I just got back from GenCon, which was once again fabulous. It’s definitely my favorite of the big conventions. With the focus on small to medium sized games, it’s managed to scale in ways that Comic-Con hasn’t, with demand spread out to a great breadth of choices, so there’s hundreds of things I wanted to do and not huge lines and waiting around all weekend like other big cons.
And I still have comics, and a really great week it was! (I confess that I skipped to the top of my pile due to being at con, so if there’s a hidden gem in the rest I might sneak it into next week’s column.)
Astro City #3
Continuing our story from #2 of the Honor Guard help desk technician, this issue totally emotionally worked for me. Our focal point character has realized that she made a huge mistake by not recognizing a call as serious, and being part of a chain of events that led to a supervillain disaster, and is wracked with guilt.
So, she uses the secret teleportation network she has access to, to show up at the disaster site and bring aid. While there, she manages to find one of the still at-large villains and follow him back to their lair. At that point things go poorly, before the superfolk show up again.
It’s not the plot notes that make this work, but instead the emotional content. In a way, it’s a very small scale story writ large. We’ve all been there, I think – new at a job, convinced we’re an imposter, and then making what we perceive to be an epic screw-up. And going way overboard to try and make it right. The character’s palpable sense of guilt, and drive to fix it, damn the personal consequences, rang so very true to my own experiences, as did the shock that it didn’t read as horribly from the outside that it did from the inside.
Another gem from this title that’s almost never misfired. A must read.
Saga is a hard comic to write about, especially when one is con-tired, but for my dear readers, I do what I can! It’s really delightfully subtle about a lot of things. One thing I like is how they avoid the normal hero/villain dichotomy rather neatly.
The framing device is clearly Hazel narrating the story from the future, so baby Hazel and her family are the obvious protagonists. At the same time, while they’re caught up in each other and the romance of their own romance, the actual adults around them are well aware that they’re idiotic and have created a black hole of doom with their lives that is destroying anything around it, for pretty stupid reasons.
And while the bounty hunter sent to kill them, and Gwen the ex-fiancée of Marko, Hazel’s father, are narratively set up to be antagonists, they’re actually pretty sympathetic. They’ve rescued the slave girl, he shows real concern about the near-death of his sidekick the Lying Cat, Gwen has a legitimate reason to claim she’s been wronged, and they all have a very nice set of moments on the planet they’ve crashed onto.
This kind of subtle work is what separates the “comic-booky” titles from the ones worth reading. I mean, I love a good straight-up evil villain from time to time, but I’m much happier when characters have a sense of agency about them, their actions make sense, and who is in the right is a matter of perspective. Saga is doing that, with a host of memorable, messy characters in memorable, messy circumstances, and despite being one of the more far removed from reality titles out there, it manages to ring true every time.
Star Wars #8
In one instance, we’ve got Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, infiltrating a Star Destroyer. Luke smuggles a disassembled light saber in as the pair get arrested, and bust out of jail, in a scene reminiscent of the escape from the Death Star detention block. It’s nice to see Wedge get some heroic screen time with young Luke, who is growing in confidence after his victory at Yavin.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and his smuggler friend Perla are being chased on a shuttle by Slave I and Boba Fett. There’s some fun fancy flying, and out of the frying pan and into the fire in classic Solo fashion.
And where’s Chewbacca and the Falcon? Nearby, but Chewie’s got troubles of his own, with Bossk the bounty hunter hot on his heels.
And amidst all this, the best part is the quiet part. Leia has taken a ship to the asteroid field once known as Alderaan, to perform a remembrance ceremony. Much to her surprise, there’s someone else there doing something similar. Who is this mysterious stranger? Well, we’ll find that out later. I’m very happy that the recent destruction of Alderaan continues to be an emotional driver for Leia, and is an extremely big deal, as it ought to be. Especially in an issue that’s jam packed with action, a scene with this much emotional oomph really works.
This is Star Wars, as it ought to be.
There may be a few more great comics hiding in my pile, but these three are awfully great. Enjoy them, won’t you?