the girls against one another, and I still sometimes yell at a comic book when Betty and Veronica agree to bizarre and archaic dating rules, rather than slapping Archie in his stupid, bushy browed, befreckled face. This is not a healthy response. In fact, I spend a lot of time at the comic shop trying to talk people down from having such reactions to fictional characters. You’re sad that Peter Parker is still single and sometimes screws up even though you expect him to be a grown ass adult? Fuck you! That dude doesn’t exist – and because he’s fictional and a construct designed to be timeless, he’s not going to grow as a person. And yet still, I have a similar reaction to the goings-on in Riverdale. They are all fictional characters. They are designed to continue in their fashion in perpetuity so that kids and adults generations from now can still read and enjoy Archie in the same manner that I did (and currently do).

But dammit, what about the things that I am owed. What about my satisfaction. What about me?

It’s a really weird, thing, and I’m not exactly sure what to do about it. What’s more is the fact that this condition has gotten worse ever since they went and gave Cheryl Blossom the cancer.

03. Fact: when Archie Comics announced that Cheryl Blossom would be getting cancer in the pages of their far-flung alt-reality series Life with Archie, I was hit with an overwhelming sense of dread. My first thought wasn’t, “Wow, this will make an interesting story, I’m glad the folks at Archie are tackling this,” but, “Dammit, how am I supposed to hate this character if she has cancer?” And that is a weird thought to have.

Seriously, I understand having the thought when it applies to real life. I understand the angst produced when, say, a person you hate for dubious reasons gets a crippling, life threatening disease, and you are forced to re-evaluate your stance on them. It would be like if I found out that Galen Weston, the aw-shucks looking president of Canadian foodstuff maker President’s Choice had all types of cancer. I do not like that guy’s stupid, stupid face, but at the end of the day, he has not actually done anything to me, but appear on commercials, and seem like an affable, everyday guy. Once he’s riddled with cancer, I become the dude who doesn’t like a dude with cancer for no particular reason, which is bad. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s a dude who comes into the comic shop once every three months or so who rocks out a wheelchair, and he is the worst human being. He very deliberately knocks things over, and then tells me to get the fuck out of his way whenever I attempt to tidy in his wake. He’s run over comics, run over books, and always leaves without purchasing a single thing. I don’t like him, and I consider this hate to be justifiable. That said, how can a person justifiably still harbour a hatred for a character who doesn’t exist with a terrible, terrible disease?

Cheryl Blossom isn’t a person. More to the point, she doesn’t exist (zing!). Neither does her disease – which if we’re really digging into the well, is a trait that she has in a possible future within a universe that is completely ficticious.

Clearly, I am out of my god damn mind.

04. At the end of the day, this is where I stand: I love Archie Comics. I love reading Archie Comics. I love them so much, they produce a very real, very visceral response within me that balloons beyond the realms and confines of fiction, bleeding into my physical reality. In ways, this is not a very healthy reaction – or at least it wouldn’t left unchecked. After all, there’s something wondrous about the unreal manifesting itself in real ways. A certain alchemy or magic that pulls out the best and worst of a world you’ve come to love from afar, and brings it right into your very own reality. It’s what makes storytelling such a deep and abiding part of our lives, and why we actively seek out connections like this everywhere we can.

But somewhere, a line has to be drawn. Otherwise, things get a little to out of hand. And that line for me? Wishing cancer upon another soul. That’s a thing that I just can’t abide, that I just can’t imagine – and imagining is really the whole point, is it not?

So hey there, Cheryl Blossom. Sorry about the cancer. I hope you pull through.

And stop being such a hateful bitch.

What. I’m working on it.

 

You’re Welcome, Internet | June 18-22, 2012

Drawing sex pictures for the masses.

What’s that?  You didn’t see this feature last Friday?  Huh.  Maybe you should look again.

Oh, what?  You looked?  It’s still not there?  Well, I guess we’ll just have to sex gif it up this week.

You’re welcome, internet.

———-

Cleanup, Aisle Brandon.

———-

Oh no my Butts Disease is flaring up
Art by Kate Leth! Click for link.

———-

Bone deep y'all

———-

Let's see Harmon do THIS.

———-

Cleanup Aisle Brandon AGAIN

———-

Then get back in the tub of it, old man.

