Week #6: Ghost World / Hawkeye #19

This week I read Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, as well I read Hawkeye #19 by Matt Fraction. These were both interesting reads but overall not my favourite week of comics by a long shot. These books both felt very one note and didn’t really challenge me or present anything really new to me as a reader. As well both had their individual problems. I don’t want to bag on these comics too much as they are not that bad but having just read Doom Patrol and Planetary which did a lot and were amazing, these are just a bit of a let down… damn high expectations.

First of Ghost World… don’t worry I promise I’ll make this post easier to read than this comic. This was the most boring comic so far. I felt like i had seen this comic 100 times before, I got vibes of Breakfast Club, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and a hundred other coming of age tales just this one fell a little flat for me. Maybe I just don’t like it cause nothing exploded. I just found out there is a movie so I think I’m going to give the movie a chance, I just don’t think this kind of story works in the comic book medium but that’s just my opinion.

Next is Hawkeye #19, definitely the better of the two. Oddly enough the reason I actually liked this comic is not because of the story, but rather what the comic represented. This particular issue featured ASL throughout the issue. The purpose of this is maybe lost on me cause deaf people who use ASL can still see and are able to read just like everybody else. If there was one criticism of the ASL is that it feels kinda gimmicky as it doesn’t serve any purpose, if anything it achieves the opposite goal it is striving for. More inclusion of everyone sounds like a great idea but the only problem is the deaf are not excluded to begin with, this comic just excludes people who can not read ASL which is a little ironic if you think about it. Literature is one of the only areas deaf people have that their disability is irrelevant. Minus that one tiny criticism I really enjoyed the idea of it, promoting awareness of ASL and the struggles of deaf people in day to day life is certainly an important topic that is not talked about very much.

Week #5: Doom Patrol

This week I read Doom patrol by Gerard Way. As a “My Chemical Romance” fan I was especially excited to read this one. It follows the lives of a group of comic book characters come to life. The story really focuses in on one in specific (Casey Brinke) as she comes to terms with the fact that she is a character and not a real human and joins together with the rest of the characters to form the doom patrol and protect people.

This was probably my favorite one that I have read so far. That being said it is not without it’s faults. I felt that the first volume didn’t really flesh out each member of the doom patrol. I felt that it spent so much time with Casey and her existential crisis that the other characters are really the sideshow. As a result we do not really see how the other characters deal with the fact that they are not real. I hope we see in further issues more character development for the rest of the group, but the opportunity for this revelation and their character reactions may be lost to assumption forever.

What I liked most was probably how weird and unique it was. I had never read anything quite like this before and it took a little rereading and time to get my head around it but I found that, to be its charm. Consequently I couldn’t put this book down and read through it in one sitting. It’s characters were weird, original, charismatic and honestly so entertaining, in fact I am probably going to have to read the next volume just to see what happens to these misfits. Overall this was an amazing read and it’s successes outweigh the errors or shortcomings in the volume.

Week #4: Planetary

Planetary was a really… weird read. The story by Warren Ellis follows a secret organization called planetary, an group of 3 individuals headed by a mysterious benefactor. The group is made up of Elijah Snow (a hundred year old man who has cold powers), Jakita Wagner (a super strong and super fast bad-ass) and The Drummer (a slightly crazy, pain in the ass that can talk to machines). These three travel the world as archaeologists uncovering strange things and secrets of their world.

I bought the graphic novel and reading the foreword by Alan Moore really gave me a different perspective while reading. Basically, Moore gives some context about the creation and the intentions behind creating Planetary. It was written just before the turn of the century when everybody was looking to the future for change and to move away from the past of the last century. As well it also came after one of the hardest and worst times for the comic book genre. Taking all this into account was really had an impact on how i read the book. As the characters literally dig up the past and revisit our greatest hits of the 20th century, Ellis convinces us that the past of comic books still offers a lot of hidden gems and stories yet to be discovered. That to move forward we must also look back to where we have been… even though the immediate history is not that pretty. We see his efforts to argue that the comic book genre is not dead and that it needs to keep pushing boundaries, as planetary does, through the repetition of stating strange is good. We see Axel Brass iterate this point when meeting with his secret organization and we also see this at the end of the 1st issue when Snow and Wagner remark about how strange the world is. Overall I really enjoyed this comic and thought it was a unique commentary on the superhero genre.

Week #3: Black Panther

Black PantherBlack Panther was a really good read that I enjoyed quite a bit. The story follows King/Warrior T’Challa as he battles insurgents and revolutionary’s trying to overthrow his rule of Wakanda (a fictional African country). I enjoyed the character development of T’Challa and found that he was a much more multi-dimensional character compared to Ms. Marvel or Superman.

The one problem I really have with this comic is that it is really hard to cheer or root for T’Challa because his enemies are kind of right. The Black Panther is a weird character because he has to install the rules enforce their punishment but also goes out and violates many of the rules. For instance in the beginning of the first volume Aneka who at the time is a Dora Milaje (an elite, all female group dedicated to the protection of the monarchy) executes a chief who rapes enslaves and kills the people under his rule. Now I’m not saying what Aneka did is justified but the fact that she is a high ranking official and that her king is doing essentially the same thing to people who have done much less, makes a great case for leniency. But she is ultimately sentenced to death. This just shows how T’Challa is above the law and essentially a vigilante under his own rule. Another reason that the revolutionaries may be right is that T’Challa isn’t a very good leader, he is constantly leaving to be an avenger and even admits that it isn’t for his country rather for personal interest. A king is someone who is completely dedicated to the rule of his people, T’Challa proves that he is not this time and time again. He is more interested in being an avenger or being a scientist than being a king and one can’t help but think that he should be just that. Maybe Wakanda has evolved past the need for kings or a monarchy. I’m not suggesting that “The people” are the right ones to replace them as they do some pretty horrific deeds too. I’m suggesting to hold democratic elections for somebody that can hold the nations best interests at heart all the time. I don’t even see why T’Challa wants the throne, maybe out of obligation, birthright or maybe he just wants the power trip. It seems to me that he would much better serve Wakanda as a ambassador, military leader, scientific adviser or some other position more related to his skill set and desires. Looking at the comic through the lens of T’Challa genuinely being an incompetent ruler makes the conflict both externally and internally of Black Panther that much more compelling and interesting.

