20 July 2013

"The Movement" #3 and "Batgirl" #22 by Gail Simone

It's Saturday morning and for me that means time to read (and review) comic books. Why did it take me until this Saturday to read and review a pair of comics that were both published before this week? I was away visiting a friend, which I'll discuss in a forthcoming post. Besides, what better way to mark that I'm nowhere near San Diego International Comic-Con this weekend?

The Movement #3

"Class Warfare"
Gail Simone - Writer
Freddie Williams II - Artist
Chris Sotomayor - Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual - Letterer
Amanda Conner - Cover
Dave McCaig - Cover Color
Kyle Andrukeiwicz - Asst. Editor
Joey Cavalieri - Editor
Matt Idelson - Group Editor
32 Pages/$2.99
Date of Publication: 3 July 2013

Continuing directly from issue #2, Katharsis is pummeled by Coral City S.W.A.T. officers while the rest of the team struggles against Rainmaker. The latter of these conflicts lasts until story page 14, by which point I sort of got "beatdown fatigue". The end of that confrontation is fairly anticlimactic, too, with Virtue calling for a truce and Rainmaker asking, "You don't work for the man?" It's all over just like that. A fight that lasts nearly half the issue all comes down to that simple exchange.

On story page 13, Burden channels Satan (or some similar demonic force). Rainmaker takes him down, shouting, "I don't know what you are. But I'm not Christian!" The only Biblical reference he had made was to Sodom, whose story appears in the Old Testament but also in the Torah as well as the Qu'ran, meaning non-Christians of the Abrahamic religions would still recognize and respond to the same, uh, character. Of course, yelling, "But I'm not an Abrahamic believer!" is clunky so there's that.

More interesting is a scene in the middle of all that in which Vengeance Moth delivers cheeseburgers to the two captured cops. Officer Whitt taunts her by pointing out that The Movement's treatment of prisoners fails to live up to even the reluctant standards of law enforcement, daring her to question whether the police - corrupt as Whitt and some others are - are the more merciful group. It's an ethical dilemma and one that rescues this issue from being wall-to-wall beatings. It also made me want a cheeseburger. At 7:30 in the morning. So thanks for that, Gail Simone.

Carlos M. Mangual's lettering really stands out in this book. It's kind of rough and complements Freddie Williams II's artwork nicely. Those two elements give the book a very gritty aesthetic that suits the narrative.

Batgirl #22
"A Day in a Life of Endless Velocity"
Gail Simone - Writer
Fernando Pasarin - Penciller
Jonathan Glapion - Inker
Blond - Colorist
Dezi Sienty - Letterer
Alex Garner - Cover
Katie Kubert - Editor
Mike Marts - Group Editor
Batman created by Bob Kane
32 Pages/$2.99
Date of Publication: 10 July 2013

Issue #22 is a much needed respite for Barbara Gordon, who has been through the fire - literally - since The New 52 returned her to action as Batgirl. She doesn't don her nighttime clothing once in this issue, which is kind of daring in a superhero book but it works here. It reminds us that Barbara - not Batgirl - is the real character in a way that Bruce Wayne really isn't the soul of a Batman book. Her date with Ricky is charming, though I'm struggling to recall how exactly they got together. I also enjoyed the brief gal pal camaraderie between Babs and Alysia, and Simone did a nice job reminding us of James Gordon, Jr.'s recent "demise"*, for which their father obsessively blames Batgirl.

This issue doesn't end on a typical cliffhanger. Instead, we're left with the sense that the eye of the storm is passing and what will come next will be rough. There are a lot of relationships up in the air right now, and these dynamics are what make Batgirl so compelling. I've always cared about Barbara, and to a lesser extent Jim Gordon. I've taken quickly to Alysia and I like Ricky so far, too. It's nice to know that someone sees characters in a superhero book as more than costumed brawlers, and that humanity is why I have loved this book from issue #1.

Incidentally, it appears that both The Movement and Batgirl are being skipped during DC's "Forever Evil" gimmick month in September, meaning after next month's issues I/we will go two months before we get back to these books. My thoughts on "Forever Evil" are already on record, and knowing the two books I read are being skipped to accommodate it does not endear me to DC, except for knowing that they didn't run roughshod over these two books and force it into their pages. I guess this was the compromise between the storytellers and the marketers who run the show. Any book that wouldn't play ball has to sit on the bench that month. You couldn't at least run Batgirl Annual #2 during this lull?

Whatever, DC. Whatever.

Gail Simone has written Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1 featuring The Ventriloquist for "Forever Evil", so that'll have to be my fix for September. Well played, DC.

07 July 2013

The Goodbye I Would Have Wished I Had Said

I have thought about writing this piece often over the last year and a half but never quite made myself write it. The topic: What I would have wished I had said in the event that I had ended my own life. I cannot speak for anyone else, though I hope if you've lost someone to Depression that maybe somewhere in all this you'll find something that helps you.

In my experience, what happened was that depression poisoned for me everything that was good in my life. I became convinced that I didn't deserve any of my friendships or my marriage. I withdrew from them because it hurt less to avoid them than to be around them, certain that they were only indulging me out of misguided politeness. This was not because of anything that any of my family or friends said or did - or didn't say or do. That was simply what Depression kept telling me until I believed it.

