In today’s day and age, the concept of milestones or rites of passage have pretty much faded in comprehension. For the most part, the youth of today really don’t see the point in upholding the same traditional observances as their parents. Technology can be blamed for this, in part, but I think that the more modern emphasis on encouraging young people towards a trend of self-advocacy trumps any retrospective traditional adherence.
Yeah – kids today, am I right?
I’m specifically looking for tradition this time around, loyal readers. I want to find elements of obligation in the comics I’ve gathered for this week’s installment. So, without any further ado, let’s get to the list.
You can’t have a story any more steeped in traditions than this one. A combination of Judeo-Christian mysticism and military obligation wraps this story together. In fact, Ray Fawkes titled this story “The Ultimate Sacrifice” and that’s got to be the oldest obligation of all time: to give up one’s life for the sake of another.
But in the Forces, there’s an unwritten code of honour that includes the notion death has to have a purpose. In this case, an entire band of brothers made their sacrifice to ensure that a member of their unit would go on to live. Why is Rory more special?
Because he’s a hero who made the choice to fight. He has a responsibility to use the cloak he discovered and while its use to free people of evil’s taint may have a price, the final issue of this mini-series saw the beginnings of a new hero who is motivated by one of the most time-honoured traditions there is: help those who need to be helped.
Mister Miracle #7
Tom King and Mitch Gerads ride again, as Scott Free and Big Barda discover parenthood together. King has an innate understanding of how to reconcile the fantasy of comics with the mundanity of human existence. Of course, there is nothing mundane about having a child for the first time, but experienced parents reading this book would see reminders of their time in the hospital magnified to a heroic extreme.
Watching Scott Free argue with a valet about parking the car as he tries to get his pregnant wife into the ER is a stark reminder of silly little logistics one has to negotiate while having a child.
The name choice, the visits of unwelcome yet well-intentioned guests; the sense of overriding fear and the unbridled wave of relief that washes over you as the realization that your baby is alright. A mother stands on the threshold between life and death and ushers in a new human beginning while her husband watches, helplessly. Highfather Scott Free may command millions of soldiers but he can’t control this moment and the fear is paralyzing.
But these people have fought gods and yet the halted ping of an electronic monitor is enough to send them into a panic that rivals the intensity of those epic battles. Your child is your life. As soon as you learn you are to be a parent, you will claw through rock, bite through your own flesh and savage the hell out of anyone who threatens the safety of that baby. THAT is probably the most visceral of obligations a person can undergo. Parenting is nature’s way of reminding us that we are so far removed from the natural order as we may think.
Tom King: bringing humanity to super-humanity once again.
Action Comics #999
Dan Jurgens and Will Conrad team up to make a comic that reminds me of the obligation of family to stay together.
It’s also a chance to see the level of compassion present in Superman. To think, next issue will see a thousand issues of this hallmark character and what a tradition of exemplifying the best behaviour that we as a people can live up to. But there’s a lot more under the surface of this book than one might realize.
In this story Sam Lane and Lois Lane are unable to reconcile their differences, which, fundamentally is really about Superman. How can he be trusted? What alternatives are there to defeat him if he decides to leave that compassion behind and become corrupted by all of his power?
In the end, it’s not Superman who manages to save the day, but the human son that Jonathan and Martha Kent raised on a small farm in rural Kansas.
You know, there’s something to be said for the traditional way that American society idolizes power and sees it as pursuit for all its citizens – but they are also afraid of it. Hence, the checks and balances in the American governmental system. Yet, this system is a bi-polar one and holds no device for compromise or well-intentioned subjective decision-making. It’s like America is either yes or no, and that inability to rationalize a middle-ground is what keeps American society mired in conflict.
In this book, Superman is that middle ground. In fact, that’s what Superheroes are supposed to be. When the system of justice fails its society, vigilantes employ a sense of personal justice – supposedly well-intentioned with a strict moral code – but that allows for justice to happen. Criminals are stopped, people receive a sense of vindication and don’t rebel against the system too much. Clark Kent brought his family together with love in this issue, yet it was because of his ability to compromise and that’s a tradition of government America seems to have forgotten.
