Tag Archives: Fantasy

Plutona

“So…you wanna be a superhero?”

Hey, all. This is D.C. here for a throwdown. I’ve been trying to barrel through my mountain of single issues, trades and graphic novels. I read some interesting and good comics latey, but few quite like Image Comics’ Plutona.

Image result for plutona

 

Quick–the premise!

Simply put, Plutona is a tale of a ragtag group of children who accidentally come upon the body of one of their hometown’s heroes, Plutona. Sounds simple enough, yes? What happens while the children keep this secret unfolds in some very disturbing ways.

Highlights

Simply put: I really did not expect writer Jeff Lemire to unfold this story the way he did. It really surprised me.

While the dialogue is ultimately generic and simple, it fits, given the protagonists are only children. I expect more nuance and captions to capture the feelings and emotions of characters and environment, but the simplicity has its place here. In spite of the simplicity, Lemire does a commendable job detailing the shifting relationships between the children.

While there doesn’t appear to be a central character, more care was taken with Mie, Ray, and Teddy, but I did feel not as much was given towards Diane and Mike. Still, each character had very distinct personalities that made it difficult for me to like or dislike any of them. They were all flawed, as humans are–and children, especially.

The relationships serve to add to the disturbing nature of this series. There are friends who grow closer, friends who grow apart, others who are clearly being used, and those who are so desperate for acceptance or develop a sense of self. For that, Lemire deserves credit.

Image result for plutona

Teddy’s evolution–or devolution–it’s the most striking in Plutona. Who this boy is, and what his aspirations and obsession are, are hashed out in frightening fashion. I was almost disgusted with this meek child’s actions. Was he psychotic, or was he just like other bullied children with repressed and bottled anger, just waiting for the properly escape, trigger, and outlet?

Image result for plutona

 

The interesting thing about this book is, despite its name, the heroine Plutona is not the focus. Her background is delved upon only sparingly, but never the exact nature or origin of her powers. The book deals with the children’s discovering her and the fallout of that discovery.

Emi Lenox’s art is more cartoonish than I’m accustomed to when it comes to a book this serious. However, she captures the appropriate emotions in her characters to help drive the story. Each character is their own, and you can really feel their emotions on their faces, aided even more by Lemire’s script.

This is one book I don’t want to spoil (also because Kay hadn’t read it yet, and she’s a real whiner when it comes to spoilers), but you really have to read this series and see just how the ending comes about. It was just…simple, yet chaotic and disturbing with a somewhat open ending.

Verdict?

Plutona is started out as a simple fantasy that took a severely dark and disturbing turn. Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox work well in this hard tale of how children deal with a secret that becomes a crisis. This book gets a thumbs-up from me.

END THROWDOWN.

Advertisements

The Coming of Black

Happy October, world. D.C. here to start off this month with something that garnered intense discussion.

Recently, it’s been revealed that a new miniseries by publisher Black Mask Comics will be out this coming week, called Black.

Image result for black comics kwanza

The controversy with this kickstarted series by Kwanza Osajyefo is succinct:

“What if only black people had super powers?” You can find the article here.

With a logline like that, one might imagine the firestorm in the comic fandom–if indeed the rage is from the fandom.

On a thread tonight, I saw a large swath of comments which consisted of variations this sort: “Hypocrites,” or “If a white writer wrote this, everyone would call it racist!” or “What if the shoe was on the other foot?!” or “Garbage.”

This book, like anything controversial or other, invoked such emotion. Supporters and opponents of Black threw verbal stones at Osajyefo and at one another: racist. Racist, racist, racist.

After reading the article and the comments, my view is something like this:

Racism is a strong word to use anytime, anywhere. You have to really, really know when to use it. There are sensitive people on both sides of the argument who are too quick to call something or someone racist whenever it is something they don’t like. If you want to call something racist, you need to understand what–and most importantly why–something is racist. It’s not truth just because it comes out of your mouth or your fingers.

