Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Detective Comics 49, originally released February 3rd, 2016.
Michael: Jim Gordon has been Gotham’s Dark Knight since June and with Bruce descending into the Batcave in the pages of Batman, it seems that Gordon’s rooftop days are nearing their end. That kind of bums me out to be honest. While Snyder’s work on Gordon in Batman has been bombastic fun, I’m not sure that he’s had enough time to engage in the wide array of Batman capers. Enter Pete Tomasi’s three-part story arc: “The Bronze Age.” Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 48 originally released January 20th, 2016.
Drew: There’s a concept in biology of “synapomorphy” which is, essentially, a trait that’s unique to one biological group (which can then be used to distinguish that group from all others). Milk production would be a synapomorphy of mammals, for example. What’s interesting is that these synapomorphies can pile up such that a given biological group might have many distinguishing characteristics — to expand on our mammal example, hair, inner ear bones, and a unique type of teeth are all synapomorphies. Each of these traits developed separately, but all have come to define mammals as a whole.
A similar thing can happen with the defining characteristics of fictional characters — particularly characters who exist in multiple media in stories told by multiple people. Batman is a prime example of this, with countless defining characteristics that range from costuming to gadgets to locations to supporting cast to overarching themes. Some were there more-or-less from the beginning, but others have become essential more recently as new stories are told. A few years ago, Patrick suggested that deconstructions of the Batman mythos have become so common as to become a defining characteristic of the character itself. I was initially skeptical — I can certainly think of plenty of great examples of Batman stories that are as straightforward as can be — but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that we’re living through the time when meta-commentary is becoming a defining characteristic of Batman storytelling. Or, at least, it’s a defining characteristic of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, but when they do it so well, it’s hard to argue that it should be any other way. Continue reading →
More self-contained than an ongoing series (which may build on decades of backstory), but capable of more depth than a one-off, the mini-series may stand as the truest analog to novels that monthly comics can provide. 2015 was a banner year for mini-series, with both of the big two switching to minis almost entirely during their respective crossover events, and many more stellar minis coming from other publishers. These our our top 10 mini-series of 2015. Continue reading →
Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2015.Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman 47 originally released December 9th, 2015.
Drew: I’ve complained before about the prescriptive nature of Chekhov’s Gun — that our awareness of Chekhov’s “rule” necessarily gives away elements of the ending. A great example of this is the first season of The Killing — I enjoyed it quite a bit, but Chekhov’s gun dictated that something must tie the mayoral campaign that features so heavily to the titular crime. The specifics can still surprise us, but we know we’re not being shown that stuff just for fun. Of course, the predictability of Chekhov’s rule loses its stranglehold on narratives that aren’t driven by plotting — say, a character study or a situational comedy. In those cases, we might actually be shown things just for fun (or nuance, or detail, etc). We tend to think of superhero comics as plot-driven narratives, but B-stories can often take on less plotty structures, as we learn more about a character, or are amused by their situation. It can be difficult, then, to know if a given element of a B-story represents a gun that will eventually go off, or just a portrait of someone who has a gun. These are the questions in my mind as Bruce grapples with his own obscured history in Batman 47. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Midnighter 7, originally released December 2nd, 2015.
Mark: Well, shit. After complaining about the anti-climactic fight between Frankenstein and Superman in Action Comics 47, writer Steve Orlando does not make the same mistake in Midnighter 7′s climactic matchup between Midnighter and Prometheus. This is a knock down, drag out battle that serves as an appropriate follow-up to last issue’s shocking reveal. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Gotham Academy 12, originally released December 2, 2015.
Spencer: I spend a lot of time talking about empathy on this site, but only because I believe that developing empathy is one of the single most important things people can do to help create a better world. Working to understand people and care about their feelings can avert catastrophes both big and small, while ignoring the viewpoints of others can turn even the most harmless endeavor dangerous. Case-in-point: Professor Strange. All ol’ Hugo wants to do is learn about Calamity, but his lack of compassion for the actual people hurt by Calamity means that even his simple quest for knowledge has the potential to ruin lives. It may have already ruined Olive’s. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 46 originally released November 11th, 2015.
Michael: Batman 46 continues Scott Snyder’s ongoing query into what the legacy of Batman really means. The frightening Mr. Bloom continues to perform his preferred method of murder by poking his razor fingers through the bodies of various Gotham elite. Gordon and Julia momentarily put Bloom out of commission before he makes his inevitable escape. Geri Powers reveals a whole army of robo-batsuits and tells Gordon how she knows where Bloom is hiding and is going to mount an attack on him. Gordon pleads to let him get Bloom himself because he knows that this is all Bloom’s trap, which it is. Meanwhile, we have a brief scene where Bruce once again reassures Julie that he is not the same man and proposes to her. Another side story involves Duke Thomas breaking into The Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge in order to track down his missing parents and Mr. Bloom. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Midnighter 6, originally released November 4th, 2015.
Patrick: I’ve got beef with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It’s one of my favorite books in the series, largely because of Rowling’s characterization of Alastor Moody. He’s a hard-as-nails, paranoid-but-rightnut job, and he gets Harry. Moody understands the severity of the whole Voldemort situation, and he gleefully ushers the narrative into the series end game with a confidence that’s unmatched by anyone else in the book – even Harry. When — spoilers, I guess — Moody reveals himself to really be Barty Crouch Jr., there’s an enormous audience-ally-vacuum. I know I spent the rest of the series desperately looking for someone I could trust as implicitly as I (wrongly) trusted Moody. It’s sort of a genius stroke on Rowling’s part: just like Harry, we will no longer feel even remotely safe in this world. Steve Orlando and Aco have always done a great job of gifting the reader Midnighter’s perspective on the world, through neat little insert panels giving a peek into the inner workings of his fight computer, but they do one better with issue six. While they continue to imbue us with Midnighter’s advantages, it’s in inflicting his weaknesses upon us that their storytelling proves most effective. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing Gotham Academy 11, originally released September 9, 2015.
Ryan M.: The idea that genetics are destiny can be disturbing. We all want to believe, especially when we’re teenagers, that we can control our fates. That the choices of our parents need not define us, that our lives are more than what we were born to. For me, that meant looking at my Mom’s gray hair at 30, my Dad’s loud laugh or an off-hand racist comment by a relative and saying to myself “that’s not going to be me.” I got to thirty without any silver but can’t control my guffaws, so two out of three isn’t bad. In Gotham Academy 11, Olive is facing a much darker familial legacy and no one seems confident that she will escape it.