Ever felt overwhelmed by life’s many challenges? I think that’s a common experience we comic readers can relate to. Sometimes it feels like there’s too much daily stuff on our plates and too hard to make sense of it all. In our weekly devotional comic fixes, we read about compelling heroes, and the ones we seem to love the most aren’t just the ones who have dual lives, occasionally saving the world from complete annihilation, but the ones who seem to be able to put it all into perspective and make sense of it all.
Let’s get to the list this week.
The Dreaming #16
Making sense of life is one thing, but an entire dimension crafted exclusively out of the stuff that dreams are made of? Si Spurrier has a gift for presenting the unnatural in a way that coincides with the way that we deal with changes and challenges to the regular way we perceive our environment.
Wonderful art from Marguerite Sauvage. It makes the ethereal more solid; providing substance to the fantasy and the grace in the individual characters not only gives the reader a solid concept of what’s happening in this story, but also gives credence to the fantasy elements. I love Dora’s clothing, for instance. Avant-garde, yet rooted in the realm of the 80’s heroine; a time when women were realizing their voice in Western Society. It’s a throwback homage to those days when the identity of women was shining through in both politics and popular culture. It’s tasteful and powerful.
In this case, Dora’s identity and her role in in the Dreaming becomes a little clearer. While we may not know everything about her, at least we understand a lot more about the AI that has taken control of the realm of the Sandman, However, in the end, there is a bit of doubt of actually who is in charge.
I like Dora. She’s one of those protagonists who has been thrust into a role in a life that she really wasn’t prepared for. Her friends have practically abandoned her and she’s just trying to make sense of her existence as best as she can. Her spirited attitude and vinegar make her a light-hearted anti-hero who is simply just trying to get by as best as she can in the chaos that has been left by Morbius’s absence.
However, I’d like it to get to the point. Comics are a short story medium, and any arc that lasts over five issues is too much for me to thoroughly enjoy. If the stories are maintained beyond that, then I’m just collecting out of a collectible mentality. I know writers are trying to aim for the golden ring of the hardcover compilation, but then perhaps the editorial staff should aim to include more than one story arc in a HC or Ultimate compilation? It just seems to make sense rather than to damage the integrity of the medium.
Tom King provides us this continuing story in what (hopefully) is the penultimate issue in the “City of Bane” Arc. It’s been a long and convoluted story in which Bruce Wayne has had to contest with his own self-doubts, the reality-warping influence of his alternate father, a passage through both time and Space to deal with this new threat. Sometimes trying to make sense of it all can involve some bad decision-making, which we can see in Thomas Wayne’s case.
All Thomas Wayne wants to do is preserve Bruce Wayne, the son he could have had, from the torment of being the Batman. When you have the weight of two worlds on your shoulders, it’s thoroughly understandable why Thomas Wayne is pursuing this myopic and self-centred pursuit in trying to bring order to his own world of chaos.
I think that’s why I can’t fully get behind this storyline. First off, it’s taken too long to get to the end of this story. Secondly, part of being a father is to let your kids follow their own paths. Thomas Wayne knows the turmoil of being a crime-fighter, even a flawed one. In comparison to his son, he’s a lesser hero, older and more prone to things like substance abuse. Bruce Wayne is a better hero than Thomas will ever be, but his love for his son is clearly blinding him to how superior he is, and ergo, more capable of handling the harshness of the super-hero’s life.
No parent wants to see their kid suffer. If Wayne, Sr. really wants to ease his alternate son’s suffering, why would he try to take away the thing that has given his son’s life meaning? Better yet, why wouldn’t he partner up or better, act as an extra set of hands and eyes for Alfred?
Oh, right. Too soon?
In all seriousness, Alfred’s death was gratuitous. It was ignoble one and undeserving of the man that he was. More than a father, an adoptive parent makes a conscious decision to tell a child that they are wanted, more than anything. That, alone, makes him worthy of a death that would suit a hero. Forget his loyal service, his military record and his ability to be any sort of professional that the Batman needed – he was Bruce Wayne’s real father and this was not a good way for this sterling character to go out.
I demand justice for Alfred.
No complaints about Jorge Fornes’ art. It’s very straightforward and solid. It does the job that King needs and while I’m not crazy about the story, I’ll probably buy the inevitable hardcover for the stunning collection of artwork this storyline has managed to attract.
Nothing epitomizes the sense of futility in making sense of it all than the age-old question of whether the law serves justice or not.
That’s the point of this coffee discussion between Detective Cole North and Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto is a brilliant artist who has given Matt Murdoch a new physical identity. His stubble, his looser locks sticking out from beneath his hood; even the way he carries himself when walking has a more physically forthright stance. I am enjoying his work.
But Daredevil is in a new modality. His confidence is beginning to heal and he is re-evaluating his purpose. His conversation with Detective North not only gives each man a chance to get to understand their perspectives better but also galvanizes their purposes. They still may not see eye to eye, but they understand each other better and that lays the foundation for future storytelling.
Both of these characters are simply trying to reassess their purpose in life. Their roles have become muddied and they need time to process their new directions. However, the underlying purpose of trying to do good is still there, and that accountability is fundamental to the new story that will come out of their reflections and new relationship.