———-

LEASK: What a week!  I feel like I produced a good amount of content!  I mean, who saw that 800-word cross-analysis of Girls and Sex and the City coming?  Yeah, that happened.

Seriously though, I feel like my Casanova article on Thursday was a pretty good one.  I left it for a couple of days before revisiting it today, and I only immediately hated one small part of it, so I think that’s as good as it’s gonna get for now.  Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing, thanks for saying nice things, those who did.  It is weird to think that people, some of whom actually work in the Mysterious Comic Industry, read that thing and didn’t immediately cuss at me.  Y’all deserve a slice of cake.

SCHATZ: Don’t worry James… I’ll still cuss at you.

Yeah, it was a pretty swank week – and I’m looking forward to this coming one. On deck is an article about how much I hate Cheryl Blossom and my weird and quite literal metaphysical angst at her getting cancer. Also, I just made a baseball reference? Until next week…

You have been reading Comics! The Blog. This concludes our broadcast week.

Um, Actually… | June 21st, 2012

Um, Actually…Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

Brittanie (@britl) asks: What is your best story ever?

Brandon: I got a couple true-to-life stories that I like to tell when I’m bored or when it comes up. The first is a long, involved story about how I once threw a bag of candy at a girl’s chest on her birthday, because I was too afraid to walk up and wish her a happy birthday. The second is how I once dressed up as The Doctor at a Doctor Who party and somehow tricked someone into liking me.

Brandon Schatz: lady killer wannabe jerky jerk.

James: I am not gonna lie, my first reaction when I tried to think up a story involving myself was blind panic, because not only do I have vision issues, but because I am mortified at the idea of telling any story about myself because it would make it sound like I think I am a person worth telling a story about, and that’s just not how I was raised.

If I had to be pressed, I would probably tell the story of why I have the emotional tie to baseball that I do, because it’s a story of a father and son, lazy summer afternoons at the ballpark and hot summer nights in the back yard listening to games on the radio and learning how to keep a box score.

But I’m not gonna tell that story.

Braitnee continues: What is your favorite story involving unicorns? Ke$ha music videos w/ VDB need not apply.

Brandon: Hmmm…. that’s a good question, if only for the fact that it’s causing me to realize just how bereft my life has been from unicorns. As such, I gotta say, Cabin in the Woods.

Also, in regards to you BEEK stipulation, I proudly reintroduce to the site, a James Vandermeme.

James:Just admit, BritBrit, that what you were actually asking for was our second favourite story involving unicorns.  Just for that, my second favourite story involving unicorns is the time you sent me an email with a link to an “adult” My Little Pony unicorn plush doll that had a special slot for dudes to put their lower horns into.

Internet, that is a real thing that she sent me a link to.

———-

Jay (@jayrunham) asks: Peanut, peanut butter, or James?

Brandon: Great, now all I can think of is the “peanuuuuuuut, peanut butter… and jelly” song from when I was a kid.

Also, James in a giant banana costume, winking at me while he says “it’s peanut butter jelly time”.

James: I’m confused.  Is this a question about the song Brandon mentioned or about the increasingly blurred line between my public and private lives?

Whatever, the answer is peanut butter, and anyone who says that peabutter isn’t shit in a jar is living an immoral lie.  Seriously, that is the second-most disgusting thing I have ever eaten, after Vegemite.

———-

Jay continues: Does this animated GIF represent anything in your online lives this week?

Brandon: I don’t think Danica would appreciate it if I discussed that part of our oh online lives ha ha ha where is the delete button oh god why am I so lazy.

Alternative answer: it reminds me of recording a Drunk Comic Debate with Devin R. Bruce that’ll be up soon. I may or may not have gotten far too into arguing about Scott Pilgrim, and knocked over an empty beer bottle.

James: Except for Monsters University itself and my excitement to see Brave this weekend – seriously, that movie is gonna be bananas - I would have to say no.  What you might not know about me is that I take my internet duties very seriously, much like a monk.  There is no exuberance in what I do, just simple service to a higher calling. 

———-

Erin (@Erin_bourne) asks: I liked Stumptown a lot, are there any other crimey kind of books you guys wold recommend?

Brandon: Crimey books, eh? Whelp, you’re in luck, because the industry is full of some amazingcrime books right now!

