Stranger Things Season 2, Episode 1 “MADMAX”

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These recaps will spoil the episode they deal with and episodes before… that’s why they are episode recaps.

just some things:

learning so so much from how those girls reacted to Cool Car McEarring Mullet guy

-did anyone else forget that 11 wasn’t a perfectly well adjusted child at the end of last season? No I didn’t watch Netflix’s season 1 catch up short. Her entrance at the end of the episode with the waffle was a nice reminder of how odd she can be, pairing her with Hopper and giving him something to worry about (but in a good way) bodes well for where everything is headed

– big fan of who they cast as the new girl at school:

Image result for Tom Hardy Mad max

– the boys scooting around in their own little world is the core kids-on-bikes appeal of the show and it’s delivering. The I’m-Not-Prostituting-My-Sister bit with the arcade nerd is the charm offensive Netflix is spending their money on.

– I hope the boys can stop gawking and make friends! Kids on bikes often means boys on bikes and them growing up is going to mean talking to girls who aren’t impaired lab experiments, hopefully it happens before season 17. The awk gawk is part of the fun though, everyone else is paying attention in class and the four of them turn 180 degrees around to look at the new girl, not even hiding it was so great.

-Back to the arcade, in this universe arcades take quarters! Smh now we have to swipe credit cards to pay 1.71 of SOMETHING to get willingly bled dry by a fictional currency with an opaque conversion rate.

– It was a nice little nod to the changes in the last year that Mike steals his sister’s quarters. They are only quarters but the dinner table discussion later suggests Mike acts out asserting himself (in response to the trauma but also because he’s a growing boy, such classic material). This leaves Will to slot in as the soft emotional gooey center of the group.

– One of the best SPECIFIC portraits of youth on Netflix is American Vandal. One of the great things underneath that show is that like real kids, the kids on the show are types, but they are aware of those types. I’m looking for particular stories this season from Stranger Things. Broad strokes and send ups were a huge part of season 1 with flickers of their own specificity (the lights and letters, Winona Ryder doing anything). Underwriting characters (hello barb) in service of getting us to a place to see a cool thing

– This is part of why I wasn’t so taken with the scifi aspects of season 1. I don’t need more blatant explanation, I need a more specific vision.

– Shout out to how the episode opens, the car stunts were impressive, actual cars and all that. Here for the image LOOK and grain in this night time sequence giving us a taste of something older, a formal throwback thumbs up. The actors who played the runaway characters and those cops embodied their little moment, I hope to see both groups again.

– I’m so so happy that joyce byers has a sam gamgee in her life, please duffer brothers do not do anything to hurt these nice people and their nice life they’ve found… ring ring

– That’s the phone that signifies we haven’t left season one behind, everyone will have to reckon with it at some point. Haunted or warned? I look forward to seeing all these teased feelings develop as the season goes on.

– Away from all the moping and caught up with themselves we have the teens. Nancy needs to stop taking second looks at that counter culture scrub. Ok talking heads is good but please be happy with Steve. Let’s not repeat season one! If they are going to make a play to change that relationship status quo, it’s definitely going to be some outside circumstances intruding and ripping people apart. They’re too happy! Leave Steve and Nancy alone duffer brothers!

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Darth Vader Hardcover #1 overview

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Darth Vader Hardcover 1 is a book of introductions. If you think about Darth Vader in the original trilogy he’s more like the step dad you see once a month than a steady known reliable figure. What’s his personality like, what’s he do around the watercooler. What is a day of work like being evil throughout the galaxy?

So this book is an introduction to Darth Vader’s world, it’s an introduction to him and it’s also a great introduction to the expanded universe.

Here’s the thing about how the evil empire of Star Wars does its business. There’s a whole lot of colorful subcontracting. What’s a Sith apprentice if not an inexpensive, eager to please murder multiplier on the field of battle. That’s the question hanging over the book, is Darth Vader good at much else? Center stage are the emperor’s various other pseudo apprentices, generals and hunters. These groups have an even bigger subset of loyal underlings further down the ladder. This is a book of hierarchy, loyalty, asset placement, strategy and of all things the testing of Vader’s ability to socialize while balancing the need to keep up his reputation as capital D Dangerous throughout the empire.

