Dean: After a slow past week of Image books we pick things up again with a Wednesday full of violent and visually stunning comics. Creighton is joining us for the talk this week. Creighton, what books did you read this week?
Cosmo: I read Descender, The Wicked + The Divine & I Hate Fairyland.
Let’s start off with Descender. I’ve been really enjoying this series, and thought that the current arc’s focus on filling in various characters’ background has been intriguing. So I was looking forward to seeing what Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen would do with the pet-bot. However, while it had the typically lush and lovely art from Nguyen, I was disappointed in the script. Unlike the previous two issues, it didn’t really tell us much about the character we did not know already. Not a bad issue; it definitely had some poignant moments. Just not as sharp as the previous two.
Dean: Like you Creighton I am really enjoying this arc, but thought this issue felt a little flat. First off though, it did look amazing. Dedicating most of the issue to the pet-bot let’s Nguyen shine and is a fantastic idea but I agree that nothing was really added to any character. However, I would argue that something was added to the pet-bot’s character. Lemire and Nguyen have focused a lot in this arc on the “feelings” of the robots. They have put some of the bots in situations where we end up feeling sorry for them. I think the first half of this issue shows us that the pet-bot acts exactly as a real dog would, sitting by Tim-21’s side while he sleeps until he eventually goes off to find something else to do. It reminds me how my dogs would wait for my wife to get home from work. If she was out of town they would wait and wait and wait by that window until eventually they realized she wasn’t coming home. So I think there is a little to take from away from the bot here, but do agree that it felt like a little derailment from the story.
Pat: I’m actually in opposition to you guys in that I loved it. It might’ve been my TWF had I been picking. Now this should all be prefaced that I probably qualify as an above and beyond dog lover. But in that sense, I found the comic heartening overall. I agree with both of you on the art and would say that Nguyen’s Descender work is next level and think that while nothing was technically “revealed” about the pet-bot, my empathy and feelings for him increased strongly from what Lemire & Nguyen do here.
Dean: The loneliness of the pet-bot was heartbreaking and Tim-21 waking up was definitely a high point in the issue. I think Lemire succeeded at making me feel the good feelings for the pet-bot, I just wanted a bit more forward motion in the story. But, that is probably because of the pace it has been on. Lately, each issue is leaving me on the edge of my seat, and although I enjoyed the first half of this issue the second half did not leave me on the edge of my seat like I thought it might. I can see where you are coming from though Pat, especially being the dog lover that you are.
Pat: Yeah and when I think about it, this was basically an entire departure from the previous issue. While I didn’t realize that reading the comic, had I come in with those expectations I can see why this might feel like a weird detour for you guys.
Cosmo: As someone who grew up with dogs & currently owns cats I also have a soft spot for moments of human/animal empathy which is why I went into the issue with high expectations.
I do think I was colored by the previous issues which spent most of their time filling in what life was like before the robot invasion. Thus I thought this issue would focus on pet-bot’s daily life before the colony got wiped out. That’s what I meant about not adding much narratively. However I think you both make good points about the issue’s strengths.
I did like how the pace picked up in the present day section. For me the ending was a real “oh damn” moment . . .
Alright, shall we now return again to The Pantheon? Personally I loved this issue – would have been my Finest.
This was an extraordinary conclusion to the current arc of the series as Wicked + The Divine continues to be one of the best ongoing books. It’s such a genius comic for how they make everything feel so familiar with their pop culture dressing, but then continue to upend expectations while still making the story flow naturally.
Cosmo: Exactly. As I stated in my review, I’ve been impressed this whole arc with how well Gillen keeps shifting the expectations. In this issue specifically, I didn’t know what choice Persephone would make until she finally did, which only made her internal struggle all the more powerful. Plus, the fact that readers have no idea yet how twisted Ananke’s motives were or were not. Also, I really liked the role Baal played in this issue. I often write him off as one of the more superficial deities, yet issues like this prove how much deeper his character runs. His tender entreaties to Persephone were fabulous.
And let’s take a moment to praise the art team of Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson. They regularly do such extraordinary work, I feel that I’m sometimes taking them for granted. Not this issue though; they outdid their own usual high level of talent. From the massive, dynamic fight scenes to the poignant exchanges between Baal and Persephone, there was not any more outstanding art in comics last week. At least from the ones I read.
