comics, comics criticism, dc comics, marvel, no context comics, writing

No Context Comics: A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read from the Week of May 3

Nothing on shelves this week feels particularly exciting as I eagerly await the upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 25. But let’s explore some books I’m not reading and see what they have to offer until next Wednesday comes.

Yoda # 7

Marvel. Marc Guggenheim, Writer. Alessandro Miracolo, Artist. Annalisa Leoni, Colors. Joe Caramagna, Letters. Mikey J. Basso, Danny Khazem, and Mark Paniccia, Editors.

We open in a swamp down and Dagobah, where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated Soda…S-O-D-A, Soda. There’s the little runt in his house, talking to a ghost in this comic about Yoda. Y-O-D-A, Yoda.

What a disappointment, man. I love Yoda. This comic gives us nothing of anything that makes the character interesting. This is the second Guggenheim Star Wars title I’ve read and I’m not thrilled by the trend.

As far as accessibility goes, this issue is easy to follow but that’s because it feels like a random episode of a cartoon. There are no stakes to be seen. The big shocking major threat revealed toward the end of the issue is that Count Dooku is going to build a big droid, which just menas more cannon fodder for lightsabers to tear through. We know what happens in the Clone Wars. We’ve got a hundred episodes about that conflict. It’s well-trod territory. 

I fundamentally do not understand how you take this fascinating character and turn it into a generic action book. It is disappointing to me that Yoda is so often boiled down to just another lightsaber swinging warrior in many adaptations and spin-offs. The spiritual figure we were introduced to in Empire is much more compelling than the more bureaucratic prequels Yoda who is blinded by his hubris. The journey between those two versions could make for a very compelling and dramatic personal story. But that doesn’t happen here.

Yoda’s explanation of the Force in Empire Strikes Back, is quite a powerful explanation of the 

Mystic religious tradition. As silly as it may seem, it has been a source of inspiration for my own spiritual life and my own exploration of contemplation. No appearances of Yoda since have ever felt quite so powerfully and frighteningly wise.

I don’t dislike Yoda in the prequels, because that profound failure is part of what brings him to wher he is in on Dagobah in the Original Trilogy. He has been humbled and learned that his beliefs of mastery over the Force were directly responsible for what became of the Jedi Order. Pride replaced surrender. Yoda wrongly believed he was in control. By Empire, he has accepted that The Force acts upon the world despite what individuals do, not at the whim of any creature. The tree, the rock, everything, they are no less important.

Guggenheim gives us none of the self reflection between the younger Yoda and the dying Yoda. There is a framing device of the familiar older version of the character on Dagobah, bitter and arguing with a disembodied voice (presumably Qui-Gon). But it is vague and non-specific to the point of being meaningless. 

The art does the thin story no favors. It’s not bad in and of itself, but it runs into a problem that plagues many Star Wars comics. When adapting a live action property, unless your art is hyper stylized, if your likenesses are not spot-on (even for the creatures), it becomes very distracting.  Miracolo’s art is in that realistic mode and is just-so much off that reading this book is to be constantly reminded of what a character should look like.

His General Grievous looks really cool though, and the fight scene between the cyborg and Jedi Master is well done and staged quite well. Miracolo’s art is well-suited to the kinetic quality of both Yoda’s leaping fighting style and Grievous’s helicopter arms. It’s a highlight in an otherwise dull issue. Leoni’s colors are great throughout. They are very slick with evocative shadows and shifting color schemes to reflect the mood of a given page. 

I have been wanting to jump into this title for this column over the few months that I’ve been unable to do any writing. It’s a real disappointment, because I’ve enjoyed a lot of Marvel’s Star Wars books, and Darth Vader has been so consistently strong. 

I Hate This Place # 8

Image/Skybound. Kyle Starks, Writer. Artyom Topilin, Art. Lee Loughridge, Colors. Pat Brousseau, Letters. Alex Antone, Editor.

I like what I’ve read from Starks, though there are some major works of his that I’ve not gotten into. He’s got a great sense of humor and pacing. Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton was one of my favorite comics of 2021. But I Hate This Place just has not spoken to me…I read, reviewed, and enjoyed the first issue, but horror is just not a genre I particularly care for so I have not felt compelled to revisit it. Generally, there needs to be something exceptional for me to feel invested in a horror story in any medium. I Hate This Place was a solid book with likable characters but it didn’t have that extra something to draw me into a genre I don’t care much about.

The apocalyptic turn the story took in the intervening seven issues was a fun shock. Starks’ dialogue is as witty as ever. His humor is far more restrained here, but there’s a snappy rhythm to the way characters talk that is inherently funny. Artyom Topilin’s inky, frenetic lines emphasize the lead character’s frazzled mental state as she tries to process what is going on. Topilin’s layouts complement Starks’ comedic sensibilities, with panel breaks signifying abrupt pauses and sudden surprise moments. Brutal moments of violence are delivered like punchlines.

That same pacing and ability to surprise in an abrupt change between imagery is also a powerful tool for creating unsettling and suspenseful moments. Combined with Topilin’s heavy, fraying blacks the book gets downright spooky. Even with my general aversion to the horror genre, I found myself absorbed into Gabby’s frantic escape.

In terms of context, this issue picks up immediately from the last issue, but gives enough details that the stakes and events are clear enough from the outset to understand what is going on. Even without knowing all of the rules and intervening events of the first issue and this latest one, I was immediately buying into the tension and dramatic stakes. It goes to show that talented creators can make any genre work, even ones you generally don’t care for.

The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing # 8

Matthew Rosenberg, Writer. Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist. Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colors. Tom Napolitano, Letters. Dave Wielgosz and Ben Abernathy, Editors.

I found this issue to be quite exhausting. Constant patter and flashing back and forth between scenes made it a chore. This is the second Rosenberg comic in as many weeks and I definitely enjoyed his creator owned comic more. 

I don’t think there’s anything particularly bad here. The two separate Joker stories was a bit confusing at first until we learned at least one of them was an imposter and they were two separate characters. But I found myself not caring too much who was who because they both seem essentially exactly the same. (Alternatively: This is building off of the “we should pretend it never happened” THREE JOKERS, which I choose to believe is not the case)

Mostly this issue is just a bunch of big fight scenes with the Joker chattering away the entire time. There are a couple of funny gags throughout but nothing that happens here is particularly memorable or feels particularly essential. In my opinion, if you’re going to make a comic book about the Joker it has to have something to say about the character. At least in this issue, there is nothing that reveals anything of note or offers a new perspective on the character.

It also took me out of the book entirely when there were a couple characters who did not know who the Joker was. Sure, you live in LA but this guy has got to be the most notorious killer on the planet. Everyone is going to know who the Joker is!!

I also wasn’t crazy about the art in this one. The linework is rubbery and the colors are washed out and full of gradient pastels like an early aughts “just figuring out digital coloring” comic. 

As a standalone issue, this offers little. In the context of a serialized story, it seems to offer even less as nothing really happens outside of the Joker leaving LA to go back to Gotham, which is on the last page.


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