This book is an introduction to Doctor Aphra who you’ll fall in love with. Like all the characters she has a dark streak though as a rogue, hers is maybe the lightest of the bunch. It helps that her constant companions are mad murder bots whose lack of scruples she comes in to restrain. She shares the reader’s knowing horror and amusement at their unfulfilled genocidal plots. Anyone who has played the Knight of the Old Republic games will be pleased with these companions.

Let’s not forget the action and the art. The book takes advantage of the iconography we love, throws in a couple favorite character pairings that we’ve never seen before, Vader and Jabba for example. It wraps all that iconography and its steady march to push out the boundaries of the infinite star wars universe with a healthy dose of action. Action is what’ll keep you turning pages. People who enjoyed the ending of the recent movie Rogue One will recognize what’s offered here with some evolutions due to the unique enemies Vader faces.

As it is an introduction, I suspect volume one will hook you. The second volume which is somehow larger and more polished brings all the threads to a smashing conclusion. That second volume is the book of conclusions and definitive statements. Reading it made me appreciate the more leisurely pace found here.

UPDATE: I made a bad video out of this information:

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The Critical Perspective is Not Enough

One of the most persistent liberal myths is that art has no moral content, that reading or watching or listening to something can never be in itself evil. This is something that can only be true if, conversely, art does not have the power to affect or change us for the good. It is only possible to believe this if you think all art is essentially meaningless and people are insensate vehicles for random information consumption…

Game of Thrones reminds us that boredom and despair are, theologically speaking, synonyms.

That’s Walther at The Week. He makes a good point about how a worldview devoid of meaning degrades music to noise. The point at the end there about boredom and despair being interchangeable speaks to an approach to media that lacks the constructive sense, the sorting of critical thought. Too often this kind of boredom is the popular approach.

I’ve written before about Fight Club Bros and how being shaken by the taboo often also shakes loose the first actual thoughts in that particular subspecies. Fight Club is confronting them with SOMETHING and they can pick up on that because the movie isn’t subtle. But being neanderthals so untrained, they mistake that spark for fire and are left staring in the dark with an elevated view of themselves. Their boredom and despair become myopia and haughtiness, Fight Club just happened to be the popular mechanism for this at a certain place and time.

Do undergraduate guys watch this movie anymore? I’ve seen the Steve Jobs mythos and Walter Isaacson’s book take its place for a certain kind.

What “turn your brain off” despair and self inflected reaching both have in common is they rob the particular artifact of its truth… and you of its good.

In the other ditch, on the far end of over meaning-making, over spiritualization and blind unmeasured exuberance for a pet hobby is the Gospel in All Media crowd.

Here’s Loftus at Mere Orthodoxy pushing back against that:

Thus, we must look to see if there are Biblical themes that we can apply and use to relevantly communicate the Good News to our neighbors who are fascinated by the show. Is one of the many characters who gets eviscerated a Christ figure? Does the darkness and despair of the series point us to our longing for a True King? Are the sorcery and swords meant to help us more deeply imagine a world in which monsters can be slain? Is there a Gospel message in Game of Thrones?

No. There isn’t.

Then there are the general wisdom considerations, the ultimate questions, the first things, the moral opportunity costs to consider. John Piper:

Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies…

It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.

It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me…

I am jealous for my evenings. There are so many things in life I want to accomplish. I simply could not do what I do if I watched television. So we have never had a TV in 40 years of marriage (except in Germany, to help learn the language). I don’t regret it.

We are not at the movies for trivia. We are at the movies for truth, visceral truth. Critical thought is the mechanism for wringing that truth out. I don’t know if I’d call them “prayers” (still need to read Larsen’s book) but truth here is an externality which his framing is getting at.

