Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Batman Beyond 2, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Mark: With the release of Batman: Arkham Knight a few weeks ago I’ve been on quite the Batman kick recently, revisiting favorite catalog comic book issues and re-watching episodes of Batman: The Animated Series that I haven’t thought about for years. As part of this Batman binge, I listened to a podcast with Animated Series co-creator Bruce Timm where he discusses the origin of Terry McGinnis and Batman Beyond. According to Timm, the character was birthed when an executive at Kids WB asked for a show that could appeal more to young kids starring Batman as a teenager. Timm and company were originally repulsed by the idea, but when they started hashing out pitches amongst themselves they hit on the idea of keeping it in continuity with an elderly Bruce Wayne acting as mentor to his chosen successor. From there the character grew and the world of Batman Beyond was established over three seasons of television, a movie, and a handful of comic books. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Princess Leia 5, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Patrick: Love it or hate it, I’m a Wisconsin boy – born, raised, and educated. It’s a weird culture to grow up in, but it’s an even weirder culture to have to carry with you for the rest of your life. There are some awesome parts of being from Wisconsin, like an enthusiastic beer culture or an emphasis on education or the outdoors. Plus there’s the general air of friendliness that permeates my every visit to the homestead. But man, oh man, there are also a ton of drawbacks to that cultural identity: a meatheaded obsession with sports (specifically, the Green Bay Packers), unhealthy and frequently disgusting cuisine, and a bunch of casual institutionalized racism. And every person I meet is surprised that I’m not some backwoods, smalltown hick. Worse are the negative characteristics I actually take with me wherever I go, like juvenile appetite for dairy products and that irrepressible accent. Throughout the course of Princess Leia, Mark Waid and Terry and Rachel Dodson have presented us with Leia’s cultural identity, and with the final issue boldly declares that being Alderaanian is a powerful thing. Love it and hate it. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 18, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Drew: I don’t love fetishizing endings. I resent the idea that the final moments of a work of art are somehow more important than all of the other moments that came before. I do, however, appreciate that it’s not until the end of a work that we can properly understand what it is. It’s not that the last piece of the narrative puzzle is necessarily more important than the rest, it just happens to be the last one added, which makes it the one that completes the image. True to that analogy, most endings are increasingly predictable as they approach — by that late in a narrative, we have a sense of likely conclusions. But then there are those narratives that aren’t so easily tied down. Zero started as a relatively straightforward spy series, but became increasingly postmodern, turning itself into a pointed commentary on the artificial division between “life” and “art.” Even with that trajectory in mind, issue 18 offers a conclusion of such bizarre beauty that nobody could have ever predicted. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Green Lantern: The Lost Army 1, originally released June 24th, 2015.
Spencer: I’ve always thought that Johns’ version of the emotional spectrum was a little limited. There’s no color that represents happiness or joy? Nothing for sadness? I realize that the reasoning behind choosing those seven emotions probably came down to which ones could most easily be turned into superpowers, but with stories like Blackest Night boiling every aspect of human emotion down to these seven colors, I still find myself frustrated at times. Questions about the spectrum kept popping into my head as I read Cullen Bunn and Jesus Saiz’s Green Lantern: The Lost Army 1 — the issue focuses on the emotions of will and rage, and specifically seems to be interested in the intersection of the two. Is this Bunn’s attempt to expand and clarify the emotional spectrum? Do will and rage combined make aggression, a quality which John Stewart spends much of the issue ruminating over? I suppose only time will tell, but if nothing else, this debut issue has got me interested in finding out. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Daredevil 16, originally released June 24th, 2015.
Patrick: One of the base assumptions that I usually have to check when discussing a work of genre fiction is the assumption that the villain acts as an analogue to the creative forces behind the story. Heroes — be they superheroes or brave knights or swashbuckling adventurers — seldom get to trade in particularly complex or nuanced ideas. But villains! Villains get to have a much more human relationship to morality, often holding conflicting ideas in their heads. What’s more is that both the villains and the creators have the same job: make the hero suffer. This relationship gets even trickier when the characters are on-loan from elsewhere, as is so often the case with comic books. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have made their mark on Daredevil, but the character does not belong to them in the strictest sense. Issue 16 sees the creators trying to reconcile their relationship to the titular hero, and in so doing, welcome a host of villains into their drama. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Michael are discussing Material 2, originally released June 24th, 2015.
