Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 2

tmnt casey & april 2

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April 2, originally released July 22nd, 2015.

Taylor: Last summer’s Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie met with lukewarm reviews. There were a lot of reasons cited by critics for the movie not being great, but the one thing that was almost universally harped upon was the confusing nature of the action sequences. Bay aficionados, however, were not surprised by this: chaos is one of his trademarks. What this goes to show is that clarity is incredibly important when crafting a story. It makes sense – if the audience can’t understand what’s going on, how are they supposed to take anything from it? Casey and April 2 is an interesting study in clarity: how it succeeds, how it fails, and how it succeeds despite its failings.

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Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 7/15/15

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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, Patrick, Spencer, and Drew discuss Godzilla in Hell 1, Dead Drop 3, Silver Surfer 13, and Astro City 25.

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“It can do two things! Why shouldn’t it?”

Professor Farnsworth, Futurama

Patrick: In the season four episode of Futurama, “Leela’s Homeworld,” the script originally called for two separate sci-fi machines – one to instigate a problem and the other to solve a problem. According to the DVD commentary track, the writers eventually just made the same machine capable of performing two tasks, and put their rationale in the mouth of the grumpiest character in the cast. And they’re totally right: for storytelling purposes, who cares if the magical machines are the same or different. But stories themselves are often strongest when sticking to a single focus. We find ourselves this week with a short round up, one where every issue is single-minded, and as a result, all are wonderfully clear and successful. Continue reading

Guardians of Knowhere 1

Alternating Currents: Guardians of Knowhere 1, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Guardians of Knowhere 1, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl.

Traditional

Drew: I’ve never seen any codified theories to this effect, but I strongly believe that every narrative has an ideal length. The Old Man and the Sea couldn’t be longer without losing its essence, just as War and Peace couldn’t be shorter. I can’t claim to understand all of the factors that determine the ideal length for a story, but it’s obvious enough when the length isn’t ideal. The epigraph may functionally describe a lot of stories we’re familiar with, but it’s too short to be a satisfying story — we have no empathetic connection to “boy,” no investment in his relationship to “girl,” no context for their eventual reunion. Conversely, Brian Michael Bendis is often criticized for making his stories too long to be satisfying, with each plot point dragged out for too many issues for us to be invested in the bigger picture. Of course, one of the big mitigating factors in the world of comics is the quality of the art — a dazzling action sequence may not require much of a plot, and indeed may be better off without many distractions. Nobody does “dazzling” better than Mike Deodato Jr., which makes him an ideal pairing for Bendis’ decompressed style. So does Guardians of Knowhere 1 live up to that “match made in heaven” expectation? Continue reading

Robin: Son of Batman 2

robin 2Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Robin: Son of Batman 2, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Spencer: We see a lot of redemption stories in comics (and in pop culture in general), and while many of them end in death, almost all of them end with the person seeking redemption finding some sort of forgiveness. Yes, the ideas of atoning for past crimes and being forgiven for them tend to go hand-in-hand, but should they? It’s an interesting notion, one which Patrick Gleason seems interested in examining throughout Robin: Son of Batman 2. Damian Wayne is out to atone for a year full of horrors he committed before becoming Robin, but atoning for some crimes is clearly going to be much harder than atoning for others — and it may simply come to down to who he’s seeking redemption from. Continue reading

Ant-Man Annual 1

ant-man annual 1

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Ant-Man Annual 1, originally released July 15, 2015.

Taylor: Mentorship is an ancient practice. Any of us who have had the pleasure of reading Plato’s Republic (or were assigned to read it for class) know that the practice of an elder teaching a younger the ropes is something present in almost all societies. It’s natural then that we see this same master-apprentice relationship present in comic books. Batman, the Ninja Turtles, Wolverine, Jean Grey – they’ve all had someone there to mentor them and help them become heroes who save the day. We generally like to think of those mentors knowing it all, often forgetting that they are still human and far from perfect. Ant-Man Annual 1 examines what it’s like to find this out in typical witty fashion.

