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Saga #22 – Review

By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: Drugs, affairs, and murder. Alana and Marko sure live the celebrity life.

The Review: It’s not a pleasant experience to witness a couple’s row, but it has its fascinations. There’s a reason why these things are often referred to as train wrecks; from the outside, the disinterested bystander can clearly see what’s going wrong, though the people involved seem completely oblivious. And while the old adage is right in saying it takes two to tango, you can usually pin the larger share of blame to one person or the other.

Alana and Marko’s spat thus breaks against the mold in that you come away as bewildered and at a loss as to what happened as they, Klara, and Izabel do. When it starts, you’re ready to side with Marko on this: he’s the thankless stay-at-home parent who never gets a break ever while his wife’s flying high at her job. Even Alana’s anger about him muttering Ginny’s name in his sleep doesn’t shift your opinion much; we know Marko’s not actually cheating with the purple-skinned dancer. Marko’s actually in a very good position to be self-righteous—at first.

The problem is instead of engaging Alana on the Ginny thing and sweeping it out of the way, he very obviously changes the subject to whether she’s ever been high in front of Hazel, which is a vaguer point of contention. His avoidance means one thing: there’s a genuine interest in Ginny, even if it isn’t physical (yet). So when he finally lashes at Alana, there’s guilt mixed in with the insecurity of not being the breadwinner (he cuts off Alana’s complaints about working and finishes “—so you can take care of helpless me…”), and the resentment that his wife isn’t at home even when she’s at home.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to forgive Marko easier than Alana, probably. While he’s immediately apologetic for his loss of temper, Alana escalates, ordering him to leave the house, which she significantly refers to as “my house,” just as she refers to Hazel as “my daughter[.]” Having taken ownership of the rest of Marko’s life, he leaves him with nothing except—guess who?—Ginny. That won’t excuse any funny business that will likely happen between the two afterward, but it’ll be Alana who drove him there.

By doing so, they are now at their most vulnerable just when forces threaten to converge on the family once again. Not only does the unstable Dengo reach Alana’s workplace and violently leaves it in disarray, Prince Robot is on his trail thanks to assistance from Gale. The Landfallian agent claims to be doing so out of respect to the late princess, but as King Robot mentions earlier, the contract on Alana and Marko is still outstanding and Gale doesn’t seem like the type who forgets such things. So we’ve got two off-balance killer robots drawing towards our favorite couple; the fact that Upsher recognizes Alana’s Heist quote on the Open Circuit is negligible by comparison.*
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The Wicked + The Divine #3 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: Baphomet and the Morrigan prove that sex and rage go hand-in-hand with religion.

The Review: Religion as reality TV seems to be the throughline of this series, and I’ll be very interested to see the point Gillen’s trying to make with that. The simplistic theory is religion is mere entertainment for the masses, vacuous and prone to unnecessary conflict. The squabbles among the different gods are motivated by competition for attention, to obtain the largest number of fans/believers, all of which seems pointless when the gods are doomed to disappear in a couple years anyway.

It’s easy to sign onto this theory as you watch the Morrigan and Baphomet confront each other in the Underground. After a romp in the sack a few days earlier (thus providing him with an alibi for Luci’s frame-up), they now bring their darkest powers to bear against each other simply because Baphomet tried to usurp the Morrigan’s chosen venue. Their blowout is pure overgrown drama, the toxic, juvenile stuff of Jersey Shore‘s worst nightmares.
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The Fade Out #1 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (story), Sean Phillips (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors)

The Story: You can’t wish on a fallen star.

The Review: I’d like to start off this review of Brubaker’s latest work by saying a few words about his last one. In the end, I’m not sure it was the most entertaining or impressive or even memorable series ever (already the why and how of Jo’s life is slipping my mind), but Fatale sure was different. It’s rare to come across a work so minimally derivative and also so well-written. Brubaker may not have gotten his point clearly across, but his storytelling was unparalleled.

