Life Is Strange

Life Is Strange is an interactive fictional game that delivers a powerful message about choice and how it will affect the lives of others. Unlike other time travel stories, Life Is Strange’s time travel elements are not explained and is much stronger for it. Rather than wasting time discussing what causes the time travel, the game focuses on the characters and the struggles they face. While the game has only two major possible endings, the choices the character makes will greatly determine how the story will unfold. Because the player plays through the perspective of Max, the player will experience the relationships and choices the player makes directly through her eyes and see how it affects her and the people around her. The time travel and clue based puzzles along with dialogue options pushes players into this world and discusses important topics like bullying, suicide, and euthanasia.

As the events of the story unfold, the protagonist Max quickly learns that there is much more going on in Arcadia Bay than what it seems at first glance. She  tries to uncover what is happening while trying to keep her personal and educational life in check. The game does this by providing gameplay that primarily involves dialogue trees, exploration, and puzzle solving either through dialogue or to progression through the story. Most of the game’s choices are not morally binary and are presented to be morally gray. They are not designed to be right or wrong answers, but choices between what Max wants and what others want, which quickly becomes an important theme and is contextual to the last decision of the game. Chloe’s character throughout the story evolves from being selfish and stubborn to being a great friend and companion, and when the narrative comes to a close, she will lose her selfish attitude for the benefit of the ones she loves. Max’s journey takes her to several locations and themes. She begins the story as a shy introvert who wants to be cool and popular. But throughout the game, she is encountered with friendship issues, moral dilemmas, and life threatening events that strengthen her character so that when the end of the game arrives, she would have learned about the power of friendship, sacrifice, and the potential dangers of using time to get what you want.

Hawkeye #19

In Hawkeye #19 Clint Barton goes deaf after his encounter with The Clown, and this issue depicts his hearing loss by cutting out almost all the dialogue in scenes where Clint is the focal point. Empty word balloons indicate when people are talking (and occasionally reflect heightened emotion with the shape of the balloon), and panels of sign language show how Clint and his brother Barney are communicating, but they aren’t translated. In an issue where the script doesn’t make the dialogue explicitly clear for readers that don’t know American Sign Language, the visual elements need to do extra work to keep the audience engaged.  The most remarkable thing about this issue is how these ideas are conveyed in a challenging way that invites reader interpretation. The script stimulates the imagination by having the reader make connections by following visual cues and drawing conclusions based on their own personal opinions. People that know ASL will get more information from the artwork, but even then, there’s still plenty that is left open for interpretation thanks to the empty word balloons.

I like that the script depicts a hero with a disability as it demonstrates that one does not need to be all powerful in order to save lives as it’s ones unique traits that adds to strengthen their character and add depth.  Clint Barton provides a role model for deaf children and teaches hearing children that those with disabilities are not lacking or less then those who fit society’s idea of normal and healthy.

Doom Patrol

   Doom Patrol is  a comic that I would describe as unique and bizarre and this applies to it’s unique  artwork, storyline and characters. The writer uses  comedy and intriguing scenes, and it becomes apparent that what may seem as random in fact has a point by the end of the story as the Doom Patrol comes together to fight a powerful and mysterious force. The heroes in Doom Patrol are also viewed as odd balls themselves as their powers alienate them from the traditional superheroes and it is this aspect of accepting oneself and doing all one can with what they have that readers may connect with.

In this story  two new characters are introduced  to the Doom Patrol: Casey Bricke and Sam Reynolds, two EMTs who get dragged into the crazy world of the Doom Patrol just as Casey discovers her secret history. Both are great additions, but Casey is the real star of the show as the story largely follows her. There’s a quirkiness to her character and something funny about the way she just accepts everything that’s happening in a nonchalant way. The other characters are entertaining as well. Classic Doom Patrol mainstays like Cliff Steele, Negative Man, Flex Mentallo and Crazy Jane all feature in the story while Niles Caulder gets a few hints at his involvement. Each start out separately from each other, but by the end of the book they, along with Casey and Sam, come together. The various plot threads intermix well with each other, even if readers might not have the clearest idea of what is actually happening due to the craziness of it all.

The art in Doom Patrol was one of my favourite aspects of the comic as I think the bold and bright illustration reflected the wakiness and zeal that is Doom Patrol and helped the keep readers engaged and connected to the characters.

Planetary

     In Planetary Volume 1- All Over the World and Other Stories, Mr. Warren Ellis explores  the concept of secret organizations and their role and interference in society. Planetary  is an organization that tasks members with tracking down evidence of super-human activity. These mystery archaeologists uncover unknown paranormal secrets and histories, such as a World War II supercomputer that can access other universes, a ghostly spirit of vengeance, and a lost island of dying monsters. As archaeologists they are expected to take note and work as observers. Elijah Snow the most recent member to join the duo finds this to be wrongful and compels his teammates to be active and not passive. Elijah is an unconventional hero as though he is gifted with great powers such as manipulation of cold temperatures and immortality given to ” century babies” born on the midnight of January 1st, 1900 for the last ten years of his life chose to live in seclusion and is known to be a ” hard ass” with a temper that leads to violence.