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DC Round-Up Comics Released 7/15/15

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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, Michael, Shane, Patrick and Mark discuss Black Canary 2, Green Lantern The Lost Army 2, Martian Manhunter 2, Secret Six 4 and Superman/Wonder Woman 19.

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Michael: We’re in the second month of DC’s soft reboot of “DC YOU.” Though the name is so very stupid, the shakeup of DC’s monthly offerings has been a welcome change of pace thus far. We’re dealing with characters and concepts that have been in rotation for at the very least a couple of decades; so it’s nice to look at them from a different, less New 52-ish lens. I think that this particular selection for our DC round-up presents iterations of villains and do-gooders that may be different but don’t stray too far from the core of their character. You finally seem to be on the right path DC. (Hopefully.)

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Justice League 42

justice league 42

Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Reid are discussing Justice League 42, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Patrick: Justice League 42 is all about gods – who are gods, who are not gods, who can defy gods, who can become gods, whose godliness can be taken away. But that’s the real difference between a ‘god’ and a ‘superhero?’ Is it physical abilities? Do our gods need to be able to destroy worlds? Do we need our gods to present pure morality? Do we just need to feel that our gods are in control and have a plan? Or maybe gods just need to come from an established pantheon? Whatever other qualities you want to ascribe to gods, I think the most important idea is that they matter in a way that mere humans don’t. Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s “Darkseid War” zeroes in a conflict so big and so “important” that we need to check in on the godliness of every hero and every villain. Continue reading

Secret Wars Round-Up: Issues released 7/15/15

secret wars roundup9Today, Spencer, Taylor, Patrick, and Drew discuss Siege 1, Planet Hulk 3, Years of Future Past 3, Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders 1, Inhumans Atillan Rising 3, Secret Wars Battleworld 3, Hail Hydra 1, and Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps 2.

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Spencer: “Each domain is a region unto itself.” Each and every Secret Wars tie-in has begun with these words, and they really are a remarkably accurate mission statement: despite the common thread they all share, most of these mini-series feel like separate concepts far removed from the rest of their brethren. That begins to change with this week’s offerings, however. Several of this week’s issues find their casts questioning Doom and venturing beyond their own domain. Are we about to see some of these characters collide with the main Secret Wars title? Perhaps, but fortunately, these tie-ins still work as fun standalone stories as well. In many ways, it’s the best of both worlds.
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Hawkeye 22

Alternating Currents: Hawkeye 22, Drew and Courtney

Today, Drew and Courtney are discussing Hawkeye 22, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Drew: Endings are hard. Whether they break our hearts or leave us wanting more, even the most satisfying ending must face the bittersweet truth of being the end. “The End” takes on a peculiar meaning in the world of month-to-month comics (especially where the next volume may already be a few issues in), but whatever we’re saying goodbye to — whether its a paradigm or a creative team — can still have an almost hallowed air of significance. This makes talking about comic book endings in a issue-by-issue format particularly difficult, as its tempting to use the final issue as a platform for talking about the series as a whole. I absolutely want to talk about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run as a whole, but I want to first give issue 22 its due respect as perhaps the perfect distillation of what made his run so remarkable. Continue reading

Dr. Fate 2

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Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Dr. Fate 2, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Patrick: There are a lot of so-called “legacy” characters in comic books. Rebooting those characters has to be insanely stressful for creators – how do you make sure the latest iteration is both true to its own identity and its own time, while also honoring the legacy that birthed the hero? Let’s take the current Batman as an example: Jim Gordon has to kick his smoking habit and work within in the confines of the law, but he’s still got Bat-gadgets and fights the Penguin (or whomever). That’s simultaneously Gordon and Batman. But what about when a character actually has an active reason not to buy into their own legacy? Enter Khalid – the child of first generation Egyptian immigrants. His whole life is built on the promise that he doesn’t have to live his parents’ lives. Weirdly, the American dream — go to school, work hard, live a comfortable consumer’s life — encourages Khalid to reject any sense of cultural identity and everything his newfound superpowers come to represent. That’s who’s motivated to ignore legacy: immigrants just trying to fit in. Continue reading