Spencer: Lex Luthor has basically been the main character of Justice League ever since Forever Evil ended, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. It’s inevitable that Lex will go back to being a full-time villain at some point (unless writer Geoff Johns manages to pull off the biggest reformation in DC history and make it stick), but I’m not sure how much that should influence my reading of Luthor’s intentions. There are two things I do know for certain, though: 1. Luthor’s presence has finally made the rest of the Justice League the competent, inspirational team we’ve been hoping they’d become since the New 52 began, and 2. even if Luthor’s reformation is somehow 100% legit, he still has plenty of misdeeds in his past to face up to. Continue reading
Spencer: We here at Retcon Punch haven’t been subtle about our love of Batman’s new Hellbat armor. The suit is awesome, and what’s better is that it isn’t just some gimmick meant to push toys; writer Peter Tomasi has created “realistic” (in comic book terms, at least) reasons for the Hellbat’s great power and for why Batman needs to use it in this particular situation. Still, he and penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz understand just how cool the Hellbat is, and much of Batman and Robin 35’s success comes from how the creative team chooses to portray the suit — which, in some cases, means not showing it at all. The issue is visually dazzling, and the artists know which types of imagery to use to best convey the stories both on Apokolips and on Earth. Continue reading
Suzanne: As a reader, I’m constantly shifting my understanding of “realism” in comics. I try to be mindful of my relationship with suspension of disbelief, although the line between credible and ridiculous is a subjective thing. Some people look for flaws and inconsistencies in storytelling while others are just looking to be entertained. Superboy Prime’s punch through reality not withstanding, I usually am able to fully transport myself into the world of fantasy. This isn’t necessarily easy in a universe where a man can harness a ring of willpower and befriend a talking alien chipmunk in the same panel. Continue reading
Patrick: Comic books aren’t exactly a safe space for women. Like any medium with a long enough memory, comics carry some pretty ugly baggage when it comes to the depiction and treatment of female characters. It seems things are even rougher for residents of Gotham City, arguably the quintessential “comic book city” — not only are the police corruption and organized crime families stuck in the 1930s, but an awful lot of those gender politics linger there too. You needn’t look any further than the most recent Catwoman series to know what I’m talking about. A lot of the same specifics that plagued that series are present in Batman Eternal 27 — themes of sexual slavery, Selina’s dangerous naivety, gratuitous ass shots, even a cameo from Mr. Bone — but the issue manages to present these problems as a contrast to the world Batman Eternal seems hellbent on cultivating. Is the BE team’s Gotham a better place for female characters? Continue reading
Drew: Referring to the setting of a story as a character has always irked me. Never mind that it’s a total cliche, but it’s almost invariably applied as a shorthand for a sense of place we all recognize that the story relies on as a crutch. In that way, I suppose settings are used as characters, but they’re stock characters, no more remarkable than, say, “high school jock” or “loose cannon cop.” The genericness of locations-as-characters only becomes more exaggerated in the fictional cities of comics, which have seen just as many interpretations over the years as the heroes that occupy them. When Gotham has been interpreted as everything from gothic to neo-gothic to art deco to just straight-up modern, and from post-apocalyptic to post-corruption, it’s impossible to generate any sense of setting without elaborating on this particular interpretation of the city. Fortunately, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher do just that as they take the helm of Batgirl, lending specificity to their Gotham by, of all things, co-opting the stock character of Brooklyn. Continue reading
Spencer: Back in the 1930s and 40s comic books had a lot of variety — the still-new superhero genre was published alongside horror, romance, western, and detective books, just to name a few. As the decades passed those other genres gradually faded away until superhero books became the predominant genre, and while I absolutely love superhero books with all my heart and soul, we’re no doubt worse off for the lack of diversity. Fortunately, Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl’s Gotham Academy 1 is all about diversity, not only amongst the cast, but simply in the kind of book it is. Gotham Academy is equal parts teenage drama, coming-of-age tale, and supernatural mystery, and we’re certainly better off with it on the shelves. Continue reading
Bart Simpson, Itchy & Scratchy Land
Patrick: It’s a good thing all of our action heroes have a team of writers working quietly behind them, because audiences hold this irrational expectation that heroic actions be punctuated by hilarious, insightful, precise quips. This is a trend that I’ve come to hate, largely because those pure little micro-tweets are so seldom earned. How do you put a character through the paces so thoroughly that acerbic wit feels natural tumbling out of their victorious mouths? They’re not poets or comedians or scholars — they’re warriors, but somehow they know to belch out a characteristically perfect “Yippy-kai-yay, motherfucker” or a “Welcome to Earth” or even a “get away from her, you bitch!” Thing is: those three examples all work because we’re there with Bruce Willis, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. It’s not just about having the dry cool wit, but waiting until the audience and the character need the release of such a quip, instead of handing them out willy-nilly. As Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang narrow in on their epic Wonder Woman conclusion, they’re cashing in on all those cheesy action movie beats. And they’ve earned every damn second — the result is unadulterated climax, satisfying on just about every level. Continue reading
Suzanne: I fondly remember reading Batman: Hush for the first time over five years ago. There is so much to like about that book — Jeph Loeb’s long-form storytelling, Jim Lee’s pencils, and the Batman-Catwoman relationship to name a few. Loeb develops the friendship between Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliot so convincingly that it adds creative tension to the final reveal. You almost want Hush to be someone else because of the depths of his betrayal to Bruce.
Batman Eternal introduces Hush to the New 52 as the Big Bad behind the crippling of Gotham City starting with the arrest of Jim Gordon. How does this series’ treatment of Hush add relevance to him as a character? After Loeb and Lee’s story arc, some readers felt that Hush was overused and his appearances were mediocre at best. Certain characters benefit from a dormant period and less can be more, such as The Joker. I’m hoping that three years of living in New 52 character purgatory makes this appearance all the more effective. Continue reading
Patrick: I’d never really considered how strange it is that we refer to the biggest global political players as “super powers.” It’s…weird, right? That’s a phrase taken from our capes and cowls, our frequently immature power fantasies, and applied to governments. It might be comforting to think of the United States as Superman, swooping in to altruistically save the day, but the truth isn’t so clear-cut. How can a government take altruistic action when there is no “self” to sacrifice? One body makes a decision, another carries out the action, and a third has to deal with the consequences. Heroism comes from that internalizing the whole process, from decision-making through the consequences. With Superman Unchained 8, Scott Snyder suggests that Superman can (and should) be that singular entity. Continue reading
Patrick: Okay, so why “five years later,” huh? What’s the point of all these glances into the theoretic furutre of DC Comics? I know it shouldn’t matter that these stories may prove to be part of a future-narrative that gets wiped out of the canon, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re reading a bunch of what-if stories. Intriguingly, these glimpses into future have their eyes set on the past; evoking elements of Pre-Flashpoint continuity and reconciling that with what’s been established since September of 2011. The future is a point on a line, plotted using the past and present as reference. It’s a herculean task, but one that writer Charles Soule and artist Jesus Saiz are more than up for, aligning themselves with the intrepid Alec Holland, perhaps unsure that they would make it through to the other side unharmed.