Drew: What do we expect of this series? Grand world-building? Serviceable (if maybe uninspired) Batman stories? When we discussed the first issue, I argued that the way this series addresses our expectations — the way it fulfills some but defies others — may be its most distinctive characteristic. Indeed, issue 2 is so drastically different in form and focus, it’s easy to see defiance of expectations as this series’ unifying trait.
Taylor: The internet is an amazing tool. The rhetorical nature of that comment is almost so great that it’s remarkable, but I think it’s occasionally a good exercise to step back and take stock of the amazing things that make up our world. In the recent past the internet has caused real social change given its ability to unite people behind a singular cause. In particular, the movement for gender equality seems to be gaining more and more steam, as both women and men are able to voice their experiences with prejudice in their daily lives. Comics, being a reflection of the world of which gave them birth, are also picking up on this trend. It seems only natural that Wonder Woman, a title which features an empowered female lead, would eventually weigh in on this subject. However, the subtlety and grace with which it broaches this topic in issue 30 is both unexpected and wonderfully wrought, making for an memorably understated episode.
Patrick: One of the tricks to performing satisfying long form improv is the ability to call out an unusual thing and deal with it. In fact, most of the Upright Citizens Brigade’s comedic philosophy is based around that single truth: whatever’s happening, let’s identify it, explore it and process it. “Don’t be coy” is what that usually breaks down to. Issue 30 of Batgirl is mercilessly coy, refusing to share its biggest secret, but still tries desperately to mine pathos out of it. The result is an emotional clusterfuck — one that I doubt would be satisfying even if the powers that be deemed us worthy of Forever Evil‘s biggest reveals.
Patrick: I love Batman, but I’ve been exposed to so many books and games and movies and TV shows (plus one Stunt Show Spectacular at Six Flags), that very little in a Batman story can genuinely surprise me. The writing team on Batman Eternal acknowledges this familiarity, simultaneously leveraging those emotional beats for everything they’re worth, and suggesting that there are still some surprises out there. Continue reading
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Superman/Wonder Woman 7, originally released April 9th, 2014.
Shelby: I’m pretty bad at talking about my feelings. I’ve gotten better, because I have realized the value in just stating how I feel or what I want plainly, but I still sometimes have a hard time with it. Talking to dreamy men is still my biggest challenge; there’s just something about the simple phrase, “You are cute and cool, want to grab a drink?” that causes my brain to just completely melt down. I recognize it’s pretty silly, but am at the same time powerless to stop it. Maybe it’s an extreme fear of rejection? Or maybe I’m worried I’ll end up in a awkward situation like Clark and Diana, who have an unspoken, “I love you, too” hanging between them (not to mention nuclear fallout).
Shelby: Because I like to stay on top of pop culture trends, I recently discovered the TV series Legend of the Seeker. It’s a pretty straight-forward magic-based fantasy, based on Terry Goodkind’s series The Sword of Truth. You know, right up my alley. Anyway, there are two groups of magical women in this universe: Confessors and Mord-Sith. The Confessors’ power is based on love and truth; they can see when someone is lying, and as a last resort force them to tell the truth by causing people to fall desperately in love with them. The Mord-Sith, however, get their power from hate; all love, kindness, and compassion is burned out of them from youth until all they know is how to cause pain and hatred. While neither situation is ideal, it’s made clear that the love for a Confessor can elicit positive change in a person, whereas “training” from a Mord-Sith can only breed more hate. So, what do you get when someone is motivated by both love AND hate? By quiet dignity and unbelievable cruelty? Maybe we should ask Green Arrow.
Scott: Segues: you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. I’ve listened to enough standup comedy to know that I’m a fan of the clean break, the abrupt change of topic. Lengthy transitions are just a waste of time. In longer storytelling formats, such as monthly comic books, there’s more of a virtue in spinning many plates at once. Even though stories are broken into defined arcs, some elements carry over from one arc to the next, making the clean break impossible. It results in issues like Action Comics 30, where writer Greg Pak’s first major arc comes to an end while also introducing important pieces of the story to come. The issue looks fantastic, but the story gets a little messy as it tries to connect the old with the new, making me wonder if Pak might have been better off nixing the segue.
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Drew: Two figures arrive in the big city for the first time. It’s the start of many a classic story of city life — including this issue — but it also accurately describes Manapul and Buccellato’s “move” to Gotham. After a stellar run on The Flash (ha), Manapul and Buccellato have brought their signature meta-commentary to DC’s namesake, opening with the quote above. The line is not necessarily spoken — it could plausibly be said by Elena or Annie Aguila (the two figures we see arriving in Gotham), but is rather explicitly not represented as dialogue, or even internal monologue — there’s no speech balloon, no voiceover box, not even a quotation mark, suggesting that this really is the creators speaking directly to the audience. It’s a bold move, but exactly the kind that gives me confidence that this does indeed have the potential to be great.
Drew: I have a friend who used to love Law and Order – er, he liked it as much as a person can really like an episodic primetime drama — the point is, he was happy to tune in every week to see how the team handles the new case. That is, until his son pointed out to him how formulaic the show really is — right down to when in the episode they’ll nab the wrong suspect, find that key clue, or offer a plea bargain. It ruined the show for him — knowing what would happen next robbed every development of any drama, so he just stopped watching it. In some way, we all have this same experience with storytelling in general: the more stories we consume, and the more familiar with common formulas we become, the better we are at predicting what happens next. We recognize foreshadowing, we notice if we’re being intentionally misled — we just become harder to fool. Many of us are willing to put that aside to suspend our disbelief that maybe the hero won’t make it out this time, or maybe the lead couple won’t end up together, after all, but sometimes a writer still wants to surprise us. This often requires going into DEEP left field, which can make the resulting developments feel arbitrary, or even nonsensical. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of final act reveals we get in Flash 29.
Shelby: Comic books have to be one of the most restrictive forms of media out there. As a writer, you’re stuck dealing with characters with 70-odd years of history hanging around their necks like a lodestone. Deviate too much, and millions of voices cry out in anger before you find yourself suddenly silenced (creatively speaking). But if you don’t deviate enough, you find yourself with a story that is at best seen as a cliché and at worse doesn’t make any sense because there’s no way to make sense of that much backstory. I have a lot of respect for the writers who walk that line, and walk it well; I don’t envy them the choices they have to make. While I have lauded Scott Snyder in the past for his treatment of Batman’s origin story in Year Zero, his take on the Man of Steel falls a little too close to territory we’ve tread before for me to really enjoy it.