My point may sound too ecumenical for a Piper type and certainly his point about time and the criticism of the popular mode is shared by myself (read the top paragraphs again if you don’t think so).

At the end of his quote Piper stumbles upon one of the greatest things about small “t” truth in art, the very stuff of it, that it is shared. He learned German! Is there a better example of squelching alienation like learning the very language of others.

This truth is social, it’s between us and in us. It binds us in a unique and yes, ecumenical way.

As to the value in the production of the pictures, I think of Hail, Caesar! not Game of Thrones. Not everything is sex and death. These unique trades can be good in their own way. Cables and stands, lights and rigging, apple-boxes and car crashes.

Critical thought is discussion itself. Sorting and confronting. “Prick him and he bleeds movies” cuts me but could I counter that you might as well be saying “Prick him and he bleeds milkshakes, lawn chairs, washing machines and refrigerators” all four of those things as a time commitment are real competition. But it’s not that those are the only things, as certainly movies are not the only thing (treating them that way can be bad for movies). I could tell you a lot of good things about movies because ours is a world of abundant good. As my long-suffering friends could tell you, I match that enthusiasm bloviating on the virtues of the modern utilities and a good chocolate dairy product.

I want to roll back and agree with Piper, Walther and Loftus. You need to take the time to know what the truth is (to Piper) so that you can make a moral determination (to Walther) that is measured, not naive or counterproductive (to Loftus).

So, the critical perspective is not enough.

BUT, it is a grace upon grace, a truth upon truth. An icing of excess, the stuff of society and civilization.

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What you can do, do

You can be good. You can do good.

Grabbing a milkshake and just talking, sitting, enjoying the sun and caring about another person.

Let me let you know, the little things matter. We live in a world where people are lonely, not just weirdos, outsiders and aberrations. You and me, everyone needs people:

I think there’s a fundamental crisis of loneliness in our time that we don’t know how to think about. The average American had 3.2 friends in 1990. I mean Aristotelian friends: people that when you’re happy, they feel happy, and when you’re sad, they hurt, not because they choose it, but just because they love you. The way we parent. When my daughters or my son, when they hurt, I don’t make a choice to hurt, I just hurt. I love them.

The average American who had over 3 friends 25 years ago has about 1.8 friends today, halving in 25 years. Forty percent of Americans have no confidantes. We can’t make sense of how bad that ache hurts and how much people are projecting onto politics a hope that we could solve deep crises of the soul and of local community

That’s Ben Sasse.

There’s an essay floating around about how “the 90s were better” because we were better people then. Technology was less isolating, and our worlds were at once smaller, more manageable and as a result grander and happier. That’s what that author thought and what Sasse’s reference seems to suggest.

I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed, not really. People aren’t different. We don’t need different things. Morals, like our very nature, are immutable and whether we recognize the truth of their external weight on us does not affect them one bit. Our vices though, our normative action and general transgression changes over time.

In the past, the physical world forced forbearance. In the way you try not to make conflict with your coworkers but more oppressive, every waking moment. All this contact with other people though…. might have been good. In a world where we as a default opt out of every relationship, more unhealthy behavior occurs than a world with this “oppressive” structure. Well that’s the theory.

But the moral weight is still there and knowledge of a moral standard demands choice. Even if the shape of our reality makes every relationship an opt in relationship we should never stop trying to opt in. If people matter, we need to make them matter.

So drink some lemonade with that kid from church who wants to pick your brain. Ask to cook your family members dinner  (or just order a pizza and lounge) . Sit and Talk. Enjoy the weather. Go for a walk. Swim out to a raft and lie on your back. Look at the stars, the clouds, passing people or cute dogs. But please do it with someone and care about them.

Make the time, make the choice and make the world just a little bit brighter.

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Some Nice Things About a Movie You Didn’t and Won’t See: Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur

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So right off the bat, if you are thinking of going to see King Arthur go read Sonny Bunch’s review. It’s one of those rare thumbs down reviews that absolutely sold me on the movie. It’s not a good movie. It’s not a guilty pleasure.

