Didn’t you ever just wish to win the lottery? For three wishes? How about for a fairy godmother?
Who hasn’t? People who have either won the lottery or don’t need to, I suppose. But that sort of a wish is an example of the purest escapism, and if Bill Maher ever needed to know why comic fans can’t grow up, well, then it’s because the world has cynical and jaded folks like him who have forgotten the simple joy of make-believe. Play is essential in everyone’s lives because it counter-balances all the negative stuff that we have to contend with. Should we do it all the time? No, because in everything there has to be a balance.
I run away from life to comics every Wednesday because I can. I did this as a kid, and even though I’m a fully-grown adult with middle-aged responsibilities, it’s still a welcome relief from the pressures of the week. So, we’re looking for much-needed play in this week’s review and without any further delay, let’s get to the list for this week.
Heroes in Crisis #5
Not exactly the retreat I need, but I’d take it. Damn … why can’t there be places where the normal heroes can recuperate? We still need to work every day and this is basically a fantasized version of the stress that is in every person’s life. Of course, in this story, why should superheroes be any different?
But, in all honesty, everyday life takes its toll on folks. Even the mechanized nature of a routine can not only sap the life from you as you wake up every day to tackle life’s various hurdles. We lose contracts, jobs; feel failures in our parenting roles, our professional roles … life sucks.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a place like Sanctuary?
The problem is that even in a place of healing like this, there is still something lurking at the periphery of our minds. Maybe there isn’t such a place where people – even the best of us – can find respite? Maybe this is what Tom King is really trying to say? For him, comics are an escape as well but even in the comics industry there are still things that are difficult to deal with.
Think about it: you think he’d have fun at conventions, right? But I’ve watched this man sign a pile of 800 comics in one signing while he’s taking bites out of a sandwich in order to get to a panel on time. There’s travelling, being away from his family and having to attend functions after the show. That makes for a long day and a short amount of sleep in a hotel room. Conventions aren’t the fun places you think they are for comic professionals.
Even though I love to see the team-up of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle again, it’s not enough. This comic is a stark testimony to the fact that life isn’t great and heroes, as well as regular folk, need more healing in this life than life is able to give.
Clay Mann, a reticent and retractive individual when you meet him, provides the art for this book. When you chat with him for a bit, you get to realize how few words he likes to share. King has said many a nice thing about Mann’s art and he’s clearly the artist who has the vibe of the book. Restrained and conservative in line, Mann’s art has a minimalist quality to it that really fits the mood. He is clearly an artist whose style supports the text.
Books of Magic #4
You’d think that having the ability to wield magic is the key to all of our problems. One wave of a magic wand and you think it’d be all taken care of; but not for young Tim Hunter. Despite his gift, his life without his mother and his disabled and depressed father still hold no joy for him. His magic is more than a gift – it’s a liability.
It reminds me of a line from Scotland’s most famous poet, Rabbie Burns: “would it be the gift he gie us … to see ourselves as others see us.”
We always tend to regard ourselves as lesser than those around us. The competitive nature of friends can sometimes get the better of us and overcompensate. This involves feelings of insecurity which turn into resentment and jealousy.
If I sound like I’m talking from personal experience, well, yeah. I guess I am. It sucks to be on the receiving end. However, I think it’s important to note that Kat Howard has tapped into that and evoked that sentiment within me. It’s rare gift and truly takes the reader to another world. Tom Fowler’s art is great and works the story details just right. It gives the reader the right visual stimuli to back up the text.
In this case, Tim Hunter knows that magic isn’t the answer to his problems; in fact, it only seems to complicate things. This issue, he’s still looking for guidance but seems to be left to his own machinations.
I feel for Tim this week, because it seems like nothing works out his way and even his secret appears to be at risk, it’s a low risk but not much seems to happen in this issue other than figuring out what to do next issue.
Doctor Strange #10
Have to read this. I mean, I’d love to be a wizard but in this special 400th issue of Doctor Strange we get three incredibly cool stories that all teach us something about the limits of magic. Mark Waid is exploring these limits for us but I still can’t help but feel that the more mainstream Strange becomes, the less powerful he is.
