Archive for July, 2014


This Week in Panels: Week 250

July 6th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s time for This Week in Panels! The weekly segment where my wonderful contributors and I all take the comics we’ve read over the course of this week and cut them down into one panel. One representative panel that tries to explain the issue. We’ve only been doing this for… oh shit, 250?! Christ.

Yes, it’s Week 250. For nearly five years I’ve been doing this series. I started this back when Old Man Logan and Blackest Night were still going on. I originally got the idea during the short time I was writing at Pop Culture Shock. I did a bunch of one-paragraph comic reviews every week and I hated it. How many times can you write the same review of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America?

A few years before that, one comic site I can’t remember (probably Newsarama) had a preview of an upcoming issue of Civil War. Rather than show several pages, it just showed a handful of panels without context. I found the whole thing more intriguing than if we got the regular style of preview and I guess that just stayed with me. Another thing that stuck with me was when people would talk about the first Agents of Atlas series. One thing I’ve read once or twice was that it didn’t matter what you had to say about the comic in terms of opinion. Just show the panel of a 1950’s robot running down a hallway carrying a talking gorilla while said gorilla shoots four guns via both hand and both feet. That says everything.

I figured that I read a bunch of comics on a weekly basis, but nobody really had any interest in my opinions. Why would they? I’m just some guy on the internet. Worse than that, I’m a guy whose favorite character is an alien-wearing journalist-turned-hobo with delusions of grandeur recognized for being one of the poster boys of everything wrong with the 90’s. My opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Why talk about what I read when I could just show you in its purest form and let you decide for yourself? I suggested the This Week in Panels idea to David and he put a cigar out on my face. I took that to mean, “Yes, go ahead.”

ThWiP has been very good to me and I was happy to see that it got enough regular readers and regular contributors. Gaijin Dan and Space Jawa especially, who never missed a beat when it came to sending me their stuff. I’m glad to see my idea was vindicated and it kept enough people interested.

With a heavy heart, I’m announcing that after 250 wonderful weeks, I’m stepping down from This Week in Panels. It sucks, but I need to move on. One of the things about starting ThWiP was that I wanted to do a weekly series for the sake of proving to myself that I could hit a regular deadline. And I did. Unless there was a hurricane or some kind of power-destroying storm, I hit the update every Sunday. Then I got my position at Den of Geek US, which has responsibilities beyond just writing articles. Plus my main job has been keeping me busier and busier. ThWiP updates went from regularly happening over the course of Sunday night to late Monday night or even early Tuesday morning. Simply put, I actually have real deal deadlines to deal with now.

Hell, I haven’t written a non-ThWiP update for 4thletter! since WrestleMania happened. I kind of need to rectify that and I have only so many hours in the day.

ThWiP isn’t done-done, at least. Space Jawa, otherwise known as Michael Stangeland (or as I keep accidentally typing, “Strangeland”) will be taking up the mantle. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of.

Anyway, I still have this 250th update to do. We got me, Gaijin Dan, Matlock, Space Jawa, Was Taters, AnarChris and Dickeye. Let’s go down the road one more time.

Action Comics #33
Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift, Pt 2
Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet #4
Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman and Ty Templeton

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Fort of Apocalypse: violence comix

July 2nd, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 03

Fort of Apocalypse, written by Yuu Kuraishi and drawn by Kazu Inabe, isn’t that great. It’s serialized on Crunchyroll, and the hook is that it’s a horror manga with a zombie twist, mostly set in and around a Japanese juvenile detention center. It stars a group of boys who have to fight to survive in the school before being forced to fight for their lives as the world goes to hell. The problem is that it jettisons the most interesting aspects of that concept in favor of…bland twists, basically. It opens with a Nietzsche quote about gazing into the abyss, a painfully obvious move, and most characters are either borderline psychopathic, deranged, or totally cool with people doing deranged things on a regular basis. “You must be new here,” Fort of Apocalypse says. “Let’s start from the beginning.”

It’s endlessly derivative—or, being generous and disingenuous, “reminiscent”—of other, better, more popular works. Deadman Wonderland and The Walking Dead are the two most obvious touchstones for me, but there’s a bit of Highschool of the Dead and Lord of the Flies peeking in around the edges, too. Fort of Apocalypse lacks the ultra-fetishized hyper-sexuality of HotD, which has a weirdo carnival appeal/anti-appeal of its own, and instead goes for broke in another direction.

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 04

The art’s weird. It’s similar to a less stylish and stylized Dogs: Bullets & Carnage. It’s usually passable—not great, but good enough for a good panel here and there, and some good monster monster design and composition overall. Paired with the tone of the writing, Fort of Apocalypse feels seedy-but-familiar, a feel-bad comic that doesn’t actually make you feel bad at all but makes a big production out of going through the motions.

It’s not great, but it is lurid. One short scene:

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 06

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 07

Immediately before this moment in time, a different man in an irrelevant location sits up on his autopsy table, his back arched and general body language definitively inhuman. It’s an old trick—show the thing, then cut away to build tension or emphasize the spread of a sickness. The apocalypse is not coming. It is here.

These characters are blanks, almost. Generic Husband and Generic Wife, unnamed and un-missed. They’re there to die, and while that isn’t remarkable (even the shot of the room to suggest unseen horrible violence is old and busted this time around), the next spread was:

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 08

I was expecting a bunch of cuts away from the action to show the apocalypse rising, but I wasn’t being mean enough. A spread of the husband eating his probably-dismembered wife is bad enough, but what killed and grabbed me was the way the scene ends with a close-up of a family photo drawn by their kid, complete with an “I love you daddy!” inscription.

It’s one of those hilariously manipulative moves people pull sometimes, stacking up sad concepts like cordwood without putting in any work to make you believe in those concepts enough to feel bad about it. In better hands, this scene would be the ultimate betrayal. But Kuraishi and Inabe lean edgy, not poignant. I was struck by the meanness of that choice, the way it puts the idea in your head and then immediately moves on to the next one after your imagination fills in what happens next.

While the comic isn’t great, it’s got a mean edge that I enjoy. It’s sorta like the first season of The Following, the Kevin Bacon/James Purefoy serial killer cult thriller on FOX. That show is frequently trashy and incredibly poorly written. But it has a habit of going there that makes for good tv. Spearguns in diners, stabbings on subways, Edgar Allen Poe fetishists, and a conclave of serial killing English majors. A little “Can you believe this?” goes a long way. (Not that long, actually—season two doubled down on sad boring stubble dudes and I raced for the door before it was half-over.) It got me through a dozen volumes of Gantz, maybe even more. This isn’t Gantz on account of being nowhere near misanthropic and evil as that series, but it gets by.

Fort of Apocalypse is lurid, but doesn’t feel cruel, even when a zombie grabs a teen’s upper and lower jaws and yanks them in opposite directions. Mitsuhisa Kuji’s Wolfsmund is real. She wants you to feel it, and it feels cruel. Fort of Apocalypse isn’t that. They want to show you outrageous things so you can go “yo, gross!” and then turn the page for more, and it turns out the best way to do that is to fill your comic with damaged and broken people who adjust to the end of the world by losing their minds.

Fort of Apocalypse - Kazu Inabe - 05

I’m not sure how long I’ll last with Fort of Apocalypse, but it seems like once a volume, something outrageous enough to keep me interested happens. It goes there.

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