I liked it. It’s definitely not “so bad it’s good” rather it has some drawback that make it “not for everyone” and if the box office opening weekend is any indication, everyone seems to agree.

It’s like Hot Topic! It’s got style! (but probably the wrong kind)

Keep in mind that I also like Battleship. Certainly it’s playing at that level but it rises above in action moments that never quite get to Sherlock Holmes’ coherence but the sensibility is there.

Where it falls behind battleship is in the thematics. You can certainly believe Peter Berg’s movies are jingoistic or uncritically nationalist but they at least have a perspective. King Arthur is pure reaction. To its credit, an ambition that never finds it’s footing: the knights of the round table are multi-ethic… well just because! Because people of every race can be poor and really good at fighting??? Why do they even like Arthur? They’re his boys, he is cool and has the coolest most powerful sword. What do we even know about the knights of the round table by the end of this? Their race and the one fighting thing they are good at. That’s it.

The whole film is a lot of unflattering contrasts. A street rat becomes a king. That contrast COULD WORK. What kind of connection is there between the street and the throne? What can you learn among the people? Well, nothing according to the movie. Arthur’s bloodline makes him a really good small businessman (not joking). So heredity management skill and always being right when he makes smarmy predictions is why he should be king. If this sounds like some arbitrary hero’s journey garbage, it is.

An earthy boxer (shot doing physical tasks with his superiorly self trained muscles) gets to wield crazy magic (that makes those muscles and that work ultimately meaningless). Formally speaking, going from foot chases filmed with gopro style on person mounts to a fully CGI video game cut scene finale where Arthur fights this guy:

…it works against itself. The 300 sequel used the more free floating, 3D model orbiting speed ramp camera present here to better effect. With it, they covered a greater distance and went places that would have been physically impossible (across dangerous digital seas and shipwrecks) but in King Arthur’s finale the camera rotates around a fixed point. It’s cool and I like it but it goes faster than any  other speed ramp I’ve ever seen. Even in video games.

The strength of the speed ramp is in awe. We are slowing down a moment, making it last forever. The choice to do battle in 300 is as much the point as what comes next, letting that readying moment last forever makes sense from a “cool” as well as pacing and story perspective. King Arthur uses it more as a fast forward for parts of a fight that the cooler more powerful character can skip through easily, that it judges too boring to look at. The mechanic doesn’t make sense in any logical sense as whatever powerset is imputed by the sword really doesn’t show up until this end sequence.

Some of the best kung fu films have plain camera work that show acrobatic symbolic action. They do this by physically training actual people and cheating the hits with exaggerated acting. King Arthur wants to use CG and ramping to show us as much of a “literal” uncheated money shot hit as possible, over and over and over in quick succession. It’s new but I can’t say it works artistically like those old classics.

Some more clashing sensibilities: the streetwise language and the high fantasy mirror universe stuff. Like, how is the subquest in the mirror realm even in the same movie as the shakedown street hustle fur smuggling/prostitute wrangling that came before it.

This is a movie that wants all these tonally grounded modern characters and also a level up mission where the hero fights giant rats and bats. How is the first thing he says when he gets back to his boys not “there’s fucking giant rats in a mirror realm, magic is real and holy fuck we need to ride some bats or something when we get the chance. Do the bad guys have giant bats?”

The movie is too much.

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Some Stuff About Truth, Art, Violence and that New Netflix Stand-up

“Reality has a conservative bias” you’ve heard it and you probably hate it. How presumptuous! That accurate perception and accurate belief cosanguinate. “Reality has an X bias” more like it!  Anyone with a truth claim necessarily has some belief in that truth and some starting proposition, some base perception from which they get that truth.

“Oh,” the conservative says, “but truth claims are conservative” and here we are.

If then Art with a capital ‘A’ seeks to get at or reflect, discover or illuminate a capital ‘T’ Truth then of course it too is conservative.

