Established fantasy franchises put a lot of energy into “building out” their worlds. The really memorable ones know how to let their worlds sink in.

In the fourth season of the freewheelin’ Dean Haspiel’s Webtoon comic The Red Hook, we don’t have to see the whole panorama of the fledgling hipster utopia it’s set in; we feel it in every close corner where the story plays out.

By now we’re at home in New Brooklyn, the former borough whose innate individuality caused it to supernaturally separate from its attached geography and start a second history as an island nation. …

Prophecy’s not so difficult when both gods and mortals are so predictable. Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and its lessons play on a 2,500-year loop until they’re actually listened to; a kind of closed-circuit surveillance whose creators knew they could afford to tape and walk away from. The only god who could do something isn’t watching, and the only one who cares can do nothing; for creating humans and favoring them over his own kind, Prometheus is ordered by Zeus to be chained for eternity and tortured daily, but the real sentence is his inability to die and the true punishment is…

What if being alone is what we were really all waiting for? Isolation is the defining sensation of the 2020s, perceived as a passing trial but really the only precedent this decade has to refer to so far. Most of us sense ourselves as being not so much solitary as partitioned, the teleconference cubes being the windows we now lean out of to call to each other. Fewer people than ever may believe that “hell is other people,” but we have to admit that almost everyone has always dreamed of having heaven to themselves.

Where once we sought to draw…

When lies become law, fables become duty. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 preserves its predecessor’s dreamlike texture and fairytale essentiality, but by this chapter the dream is going American, and bad. Wonder Woman herself, encased in coincidentally patriotic colors, has been semi-underground for most of the century, a battlefield legend of World War I who’s seen fleetingly in snaphots from a few other moments of global crisis and is now operating in Washington, D.C., …

Can we ever live up to our mistakes? It’s a question pressing on all postmodern artmakers who wish to both proclaim and disclaim their love of mass culture and show the seams in both big-budget and schlockhouse productions of the past, that some honesty and affection can shine through.

This movie, to quote its opening monologue, does not have the answers. But it leaves a strong sense of wonder-what-did-I-just-see. Psycho Ape makes a patchwork aesthetic out of vintage continuity error, changing film stock and filters at will and clearly shooting two sides of conversations at different times and in random…

Originally published at HiLobrow.com on February 14, 2020

Old loves can seem like much happier times in retrospect, and the labors of artist Jack Kirby — best known for defining the superhero form but just as significant for having co-invented romance comics — grow more cherished over time. Supposed commercial failures like his cosmic Fourth World cycle come to be revered as cultural milestones, so it makes sense that the comics he didn’t even get into print are considered lost masterworks.

Life is best understood sideways, and preferably not by the person who’s lived it. The shape that playwright Edward Einhorn’s family history takes is wound around the points of view of relatives, strangers, secondhand authorities and individual people’s younger and older selves, in his play Doctors Jane and Alexander. In the scrapbook of the play’s structure, we meet Einhorn’s grandfather, Alexander S. …

Originally published at HiLobrow.com on February 6, 2020

History is erased by the winners. The truest heroes get no monuments, but their shadow has already been cast. Sometimes, though, it may not fall for decades. Many Americans are so used to combat being out of sight, that when it comes right to our doorstep it remains outside our visible spectrum. Few Americans remember, or even noticed at the time, when a Philadelphia mayor dropped a bomb on the headquarters of a dissident group and took out an entire city block in 1985; to many Americans it was national news, a…

Birds of Prey is on-track to earn less money than any other DC film, besting (or worsting) the champion before it, Shazam!. This may say a lot more about who doesn’t like it than it says about the film itself. That’s a badge of honor that the typical blockbuster would rather not win, but there is consolation in this movie’s clever pinwheel story-structure, absurdist aesthetic, and multidimensional performances of the most cartoonish characters. So, what have we learned?

Flaws make perfect:

We don’t know what we would do if we were the one committed cop on a corrupt force, or…

Can we get this hashtag trending? I understand why our previous president would feel a personal investment in promoting his calm model of governance over his successor, since Trump’s victory represented an unexpectedly (to Obama) strong rejection of his incremental approach. In this latest speech, he says that “Americans are not seeking revolutionary change,” but in fact, that’s what they voted for in 2016, and they sure got it. …

Adam McGovern

Adam McGovern is a comicbook writer, poet, corporate semiotician and freelance agitator living in New Jersey.

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