I rationalized the issue of how my death would affect them by reminding myself that everyone dies. They would have to face my death one day anyway. And I was in pain. Constant, daily agony. If it was a physical pain, a lot of people would have understood it as a "mercy" thing. But an emotional pain we're told to suck up because "that's life". I took it so far that I became angry at the very idea that I should live in pain because someone else would be inconvenienced by my death.

Depression is sneaky. It's skilled in rationalization and logic.

There is a school of thought that love should be able to save people like us. "Keep living for the ones who love you!" But Depression poisons that. Twists it. Tells us we don't deserve it. Why wait for old age? End it now, let them move on while they're still young enough to be more than a widow or widower or whatever.

We're led down a hallway where every day sees another door close on us. It pushes us downward to that very last door. We don't really know how we got there, but we look around and see only closed doors and a very long hallway; so long we can't even see light at the other end of it. So there's the temptation to go through that last one and hope that no one follows us down that hallway. We think that our death will become the DO NOT ENTER sign we want to hang there for our loved ones.

"They'll figure it out. They'll heal. They'll do things better without me. They'll do things better BECAUSE of me."

There's also the sense that whatever drain we've been will at least stop. "When you realize you're in a hole, quit digging", you know?

In my mind, I saw my death as a positive thing in the big picture for those I loved. I would never have done it to hurt them. I just didn't know any other way to stop my own pain.

People think suicide is the most selfish act there is. Suicidal people don't see it that way at all. We think the world will be unaffected by and indifferent to it, and that we're actually doing the best thing we can for those whose love we no longer believe we deserve. We end our pain and free them of their obligation to the albatross we feel we've become.

It's really the ultimate "It's not you, it's me" situation, except even that isn't fair or quite accurate because it wasn't me, either. It was Depression. Depression is the cruelest game of "telephone" where one person says something but Depression reports something very different. "Hey, we should hang out!" becomes "I feel like I have to say something about wanting to hang out with you but I really hope you don't take me up on it." That's how it works.

One of the most common reactions from people is that they admit they knew something was wrong, but they didn't realize the extent of it. Nor did they really know what to do about it. I've heard this from my own family and friends, and I've heard it from people who have lost someone to Depression. It's okay, I would have wanted to have said. I didn't know what to do about it, either. I tried. I really did try. But nothing I tried worked. Reaching out to those who would have done something if only they had known seems the most obvious thing in the world, but not when Depression has already convinced you to withdraw from all such people. I languished in my own pain, increasingly isolated looking at all those closed doors.

I would have wanted my loved ones to have understood all this. To know that in my mind, it was the most logical decision in the world. I worked out all the issues and sub-issues until suicide was the only reasonable thing left to me. My suicidal thoughts didn't actually originate with me being upset. On the contrary; I was actually upset by having suicidal thoughts.

You know when you have to admit that someone else is right about something even though you hate that something (and maybe even the someone else, too)? That's where I was with all of it. I tried to argue my way out of suicidal ideation. I brainstormed every possible way to make things better for myself, for my wife, for our marriage, for the whole world. Every single thing I considered died on the vine. My ideas were exercises in futility. It was only a matter of time before I came to see my very existence as also being an exercise in futility.

Somewhere in all this, I hope I've been able to give you a better understanding of how I got to that point. I can't say whether that's the exact same experience for each and every person who has succumbed to Depression's taunts and machinations, but I do suspect that there are certain near-universal themes that are applicable to most of Depression's victims.

01 July 2013

The Louisville Palace presents The Alfred Hitchcock Series 2013

My most-viewed blog post of all time is last year's Louisville Palace summer movie schedule so I assume some of you will want to know what this year's lineup is. Since it's finally been announced, I can now report that for the third year since the Palace began their annual summer movie series in 2001, they've designated Alfred Hitchcock as their theme.

All shows play at 8:00 PM. $5.00 apiece or $42 for a season pass.

19 July Rebecca
20 July Shadow of a Doubt
27 July Rope
2 August Strangers on a Train
3 August Dial M for Murder
9 August Rear Window
10 August The Trouble with Harry
16 August To Catch a Thief
17 August The Man Who Knew Too Much
23 August Vertigo
24 August North by Northwest
30 August Psycho
31 August The Birds

To Catch a Thief played as part of the Cinemark Classic Series earlier this year on 23 January, and Iroquois Amphitheater screened Psycho 3 June.

North by Northwest played in last year's The Great Directors: Hollywood's Golden Age series. The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope, Rear Window and Vertigo all played in 2011 as part of the Palace's James Stewart series. And, of course, 2010 was an all-Hitchcock year in which ten of this year's thirteen pictures played! If Facebook comments are any indication, there are more than a few of us who are disappointed that the Palace has gone back to the Hitchcock well yet again.

Still, I do love going to the Palace and $5.00 a pop ain't bad. Plus, it's nice to only be kinda sorta interested in any of the particular movies, meaning I can go to pretty much any of them without any sense of pressure that I have to see any specific one. I've gotten into James Stewart's films in the last few years, but slowly, so there are several of his in this lineup - repeats though they are - that appeal to me. We'll see.