The easiest place to start would be Criminal – which is a series of crime stories by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips that is quite amazing. There are six different stories in the series, and each can be read seperately from each other. All of them take place in the same world, and feature characters that pop up in the background in other stories… so reading them all weaves a nice, larger tapestry, but it’s not required. You can start with any of them, but the best would have to be the most recent story called Last of the Innocents – which features Archie archetypes as they exist in the Criminal setting. Amazing.

Otherwise, there’s a lot to try. The Amy Devlin mysteries from Oni Press are also quite good (similar detective style series), Near Death and Fatale are pretty swanky, and The Killer is top notch as well. I know I’m just brushing past those, but if I start digging into all the rad crime books, I might be writing forever…

James: Brandon is pretty spot on with Criminal, because it is awesome.  You might also want to check out some other comics written by Greg Rucka, who wrote Stumptown.  Whiteout is a crime story/murder mystery set in Antarctica, which is pretty neat.  He’s also done spy/thriller stories, like his Queen & Country series (comics & novels), Kodiak series (novels) and his latest book, Alpha.

If you like superhero stories, it’s also worth checking out a lot of the stuff he’s written for MarvelDC, since a lot of them have a crime flavour.  He’s currently writing Punisher, which definitely has a crime vibe.  He also did, with Ed Brubaker (who Brandon mentioned), a series called Gotham Central, which was basically about detectives and beat cops in Gotham City, and how they deal with living in such a Batman-and-supervillains-dominated place.

On that note, you could also check out Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming‘s series Powers, which is basically about cops investigating superpower-related crimes.  Or Fatale, which Brandon didn’t give nearly enough attention to, which is a Criminal-esque crime story with some Lovecraftian horror bleeding in around the edges.

But yeah, Stumptown is rad! The hardcover basically lived on my coffee table for a year.  And hopefully, it’ll be coming back soon!

 ———-

 Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: Who is your favourite girl from HBO’s GIRLS?

Brandon: MCA.

Ah, too soon? That was probably too soon.

James: Step aside, Schatz, it’s time for someone who pays for cable to talk.

I love Girls.  It’s a show that got some snarky attention for its cast’s parents and because it’s apparently unbelievable that there could be four white girls who know each other in New York City and not have a black best friend (I’ve been to Manhattan, it’s not), but at the end of the day, is just a really fuckin’ good story about growing up and learning how to be an adult.  The characters feel real, the stories are generally pretty grounded, and this lends itself very naturally to both intense discomfort and raucous laughter.

I actually really love this question because as creator/writer/director/star Lena Dunham has said in interviews, Girls is basically about and for girls who grew up watching Sex and the City, moved to New York and realized it wasn’t like that.  Each of the characters maps, initially, to a SatC counterpart: Jessa is Samantha (except not fundamentally unlikable), Shoshanna is Charlotte, Marnie is Miranda and Hannah, of course, is Carrie, or at least she’d like to be.  As the season has progressed, however, [Ed. Note: Confession – I still have two episodes left on my PVR that I still have to watch] they’ve started changing.  The consequences of Jessa’s damn-the-torpedos lifestyle have begun to show up and she’s softened her aloofness a little.  In one of my favourite episodes, Marnie was forced to realize how demanding she actually was of her now ex-boyfriend.  Hannah has finally started to be an adult.  Shoshanna… well, she accidentally smoked crack.

If pressed, I would probably have to say that Jessa and Hannah still get on my nerves a bit too much to be my favourites, though I love them as characters.  And while Marnie’s “oh shit, I am just as bad as Hannah”  realization and attempt to be a bit more like Jessa has been one of the series’ best emotional arcs, and Miranda was easily my favourite Sex and the City main character, I just don’t quite love Marnie as much as I do Shoshanna.

Partly, this is because Shoshanna is just so dang adorable, but it’s much deeper than that.  Shoshanna is the series’ strongest meta-commentary on Sex and the City and on her analogous character.  In SatC, Charlotte romanticized love and was certainly naive about many things, but there weren’t generally any consequences for her from it.  She was a rich, popular straight-A student, prom queen, model, cheerleader and athlete.  She elevated the “rules” of love and the romance of chastity, and even when that resulted in a rather quick divorce, she ended up with a giant Park Avenue apartment and immediately met the perfect man for her, who was smart, funny, devoted and while not physically the guy she had in mind, was still good-looking and gave her the best sex she’d ever had.  Bad things certainly happened to her, but it was seldom a result of her sheltered views and generally didn’t last very long.

