Reading “Us Do Opposite”

At my old job I had one student who was fascinated by superheroes and the differences between their comic book versions and their movie versions.  I don’t think he actually cared to read comics himself, but he was enamored with the wide array of trivia that exists surrounding pretty much any character that exists under the Big Two comics publishers.  Because I happen to have a pretty great love for the medium and the superhero genre myself, I enjoyed telling him about all the little tidbits that I knew about any given character he took an interest in.  One time, probably in the months of hype leading up to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (still haven’t seen it!), this student learned about the weirdness that is Bizarro, an old Superman villain who hails from a planet that’s exactly the opposite of Earth.

Bizarro is the name of the race of aliens on this Bizarro-Earth, and all of the members of this race are polar opposites of people on our own planet.  The Bizarro that antagonizes Superman is his own opposite, but no one calls him Bizarro Superman, probably because he’s the first Bizarro introduced in the comics.  Anyway, along with the Bizarro Superman, there is also a Bizarro Lois Lane, a Bizarro Jimmy Olsen, and so on and so forth.  It was inevitable, with a setup like this one, that someone would eventually create a Bizarro version of Batman (we call him Batzarro, because comics), which is the one that my student was intrigued by.  He asked me if there were Bizarro versions of the other members of the Justice League, and in my brain stuff with far too much comics trivia, I remembered that in fact there were, and I had the comic in which they appeared.

“Us Do Opposite” is that comic.

I was really excited that I had an actual hard copy of a thing that a student was expressing interest in, so I brought my volume of All-Star Superman for him to look at one day in the hope that he’d enjoy other things about the book besides the one page gag that is the Bizarro Unjustice League.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be; like I already mentioned, this student was more interested in the trivia of comics than the storytelling of them, so he returned the book to me satisfied but unimpressed by any larger notions of a tale well told.  He just wanted to see the panel of the Bizarro Flash, the slowest man alive with a top speed of two inches per hour.

Anyhow, that’s the story that always comes to mind now when I think about “Us Do Opposite.”  The story itself is largely unremarkable: Superman finds himself trapped on the Bizarro planet with his powers fading, and he launches a desperate plan to rally the Bizarros to help him build a rocket that will fly him back up to normal space.  He succeeds on the strength of his ability to adapt to the logic and culture of the Bizarros, culminating with him tricking Bizarro Superman into throwing him into space following a nonsensical insult that still confuses me (I vacillate between being impressed by the complexity of Bizarro grammar that Morrison has written and wondering if he just arbitrarily made some stuff up that vaguely matches the idea that Bizarros express ideas in a language built on words having the opposite meaning to what they have in English).  This one’s a story about how even with his powers Superman is super competent.

Contrasted with Superman in this issue is the character of Zibarro, a mutant among the Bizarro race who has grown with exceptionally high intelligence (for a Bizarro) and a perspective that’s more in line with humanity.

He’s also insufferably smug.

I want to say it’s intentional that Zibarro’s colored to look like a pasty white guy, but that’s probably not what they were going for. (Artwork by Frank Quitely, inks and colors by Jamie Grant, letters by Phil Balsman & Travis Lanham)

I used to think that Zibarro was a sympathetic character put in place so Superman could interact with someone in a less confusing way than he does with the other Bizarros.  There’s something undeniably tragic about a character who knows that he is fundamentally different from everyone else around him and suffers deep loneliness because of this knowledge.  Zibarro just comes across in such an ill-mannered way though.  His constant harping on his own genius in comparison to the rest of the Bizarros (while continually badgering Superman to look at his writing and to bring him along) rubs me the wrong way now.  I see in Zibarro a character who, while he does have legitimate differences from his peers, has carved out his entire sense of identity by way of his “superiority.”  Never mind that the Bizarros appear to be developing a working culture and their linguistic system, while slightly impenetrable to untrained listeners, has an underlying logic to it.  Zibarro revels in self loathing, and I’m not entirely sure that Morrison and Quitely realize that’s how they’ve presented him.

Despite Zibarro’s unlikeability, he does serve an important function in this story.  Superman’s job is helping people, and Zibarro’s the only person on the Bizarro planet who demonstrates any kind of need.  The rest of the Bizarros are content with their lives, but Zibarro needs reassurance that his life matters too; Superman points out that the Bizarro world must be getting smarter if it created a Bizarro as self aware and observant as Zibarro.  It’s a nice moment for Superman that times back to the the series’s central premise.

