Friday, January 13, 2012

Comics Don't Lie: Reading IS Power!

Pay attention in school kids, as the skills acquired could prove life-saving!
With apologies to the good people at comic-book aficionado website iFanboy, I've "borrowed" their idea for use in considering the comics I picked up at the comic book store this past week: highlighting cool panels. The criteria for "coolness" on my blog however has more to do with their relationship to a common theme than with how visually stunning they are (or even how much I like the source from which I culled them).

The two panels both reinforce an important theme (whether intended or not) to the most recent issues of both comics: the power of reading. Based on what I've read in both stories, reading (like all power) may still be used for good or evil.

The panel above, from IDW Publishing's H.P. Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror #4, a modernization of the original Lovecraft story, depicts the use of reading by the protagonist to save the world. The message here: under the right circumstances, the power to read can be utilized to maintain an inter dimensional portal intended to suck "evil" out of our plane of existence. Unfortunately for my plane of existence, these panels are among the most compelling things about this four-issue miniseries. Even worse is my own "I-can't-quit-you" approach to purchasing a series run once I've begun it. Though it seems to me unnecessary, I love to support the idea of Lovecraft's work being somehow recast in a modern setting (done to a much greater effect in the film version of Stephen King's The Mist), this series just didn't hook me as much as I had hoped it would.

I's all fun and games until bad guys start getting ripped in half...
This preceding panel is part of the issue 4 reveal of the source of the protagonist's powers. The Strange of Talent of Luther Strode is about a nerdy teenager who, anonymously receives a book addressed to him via snail mail which promises him the strength of Hercules--of course, by reading the book he does in fact acquire "powers"... the problem for those who oppose him however is that apparently one of Hercules'  (and Luther's) powers is to tear people in half in very bloody fashion. The conflicting message inherent in this miniseries, published by Image Comics with story by Justin Jordan and art by Tradd Moore, is that reading can make you physically powerful... especially if said reading material is mysteriously sent to you by a secret order of destructive social elite hellbent on murdering those they deem undeserving. This series has somehow become very popular among fanboys, and while I will (again) see it through to its completion two issues from now, I'm not sure one of Luther's strange talents is staying power.

While this week's haul from the new release table is mildly disappointing (there were a couple "okay" titles), it was interesting to pick up on the thematic similarities between two relatively dissimilar titles. In the final analysis, I would strongly suggest a nice novella by John Steinbeck or Edith Wharton as more sensible (and beneficial) alternative, and as a stronger evidence of the power of reading.

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