Patrick: One of my least favorite criticisms of serialized fiction is that a story “didn’t go anywhere.” We have an expectation that the journey we’re on with the characters is somehow part of an investment that pays off in a meaningful way as events progress. We literally use that term “pay off,” as though the entertainment itself in a cost-benefit proposition. I resent the idea that we can’t enjoy a single issue on its own merits, and instead comfort ourselves with the idea that one volume seeded something that will feel significant later. Robin Rises Alpha 1 closes out the Damian’s Resurrection story by finally giving readers a glimpse of what it means to have a superpowered Wayne behind Robin’s mask. It’s an issue frustratingly short on content, repeating themes, scenes and pages from elsewhere in Batman and Robin, all but guaranteeing that the pay-off here is a retread of the past, rather than boldly striking out into the future of the character. Continue reading
…for us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
-The Nicene Creed
Patrick: Growing up in the Catholic church, I always had a little bit of a problem with this part of the Nicene Creed. On the one hand, it’s very clear: Jesus sacrificed everything — including his life — in order to save the whole world from sin. But on the other hand, death didn’t share any of the long-lasting consequences it does for anyone else. Jesus died, but then he returned, three days later. What’s more is that he transcends his human flesh and embraces his fully divine nature by hanging out with God in heaven. While the drama of death and resurrection is enough to stir a body to faith, it betrays a fundamental truth about death. What’s hard about death isn’t that someone dies, it’s that they stay dead. And yet, this narrative — of death and rebirth — is so powerful it’s one of the stops on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Batman and Robin has allowed Bruce Wayne to deal with Damian’s death in grounded, real ways for almost two years, but now that “resurrection” is in play, subtlety goes right out the window. This is Damian, the bat-Christ-figure to beat the band, and he only marches back on the field to fireworks. Continue reading
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
Spencer: We here at Retcon Punch haven’t been subtle about our love of Batman’s new Hellbat armor. The suit is awesome, and what’s better is that it isn’t just some gimmick meant to push toys; writer Peter Tomasi has created “realistic” (in comic book terms, at least) reasons for the Hellbat’s great power and for why Batman needs to use it in this particular situation. Still, he and penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz understand just how cool the Hellbat is, and much of Batman and Robin 35’s success comes from how the creative team chooses to portray the suit — which, in some cases, means not showing it at all. The issue is visually dazzling, and the artists know which types of imagery to use to best convey the stories both on Apokolips and on Earth. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Mark are discussing Batman and Robin 34, originally released August 20th, 2014.
Patrick: When The Death of the Family was heading into its final issue, Scott Snyder appeared in a ton of interviews claiming that this conclusion was going to have a lasting effect on Batman and the Batfamily. But after that story line wrapped up, Snyder took his own series into Batman’s past, conveniently avoiding working through much of this fallout. Similarly, Grant Morrison killed Damian in Batman Incorporated, but wrapped up his series only a few issues later. The emotional heavy lifting as fallen to Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, who have dutifully presented the most erratic, emotional and frustrating Batman possible. Everything that Batman is — the selfless knight of justice, the patriarch of the Batfamily, the infallible detective — has been undermined in the wake of these twin tragedies. Understandably, that pushes Batman away from his readers, and his alienation from the world started to reflect the audiences’ alienation from the character. In issue 34, Tomasi and Gleason have Bruce offer a naked apology to his protégés, but they’re also inviting us to trust Batman again. Fuck yes: I’m ready to forgive. Continue reading
Shelby: I hate being in the way. Like, to the point of anxiety: if I’m with people, trying to help, but just getting in the way, I have a really hard time with it. It’s frustrating on two levels; not only am I not helping like I want to be, I’m probably making things harder by being in the way. Apparently, I’m just like Superman; he’s infected with Doomsday spores, and while all he wants to do is, you know, help save the world over and over, he’s stuck being in the way. And by the way, I mean threatening everyone and everything around him. Heads up, I’m not reading Superman OR Doomed, so I am definitely approaching this from an outsider’s viewpoint.
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Justice League 29, originally released April 16th, 2014.
Patrick: Here’s a little bit of a confession: I don’t know why we make fun of people who use Internet Explorer. I think most of us use Chrome or Safari to navigate the internet, and I know a lot of smart, young, web-savvy types that will also use Firefox in a pinch. But IE? You might as well be my grandmother at that point. The browser is so closely associated with disinterested or novice internet use that it’s sorta become shorthand for “the person using this product doesn’t know anything about technology.” I’m sure that’s unfair, and I’d be willing to wager that most of the bugs and clumsy UIs that drove us all away from IE in the first place have been worked out and it’s a totally serviceable browser. Still though. Fucking n00bs, right? As Geoff Johns decides that technology vs. humanity has always been a theme of Forever Evil, the solutions feel less logical and reasoned and more magical. If the story is trying to convince me that it’s in anyway tech savvy, Justice League 29 is not putting forth the most compelling argument. Continue reading
Patrick: Did y’all see Crazy Heart? Part of that movie hinges on the fact that Jeff Bridges’ character quietly and gradually writes a song so good that he can retire on it. I love imagining the moment in the script where the screenwriter must have written: “Then he writes the best song ever” and then goes back to describing a bar bathroom or something. Luckily, the people tasked with actually demonstrating this skill were up to the task. Geoff Johns has a habit of writing himself into similar corners, but always leaves it to himself to bail himself out. The result is an oddly self-contradictory narrative, one that comes so very close to acknowledging its own absurdity before doubling down on it.
Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Forever Evil 2, originally released October 2nd, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Last month, the first issue of Forever Evil left me feeling relatively good about the start of DC’s first line-wide crossover since the inception of the New 52. Most of the heroes were gone, the Crime Syndicate was established, and Lex Luthor finally got a glance something that may just be worse than a bunch of costumed do-gooders. Ultimately, Forever Evil is about villains being forced into a position to fight a greater evil. I think that issue 1 gave us a pretty good starting point for that. Looking at issue 2, while I feel that there was some interesting developments, I can’t help but feel the entire issue suffered from structural issues, and that it was ultimately about getting Luthor to say one damn line. Continue reading
Today, Spencer and Mikyzptlk are discussing Justice League 23 originally released August 28th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Spencer: One of my favorite hobbies is explaining comic book storylines to people who don’t read comics (“Hey guys, did you know that the Justice League once fought a giant floating psychic island that shoots dinosaurs?!”). It’s always fun to watch their expressions, but it’s also an interesting reminder that comics, at their core, are goofy as hell. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m glad comics are finally being respected as an art form, and I wouldn’t be writing here if I didn’t love poring through comics and discussing their depths, but sometimes it’s just fun to turn off my brain and embrace the goofiness, and no story’s been better for that lately than Trinity War. It’s so much fun that I don’t even mind that big fat “to be continued” at the end—well, I don’t mind it that much…