We also get a short scene in this issue where Lois Lane finally learns that Superman is dying (it’s about time), which sets up the impending climax.  We’re moving forward into the last third of the series, and things are going to pick up speed a little.

Buttermilk Biscuits

It was the sort of weekend where I got very little done on a personal level.  I’m in the midst of my busy season at work with multiple IEPs in the pipeline, parent conferences coming up, and a mess of grades that need to be entered.  Throw on top of that the fact that Rachael has persuaded me to try knitting (I spent four hours on Saturday trying to start a pussy hat, and by 10:30 I ended up unraveling the whole thing because I thought I made a mistake and couldn’t figure out how to fix it), and you can see how this might have been an unproductive weekend for my personal projects.

But that’s all okay, because we baked buttermilk biscuits for dinner, and they were delicious and beautiful.  Observe:

This picture’s the best I can do for communicating the joy of fresh biscuits, because we already ate all of them.

So it wasn’t a terrible weekend.

“The Human Genome is a Strange, Wonderful, and Surprisingly Malleable Thing.”

I wrote last year about how much I enjoyed the first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  It’s a lighthearted book that advocates nonviolent solutions to conflicts whenever possible but also (as I’m beginning to learn as we move into a prolonged period of ideological fighting in America) acknowledges the need for physical strength in moments of unreasonable opposition.  Squirrel Girl tries to figure out what her opponents really want when they get into fights with her, and she does her best to point them in the direction of non-harmful ways to achieve those goals.  Failing that, as is the case with the second volume’s main villain, she kicks butt until butts no longer need to be kicked.

When I first got volume two, titled Squirrel You Know It’s True, I was delighted by a panel that appears in the first issue of the collection where a group of hostages waiting inside the Statue of Liberty for the group of superheroes outside to free them exchange stories about Squirrel Girl (whom none of them, save Doreen’s roommate Nancy, have actually heard of before).  The first story is a pastiche of Silver Age wackiness with Steve Rogers as Captain America, and it bears a panel where Cap, in the throes of absurd mind control, declares that “I love dictatorships!”  Anyone who’s been paying attention to my general mood regarding the state of America can see how this would resonate with me; I have a penchant for appreciating darkly ironic meta-moments.

A little on the nose there, Cap. (Artwork by Erica Henderson, colors by Rico Renzi, and letters by Clayton Cowles)

The sequence in question was written back in 2015, well before any of us had an inkling of the direction the country was going to take, so it simultaneously called back to a less jaded moment in our history and served up some hopeful commentary on the current state of affairs.  White Americans have largely been ignorant of the problems our country has built into it, like the fact that racism would be a powerful enough force to lead us to collectively flirt with honest-to-God fascism.  It’s a naive construction to assume that Captain America, if we’re going to treat this like a bit of metonymy for the country as a whole, normally doesn’t truck with oppressive ideology unless somehow coerced, but it’s also eminently hopeful that when we push for America to be a better country, those horrible impulses do become genuinely alien.

Besides that first issue (which is wonderful, but clearly meant as a standalone that doesn’t have much bearing on the rest of the arc collected here), what’s really interesting about this second arc is how it explores both Doreen’s process of learning about having normal friendships and also her process of learning how to identify bad actors.  Doreen saved the planet from Galactus through the power of open and honest communication, but she finds that just won’t work with Ratatoskr, whom Odinson (that’s male, Mjollnir-less Thor for anyone who doesn’t know) rightly calls “the ultimate troll.”  Ratatoskr thrives on turning people against one another, and her powers are summed up as being an incredibly insidious and effective trash-talker.  She just makes people angry because she can, and then she sits back to watch the chaos unfold.  That the ultimate solution to defeating her involves literally refusing to talk with her anymore is a well-taken point about learning when to end discussion and move on to full-blown opposition (you can’t overlook the fact that once Doreen realizes that there’s no reasoning with Ratatoskr she redoubles her efforts to beat up the menace that’s making her friends hurt one another).

All of these remarkably relevant life lessons are safely nestled in a book that at its core wants to make the reader laugh and smile.  Jokes come frequently, and they vary in complexity from an extended riff on esoteric knowledge about computer databases to Loki making himself look like a cat version of Thor to annoy his brother.  It all works incredibly well, and remains positive on top of that despite telling a story built on the idea that our insecurities lead us to turn against one another.  I’m looking forward to continuing to read about Squirrel Girl’s adventures.

