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‘Jem and the Holograms’ #14 Sifts Pizzazz’s Daddy Issues

Jem14_cvrAJem and the Holograms #14
“Dark Jem” Part 4
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell
Story by Thompson and Campbell
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber

In an issue that seems to largely advance the plot, Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell take the time to linger on both bands’ insecurities and conflicts, reunite the divided couples, and develop Pizzazz’s familial backstory in Jem and the Holograms #14. A final tease of the showdown with Silica to come leaves the reader antsy for more.

The highlight of the issue for me emotionally was actually a low-point for a character. Pizzazz’s relationship with her father gets explored, and it ends up offering heavy helpings of both sympathy for our ailing Piz and insight into why she is the way she is. Vulnerability connects her to the audience but also illustrates why she would normally push it away. When those who are supposed to love you the most don’t, allowing anyone to love you at all is near impossible.

Read the rest of my review on PopOptiq!

Jem_14 Panel 1


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Why I Appreciate the Ending of AMERICANAH

I’ve been reading (and teaching) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s critically acclaimed novel Americanah for the first time this spring. Many of my students were disappointed with the ending, but not me. Here’s why. (SPOILERS, obvs.)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie by Beowulf Sheehan

Americanah has been a satire with serious bits since the beginning. That makes it a comedy. Comedy genre rule #1 is that it ends happily (often with a wedding). To turn tragic at the end with a character death to separate our star-crossed lovers would be a mishandling of the book’s genre at large.

While the middle part of the novel was definitely about race, and was perhaps the most interesting to us because it was ABOUT us (Americans), the novel as a whole was about Ifemelu’s (and Obinze’s to a lesser extent) identity, including race when she comes to America, but also family, love, public personas versus inner life, gender, class, and morality. Overall, it is a coming-of-age book, except the transition from child to adult is complicated by changes in geography and society. At the end, Ifemelu finds her way back to herself. She leaves the job she doesn’t believe in, starts the blog that allows her to write about the important issues of Lagos, pays her own way in life, makes peace with the previous loves whom she left in lurch, and ends up being on her own for seven months, probably assuming Obinze had decided to stay with Kosi, and more or less moving on. That Obinze returns to her doesn’t negate her own independence.

Obinze and Ifemelu are fated to be together. They are built to be a couple who are together despite society’s expectations. Remember how Obinze was fated by the “gods” to be with Ginika back when Ifemelu met him? It seems that fate, or gods in the form of society, are continually trying to keep them apart. Their ability to come back together does break up Obinze’s marriage, but it was a “transactional” marriage, and one that I think we all see as a “lesser” marriage. This is a “white person” belief according to Obinze’s friend, which ties their non-conformity to their time and interest in the West, but I don’t think it originated there. They were bucking society’s expectations for love from the very beginning.

But despite their fated relationship, Adichie keeps it real. If there is dissatisfaction with the ending, it is that love can’t conquer all without consequences. Adichie makes us look at the consequences of what’s life’s thrown at them and what they’ve chosen along the way in response. There are lasting effects, and finding each other again after all this time is no easy feat. Deciding to be together, openly, honestly, means ending other ties and recommitting, figuring out how to pursue love but also maintain duty. I believe that if Obinze says he’ll see Buchi every day, he will. But honesty is a big theme in this novel, and when Obinze says that one day Buchi will realize he’s been pretending to be a fully invested father who loves her mother, she’ll become resentful of the lie.

So much literature ends with death and destruction of dreams and ideals. Gatsby. Heart of Darkness. Things Fall Apart. Hamlet. Cuckoo’s Nest. Slaughterhouse. White Noise. It almost seems like literature can’t be literature without the tragedy. Little value is given to the comedy or the book that retains hope. But comedy isn’t easy (try it and see). And maintaining hope in a world like ours, in the face of racism, poverty, body trafficking, and corruption (all topics Adichie deals with earnestly), is likewise hard. Ending on tragedy, in my opinion, is the easier way out. Finding a way to say, “Yes, you can survive this struggle, and it will define who you are, but it won’t crush you. Love for people and love for life will get you through,” that’s the bigger challenge. And the more important one.

Jem13Blaze


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Image After/Image: ‘Jem and the Holograms’ #13 Revels in Duality

Jem13_cvrA-MOCKONLYJem and the Holograms #13
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell
Story by Thompson and Campbell
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber

WARNING: SPOILERS

As the “Dark Jem” arc hits its full stride, the story takes off, fast and fun. Kelly Thompson built up an anticipation for what Silica and Dark Jem might bring during the last two issues, and Jem and the Holograms #13 pays off in humorous character hijinks and ebullient art by Sophie Campbell and M. Victoria Robado.

The colors on this issue are outstanding, tonally building the emotional content. Robado uses a bright and bold palette during the Misfits’ first concert performance with Blaze at the mic, then jumps back to the black and pastel for the characters under the influence of Silica. When checking in on a recovering Pizzazz, her signature green and purple are darkened to suggest a variation on theme with a Dark Pizzazz, one who is shadowed by depression rather than infected by Silica.

To read the rest of my review, click through to PopOptiq.com!