Using the “if a white person did this…” argument is short-sighted and, in my eyes, seeks to mitigate one’s hang ups without actual proof. To argue in such a black and white way means you disregard content and context from a historical and current events perspective.

Ignore context and history, and books like these get supplanted by less informed and less intelligent dialogue. It’s one thing to write a book like Black off as racist or bad, provided you’ve read it. But in lieu of reading and understanding the content of the story, how much information can one go off on before calling something racist, PC, pandering, or garbage? How well can you judge its merit?

Racism in media exist. Racist media does exist. Movies such as the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation” can be seen as racist. Books like 1978 The Turner Diaries can be seen as racist. Still, someone like me can see why some of those have importance. I mean, hell, “Birth of a Nation” is on the American Film Institute’s 100 top films list.

black-04

I am a tried and true comic fan, and I find controversial topics very intriguing. If it were any other ethnicity, including white, with powers, I would still be curious to see how said group of people will use or squander their powers. I think books like this, if written well, can serve as strong, potential cautionary tales of bias, identity, conforming, social and racial tensions, prejudice, and humanity, on all sides of the coin.

Rather than cry foul or racism, I choose to read a book. Rather than be a fool and run on emotions (and Kay knows my emotions), I choose to judge a book by its content, context, and merit.

If Black, a miniseries that puts a controversial spin on superheroes and intends to address social issues that do involve black people, black sentiment, and tensions, makes you outraged, I ask: Why?

Why are you outraged? Why SHOULD you be outraged? Are you outraged at the message of the book? The content of the book? Its execution/portrayal? The very idea of the book?

Careful, though. The answers we get will tell us exactly how a dissenter thinks.

END THROWDOWN.

Rat Queens, Vol. 2

“And if I am to be the high priestess, I will do everything in my power to protect my people from it.”

Salutations, lovers of comics and fiction. D.C. here, and today I’m doing a follow-up on this book:

In my last review on the first volume of Image’s Rat Queens, I was a little bit iffy about the series, but I decided to give it another shot with Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth. The title alone implied that cleric Dee might have been the prime focus of this book.

I was only partly right.

Da good stuff

Volume 2 is ripe with character development that actually happens for very good reasons. Hell, the volume has some moments of trickery, too.

The first issue shows the immediate morning following Volume 1. All four protagonists awake in their own ways. Of particular interest was Dee’s awakening. The other girls had peaceful, happy, or chaotic mornings. However, Dee’s was as lonely as her evening at the end of Volume 1. You almost feel sad for her.

Or it’d make you ask, “Why is a woman like her always alone?” You find out here.

From there, we see a man with a grudge come after Sawyer and the people in Palisade as a whole. It is then that we find out some startling events in Sawyer’s past. From there, the s*** really starts to hit the fan, and it seems as if Dee is the key to saving Palisade.

The art provided by Roc Upchurch continues to astound in conjunction with Kurtis Wiebe’s  script. There’s not much that needs to be said there that I hadn’t said previously.

The strongest aspect of Volume 2, in my eyes, was the sheer amount of background history provided on many of the characters.

When the story arc’s antagonist summons a horde of demons to wreak havoc on Palisade and the rest of the world, the demon’s reality-warping magics forces every person who survives to relive meaning moments in their lives. Through this, we learn the background about many characters, from last names to moments that enable the reader to go, “Aaaaaaaaah, so that’s why they’re like that,” or “Oh, that’s how they know each other.”

I even felt a little more for Hannah. Her background easily smoothens out the excessively rough edges in her demeanor. I commend Wiebe on his use of the plot to provide characterization so very well.

 

The meh…

Again, what is with the profanity? I can overlook cussing. Hell, I enjoy profanity. But Kurtis Wiebe makes some idiotic profanity. Really, in any time and space, who would ever come up with words like “dickbread”? It would have been funnier and more understandable if Wiebe used entirely weird profanity to make it work with the world of Rat Queens, but he interjects them with more “normal” profanity. It makes it sound like he just pulled out others haphazardly and with no reason.