Shoshanna doesn’t just romanticize love, she romanticizes Sex and the City and, if I had to wager a guess due to their similarities, Charlotte.  She’s naive, bubbly and optimistic, but unlike Charlotte, New York doesn’t reward her for this; instead, it shits on her constantly.  She lives in a small apartment that her newly-arrived cousin, Jessa, obviously doesn’t think much of and doesn’t really treat with respect.  Unlike Charlotte, who was constantly fawned over and fucked by good-looking men, the first guy in the series Shoshanna meets refuses to have sex with her after she reveals she’s a virgin.  Sex and the City critiqued Charlotte’s chastity and naivete, but very mildly.  Things still went very well for her in life, and it was that kind of fiction of insulation that led Shoshanna to New York.  However, instead of living in a Park Avenue apartment, Shoshanna’s naivete gets her high on a dangerous drug, running around Brooklyn scared, half-naked and in danger.

Unflinching optimism when everything tends to go well is not only easy, it’s kind of annoying.  I like Kristin Davis, but I always had a hard time liking Charlotte.  Her romantic moralizing, except when criticizing Carrie’s infidelity, didn’t feel earned.  Shoshanna’s worldview may tax her friends’ patience and maybe even that of viewers, but the show treats it with a harder edge.  It’s endearing but it’s problematic.  It’s a danger.  It actively fucks up her life.

Sticking to that kind of optimism when everything in the world is telling you not to is quixotic, but it’s still more noble.  More than any of the other characters on Girls, I worry about Shoshanna, but I also hope that things go well for her.  She needs to be a more responsible adult, but I want her to keep on fighting back with her optimism, too.  That’s why she’s my favourite character.

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That’s it for the thirteenth installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

CASANOVANAUTS: My First Earthquake / You Fuggddit Up

Just give me the thingy.

Casanova is, without a doubt, one of the most sprawling, ambitious comics being published today.  Spanning multiple universes and timelines, it’s a series that is not only lovingly referential, but fiercely individual and often starkly autobiographical.  Today, it wraps up its third arc, Avaritia, with an issue that blows up the series’ concept in a big way and leaves it ready for the next story, Acedia.  Everything about Issue #4 screams for attention, and you should absolutely lavish yourself with it.

01. THE GAME

The first thing that’s striking about Avaritia #4 and the arc as a whole is how beautiful it is.  Make no arguments: this is the most gorgeous book on the stands in pretty much any week.  The series has always been home to the incredible art of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, and this issue and arc are no exception, with producing what is easily the best work of his career.  It’s an embarrassment of riches that readers so regularly get such stunning art.  However, one of Avaritia’s biggest strengths is how consistently it draws attention to two frequently overlooked aspects of comics: lettering and colouring.

Lettering is often something that is ignored when it’s good and only noticed when something goes wrong or jars the reader out of the experience.  In Avaritia, however, the lettering by Dustin Harbin demands attention for two very different reasons: first, it’s hand-lettering, a relative rarity in mainstream comics, and second, it’s just so unbelievably unique and amazing.

In most comics, the bulk of non-sound effect lettering is divided into three main categories: narration, speech and thought.  In Avaritia, Harbin and writer Matt Fraction bend and shift the art into new directions.  Sometimes, thought is a far more visceral and overlapping reaction:

The drugs aren't working.
Art, here and everywhere else, by Gabriel Bá, Cris Peter and Dustin Harbin, who realize I’m not worth suing, hopefully.

Other times, the team plays with absence and silence for the powerful effect of a simple, overwhelming bit of emotion:

Take it to heart, now.

And other times still, it floats on and off the page in dreamlike 3D:

A round of fucking applause for Dharbin here, people.

There are other examples of this experimentation, too.  Sound effects crumple into the art.  Words are sung and vibrate through the air.  The entire palette of a scene shifts for a panel as the comic imitates the freeze frame character synopses found in movies.  At every turn, Harbin’s lettering serves the imaginations and purposes of his team, but refuses to fade into the background.  Time and time again, Harbin’s work demands attention because it’s simply so artistic and striking, and highlights the importance of craft and skill.  Dustin Harbin is the best at what he does.

