It’s getting to the end of the school year. I tell my students that the biggest detriment to a successful year is a negative attitude. But, attitude can be divided into so many different layers that it’s important to recognize them in order to remove them from one’s mindset.
There are a lot of demons that we all have to contend with in life and they show up in the issues in this week’s comic list, so without waiting any further, let’s get to it.
Part One of the story arc simply titled “Canada”, Mindy aka Hit-Girl finds herself trailing a heroin dealer to the Great White North. Of course, Canadian writer, Jeff Lemire is at the helm of this story, sending the diminutive dynamo into the Northern-most part of Ontario to track the dealer in hiding.
I’ve never been a fan of this character. I’m a dad with two girls and while I admit that the empowerment angle of Hit-Girl is amped up to an 11, there’s something abusive about this kid’s past that just tears at every father-instinct in my soul. Still, there’s a visceral level of ferocity in the character that is very appealing and there is no doubt that this character has a huge audience appeal. Perhaps it’s the idea of a ten-year old girl being so strong and intimidating
You can’t help your past, and an abusive one is so difficult to overcome. It’s something that really affects someone’s attitude in a deep, almost irreparable way. But it can be defeated. It’s difficult, to be sure, but I think that’s the point behind this Mark Millar creation, is that your past, no matter how crappy, can still be a source of strength.
After dealing some serious ass-kicking to a band of thugs in a Toronto bar, Mindy makes her way through the Canadian North via bus and lands in Moose Factory, all by herself. We also have to remember that somewhere, off-camera, she also made her own way over the border. If there’s a tougher character in comics, I don’t know who it is.
Eduardo Risso handles pencilling duties on this book. I am not overly familiar with Risso’s work but looking at it, I can say that I like it a lot. It’s very solid and straightforward. It doesn’t get lost in any type of artifice and that’s an art style that perfectly suits the personality of Hit-Girl. This is the right guy for the job.
I mean, she’s ten – come on. Imagine what this kid will be like as an adult.
Dr. Strange #2
Mark Waid has taken over the writing responsibilities for this character as he heads out into space to look for more magic. Taken prisoner by an alien species that has never heard of magic in the last issue, we see a Dr. Strange engulfed in a spirit of defeatism.
He’s done. In Issue #2, we see Strange polishing their boots. Submitting to intensive, invasive probes and examinations, Strange has given up the ghost. He’s done, Pull the plug, game over, man – he’s dogfood.
Defeatism is an overwhelming force to contend with. But if you’ve had a history of being constantly beaten, it’s hard to imagine yourself as anything but a loser. This affects so many of our decisions and plans that the only way to beat it is to wait for a stroke of luck.
That’s what Mark Waid has written for Stephen Strange in this book. Strange gets a visitor – a fellow prisoner who not only understands the concept of magic but can give him a new perspective on what he his searching for. This gives Strange the mental break to consider new possibilities and he does.
Overcoming defeatism means you have to be able to have an open mind. Sure enough, when his new friend describes the concept of “technomancy” to him, Strange now has the mental freedom to consider the possibility of success.
It’s only the second issue but so far, I’m really invested in reading this book and seeing what new magical permutations Waid can come up with for Dr. Strange and allow him to fulfill his search for new magical resources that can replace the ones that have been destroyed on Earth. Waid has given this character a new chance to grow – and I’m looking forward to how the Sorcerer Supreme can regain his supremacy again.
Tony Stark: Iron Man #1
Dan Slott – you are my hero.
But before my praise allows you to fall prey to the deadly sin of narcissism that is ingrained in Tony Stark’s character, let me first say that a self-centred attitude is a mask that blinds one with his or her own sense of over-confidence.
But it’s Tony Stark; narcissism is his spinach. It’s the act that keeps all of his friends on their toes so that they are sharp enough to catch up with him during one of his genius-level moments of inspiration. It doesn’t work for the rest of us, but if you’re a billionaire philanthropist with a genius-level IQ and more toys to play with than Richie Rich, then I think you can be allowed some degree of self-idolatry.
The issue though, is how to make that work for Tony Stark. The answer is simple: since narcissism is all about immediate self-gratification, you make the stories short, the victories easy but splashy; and with enough of a hinted threat in the shadows for an extended story that will make the reader want to come back for more.
That’s what we see in this book. Stark makes himself look good by making amends to a roboticist who he humiliated when he was a kid – by buying the guy’s garage-based robotics firm outright and making him come to work for him. It’s a move that’s all bravado and all Stark but it gets the story going and the poor scientist is overwhelmed by Stark’s ostentatiousness and lifestyle. Yet, somehow, the man manages to find his place in Stark’s mega-industrial lifestyle.
Heh … narcissism may not work for you and me, but damn, it works for Tony Stark: Iron Man, and we have Dan Slott to thank for it. Great opening issue, Dan.
Very closely related to narcissism is hubris, and in this issue of Daredevil written by Charles Soule, we see that pride may cometh before a downfall.
Daredevil has such a martyr complex when it comes to his neighbourhood. Only he can rescue Hell’s Kitchen from the vice and crime that riddles it. When it gets threatened, it’s his sole responsibility.
No pun intended.
