Wallflyer Blog Roll – Writing for March 25, 2015

This week, under a growing tide of work events, and a training course in Linux – combined with my comic book store not receiving their weekly shipment of comics, manga, and graphic novels – I don’t have a review on a recently published comic this week.

In the future, if circumstances get prevent writing a weekly post, I have plans to publish a different article, that dives into a popular culture franchise or character for analysis. At the moment, I have incomplete drafts that I don’t think are ready to publish on Wallflyer.

While this is unfortunate, the time available today is a good opportunity to promote other blogger’s work – their writing about comics and popular culture this week. A blog roll of popular culture reviews and writing for the week of March 25, 2015:

Jaythreadbear has collected together thoughts and ideas on comics published, and television episodes aired, this week. In particular, the insight into television airing this week were great to see: iZombie, Walking Dead, and The Flash is great to see.

At the The Good Kind of Geek, there’s a good collection of short form reviews for a series of popular comics released this week. They include the long-running manga series One Piece in their review collection for this week.

GothamRogue has captured a strong series of cosplay photography. Cosplay runway features cosplay of comic book characters each week. This week, the cosplay covered are Poison Ivy, Gambit & Rogue, Phoenix, Ronan, and Spider-Gwen.

Sci-Fi Jubilee has written a great review of Batman Eternal #51, which is the second last instalment in the year long series starring The Batman. It’s great to read the character exploration, particularly in Bluebird, Spoiler, and Catwoman.

Outright Geekery has a thorough and well curated collection of cover artwork for published this week – March 26, 2015. The cover for Wayward #6 in particular has some impressive art choices with forced perspective and a dark turn on a lively setting.

Advertisements

The Flash #35 – Comics Review

Time travel plot threads bring Barry Allen into battle against himself from the future.The Flash #35 offers:

  • Excellent portrayal of Super Speed, and strong use of lettering, colour, and light in the artwork.
  • Insight into Barry’s character: change and potential in his future selfs actions and attitudes.
  • Unusual Time Travel perspectives and broad, science fiction ideas.

Light, electricity, and lightning crackle across the pages of this comic. Super Speed is portrayed through interesting art choices, later in the comic book.

The best art choices arrive late in the comic. It’s the introduction of a second time traveler that brings a interesting change in the art choices. Up until that point, the comic book had show off super speed as blurred fists and feet, and repeated images of The Flash and his future self running.

This character has one particular panel that shows off how super speed can work. Future Barry makes a final move against the present Barry. He tosses pebbles. They fly as fast as bullets.

In one panel the character notices the tine stones, reaches out to stop them, and then activates his powers and outruns them, stopping the pebbles from reaching Barry.

These actions all occur in one panel, representing barely a second of time passing.

Essentially, this hero has caught the pebbles at the same time he has noticed them. The panels effectively captures how quickly a character with super speed moves – faster than sound, arriving before his voice finishes travelling through the air.

While it’s a spoiler to reveal this character’s identity, the portrayal of their speed is effective.

The red clothed Barry Allen of the present, and the electric blue Barry from the future, stage their battle on a desolate plain of white salt flats. Lightning and electricity crackle across all the panels after the opening scenes, and stay for the remainder of the comic. Pages of red, yellow, and blue electricity fly across panels accompanied by giant, electric lettering.

Barry is contrasted with his future self, who has lowered himself into cynicism. Compared to his past self, Future Barry does not respect the criminal justice system, and believes in violence as a solution for his problems.

Before the battle begins, Barry of the present eats cereal for breakfast. He chooses “refined sugars and process grains”. Not a great choice for breakfast – The Flash’s metabolic rate might allow him to eat whatever calories he needs, but it’s not the best example to set. It is an interesting comment that Barry’s future self effectively stops him from eating the sugar-coated cereal.

This raises the question of if time travel were possible, would we stop our past selves eating unhealthy food choices?

Barry and Future Barry also fight over lethal force. Future Barry has concluded that arresting criminals and seeking rehabilitation for them – what he calls “virtue” is not enough. Villains continue to re-offend, and murder. He has reached the extreme point of rejecting the criminal justice system.

Fighting style also receives a comment from Future Barry. He name-drops Deathstroke, Lady Shiva, and The Batman as his martial arts teachers. He comments to his past self:

“Speed. It’s the only weapon you have…a reason to neglect honing your other skills”

The comic book explores large science fiction concepts and perspective more than deeper themes. Speed Force as exotic matter appears alongside an interesting perspective on time travel.

The plot of the comic relies on the exotic matter of the Speed Force. Fixing the broken Speed Force drives Future-Barry’s actions. Repairing the damage involved applying more Speed Force to the Speed Force problem.

Despite the re-use of Speed Force throughout the comic to explain the problems and provide solutions, the comic book provides entertaining science fiction.

Time as portrayed in this comic book does not fit into Back to the Future rules. Barry’s death in the present would not wipe away this future version of himself. Time travel ideas here are difficult to conceptualise. How would a paradox not happen if the younger Barry was killed? Would Future Barry necessarily fade out of existence rapidly?

