This Week in Panels: Week 71

January 30th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Back from watching the biggest, sexiest Royal Rumble, it’s now time for me to post a bunch of panels before passing out. Lots and lots of help from David, Was Taters, Space Jawa and VersasoVantare. Let’s get to it!

Action Comics #897
Paul Cornell and Pete Woods

Avengers #9
Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.

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The Experience [Shadowland: Power Man 02]

September 17th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Verisimilitude is what makes stories work. It’s a measure of how true the story is and how closely it sticks to believability. Do characters speak, behave, and dress as they should? It’s a tough thing to nail and even tougher to describe. Verisimilitude requires a lot of intangibles to get right, the sort of things that you can only really judge via gut reactions. One man’s dead-on is another man’s completely wrong.

Creating believable white characters is relatively easy. White’s the default ethnicity for Americans, and we’re positively drowning in white culture, for whatever definition of white culture you choose to subscribe to, so you don’t need a lot of reference. Non-white characters, or white European characters, are something exceptional. They’re black or Mexican or Japanese or Scottish characters, rather than just characters. You have to put some sauce on them to get them right.

The black experience is one of those things that exists, but is different for every single person. It’s just real life–some things are common, other things are rare, and the full experience is something unique. The key to verisimilitude is capturing those common aspects so that people reading it can grab onto them. They provide a touchstone, or something to relate to. The more of the story that is true for you, the more of it that you’re willing to buy into. It’s a con. You get someone to believe one thing and they’re much more likely to believe the next thing you tell them.

Chris Claremont’s method was to layer on the shtick and hope for the best. It worked well enough at the time, but it comes off corny now. Attempts to make Luke Cage a believable black character resulted in what feels like parody today. If you look closely at your non-white character of choice, you can probably see these tics or traits clear as day. They’re an attempt to lend verisimilitude.

What I liked about Fred Van Lente and Mahmud Asrar’s Shadowland: Power Man 2 is that it’s one of the few cape comics in ages that actually felt like it reflected the black experience. It’s not corny, it’s not ironic, and it’s not self-conscious. It just feels natural. The next closest candidate would be Jeff Parker and Kev Walker’s Thunderbolts, but Power Man surpasses even that. It’s all due to verisimilitude.

It’s the little things. It’s the way Victor’s mom uses his whole name when she gets mad at him. A quick survey of my friends suggests that this happens in black and latino houses, but not so much in white ones. Or the way the white kids talk about how down they are because they listen to black music, clearly one beer and half a blunt away from hitting their black friends with a “my nigga” like it’s all good. It’s how the dialogue has subtle shifts away from the Queen’s English without dropping into a white impression of jivetalk.

Victor spends the entire issue calling Luke Cage “Carl,” a reference to “Carl Lucas,” his government name. It’s the sort of thing that’s just a diss in and of itself–he’s calling Cage out of his name as a show of disrespect. More than anything else, it puts me in mind of Cam’Ron’s 50 Cent diss “Curtis”, where he turned 50’s real name into a sing-songy diss. It’s both basic disrespect and a reference to the fact that Victor knows who Cage is and doesn’t buy into his hype.

Interracial dating is touchy, too. Every young black male, at least the ones where I’m from, knows to tiptoe around white girls, just in case. There’s nothing that people like better than a chance to paint a black dude as a victimizer of white virginity (see also: Kanye West/Taylor Swift and the out of proportion reaction), and you don’t want to get caught slipping. On the black side of things, a black guy with a white girl is a sell-out. Strong black men (there’s about eight, total) need to stick by their sisters, blah blah blah.

So yeah, when Victor is airing out Cage for leaving the hood and deserting his people, he’s definitely going to get at Cage for marrying a white girl. And yep, Cage is definitely gonna be extremely pissed, because I guarantee almost every black girl he knows (with the exception of Storm) has been giving him the side-eye. That kind of nagging is senseless, but it happens, and people cope. Some people laugh it off. Others get up in your face and dare you to say some ☠☠☠☠ about their wife. Victor’s apology even rings true–it’s an unfair accusation, rooted in centuries old brainwashing, and everyone knows it. But, we still do it.

It is what it is.

There are other parts that rang true, too. A distrust of altruism and a trust of money. The only people who’ll work for you for free is family, and they’ll only do it under duress. But if you put money in someone’s pocket? That’s a contract. The emphasis on staying where you’re from as an indicator of your realness. Commanche’s implication that getting clean money is less than making brown paper bag money. Most especially, though, is the way that Victor can’t escape his dad’s shadow. He’s going to end up paying for his father’s sins even as he’s busy atoning for something he said to his father by wrapping himself up in his father’s past. He’s stuck in his orbit and he really can’t escape it.