Seriously. (Artwork by Erica Henderson, colors by Rico Renzi, and letters by Clayton Cowles)

Reading “Old Ghosts”

It’s been a while since we had a plot-heavy issue of Watchmen to pick apart.  Rorschach and Dan Dreiberg’s issues are really good at getting into the motivations behind the characters, but since they’re so heavily interested in the past the plot of the series tends to get lost.  Moore and Gibbons are playing around a good bit with parallel pacing in this issue and the two previous ones (a technique that’s easy to overlook at first, but which will become really important as we move into the series’s second half and its climax).  Rorschach’s issue focuses on the week that he spends in prison, and then Dreiberg’s issue goes back and explains what happened at the start of that same week with him and Laurie Juspeczyk.  Issue #8 rounds things out by flashing forward to the end of the week; Dreiberg and Juspeczyk are planning to break Rorschach out of prison while the rest of the city discusses all the current events: Russia’s increased aggression in the Middle East after Dr. Manhattan’s disappearance, the reappearance of masked heroes after Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre rescued people from a tenement fire, the possibility of a prison riot following Rorschach’s maiming an inmate who attempted to shank him, and also Halloween (the majority of the action in this issue takes place on October thirty-first).

Essentially, this issue zooms out from focusing exclusively on the superheroes to take the temper of the regular people that we’ve periodically met throughout the series in light of the global instability that has precipitated since Dr. Manhattan abandoned planet.  I’ve pointed this out before, but Moore and Gibbons are extremely interested in exploring the way that superheroes would impact the real world, and one of their favorite vehicles for that exploration is the cast of street level characters who appear in relation to the news vendor’s stand.  They’re the functional Greek Chorus of the series, and we get a big dose of them here mostly drawing a strong correlation between the resurgence of superheroes in the news and the general downturn in other parts of current affairs.  For the most part that’s all it is: a correlation; only Dr. Manhattan’s disappearance has any actual impact on global events, but the coincidence of Rorschach’s arrest and the tenement fire rescue lead people to think there’s some causation built in as well.  The issue ends with a gang of punks carrying this false connection out to its worst possible conclusion as they confuse Dan Dreiberg’s Nite Owl, who witnesses saw assist Rorschach in his escape from prison, with Hollis Mason’s Nite Owl, who was home preparing to receive trick-or-treaters for Halloween, and beat Mason to death in his home.

I’ve had the weird feeling before now that Watchmen was eerily reminiscent of America’s current political turmoil, but this issue’s centering of the bickering between elements of the far-right and the left really clinches it for me. (Artwork & letters by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

The false equivalence established between the Nite Owls carries some distinctly unpleasant echoes of our current reality; if you imagine superheroes as a scapegoated group where punishing any member of the group is considered just as acceptable as punishing specific members who perpetrate crimes and wrongs you start to see the parallels.  Obviously this analogy only goes so far (superheroes in the Watchmen universe are remarkably rare individuals, and most of them really do make things around them objectively worse), but it’s a weird reverberation nonetheless.

Even stronger a parallel to current events (and less of a stretch) is the oppositional relationship established between the two major fictional news magazines of Watchmen, the New Frontiersman and Nova ExpressNova Express has appeared before in relation to Jon Osterman’s self-imposed exile; its editor, Doug Roth, is the one who breaks the story that multiple past associates of Osterman have developed terminal cancer.  The New Frontiersman has received less exposure, though its regularly referred to by Rorschach in his journal as the only source of news that he trusts.  In this issue we finally get to see more of the Frontiersman and its contentious relationship with Nova Express.  At the start of the issue, Nova Express has published an editorial called “Spirit of ’77,” which refers to events in 1977 surrounding the police union strike that forced the government to outlaw masked vigilantism.  We don’t get to see the content of this editorial, but based on the talk on the street, we can infer that it’s a relatively broad criticism of masked heroes based on the way their presence destabilized the country in the early years of the Nixon administration (don’t forget that in Watchmen Nixon has been president for over a decade) and how recent events reflect that same trend but now on a global scale.  To rebut, the New Frontiersman publishes its own editorial, “Honor is Like the Hawk… Sometimes It Must Go Hooded,” which defends masked heroics as part of a long American tradition.  We get to see this editorial in full in the issue’s appendix, and it’s presented from a perspective that’s meant to come across as fringe far-right.  What’s uncomfortable reading this editorial now is that it’s espousing views that are getting mainstreamed into American conservatism.  The racism on display in the New Frontiersman (the editorial defends the Ku Klux Klan, and the paper features a political cartoon filled with caricatures of Jews, Black people, and Italians) is supposed to be outlandish and beyond the pale of political discourse in 1985; in 2017 it’s bizarre just how closely it matches the rhetoric we’re now seeing coming from the mainstreamed fascist right (like I said, Rorschach would be thrilled with America’s current political predicament).  So much of all this back-and-forth between Nova Express and the New Frontiersman feels like something that was meant to fix the story in a specific political climate, and yet it’s re-emerged some thirty years later, but with the veneer of parody rubbed off.

