Spencer: Lex Luthor has basically been the main character of Justice League ever since Forever Evil ended, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. It’s inevitable that Lex will go back to being a full-time villain at some point (unless writer Geoff Johns manages to pull off the biggest reformation in DC history and make it stick), but I’m not sure how much that should influence my reading of Luthor’s intentions. There are two things I do know for certain, though: 1. Luthor’s presence has finally made the rest of the Justice League the competent, inspirational team we’ve been hoping they’d become since the New 52 began, and 2. even if Luthor’s reformation is somehow 100% legit, he still has plenty of misdeeds in his past to face up to. Continue reading
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Drew: How long do you suppose sexism has existed? The Bible would have us believe it’s basically as long as human sexes have existed — Adam was created first in God’s image, with Eve following up as an afterthought of sorts, made of Adam’s spare parts. Coincidentally, she’s also the one who is tricked (or at least talked into) eating the apple from the tree of knowledge first. Sin may be conceived in the mind of Satan, but it’s brought to humanity in the shape of a woman. I appreciate that this is a bit of a tunnel-vision reading of the creation myth — the Bible is full of men who sin without the aid of women — but the notion that women are lesser beings who tempt men to evil continues to pervade our culture, from how much women are paid at work, to blaming women for “provoking” physical attacks (or threats) against them. Gallons of ink have been spilled over this very subject, but Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula manage to find a new angle in Veil 5, providing an anti-Eve story that — no surprise — feels decidedly more empowering than the original. Continue reading
Suzanne: Ms. Marvel 9 introduces the subject of having a heritage that you don’t necessarily connect to. Who hasn’t gone through that at some point as a teenager? We’ve all been there, usually in less dramatic fashion than Kamala’s trip to New Attilan. For some teens, it looks like telling your dad you don’t want to go to med school like he did. For Kamala, this essentially expands on her feelings of difference and being an outsider as a Pakistani American. Continue reading
Spencer: We here at Retcon Punch haven’t been subtle about our love of Batman’s new Hellbat armor. The suit is awesome, and what’s better is that it isn’t just some gimmick meant to push toys; writer Peter Tomasi has created “realistic” (in comic book terms, at least) reasons for the Hellbat’s great power and for why Batman needs to use it in this particular situation. Still, he and penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz understand just how cool the Hellbat is, and much of Batman and Robin 35’s success comes from how the creative team chooses to portray the suit — which, in some cases, means not showing it at all. The issue is visually dazzling, and the artists know which types of imagery to use to best convey the stories both on Apokolips and on Earth. Continue reading
The term ‘archetype’ is often misunderstood as meaning a certain definite mythological image or motif…On the contrary, [it is] an inherited tendency of the human mind to form representations of mythological motifs — representations that vary a great deal without losing their basic pattern…
Drew: I’ve spent a lot of time on this site maligning the over-reliance on tropes in comics, but I think I have a clear understanding of why they’re used — sure, we may have seen the loose-canon cop or bumbling working class husband a few too many times, but they’re only used because they’re effective springboards for drama (or comedy, as the case may be). However, I haven’t put very much thought into where the tropes actually come from. The Worf Effect gets its name from Star Trek: The Next Genneration, but it was already a well-established trope by that point — at least as old as Greek myths (where Ares often has his ass handed to him). Again, this makes sense given how effective these tropes can be — an interesting premise/situation/character is bound to be repeated as long as it can bear new narrative fruit. But what if the first attempt at a given premise isn’t particularly successful? As a series built on these very archetypes, Fables has always had an unusual relationship with tropes, which gives issue 145 a unique perspective on that very question. Continue reading
Patrick: Have you ever watched a video of a baby eating a lemon for the first time? There are hundreds of these videos up on YouTube, and while it always strikes me as a little mean-spirited, it’s fascinating to see the purity of these babies’ reaction to the sourness of the lemon. There aren’t any videos of adults eating lemons, because: who cares? Adults have filters and modesty and the knowledge that they can make that sour taste stop. The baby, meanwhile, just has to stew in this unpleasant, unfamiliar experience. The same is true of emotions — adults have enough perspective to realize that their emotions are temporary or irrational or perhaps just resultant from a changeable attitude, but children are largely at the mercy of their emotions. Basically, adults can will themselves to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but as far as a child knows, the tunnel is all there is. The Marvel villain the Purple Man is a scary presence, with his ability to impose his will on others, but the Purple Children introduced last issue are something much more terrifying: the entire slate of childhood emotion projected outward. Continue reading
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 39, originally released October 15th, 2014. Taylor: Whenever we think about the 1950’s we inevitably think about the Cold War between Russia and the USA. The Space Race and a setting for alternate histories aside, the Cold War did little for either country. In the USA, fear of communism ran amok to such an extent that senators were able to persecute people on mere suspicion. In the USSR, money was spent so much on military and the like that the basic needs of many citizens were forgotten. In both cases there is a strong lesson to be learned: don’t let fear dominate your decision making. Despite these warnings, people continue to make this same mistake over and over again. In TMNT 38, we see that even the very wise and powerful are susceptible to the pull of fear. The question is, when they succumb to it, just what are the consequences? Continue reading
Greg: Let’s have fun with oversimplifications: Life is messy. To distract us from this messiness, humans create and consume media. Some media is tidy, to help us escape. Some media is messy, to help us examine. The best media, like the latest issue of Sex Criminals, has a balance of both elements. Now, let’s have fun with overcomplications.
“How did they build those pyramids?” They just threw human death and suffering at them until they were finished. “How did we traverse the nation with a railroad so quickly?” We just threw Chinese people in caves and blew ‘em up and didn’t give a shit what happened to them. There’s no end to what you can do when you don’t give a fuck about particular people. You can do anything. That’s where human greatness comes from: that we’re shitty people and we fuck others over.
Drew: Has the phrase “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” ever been used for anything other than falsely justifying horrific acts? It’s so strongly associated with evil advisors, it’s a wonder that it could ever persuade a unsure advisee, but it also has the unfortunate quality of being true to our experience of the world. Few, it seems, ever reach the top without the boost of standing on someone else’s neck. It’s easy to become bitter about people being used as pawns, but it’s also the stuff of great dramas — to what lengths are people willing to go in order to attain power? Manhattan Projects obviously has more in common with those heightened fictions than reality, but issue 24 never minimizes the monstrosities its protagonists commit in order to hold on to power, focusing on one of the more traumatizing events in US History. Continue reading
Suzanne: As a reader, I’m constantly shifting my understanding of “realism” in comics. I try to be mindful of my relationship with suspension of disbelief, although the line between credible and ridiculous is a subjective thing. Some people look for flaws and inconsistencies in storytelling while others are just looking to be entertained. Superboy Prime’s punch through reality not withstanding, I usually am able to fully transport myself into the world of fantasy. This isn’t necessarily easy in a universe where a man can harness a ring of willpower and befriend a talking alien chipmunk in the same panel. Continue reading