You’re angry, I understand. You don’t like the word ‘conservative’ and you don’t like the presupposition, the interior logic or the ultimate conclusions here. Could a self styled anti-conservative somehow, and dear reader I too am shocked to say this, accidentally further things that the conservative would term Good, True and Beautiful.

Well I’m here to say that all artists to whatever degree they are good, truthful and equipped to deliver beauty do just that and often intentionally as they perceive various truths in the universe around them.

An example, the ESPN documentary OJ: Made in America. In an interview with The Ringer/Channel 33 we hear from the director that he was dispassionate, strongly so, about the OJ trial. Through sheer will, craft and professionalism. Through the habits of docu filmmaking developed over a career and an awareness of the stakes, the weight of the interviews sitting down the road, and the audience built through the 30 for 30 series. Through these things we got something intensely truthful.

Good art is good. Of course I mean “well made” on the front end of that tautology. In accurate perception, the possibility, the suggestion of right belief about these things.

Earnest truthful art, no matter the source, is among one of life’s common graces.

Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, who as a Christian I say he was without the full spiritual revelation of the closed biblical canon, the artist through seeing truthfully, can tell truthfully. The limits of experiential wisdom are pretty well sketched in that old testament book. 10/10 highly recommend.

To digress a little about the wisdom literature and that ancillary effect of art, the moral imperative most obviously seen as The Very Special Episode. These episodes are clearly trying to teach something. But what if it happens by accident:

I wouldn’t be the first to note that Breaking Bad doesn’t have a glowing, triumphant portrayal of what the drug trade does to a life however maximally abstracted Walt’s place in it rests for most of the series. Let’s not forget that masterpiece The Knick from which I’ve learned much much more effectively about the personal thrill, boredom, crisis and crash of drug abuse (however high functioning) than all of those DARE classes.

So through all these rabbit trails we finally arrive at the most recent Netflix stand up comedy specials by Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle. While I’ve already gone on too long, I’d like to say something about the conservatism and the underlying theme of some of their hotter topic jokes.

That theme is violence. Chappelle ends a story about an almost certainly fictional transgender hollywood executive with that character throwing their excised member onto the table as a power move. C.K. goes on an extended riff about how abortion really is killing (though killing he thinks should be allowed). The underlying truths here, conservatives often painfully have to point out, convince and cajole.

The flowery language of identity cannot paper over the real harm, the hard chop choices of matching the biological with psychological.

Children with fingers and toes, little people who feel pain are literally ripped apart overwhelmingly for reasons of convenience.

There’s no debate about the physical truth of what’s happening. The observation is truthful, so the window for true belief gets just a little more open.

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Match Trap (why nonsense podcasts are bad)

So I’ve been reading The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen. One of the main topics or observed developments he discusses is Matching. From dating to home buying to religion. Like becomes like like. People find their people.

The downside of this, expedited by technology, is segregation. Segregation by social class, wealth and ultimately race. It’s all very good (not the segregation! the observations) and you should go read it. It’s easy at maybe 200-300 pages.

So I’m thinking about matching and I start thinking about all those monkeys on typewriters. This is not matching, this random noise. Out of hand I reject the underlying implication of the monkey/typewriter scenario because of my creationist priors. Order does not come from chaos. Monkeys do not have the creative impulse like us, those who were breathed into life by our God.

So I’ve got a matching problem. It’s hard to remember things. I can’t quite match what I have with what I need but what I do have is A LOT. A lot of information.

So no monkeys, just to be clear again, it’s people who generate large sums of this information. I’m about at the following cap on twitter, 5000 people for a small time rando like me. That’s not people who care about my banal garbage, no that’s the people whose banal garbage I sign up for.

So this is my dilemma, (I’m not even talking about twitter just the number of information channels there is really clear): Every day I make a puzzle.

The puzzle has a thousand pieces. Each piece comes from another discrete puzzle of a thousand pieces. Each piece fits with every other piece if you try hard enough.

This sounds like noise and noise will drive you crazy.

But

There’s something else here. There’s matching. That unguided creative impulse, a shade from madness.