On Education and Politics

Many years ago when I was still in my teacher education program and still very conservative, I had a recurring conversation with Rachael about the challenges of going into a career built around service in the public sector while still wanting to be an effective evangelist.  I understood at the time that there’s a certain ethical expectation that public school teachers leave their religious and political beliefs at the door when they go to work; our job is built on the premise that we instruct in basic skills and we present information to allow our students to make informed decisions about their own lives.  That was a difficult thing to parse when I was in the throes of the subculture that demands that all its members orient their whole lives towards making new converts to the subculture; I’d go in circles figuring out how I was supposed to be an effective witness for white evangelicalism when the standards of my profession demanded that I not discuss Jesus with my students.  This was especially obnoxious because my atheist days in high school left me with a really strong instinct for wanting to protect the barrier between government and religion.  I never really shook that instinct, even when evangelicalism was constantly telling me that the subculture’s version of Jesus belonged in every part of life.

I think the compromise I eventually landed on was that I had to follow the ethical code of my profession, but that meant that outside of teaching I needed to devote time to evangelism (or, alternately, get a job at a private Christian school where I wouldn’t have to worry about that particular restraint).

Thankfully, my journey to actually becoming a full-time public educator was long and arduous and largely coincided with my transition towards progressivism.  The problem of keeping explicit expression of my beliefs out of my job became less acute as I moved into a system of thought that didn’t require me to constantly look for new members in the pyramid scheme.

Flash forward a few years to where I’m very solidly a progressive, and this question continues to confound me.  It’s become more and more apparent that we live in a society where facts are treated as optional accessories to a person’s worldview, and the postmodernist rejection of objective reality that seems to have gripped white evangelicalism in fear for decades has now morphed into the rallying cry of national conservatism and the Republican party.  The very act of education, which is predicated on the belief that things can be known is no longer a value neutral thing.  Asserting objective reality is a political action.

This brings me to this tweet that I came across the other day:

While I’m writing this, the tweet has garnered over ninety thousand retweets and two hundred forty-five thousand favorites.  People are moved by the idea that’s being communicated here.

Now, it’s fair to say that any single tweet suffers from a lack of nuance and depth due to its necessary brevity.  Folks may be responding to the humor of the tweet (“oh, those wacky liberal college professors going on political rants in the middle of class!”) or they may be responding to the sentiment that college professors are fearless where high school teachers are spineless about their personal beliefs.  I can’t say what the motivation is one way or the other, but I feel like there’s a great deal of complexity that’s being overlooked either way.  Also, if I’m honest, I feel a little attacked as one of those high school teachers who believes that talking politics with my students is unprofessional.

See, there are a few factors that help outline the ethical need for public school teachers to avoid discussing political opinions with their students.  One of the big ones is the fact that attendance at school is compulsory up to a certain age; our country believes that education is a public good, and that belief is codified in the requirement that parents send their children to school in some shape, form, or fashion.  Because most parents don’t have the personal resources to educate their children in private schools or through home schooling, that leaves the public school option for the vast majority.  Children who come to us don’t get a choice, so the least we can do is be careful in how we proceed with their education.  After all, when you have government representatives telling citizens how to think, we call that propaganda.

Beyond the compulsory aspect of education, it’s also important to remember that in America we don’t consider people to be legal adults until they turn eighteen.  High schoolers are mostly minors.  Minors are supposed to have special protections specifically because they aren’t yet mature enough to act as fully responsible persons, and one of those protections is not being overwhelmed with a specific, government sourced narrative.