Some scenes seem nonsensical. Betty and Hannah’s little sappy moment in the first issue was very cute, but…why did it happen? Just because of events in the prior trade? That can be understood, but it did come off as a random inclusion.

Drug-based comedy is also a minus for me

The editing of the dialogue fails sometimes, in a grammatical sense. And for a grammar Nazi like me, I find it very unprofessional, and very grating for an adult to be illiterate. For example:

“Fuck you’re depressed.”

I know we live in a lazy-writing text world, but would it kill anyone to take a split second and put a comma where it’s needed? “Fuck, you’re depressed.”

I don’t know if it was Wiebe who sucks are grammar, or if it was an editing mistake, but it shouldn’t happen, period.

No run-on sentences, please!!!

Also, there was one scene in which the word “offense” was used, and when used again, it was written as “offence.” Both forms do exist and have the same meaning (homonyms?), but why rotate between the two forms? It can look confusing. But that’s me splitting hairs.

Hannah’s background confused me a bit, simply because of the final page of the arc. I’m left to assume that part of the demons’ magic wasn’t simply retracing memories, but hallucinogenic in nature.

Story-wise, the biggest failure of Volume 2 is that the primary antagonist’s defeat is so anticlimactic. The antagonist had a background and enough reason that one could sympathize with his actions. But as for his defeat? Perhaps it was supposed to be simple, but the chaos he wrought before made his defeat later sour everything prior.

 

Recap

Rat Queens, Vol. 2 delivers very much the same deal as in Volume 1. Same good and engaging art, same crass comedy. Kurtis Wiebe does a fantastic job delving into the backgrounds of the cast using a very sensible and effective method in the summoned demons. However, I was left dissatisfied by the antagonist’s defeat and the bothersome styles of profanity used here. In spite of that, Volume 2 ends on a very good note between Hannah and Sawyer, with another set up to Volume 3.

This series has been very hit and miss with me, but I will read Volume 3 with the hopes of improvement.

END THROWDOWN.

The F*^*ing Rat Queens!

This is D.C., here to throw down on probably one of the oddest choices of comic I picked up: Rat Queens, by Image Comics.

I came across Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery a month ago at Barnes & Noble and was perplexed. Fantasy, especially of the “Lord of the Rings” style was never my cup of tea. But then I said, “To hell with it,” and decided to broaden my horizons.

Rat Queens is a fantasy-comedy about a quartet of women in a village called Palisade: Hannah, a mage; Violet, a sword-slinging dwarf; Dee, a human cleric; and Betty, wily smidgen…I don’t even know what a smidgen is.  All I know is it’s smaller than a dwarf.

So here’s my opinion of this book:

Da good stuff

Volume 1 of Rat Queens hits the ground running in terms of comedy and action. There seriously are no dull moments, as written by Kurtis J. Weibe.

The four protagonists are the epitome of girl power. Each of them are sassy, powerful, and intelligent women who clearly need no man to help them. My personal favorites were Hannah and Violet. Hannah is just so full of sass and, even among her teammates in the Rat Queens, she is so sure of herself and doesn’t give a care how (most) people see her. Hannah’s personality is so strong, yes you can see her fragile side when she interacts with Sawyer

I’m also a bit biased, because I’ve always had a thing for mages in video games, a la Final Fantasy:

Damn, that sass…

Violet showed herself to have a somewhat stronger moral compass than the other Rat Queens…or at least somewhat more honorable. She is a brash character that seems to have a chip on her shoulder (as well as a sensible head there), buther short interaction with the most important person in her life adds an interesting side to the otherwise harsh dwarf.

Awww…look at them argue…

Dee surprised me the most of the four protagonists. Her character design gave me the impression that she’d be some sort of wild animal, or even something sultry. Towards the end of Volume 1, we see that Dee has such an introverted personality that it makes communicating with her awkward. It was a refreshing turn in the end of the book.

 

Got game?