Rose … a hero who has been kept under the blanket of secrecy but has an obligation to bring those powers to the forefront and serve her world.
Meredith Finch grew up reading books about these institutions and ideals. High fantasy stories taught her what a heroic story contains – and it contains this sense of tradition: those with power must serve those who have none for themselves. That’s what power is all about.
I like that in a comic. The visual medium of comics makes ideals like this easy to understand and even emulate. How often have we wanted to fly like Superman or rescue people like the other heroes from those stories we grew up with. Finch enjoys writing this type of story, but that’s because she understands these values.
Rose is a simple kid who has been thrust into a world of rebellion and all because of her. Of course, she has to right this injustice.
A fun series and definitely something you need to show your kids.
All New Wolverine #32
As much as I admire Djibril Morrissette-Phan (he comes with personal recommendations to me from Jim Zub), I wasn’t completely zinged by the art for this issue. However, Tom Taylor is fast-becoming one of my new favourite writers.
In this issue, Laura remembers her past indiscretions as part of her service to the Facility as a child assassin. She owes the people she wronged – in this case – the Orphans of X. This issue is a simple revenge story and one of obligation.
It’s so hard to do the right thing because one has to confront those wrongs and be exposed to the memory of committing those sins. We hate ourselves a little each time we remember them – at least those with a conscience do.
Taylor does a really good job with this one-shot story. I enjoyed it for what it was and recognizing that the ability to confront and make amends is a skill we don’t teach our young in great abundance these days. This serves as a good teaching story to those who have not yet mastered that skill.
Doctor Strange #387
The fact that this is a Legacy title just implies the value of tradition wrapped around this book. However, Donny Cates has taken so many new directions with this character that it really does walk the line between tradition and innovation. I thoroughly enjoy how Cates manages to hold on to the essence of this seminal character and manages to re-invent him.
After confronting Mephisto in the last issue (and the tie-in to Dr. Strange: Damnation #2), Stephen Strange finds himself in one of Mephisto’s holding cells, legs shattered by a demonically-possessed female Thor (Sorry – I still don’t see her as the actual Thor.). What’s next for the Sorcerer Supreme?
Betrayal of friendships. Friends who have remembered him and yet he can’t. It’s a powerful type of magic, the betrayal of friends. It strikes deep into your soul and you hate yourself for your weakness that you entrusted your love that you would give anything, even your best judgement to see it turn back to the way it was.
However, Cates pulls a fast one on us by reminding us that Stephen Strange has no friends.
Wonderful issue. I wasn’t too keen on Niko Henrichon’s art, but I loved where this story took me.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
My God … there’s a blast from the past. It was a regular pick up on my comic pull-list when I came home from school. I still have my complete collection and for me, the New Mutants were not just characters in a comic but students my own age who I grew up learning with.
Of course, to see Matthew Rosenberg on board with this book fills me with a certainty that the traditional values and features of these characters will be upheld as I read this book. I’ve mentioned this guy before in previous posts, but he gets the X-Men of the late 70’s and early 80’s – you know, when they were at their zenith? I honestly believe that he is restoring them to those original values.
Plus, fellow Canadian Adam Gorham is also pulling artist duties on this book, and I’m glad for that. Adam is a guy who has paid his dues and worked for his opportunities. To see him on this book really makes me feel good about picking him up. His work ethic is pretty solid and you know he’ll put his pride into this.
But this is taking the New Mutants in a direction I didn’t expect: supernatural phenomenon. I don’t know if I am fully comfortable with that, as it’s a direction that seems completely trite for this television age. Maybe it’s to fit inline with the proposed New Mutants film and to provide a bit of authenticity for the film, but it’s the first issue so I’m prepared to give it some leeway. Hell, I’m just happy they’re back as a comic title.
I have to say though, that Rosenberg’s portrayal of Illyana Rasputin (my favourite character of the New Mutants) was completely spot-on. They picked the right guy to write the comic.
