Outside the Panels

Outside the PanelsA review of A.C. Wise’s “In The Name of Free Will” in Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe Edited by Claude Lalumiere and Mark Shainblum (Edge, 2016).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Superhero narratives are often focused on one individual transcending all others and becoming the centre of a story, everything in her/his world gravitating around them and serving to propell them further into their experience. 

When Jenny returns from the deaf after being tortured by Captain Freedom’s greatest villain, Proto Star, she resists the narrative flow of her world, a living text that propells her into tropic hero narratives where everyone around the hero ends up being part of her/his narrative. She realises that she is not only trapped in a superhero narrative, but a stereotypically sexist one, where the girlfriend must tragically die for the hero to be shaped by tragic circumstances into a more self-assured character. She realises that she is a narrative appendage of him, tacked onto his storyline to fulfill his plot and that awareness allows her to resist the flow of the narrative that keeps trying to push her into certain roles. 

She doesn’t want to be defined by others anymore and realises that she lives in a world where everyone Is defined by superheroes. Everyone is playing a bit part in another person’s star performance. She realises that she needs to disrupt the story and literally puts herself back together to push the boundaries of her world, to shove at, push, and alter the frames around the panels of her comic book existence. 

A.C. Wise’s “In The Name of Free Will” is a call to readers and fans to change the superhero narrative, to disrupt it and find new stories within it that don’t disempower people or construct people as shallow one-dimensional bit players in a narrative that has been repeated and repeated. Like her character, Jenny, Wise invites readers to push the boundaries of the possible, to reflect on the narratives that have become tradition and push beyond the panel, opening up the narrative possibilities that exist betwixt and between.

To discover more about Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe, visit Edge’s website at http://edgewebsite.com/books/tess19/t19-catalog.html 

To find out more about A.C. Wise and her work, visit her website at http://www.acwise.net

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