It’s an interesting perspective – looking at time not as a cause and effect, with a series of linear events, but as a more abstract concept. It’s difficult to see time as a larger, interconnected web, or any shape other than a chain of linked events.

The Flash #35 is published by DC Comics ($2.99USD). Robert Venditti & Van Jensen (W.) Brett Booth (P.) Norm Rapmund (I.) Andrew Dalhouse (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Booth, Rapmund, Dalhouse.

The Flash #30 – Comics Review

In 2014, Barry Allen (The Flash) reels from the shocking ending of Forever Evil, since this comic book is set after the DC Universe has moved on from the vindictive and destructive attack of the Crime Syndicate.

Multiple places in Barry Allen’s own time line receive attention here. 20 years away, The Flash (2034) receives one scene, which sets up events for the approaching story arc in Flash comic books. 5 years away, (2019) The Flash faces a shock, which kick-starts the events of issue #30.

What The Flash #30 offers:

  • The return of a character from the Flash Family.
  • Varied artwork, which shows off The Flash’s speed.
  • Themes including time management and mental health.

This review contains one major character spoiler

In a bright red and gold blur, The Flush runs out onto the streets of Central City.

What’s impressive about the different scenes in Flash #30 is the varied pace. Barry rests at his desk. When the Flash runs, his costume leaves a bright red blur.

When Barry visits Doctor Janus’ – a psychologists – office, there is a gold light. Behind Doctor Janus, buildings damaged by the Crime Syndicate’s attack are rebuilt. Skies are clear.

There is a great sense of optimism as The Flash rushes out into the streets to rebuild Central city.

After a long disappearance, a key character returns to the Flash family. He has no dialogue in this issue, however.

The return of Wally West is a key scene. A part of the story, but not the entire story – Wally does appear here, but unexpectedly.

Wally West ethnicity has shifted. A new character for the new 52.

But what is the purpose of renewing an old character – updating their story and character arc with the perspective of a different skin tone – if that character is silent, and in this case, dead before the comic even begins?

Wally appears to have died in a road accident.

Wally West is an epitaph in a newspaper. He is a bleeding body on the road. A shame. Either this is a clever trick, and that time travel elements will pay off, or Wally’s return has been mishandled.

There are two key details in this opening scene:

  • The paramedics at the scene could not detect a heartbeat – however, it is possible to hide a heartbeat from medial equipment in Popular Culture at least.
  • Wally is wearing some kind of yellow arm band – maybe a hint of his costume?

These points indicate something bigger might be at play here.

However early this new story is, Wally’s first appearance as a silent character, I think, is not a strong decision.

Time management, and Mental Health are two themes that appear. Barry’s new goal is to learn to manage his time, and stop running late.

Mental health and time management are strong themes in this comic. Doctor Janus talks about the effect of disasters. That even the strongest can feel torn down when faced with overwhelming disasters.

There is a small note addressing stigma attached to making an appointment with a psychologist.

Barry’s ability to manage his time is also brought up. He has a watch now. Whether it changes his ability to run on time is questionable. In the future, he’s still running late.

A possible Popular Culture comparison exists between The Doctor (Doctor Who) and Wally West. Season 6 of the new Doctor Who series, starring Matt Smith, contains a similarly shocking opening.

The Flash #30 is published by DC Comics ($2.99USD). Robert Venditti & Van Jensen (W.) Brett Booth (P.) Norm Rapmund (I.) Andrew Dalhouse (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Andrew Dalhouse.

Justice League #26 – Comics Review

What Justice League #26 Offers

Several origin stories tie into DC Comics Forever Evil event. The theme the comic explores is the origin of evil. Crime and criminal behaviour is evil, according to this comic, and origin stories of the several key villains explore a question: whether evil emmerges from within us, or from outside us, in the social environment. There is a high standard of art throughout.

Cast

The new, electronic villain called The Grid narrates the story. The Grid’s role in the narrative is straightforward. Machine’s don’t feel emotion. This artificial intelligence examines the origins of each Crime Syndicate member. It’s goal is to feel an emotion by reacting to the violent content.

Power Ring, Johnny Quick, and Atomica receive the most attention in this issue, however. They receive the most pages out of the entire comic; Power Ring – 8 pages, Johnny Quick and Atomica – 6 pages. What results is that their short stories within the larger narrative receive the most attention, and therefore the most development. It’s in their stories that the themes of the comic emerge. Power Ring also includes some science fiction horror.

Cyborg has some key moments, and Deathstorm is revealed as a scientist who threw away ethics to complete his research.

Art

Close-up images of characters drive the narrative forward, and show case strong artwork in this issue. Close to the conclusion of the comics, a character gives a a look of fierce defiance in their eyes. The sequence of panels leading up to this moment capture a set of emotions with the character body language. Despair and grief is suddenly supplanted by the defiance in the face of hurdles.

In another close-up, the artwork references the Hitchcock film Psycho. It’s a fleeting but powerful popular culture reference.