Furthermore, you have the relational dynamic between teachers and students.  While it’s definitely true that teenagers are generally more interested in the opinions of their peers, they do respect and crave the approval of trustworthy adults in their lives.  Along with parents, teachers often fill that role.  We have an ethical obligation not to interfere in the ideological development of our students so long as it falls within the acceptable bounds of discourse in our nation.  To do so would be taking advantage of an unequal balance of power within the teacher-student relationship.

All of these factors are dissolved or altered when you change the setting to college and the students to young adults.  Professors still have ethical standards they need to adhere to when interacting with students, but the realm of acceptable discourse has expanded now that the students are older, paying for their education, and, most important of all, choosing to be in that setting.

Of course, all of this has been confounded thanks to recent events.  The man who now sits as president of our country is an unprecedented threat to the democratic experiment in America.  We’ve seen from his first week in office that he fully intends to enact the policy agenda he campaigned on, with its emphasis on scapegoating racial and religious minorities.  He falls outside what have long been the acceptable bounds of ideological discourse.  That should be license enough to criticize him in our classrooms, but the reality is that we live in a society where a large swath of the population supports him and carries with them the belief that government agencies are largely untrustworthy.  As representatives of local government agencies, school teachers lack credibility in the eyes of this part of the population, and any justifiable criticism of the new administration in our capacity as government employees would be seen as overreach.

I feel this tension pretty acutely in my new job since I work in a rural school district that went almost eighty percent to that man.  My students come from families that believe his lies, and open criticism is a risky proposition for me.  To be an effective educator, I have to have credibility, and that credibility is built on the expectation that I’ll keep my politics to myself and just do my job.  I don’t like it, but that’s the expectation.

So, y’know, just recognize that there are a few complexities behind the disparity between high school teachers and college professors voicing their opinions to their students.

A Brief Reflection

[TW: discussion of suicide]

Last week, the day before the inauguration, I was sitting in a meeting with one of my grade level teams when I got a text from a friend about one of our former students who had recently died.

Longtime readers and folks who know me in person are aware that this isn’t the first time I’ve had this experience; two years in a row at my old job I heard about students and former students who had died suddenly.  Both times were difficult, especially because they were kids that were known by the other students; it’s hard to describe the stress that comes from trying to manage your emotions while your helping a group of kids who already have difficulty managing their own emotions work through this kind of bad news.  For months afterward, those students’ deaths hit me in weird ways.

This time I felt vaguely sad, but it was a pretty detached feeling.  I was texting with my friend about this while my coworkers went on talking about how we were going to proceed with teaching Othello this week; I didn’t bother to tell them anything had happened.  This wasn’t a kid that they’d ever met, so the only reaction I felt like they’d be able to offer was the same sort of abstract sympathy that you reflexively present whenever you find out someone’s received some really bad news that doesn’t impact you.  Even as I’m writing this, I’m still trying to figure out my own emotions and whether I’m feeling personally impacted; it’s hard to judge, especially since I’m beginning to understand that my process for working through grief isn’t really an overt thing.  I’m five years removed from my last interaction with this student, and I honestly don’t know how this news is going to shape my emotions over the next few months.

There is one thing that I know I’m feeling more sensitive about after this latest loss; this student committed suicide.  I don’t have any details, so I don’t know the circumstances surrounding their decision to end their life, but given what I remember about the student, it’s likely an expression of their mental illness.  In light of that, I’ve felt much more acutely aware of all the immature jokes that some of my students make about killing themselves over minor inconveniences, and I’m feeling less inclined to chide their jokes and move on.  It’s a pervasive fear among educators that we might miss signals that children are in need of help or fail to act when we do recognize them.  Once this year I’ve had to stop class to deliver a serious talk to my students about the importance of not joking about suicidal ideation and also making sure they tell an adult if they are having thoughts along those lines.  That was a weird, somewhat uncomfortable shift from the upbeat tone I usually try to take in class, but it felt necessary in that moment.

Now I’m wondering if there will be more of those moments, and if so, do I mention the incident with this student?  Personal connections are powerful tools for making lessons stick, but I’m not sure if this is a personal connection.  The news is less than a week old as I’m writing this, and I still don’t know how I’m affected.  I don’t want to cheapen what happened to my old student by using them like some kind of object lesson.  That’s a hard thing to weigh against the importance of teaching children that it’s okay to seek help when they’re having suicidal thoughts and feelings.