Pat: In your review, I really like how you touch on it’s symbolism in pop art because that’s something that’s very apparent in the comic on a surface level but also goes much deeper in breaking it down how you did. That actually might be best exemplified by McKelvie & Wilson’s work on the final page of the issue; Persephone/Laura standing against the light from the machinery, covered in blood, answering the question of “what now?” with “Whatever we want” It’s beautiful and brilliant in equal measure and a perfect way to close out the arc. These guys are such important creators to comics right now and in terms of this creative team; I’m pretty sure this is the best series they’ve ever done together.
Cosmo: Yeah that final page is so powerful on multiple levels. On the one hand, it’s simply a gorgeous piece of art from McKelvie and Wilson. The blood, the neon, Persephone’s fixated glare are all great details. On the other hand, it represents something much deeper as well. It would have been easy to make this issue all about youth triumphant, taking up the reins from their doddering (murderous) elders. Only Gillen’s too smart for that. Innocence does not equal morality. Knowledge comes from experience. The arc’s literal final words may belong to Persephone, but in another sense Wodan gets to deliver the lesson of the story with his “‘Necessity’ where have I heard that one before?” (“Necessity” is after all the title of the chapter). And on the page before it the moment Baal challenges the Norn to turn in her friend for murder is quite telling.
Youth is about righteousness and seeing the world in stark good/evil morality. Maturity is about accepting that life is about compromise and morally grey areas. I suspect that this truth is about to rain down quite hard on the surviving members of The Pantheon . . .
I’m still partial to Young Avengers as my favorite Gillen/McKelvie project, but that’s also since I can view it as a complete whole. It’ll be an interesting topic to revisit when we can discuss Wicked + Divine in full.
Last week also brought us a new installment of Skottie Young’s gleefully twisted I Hate Fairyland. This title was the opposite of Descender for me; after a less exciting issue last month, it really returned to form this time. Gert, naturally, is continuing her quest to get home which this time involves a giant coin that transports her, Larry and their new companion Duncan inside a giant arcade game. This leads to some fabulous fight sequences. The video game sequences are done by guest Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz and he really nails it. In other words, another dementedly fun chapter of the series.
Dean: I ended up dropping this title after a few issues… but “giant coin that transports her, Larry and their new companion Duncan inside a giant arcade game.” sounds like a must read! Perhaps it’s time to revisit. Patrick I know you recently dropped Fairyland. Was it because of the last issue which Creighton is saying was less exciting? Or were you just not digging the book as a whole?
Pat: “Was it because of the last issue which Creighton is saying was less exciting? Or were you just not digging the book as a whole?”
It was more that, after the conclusion of the second arcs first issue that undid the entire story of the first, it didn’t really feel essential for me. I’ll be happy to revisit it at some point but not something I need to read month to month. I got the impression that the book was going to be more episodic, was that correct Creighton?
Cosmo: I don’t know about more episodic. For me the series has been pretty episodic from the start. Lots of stuff happens but not much carries over from one issue to the next. Case in point, Duncan was introduced last issue and this issue is already tossed aside. Young spoke a little about this at Awesome Con in June and I have the feeling that he tries to keep the boundaries of his narrative pretty flexible so that the story can veer off in whatever direction he wishes. I liked how he explained in the back matter to the first issue of the current arc that he intended to keep Gert as Queen for several issues but each time he tried writing it, it simply didn’t work. So he went with his gut and got her the hell out of there. That issue, incidentally, I thought was really great. I was laughing out loud while reading it in line at the comic store.
For me, I Hate Fairyland is all about Gert being on this insane never ending quest. It’s not about the overall structure as much as how much I enjoy each chapter along the way.
Pat: Yeah, Young has checked Groo as one of his primary influences and I kind of get that vibe off Fairyland. Again, I like it, liked the last issue I was getting but at some point, you gotta save joints for Comixology’s .99 cent sales
Dean: Yes that’s where I found myself with Fairyland also. I like a lot of Young stuff but I find the line between funny and annoying hard for me to handle on this one. Definitely something I will revisit later when it’s cheaper but for now I don’t need it in my stack. However, from Creighton it sounds like if you are a fan of this book it was a great issue.
Pat: How did you feel that the guest artist fit with the story being told in this issue along with the series on a whole? Was it meant to look like an actual arcade game?
Cosmo: That’s cool, I respect your opinions. I don’t consider Fairyland an essential title, but I find it a lot of fun, so I keep it in my stack for variety.
