Those who are closest to us can also be the ones who present us with the most difficult obstacles.
I have to be honest, it’s hard to write tonight. It’s the last week of school and this time always brings out a great deal of emotions and I’m usually drained by the time I walk in through the door, much to the detriment of my own family.
Heh … I’m their obstacle. But teaching is an endurance contest. Those who think that it’s about coming in at 9 and leaving at 3:30 have absolutely no idea of the academic, administrative and emotional limits you are pushed to within the time you show up in the morning and the time you leave. Oh, and for those who are wondering, I arrive at 8am, leave at 4pm and bring home about two hour’s worth of administrative work that usually doesn’t get done until lunch the next day.
But that influences my reading this week and I’m looking for those folks in comics who provide our protagonists with a great deal of hinderance. So, let’s get to the list.
Astro City #52
What if the person you miss the most didn’t really exist in the first place?
While one would think this would be an easy issue for Kurt Busiek’s main character in this conclusion to the story arc “And in the End …” to resolve, if you think about it, it’s more complicated than that.
In this story our hero, Mike, is plagued by alternate timeline memories of a lover who technically didn’t exist. When we read about storylines in comics that change the histories of the world, we don’t think about the average folks who might be affected by this phenomenon.
That’s what I love about this series. Busiek bridges the gap between the common Joe and super-powered movers and shakers. Mike is unique in that he can remember both the current timeline as well as the previous one. He lost a lover in the previous timeline but because she didn’t really exist in the current one, there is no respite or help for him. So, instead of becoming alienated or dysfunctional, he reaches out and tries to help others by establishing a support group for those affected by trauma caused by superheroes and villains in their epic conflicts.
It’s a very rational and human response to a superhuman event.
My kid tries to do that. She went through five years of leukemia to come out healthy and now reaches out to help other cancer kids. This book resonates with me in a way that people need to cope despite how extreme the situation they are in. I like how Busiek tries to rationalize the extreme with the ordinary and it finds good ground with perceptive readers. This is always a winner with me and the fact that it has an Alex Ross cover is a mega-sized bonus.
Batman – Prelude to the Wedding Pt. 5: Harley Quinn vs. the Joker
The Ex is always a bad penny that shows up when we least expect him – or her – to.
In this case, the Ex is the hunted – and the Joker. In a preliminary story that explains how the Joker was able to enact a mass murder spree that occurs in the main Batman title (which, by the way, LOVE the attention to continuity within the universe!), we see Harley Quinn trapping the Joker in a series of death-traps which illustrates not only the cat-and-mouse brilliance between these two psychopaths but also the complexities of their relationships. When you have baggage with an ex, they remember it.
Tim Seeley knows Batman characters and this issue is a wonderful showdown between the two seminal Batman characters. Sami Basri’s art isn’t well-known to me, but it’s quite welcome. It has definition, clarity and certainly upholds the writing in this book. This is definitely a worthy addition to the eventual hardcover this prelude series is about to become and is an excellent preliminary story to the wedding issue of the main title.
Mothers can be so difficult. However, the emotional crux of this series was based upon that fact, When we learned that the person inhabiting Tab’s mother’s body wasn’t her mother, the emotional resonance for this story sort of lost a degree of effect.
I still am entranced by the sheer imaginative brilliance of this world that Si Spurrier and Rachel Stott have manufactured for our enjoyment, but I felt somewhat disappointed by the fact that Tabitha’s mum was no longer who she made herself out to be.
Also, the family emphasis of the story was also blunted by other aspects, as you remember that the whole purpose of their antagonistic team-up was to rescue Tabitha’s brother, Bubba. You’ll need to read more to see what I’m talking about, but in the end, family bonds are stronger and more poignant and I am extremely sympathetic to the need to feel those bonds.
Even if it wasn’t the mother we thought Selena was. Read it and see what I mean. I mean, the art is amazing and the story is so unlike conventional comics. It’s a setting that mesmerizes the reader and makes her or him think about the events and to rationalize them to simple values like family.
The Silencer #6
Speaking of family, this book shows the intricacies of good friends and the line you draw between them and your flesh and blood.
But what if this friend was considered family?
The Silencer is about a person who breaks ties with those friends who she considered family to start a new life with an actual family. She has a husband and son and has left the super-powered mercenary life behind. Even the appearance of Talia Al-Ghul can’t reintegrate her back into that life, yet she needs to in order to protect her family from the evils.
The best part is that she needs to maintain that life apart from her family. It’s a harrowing tale of secrecy that illustrates the shame of her previous life and the value of keeping it a secret. Her vulnerability isn’t herself – it’s them.
