Drew: The Riddler may not have seemed like the most intuitive choice for a retelling of Batman’s origin — he’s in no man’s land, much more specific threat than those posed by organized crime in Year One, but he’s also not Batman’s biggest villain. Of course, that ignores the specific nature of this origin story, one that openly acknowledges how well-known the story is — or at least how well we think we know the story. That is, in order to not be a total retread, it requires the type of surprise ending we typically associate with riddles. It’s the kind of ending that recontextualizes the three-part story we’ve been reading as one emotional arc with a focus on something we may not have been expecting: Bruce’s relationship to Alfred. Continue reading
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Saga 21, originally released July 23rd, 2014.
Shelby: it’s hard to watch something you love fall apart. Even if that something is a work of fiction, it can still break your heart just as fast (if not faster) than real life. I get very invested in the media I consume; anyone who’s watched a movie with me can attest to the fact I am frequently, literally on the edge of my seat at the climax of the movie. That’s how I find myself as we build toward the end of each arc in Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga: on the edge of my seat.
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, Drew and Shelby discuss Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego 1, Batman Eternal 15, Robin Rises: Omega 1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 36, Original Sin: Hulk vs. Iron Man 2, Elektra 4, Original Sin 6, Uncanny X-Men 23, Ms. Marvel 6, Nova 19, Silver Surfer 4, She-Hulk 6, Rat Queens 7 and The Wicked + The Divine 2.
Spencer: As many of you probably know (due to my extremely in-depth coverage), I recently attended my first Comic-Con. With that experience still fresh in mind, I have to say that Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego 1 feels like an uncannily accurate representation of the Comic-Con experience. I mean, sure, Wizard World is nowhere near as large as SDCC, and I am nowhere near as manic as Harley Quinn (I hope), but I can still relate to Harley’s various quests to meet creators, as well as to the suffocating crowds (which probably necessitated the eight different artists who contributed to this thing). Continue reading
Mike D’Angelo on Children of Men
Drew: It’s funny to think about now, but I can remember a point in high school when I thought literary analysis was such a huge waste of time. Allusion, foreshadowing, symbolism, and any other literary devices were distractions that cluttered the actual enjoyment of the piece. It was years before I understood how ignorant that attitude was. In fact, it took hearing that same attitude from a peer that shook me into appreciating how much more depth of meaning we have access to thanks to analysis. Can being more aware of analysis pervert how we experience it? Maybe, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. That is, unless you allow your knowledge of analysis turn you into a total snob.
Spencer: Despite being the title character, throughout Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s run on Green Arrow Oliver Queen has largely been a pawn, pushed back and forth by businessmen, various factions of the mysterious Outsiders, and even members of his own family (or sometimes all three!), all trying to use him for their own means. After declaring his independence from the Outsiders, though, Oliver Queen has moved to the front-and-center of his book — as Richard Dragon says, they’re both kings now. There’s still a massive focus on the supporting cast, of course, but now Lemire is using the supporting cast to teach us more about Ollie. I don’t necessarily understand every revelation, but it’s still a refreshing change of pace. Continue reading
Shelby: On the surface, the phrase “fight fire with fire” doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I mean, what are you going to do, set the fire on fire? That’s not going to get you anywhere. While it’s come to mean “taking extreme measures in the face of extreme threat,” its origin is actually fairly logical. As an early fire-fighting method, people would set small, controlled fires to burn up potential fuel and prevent larger, far more damaging fires from spreading. It’s logical until you consider how easy it is for a controlled fire to turn on you, however. In the end, no matter how you use the phrase, ultimately you’re just going to end up getting burned, a lesson learned by General Lane and Wraith in the latest installment of Superman Unchained.
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Guardians of the Galaxy 16, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Patrick: I very vividly remember being first introduced to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – it was late in the summer of 2003, and I was visiting my buddy Scott at his parents’ house between our Freshman and Sophomore years of college. Scottie had been playing the game on a borrowed console and the whole thing felt like a kind of wish fulfillment: suddenly there was a whole galaxy of Star Wars characters, stories and locations to explore, and all without leaving the confines of a single video game. There’s a promise inherent in KotOR’s premise – the depths of your imagination are already on display here, you only need look hard enough. This immediately becomes overwhelming. Even when alien races and spaceship designs look the way you remember them, you realize that any emotional connection you make with the material must be generated in-game. Without my core band of plucky rebels to get my automatic-love, I was left without a rudder, and instead of sailing the high seas of Star Wars adventures, I was mired in meaningless ephemera. This is often how I feel about the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. I may be able to recognize Broods and Spartax and Skrulls and Grand Inquisitors, but without someone to actually care about at the heart of it? Not a lot to hang a story on. Brian Michael Bendis addresses this issue head-on by spreading the Guardians of the Galaxy out among the cosmos. Suddenly, even the muddiest mythology has emotional resonance.
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Batman 32, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Shelby: I prefer playing games where everyone knows the rules. Sure, there are some PC games out there where you’re just dumped in the game universe and have to figure out what to do and how to do it (Myst, I’m looking at you), but that’s different. That’s more me trying to solve a puzzle than not knowing the rules. If I’m going to play a game with other people, I want everyone to know the rules; what’s the fun in beating someone at a game they don’t know how to play? In Zero Year, Scott Snyder has had a very young Batman pitted against the Riddler in a game our hero has consistently lost. Personally, I think there are two big reasons Batman has been losing this fight: he assumes he knows the rules of the game, and he assumes the bad guy will actually abide by them.
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing C.O.W.L. 2, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Drew: When we first started this site, I don’t think I had ever considered how serialization changes the philosophy of a work of fiction. Movies, plays, and short stories have vastly less storytelling space than comics, television shows, even novels, which leaves them with less room for exploring truly complex themes. When I was more familiar with those shorter forms, I came to the conclusion that all stories are about those simple, easy-to-relate to themes that make the best movies so compelling — things like love, loss, fear, loyalty, or ambition. Obviously, there are short form stories that tackle more complex themes, but you really need five seasons to truly understand the systemic failures of “the system” in The Wire, or 25+ seasons to intimately know all of the denizens of Springfield on The Simpsons. Part of that is that individual episodes or chapters can focus on those more straightforward themes, which can be stacked to build to something much more complex. Of course, that means that the work will ultimately be quite varied over the course of its telling, shifting its themes, moods, and focus. That’s exactly what’s at work in C.O.W.L. 2, as things get both more political and more personal.