The information mosaic is oppressive. But like those hour long improv comedy podcasts that eventually yield a single good nugget of laughter, rare is the beauty and more beautiful for it.

But is it worth it? Could a machine even sort it? Do I enjoy the chaos?

Incomplete and superfluous is what these creations are. What springs from the depths our own specially, personally curated hive minds.

All these fragments come pouring out late at night and my problem, I can’t even remember. Isn’t that my problem.

What would be there that matters, is lost. Our manufactured chaos is not so different after all.

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Comics I Care About: March 22nd 2017

Every week a lot of comics come out. Of those comics there are a handful I’ll buy and hopefully like. A smaller more select set of comics are the ones that build some anticipation before Wednesday rolls around. Their history leaves you thinking about what will come next and their ongoing story has stakes, implications or simply a quality throughline you want to see developed.

Here are the comics I’m looking forward to this week:

HULK #4

On the recent Logan segment of the First Things Podcast an offhand wish about superhero content in genre clothing (why are there no legit self contained episode to episode case based legal/law enforcement Marvel tv shows?!) was brought up and discarded. Daredevil it seems, is too busy punching to actually do lawyering. So what kind of hero would be both really good at punching but incredibly reticent to punch things because of the possible life altering implications and collateral damage they could cause…. Sounds like a hulk. Since we’re only 4 issues in, this first case hasn’t even wrapped up yet. Based on one panel of goofy super powered (afflicted?) clients in Jennifer Walters’ waiting room I think I’m going to be enjoying the little world buildy gems in this book for many issues to come. Jennifer is also relatable, they don’t always treat the Hulk thing as an asset. Equal parts public figure trying to keep her head down and alienated coworker back from rehab, I really hope it doesn’t all fall apart for her. You could say I’m invested.

UNWORTHY THOR #5

Shout out to my favorite chunky body positive white man Odinson, his good good big horned goat and uhh a lot of other characters. You’ll want to read from the number 1 not only because it’s beautiful but also because most books would kill for even one of the little supporting character moments peppered throughout. It’ll keep you guessing. Not telling every little detail makes me eager to come back to learn something new with each issue. (I still don’t know why he’s unworthy tho)

SPIDER-GWEN #18

When will the Spider-Man kissing crossover arc finally end? This issue! They absolutely have not sold the relationship at the heart of this arc as anything substantial. It’s convoluted. Makes me think the kiss will end up as another one of those “lol i kiss a lot of people” referential in-canon jokes about the long list of dead end character pairings we endure.

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Netflix’s Iron Fist Review

It’s bad don’t watch it.

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Comics I Care About: March 15th 2017

Comics I care about:

Every week a lot of comics come out. Of those comics there are a handful I’ll buy and hopefully like. A smaller more select set of comics are the ones that build some anticipation before Wednesday rolls around. Their history leaves you thinking about what will come next and their ongoing story has stakes, implications or simply a quality through-line you want to see developed.

Here are the comics I’m looking forward to this week:

MS MARVEL #16 – I’ll always love Ms Marvel. As someone who is pretty devoutly religious, the caring considered introduction of a hero who shared some of the human tensions I experienced as a young person was much appreciated. Some of the conflicts that the first wonderful hardcover Omnibus of Ms Marvel contains are the differing values and cares of family vs friends, how they can respect one another but still be different, making choices for yourself in a world where structurally you’re outside of the mainstream because of your (or at least your family’s beliefs), BOYS etc, Canadian ninjas and the end of the world. It’s so so good and I highly recommend you read it. The art in that omnibus has a lovable humane whimsy that never hits that jokey “lol chimichangas” obnoxiousness level that I can’t stand.

The series and the character’s portrayal has hit a few bumps in the road. Different artists have different takes on Ms M and no one quite gets her like her original artist Alphona. The recent Civil War 2 crossover didn’t in its entirety do anything more for the character than any one of the small character moments in a few ‘non-plot’ one off comics where Ms M goes to a science fair or spends time with Spider-Man Miles Morales while he’s grounded.

