Ryan: Batman has been happening for quite some time, both in the real world and in the oft rebooted DC Universe. Fans of the series remember his numerous encounters with his rogues gallery throughout the years, as villains escape time after time from the doldrums of Arkham Asylum to once again terrorize the city of Gotham. The formula for Batman may even be seen as a little tiresome: villain arrives, terrorizes Batman, Batman wins, villain returns again, eventually — maybe teaming with another foe, something messed up happens to Bruce Wayne’s personal life, his family rescues him, rinse, repeat. So what is it that draws us back into Batman narratives when the conceit can seem formulaic? Much of its appeal, I would argue, comes from the long-standing history which the reader shares with the character, one which can make jumping into a title so compounded with spin-offs and mini-series and event tie-ins intimidating for some. Batman Annual 4 offers an easy jumping-in point as Bruce Wayne undergoes yet another identity crisis, catching a casual or first-time reader up while showing the audience why a protagonist mired in the past can be so fascinating.
Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Grayson 12, originally released September 23rd, 2015.
Mark: Grayson 12 is billed as Dick’s return to Gotham after quitting Spyral, and it is, but it’s also a continuation of the Grayson spy game. Dick truly intends to leave his life as international sex spy behind, but his hand is forced when the mysterious Agent Zero attacks him at Wayne Manor. Unless he returns to Spyral, she threatens, they’ll reveal to the world that Bruce Wayne is Batman. It’s a threat that’s been made in Bat Family comics forever, but it actually has greater weight here as Bruce is currently in no position to defend himself. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman 43, originally released August 12th, 2015.
It seems like so many of these interpretations [of Batman] are somebody’s favorite. And the truth be told is that they all feel like it’s the same character. Regardless of how different they might be or how separate they might feel, they all feel like they’re Batman. They all feel true to the core conceit of what that character is.
Drew: As diverse as Batman stories can be, they’ve always shared some core tenants of who the character is and what he stands for. Or, maybe we need to be more specific — there have been a few different Batmen over the years, with some variation in guiding principles (and origin stories), but Bruce Wayne has always stood for the same things. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on this series has been a slow indictment of each of those guiding principles, from Batman’s relationship to Gotham to exactly where he falls on the “superstitious and cowardly” spectrum, but this issue takes away something even more central to Bruce than all of these things combined: his drive as a detective. Indeed, that seems to be the linchpin that makes Bruce Batman — without it, he’s almost unrecognizable. Continue reading
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
Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 41, originally released June 10th, 2015.
Michael: Batman as an idea has taken many different meanings in the character’s 75 year history: the ultimate mortal, Bat-god and arguably comics’ gritty landscape architect, to name a few. Above all else we have come to learn that being Batman is a sacrifice; you have to commit yourself to the cape and cowl, body and soul. We’ve seen how this sacrifice has affected many facets of Bruce Wayne’s life as well as the other heroes who have taken up the mantle of the bat. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo place Jim Gordon in that honored position and explore what exactly that sacrifice means for the former police commissioner. Continue reading
People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.
Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins
Spencer: Throughout all of the many different storylines in Batman Eternal, one theme has steadily built under the title’s surface: the idea of Batman’s legacy. While it was never something addressed all that directly (at least until R’as al Ghul flat out asked “Is Batman eternal?” a few weeks ago), the creative bullpen has steadily been building up Batman’s team of allies and investigating just what effect Batman’s presence has had on Gotham City. With this massive weekly series finally coming to an end, Batman Eternal 52 aims to show exactly the power of that symbol on Batman’s chest, and it does so in spectacular fashion, pulling together nearly all the threads that have been cast throughout the last 52 issues into one show-stopping finale. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Grayson 8, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Drew: I like to read into titles. We tend to boil down the difference between Superman and Action Comics to the creative teams involved, but I think the focus of every story is informed by its title. Luke Skywalker may feature prominently in Star Wars, but not in quite the same way he would if the movies were titled Luke Skywalker. In that same vein, when a story’s title is the protagonist’s name, we understand that story to necessarily be about that character. Oliver Twist may deal with poverty and exploitation, but the story is ultimately about a single orphan. In the month-to-month grind of comics, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Spider-Man is actually about Spider-Man (and not the criminal-of-the-month), but the best writers manage to keep the focus on the heroes, even as they’re put up against an endless lineup of threats. Tom King and Tim Seeley have never lost sight of Dick as the center of Grayson, but issue 8 reasserts that focus so strongly, we never feel lost — even as they yank the rug out from under us. Continue reading
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Harley Quinn Valentine’s Special 1, originally released February 11th, 2015.
Spencer: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti had a rough road ahead of them when tasked with refashioning Harley Quinn into the star of her own comic book. A villain protagonist must walk a fine line, being sympathetic enough to earn the audience’s affection while still villainous enough to avoid losing the spark that drew readers to them in the first place. Conner and Palmiotti’s approach to Harley Quinn has often involved pitting their villain protagonist against people even worse than she is, having her stand up for animal rights, and giving her a sort-of family in the form of her tenants; judging from sales numbers, it’s been a successful tactic, but has Harley become a better person in the process? Despite being a holiday special, that’s the question at the heart of Harley Quinn Valentine’s Special 1, and it’s a surprisingly rich question to ask, even if the answer is a bit unclear, and the question often muddied and buried within the oversized issue’s many tangents and asides. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 38 originally released on January 28th, 2015.
Drew: Fiction has a complex relationship with expectations. We want fiction to meet some expectations — that it should feature the conflicts and conceits pitched on the back cover, that it meets whatever network of expectations that might make it “believable” — but we also want it to defy others. The story of a farm girl suffering a concussion during a tornado may be believable, but it doesn’t capture our imaginations in the same way as the adventures she has when she thinks she’s whisked off to the magical land over the rainbow. Exactly how a story balances meeting and subverting our expectations varies from genre to genre, writer to writer, even moment to moment, but most stories seem to get the most mileage out of meeting our expectations just long enough to really surprise us when the unexpected hits. After three epic arcs of defying expectations, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman has an even more complex relationship with the expected, creating a situation where the surprises may very well be the expected norm to be subverted. Continue reading
Your nifty hypnos tech trick may make it so I can’t see Spyral agents’ faces, but I’d know that ass anywhere. Grayson.
Midnighter, Grayson 6
Patrick: Do you have any idea how many times Sherlock Holmes has been adapted? From George C. Scott to Benedict Cumberbatch, from VeggieTales to The Great Mouse Detective, there’s virtually no end to the twists and variations writers, actors and filmmakers can apply to this character. But no matter how the story is dressed up, the personality of Holmes himself always shines through. Dick Grayson, as it turns out, is very much the same way; whatever the genre, whatever the story, whatever the supertechnology trying to disguise him, we’re always going to recognize Grayson. Continue reading