Week #2: Ms. Marvel

Ms. MarvelThis week I read Ms. Marvel by Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona. I enjoyed this comic book a lot actually, the young protagonist was fun and exciting which All-Star Superman sorely lacked.

I found the main character Kamala Khan to be a likable and relatable teen, just trying to live her life. She is a Muslim girl living in New Jersey balancing school, family, a social life and a religious commitment that seems to ostracize her from the “cool” or “normal” people. On top of all this she becomes a super hero, finds out she is part alien and has to deal with a giant cockatiel telling kids they’re essentially a bunch of Duracells (you know, normal teenage stuff).

The thing I probably like most about this character is how much she is not like the normal superhero. Out of the numerous ways she is different discussed in class the most interesting is that there really is no love interest for Kamala Khan. You would think a 16 year old girl would have some kinda crush, but this just isn’t the case. This is weird for me as almost every notable superhero has a Mary Jane or a Lois Lane to go save or at least fall in love with. Hell, even dark brooding and cynical Batman makes time for the occasional lover. Now there is a predominant male lead in the series in the form of Bruno and there is even reference that if he was Muslim Kamala’s parents would set them up, but other than that he isn’t really portrayed as a romantic interest for Kamala and very much is not the damsel in distress for Kamala to save. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this, on one hand I like the separation from the norm but I do like characters like Mary Jane and Lois Lane and think they offer more complexities to the main protagonist.

The one thing I did not like about this comic was it’s villain. The Inventor is a clone of Ben Franklin merged with a cockatiel. Why is Ben Franklin evil? Why is he merged with a bird? How was Ben Franklin’s DNA recovered to clone him? Why Ben Franklin? Why is created at all, if you can clone a dead person and bring it to life you can probably just enact The Inventors plan yourself, instead of serving under your own creation. Don’t ask me any of these questions cause the comic just glosses over all these questions. The Inventor is just silly and really took me out of it, the fact that he is part bird seemed to be a repeated joke that wasn’t funny the first time and a really pointless character detail. For this series first big villain I feel that it is very important for him to be a well thought out character with motives and execution that make sense. He has to add to the story and not just be a force for Ms. Marvel to fight against, unfortunately he is just that.

Week #1: All Star Superman

All Star Superman

I have been an avid reader of comic books for many years now but this was my first time picking up a Superman comic. I have always avoided this character because he is so unrelatable and all powerful that compelling and interesting stories are hard to come by. So when I picked up All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley I was excited to give such a well known and popular character a try but also hesitant to see what it had in store for me.

Unfortunately my misgivings about Superman proved to be right. I thoroughly enjoyed All Star Superman a lot, much more than I thought I would. But in a series that tries to highlight Superman’s human side I just felt that it emphasized his extraordinary and God like side. Even the front cover of the book that I purchased symbolized Superman as a god or saintlike figure with the Sun behind his head (pictured above).

All Star Superman centers around the idea that Lex Luthor tricks Superman into getting to close to the Sun and in doing so overexposes his cells to the suns radiation (this parallel to the Icarus story is only the first of many references to Greek Myths that surround Superman in this series) in doing so starts to kill him and gives him some very convenient and confusing powers (Morrisson, 19-21). I see the effort put in to make him a more human and relatable character but it is overshadowed by the grandeur of Superman’s deeds.  Let’s recount some of his deeds: in issue #1 he flies to space and saves a space mission to the sun, then we see mild mannered Clark Kent but even he is secretly this knight in Shining armor, saving 2 people on his way to work and on his way home (Morrisson, 24-27). Issue # 2 he brings Lois to his super secret lair with an army of robot servants and has dinner on the titanic that he has for some undisclosed reason, and makes actual suns to feed an intergalactic space creature (Morrisson, 40-43). Issue # 3 he gives Lois his powers, which just emphasizes how different he is from her, as well he also answers an unanswerable question from the Ultra sphinx (Morrisson, 69). I wont go through every issue but this is a consistent theme of Superman doing extraordinary things that we would never dream of. He also dies and comes back to life in issue #12 (Morrisson, 273-280), if there was any subtlety that he was a Godlike figure, it went out the window with that. We also learn that beyond being Superman he is also a genius who has created robot servants, learned and memorized Lois Lanes entire DNA structure and built a machine that lets him look into the future. So even without his powers I still see Superman as an ideal rather than a relatable human being even with the clear efforts made in this series to state otherwise. Superman does have many human qualities in this series but they are just overshadowed by his deeds, his intellect and his strength.

Photo Credit:

Quitely, Frank. All Star Superman. 2011. Red Pegasus Comics, 26 Mar. 2016, http://www.redpegasuscomics.com/join-us-discussing-star-superman/.