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Hot Ink — Unthinkable, Blackest Night, Rasl

ComicsAlliance reviews the biggest — and best — books coming out this week.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE PRINTERS – Unthinkable #3

While attempting to travel last May, Mark Sable had an unexpected run-in with the law. Mark Sable is not the name of the series’ hero, however; “Unthinkable” follows a writer named Alan Ripley, whose success as a terrorist conspiracy writer in the style of Tom Clancy leads to a job in a government think tank, envisioning worst-case attack scenarios faced by the United States. In fact, the only place you’ll find the name “Mark Sable” in the comic is inside the front cover, in the credits section, under “Created and Written By.”

I’ll also assume that credit could also be found in the “Unthinkable” script that was confiscated from Sable by Transportation Security Administration guards when he tried to fly from Los Angeles to New York. And as they kept reading the script, they saw words like “9/11,” “suitcase nuke,” “bio-weapons” and “plague of oil-eating microbes.” And as he watched them read, Sable started to be concerned about the reception of his work in a more immediate way than most writers have ever been.With issue 3 finally hitting the shelves this week, we’re all now able to see what the fuss was about, and jumping in here it all comes off as a somewhat fast paced string of apocalyptic terrorist threats with alarmingly well-researched details. That’s probably something Sable wasn’t thrilled about federals officials seeing, although more worrying for him might have been the lengthy, torture-filled interrogation scene that kicks off the issue.

When you’ve written a series of comics in which the worst case scenarios your fictionalized writer envisions start coming true and then that writer gets imprisoned and tortured by the government, the whole idea of getting detained yourself starts to have an almost Twilight Zone level of eerie-ness about it. But worst of all, Sable reported that the guards had a “hard time understanding that a comic book could be about anything other than superheroes” and that they were surprised “that anyone actually wrote scripts for comics.” So it’s looking doubtful he picked up any new readers that day, which is a shame.

As a side note, there’s something else to be learned from this incident. Apparently if you’re a TSA guard it’s not too difficult to take a comics creator aside for several hours of intense questioning as to what their current and future plans are for their work. If anyone reading this happens to be a security guard employed by the TSA, I feel it would therefore be helpful for me to point out that with the San Diego Comic Con now little more than a week away, there are about to be a large number of comics professionals traveling by plane very soon. So now’s looking like an ideal opportunity to satisfy your curiosity about what your favorite writers, artists and editors are up to. Pictures of what they look like can be found practically all over the internet.

RUNNING AWAY BACK TO THE SAME PLACE – RASL #5

TV and movies always make jumping into parallel universes look like so much fun. There’s all sorts of wonderful sites to see, ranging from evil goatee-sporting versions of your friends to knights riding dinosaurs. Sure, there’s danger every once in a while, but chances are if you’re going through the effort to travel to a parallel universe you’re leaving behind something just as bad. And if you don’t like where you end up, you can always keep traveling to a new world until you find one you can deal with. Unless you’re Rasl.

The title character of Jeff Smith’s series seems to have an interesting dilemma on his hands. No matter what universe he visits, he runs into the same people over and over again, facing the same problems and leaving the same mistakes littered throughout his past. Issue 5 goes into some detail about these choices, as Rasl chooses to go after the same women no matter the world, and to keep running whenever problems crop up.

We also see the toll it’s taking on him as he continues to grow weaker from the travel. Smith impresses by making the small, personal choices facing Rasl just as interesting as the dangerous man who follows him and threatens his life. But it does beg the question: is it really the best choice to repeat the same action, hoping you’ll get it right this time? Or is the right choice never getting into that position to begin with? You’ll have to wait until at least issue 6 to get an answer.

IT’S SUMMER. GUESS THAT MEANS THE WORLD’S ENDING AGAIN – Blackest Night #1

Despite the fact that last year the DC Universe was busy saving all of existence from the most evil being imaginable who sought nothing less than eliminating free will from every living thing, it’s time for us all to get worried that this time it really will be the end. It’s July. Big comic event season is upon is. “Blackest Night” issue 1 is finally here.

And for a crossover event launch issue, this one hits all the right notes. The stakes are clearly laid out and devastation is already falling around the heroes. If there’s any character in the DC Universe you’re particularly fond of who’s dead when the issue starts, be prepared to get upset with Geoff Johns. Undeath’s an effective horror metaphor. We hate to say goodbye to those we love, but then we’re presented with the alternative: That they could change into someone unrecognizable, and that someone who was once a friend could now be out to destroy us. That seems far worse, and Johns masterfully uses this by showing us the characters’ distress at the same time we’re experiencing it ourselves. Oh, and if all your favorite DC characters of are currently alive, don’t feel safe. They may not be for much longer.

A slight problem is evident, though. DC has shown a willingness to go back to the well when ideas work (see “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” “Infinite Crisis,” “Final Crisis,” see also “52,” “Countdown”). And by initial appearances this event looks like it will be a success. And yet in naming the series, DC’s gone immediately to the highest superlative possible. So when the Black Lanterns become the inevitable fan favorite among an evidently zombie-obsessed comics fan base and the Black Lantern t-shirts start flying off the shelves, what title is left for DC to use when the sequel series request comes in? Blackester night? Blackerest night? None More Blackest Night?

One last promise. Something occurred to me today as I was reading the book, and I feel I should address it now. Sure, the whole rainbow of Lantern Corps seems a little cheesy, but if it’s used as a vehicle to tell a good story then I don’t mind. However, there is a line. If this all ends with Hal Jordan combining the powers of all seven power rings to become the “White Lantern,” I may have to berate Geoff Johns until my face changes color several times and I black out.

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