Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 47

Art from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender – Vol. 5: North and South’ by Gurihiru.

The Avatar Returns episode 47 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

We’re baaaaack. But there’s no cause for celebration as we’re forced to bid a sad farewell to our beloved comics creative team. One last time writer Gene Luen Yang and art duo Gurihiru spin a tale of Team Avatar for the official tie-in graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics. Vol. 5: North and South sees Sokka and Katara return home to the Southern Water Tribe for the first time since setting off with Aang to end the Hundred Years War. But what they find may not be the quaint, egalitarian village they remember. As each volume before it, North and South explores issues of modernization, nationalism, societal and technological development. But for the first time our hosts don’t all necessarily agree on the quality of the story and/or art. One of them may or may not spend much of the podcast talking about loving the book while consistently nitpicking practically everything about it. Which one of them is being an Arlo? Press play and find out!

Also, there’s talk of “therapybending,” David Lynch’s inevitable contribution to the World of Avatar, spoilers for Lion King(?!?), and Tattoo Watch is officially over as someone earns their ink.

Next: there’s a change coming as the boys talk about how to continue the podcast in light of the glacial pace of new comics being released. There’s quite a bit of discussion at the end of the episode about what to do about that, but I’ll go ahead and spoil some of it for you now and let you know the next thing we’ll be discussing will be the first individual volume of the Legend of Korra graphic novel series Turf War. Date TBD.

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 47.)

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Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 22

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The Avatar Returns episode 22 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

The show may have come to an end, but the Aang Gang lives on as we take this opportunity to discuss “The Promise,” the first collected volume in Dark Horse Comics’ official graphic novel series continuing the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Written by Eisner and Harvey Award winner Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese; Boxers & Saints), with art by Japanese duo Gurihiru, “The Promise” picks up right where the animated series left off, but quickly demonstrates that the happily ever afters we saw in “Sozin’s Comet” may be a lot more nuanced and complicated than we thought. We talk about the book’s exploration of colonialism and cultural appropriation; how Aang’s true role as the Avatar, maintaining balance between four autonomous nations, may prove a greater challenge than defeating a single clearly-defined enemy; how well the author captures the voices of the characters, and how it all transitions from fluid animation to the static art form of comics.

Oh, and we add another title to the growing list of spin-off series we want to see: That’s So Toph!

Next: time marches on. 70 years to be exact. And with the passing of an age comes the birth of a new Avatar, with new friends, new enemies…it’s a whole new world! Join us as we discuss The Legend of Korra chapters 101, “Welcome to Republic City,” and 102, “A Leaf in the Wind.”

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 13.)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 19

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The Avatar Returns episode 19 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

Apparently prison break stories lead to weird tangents. This week the boys talk about the verisimilitude of Hogan’s Heroes, the connections between Avatar: The Last Airbender and Voltron: Legendary Defender, and that one time Paul and Arlo compared Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Linklater’s Boyhood. There’s also important stuff, like if bringing Zuko into the main cast and rendering the series essentially a single-plot narrative this close to the finale has affected the tension, and if chapters 314, “The Boiling Rock, Part 1” and 315, “The Boiling Rock, Part 2” really needed to be split into separate chapters.

And lastly, there’s debate over whether to tackle the Dark Horse Comics spinoff series all at once in a single bonus episode, or if we could spread them out over the course of our fast-approaching Legend of Korra episodes. Write in and let us know at tarpodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Next: the penultimate episode of the Avatar: The Last Airbender portion of The Avatar Returns as we reach chapters 316, “The Southern Raiders,” and 317, “The Ember Island Players.”

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 19.)

Last Month’s Comics: ‘Uncanny X-Men’ Ends (Until the Next Issue), ‘Spaceman’ Lifts Off

Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are.

This column is later than usual, as I was a little preoccupied earlier this month, but for all those still madly wondering about what October 2011’s comics had to offer, here we go…

BEST #1

Spaceman #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: Vertigo

I’ve read only a fraction of Azzarello and Risso’s acclaimed 100 Bullets, which ran for ten years from 1999 to 2009, but one needs no familiarity with their past work to be immediately sucked in by the opening chapter of Spaceman, their new nine-issue mini-series from Vertigo. It takes place in a weird, sad future, just a few monsters and flying cars away from the one in Joss Whedon’s Fray. Our protagonist is Orson, a monkey-ish man genetically engineered to travel to Mars, a trip the human race never got to make. Orson and his low-class friends speak in bizarre, disjointed slang; “okee” is how they say okay, and they actually say “LOL LOL LOL” instead of laughing. In this first issue, Orson has ominous spaceman dreams and becomes involved in the kidnapping of the adopted child of reality TV stars. Eduardo Risso’s art is terrific, Brian Azzarello’s storytelling immediately compelling. Choice line, as Orson’s alarm chirps “New day, new day, new day” while he opens the door on a bleak, cloudless future: “Why, you lyin machine…it’s the same fuck old day it always is.” (Plus: $1!)