Betty…She has more depth to her than I thought at the end of this volume. She honestly annoyed me with her somewhat adolescent behavior (part of her quirks, so it’s purely my opinion), but her interaction with a potential love interest shows that even this carefree smidgen can have moments of uncertainty and sadness. She’s much smarter than she appears, and for an investigator like me…I find it extremely appealing.

 

No, she ain’t!

Rat Queens did well shed some light on the many characters without having to be blatant about character history. The snippets provided made me wonder what those moments meant, and made me realize that there is more to see about each character.

The interactions between the Rat Queens themselves was very fluid and natural. How each woman treated the other when they interacted was very genuine.

Roc Upchurch’s art is done very well. I can’t find much to describe it, except that it’s crisp, clean, and fits the tone and genre of a fantasy-comedy. The body parts aren’t drawn out of proportion, aside from the orcs and smidgens–which were meant to be so. But the body proportions look appropriate in general.

The best thing to me about Rat Queens is that the four protagonist aren’t unbeatable. They’re not so badass that they can just defeat anyone easily. The Rat Queens aren’t perfect in their teamwork, such as when Hannah tried to a different tactic than what the other three proposed. And she gets her arm crushed as a result:

…See where lack of teamwork gets you?

To me, it’s more enjoyable to see a team that NOT perfect, one that can make serious mistakes. A team that actually needs each other to succeed (none of that “friendship makes us strong!” nonsense you see in manga/anime).

Da not-so-good stuff

First beef:

This will sound prudish of me, but my biggest beef with Rat Queens was the abundant profanity. I have no qualms about profanity (and indulge in it often), but I felt that there was too much profanity in these first five issues. Not only were some of the choices of words weird (“shitcakes,” “fucktarts?”), but the sheer amount distracted me to the point that it wasn’t always funny.

Okay…this was funny.

Second beef:

I’ve always had a dislike of mainstream media including drugs in their stories. To me, a lot writers/artists only include drugs to cater to a modern audience like ours, or because they just believe it’s a normal thing to do now. Like all things, I feel even drugs has its place in a story for a particular reason. In Rat Queens, I feel it’s there just because. It’s an unnecessary and callous element to have in there.

….Hm…

Third beef:

While Violet, Hannah, and Betty each had the spotlight in their own ways, I felt that Dee received far less. Nothing about her really stood out to me, aside from her surprisingly introverted personality. That was enjoyable to see of Dee. The fortunate part was that the end of Volume 1 very much alluded to adventures dealing with a figure related to Dee’s past.

Fourth beef:

Oddly enough, there were ZERO captions in this book. Not even a “Meanwhile…”

I look at captions as the writer exercising their literary skill to help the reader understand what is going on. It’s not mandatory, as Rat Queens has clearly shown, but it IS an effective literary device. What would happen if no character is speaking, and they’re lost in their own thoughts or feelings? Wouldn’t captions help the reader to understand what the characters are experiencing? Sometimes body language is insufficient.

Does the writer have no skill in caption writing? I wonder.

(If you want to see how well a literary device captions are, you can read my blog on Miracleman.)

The creative team could and should exercise their literary chops beyond just character speech. We’ll just have to see in later issues how the writer tackle this.

Recap

Rat Queens, Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery is a lavish romp in a fantasy world the features a strong cast and very strong women. The protagonists, and even several supporting characters, received some spotlight into their behaviors, histories, and–perhaps most importantly–their personalities. Each character had his or her own quirks that set them apart from the next character, which left me very pleased and hungry to know more about them.

For RPG or MMORPG fans, this comics reads and performs almost like those type of games, with the clear battle classes, and how certain skills and abilities are indicative of those classes. It’s a treat.

While the four main characters were clearly 3-dimensional, I felt there were unnecessary elements in this story, especially in terms of drug use and an inordinate amount of profanity that detracted from an otherwise funny and exciting story. Whether that will distract YOU, however, is a matter of opinion.

After what I heard from the creative team at Wondercon, I think I’ll buy Volume 2 of Rat Queens, just to see if gets better. All in all, this book has more than earned another shot.

END THROWDOWN!