Ryan: Have you ever sat down and read the entirety of James Joyce’s notoriously difficult Ulysses? As a pretentious, young undergraduate studying English, I snickered into my coffee when a friend asked me whether I would attempt to tackle the classically obtuse text with a reader’s companion or not. Having recently curbstomped arm-loads of 18th Century British Lit. and avant-garde contemporary poetry, I thought, “How hard could it be? It’s only words. Making them make sense is what I do.” Ulysses quickly humbled me with the wall of metaphors, symbols, ambiguities, and overtones which allow it to remain one of the most critically-scrutinized novels of all time. While nowhere near the same “run away from the book right now” level as the aforementioned modernist masterpiece, Ales Kot and Will Tempest’s Material 2 struck me in a similar way – one which a comic book has never inspired in me. With the feeling that everything I read seemed fresh, dense, and that I barely scratched the surface on the first go-through, I recommended the two issues of the series thus far to a friend whose opinion I trust greatly, who simply thought that Material “had its head up its own ass.” So, which one of us is right? Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Batgirl 41, originally released June 24th, 2015.
Spencer: One of the defining moments of my childhood was watching the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Over the Edge” in its initial broadcast. For any of you who aren’t familiar with the episode, it the one that ends its first act with Batgirl falling from a building to her death, proceeds to Jim Gordon, who feels betrayed that Batman never told him that Batgirl was his daughter Barbara, raiding the Batcave and capturing Alfred, and only gets more insane (and more violent — I never saw the episode reran) from there. The sheer spectacle of the episode captured my young heart, but it also garnered its fair share of detractors for its ending: the whole story was a nightmare of Barbara’s after being gassed by the Scarecrow.
The “it’s all a dream” ending never bothered me because, as exhilarating as the action was, the true heart of the story was Barbara’s fear of what would happen if she never told her father she was Batgirl. The conflict over Babs’ identity and Jim’s reaction to it is one I’ve seen rehashed in the comics numerous times since, but with diminishing returns. With Jim Gordon now taking the mantle of Batman, it seems inevitable that Batgirl 41 would again focus on this aspect of Jim and Barbara’s relationship, but I feel like I’ve seen this story a few too many times at this point. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Trees 10, originally released June 17th, 2015.
Patrick: There’s a problem with most disaster narratives: there’s seldom an obvious antagonist. For as much as “Man vs. Nature” is one of those fundamental conflicts, it’s just harder for an audience to emotionally commit to a series of atrocities committed by a force or phenomenon with no willpower of its own. Think about every zombie movie you’ve ever seen – who are the real bad guys? The zombies? Nah: people pushed to desperate measures are far more dangerous. Twister, Titanic, Alien – all of these movies feature the deadly forces of nature, but there’s no sense of antagonism until we meet rival storm chasers, or understand how big of a dick Rose’ boyfriend is, or until Bishop reveals Weyland Yutani’s coroprate greed. Trees has done something similar in previous issues – focusing on the cultures of corruption, control, and ambition around the trees, ultimately casting man as his own worst enemy. Issue 10, however, reminds us just how terrifying the trees themselves actually are.
Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing The Infinite Loop 3, originally released June 17th, 2015.
Patrick: I like to think that these Alternating Currents are fearless. We make whatever observations we want and to hell with the consequences! Sometimes that means getting pushback from creators that used to retweet our pieces, sometimes it means getting into an argument in the comments section or on twitter. But the audience for one of these pieces is highly self-selected – anyone reading this specific piece (for example) is going to have read all the way through Infinite Loop 3 and wants to read more about it. That’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of people, likely lumped together by a shared set of values, enthusiasms and ways of thinking about and consuming culture. So when I make some dumb statement about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles perfecting action on the static page, I am, almost by definition, preaching to the choir. There’s no grander cultural risk involved – the writer and the reader are trapped in the same loop of perspective. Infinite Loop 3 makes a bold attempt to break itself out of its cultural loops by ratcheting both its science fiction elements and its lesbian erotica elements to insanely high levels, and the result is decidedly fearless. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Ms. Marvel 16, originally released June 17th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.
Spencer: Being a teenager comes with a skewed sense of priorities. Every setback you face feels like the end of the world, even something as simple as failing a test or embarrassing yourself in front of your crush. As the superheroic Ms. Marvel, Kamala Kahn’s problems are often much more severe than the typical teenager’s, but even she sometimes needs a lesson in priorities — it’s just a shame that Kamala’s reminder takes the shape of the literal end of the world. If that sounds depressing, don’t worry — despite the heavier subject matter, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona never let Ms. Marvel 16 feel gloomy or depressing, instead focusing on the same mix of humor, heart, and adventure that’s made this title such a delight from the very start. Continue reading →