Drew: The Riddler may not have seemed like the most intuitive choice for a retelling of Batman’s origin — he’s in no man’s land, much more specific threat than those posed by organized crime in Year One, but he’s also not Batman’s biggest villain. Of course, that ignores the specific nature of this origin story, one that openly acknowledges how well-known the story is — or at least how well we think we know the story. That is, in order to not be a total retread, it requires the type of surprise ending we typically associate with riddles. It’s the kind of ending that recontextualizes the three-part story we’ve been reading as one emotional arc with a focus on something we may not have been expecting: Bruce’s relationship to Alfred. Continue reading
Today, Patrick leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 13, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Patrick: One of the bigger driving forces within Batman Eternal is Carmine Falcone’s desire to rid Gotham of “freaks” like the Penguin and Professor Pyg. In effect, Falcone is trying to drive all the fantastical elements out of Gotham City — whether they’re heroes or villains doesn’t seem to matter much to him. He’s even gone so far as pit the police directly against the Bat Family, furthering the absoluteness of this idea of fantasy vs. reality. But there’s a point that Falcone is missing — or willfully ignoring: everyone engages in a little bit of fantasy to get what they want. What Jim Gordon experienced in the train station – was that fantasy or reality? Covering up a gang war: fantasy or reality? Issue 13 brings that dichotomy into stark relief, showing how embracing fantasy can be equal parts advantageous and horrifying. Continue reading
Shelby: On the surface, the phrase “fight fire with fire” doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I mean, what are you going to do, set the fire on fire? That’s not going to get you anywhere. While it’s come to mean “taking extreme measures in the face of extreme threat,” its origin is actually fairly logical. As an early fire-fighting method, people would set small, controlled fires to burn up potential fuel and prevent larger, far more damaging fires from spreading. It’s logical until you consider how easy it is for a controlled fire to turn on you, however. In the end, no matter how you use the phrase, ultimately you’re just going to end up getting burned, a lesson learned by General Lane and Wraith in the latest installment of Superman Unchained.
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Batman 32, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Shelby: I prefer playing games where everyone knows the rules. Sure, there are some PC games out there where you’re just dumped in the game universe and have to figure out what to do and how to do it (Myst, I’m looking at you), but that’s different. That’s more me trying to solve a puzzle than not knowing the rules. If I’m going to play a game with other people, I want everyone to know the rules; what’s the fun in beating someone at a game they don’t know how to play? In Zero Year, Scott Snyder has had a very young Batman pitted against the Riddler in a game our hero has consistently lost. Personally, I think there are two big reasons Batman has been losing this fight: he assumes he knows the rules of the game, and he assumes the bad guy will actually abide by them.
Spencer: Batman Eternal is a loaded title. In our world, Batman is already 75 years old, and it’s easy to see this character, with his endless reinterpretations, existing on in perpetuity. Yet, within the narrative, Batman is very much fallible, and has already died once, with Dick Grayson taking up the mantle in his absence. Bruce Wayne may not be eternal, but the legacy he leaves behind will be, be it the good he does for the city or the crimefighters he raises, trains, and/or inspires. Of course, Batman’s not the only one in this title with a legacy.
Drew: When I was five years old, I told my then four-year-old cousin that he was adopted. Nobody had told me that he was, and certainly nobody told me that I wasn’t supposed to tell him, but he was immediately distraught, running to his mother to assure him I was lying. A young kid’s relationship to his parents is his whole world, and the thought that there might be something unusual about it is understandably upsetting. Totally unintentionally, I put my aunt in an incredibly awkward position, forcing her to confront a truth outside of her terms, when her son was already distressed by the idea. Complicating the issue was that his brother is not adopted, which only creates more potential for feelings of alienation. Superman has long been the poster child for adoption, but what if his adopted home had its own “last son” that seemed to be every bit as “super” as he is? Might Clark grow a chip on his shoulder about being “the adopted one”? These are exactly the questions Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. set up in Superman 32, stopping just shy of showing us the answers. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Ra’s al Ghul 32, originally released June 18th, 2014.
Patrick: No one’s got a deeper bench than Batman. A lot has been made of the integrity of his relationships lately — it’s almost the most important piece of Batman’s mythology in the New 52. Check it out: Batman Eternal is all about Batman struggling with his relationship with the city, and even pulls Gordon out of rotation. This comes on the heels of The Death of the Family and the Leviathan killing Damian, which all just compounds the stress put upon those relationships. Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Robin, Red Hood, they all have reason to distrust the man who’s a superhero first, and a human being second. But Batman’s not just the biggest superhero in Gotham, he’s the biggest superhero in the DC Universe, so there’s no end to the relationships we can explore to learn something just a little bit more about Bruce Wayne. Continue reading
Drew: Happy belated Fathers’ Day, everyone! I know I’m close to a week late, but hey, it’s not like your my dad, right? Okay, I may have missed the moment there, but Batman Eternal 11 actually hits a bit closer to the mark, landing only four days after the actual holiday. Still seem a little late? Consider how non-topical other comics tend to be. It makes sense; a six-issue arc may span a matter of days of narrative time, but would cover six months in real time — how do you sync that up to fixed holidays? It’s still done from time to time, but it’s usually relegated to one-off anthologies, or even commemorating events a few months after the fact. There are a few notable exceptions, which manage the feat largely by synching their narrative rate to their release schedule, like The Long Halloween or 52, two series to which Batman Eternal obviously owes a great debt. The weekly format truly gives the writers an opportunity to line events up on the calendar, giving us just a bit more to relate to in the pages. Far from hackneyed or forced, this issue reveals one of the primary perks of such a large ensemble cast: it’s easy to find occasion-appropriate themes when so many plates are spinning at once. Continue reading
Today, Shelby leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 10, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Shelby: I have some friends who are legitimate circus performers, one a pole dancer and the other a trapeze artist, and so I naturally have attended a cabaret-style circus performance held in an old warehouse. It was exactly as awesome as it sounds, with acrobats of every flavor, a hoop dancer, clowns, and a juggler. This guy was incredible, he used a rainbow array of balls that lit up, and they shut off all the lights in the place so all we could see were the glowing orbs and the trails they left behind. Comic books aren’t totally dissimilar; we don’t see the creators specifically, just the art they leave for us. Also, sometimes it feels like a team is juggling waaaaaaay too many ideas, and it’s only a matter of time before things fall apart. Continue reading
Drew: Last month, Shelby compared Detective Comics to a well-executed magic trick. Specifically, she was referring to the way Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul wield misdirection, but I think the similarities between magic and art are manifold. Both rely on deceptively simple techniques to create effects that are greater than the sum of their parts. For me, the only real difference is how we value being “fooled” by those effects. If we see the strings, a magic trick is ruined, but understanding exactly how a scene was painted or filmed or carved can enhance our appreciation of a work of art. I personally enjoy knowing how a magic trick is performed, too — I think it gives me a deeper appreciation for exactly how skillful the magician is — but then again, I’ve always liked knowing how the sausage is made. Many folks would rather never know how the lady gets sawed in half, or how a painter simulates sunlight peaking through the clouds, or how a composer strings harmonies into a coherent musical idea. It’s an attitude I can’t fully support, but I do understand it: a little magic is lost when you can spot every palmed card. Manapul and Buccellato have long been a team that rewards digging beneath those effects, but this issue found me wishing that I wasn’t so aware of what they were doing. Continue reading