Stormer and Jetta eye their audience in JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #13

Stormer and Jetta eye their audience in JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #13

 


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Cell by Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #6 Part 6

BitchPlanet_06-1In this Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of Bitch Planet #6, pages 11-12, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Bitch Planet #6
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Taki Soma
Cover by Valentine De Landro
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics on January 6, 2016

Click here if you’d prefer to see my review of the issue.

In these two pages, Mr. Braxton gets down to business with Makoto. And business is blackmail.

Page 11

Bitch Planet #6 Page 11In cell 1, Makoto gets aggressive about finally getting Doug Braxton to discuss the problem with the Polestar plans. But Doug calls for more saki first, though he’s already clearly drunk. Yume’s subtle sarcasm in the response that their out speaks volumes about her character and role in society. Any subversion from women must be heavily veiled, so as not to show up on radar or to be believably denied. The compositional lines all lead to Doug, and the lines and boxes created by the wall and hanging lights build a subtle effect of introducing the trap Doug is setting for Makoto.

Cell 2 shows the breakdown of niceties as Mack gets annoyed at Doug’s utter lack of forthcomingness. Makoto holds his chin in his fist, showing growing boredom with Braxton’s antics. He also turns to sarcasm with his comment about drinking lighter fluid. Meanwhile Doug just looks sad that the saki is gone. This is the brilliance of the character. On the one hand he is so clearly pathetic. He’s just a little kid, practically, an entitled brat. He’s got nothing of his own making, instead just appropriating other people’s culture and opportunities. But he’s as dangerous as an adder. The more he drinks, the more Mack thinks he’s getting the upper hand. But that is not at all the case. When Makoto finally gets Doug to answer his question, the response is dismissive, condescending, and smacking of his signature cultural appropriate: “You’ve shit the bed, Sensei.”

To read the rest of my analysis, click through to PopOptiq.com!

RatQueens15_Gallery


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‘Rat Queens’ #15 Asks Demon or Queen?

RatQueens_15-1Rat Queens #15
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Tess Fowler
Letters by Ed Brisson
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain
Cover by Stjephan Sejic

Rat Queens #15 finishes out the “Demons” arc with revelations and character rebirth, all driven by the question: demon or Queen? At the heart of this is a he said/she said retelling of how Hannah got kicked out of Mage University that ends with miscommunication and missteps. This final issue of the arc slams the reader in the best narrative ways and puts an emotional cap on what has been a stellar arc by Wiebe.

Hannah’s backstory has been at the forefront of the “Demons” arc, with the secondary story belonging to Dee. In both, the characters have grappled with their estranged families. In both, they’ve reunited with a family member and reevaluated the relationship based on the new encounter. And here those two private backstories collide with heavy consequences.

Read the rest of my review on PopOptiq!

RatQueens_15_04

BP6-9-3-6


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Cell by Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #6 Part 5

BitchPlanet_06-1In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Bitch Planet #6
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Taki Soma
Cover by Valentine De Landro
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics on January 6, 2016

See Cell by Cell: Bitch Planet #6 part 1 here.

Click here if you’d prefer to see my review of the issue.

Page 9BP6-9

Now the comfortable, happy family stuff falls away when Mr. Braxton calls Makoto at the office. The panels are layered and unaligned, creating a faster pace and chaotic mood. Cell 1 gives an establishing shot of the skyscraper that houses Maki’s business. The panel starts in lighter shades of yellow, blue, and pink with heavy contrasting shadows. This is a conversation that seems pleasant but has dark threats underneath. Cell 2 re-establishes the scene’s layout with a medium-long framing of the office interior. Braxton appears on a video screen. Makoto is initially standing, showing his position of power in the moment. In the next row of panels, he will sit as the power shifts. The many blues give the scene a coolness, reflecting the blackmailing that is being slowly delivered to Makoto.

Cell 3 is Makoto’s point-of-view of Braxton on the vidscreen. He’s a young, blond man, his finger wagging in accusation and disapproval as he mentions inconsistencies in the plans that concern him. There is a condescension implied in Braxton’s manner. His youth accentuates his privilege as a white man. Though he barely seems old enough to have finish college, he is overseeing Maki’s work. In cell 4, we see Braxton’s point-of-view of Makoto’s reaction. It’s a small panel, implying the small estimation of Maki’s power in this situation. Mack is initially speechless, perhaps trying to figure out how best to respond. His background has gone black, showing the mental and emotional abyss he’s in contemplating being caught at sabotaging the space ship.

BP6-9-3-6

For the rest of my analysis on pages 9-10, click through to PopOptiq– http://www.popoptiq.com/cell-by-cell-bitch-planet-6-part-5/

the-departed-2006-comparison


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Looking at Remakes Side-by-Side

Hollywood loves to recycle–both foreign films and its own. Jaume R. Lloret, a video essayist I just discovered, created a short video (only 3 min!) that pairs images from a series of original films and their remakes to explore the similarities and differences. And because there is no commentary, the viewer is able to make their own evaluations on whether the original or remake is superior and how. Of course, often these things are a matter of preference for the style choices of the filmmakers, and I enjoyed noting my own responses. For instance, I have a strong preference for the originals of both Psycho and The Omen, and not always the reason to back it up. With other pairings, like Cape Fear and Infernal Affairs/The Departed, the progression towards more camera movement and faster cutting is obvious.

Definitely worth three minutes of your time.

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