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Last Month’s Comics: ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ Swings In and DC’s New 52 Roll Out

Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are. This feature started last month.

So, September 2011, what kind of havoc did you wreak? Let’s find out…

BEST RETURN TO FORM

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #1
Writer: Joss Whedon
Art: Georges Jeanty (pencils), Dexter Vines (inks), Michelle Madsen (colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse

To say that I was pleased upon finishing the first issue of the new “season” of Buffy is an understatement. Season 8 started off very well, with Buffy leading an army of 500 Slayers and trying to unmask the mysterious foe Twilight. And to tell the truth, it was great for much of its run, with an occasional stumble (vampires being outed to the public wasn’t handled with much finesse). But the last story arc, with the reveal of Angel as Twilight, cosmic sex, and general batshit insanity, was so damaging that even someone who considers Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the greatest piece of entertainment ever given us by man had come to the conclusion that it might be for the best if Ms. Summers was finally laid to rest. The final issue of Season 8, though, was a dramatic 180 from the pace and structure of the last few issues leading up to it, and the Season 9 premiere continues in that vein. With Giles gone and magic vanquished, Buffy is depressed and adrift, working as a waitress and getting blackout drunk. It’s all done with Whedon’s razor-sharp wit and keen sense of twenty-something angst. The final “shock twist” is so humdrum and everyday it’s hilarious. In many ways, the metaphorical “party” is over for our Scoobies; now what? I can’t wait to find out.

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Last Month’s Comics: DC Reboots and ‘Spider-Island’ Breaks Out

Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I will discuss, uh, last month’s comics. The past couple episodes, we’ve pimped Direct Comic Book Service, which I’ve recently started using as a way to return to regular comics reading. The only downside is that I only get bi-weekly shipments (the weekly option is there, it’s just more expensive), so I won’t wind up reading all of my comics from one month until the beginning or the middle of the next. So I figured it’d be nice to sum up my thoughts, frustrations, and surprises about each month’s comics in a single column. It should be noted that, of course, I’m only reading comics that strike my fancy, there are some books I won’t get started on until a couple months from now, and that I also skipped out on all of DC’s books this month…with one exception.

Let’s get started with August 2011…

BEST #1
Angel & Faith #1
Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Rebekah Isaacs (pencils/inks), Dan Jackson (colors)
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Publisher: Dark Horse

Last year, Gobbledygeek called Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight the Worst Comic Book of 2010. It was more a symbolic award than anything: there were worse comics, but none that were more disappointing. Season Eight had a very strong first two-thirds, but in the last third, things went awry more than they went a-right (please forgive me). It all culminated in the bizarre, confusing, contrived “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” arc. However, the final issue was a stellar return to form, and Joss Whedon has promised that Season Nine will be smaller, more character-driven, less prone to jump-the-shark-ness. Judging from Angel & Faith #1, the first piece of Season Nine, I’d say he’s kept that promise. Though I still don’t fully understand what Angel was up to last season–“Your whole Twilight phase makes about as much sense as a David Lynch movie,” so says Faith–watching him again struggling with remorse over his actions and back in help-the-helpless mode is refreshing. Where once Angel was Faith’s mentor, the roles have reversed. Faith is now there to help Angel deal with his grief, though based on the last-page shocker, she’s got a lot of work to do. Christos Gage has all of the characters’ voices down pat, and Rebekah Isaacs’ art might be the best to ever grace any Whedon comic. Can she draw Buffy too?

(Paul and I reviewed Angel & Faith #1 in “Talking Turkey.”)

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Comics 201: More Recommendations

In our latest episode, Paul and I mentioned a number of comics recommendations for beginners in a variety of genres. However, we also mentioned that we had to pare down our lists significantly so that the topic would even approach being manageable. Here, as promised, are our other selections.

SUPERHEROES

FANTASTIC FOUR #232-293 (John Byrne)

After his legendary Uncanny X-Men run, John Byrne took over Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four. Cinematic storytelling, emotional character shake-ups, shocking betrayals. And he grew up Sue Storm, taking her from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman.