Say Hello To The Bad Guy…

When talking about comics with people that aren’t into comics a book that comes up a lot is Sandman. Sandman is, in my experience, the most recommended book to people who don’t like comics, haven’t read a comic, don’t take comic books seriously, or think comics are ____________ (insert sweeping generalization). It’s a great comic, but hey, it’s 2014. There’s a new sheriff in town.

In comic form.

There’s a new good fantasy comic you can give to any random person on the street is what I’m trying to say. Loki. Except it’s not really just one series. Nor is it really one continuous vision by a single creative team. It’s a story that has spanned three years, and about three and a half different comic books published by Marvel.

In 2011, Marvel did a convoluted crossover thing-y called Siege. Loki died. Thor brought him back. As a kid. A kid that was seemingly innocent. Kid Loki got his own series: Journey Into Mystery. Issue #622 of that series set Loki on a path to figure out why he did some bad things that led to his death and rebirth.

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I’m simplifying in the interest of not spoiling, but Loki didn’t want to be Loki anymore. He sacrificed who and what Loki was in order to craft a new Loki. BUT, as Journey Into Mystery came to a conclusion, and all of us had fallen in love with Young Loki the hero, we learned that the Loki that was acted in a manner that was as selfish as we’d expect from a trickster god.

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Loki made a backup. He was working the long con and in ensuring that a version of himself would be resurrected with a clean slate, he also made sure that the backup of Loki-Classic could replace New-Loki once all the pieces were in place. He wanted the illusion of change.

The illusion of change. It’s a key factor in comic books, and in ongoing fiction in general. Characters die. They change costumes. They swap minds. But ultimately, they revert back to what we expect them to be. There’s a reset button that’s ready to be pushed when sales dip.

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Loki can’t avoid being Loki. Marvel won’t let him. More importantly we won’t let him. We’re not comfortable with actual change, in fiction or in real life. It’s easy for us to become a part of a narrative. either one that we tell ourselves, or that we let others tell about us. And it’s easy to get trapped there.

Young Avengers¬†by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie saw Backup-Loki-In-Kid-Loki’s body formulate the identity of New-New-Loki. Kid-Loki’s desire to do good was burdened by New-New-Loki’s struggle with his own nature and the guilt over the reasons for his own existence.

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Loki’s tale is now being told by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett in Loki: Agent of Asgard. Loki performs missions in exchange for erasure of his past deeds.

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It’s a simple story told in an epic manner. Trying to redefine yourself. Who you are. While the old you can rear their ugly head at any moment. We’re introduced to what appears to be the “Old Loki”:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 8.52.18 PMBut turns out to be New-New-Loki of a distant future. A Loki that seemingly proves that all of Loki’s work is for nothing.

Loki will always be Loki.

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So many mainstream comics are marketed with the tagline¬†“THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.” Few have dared to admit that no matter what you do, no matter how much you love this little cult hit, things will just revert to what they used to be in the end.

 

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New Comics Days Are The Best Days…

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 9.48.59 PMYou may not know this, but there are new comic books every single week.

They come out on Wednesdays. All due respect to Odin and his day, but Wednesday is done. Let New Comic Book Day shine forth as a beacon of hope in a weak full of Tuesdays and Thursdays and…Mondays.

But let us return to the magic of new comic book day. Its a day on which you can discover something magical that you’ve never read before, or read the latest exiting installment of a series that you’ve been waiting at least 30 days for.

On this new comic book day, I purchased two such gems.

Young Avengers #5 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This must be Kieron Gillen week here, in which I rave about his work on two Marvel books in the beginning of the week, then lament that I didn’t tell people to buy his indie work instead, then tell you how awesome his new Marvel work with his indie collaborator Jamie McKelvie is! I know! I’m crraaaazy. Like a used car dealer’s pricing model!

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But hey y’all, this comic is GOOOOOOD.

Issues 1-5 of Young Avengers have dealt with a group of super powered teenagers battling their parents. And dancing. And flying in spaceships named after influential comic artists that are powered by imagination. Let me re-type this for posterity and for those of you that lack reading comprehension and would need me to type in all caps to give this the proper emphasis: Spaceships powered by imagination. Yes. Even questioning such a thing would cause the ship to crash, so the characters themselves have to suspend their disbelief in order to keep themselves suspended in the air.

Here’s where a GIF of someone clapping should go in honor of the excellent comic book that Gillen and McKelvie have produced.

So Young Avengers #5 fits the criteria of “eagerly anticipated series I’ve been following month to month.”

Subatomic Party Girls is the new discovery that made me all tingly and such with excitement.

Subatomic Party Girls is a fun fun fun fun fun fun comic book that fills me with such insane joy from typing the words Subatomic Party Girls.

