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 →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Grayson 6, originally released January 14th, 2015.
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 VeggieTalesto 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 →
Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Batman 36 originally released on December 17th, 2014.
Second verse, same as the first! A little bit louder and a little bit worse!
Drew: Repetition is everywhere in art, from the themes of symphonies to the expectation that the hero will prevail, but do you ever wonder why we like repetition so much? Doesn’t it also make art tired and predictable? I suppose some material is more conducive to repetition than others — star-crossed lovers is a more versatile premise than, say, a hot tub time machine — but I would argue that everything can overstay its welcome. Comics are particularly prone to repetition (who will Superman save the day from this week?), but Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have taken that repetition a step further, regularly weaving recreations of iconicBatmanmoments into their run (even as recently as last issue). Their love and respect for Batman’s mythology is beyond reproach, but that very emphasis they give every moment may have hit the point of diminishing returns in Batman 36, as Snyder struggles to make Joker even worse than he was the last time he showed up. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Detective Comics 37, originally released December 3rd, 2014. Mark: Of all the Batman movies, Batman Returns remains my favorite. It’s probably the darkest Batman film yet made (I mean, it opens with parents throwing their baby in the sewer. Opens!), but it also has a sense of humor and style that the oppressively serious Christopher Nolan adaptations lack. One of the things that makes the movie pop is the decision to set the action at Christmastime. Even all lit up for the holidays there’s no place as terrible as Gotham City, and that contrast adds a dark mirth to the proceedings. With the holiday season once again upon us, it’s the perfect time to revisit Gotham at Christmas. After a two month airport diversion, creative team Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are back and Detective Comics 37 jumps us right into the thick of Gotham on Christmas Eve. Guess what? Things are not great. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Batman 36 originally released on November 12, 2014.
Patrick: Joker is one of those characters that resists definition. In fact, we often use that lack of definition as a defining trait. I’m going to do a disservice to whoever made this observation — because I can’t remember where I first encountered it — but the most terrifying thing about Joker is that you never know whether he’s going to murder a child or throw a pie in Batman’s face. Arguably, the only thing that motivates the character is the desire to be a good Batman villain. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have played with this idea before — the Death of the Family even had Joker buying into the importance of their “relationship” — but this latest arc in Batman seems poised to establish Joker as something else entirely. He’s not a instrument of random, but intriguing, chaos, and he’s not in love with Batman. No: he’s Batman’s nemesis, and that means that he’s a sort of anti-detective, setting up mysteries that Batman cannot solve, corrupting superheroes and putting everyone’s lives in danger in the process. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Grayson 4, originally released November 5th, 2014.
Spencer: I’ve been told that the key difference between introverts and extroverts is that interaction with other people drains introverts’ energy, while it recharges extroverts. I can believe that — I love spending time with friends, but if I’m around people too much it can be mentally exhausting, and I end up retreating to my room to charge my batteries for a few days. As an extrovert, though, Dick Grayson — the newest agent of Spyral — has the opposite problem: he needs people and personal connections to thrive. Dick certainly has the skills necessary to succeed as a spy, but his personality is much less suited to the job. Being alone is not Dick’s forte, and his need to connect could every well end up being his downfall. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Ryan are discussing Detective Comics 36, originally released November 5th, 2014.
Mark: It took me a long while to decide what it was I really wanted to do in life. About two years ago I packed up everything that would fit in my car and moved to Los Angeles without a job and without knowing anyone. Ever since then, like Sonic the Hedgehog, I’ve felt the need to go fast. In some ways I feel far behind my peers, and I try to work double to make up for lost time. The sad reality, of course, is that you can’t make up time.
Detective Comics 36 wraps up a two-part story, Terminal, by the guest creative team of writer Benjamin Percy and penciler John Paul Leon. The set up is a familiar mystery thriller trope: a passenger jet lands at Gotham International Airport and careens into the terminal, crew unresponsive. When Batman and the airport’s Chief of Police board the plane, they find everyone onboard is dead and their flesh decayed. What could have killed them? Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Superman Unchained 9, originally released November 5th, 2014.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Patrick: As I sit down to write this piece, the clock on the wall above my desk reads 11:00pm. It’s the end of a long day that’s been packed with all the various activities with which I busy myself. I worked, I ran, I improvised, I saw a show, I socialized. I talked to my sister on the phone, I explored the new podcasts on the Wolfpop network, I listened to that Nintendo Direct (Mario Kart DLC on November 13!), I even found some time to read a few comics. All of my interests were active all day, occasionally shifting in immediate priority so I could focus on completing one thing. This is the only way I know how to live my life — I don’t have much of a plan for my future, because I cannot predict which of these things is going to be / should be the most important thing to me. My enthusiasms revise themselves as opportunities and proficiencies wax and wane, and I’m constantly in fear that this maleability will rob me of genuine perspective. How can a writer have a voice, or a point of view, if they’re not any one thing consistently? In his spectacular finale to Superman Unchained, Scott Snyder posits that adaptability trumps consistency, and that Superman’s lack of defining ideology is his greatest strength. Neither Superman nor Patrick Ehlers stand for any one thing — and that’s what makes us mighty. Continue reading →