Of course, then colourist Cris Peter goes and blows everyone else working on the book out of the damn water.  With the Icon reissues of Luxuria and Gula, she was faced with the daunting tasks of both introducing a completely different style of colouring to replace the spot work the twins originally did and also having to “speak Casanova” alongside team members that had been doing it longer.  In Avaritia, the first arc written for her colours from its inception, she makes it her ballgame, whether she’s experimenting with a third dimension like Harbin:

I did not receive any glasses.

Or turning a disaster scene into a page in Avaritia #4 that’s simultaneously beautiful and jaw-droppingly terrifying:

Sunshine and puppies, people.

Each volume of Casanova has its colour palette.  In Luxuria, it was green.  In Gula, it was blue.  In Avaritia, Peter coaxes a palette of reds and warm colours into a cornucopia of emotions.  Look at all of these images.  Each carries a completely different mood, but is recognizably part of the same cohesive whole.  Avaritia lives and dies by how she ties the wildly varying emotions together, and time and time again, Peter proves that she’s the best around and absolutely deserving of her Eisner Award nomination.

Together, Fraction, , Harbin and Peter all come together under the expert eye of editor Alejandro Arbona to create magic [Ed. Note: this is scrubbed of context as it gets with Avaritia #4)]:

Symphonic.

02. HELLO. DON’T BE AFRAID

[Ed. Note: Oh, you best believe there are spoilers here, son.]

Similarly, the actual resolution to Avaritia is no less incredible.  In Issue #4, well, yeah, of course Cass and Xeno Newman fight.  What’s interesting, however, is that this isn’t the same kind of fight that climaxed Luxuria.  This isn’t a nice day for a fight wedding.  After the resolution to Gula, there’s a weariness to the cycle of violence here.  There’s no pleasure, just two guys who hate each other’s guts whaling on each other, until it ends in a puff of wind and a promise that “it will never be enough.”  Violence?  Cass’ efforts to stop Xeno from coming into existence?  What does atonement even mean?

Seychelle wants revenge for believed indignities.  Kaito wants revenge for his loss.  Casanova is tired of killing; he just wants to make things right, save a life and disappear.  Seychelle gets the chump card.  He’s selfish, whatever.  Kaito is selfish, but he’s at least hurting, and he gets what he wants.  There’s no victory there, though, just a palpable sense of sadness and an old man’s dying tears.

Avaritia #4 is filled with doom and explosions.  It feels like the world is ending.  Aircraft are raining fire in the sky, people are dying, and every page feels like one step closer to a heartbreak.  This whole arc has felt like that, like it’s been building towards it slowly, getting darker and darker.  Everyone’s failing, everyone’s doomed.  The miracle of this issue is that it doesn’t pull away from the hurt, but it still gives a satisfying resolution.  Kaito shoots Cornelius, Seychelle makes his play, and people die – oh, how people fucking die – but at the end… you feel okay.  You feel like Casanova, flying through the sky in a tricked out space car, disappearing in a flash, landing who knows where.  It feels like there’s hope for the first time in a while; even more than Cass, I feel like Sasa Lisi, staring off into the sky and waving.  That’s the magic trick.  The most inscrutable character becomes the one I identify with the most.

03. I TRIED

If Issue #4 is a great resolution to Avaritia, it’s important to look at what it resolves.  The last time I wrote about the series at length, I talked about the series’ themes of self reference and creative cycles, but this issue brings different character cycles into attention.  Luxuria started with the death of a Quinn, and Avaritia ends with one.  Sabine Seychelle started as a villain, made a somewhat earnest attempt to be the good guy and threw that the hell away as soon as he found himself in a position of power again.  Kaito started as a sad, violent boy, and ended up right back there again.  Xeno just went on bein’ Xeno.  In many ways like this, Avaritia is about that cycle, the tendency of things to come back around, how things so often stay the same.  However, at the same time, Avaritia challenges these tendencies with the character of Casanova himself,  even as it returns him back to his original place in the light.

