The Comic Book Club: Love & Capes and Power Man & Iron Fist

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up discussing what we picked up. This week, Graeme McMillan, Evan Narcisse and Douglas Wolk talk about the first issues of Love & Capes: Ever After and Power Man and Iron Fist.

DOUGLAS: I’ve always had a big soft spot for Thom Zahler’s superhero/rom-sitcom series Love and Capes, and I hope the new miniseries Love and Capes: Ever After brings a few more potential admirers into the fold. It’s a little strange to see a romantic comedy continue after the wedding, but I’m also happy to keep seeing these characters. It’s a pleasure to see a superhero story that’s so resolutely low-stakes and good-natured, too–this one’s mostly concerned about how the characters are going to deal with having the rent raised on them and how a couple of exes are going to deal with some minor jealousy issues.

A lot of the fun stuff here doesn’t particularly call attention to itself–the extent of the worldbuilding that Zahler’s doing (the dynamic between the Batman-analogue and the Alfred-analogue is particularly charming), the subtle look-and-feel trick of having all the word balloons slightly translucent, the way Zahler’s character designs are super-cartoony distortions but still manage to incorporate relatively subtle facial expressions, and so on. This issue continues the tradition of having action scenes that are entirely off-panel, too. It’s all very sweet and very mild–if it didn’t have the superhero routines thrown in, it’d basically be the comic for people who think True Story Swear to God is dangerously violent and gut-wrenching–but sometimes sweet and mild is exactly what I want, and I love just about everything about Zahler’s design and execution.

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EVAN: I’d never read any of Zahler’s Love and Capes stuff before. But, two pages into Ever After, I’d decided that I wanted to read all of it. Seriously. It’s tough to make mundane conversations about apartment hunting feel real in a superhero context. Money’s never a problem, perfect loft spaces are always available for super-dudes, and girlfriends always go along with whatever the hero desires. But it’s never like that, really.

Maybe it’s because I moved a few months ago or had a kid about six weeks back, but the groundedness of this one-shot really resonated with me. In most superhero comics, the workaday part of an alter ego’s life is usually the afterthought, playing second fiddle to the melodrama. In the Crusader’s universe, it’s the world-saving that gets relegated to off-panel. This decision’s got the added benefit of making all the hero characters look cooler. “Oh, yeah; that tidal wave? Wasn’t anything. Now, let’s talk taxes!”

Man, Douglas, I laughed so hard at the Darkblade/Mrs. O’Lonergan stuff. It really killed, like in a perfect sitcom kind of way.

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GRAEME: I am so glad that Douglas mentioned True Story, Swear To God, because this series has always seemed like the superpowered version of Tom Beland’s autobio run to me: very gentle, very sweet, romantic but also entirely… safe, I guess? Something you can read without expecting death or destruction around the corner. This continued that feeling for me, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s like superhero comfort food, in a way, filled with familiar nerditry and some fan service (“what if Wonder Woman dated Batman?”) thrown in, but it works.

I’m with Evan: the highlight of the book for me, is the twist of keeping the regular superhero disasters offscreen while giving us the smaller stories instead. While both of the problems have fairly easy resolutions (oh, would that everyone could afford to deal with raised rent by buying the building from their landlord thanks to a loan from an Amazon princess), there really is something charming about seeing them take center stage in the first place.

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