John Romita ,Jr. provides art for the cover while Dan Abnett and Victor Bogdanovic provide interior storytelling and art. It’s an exciting story that illuminates the importance of a secret identity in protecting the lives of the hero’s closest.
Marvel 2-in-1 #7
Lord Nomenclature himself, Chip Zdarsky (it’s hell on Word spellcheck!) and artist, Ramon Perez have crafted a dimension-hopping extravaganza in search of the original Fantastic Four. It’s elaborate and entertaining but craft fully hides the expectant notion that the FF will once more be a team again.
The Fantastic Four have always had a family dimension to their story. What’s challenging about Zdarsky’s task is that he has to represent the family togetherness by their absence, How he does this is by not only consistently mentioning Reed and Susan Richard’s absence but by describing Ben and Johnny’s power decrease and the fact that they have to travel through various dimensions to find them.
The sad fact is that Ben Grimm knows they are truly gone and has Victor Von Doom to constantly remind him of that fact. Oh, and was it mentioned that Ben is lying to Johnny about this?
This has to be the saddest of Marvel’s titles right now because the whole storyline is based on failure and that the main character – the Thing – is deliberately denying that fact.
When a hero does this, it’s heroic. When a regular person does it, it’s stupid. But, love for those closest to us causes us to do stupid or heroic things sometimes, and this story is a very clever realization of that human inclination to adopt stupid behaviour in the face of reality.
That’s why I like it. I’m a romantic. I tend to gravitate towards those stories of extreme romanticism, especially when there are loved ones at stake. I guess I’m a softy at heart and this story fills me with a sense of romantic compulsion to see the Thing and the Human Torch regain their powers’ full strength and their loved ones.
Old Man Logan #42
I can’t believe how much Ed Brisson has managed to instill a sense of investment within me for this character. Old Man Logan was a spin-off but Brisson has managed to make him a character worthy of our attention for the sheer sense of determination within him. The Wolverine was always about being able to overcome overwhelming odds by sheer grit and willpower and in the last twenty years, I feel that Wolverine became over-powered and hyped.
By bringing this character out of the dimensional hinterlands, using his age as a hinderance, Brisson has restored that sense of fight within him. He’s half-blind, healing slowly, and missing half of his adamantium claws, yet no-one can keep the Wolverine down; not even Kraven the Hunter.
How cool is that? I mean, Kraven is one of the oldest of Marvel’s super-villains, and a definite adversary worthy of the de-powered Wolverine.
Francesco Manna does amazing artistry work on this title. There’s definitely a Mike Deodato influence at work in this title, particularly with the cover heralding the story. But it’s a wonderfully depicted piece of work, to be sure, I have to say that I look forward to reading this book and Ed Brisson has become one of my favourite writers of late with the precision and attention he has paid in the portrayal of this character.
And now we come to the pick of the week.
First off, I’m glad that the original Thor has returned to his former position. Yeah, I get that he was unworthy, and the fact that he can no longer wield Mjolnir should be testament to that fact. I also don’t want to detract away from the worthiness of Jane Foster in her role as the prior Thor, but the fact of the matter for me is that I want to see the Thor that I grew up with. He’s a perennial character in the Marvel stable and to remove and replace him would be like DC removing Superman and trying to replace him with a number of second-stringer characters.
Oh … it’s been done. Remember how successful that was?
You can’t break an established character. Thor is Thor and Jason Aaron has a major advantage here in that he just needs to replace what was taken from Thor in order to recreate him. That, in itself, is clearly going to be a story that will take struggle, growth and a whole load of redemption.
Toronto’s Mike Del Mundo is on this book as well. His is a unique art style that I’m going to have to talk to him about. It’s vibrant, attention-grabbing and has a gravitas to it that befits the God of Thunder.
While I was mildly taken with Issue #1, I was more impressed with Issue #2. There is a reunion with previously loved characters and a wonderful delving into Marvel Norse myth. I love the focus on the geography of Hel and the journey that is to come. There’s also a struggle for growth for Thor with the recognition of how difficult it will be for him to regain his full powers. Constantly going through hammers until he can either receive a worthy replacement for Mjolnir, or until he can wield it again Is a simple but effective device to indicate this growth. Remember: Thor is still the God of Thunder, but he is no longer worthy of would his hammer, much to his current shame.
However, being reunited with his former comrades was the part of this story that really stood out for me. I can’t believe how much I have missed Balder the Brave.
Those who are close to us can sometimes be the most irritating and annoying but they can also be sources of great strength and when one is on a pathway to redemption, you need those friends and loved ones close.
I’m glad Jason Aaron is on this book and looking forward to reading more about Thor’s return to his former glory! Until next week!