Outcast

I’ll be back to writing for comicommand soon, and should have an article for them around January 15. My first piece for the new year will be a piece on Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed. Until then, I wanted to share some thoughts on another ongoing series that I’m reading.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is undoubtedly the comic that turned me into a serious comic book reader. It started with Rick Grimes, then moved on to Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, Billy The Butcher, Mark Grayson, and now Kyle Barnes.

After binging on Invincible and then having to wait until February for the next issue, I eagerly sought out Kirkman’s latest series. After giving us a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, and then a superhero story, Kirkman delves into demonic possession.

Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life is plagued with demonic possession and who is ostracized in his hometown after allegedly hurting his wife and daughter. While Kyle knows something changed his wife, making her attack their daughter, no one else believes him. As he returns home, Reverend Anderson helps to open his eyes to the truth of demonic possession.

Although I have not seen many films related to possession, I have always been interested in the subject. Firstly, Paul Azaceta’s artwork truly helps to bring the story to life from the first frame onward. The style is somewhat simple, compared to works like Punisher: Max, but is reminiscent of Invincible. Azaceta fits the comic’s atmosphere of horror by seamlessly transitioning from relatively simple frames, to ones that are genuinely unsettling.

 

Kirkman is also able to explore a religious theme, without creating a story that is pro or anti-Christian. Kyle represents the skeptic, while Reverend Anderson is the holy man who slowly makes Kyle accept the truth of exorcism. The story could come across as formulaic with this set up, but Anderson is a layered character who believes in the Lord, while also having his own doubts about institutionalized religion and God. Anderson’s thoughts are some of the most interesting parts of the story.

Kirkman also adds interesting modifications to the exorcism mythos, which are slowly explained as we get further into the series. In some ways, the exorcism links to several other issues in Kyle’s life. His mother abused him due to her possession and his wife abused their daughter. Both of these periods have significantly affected Kyle’s psyche, which leaves him in a dark place that aligns with the overall tone of the comic. Every triumph that Kyle faces is followed by another revelation that causes more pain or a setback from the forces that are working against him.

With each issue, we learn more about the possessed and the overarching conflict continues to build with Issue #24, which was released today.

Like The Walking Dead, Outcast currently has its own television show as well. One season is complete, and it has been renewed for another. Clearly, it isn’t the phenomenon The Walking Dead is, but maybe the show isn’t as hampered by filler. That’s a post for another day.

The Boys- Fallen Idols

Hello everyone,

My latest post for comicommand is available on the site and copied below. After reading Garth Ennis’s Preacher I was eager to check out some of his other work, but was worried that other works would disappoint in comparison. However, I am loving The Boys just as much as Preacher.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading Preacher, I was eager to check out Garth Ennis’s other work. I heard mixed reviews about The Boys, but after reading 40 issues, I can safely say that I’m loving the series. The Boys takes place in a world where the greatest superheroes are morally corrupted celebrities. The elite teams have corporate backing and become increasingly disconnected with normal humans, which also results in the careless loss of human life during their conflicts with supervillains.

The Boys is the nickname for a CIA squad that is responsible for keeping the heroes in line through intimidation or violence if need be. While I love the characters, one of my favourite things about the series is its depiction of superheroes. There aren’t many supervillains in the universe, since many super-powered people elect for an easier life as public idols. If a hero becomes popular enough through his conquests or sales of his own comic book, he gets to join an elite team, such as The Seven (a twisted version of The Justice League). With elite status, comes corporate funding, public appearances and full-blown celebrity status.

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Deciding to be a hero doesn’t mean that these figures are actually the good guys. Billy the Butcher, the leader of The Boys, knows firsthand that they view regular people as toys. When Malchemical, one of the most deadly heroes, is relegated to the C-List Superduper group, he lashes out after their leader submits a complaint about him. The concepts of consequences or judgment are foreign to him and he believes that yelling “I’m a superhero” frees him of all wrongdoing. When Malchemical continues to be ostracized by the group he attacks its leader and attempts to rape two of its members. Billy also knows that this is regular behavior for Malchemical. Numerous other incidents in the comics also show other abuses of power from other characters, whether it is rape or attempted murder. The Seven, for the most part, are a group of frat boys high on their own power.

Recent films like Man of Steel have been criticized for their depiction of the destruction that transpires when super-powered beings fight one another. I never jumped on this bandwagon since some level of damage seems inevitable and because the damage often becomes a plot point in future films, just like Superman’s fight with Zod plays a central role in BatmanvSuperman, or how the destruction in Avengers 1 and 2 leads to Civil War. The Boys starts off with a civilian being killed during a fight between a villain and A-Train, a member of The Seven. The difference here is A-Train’s lack of empathy. He realizes what he has done, but quickly leaves since the paramedics can take care of everything else. Later, he also attempts to rape The Seven’s newest number, Starlight.