The current arc is wrapping up and I’m eager to hear what G Willow Wilson is trying to do with this whole online bullying plot even as the arc feels maybe stretched a little thin and whatever it’s building to is currently out of view.

SPIDER-MAN #14

They should have called the current Miles Morales storyline Crisis on Infinite Kisses. I am not on board with the multiverse as a concept but it’s canon and nerds love that stuff so of course we’re going to have a multiverse story at some point. Bendis seems aware of a core criticism of the this whole concept of literally everything inevitably happening somewhere in a multiverse based on his Jessica Jones book that’s going right now.

If we accept the multiverse then we have to accept that every character is always kissing every other character forever. Infinite kissing, that’s just exhausting and airless. Not to mention meaningless. But I’ve already said too much. Go read Jessica Jones’ first 6 issues and see the golden nugget therein. The in world implications of someone agreeing with this criticism as a denizen of one of the infinite planes is uhh… a lot more like bleak nihilism than tumblr’s thirsty uses.

ANYWAY, this arc has an interesting structure. It starts with a finale first, Miles kisses Spider-Gwen. Told after the fact as a story to his roommates, of course he’d start with the kiss. But we haven’t gotten to it yet so I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. For how much I hate multiverses I do want to see what they are doing with the post secret wars status quo of a single universe. I’ll glean whatever I can from this book even if the current arc is not my fav. I want Miles back in New York asap.

ALL STAR BATMAN #8

I’ve been digging the separate Duke Thomas story-lines that have been running through the All Star issues. FIRST, I know what you’re thinking:

CaptureDUKEImage result for duke thomas

So he’s just a guy… but let’s not forget that’s how batman started. He’s a relatively new character. They are deliberately trying to keep him out of sidekick territory and right now that’s new enough for me to be excited about his shot at finding his own corner of Gotham. Since Batman is very established, seeing him teach is another way of letting us in on what he’s learned.

The main stories so far each have a bit of an involved hook. You can’t fault All Star for its ambition so this is a plus for me though other readers may think its in fiction fake science or inter-arc connective tissue are A Bit Too Much. (Art also great)

BATMAN #19

Tom King, what a guy. He’s got a pretty clear straightforward take on Batman. Batman is the triumph of the will (but like good and not that Nazi movie from 80 years ago). In his Batman #1 he sets a pretty big mission statement. For all the haranguing batfans have gotten about the obsession with the Dark and Gritty aspects of the character, King’s Gotham is still in some sense better than our world. #1 evokes 9/11 with its chase to stop a plane to building collision. Here’s the thing, Batman stops the plane (but he doesn’t save himself).

This is King’s world and 9/11, he’s been very open about, is a personal touchstone for his personal world. It was and continues to be a person and nation shaping trauma but a trauma that he doesn’t let happen to Gotham. That he has Batman not let happen to Gotham. So his world is brighter than ours for a moment, when Batman exercises his will to the full expense of his person.

The subsequent arcs remind you of the individual, unique terrors of Gotham (and even the goofy pageantry of the lesser set of rogues). Batman gets to care about Catwoman. They get to be happy together. Oh that’s ominous though isn’t it, the gritty hero with a smile.

So in the current arc Bane comes to Gotham and things aren’t looking good. #18 got incredibly explicit about the parallels between Bane and Bruce Wayne and it was a little too much. The whole “how other characters are just a shade away from Batman” thing works really well under the surface of the like-attracts-like dynamic of Catwoman and the father of the Bat Family thing that Bruce has going on with the other side kicks. But with Bane all that needed to be said was said at the end of the I Am Suicide arc when Batman, on completion of a Suicide Squad mission to steal a prisoner from Bane on his home turf, gives Bane a speech that about not chasing him in a rage. It’s an expression of understanding and an acknowledgement of their similar psychology. It was good is what I’m saying and hopefully #19 steps back from the whole sameness angle and shows us what King has planned for the inevitable divergence and tragedy this arc seems to be promising by giving Batman so many wins (and so much to care for).

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