Also, I am a sucker for Young’s art . . .
That said, I thought that Chamba melded well with Young who provided art for the beginning and end of the issue. Part of the credit should go to colorist Jean-Francis Beaulieu who kept a consistent palette throughout the issue. Chamba’s art is meant to evoke video games; his style is much sleeker than Young’s cartoony vibe. However, Chamba doesn’t take it too far by going for a pixel aesthetic. It’s more a slight variation on Young’s look. It’s a nice balance between different extremes.
Pat: I actually thought it would be pixel aesthetic which is cool but would have felt like a big departure from the series
Cosmo: If you had told me ahead of time I would have assumed the same. It was a smart choice though. Not only does it flow more smoothly but it resembles better what video games actually look like today. So no easy nostalgia button pushing . . .
Dean: Pat what did you think of Rumble this week?
Pat: Ohhh Rumble was super fun as always. This comic is nuts and sometimes I have a hard time following it. Still, James Harren’s art keeps me coming back and it kind of has everything when you think about it. It’s funny, heartfelt & provides some dynamic action. Definitely a cool series that might fly a little bit under the radar but I’m still enjoying none the less.
Dean: I often have no idea what is going on and get lost in the who’s-in-who’s-body. But surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to matter for me. Each issue delivers some incredible looking action pages and is actually really funny. It reminds me a bit of The Manhattan Projects: Sun Beyond the Stars where the book really dialed into the zaniness of combining cool looking creatures with action and comedy. I do agree that it seems like Rumble is flying under the radar right now but again, this week it proved to be an enjoyable read.
Last year when we ran the Image March Madness bracket Rumble did take out Outcast in the second round which is pretty major for a comic that at the time had a TV show on the horizon. It lost in the next round to Wythces but so did most of the comics. So as far as under the radar is concerned I think the readership of Nothing But Comics is appreciating the quality of the book
Cosmo:“I often have no idea what is going on and get lost in the who’s-in-who’s-body. But, surprising that doesn’t seem to matter to me”
Would it be safe to say that Rumble, like Fairyland, is more about mood and art than about following an overarching story-line issue to issue? Both series’ appeal boil down to getting swept up in the craziness?
Pat: For me personally no, it is hard to follow but there is an overarching story that’s pretty compelling. That said there is a lot going on. Harren, Arcudi & Stewart are BPRD vets and Rumble definitely shares those series penchant for threading several long form narrations.
Cosmo: There is definitely a deep narrative running through all these issues. I just end up getting lost in all the names and monster faces. I have never watched Game Of Thrones but I hear it gets hard to follow with all the different names and faces, I imagine it is similar to that.
Cosmo: That’s a fair qualification.
I would say that the book does “fly under the radar.” It gets nowhere the press or attention that series like Saga, Southern Bastards or Wicked + Divine receive. That’s no way related to how good Rumble is, of course.
One of these days, I’d like to try it. So many great comics, though, so little time for all of them . . .
Pat: Saga, Southern Bastards & Wic+Div are probably three of the five best comics at Image right now so that’s a tough comparison. With that said, you did make an interesting point inadvertently, that being that all the prior books you mentioned were either by BKV or recent Marvel creators. I think part of the reason Rumble isn’t as widely read would probably have to do with it’s creative team coming off BPRD and Hellboy comics as opposed to Thor, Young Avengers & Spider-Gwen.
Cosmo: Good point. In the end, it’s a combination of factors. Those writers you mentioned have all had major successes at Marvel. So the spotlight will always be shining brighter on them than someone like Arcudi who has pretty much spent his whole career in independent comics, i.e. Dark Horse. On the other hand, I would say that Vaughan, Aaron and Gillen are writing not only three of the best comics at Image, but any company right now. (If you throw in Thor, you could argue that Arron’s writing two of the best). So yes, they get more attention, but they have earned it.
Pat: Which is part of the reason I like having these convo’s on Image books; they have so much in their line of comics that is worth analyzing. There is the aforementioned comics work of the above mentioned names, Arcudi, Harren & Stewart that are making great comics on Rumble just a little below the radar, a new series like Demonic which I reviewed here, even terrible comics like Spawn Kills Everyone #1. It’s such a vibrant publisher and just looking at the variance in the books we talked about this week; no matter who is making the comic, they are almost always interesting and I don’t think any of the other major publishers can say that.
Accept Spawn Kills Everyone #1, that’s just terrible