However, as the deputy mayor of New York – while Kingpin is convalescing (yeah, that just seems weird, doesn’t it?) – this time the responsibility does legitimately fall on his shoulders. Yet it takes the faith of a parish Roman Catholic priest to come to his aid when he falls and who better than remove one of the seven deadly sins (in this case, pride) from you than a man of the cloth?
The appearance of the Order of the Dragon is a pretty damn nifty aspect to this story. It’s very pulpy but the pulp-lover in me is completely mesmerized by the notion of a militant order of priests formed in the 1400’s who come to the aid of both Daredevil and New York in their fight to remove the Beast and his evil clan of Hand Ninjas.
I’m completely loving this story arc. Of course, what happens if the Kingpin gets better? Daredevil had better learn to swallow his pride. Hey, don’t we all when faced with confrontation in order to accept help?
X-Men Gold #30
Well, not the wedding I was hoping for, but a wedding nonetheless. The thing is, I actually was looking forward to this. Still, we got a wedding, but I can’t help but feel like nostalgia was to blame for this. You know, the idea that the past held more good times than bad, even though some of them were pretty awful? Sometimes people tend to look at history with rose-coloured lenses and even though times were bad, there’s an attitude that they meant something and that they made us stronger.
Bad times were exactly that: bad times. They don’t make you stronger and they don’t make you better. All they do is make you wiser but with that wisdom comes a little sadness. The best thing to do with bad times is to take the wisdom but not dwell on them.
I want to see Colossus married to my childhood imaginary crush. Kitty Pryde was an ideal girlfriend but the way Marc Guggenheim has written her, she’d be an ideal wife. Not to mention David Marquez’s stunning portrayal of Kitty as bride.
Everything in this book leads up to their wedding. It’s gorgeous – the setting, the guests, the intentions and even the stealthy onlookers, hiding in the shadows to wish the happy couple well. By the middle of this book, my wedding sentiments were fully in tune with this book. Kudos to Guggenheim for playing with my emotions like that.
Still, this is the book that spins off the upcoming “Mr. and Mrs. X” title that is about to come. With that pre-knowledge in mind, you know who is actually does get married.
However, the lesson here is clearly: don’t get too attached to nostalgic memories. They clearly don’t have a place in the hear and now.
… Too bad for me; I’m all about nostalgia.
The finale to “The Best Man”, I had to read this story at least six or seven times to get the complete nuance of insanity that Tom King is presenting. The problem is: I can’t; I have never been exposed to such a fractured mind, and that’s because, like a lot of regular folks, I am scared of mental illness.
No-one can succeed if they are too busy trying to burn down their house of demons.
The Joker is insanity to an nth degree. It’s extreme, like many comic subjects, and it’s highly unlikely that you and I will ever encounter someone with such a psychosis.
In this final issue of the arc, Catwoman rushes to Batman’s defence but she and the Joker fight each other to a standstill. Both are mortally injured and lay in oblivion for a while before they begin an earnest conversation, reminiscing about the “good old days”, interspersed with carefree comments on how to kill each other.
But it’s their appreciation of the Batman that comes out in the conversation and in an insane way, both reveal that they love him, in their own way. Catwoman is focused on his happiness but the Joker is focused on making him happy by forcing him to be the Batman. In his own way, the Joker thinks that he completes the Batman in some twisted way and that eventually, Catwoman will only lead to his eventual ruin.
So, for the sake of Batman’s happiness, she has to die and this makes Joker the Best Man for the job.
Trapped in your own mind is a condition that will prevent anyone from ever finding success. It’s not possible for someone with a mental illness to fully enjoy life unless they can find help. In this story though, there’s no way that Joker will ever want help. He’s far too gone and lost to anyone’s best intentions.
King portrays the Joker’s instability so vividly that it makes me wonder where he got the source material from. You can’t even guess at this type of mind unless you’ve either lived with it or seen it upfront and personal.
The Joker is fear.
Mikel Janin’s depiction of the Joker is my favourite. After years of comic reading and seeing the Joker in various incarnations, I love Janin’s style. It’s sharp but also highly expressive. You can actually see the thoughts forming in the Joker’s head by the expressions on his face. Every line of insane dialogue is carefully nuanced by the Joker’s face, artfully pencilled by Mikel. If ever I am to meet this guy, his is the Joker commission that I want to purchase. It’s insanity and fear in ink.
Fear is what prevents us from succeeding at anything; sometimes even a fear of success gets in the way. We even fear other people’s success sometimes because it casts such a shadow on our own sense of achievement.
There’s a lot to think about in this issue which is disguised by King’s clever use of nonchalant dialogue. The Catwoman accepts Joker’s insanity, having been a former accomplice of him, and the Joker accepts Catwoman’s love of the Batman as inevitable, recalling their frequent attempts to stop him. The story touches on so many aspects of the lovers’ relationship yet at the same time also sees a curious type of camaraderie with the Joker. Like it or not, the Joker is part of the family.
Of all the comic offerings for this New Comic Book Day, I’m declaring Batman #49 to be the pick of the week. It’s thought-provoking, captivating and brings a new level of appreciation for the motivations of our favourite villains but clearly based on things that King is either an expert in or has had a profound level of experience with. Whatever it is, I want to learn more about it.
I just hope there aren’t any accompanying demons to go with that knowledge! I have too many of my own!
Until next week!