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Some might see the moral depravity of The Seven as a caricature, but the heroes are no different than politicians, judges, police officers, athletes, musicians etc, who get caught up in scandal after scandal. A sense of invincibility (literally in the case of the heroes) can lead to a lack of restraint and can corrupt people who may have started their pursuit with noble intentions. For every superhero who is morally pure, similar to our typical image of Superman, there are ten who are simply in the business for the money and adoration. Values like justice mean very little and are simply useful platitudes that the heroes use to justify their presence. The Boys is a depressing look at a society filled with superheroes, but it may be the most realistic.

The Old and The New

Hello everyone,

Below is my latest past for comicommand

 

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The popularity of Marvel and DC Comics almost leads to word association. Superhero comics are often tied to one of the two behemoths, since they are the oldest producers of superhero comics. However, it is this longevity that leads to one of the biggest issues of the big publishers. The plethora of comic book titles, events, authors and timelines for each character can make jumping in seem overwhelming for prospective readers. Not to mention relaunches such as the ultimate comics for Marvel, and rebirth for DC. These relaunches can serve the practical purpose of giving newcomers a fresh start, but that impact quickly fades once the new series reaches a certain point. In the case of the ultimate universe, catching up with sixteen years of comics is better than fifty, but can still be daunting. In the case of DC, I have heard great things about Rebirth, but it appears some of the most poignant moments I have heard of would not be as effective without some prior knowledge of certain story-lines. Entries on this site, such as the lists by the Commander, acknowledge this problem and are meant to provide recommendations for tackling the medium. However, the fact that lists like these are necessary attests to the issue.  Before readers get their pitchforks, I want to clarify that I am not trying to criticize the format of superhero comics or their rich history and diversity. I am only saying that, objectively, it does lead to of the strengths (in my opinion) that smaller imprints such as Vertigo and Image Comics have.

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The last comic series I read was Vertigo’s Y The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic story where all male mammals spontaneously die, except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. I heard about the comic, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take another series on. What convinced me was seeing that it was only sixty issues. One weekend later, I binge read the entire series. It wasn’t only sixty issues because it got cancelled, but because that was the end of the story. Yorick’s journey ended, and the series ended with it.

I am also currently reading Image Comics’, The Walking Dead. Although the series is longer, currently on issue 155, it is likely to be a more straightforward read than decades of comics from other characters.
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Marvel and DC titles do of course have graphic novels, or certain series for each character, like The Dark Knight Returns and the ongoing Injustice series. These stories can either be an alternate version of a character or simply an isolated story arc. These can provide a great introduction to characters but can also lose some impact for new readers. In the case of Injustice, the set up to the story is rooted in references to Doomsday and Scarecrow. If someone reading the series didn’t know the characters, then the story could lose its effectiveness. Some of these self-contained stories, do not really function as self-contained ones, still requiring some level of knowledge from other comics. Of course, this is typically only an issue for more popular characters like the Justice League, with (relatively) smaller titles such as Transmetropolitan being truly self-contained.

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With The Walking Dead and Y The Last Man, all of the world building is done within the series. There are no related tie-ins, background info or even general comic knowledge that needs to be consulted. The story can simply be followed with one issue after another, with no need to switch between events. I do not have a problem with burying myself in the history of DC and Marvel. I know that for many people, the sheer variety is what draws them to comics. They look forward to seeing how a new writer handles their favourite characters. They don’t dread having to catch up, they look forward to it. The success of Marvel and DC Comics makes it clear that many people may not even see the limited stories of Vertigo and Image as a strength. I do look forward to reading more DC and Marvel comics, and getting more caught up with the stable of writers and stories available. This viewpoint is very subjective, I only hope that readers may be able to understand my point of view.

More Marvel Brainwashing

Due to my schedule for tomorrow, it’s likely that there won’t be a blog post up for Friday night. However, there should still be one up for Saturday and Sunday. I’m also planning on doing a YouTube video over the weekend as well.

Some early reviews of X: Men Apocalypse are in and the film currently has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. After seeing the unwarranted trashing that BatmanvSuperman got, I am not going to let the reviews impact my attendance. BvS was a 6.5 in my opinion, but the 32% it has on Rotten Tomatoes is unwarranted. BvS does have legitimate faults such as Eisenberg’s Luthor and the third act, and I have heard many complaints I can understand, even if I don’t agree. The one complaint I can’t stand is that the tone is an issue. The film is “too dark” “too gloomy”, too “depressing”. The problem is that people now think “dark” and “good” are mutually exclusive. Apparently you can’t have one without the other in a comic book movie, unless it’s for a certain character. People are so used to the MCU’s light-hearted tone that anything that is darker is instantly disparaged. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out this review I found with a quick Google search of “X-Men apocalypse”.

Most of the criticism is levied at the film’s tone. Too “gloomy”, “dour”, not enough fun. Most of the review just compares the X-Men film to MCU films, saying it is different than them and therefore inferior. That is not how a review of a different franchise should work. Judge the film as a single unit. The last paragraph wraps the review up with comparisons to the MCU. Although the author says that every film doesn’t need the MCU’s level of banter, she obviously does not mean that if the tone bothered her so much. This mindset that dark now equals bad, is a perfect example of corporate brainwashing.