I like Zdarsky’s overly-detailed approach to his characters. For instance, he just doesn’t present the Kingpin as a criminal empire-builder; now, he has fully embraced his role as the Mayor of New York and businessman who is honestly trying to go legitimate. But the baggage that that drove Wilson Fisk into the arms of crime still burdens him and his efforts are stymied. He’s become a more complex character and Zdarsky presents him well.
And that cover? Wow … simply stunning.
Then there’s the new X-Men from Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Yu. Mutants are no longer pitted against each other or the ailments that threaten the world. Let’s face it: the world has turned its back on Mutants and in Hickman’s new realization for these characters, their place is with each other and that’s where they fit into life now.
When the Savage Land is threatened by team of sexagenarian biologists who seek to supplant the world’s existing dominant lifeforms with plants, the X-Men spring into action.
While this sounds like a hashed 1990’s Batman plot, where there are four aged Poison Ivies, it does serve to remind readers where the X-Men stand right now and that’s with themselves. In rela life and in fiction, the X-Men are about redefining themselves and it’s critical not only to their survival as a species but also as a dominant comic title.
I’ve always been a fan of Leinil Yu’s work. Dynamic and flamboyant, it’s good stuff that makes an impression on the reader. This is art I can get behind.
Star Trek: Year Five #8
I’ve always relied on Star Trek to help me put the world into perspective.
I’ve enjoyed this series from Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Stephen Thompson. It began with a sinister start: a shadowy figure menacing Captain Kirk, alone on the Enterprise bridge. This figure has always been at the edge of my mind, wondering how he factored into the story.
In this issue, we finally get confirmation who it is!
I’m not going to give it away, but suffice it to say that I almost got it right (Chase Marotz at IDW can confirm!)! however, the eternal draw for me with Star Trek is its ability to make us look at our problems from a larger perspective. When you read a story in which a particular issue has had over, speculatively speaking, three hundred years to right itself, it allows you see how petty the problem really is and how a solution can be found.
There are a couple of instances in this story in which that can be found, but while I’ve enjoyed Star Trek for the genre drama, I’ve also loved it because it really does help me figure problems out. After all, what would James Kirk do? Yeah, throw the Free Enterprise jokes my way …
There’s also an opportunity for Captain Kirk to prove himself to be the captain his loyal fans love. In true daring Kirk fashion, he throws himself into harm’s way only to have the kindness he showed the young Tholian refugee pay itself back to him in a dramatic, heroic way. It’s a very cool sequence that has a true TOS taste to it and definitely is the high point of the story for me.
I love Stephen Thompson’s art. It has a vibrancy that doesn’t take away from the likenesses of the characters. When you are reading a comic of a licensed property, the likeness of the characters is very important to the fans. Thompson is gifted in this area but it isn’t at the expense of a well-crafted piece of visual storytelling.
In the end, the world seems a better place because of Star Trek, but Year Five is definitely the year for me. I am thoroughly loving this book and is definitely one of the memorable Star Trek collections from IDW that ranks high in my estimation.
Ragnarok: The Breaking of Helheim #3
Finally, we come to the comic that best expresses how one figures life out – even when that life is gone.
Walt Simonson needs no words from me to describe his stellar talent; that stands for itself. But Simonson’s love for the Norse myths as well continuing this story of his own take on Thor; more notably, a Thor who returns to the Nine Realms after the Battle of Ragnarok only to find them sundered and shattered, and nothing like he remembered. Thor is also now a draugr – a sentient undead and a pale reflection of his former self. He is still the Lord of Thunder and a mighty warrior, but he is not the god he once was.
This second iteration of his continuing story finds the Thunder God in the realm of the dead, in the mines of Freyr, forcing laborers against their will to mine for soul iron for his armies to spread his tyranny. Thor establishes his identity but the rest of the story is for you to read rather than for me to give it away.
What I love about this series is how Simonson intertwines actual mythology into the narrative and allows the reader to appreciate Thor in a totally new way. This Thor is not the one we know from Marvel Comics – neither is he the one from the tales of old. He definitely has his roots in those ancient myths, but they are broken into pieces and Thor must use his memories to comprehend the new world he has been brought into. Yeah – that’s a life metaphor if I’ve ever seen one.
How does one recover from a shattered life?
The answer is simple: you move forward; that’s all you can do. Time is linear to our perspective and it’s only one way. We can’t go backwards in time and all we can do is take what we have learned in the past and try to make better decisions that make our futures better. Even Thor, with his godly powers can’t affect the passage of time.
His story forward is one of discovery. He uses the memories of his family, the places of their death and gathers what fragments of that time to help him understand what the world has become.
I feel old sometimes. The world is changing around me so fast and yet I still feel the same. My likes, my preferences – they still feel fresh and new to me. Thor still has parts of his old life, like his gauntlets, his Mjolnir and even his friendship with Ratatosk, and they clearly bring him comfort. Yet, he still has to delve deeply into the depths of the new Hel itself to learn more about the family he lost and his place in this new world, whose new rulers hope to thwart him and rid themselves of him. I can relate to this Thor.
Ragnarok: The Breaking of Helheim #3 is the pick of the week for this review. While it has action, adventure and the Simonson storytelling style that has endeared this creator to a loving legion of fans, it’s a new tale of old gods that makes us think about human problems life can throw at us.
In the end, it comes down to perseverance and the dogged stubbornness we need to see ourselves through any challenge we encounter in life, the universe and everything. That’s how we figure things out.
Until next week, may you figure out your own challenges!