Patrick Ehlers, Co-Editor-In-Chief
Location: Los Angeles
History With Comics: Patrick came late to the comics game. After enjoying adaptations of Batman, Superman and the Justice League, he was finally tricked into picking up a set of graphic novels after seeing Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City. Naturally, this lead to further exploration of Frank Miller’s work, specifically with Batman. But it was not until an unexplainable desire to read Blackest Night that Patrick began purchasing the trades of Geoff Johns’ run Green Lantern. With a convenient new entry point and a handful of friends to follow him into the madness, Patrick began reading monthlies with the New 52’s Justice League #1.
New 52 Favorites: The Flash, Swamp Thing, Batwoman
Other Favorite Comics: Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Saga
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 37, originally released December 17th, 2014.
…for us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
-The Nicene Creed
Patrick: Growing up in the Catholic church, I always had a little bit of a problem with this part of the Nicene Creed. On the one hand, it’s very clear: Jesus sacrificed everything — including his life — in order to save the whole world from sin. But on the other hand, death didn’t share any of the long-lasting consequences it does for anyone else. Jesus died, but then he returned, three days later. What’s more is that he transcends his human flesh and embraces his fully divine nature by hanging out with God in heaven. While the drama of death and resurrection is enough to stir a body to faith, it betrays a fundamental truth about death. What’s hard about death isn’t that someone dies, it’s that they stay dead. And yet, this narrative — of death and rebirth — is so powerful it’s one of the stops on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Batman and Robin has allowed Bruce Wayne to deal with Damian’s death in grounded, real ways for almost two years, but now that “resurrection” is in play, subtlety goes right out the window. This is Damian, the bat-Christ-figure to beat the band, and he only marches back on the field to fireworks. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 13, originally released December 17th, 2014.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
Drew: It’s easy for the neophile to be frustrated with art. As much as our society claims to value innovation, our art tends to rely heavily on the comforts of the known. That’s not to say the majority of art is devoid of surprise, just that the forms that those surprises take are so prescribed as to be relatively predictable. Whether it’s the hero returning home or the melody returning to the home key, our most tried-and-true structures leave only the smaller details to truly distinguish themselves. Zero 13 contains a masterful example of this kind of small surprise, but this issue’s biggest surprise might lie in what it reveals about the larger form of the series. 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, Spencer, Drew, and Patrick discuss Justice League United 7, Batman Eternal 36, Harley Quinn Holiday Special 1, East of West: The World, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual 1, Spider-Verse Team-Up 2, Rocket Raccoon 6, Uncanny X-Men Annual 1, Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, and Avengers World 16. Spencer: Jeff Lemire’s Justice League United has always been a rather straightforward title, and that often proves to be both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Issue 7 finds the various League and Legion groups fully assembled and focused on stopping Byth from using Ultra to bring about the end of the universe — there’s a no-nonsense urgency to their meeting that’s refreshing, and Stargirl’s quick smack-down of anyone looking to mercy-kill Ultra (“We do what the Justice League does and find a better way”) is again refreshing both for its bluntness and its unyielding sense of morality. That said, that same straightforwardness robs the story of any real surprises or complexity — for better or for worse, things play out exactly as you’d expect them to. Much of the fun comes from the various interactions between these disparate characters that Lemire packs into practically every panel, but outside of a few established relationships (J’onn and Equinox’s connection to Ultra, Ollie and Buddy’s pseudo-rivalry) none of those moments have any lasting impact on the characters. Ultimately, Justice League United is a book that’s a lot of fun in the moment, but doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression on the reader. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Afterlife with Archie 7, originally released December 10th, 2014.
The critic encounters standard elements of comics work — word balloons, square panels, standard layouts — and immediately interprets them as meaningful to the content of the work. This is another example of the critic’s own ignorance coming out to play. Imagine if a critic wrote (of a prose novel) that “the straightness of the lines of text reflect the narrator’s matter-of-fact perception of the world, and the ordering of the letters from left-to-right functions as a subtle reference to his growing political conservatism as he comes of age over the course of the novel.”
