History With Comics: Drew grew up with Superman pajamas. His best days were when he never had to change out of them. He fell in love with Batman the Animated Series when he was 5. He had never read a comic in his life, but started reading Batman trades when he was in high school. He continued to pick up trades and one-offs throughout the 00’s, but never got into the monthly swing. After almost a decade of being an outsider looking in, Drew seized upon DC’s relaunch to start picking up monthlies.
New 52 Favorites: Batman, Wonder Woman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing
Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Spencer, Patrick, Ryan, Mark, Michael and Drew discuss The Flash 40, Effigy 3, The Wicked and The Divine 9, Suiciders 2, Wytches 5, Deadpool 44, New Avengers 32, Batman Eternal 51, Darth Vader 3, Gotham Academy 6, Secret Avengers 14, and Elektra 11.
Spencer: There’s a lot I admire about the way Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Brett Booth bring their story of the two time-displaced Flashes to a close in The Flash 40. Booth rocks the three-way speedster battle with energetic pencils and layouts that manage to perfectly capture the feeling of speed, and the strategy Barry concocts to disable Overload’s abilities is quite clever. My favorite thread, though, is the “redemption” of Old Evil Flash. He finds a way to stop Overload based solely around the kind of compassion that has always been a major part of his character instead of resorting to vengeance, and ultimately takes responsibility for all of his crimes, which may be a more important moment than even his death in terms of redemption. Patty’s inability to forgive his crimes, though, may be even more significant — Venditti and Jensen find a way to condemn the Future Flash’s actions unequivocally without completely vilifying him, finding a kind of moral balance that “redemption” stories often miss. At times the issue feels a bit cramped and rushed, but I blame that on the creative team having to wrap up their story before Convergence begins; considering the space they had available, Venditti, Jensen and Booth have crafted a strong ending to their long-running storyline. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Drew are discussing The Multiversity: Ultra Comics 1, originally released March 25th, 2015.
“We believe in Ultra Comics. And we demand a happy ending!”
Red Riding Hood
Michael: “The Tinkerbell effect,” born from the stage play of Peter Pan, where Pan encourages the audience to clap their hands if they believe in fairies to save the dying Tinkerbell. That is, if you believe in something, it exists. Grant Morrison thrives on the philosophy of this idea and the power that we as an audience/society give to it. The Multiversity: Ultra Comics 1 takes this theme and runs with it, transforming the act of reading a comic book into an interactive, cross-reality adventure. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing The Black Hood 2, originally released March 25th, 2015.
Drew: Means, motive, and opportunity. We’re familiar with how these play in a criminal case — a prosecutor must convince the jury of these three elements in order to convict — but I’d argue that they’re just as important in crafting a compelling superhero origin story. “Means” would be the superpowers (or lack thereof): the radioactive spider-bite, the alien DNA, the years of martial arts training; “motive” is their reason for fighting: the death of a loved one, the morals of a father-figure, some huanting mystery from their past; and “opportunity” is the wealth of villains: bankrobbers, intergalactic warlords, or even the corruption of their hometown. As with a criminal case, means and opportunity are pretty open-and-shut — the basic whos and whats of the story — but motive is much more subtle. An audience will dismiss a far-fetched or unbelievable motive just as quickly as a jury will. Of course, that also often makes motive the most elusive of these elements — a feature Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos highlight in The Black Hood 2. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 40, originally released March 25th, 2015.
Drew: Bruce Wayne’s back was broken. Otto Octavius took over Peter Parker’s body. Superman had a mullet. Steve Rogers was dead. We often talk derisively of these kinds of easily-reversed changes in superhero comics because they seem gimmicky and cheap — what better way to boost sales than to trumpet the death of Superman? — but I’d actually argue that these stories offer a clever way of exploring what makes these heroes great. Moreover, they remind us not to take what we like about these characters for granted. Fewer characters have been put through quite so many changes recently as Damian Wayne, who has both died and gained superpowers, so while Batman and Robin 40 ends with him back in his non-dead, non-superpowered state, it’s actually kind of refreshing. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutanimals 2, originally released March 25th, 2015.