I like that Van Lente is actually using Cage’s past beyond someone talking about how he did time. My main man DW Griffith is still MIA, but Shades & Commanche make an appearance, amongst several other old Cage villains of varying levels of competence. Cage’s past actually has a direct connection to the current story, but not to the point where you have to have read all of his old appearances (though marvel makes it easy on you). I like how it implicitly sets up a road less traveled dichotomy between Cage and Victor’s father. If Cage had chosen differently or stayed with his gang, things could have been very different.

I really enjoyed that Van Lente and Asrar brought back a bunch of Cage’s old villains. They look silly, and they’re treated like jokes, but not like blaxploitation jokes. Ha ha afros and platform shoes! Cage and his comic tend to get summarized as “Where’s my money, honey?” over and over again, which is both a disservice to the character and needlessly reductive. Jokes about how blaxploitation is soooo wacky are trite.

But really, it’s the verisimilitude that did it. I know the FBB4l! axis found it to be a very strong book, and that includes a black guy from the south, a different black guy from New York, a white guy from Kansas, and a Dominican dude from Queens. It isn’t a black book in that it’s constantly screaming at you about how black it is and look at this this is like The Wire, this is the hood, man. No, Power Man builds a world around Victor Alvarez that is just intensely believable. I want more like this.

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On Shadowland: Power Man 2

September 15th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Shadowland: Power Man 2
Words by Fred Van Lente, art by Mahmud Asrar.

I think it’s fair that I speak for both myself and Gavin and say that this is our review of the issue:

I look forward to this being used as a pull quote for the trade.

(More on this later, as I think that the way this book approaches black life in the Marvel U is super interesting, and ties into something else I’ve been meaning to talk about [Aqualad]. I just wanted to put this out there. Get up on it.)



Hey, folks. Gavin here, totally horning in on David’s wonderful post. For those of you who are reading Shadowland: Power Man and you need a retro who’s who, check out my twoparter on Luke Cage’s early villains. Also helps if you read the Luke Cage miniseries from a couple months ago and wondered who the hell Lionfang is.

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This Week in Panels: Week 41

July 4th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Time for another go. It’s July 4th weekend (happy 4th from the 4th, I suppose), meaning two Captain America comics and one Steve Rogers comic. It’s kind of moot when you consider I have three Deadpool comics on here. Only two of them are any good. I thought I was losing my mind when Deadpool Corps was starting to win me over, but seeing that I am really not feeling Wade Wilson’s War is almost a relief in some sense.

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg

Captain America #607
Ed Brubaker, Mitch Breitweiser, Sean McKeever and David Baldeon

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This Week in Panels: Week 40

June 27th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

40 isn’t a very special number, but we got a lot on the plate this time around anyway, so let’s pretend it matters. Oh, and we also get three doses of Grant Morrison. Well… only two of them count, but whatever.

Amazing Spider-Man #635
Joe Kelly and Michael Lark among others

American Vampire #4
Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King

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4 Elements: Thunderbolts 144

June 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Thunderbolts 144 was written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Kev Walker, colored by Frank Martin, and lettered by Albert Deschesne. It was an excellent read, and a good introduction to the new team and status quo. I thought about doing a full blown review, but how boring would that be? Instead, I’m trying something different. Maybe we can make this a regular thing. Here are four things the team behind Thunderbolts 144 got right.

Luke's been around.

Luke Cage knows people. Luke spent most of his almost forty years in the game toiling in obscurity. He had a long-running series that ended in the ’80s, a couple of less-than-good revivals in the ’90s, and spent the first five years of the 2000s playing street level crime games. A nice side effect of his middling career is that Cage built up a strong network of friends. The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and several other heroes have interacted with and befriended Cage over the years. He has a reputation and he’s got a deep Rolodex. While Spider-Man and Ben Grimm built their varied friendships off the back of Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, Luke’s time as a nobody ended up being an asset.

Cage went from penny-ante hood to grown man gone straight to framed for dealing heroin. He was technically a fugitive when he began his Hero for Hire business. He took on the trappings of superheroes to make a little cash. The only thing that kept him from being Black Booster Gold is that he was after money, rather than fame.

Despite his inauspicious beginnings, Cage ended up being a great hero. He hooked up with several street level heroes and started fighting crime to do good. He cleaned up his building and his neighborhood. Later in life, he joined the Avengers and soon found himself leading the team. He spearheaded a charge for the Avengers to do more than fighting world-class villains. When Captain America came back and found himself in charge of the superheroes in the United States, he had one choice for the guy to help rehabilitate the villains on the Raft: Luke Cage.

Think it through: the man who is the equivalent of Superman in the Marvel Universe, with all the prestige and respect that role entails, goes to Luke Cage to get the job done. Steve Rogers respects the hustle.

Steve Rogers gives speeches. Tony Stark is arrogant. Thor is stuffy and pompous. Spider-Man is obnoxious. Wolverine is gruff and borderline rude. Hank Pym is eager for approval. Songbird is judgmental. Luke, though? Luke’s a man of the people. He’s casual. To the point, sure, but Luke’s genuine. There’s no artifice, no trickery, and no drama. He’s not your average superhero. If there’s something to say, he just says it. No beating around the bush. Real talk, no gimmicks.