At the beginning of the series, Cass was the hero.  Sure, he was a bit of an amoral thief, but he smiled about it.  He loved his job and he loved his sister.  When pan-dimensional circumstance gave him a bit of a chance to be better, he took it, and in the process ruined everything.  He killed his best friend’s girl, he torched his relationship with his (kinda-)dad, he fucked up.  At the beginning of Avaritia, he doesn’t love his job anymore.  He hates it.  He destroys universes for a living, and when that stops being completely horrifying, he ends up having to make things personal by murdering the same guy across time and space over and over again, often after becoming friends with him.

A guy who murders indiscriminately over and over again isn’t the hero.  That’s not what the hero does.  By Avaritia #2, he’s the villain, and the guy who will become the “real” villain’s worst crime is that someday he’ll create Cass and give him reason to destroy universes.  It’s a cycle of death and you can’t really cheer for the guy you’re supposed to.  By the end of Issue #2, I was praying for a change.  Casanova needed to… be better.  Somehow.

Avaritia, then, is all about making Cass someone you don’t kinda want to see get shivved.  It’s about making him the hero again or, rather, about him making himself the hero of at least his own story, if not ours.  How does he do this?  He breaks the cycle, or at least he tries to.  He makes a choice and he sides with Luther Desmond Diamond, the guy he’s supposed to kill, the one who’s actually a really nice guy and is pretty good in bed.  He flies off into the sky and tries to move beyond the pain.

At the end of Luxuria, Cass decided to stop being played and be his own man, but ended up never really moving past the initial consequences when things stopped being rosy.  At the end of Avaritia, he starts to fight back.  He takes himself back.  He stops being the guy who quips, “Fuck your future.  Nothing is sacred,” and becomes the guy who, no matter what happens when his space car crashes, can at least say, “I tried.”  He places his whispered trust in the arms of the man who’s supposed to become his worst enemy.  Fuck what you say the future is.  Everything is sacred.

04. AND IF IT’S THE ONE I THINK YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE

This is the Cass I fell in love with.  This is the guy who I’ll follow anywhere, even to Hollywood.  This guy is an adult, written by an adult, in a series that has reflected that same maturing viewpoint.

Casanova is, perhaps above all else, about growing up.  If Avaritia ends the overall series’ first act, then it’s a perfect third act to what’s happened so far, because it charts the rise, fall and rise of Cass in three clear themes.

The theme of Luxuria was Awakening.  Casanova Quinn, ne’er-do-well,  gets a chance to be better.  More importantly, he realizes he can be better, and the series ends with him brightly looking towards his future.

Its follow-up, Gula, was about Consequence and its Inevitability.  Casanova, romantic genre hero, has his new-found ideals squelched pretty quickly when reality kicks in.  Going undercover means you do bad things.  Not everyone will forgive you.  Not everyone will understand.  Things are gonna get worse.  All the shit pushes back.

Which brings us to Avaritia, when Casanova Quinn becomes an adult.  The theme of Avaritia is Responsibility.  When Cass was just hopping around, fucking, having fun, he was being a kid.  When we find him wallowing in his situation, he’s a teenager.  In the last half of this arc, he becomes aware that he’s got a choice and the responsibility to assert it.  It’s callow not to.  It’s juvenile.

For Cass to be someone we can root for, he’s got to be an adult.  He’s got to accept his responsibilities.  He makes up with his father, late as it is.  He stops treating his girlfriend like shit and he stops surrendering his own agency.  Nobody makes him whisper in Luther’s ear.  Nobody makes him reach out that hand to Xeno and nobody makes him get in the space car.  That’s all Casanova Quinn.  For the first time in a long time, we’re seeing him act like an adult and break the ouroboros of his self-defeat.  He’s back on top, but he’s not the same.  He’s a goddamn astronaut.

“You’re almost done, Casanova.  You’re about to make a choice — and if it’s the one I think you’re going to make, everything is going to change.”

That’s what Sasa Lisi tells Cass, way back in Avaritia #2.  Back then, she loves him for what can become.  I used to see that in him.  I forgot.  He forgot.  Avaritia is about him remembering.  He’s Casanova fucking Quinn, star of the best comic around, and he’s finally acting like it again.

Pa-Zow, folks, and here’s to what’s next.

This is now how I will end every conversation.