Greetings comics fans! Some very strong issues this week. But first, a quick plug.
For a while now, some friends of mine, Caytlin Vilbrandt and Samantha Mathis, have been publishing an online comic called Walking on Broken Glass. It’s about werewolves and magic and monsters and romance and dark prophecies and all kinds of good stuff, and I’m in love with Caytlin’s art. They’re running an indiegogo campaign now for a print run of the latest issue, and you can get earlier issues through it. Check it out!
Now on to more traditionally published comics.
Over in another title, in an event that was, shall we say, well covered by the comics media and leaked out into the mainstream media as well, the current Robin was killed. This Robin, Damian Wayne, was the son of Bruce Wayne, to make it extra painful and personal for our Batman. It’s natural to have an aftermath issue, and it would be easy for it to fall into cliches and after school special mode. But that so doesn’t happen here.
Instead, Scott Snyder brings out one of my favorite characters he’s introduced to date, Harper Row. Introduced in the stellar Batman #12, Harper is a young woman who is driven to protect her sensitive and heavily bullied gay younger brother, and is a master electrician who understands Gotham’s infrastructure extremely well. She’s inspired by Batman, as much as he tells her to keep her distance.
This issue is told from her point of view. She has no idea about Robin’s death, and doesn’t much care. All she can see is that Batman is in serious emotional trouble, is pushing himself beyond his limits in a rampage, and is going to get himself killed. And she ends up being in the perfect position to hold up a mirror and bring him to his senses.
It turns out to be a very human issue, easy to relate to. We’ve all needed someone to tell us something we didn’t want to tell ourselves, and sometimes it has to be an outsider to really see it. And the dialogue is just handled perfectly. I would not be sad at all if Harper ends up taking a larger role, filling some of Robin’s shoes. She’s a fantastically well written character I eagerly want more of.
Mind the Gap #8
While Image was founded in practice mostly as a place for a group of artists to strut their stuff, regardless of writing ability, they did actually end up creating a haven for creator-owned comics, providing a place for independent talents to get a wider audience. While I don’t have a penchant for most of what they choose to publish, I admire their underlying philosophies, and sometimes they publish real gems that would be easily lost at the smaller publishers. Mind the Gap is turning out to be one of those gems.
It’s a story with a deep mystery embedded in it. The main character, Elle Peterssen, has been brutally attacked and put into a coma. While there, she discovers that her consciousness exists in a weird, dream-like near-reality, and that she’s not alone. Additionally, she has the ability to inhabit the bodies of other nearby people in similar ‘empty-shell’ states. And being in a hospital, this is something there’s not a shortage of.
There’s a fascinating cast of characters. It’s clear by now that some of the people closest to her are in on the attack on Elle, and there’s something more going on. There’s some sort of secret organization, and they’re not happy with what’s going on with Elle’s manifestation in other patients. Meanwhile, a helpful doctor and her detective wife are starting to figure things out. I don’t want to go into plot points as deeply on this title as I often do, because it’s a journey of discovery, but I recommend picking up the back issues and discovering a really interesting story that seems like it’s going somewhere.
Uncanny X-Men #3
Cyclops and his team continue to travel around the world to try and rescue and train young mutants. And on this trip, they’re met by the Avengers, and Captain America himself. The Avengers attempt to arrest Cyclops on the quite accurate charge that, while possessed by the Phoenix Force in Avengers vs. X-Men, he murdered Charles Xavier.
Cyclops has a reasonable counter argument. The Phoenix Force was in charge, not him, and the whole reason that was the case was Iron Man’s doing. Which is certainly true. And there’s some back and forth, while Cyclops adds that these kids he’s rescuing really are being attacked for being mutants, in serious danger, and groups like the Avengers aren’t bothering to show up other than to hound him. He’s doing good work, protecting his people, and if Cap doesn’t like it he can go straight to hell.
Needless to say, violence is imminent, but fortunately the young mutant they’ve been trying to recruit has time manipulation powers, and manages to freeze the Avengers mid-attack, and the X-Men teleport away to their next conflict. In issue #1, we saw Magneto giving up the X-Men to SHIELD. Now, the X-Men figure the Avengers must’ve been tipped off, because they didn’t even know where they were going until it happened. And Magneto comes clean, claiming to be a double agent, feeding them information because he thinks the government is building sentinels and wants an in with SHIELD to be able to stop it. This thread is not resolved immediately, but I found it plausible, moreso than Magneto growing a conscious about Cyclops’s new-found dedication to the mutant cause.
The reason this issue is on my short list is, this is what Bendis can do best. The dialogue is smart, true to character, and engaging. It’s hard to write a superhero comic with barely a punch thrown and have it not feel like a bunch of talking heads, but this advances the plot while remaining engaging and emotionally satisfying.
So, three very different choices for you – a masterful use of perspective to create a fresh take on a story, an ongoing plot-driven story full of secrets and conspiracy, and a dialogue driven story about choices and motive. Try some, won’t you?