The release of the new Avatar trailer a few days ago revealed something completely unexpected: Judging from the reaction on Twitter, there are — and I can’t believe this either — Avatar fans, people who found the film memorable and delightful and are looking forward to more. I am happy for them, truly, even though I find their lives and interests entirely mysterious. (And look, one of the topics I like talking about at parties is the history of municipal sewer systems, so I get that not everyone has the same fandom.)
Anyway, there’s a new Avatar comic out this week, and like the movie it seems to have been coated in some kind of mental lubricant that makes it very difficult to grab ahold of and inspect. Something about that setting is like chasing a greased pig … but then again, lots of people like greased pig chases, so maybe that’s exactly the appeal. One of life’s little mysteries, I guess!
There are good comics too this week, I promise, I just find myself pondering the Avatar one at length because I find its fandom so puzzling.
THE THIRD PERSON
A lot of the dialogue in The Third Person is about the nature of friendship, and what friends do for each other, which is appropriate since the book itself may become something of a friend to readers. Settle in for a long read — nearly a thousand pages! — in this memoir about a woman who visits a therapist for help with gender transition, but winds up exploring unexpected psychological depths, harm, and resilience. Early in life, Emma established protective layers to shield herself from pain, but as an adult those guardrails are becoming a danger unto themselves. Gradually, over the course of years and in lengthy dialogue with her therapist, she comes to understand herself … or more accurately, her selves. Because of the book’s length, readers who find themselves engrossed will have plenty of time to journey in intimate detail through a painstaking (and sometimes painful) process of confronting all the different identities that Emma carries, and a dialogue amongst her various personas and therapist who do their best to puzzle through an exceedingly complex client..
Rating: 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈 (5/5)
Written & illustrated by Emma Grove.
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly.
EIGHT BILLION GENIES ISSUE #1
Tales from the Crypt meets Lost in this unsettling ensemble story about a day when — for reasons not quite clear — everyone on Earth gets their own personal genie that will grant one wish. Humans being as unpleasant as they are, chaos immediately ensues across the planet… except for one little dive bar outside Detroit, where the owner immediately wishes that no wishes made outside the bar can affect anything inside. The result is a tiny safe-haven from the madness and mayhem of humans indulging their worst instincts. And with issue-one introductions out of the way, presumably future installments will zero in on how the patrons, all thrown together by chance, will handle this strange new reality. As with Lost, the chemistry of the band of survivors is key to the story; but in this first issue, at least, they’re not a particularly compelling group. There’s a touring band, stopping in for a gig and bringing with them an awkward love triangle; a kid trying to drag his drunk father home; two lost tourists; and the suspiciously sage bar owner, who seems to know a little too much about everything. Of our cast of characters, the mysterious owner carries the most intrigue. Everyone else is written as such broad tropes that it’s difficult to care how they’ll work through their cookie-cutter unresolved issues.
Rating: 🧞🧞🧞 (3/5)
Writer: Charles Soule. Art: Ryan Browne. Alt covers: Jenny Frison, Steve Seeley, Declan Shalvey. Letters: Chris Chrank. Color assist: Kevin Knipstein. Production design: Erika Schnatz.
AVATAR: ADAPT OR DIE ISSUE #1
I still remember where I was the first time my stomach sunk at the words, “the taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” If you’re going to make an adventure, make it AN ADVENTURE, for crying out loud, not a bunch of tepid, technical conversations that feel like a city council discussion. I thought repeatedly of the slowest moments of the Star Wars prequels while reading a new comic series set in the world of Avatar (the blue people, not the airbenders). Leaders from Earth and from Pandora convene for placid negotiations over plans to establish a cross-cultural school; tribal leaders are skeptical, and after the humans wander off, I half-expected the indigenous people to turn to each other, shake their heads, and mutter, “that could have been an email.” Conflict, drama, and decision-making is reserved for the final pages of this opening issue, at which point a crisis is introduced seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a technique sometimes referred to in writing circles as “alligator in the transom” — basically, when a story’s running out of fumes, a writer might throw a surprise-problem into the mix to reinvigorate matters. But like so much about the Avatar franchise, this plot beat, when it finally arrives, feels uncanny and inorganic.
Rating: 🔵🔵 (2/5)
Script: Corinna Bechko. Art: Beni R. Lobel. Colors: Wes Dzioba. Letters: Michael Heisler. Cover: Mark Molchan.
Publisher: Dark Horse.