Patrick: Himato Yoshi and his four sons were murdered by Oroku Saki and the Foot Clan. Hundreds of years later, and on the other side of the world, they are given a second chance to be a family as a quartet of anthropomorphic turtles and a wizened man-rat. Mutation is the ultimate blessing: it literally allows the Himato family to beat death and live together indefinitely. But they had the fortune to be among the only accidental mutants in the world of TMNT, and are therefore beholden to no agenda, no cause but their own. Under the leadership of Old Hob, the Mutanimals have taken on the identity of avenging victims, and writer Paul Allor explorers how their weaknesses make them strong (and, maybe the other way ’round too). Continue reading →
Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Drew, Patrick and Spencer discuss The Kitchen 5, Manhattan Projects: Beyond the Stars 1, Batman Eternal 50, Batgirl Endgame 1, Superman 39, Batman Superman 20, The Amazing Spider-Man 16.1, Black Widow 16, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 3, Cyclops 11, and All-New Captain America 5.
Drew: I’ve always thought dividing comics and television into “episodic” and “serialized” categories was kind of overly reductive. Even the most episodic series I can think of had some kind of continuity, and even the most serialized ones need to deliver their stories in satisfying installments. When we zoom out to talk about what the series is — a workplace comedy, a police procedural, a family drama — considerations like the importance of continuity become noise. I think we now have enough information to know what kind of series The Kitchen is, as issue 5 asserts a new normal, even as change appears on the horizon. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Private Eye 10, originally released March 19th, 2015.
Drew: One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from my older brother as I was preparing an essay for my college applications. I don’t remember his exact words, but he advised me to ease off a bit on my conclusion, which he pointed out was trying way too hard to wrap my essay up with a grand statment of purpose. It’s a common tendency, but it’s easy to understand why: the end is your last chance to leave an impression on your audience — better make your big point now, whether you’ve earned it or not. That tendency becomes even more treacherous when the work in question is meant as a kind of critique of modern society, where the very idea of an ending might feel forced, and any kind of grand statement would feel particularly heavy-handed. It should be no surprise that the sly-as-ever The Private Eye 10 avoids this pitfall altogether, offering an ending so subtle, it might actually be too ambiguous. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing C.O.W.L. 9, originally released March 18th, 2015.
Drew: I once saw a Q&A session with The Wire creator Dan Simon where he had to defend a moment that one audience member saw as a crack in the realism of the show. I don’t remember Simon’s exact words, but his answer boiled down to the fact that the show isn’t real — sometimes, the creators would knowingly break from absolute fidelity in order to elicit the appropriate emotional response from us. Everything we saw on that show, just like any number of less realistic narratives, was there for our benefit, not because it’s 100% true to life. What’s funny to me is that the fan’s complaint wasn’t with the credulity-straining Hamsterdam or serial killer plotlines, but with the body language of an uncredited, unnamed character. I suspect the reason those bigger pieces of fiction get a pass is because we want them to happen. The Wire does such a good job of detailing how the system is broken, we can’t help but cheer when a character attempts to buck it. It’s cathartic, so we overlook that it’s also kind of batshit. I found myself thinking the same thing about Radia’s catharsis in C.O.W.L. 9, which is so necessary, it really doesn’t matter how unlikely it is. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Zero 15, originally released January 28th, 2015.
Patrick:Last time we talked about Zero, Drew was interested in the discrete loops of experience necessarily unshared by the artist and the audience. This came on the heels of two issues which seemed to actively push the audience away — largely wordless volumes soaked cover-to-cover in intense, non-romantic violence with cryptic references to half-remembered song lyrics — so it was easy, almost necessary, to rely solely on the reader’s perspective of the events in question. With issue 15, Ales Kot and artist Ian Bertram re-introduce the concept of the meta-narrative first explored in issue 10, and along with it, a fictionalized version of Williams S. Burroughs, as the author of this story. The move simultaneously buys into the culture of exploring authorial intention and discounting it all together, as the experiences, reality, dreams and non-reality of creator and creation merge, both on the page and off. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Chrononauts 1, originally released March 18th, 2015.
Ryan: On September 13th, 1959, the Soviet Union made history by landing the first man-made object — the Luna 2 — on the moon. The Soviet success allowed their premiere, Nikita Khruschev, a scientific triumph to laud over President Eisenhower demonstrating the virtues of Communism. After a decade of dominating the Space Race, the USSR lost the ultimate prize to the USA and its space program, which had been kicked into high gear under the watch of President John F. Kennedy, when the first feet to touch the surface of the moon belonged to American astronauts on July 20, 1969. Despite the years of rivalry and the mires of the Cold War, when Apollo 11 touched down, the Russians cheered. As Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov wrote, “Everyone forgot that we were all citizens of different countries on Earth. That moment really united the human race.” Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy’s new title, Chrononauts, seeks to recapture the magic of families across the world crowding around their televisions and radios as science catches up to imagination. Continue reading →