Luke is fearless. Scared money don’t make money.

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This Week in Panels: Week 36

May 30th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome back for another week. It’s been a pretty damn good week for comics, even with that Rise of Angst miniseries. A really full week, too. Reader Space Jawa sends in one for Ultimate Enemy, which I heard was a pretty big letdown. Sure, it’s going to lead into the next miniseries, but there’s apparently no closure.

Amazing Spider-Man #632
Zeb Wells, Chris Bachalo and Emma Rios

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2
Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

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Glyph Comics Awards Winners

May 17th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Johanna Draper Carlson has the details on who won what at this past weekend’s Glyph Comics Awards at ECBACC. She also has some interesting remarks on the awards, particularly in terms of women represented and the number of projects that won multiple awards.

Here’s the list, and commentary/thoughts from me below.

Story of the Year
Unknown Soldier #13-14, Joshua Dysart, writer, Pat Masioni, artist

Best Writer
Alex Simmons, Archie & Friends

Best Artist
Jay Potts, World of Hurt

Best Male Character
Isaiah Pastor, World of Hurt, created by Jay Potts, writer and artist

Best Female Character
Aya, Aya: The Secrets Come Out, created by Marguerite Abouet, writer, Clement Oubrerie, artist

Rising Star Award
Jay Potts, World of Hurt

Best Reprint Publication
Aya: The Secrets Come Out, Drawn & Quarterly

Best Cover
Luke Cage Noir #1, Tim Bradstreet, illustrator

Best Comic Strip
The K Chronicles, Keith Knight, writer and artist

Fan Award for Best Comic
Luke Cage Noir, Mike Benson & Adam Glass, writers, Shawn Martinbrough, artist

I’m not sure of the protocol on judges speaking after the fact, so if I’ve over-stepped, please forgive me. I co-judged this years awards, and I’ve got to say that I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Here’s a few brief anecdotes/bits about the winners-

Unknown Soldier 13 and 14 are collected in Unknown Soldier Vol. 2: Easy Kill. Dysart discusses a few of his favorite pages from that volume on DC’s Graphic Content blog. I talked a bit about Unknown Soldier last year as part of BHM, but I’m well past due for an update.

-In the “Small World” department, it turns out Alex Simmons co-created the dead and forgotten DC hero Orpheus, who I did a poor job of writing about a few years back. Simmons has been telling all-ages tales on Archie & Friends for the past couple years, in addition to documentaries, biographies, working with MoCCA, and launching a comic convention. The paths people take in comics are kind of funny sometimes. I think Tom DeFalco and Herb Trimpe have both done work on the Archie comics in recent memory, to name a couple other names you probably recognize. Archie & Friends All-Stars Volume 3: The Cartoon Life Of Chuck Clayton is the trade collecting the story of Chuck Clayton, “teenage cartoonist” and former Generic Comic Book Black Guy.

-Jay Potts cleaned up! Read my interview with him and then go read World of Hurt.

I’m glad Abouet and Oubrerie’s Aya got some attention.

Luke Cage Noir is out in a premiere hardcover, and it was a pretty good tale. I didn’t talk about it on the site, but the Funnybook Babylon gang mostly dug it. I liked how it played upon some of my preconceived notions going into the book, and the creators did a good job of telling a solid done-in-one tale. Here’s the cover:

-I like that most of these aren’t from the Big Two. I don’t say that to be mean or whatever, because the Big Two do what they do fairly well for the most part, but I think the really important work, the stuff you need to be paying attention two, aren’t going to come out of their factories. Supporting black comics isn’t supporting Luke Cage. It’s supporting the people who make the books. I think the Glyph awards do a great job of representing that. Bravo.

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This Week in Panels: Week 34

May 17th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to a very special Siege/Brian Michael Bendis/Luke Cage/Keith Giffen-themed This Week in Panels. For those of you new to the concept, every week, we take every new comic we’ve read since Wednesday and sum it up with one panel as a way to give you the gist without being entirely spoiler-heavy. hermanos has broken the rule against using full or two-page images as panels, but he writes the non-existent checks, so I’ll let it slide.
(joke’s on Gav, that page from BPRD: King of Fears is the top half of a page and the bottom half are a series of reaction shots. not technically a two-page splash! that’ll be two week’s non-pay for libel. -djdb)

Amazing Spider-Man #631
Zeb Wells, Emma Rios and Chris Bachalo

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1
Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews

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This Week in Panels: Week 29

April 11th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

I’m not sure who Oberon Sexton really is (he’s the Joker), but I bet he reads This Week in Panels every Sunday.

The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding #3
Joe Carnahan, Tom Waltz and Stephen Mooney

Avengers: The Origin #1
Joe Casey and Phil Noto

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