In general, I don’t engage in a lot of the controversy in the comics world in this column. It’s mostly about books that I’m not going to recommend anyway, and this is a positive place, to be excited about great things! But this week, it hits head on, about a topic I’m passionate about, and I feel like it’s relevant to being an informed consumer to be aware.
By this, I mean Brian Wood, and sexual harassment. I’m a really big fan of Mr. Wood’s work. One of his comics was one of my favorite reads this week. And I had to seriously consider if I wanted to feature it. I’ve decided I will, but not without using this as an opportunity to shine a light on an industry-wide problem that really holds back the American Comics industry from being as good as it can be.
Tess Fowler has posted a detailed account of the incident here. There’s a lot of murmurings that this is not an isolated incident. It’s hard to really say, but it’s true that Ms. Fowler has had to face a huge backlash for bringing this up. The world is not kind to women who name names, which is what lets people keep doing bullshit like this. And it’s not just Brian Wood; this sort of thing is par for the course, and should not be.
I’m willing personally to keep reading his work (because it’s outstanding), but he’s on notice now. It’s insane, but true, that a lot of men have no idea how terrifying this kind of thing is for women, and how it can drive women out of the industry. And that women have more to lose from reporting it, than men do from doing it. And if I personally hear of him doing this again, by which I mean an incident after November 15th, 2013, I’ll drop him like he’s Orson Scott Card. And for the rest of the comics industry (or video games, or science fiction, etc): Every time this happens, we get a little less patient with the next guy.
Your personal reaction may be different. That’s fine. I think knowing this stuff happens is important information to making a purchasing decision, which is ultimately your own decision.
Okay, now on to the comics!
Astro City #6
In this issue, the perspective is Thatcher Jerome. He’s a mid-level operative for the mafia. And because this is Astro City, a giant door appears in the river, behind which is an alien fellow here to observe and learn about earth. And boldly, Thatcher knocks on the door, informs the alien that if he wants to do business on the river, he has to go through him, and the alien, who knows nothing of what’s actually going on, readily agrees.
And mostly what the Alien wants is for someone to fetch him interesting things, and he doesn’t mind paying for them, so it actually works pretty well. The mafia is well equipped to acquire all sorts of crazy things. It’s a pretty sweet gig.
He’s mostly a good guy, but he can’t quite help himself, and Thatcher steals some alien gizmos. They happen to transform his buddy into the super monster dude seen on the cover over there. There’s a fight with Cleopatra, mostly in the background.
But the interesting part is then, Thatcher realizes what he’s got. What it could be. And he takes stock of what else he has, and has one of those life turning points. I really liked this approach to the story – what does this guy do, given this choice? And what he chooses makes total sense. A nice little standalone story (despite saying part 2, you figure out the important parts of last issue easily enough. I mean, door. Alien. Got it.)
Rocket Girl #2
Now, this is a fun new title. Like a lot of time travel plots, it takes a bit to unravel, but the gist is this. A company, Quintum Mechanics, has created some sort of device that allows for time travel. And they send it back to themselves in 1986, creating a time loop that lets them become insanely powerful in a dystopian technofuture.
Part of this alternate 2013 has teenage police officers with jetpacks, including our Rocket Girl, a Ms. Dayoung Johansson. Dayoung learns a little about what’s going on, and hops into the time machine to come back to 1986 herself, making quite a scene.
The plot is a little twisty, but the art is dynamic and perfectly suited to the story, by the talented Amy Reeder. And Dayoung is so earnest, she just kind of powers through all of the obstacles that 1986 is throwing at her, convinced in the urgency and righteousness of her cause. The supporting characters are much less convinced, still pretty much stuck in the “Wait, what?” stage.
This is the kind of ride I want my comics to take me on. I want more indy work like this!
Star Wars #11
Bad behavior of the writer aside, this is a tremendous issue. It’s hard to do extended combat in a comic book and not have it feel like a short issue. This issue is an extended space battle, but there’s a lot of content packed in here, plus a level of pulse-pounding excitement that easily matches the battles in the actual Star Wars movies.
You’ve got Luke and Wedge in Imperial Tie Interceptors, trying to regain the fleet. On some level we know they’re going to make it, because they show up in material later in continuity, but it’s still a satisfying bit of drama. The rest of the X-Wing pilots, save Leia, have no such plot immunity. Things look grim, as the Empire really does have an overwhelming support.
Until there’s a major plot twist I did not see coming. Mon Mothma’s got a few tricks up her sleeve! I don’t want to spoil it, actually, because it was great.
At the same time, we’ve got Vader’s chosen underling, who failed to capture Luke and Wedge, being smart enough to bug out before owning up to it to our friend Darth. She’s an interesting, competent character in a desperate situation, which is sure to make a great villain in future issues.
This is Star Wars as I wish it always had been. And why I’m still reading this, even though Mr. Wood, charitably, is clueless as to what makes the convention scene hostile to women sometimes.