Drew: What is an identity? Is it a name you call yourself? Is it a series of values that dictate your actions? I think we often tend to think of our identity as some kind of immutable part of our being, but I personally believe that it changes with the context. Sometimes we’re outgoing, other times we’re shy. Sometimes we’re funny, other times we’re humorless. I tend to think that context-dependence means that we define ourselves — at least in part — by the way others treat us. I tend to be a pretty mature guy, but as soon as I go home to visit my parents, I’m a little bit seventeen again. I often find myself rising (or falling, as the case may be) to those expectations, but Veil 1 introduces a character who refuses to be defined by the way she’s perceived. Continue reading
Shelby: There is something fascinating about the regular lives of celebrities. They can be doing the same, boring stuff I do every day, and I’m still going to be interested in it. In fact; it’s better if they’re doing regular stuff like me; it de-mystifies them, taking them down from the pedestal we’ve put them on. Celebrities are people, too, after all. I have a similar fascination with the regular lives of comic book characters. I love seeing the balance between their super lives and their regular lives. It’s extra intriguing when we’re dealing with a super who can’t look like an ordinary civilian; Scott Lang can blend into a crowd pretty well, but Ben Grimm is going to stand out no matter what he does. It’s really no wonder I like Charles Soule’s take on She-Hulk so much; it’s more about Jennifer Walters trying to live her life around She-Hulk, instead of She-Hulk smashing things. There is still some smashing, though; it wouldn’t be a [fill-in-the-blank] Hulk book without it.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moon Knight 1, originally released March 5, 2014.
Patrick: What do we call what we’re doing here at Retcon Punch? Literary criticism? Art criticism? Pop psychology mixed with informed gawking? I like to think that we’re simply exploring narratives and what makes them interesting. No matter what you think we’re trying to do, one thing we end up doing a lot is explaining. Occasionally, we lack the tools to properly explain something we read — maybe there’s a character who’s history we don’t have an adequate handle on or maybe the cultural references fly over our heads — but we always need to attempt to explain the issue in front of us. Moon Knight is one of those characters I don’t know shit about, but it’s cool — writer Warren Ellis is counting on my ignorance, and is waiting in the wings to exploit my every assumption. Continue reading
Drew: Ah, the learning curve. It’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit that there are things that everyone simply sucks at when they start. Some stick with it and get better, others don’t, but the fact that so many people are out there parallel parking or whatever just goes to show what we’re capable of when we put our minds to it. Of course, a good teacher helps, and the learning curve has a funny way of exaggerating the type of help we get. At our noblest, humans are capable of providing age-old (or even personal) wisdom to n00bs, but we’re just as capable as having a few yuks at the expense of the new guy. As much as I enjoy a good larf, I’ll never fully understand the inclination to let the new guy muddle through the same mistakes everyone else has made. Sure, maybe he needs to experience those mistakes firsthand, but how are we to know if nobody’s ever bothered to help anyone avoid it? At best, it’s negligent, and at worst, it’s malicious, but it always leaves the new guy worse off. Unfortunately, Alec is still in the early stages of learning the ropes as the Avatar, and every one of his mentors seems more content to watch him fuck up than offer any kind of help. 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 and Patrick discuss Manhattan Projects 18, Deadpool 24, Batman/Superman 8, Tomb Raider 1, Fantastic Four 1, All-Star Western 28, Daredevil: Road Warrior Infinite Comic 1, and Guardians of the Galaxy 12.