In contrast to the cool colours that surround the Justice League are bright and powerful. Apart from a wave of black ink, the colours surrounding the Crime Syndicate are anaemic and washed out. Green Lantern’s emerald green is replaced by Power Ring’s lime green. Johnny Quick has pale orange in place of The Flash’s traditional, fire engine reds.

Themes, Ethics, Values

Earlier issues of DC Comics Forever Evil event was about evil – Where foes evil come from? From outside us, or from within? Justice League #26 explores these questions through Atomica, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring’s origin stories.

A pop-culture comparison could be the musical Wicked, which also asks the question: “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Just like the popular musical, this issue of Justice League #26 also has green light throughout the story.

Power Ring and his other colleagues in the Crime Syndicate led a variety of lives before they began to wear a costumes and commit crime with it. Power Ring was filled with anxiety, and liked to spy on people – a voyeur. Atomica and Johnny Quick were violent criminals who targeted police officers.

Power Ring is described as “Weak-willed”, and is a character who is too anxious to achieve his goals. When unlimited power in the form of a ring is offered to him, he takes it, and disregards any consequences. This short story, within the larger narrative of the comic, makes a statement that evil – defined as crime – comes from the combination of bad circumstances, low willpower, and complete disregard for consequences. Evil is opportunity, bad decisions, and certain personality traits: low willpower, no assertiveness.

Contrast this with Johnny Quick and Atomica; first, their costumes are opposing colours compared to Power Ring – bright reds clash with bright greens. Second, compared to Power Ring’s bad circumstances, Johnny and Atomica state that crime and murder are “What we [Quick and Atomica] are born to do”. They are sociopaths, with a lack of any connection to social norms.

They fit into the category of “Fantasy sociopaths” (Kotsko, 2012). Kotsko states that these sociopaths, who appear in pop-culture, have a social disconnection seen in real life sociopaths, but organised lives, with the ability to plan and achieve long term goals (2012).

These characters where born with a trait that led to them becoming criminals.

Compared to Power Ring, their evil – defined as criminal acts here – came from within.

I found, after comparing these stories, that I tended to sympathise with Power Ring far more than the unlikeable and violent Johnny Quick and Atomica – despite his questionable behaviour, seeing the results of bad circumstances makes him more slightly more sympathetic. The character development in this issue adds some momentum to the Forever Evil story arc.

Justice League #26 is Published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Ivan Reis (P.) Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira, Rob Hunter, and Andy Lanning (I.) Rod Reis, Tomeu Morey and Tony Avina (C.) Nick J. Napolitano (L.). Cover image from Insidepulse.com

Works Consulted:

Kotso, Adam. (2012). Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television. Zero Books: Hants, United Kingdom.

Earth 2 #18 – Comics Review

Earth 2 #18: The Dark Age

(This review contains spoilers for character reveals, but no spoilers for plot points.)

Floating in the air above a ruined, military prison, the Superman of Earth 2 has risen from the ashes, and begun to wage a war in the name of alien invaders. Deep in the prison, The Batman of Earth 2 begins a plot that might thwart the dark Superman’s plans. Several heroes are still missing in action, however, while the world building of Earth 2 continues at a fast pace.

I have also decided to include some new headings in this review, which I hope will be useful to readers. These headings are small points that explain additional information about specific comics, or comic books in general. Since I have had a few readers say that they are unfamiliar with comics, these points might help build familiarity. The first one is below:

What is Earth 2? A parallel Earth in a parallel universe where events happened differently to the mainstream, DC comics Earth, where Superman and The Batman are based. Parallel Earths are a key plot point of many comics, and of science fiction in popular culture (The television series Fringe for example).

Cover artwork for Earth 2 #17 by Ethan Van Sciver.

Continue Reading

The Flash #25 – Comics Review

The Flash #25: Starting Line

(This review contains some spoilers: character appearances, and interactions)

Watching Barry Allen – the Flash – working as a police officer years before he received his super powers is a bit like watching a time travel story play out. Comic book story lines seem to be using time travel repeatedly this year. It’s possible the  popular time travel themed program – Doctor Who – has recently had an affect on comic book writing alongside its lasting impact on popular culture.

The Flash #25 is only a bit like time travel, however, and issue #25 is a flash back to Barry Allen’s past – a newly graduated forensic scientist and police officer. The comic wraps together a detective story, with romance themes in a younger versions of DC comics universe where Super heroes are emerging, and characters like The Batman and Superman are urban myths.

Cover artwork for The Flash #1 coloured by Brian Buccellato.


Continue Reading

Justice League of America #8 – Comics Review

Justice League of America #8: Paradise Lost

(This review includes spoilers for Issue #8 of Justice League of America)

Forever Evil continues across the DC universe, and it appears that balance might soon return to the DC universe – the Justice League of America could be about to rise from whatever fate they met at the hands of the Crime Syndicate.  Essential character developments are tied into the major plot point of this issue – the reveal about what happened to the Justice League at the end of Trinity war.

Cover art for Justice League of America #7 by Dough Mahnke

Continue Reading