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.13.20 PMThe enthusiasm from creators Chris Sims, Chad Bowers and Erica Henderson bleeds off the page. It also does the page bleeding equivalent of that on my tablet screen, too.

It’s about an all-girl band called Beryllium Steel, that’s about to be the First Band on the Moon! They wind up getting blasted into space much like Mike (and later Joel) of Mystery Science Theater 3000, though it appears they will have space adventures with space pirates rather than watch bad movies.

They space rock out while space training for space rocking.

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I don’t want to give up too much more about this comic. Henderson’s artwork is loose and kinetic. At the risk of being repetitive (while being too lazy to consult a thesaurus), I will say that her artwork is “fun.”

Bowers and Sims’ dialogue reminds me a bit of Gail Simone’s early work on Killer Princesses and Deadpool. Mainly for their ability to bounce bubbly characters off of comicly grumpy characters in order to aid in wackiness ensuing.

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.24.44 PMLook at that!!! There is a space cat pirate lady and she is grumpy as all hell while a space aardvark is dancing happily in the background. If that is not fun, I do not know what fun is. If I am correct about the fun-ness of this panel, the comic, and the authors’ intent (which appears to be having fun), then Subatomic Party Girls looks like F-U-N, and a great addition to my pile (well, digital pile) of comic books that I have to look forward to on New Comic Book Day!

Subatomic Party Girls (still loving typing it) is also only a mere 99 cents. So if my words have convinced any readers of my blog that they’re even slightly into checking it out, I’ll buy an issue for the first person that leaves a comment saying “Hey, Paul. I’d like to check that comic out, it sounds pretty good.”

Stop Listening to the Same Music You Listened To At 23: Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jaimie McKelvie

On the “About” page of this site, you’ll find a note where it says I will not, and SHOULD NOT recommend any music to you. This should have probably been hammered home by my repeated “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” references, but as a reminder, I went to a Best Buy in 2003 and purchased this album on the day is was released:

MachoManRandySavageWait, please don’t go. Don’t take that to mean I have NO credibility.

Many people can communicate through shared love of music. In Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, there are people called Phonomancers that can utilize music for magic. The way I have pitched it to some friends in person so far has been “It’s like if talking like Patrick Bateman gave you musical power.” It’s a pretty glib way to summarize the series, though it is a somewhat accurate description of how the first volume’s protagonist, David Kohl, starts out.

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David’s identity and magical power is rooted in the genre of Britpop and in the goddess Britannia. There are those who would resurrect and pervert the genre for their own gain, and David is faced with the dilemma of who he is being rewritten by these people, or redefining himself on his own terms.

It’s a scary proposition. I can’t say that I know a lot about the music referenced in Phonogram, but the themes and emotion ring true. I’ve been kind of working to redefine myself through comic books in the past year. A big part of that was getting rid of most of my collection. I thought that would be a bigger deal to me, but it wasn’t. It didn’t bring me down that much, and honestly, it wasn’t me anymore.

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That’s where David winds up. He figures out who he is right now and doesn’t continue to draw power from who he was. That’s the first volume, Rue Britannia. I liked it a bunch. But then I read volume 2, The Singles Club…and I fucking loved it. David pops up again, but it’s mainly 7 intersecting stories about 7 different Phonomancers and how they make magic through music. They’re all at different stages of their lives, but each realizes something important about themselves within the course of an issue. In jumping around to the different characters, and with the injection of color, Gillen and McKelvie’s comic book feels even more alive. Rue Britannia tells you about music, but The Singles Club IS music. If I can, I’ll try and work a little of this magic by trying to reiterate what this comic made me feel, and what comic books make me feel while we tour through some of these beautiful panels.

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When I write about a comic, when I tell you about a comic…I’m trying to tell you about me. I’m not trying to prove that I’m smart. I’m not trying to impress you. I’m doing it for me and I’m trying to say a few things.

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I love comic books. I think they’re as important as books and films and music and comedy. They’re a way to tell a story, to share, to communicate.

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I try not to just blanketly recommend things. Yeah, I write this blog, but I try to frame things with “If you like this, then read BLAH!” I’m trying to say I know you (if I know you personally and have recommended something) or if you’re an anonymous reader of this site, well, then I’m trying to relate to someone like myself that would enjoy the work about which I’m writing.

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Phonogram worked this kind of magic on me. It spoke to me even though I didn’t fully grasp the references. I connected with Gillen and McKelvie’s work emotionally. It made me feel like this. I felt this page leaping off of my tablet screen, saying “Yes. This is true.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 10.18.40 PMTwo people connect through art. Through music. Through dance. You don’t have to understand. There’s nothing to get. There’s just some things that we connect with each other on. We define ourselves and each other through these connections, and it’s magic.