Justice League of America 1

jla 1

Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Justice League of America 1, originally released June 17th, 2015.

Michael: I’m having a difficult time managing my expectations with this new direction that DC is putting out. Curiously, I’m being overly optimistic that these new books will be excellent and do away with the New 52ishness of recent memory. Basically, I’m falling for DC’s sales pitch hook, line, and sinker. While Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America 1 has some trappings of the New 52, I think he’s trying to blaze his own trail with DC’s trademark team. Continue reading

Convergence: The Flash 2

flash 2 conv

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Convergence: The Flash 2, originally released May 20th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence this week, click here.

convergence div

Spencer: For the several decades that fell between Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Flash: Rebirth, Barry Allen was DC’s greatest hero. He was also dead, mind you, but that’s the exact reason why Barry became so legendary. The Flash sacrificed his life to save the entire multiverse, and by martyring himself he became this almost mythic figure, inspiring the entire DC universe — fans were even known to call him “Saint Barry.” But when Barry returned to life, he was overwhelmed by the praise. Fame was never something he wanted, and he knew he was far from perfect. Every action he took as the Flash, from stopping a mugger to sacrificing his life to save the universe, was taken with only one thought in mind — helping others. This dichotomy between how others view Barry and how he views himself is one of the central themes of Dan Abnett and Federico Dallocchio’s Convergence: The Flash 2. Continue reading

Green Lantern 38

green lantern 38

Today, Mark and Patrick are discussing Green Lantern 38, originally released January 7th, 2015.

Mark: My least favorite part of any story that follows the traditional hero’s journey is when we get to the Reluctant Hero. You know, the part when, after being given an incredible power like, say, a ring that allows you to construct anything with your mind using only willpower, the hero complains about how much responsibility they have and how difficult their life is. It’s like listening to a teenager complain about their feelings: “My life is so bogus. No one understands but me. You guys are so phony!”

Comics can be a lot of things, but I don’t feel like it’s going too far to say that traditional superhero comic books are generally a form of escapism and wish fulfillment. We read these books for the same reason we watch movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark: fundamentally we want to be Indiana Jones. We want to be the Green Lantern. Continue reading

The Flash 36

Alternating Currents: The Flash 36, Drew and SpencerToday, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Flash 36, originally released November 26th, 2014.

Drew: There’s a lot of weirdness we accept in our comics — radioactive spider-bites, a dude who dresses up like a bat to scare bad guys, even dudes who dress up like birds to support the dude who dresses up like a bat to scare bad guys — but we tend to think of the morality as fairly straightforward. Oftentimes it is — Superman fights for good, Dr. Doom fights for bad — but the weirdness can also raise some bizarre moral questions. Is time-travel inherently immoral? Exactly how icky is the prospect of a body-snatched romantic relationship? Somehow, writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen manage to find the overlap between these inherently comic-booky ideas in The Flash 36. Continue reading

Justice League 35

Justice League 35Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Justice League 35, originally released October 15, 2014. 

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

The Flash 32

flash 32Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Flash 32, originally released June 25th, 2014.

Spencer: Speedsters aren’t generally known for their patience. Before the reboot, one of Wally West’s best known qualities was his impatience, and Impulse was the ADHD poster-child; over at Marvel, Quicksilver’s attitude problem canonically comes from the frustration he deals with daily when he’s forced to interact with people who move so much slower than him. My point is, Barry Allen’s methodical, patient lifestyle is the complete antithesis to most speedsters — to use a comparison this issue makes itself, Wally is a basketball fan while Barry’s a baseball fan. The more I read this issue, the more I realize that Barry is the kind of guy who genuinely enjoys slowing down because it means he gets to spend time with the people he loves. It’s what grants him more patience than other speedsters, but it’s also aggravating his greatest flaw; Barry cares so much that he’s trying to be everywhere at once, help everybody at once. It’s an impossible task even for the fastest man alive, and in the process Barry may just be driving away the people who make it worthwhile to slow down in the first place.

Oh, and he may also be tearing apart the space-time continuum. Oops. Continue reading

The Flash 31

flash 31Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing The Flash 31, originally released May 28th, 2014.

Patrick: Because I spend a fair amount of my time writing about superhero comics, I end up having a lot of conversations about reboots and continuity and “fixing” timelines. You’ll notice that we tend not to dwell on those sorts of things in the actual content of these pieces — we always try to focus on the 20 pages in front of us, and not the uncountable pages that came before — but I’m of the opinion that retcons don’t actually work. If DC were to wipe out the New 52 with the Anti-Monitor next week and launch the old DCU the week following, writers, artists, press and fans would all have the last 3 years of storytelling informing their views on the characters. It’s just like how Aquaman may not have a mini-trident for a hand right now, but that will always be part of who the character “is,” even if it’s not part of who the character “is right now.” But we’re all fascinated with those universe changing mechanics, which is how The Flash 31 upstages itself with a history-altering Future Flash, when the more important character work is happening right now. Continue reading

The Flash Annual 3

Alternating Currents: The Flash Annual 3, Drew and ScottToday, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash Annual 3, originally released April 30th, 2014.

…at the end of the day, the Flash is still the same tone as it was before. It’s still the same character, but kind of just reinvisioned.

Francis Manapul

Drew: The above quote isn’t about Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s new run on The Flash — Manapul was actually speaking about the start of his own run back when I interviewed him in 2012 — but it might as well be. That a statement can be used to describe a new take on the character as well as the newer take that succeeds is is a universal truism in comics, but it also speaks to an innate truth about the Flash: he needs to move forward. Of course, Jensen and Venditti aren’t privy to the clean break that started Manapul’s run, and have thus needed to address Barry’s past as much as his future. Fortunately, they are also paying attention to this series’ history of meta-commentary, addressing their own creative baggage right on the page. Of all the things they could have ported from the previous run, this is my absolute favorite, injecting The Flash Annual 3 with a sense of rebellion.

Continue reading

The Flash 30

Alternating Currents: Flash 30, Drew and ScottToday, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 30, originally released April 23rd, 2014.

Drew: I lost a part of my innocence when Richard Harris passed away. It wasn’t an existential crisis brought about by confronting mortality, but the cognitive dissonance brought about by his role of Albus Dumbledore being filled by Michael Gambon. I’m sure for many young Harry Potter fans, that was the first time they were confronted with the notion that the identity of a beloved fictional character is so dictated by casting decisions, but looking at the differences between the two actors’ performances, it’s almost as if they were playing different characters. Harris imbued the role with a quiet, almost doddering sweetness, while Gambon’s take was notably sterner. Both takes are supported by the books, but it had never occurred to me before seeing Prisoner of Azkaban that an actor’s (or director’s) emphasis on certain traits could have such a profound effect on the final product. I found myself thinking those same thoughts as Robert Venditti and Van Jensen assert their own read on Barry Allen in The Flash 30.

Continue reading

The Flash 29

Alternating Currents: Flash 29, Drew and ScottToday, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 29, originally released March 26th, 2014.

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.

Continue reading