Star Wars: Thrawn #2
Here is tradition that thwarts military discipline. Buffeted by personal ambition and a thirst for power that would rival any lord of the Sith, Thrawn’s beginnings are a fascinating story that looks into a character that had been dismissed as canon only to be saved by fans’ insistence.
Noted Star Wars author, Timothy Zahn deserves to see his characters be recognized as canon. Because Thrawn has met with such public acclaim, it holds true to the Star Wars tradition of playing to the fans. Look at Boba Fett … nobody knew he was except for the miniature. However, when he was revealed in The Empire Strikes Back, the fans wanted more.
However, it’s reassuring that Thrawn has more longevity than our hapless bounty hunter.
Still, Jody Houser’s book is about a character’s innate ability to scheme and subvert his enemies’ or opposition’s plans to achieve his own success. It’ a rise to power story and one that definitely is one of the best Star Wars books that Marvel has created. Jody Houser has done an amazing job in bringing this character’s innate scheming ability to light. It’s a fascinating read and he definitely needs to be credited for showing us this aspect of the character so clearly. If you’re not reading this book and are a fan of Star Wars, you’re doing something wrong.
Darth Vader #13
Another Star Wars title and about one of my most favourite characters of all time. Darth Vader is power resolute, unabashed and unafraid. This is a character who embraces power and accepts its ugly, darker side to satisfy his own ambition – and yes, at this issue’s stage of development, Vader hopes to rule the galaxy in the place of his master, the emperor.
This story sees the Mon Calamari entrance into the rebellion and even an appearance from a young Commander Ackbar. It’s a thoroughly drawing read by Charles Soule who has perfectly captured the spirit of Vader in this issue; his hatred for Obi Wan Kenobi, his growing relationship with Grand Moff Tarkin and even the way he commands – Charles Soule writes it all here for us to enjoy.
A love of Vader is hardly traditional – I admit that – but Star Wars is, and a chance to see one of its most memorable characters in the height of his power at the best period of this franchise’s history is always a pleasure to read.
So, with that said, it’s time to look at which book makes the pick of the week.
My family lost a very close friend this week. Jaydn Schill – known as “Supergirl”, lost her nine year battle to a particularly nasty brain tumour. Nine years she fought and she had the dubious distinction of being the most irradiated person in Canada. Today her friends and family said goodbye to this inspirational girl who touched so many people’s lives.
Parenting is the ultimate tradition. Our children need to go on. If you made the decision to have a child, then you are with that child to the end of your life. In this case, Jaydn’s parents were with her to the end of hers. At her funeral, actor Kim Coates said “she lived more in those fifteen years than some people in their sixties”, and I can’t argue with that.
My kid survived her battle with cancer. It took a full five years but she made it. Jaydn didn’t, and for the love of God, there is my greatest nightmare.
If you are a parent, then you know how much of the human experience it takes to not only make sure that your child has the basics in life, but also has that sense of security in growing up, knowing they are loved, they are protected and that they have someone they can depend on. Good parenting means that children grow up with a knowledge of security.
Jaydn wasn’t able to grow up – but she knew her mother and step-dad loved her.
Mister Miracle #7 from Tom King and Mitch Gerads gets the pick of the week status this week. The birth of a New God brings former enemies together and portraying Mr. Miracle and Big Barda as parents who simply care about the well-being of their newborn is something of everyday life set against a background of complete and abject fantasy. Yet we should never reduce the birth of a child to the status of an everyday occurrence because it is a miracle. What that child will come to mean to so many people is a value that we can’t foresee.
Jaydn was one of those children. The church was packed. Accolades from celebrities as well as her friends filled the hall. Her parents and siblings saw how much she meant to other people and in their grief, perhaps that gave them some degree of comfort.
Mister Miracle #7 is about the everyday miracles. Even though you may be a celebrity or a superhero, life is still the same for everyone. If we understand that, maybe that will bring us closer together.