Drew: I love tvtropes.org. Its snarky tone is a great salve when you’re identifying lazy stereotypes or tired scenarios in whatever you’re reading (which I’ve been doing a bit recently), but I also respect it as a catalogue for those tropes. Without that site, I would have never put a name to The Worf Effect (when a villain is proven a physical threat by making short work of a known physical threat), which means I wouldn’t have been able to so specifically identify what is going on in Manhattan Projects 18. Feynman and Einsteins alien Frankenstein might not exactly fit the definition of a “known” threat, but by the end of the first page, there’s no real doubt what he might be capable of. That Westmooreland then takes him down (adding the creature’s ear to his necklace) cements the general as perhaps the biggest threat the Projects have faced. That Groves then forms a partnership with Westmoreland feels a bit like a deal with the devil, but is quickly trumped by Einstein’s partnership with Oppenheimer. Continue reading
Patrick: There’s a persistent tension inherent to any narrative based on a lie or secret between its characters. Writer Dan Slott has been successful enough at fleshing out who exactly Otto is in the body of Peter Parker, so the issue of “will anyone find out what’s really going on?” often takes a back seat to Otto’s superheroic machinations. And yet, that tension is still there: that’s not Peter Parker, and the truth is going to infuriate people. Secret-based stories basically have two options if they’re to last — 1) reveal the mystery and let the characters deal with the ramifications of that revelation (as in Mad Men or Breaking Bad) or 2) string the mystery out ridiculously straining credibility (as in Dexter). With an end-date to the Superior franchise in sight, Slott breathlessly catapults Otto toward option one. It’s an invigorating thrill ride as all of Otto’s chickens come home to roost.
Spencer: Why do we love Clint Barton so much? I could probably devote my entire word count to the reasons, but the one that sticks in my head is that he’s heroic, but still endearingly flawed. Clint screws up a lot, but he’s always trying to do the right thing, no matter how badly he goes about it. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye 15 reveals that Clint’s attempts to save his building are less than legal and have only pushed the Tracksuits to more desperate measures. But despite it all, I can’t help but like the guy even more; his heart’s in the right place. Continue reading
Drew: What is it that makes us human? Is it the capacity for emotion? Reason? Is it the ability to recognize that other people might have perspectives and motivations that are different from our own? These are some of the most fundamental questions of philosophy and psychology– perhaps too big to hope to tackle in a discussion of a horror comic book — but I’d like to suggest that humanity, however we define it, is the detail that separates Zombies and Vampires. Sure, there are the obvious cosmetic differences (illustrated beautifully by Alex Maleev on this month’s cover), but they’re ultimately quite similar: both are undead, both feed on humans, and both have the power to convert their victims into more monsters. The fundamental difference between the two — and what makes each so scary — is the question of their humanity: vampires have all of those qualities I mentioned up front, but zombies don’t at all. Or, at least they usually don’t – Empire of the Dead 2 reveals that its zombies may be more human than it may seem. Continue reading
Scott: As a kid, I didn’t enjoy ghost stories very much. I did my best to avoid them, but sometimes, late at night at a slumber party or around a campfire, it was impossible. I endured; listening wasn’t the hard part. In the moment, whatever shock or gore the stories contained didn’t affect me much. It was the aftermath, the lingering psychological torment — the fear, however irrational, that maybe the deranged killers they told these stories about might actually exist. In The Flash 28, Barry Allen is confronted with my greatest fear: the murderous monster from his childhood ghost story is real. A ghost story combined with a detective story, this issue is as fun as you can imagine, even though all of the elements don’t mix together quite right.
We are what he made us to be. To try and be something else…is the greatest sin of all.
Drew: I didn’t know religion growing up. My parents never took me to church, and somehow, none of my childhood friends ever went, either. It wasn’t until I entered middle school that I made friends with people of any kind of faith — run of the mill midwest Lutheranism, but they might as well have been the pope in my sheltered mind. Being both 13 and an asshole (I know that seems redundant, but I only grew out of one of those), I enjoyed picking fights with them over simple religious tenants. The simplest — why do bad things happen to good people? — was most commonly answered with the wimpy cop-out of “God works in mysterious ways.” That seems like a simple enough “we’ll never know” (and was probably only ever invoked to get me off their backs), but as with most religious answers, that simplicity masks a world infinitely more complex than the question itself. Is everything that ever happens part of God’s “mysterious” workings? If “bad” things can be part of God’s plan, doesn’t that throw the whole notion of morality out the window? These questions lie at the heart of Brother Lono 8, though the answers Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso come up with may not be what anyone suspected. Continue reading