That’s okay. After all, Stan Lee – to whom this book is dedicated – gave us his famous maxim “with great power comes great responsibility” and that’s a limitation of sorts. But if we think about what has happened to Strange in the last few years: he has lost his powers, his identity; he’s been to space to learn new magic, and he’s broken friendships and had to repair or replace them. There has to be some sort of event that ties all of this together.
That’s what Waid does in this book. The sudden reappearance of The Ancient One, assaulted by a mysterious assailant and powerless and frail, forces Strange to now treat his former master as his student. Stephen Strange now has to find this attacker and uncover a deeper secret that could lead to the world’s end.
This book contains the idea that that everything comes at a cost, even Strange’s new-found magical source of energy. If that isn’t a lesson we learn as we are forced to embrace adulthood, I don’t know what is. Even with magic, wish-fulfillment has a price. The question that taunts Strange is the because of his actions, will the world be forced to pay it?
There are the other stories in this book too. Jesus Saiz, Butch Guice, Tom Palmer, Daniel Acuna along with Kevin Nowlan, Jim Campbell and Carlos Lopez all contribute gorgeous art as we read episodes from Strange’s development ‘til now. We see his relationship with the Ancient One, his sense of responsibility – Strange is a hero who puts the world before his own wish fulfilment. This is a great book and a true tribute to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and their legacy of Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystical Arts.
Dead Man Logan #3
Wish fulfillment is negated by someone who can defy reality and concoct illusions to completely destroy your grasp on what’s going on. Sure enough, that’s what happens in this issue from Ed Brisson and Mike Henderson.
Logan has been completely bamboozled by Mysterio (in the service of Sin and her associates) and is deluded into thinking that he is fighting the Sinister Six when he’s actually going up against the Avengers.
The funny thing about this book is that, even though Logan is aged, on his dying legs, temporarily buffed by ReGenix, he’s still more than a match for the Avengers. I mean, he literally almost hamstrings the She-Hulk. That’s gotta hurt.
In terms of escapism, this issue is mostly a good old donny-brook of a fight. Sometimes comic books are just a great excuse to see super-powers in action and as comics are primarily about conflict, then this is a great opportunity to see a fight at its best.
I mean, Logan is fighting to change his own personal history here – or at least preventing the history of the Wolverine in this reality – who’s just come back from the dead.
I know … seems kinda pointless when you think of it. But I’m hopeful that the powers-that-be will reconcile this continuity conundrum (invokes the influence of Roy Thomas, Jim Shooter and previous powers-that -were).
In the interest of all good things, I want Logan to succeed here. He’s facing overwhelming odds and is completely alone.
Huh … sounds too much like real life to me.
Star Trek: The Q Conflict #1
My favourite escape has always been Star Trek; but Star Trek in comics? Well, now you’re talking a double-layer wish fulfillment sandwich.
IDW gives us a one-two punch with two Star Trek comics this week and it can’t get any better than this. You see, in my mind, comics are a medium that offers so much story flexibility to franchises like these.
In this book, the Enterprise-E is exploring a series of strange stellar anomalies only to discover that they are symptomatic of a conflict the Q Continuum is waging against … lesser beings.
Of course, the typical fan-boy question to ask is: what other “lesser beings”? For that, you have to remember that Star Trek loremasters and story-tellers, Scott and David Tipton, know exactly which lesser beings to put up as adversaries to the Q. Their ability to weave obscure details together not only smacks of good Trek storytelling, but also of a devotion to this fandom that hits the right note with their readers.
Hey – you want to see good escapism? It’s these guys. Not only do they get tell stories about this favourite escape of mine, but they get to make more of it. If that isn’t wish-fulfillment in its most ultimate form, then show me something to change my mind.
David Messina provides the pencils for this book. He works well with the Tiptons but there several scenes in which any worthy Trek fan is going to lose his mind over. There are several panels that will incite a fan to excitement and Messina makes that happen.
I’m looking forward to seeing this story develop.
Star Trek TNG 20/20 #1
Sometimes the best way to escape the present, is to escape into the past.
Well, not exactly the past. Anything to do with Star Trek is sill in the future, but IDW is doing a 20/20 deal here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of IDW by exploring aspects of franchises twenty years prior to an incarnation. In this case, this comic is looking at twenty years into Captain Picard’s personal history and twenty years prior to his captaincy on board the USS Enterprise.
Long-time Star Trek writer, Peter David is the writer for this book. His history with Star Trek is deep and he takes a dive into creative history here. Any fan of the franchise will have heard of the USS Stargazer – Captain Picard’s first command – and in this book we get a focused and unique perspective into the command history of Picard, his first officer and his wife, Beverly Howard.
Of course, it’s Beverly Crusher. But it’s Picard (with hair) and Crusher as we didn’t know them. We get to see an integral part of their history and also Beverly’s husband to boot. Jack Crusher (as expertly portrayed by J.K. Woodward) is also featured in this issue and we are allowed a glimpse into what sort of Starfleet officer he was.
I love Peter David’s work. Not only does he have a pedigree of comic work that spans over the last thirty years, but he also has a wealth of Star Trek novels under his belt, including one of the best-selling Trek novels of all time, Imzadi. David knows comics and Trek and this is an excellent example of that experiential work.
Woodward is actually my favourite Trek artist and combined with Peter David – an author of such acclaim – this has to be my fanboy’s realization of escapism come true. Can you imagine the Trek conversations between these two gifted creators? If you can’t, then dream some more. But for me? I’d kill to be the fly on the wall. This is an epic collaboration and once that can’t be passed over.
The extension to this, though, is to think about the story from the Wesley Crusher perspective. This may be taken in an unpopular way but you can appreciate Wesley more by looking at the father in this story.
It’s interesting to see the similarities between the adult Crusher and the child. I know Wesley ranks as one of the least favourite characters of the series, but I always had a soft spot for him. Not only was he a brilliant-level wunderkind – but he also had to deal with the loss of his father, growing up on the Enterprise. I don’t think the show really tapped into that enough. We get one episode of a hologram message prepared for Wesley, but it really doesn’t fully address the idea thoroughly enough, in my opinion. Being half an orphan is tough and Wesley deals with it by escaping into the role of being an acting-ensign and then graduating to an actual Starfleet rank.
Crusher realized the ultimate escapist fantasy by becoming what he dreamed of.
You see, I think fans always underestimated Wesley Crusher because secretly, they were always dreaming of being him. But you can appreciate him more by looking at what type of man his father was.
The highest degree of fantasy is realised wish-fulfillment. Can you imagine being Wesley Crusher? I mean, a 16-year old being asked to helm the flagship of the Federation Starfleet? It’s a Trek fanboy’s wish come true.
Yeah – I’d gladly live this dream and Peter David and J.K. Woodward have given a bit of this to me in reading this book. Woodward’s art is so vivid that it imparts a degree of realism into the fantasy. It’s a true joy to read this underplayed yet so evocative story that every dream-ridden Star Trek fan can instantly relate to. This is the history of Wesley Crusher’s family in their first adventure, their first team-up with Captain Picard and how they got together! It’s the historical look at the Crusher family and it is entirely wondrous to behold.
It’s the pick of the week for this list. I am a Trek fan, bar none, but this is a comic piece that taps into my love of comics and my love of Star Trek. It’s something that I can’t ignore, and if you are one of those folks who needs a healthy dose of play, then put yourself into the seat of Wesley Crusher and learn more about the history of your cool family.
Yeah, I wanted to be Wesley, which is why I can’t understand why some fans dump on the character so much. After all, if someone had offered them the keys to a Galaxy-class starship like the Enterprise, wouldn’t they take it?
It boggles my mind.
Until next week’s list, may all your escapes be fantastic.