I also admire how Mr. Warren Ellis developed his characters through their actions and not through long texts which define who they are as people, as it allows readers to form their own thoughts and opinions. As information given about the characters are slowly given and their actions are what truly highlight their temperament, goals and beliefs.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet

A unique characteristic that separates T’Challa from other superheroes is the role he has as both hero and king. The duties  attached with both positions bring conflict to Wakanda ,as the nation’s people grow in their frustration and  mistrust in the leadership of their King due to his work with the Avengers which sometimes takes him away from Wakanda and his subjects. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet  explores the conflict T’Challa’s character experiences due to his complex role as he attempts to answer : what makes a nation? What is a king’s duty, and what are his responsibilities to his people? While other superheroes such as Batman may not think twice about using physical force against their own citizens for the greater good, T’Challa  must weigh every action as to much violence from him may create the image of a tyrant and worsen the relationship between the ruler and his subjects leading to  mistrust,anger and even more violent rebellions.

Coates has done an excellent job of introducing fresh concepts and ideas to the character T’Challa while also still acknowledging his past for longtime Black Panther fans and providing a quick back story  for new readers, such as I, to follow. There’s a deep, interesting cast of characters, a fully-realized world, and interesting politics at play. The comic’s vibrancy is a demonstration of how diversity can breathe new life into old concepts. In recent years, Marvel has made strides toward acknowledging diversity, introducing Ms. Marvel a female superhero belonging to minor ethnic group and religion in society. Black Panther is one of the company’s first series to feature black characters depicted by black creators, and as a result no part of the depiction of the  characters culture feels superficial or forced.

The Importance of Kamala Khan

When I hear the word “superhero” the image that predominantly comes to my mind is that of a strong, formidable, attractive, other worldly figure who serves as an example for the ideal we must strive to be. Take Superman for example, he is the perfect example of a classic superhero. Clark Kent is a white man living in a society that already favours him  because of  his gender and race with that he is also a character with limited weaknesses and vices making him almost Godly. As a female reader and a person with vices and weaknesses I found it difficult to connect to his character and so struggled to complete reading All Star Superman. This however was not the case with Ms. Marvel at all as I read both volume 1 and 2 in a day thoroughly enjoying myself. Kamala Khan is very much a character I can connect to as she is both female and brown like me thus I  could connect to many of her own personal conflicts as her culture and family values conflicted with her desire to conform to Western Society. Kamala Khan beautifully represents a demographic woefully under-represented in  main stream comic books as she is a young teenager belonging to an ethnic minority searching for her own identity and placement in society while juggling school, friends, her culture and religion while trying to survive the complex  world that is high school. In the future I hope to see Marvel create and publicize superheroes who belong to minority groups in society like Kamala Khan as Marvel has a wide spread spread number of readers each one  unique in their own identity  and it it important for them to see a part of their own identity and story reflected in the image and character of a superhero.

Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud

As an avid reader books have throughout my life provided with me with the ability to live multiple lives, acting as a gateway to foreign lands they have given me the ability to travel both backward and forward in time and have carried me through a world wind of different emotions. In the past, I had only experienced this level of immersion in novels as authors utilized pages and pages of descriptive text to set the characters, plot and scene of the story. Therefore when first introduced to comic books I found myself doubtful of their capability to transport and immerse readers into the story line as I thought the limited text would  limit  the author’s ability to convey complex thoughts and feelings to the reader.

After reading the comic book Understanding Comics the Invisible Art by Scott McCloud my opinion on the ability of comic books to express a message changed as it was through this writing piece that I learned how comic books are composed, read, understood and the importance of visual language. McCloud taught me the power of an abstract image in cartooning as it eliminates details thus helping readers to focus on specific details by stripping down the image to it’s essential meaning an artist can amplify his main message or idea to the reader. The power of this abstract image is why McCloud designed his own image in the comic book to be very simple, as he felt a more realistic and detailed image of himself would have distracted the reader as they would be too aware of the messenger to fully receive the message. The simplicity of his cartoon like appearance helps readers to see themselves while a more realistic drawing of a face would portray to the reader “another” making it more difficult for them connect to what is being said. McCloud explains iconic representations as more abstract and a general representation of a person, place, thing, or idea. He states that iconic representations, “require greater levels of perception” (McCloud p. 49). As opposed to realistic representations, these images have greater room for interpretation and “perception”. They allow for the reader to easily identify with the images by attributing their identity. Realistic and iconic representations are important because they target the reader. Comics aim to get the reader invested, and this is done by getting the readers to identify with the words and visuals. The varying representations help the readers become a part of the comic world and make the comic reading experience much more enjoyable.

REFERENCES

McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: Harper Collins Publishing.