________

Given the nature of this post, it feels like it would be irresponsible not to include links to some resources for anyone coping with suicidal thoughts.  If you are experiencing suicidal ideation, please seek help immediately.  You are a unique and irreplaceable person, and the world will absolutely be lesser without you.

Reading “Being Bizarro”

If you set aside the problem of Lois Lane in Morrison and Quitely’s All-Star Superman, my biggest complaint is that the macro arc of the series is extremely disjointed.  Outside of issues where Lex Luthor appears (spoiler: he’s the main villain of the series), each issue is meant to be more episodic.  I suspect part of this structure is derived from Morrison’s love of the Silver Age; the plotting style of comics from the ’50s and ’60s was to have a fully self-contained story in each issue that sets off from and returns to an established status quo (if you like to watch television, think of it as the structural difference between a sitcom and a serialized drama), and Morrison seems to be drawing heavily from that tradition in the way he approaches each issue.  If you keep in mind that All-Star Superman was published in the mid-’00s when decompressed storytelling in comics was at its most extreme (decompression is a narrative style in comics where the action in the story is spread out over a very large number of panels, allowing for significantly fewer story beats per issue; it’s receded in popularity slightly, but many creative teams still write story arcs designed for consumption all at once instead of in monthly increments), then the use of this episodic, self-contained format makes great sense; Morrison’s calling back to an older era in Superman comics, and he’s employing structural as well as mythological features of those old stories.  Still, my comics habits, having been formed through a preference for trades over floppies, means that I want each issue in a series to feel more like a chapter than a short story; Morrison and Quitely are working really hard to go for the short story feel in this series.

Now having said all of that, we have to contend with the fact that this is the first issue of the series that ends without a feeling of resolution.  Superman faces off against the new Bizarro threat, and at the moment of crisis he gets sucked into the Underverse with the Bizarro planet.  The day is saved, but he’s trapped and rapidly losing his powers in the absence of radiation from a yellow sun.  This issue’s clearly designed to be the first of a two-part arc, which would have been a big deal in the Silver Age.

The only problem with all of this stuff about Silver Age style plotting is that the issue’s part of a mini-series where we’ve been promised from the first that this was going to be a story about Superman dealing with his mortality.  He has a death sentence hanging over his head, and the Bizarro plot doesn’t really do anything with that idea.  Superman saves the world and finds himself imperiled, but this issue’s so heavy on action that there are no moments of contemplation like what has been regularly worked in to all the previous entries.  Superman traveling in time to prevent missing the death of his father, trying to talk Luthor into reforming, confessing his identity to Lois (note, though, that all of these endeavors are marked failures for Superman, and they carry with them the suggestion of his need to accept his limitations at a point where his power appears limitless) all remind the reader that we’re looking at the adventures of a man who knows he’s dying; none of that subtext is present here.  The only thing I can think is that maybe Morrison and Quitely saved the pathos of this story for its second part; I’ve not re-read it yet, so its particulars are still fuzzy in my mind.

On a different note, one aspect of this story that irritates me immensely is the use of Allie, the fat Black woman, as the expendable character meant to demonstrate how dangerous the Bizarros are.  She’s a perfectly well sketched character (I find her epicureanism charming), but this issue is her first appearance, and it’s clear she’s only given some depth so the reader can feel bad when she’s infected with the Bizarro virus and Lombard throws her out the window.  In a cast that’s overwhelmingly white (Morrison and Quitely don’t attempt any kind of race- or gender-bending of legacy Superman characters here), the decision to introduce a Black woman just for the purpose of killing her off to let everyone know the issue’s threat is serious business comes across as incredibly callous and insensitive.  Allie serves as yet another example of how creators should not integrate women and people of color into their stories.

We barely knew you, Allie. (Pencils by Frank Quitely, inks & colors by Jamie Grant, letters by Phil Balsman & Travis Lanham)

Altogether, this is a weird issue; it’s far from my favorite.  There’s a heavy dose of action, probably more than what’s been built into previous issues, and the emotional beats are largely unmemorable.  Things do get better from here though; the major arc needs to get moving soon, and from what I remember the last half of the series will accelerate substantially with its core story.