Michael McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Drew: These two statements might seem contradictory, but I firmly believe both of them. All elements of any work of art are meaningful, but not all are uniquely meaningful. Meconis makes this distinction later in his essay, acknowledging that even the elements we tend to take for granted can be full of meaning, but I tend to agree that they aren’t always worth noting in a discussion with a limited word count. The problem, of course, is in distinguishing which elements are uniquely meaningful to the work at hand, and which can be understood as “standard elements” — an easy task when you’re familiar with the medium (or genre) in question, but becomes a bit more treacherous when you aren’t. In those cases, we have to weigh the value of those fresh eyes (which might be more valuable for a discussion aimed at people equally unfamiliar) vs. doing more research (which will be better for an audience already well-versed in the medium/genre). I’ve opted for the former in this discussion of Afterlife with Archie 7, so my apologies to anyone who is no longer as excited about the novelty of Archie! With! Zombies! Continue reading →
Today, Suzanne Drew and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 37, originally released December 10th, 2014. Drew: I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that Barbara Gordon has one of the least memorable origin stories in the Bat-mythos. In fact, without the inciting incident of murdered/criminal parents, or simply figuring out Batman’s identity, it’s arguable that she doesn’t have an origin “story” — she just kind of became Batgirl in the same way someone becomes an adult. That means she doesn’t have the same motivations built into her character that Bruce, Dick, Jason, Tim, Cassandra, Steph, and Damian all have. That’s not to say she’s a lessor character — indeed, she’s been the center of several great stories — just that her “mission” isn’t as strongly defined or as personally motivated as those of her peers. With Batgirl 37, writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart turn that lack of definition into a huge asset, making Babs an infinitely more believable 20-something. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 41, originally released December 2014. Patrick: I saw The Expendables when it came out in theatres in 2010. I ended up really enjoying the experience, if only because the flick ends up being a comedy of unintended juxtaposition. Stalone and company think they’re making an uber action movie, but the truth is that Jason Statham movie is not the same genre as a Jet Li movie is not the same genre as Sylvester Stalone movie. It’s a mess that so blindly and courageously moves from one “here’s what’s cool about this guy” scene to the next, with no regard for its own identity. There are also a lot of genres buried in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and while issue 41 has a lot of work to do to step up how all of these pieces will come crashing into each other, the creative team leverages the hilarity of the same kind of juxtaposition The Expendables does. Only, y’know, on purpose. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Woods 8, originally released December 3rd, 2014. Spencer: We’ve all liked someone we shouldn’t have, right? Crushes aren’t choosy, and it’s easy to shrug off or explain away someone’s ugly traits when you’re infatuated with them. Unfortunately for Isaac, this exactly describes the dynamic between him and Adrian in James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas’ The Woods 8. I relate to Isaac a lot here, but while my particular brand of blind, tasteless crush just ended with a broken heart and some particularly sad relationship experience points, poor Isaac’s is a matter of life-and-death. Such is the fate of anyone who falls in love in a comic book, I suppose. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Action Comics 37, originally released December 3rd, 2014. Patrick: The opening to Jaws is just about perfect. A beautiful young woman indulges herself in a (probably drunken) morning swim. It’d be an idyllic scene but for the foreboding sense that this moment is somehow too precious for a movie with a giant shark on the poster. When the inevitable shark attack happens, the audience is briskly snapped away from the pleasant scene and tossed back and forth like the film’s first victim. The violence is jarring, not because it’s particularly graphic or believable (there’s no reason a shark would drag someone around the surface of the water for so long), but because we’re able to feel the loss of the pleasantly banal moment that came before. Action Comics 37 plays a similar trick, insisting on a Smallville that’s apparently very serene, until that very serenity ends up be just as creepy as any external threat Superman can face. 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, Spencer, and Patrick discuss Gotham by Midnight 1, Arkham Manor 2, Batman Eternal 34, Batman Beyond Universe 16, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 17, Scarlet Spiders 1, Spider-Man 2099, Nova 24, New Warriors 12, Cyclops 7, Lazarus 13, Manhattan Projects 25, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2. Drew: With an ever increasing number of movies and tv shows based on comics, there is a lot of focus on how comics are influencing pop culture at large, but I think the more interesting part of that narrative is how comics are in turn influenced by their more widely-viewed cousins. In some situations, those influences are quite direct — the co-opting of Harley Quinn and Phil Coulson spring to mind — but in others, it may just be the mood of a particularly stylish tv show that makes its way into a comic. That’s exactly the case with Gotham by Midnight 1, which wears its debt to True Detective on its sleeve, pairing a philosopher with a philistine, and sending them both to Gotham’s own bayou of Murder Swamp. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing C.O.W.L. 6, originally released November 26th, 2014.
Spencer: Comparing any comic on the stands today to a book from the Golden or Silver Age is like comparing night and day. Besides the drastic differences in art, pacing, and dialogue, comics today simply operate with more subtlety, complexity, and shades of grey than the books of the 60’s. That isn’t always a plus — I miss a time where Superman could simply be inspirational — but for the most part, modern comics to a better job of reflecting the complexity of life itself. Kyle Higgins, Alex Siegel, and Elsa Charratier’s C.O.W.L. 6 is a Silver Age throwback, and the simple morality tale it weaves is a far cry from the version of Chicago presented in its first five issues. This contrast is the perfect way to display how far Geoffrey Warner has fallen. Continue reading →