With his elaborate, urgent prose style, Brubaker often comes across as a novelist whose medium happens to be half-visual. His choice of subject for The Fade Out is certainly untypical for a comic book, being firmly set in the real world, in a real historical period, with no fantastical, sci-fi twists or spins. There’s no invitation to suspend your disbelief; Brubaker challenges himself and Phillips to tell a purely human drama convincingly without the caveat of overt fictionalization.
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The Walking Dead #130 – Review

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (grey tones) and Rus Wooton (letters)

This was a pretty interesting issue.  The Walking Dead delights in being a “slow burn” and that can be frustrating while readers are waiting for the story to coalesce (like a kid waiting for the Jello to harden), but once it does turn the corner and develop a sense of direction, TWD is able to instill more of a sense of anticipation that just about any other comic that I read.

This issue seems like it might be turning the corner to doing something real.  I say that mostly because of the sheer number of players in motion right now.  You’ve got the newcomers getting settled, we’ve seen them find Negan and resist his charisma, Rick is out visiting Maggie at Hilltop, Carl is having employment challenges, and maybe the zombies are changing.

Probably my favorite part of this issue dealt with Negan.  I liked how quickly he saw that his “HELP ME!!!” charade wasn’t working on the newcomers and we even saw him revert back to vintage Negan.  I really do wonder what Kirkman is going to do with Negan in the long term.  He’s too interesting to kill, and Kirkman probably could have killed him at the end of All Out War, but he’s such a fun character that Kirkman kept him around.  It was probably like when you were a kid and your parents told you that you were too old for some of your toys and they were right, but you kept one stuffed animal anyway because it was awesome.  I’m looking forward to what becomes of Negan.  I also enjoyed that the possibility of the newcomers naively letting him go didn’t come to pass.  That could have been a good story, but it would have been a little too fast.  I mean, surely anyone who has survived the zombie apocalypse this long isn’t a dummy. Continue reading

Fatale #24 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (story), Sean Phillips (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors)

The Story: Doomed by a beautiful woman’s kiss…

The Review: I’m kind of surprised to see the end come so soon, but I suppose allowances can’t be made just because I caught on to the series late. [Speaking of late, these reviews are late because I've been traveling—post-Bar relief, you know. More on that later.] Anyway, I have a feeling Brubaker realized that he was quickly reaching that limit when trying to plumb anything more from Fatale would just bum us out.

As you can probably expect, things don’t end very well for anybody in this series. In fact, they don’t end well at all. The more accurate evaluation of the situation is that things don’t end as badly as they could have for a couple people. [Spoiler alert!] While Nick and Jo do manage to survive the tribulations of the issue, there are scars. For Jo, all the years of her unnaturally long life finally catch up to her; Nick is left catatonic in an asylum, with Jo his sole visitor (and not for much longer, by her estimation). For all that, Jo reflects that “she’s the lucky one, not Nick. Because she got to escape.”
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Saga #21 – Review

By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: Usually, the revelation of your newborn son involves less homicide.

The Review: As I said last issue, the core of Saga is maintaining a typical domestic drama within a highly fantasized universe. For the most part, Vaughan succeeds in this endeavor; some of the series’ best, most poignant moments have been sympathizing with Alanna and Marko in managing their in-laws, debating the upbringing of their child, worrying over the staling of their lifestyle. Many’s the time when you overlook the galactic war around them altogether.

But always, in the background of things, the war quietly exerts pressure on the story when it’s not drawing them in outright. Almost every single character in Saga wants to live an ordinary life, and it’s always the war that gets in their way. If not for the Landfall-Wreath conflict, Alanna, Marko, and Klara could live openly and take any opportunity that comes their way, instead of settling for less. Prince Robot could have his idyllic family vacation by the sea, instead of it existing merely as a hopeless dream.
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The Wicked + The Divine #2 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: As you can well imagine, the devil doesn’t take kindly to being imprisoned.

The Review: Not to get too socio-political, but I think current affairs of recent weeks teach us that humans have awfully short memories, which explains why history so often repeats itself, which is to say we may all be doomed. You’d think, if something repeats itself often enough, we’d learn a little something from it each time and at least make some progress. More frequently, however, we end up practically starting over each time, learning the same lesson only when it’s too late.

Fortunately, repetitions in fiction are easier to keep track of. It doesn’t take an English major to recognize that if something is cyclical, you’d best be alert for constants, so as to better observe the changes. In the case of the Recurrence (the centennial appearance of gods that forms the premise of The Wicked + The Divine), our constant is Ananke, the elderly woman with the eye-mask who greets the gods when they return and bids them farewell when they depart.
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