It’s that time of year again: where we suck up all of our grumblings about art being unquantifiable and compile our best-of lists. Today, we’re looking at our favorite single issues. Love or hate the subjectivity of this list, at the very least, it serves as a great reminder of all of the fantastic comics we’ve read over the past year. We’re sure your list will be different (and welcome your thoughts in the comments), but here are our top 13 issues of 2013. Continue reading
Drew: It’s hard to pick a favorite thing about The Flash. Is it the bright tone? The vivid, thematically rich art? It’s penchant for clever meta-commentary? In many ways, it feels like it was designed for the kind of nerdy dissections we do here at Retcon Punch, giving us everything we look for in a comic. Nothing brings that feeling about more than the specific pop-culture references this series drops from time to time. Things like having characters from LOST pop up randomly, or building an entire arc up to a single Planet of the Apes reference feel like they were designed rather specifically for my nerdy mentalities. Those references were fun, if entirely disposable — they amounted to little more than throwaway lines and background characters — but with issue 19, writer Brian Buccellato goes into full-on homage mode, giving us an extended Die Hard tribute that plays a key role in the plot. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing the Flash 18, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Scott: Use your gifts to help in every way you can. This is what Barry Allen believes being a superhero is all about. Or so he claims. In The Flash 18, Barry contradicts himself, telling the eager-to-help members of team “Speed Force” that they must not use their newfound powers. Despite having gifts and wanting to help, these men are not superheroes in Barry’s eyes, at least not yet. So what does it take to truly become a superhero? Does it require a fine-tuned sense of when and how to use your powers? Does it even require having superpowers at all? Looks like Barry’s about to find that out the hard way. Continue reading
Today, Taylor and Mikyzptlk are discussing Dial H 7, originally released December 5th, 2012.
Taylor: Imagination enjoys an awkward place in our modern day society. While most people and institutions are quick to praise the use of imagination it is far more rare to find those who actually appreciate it. Seldom are we, as an audience, treated to something that is truly unique – whether it be in a movie, music, a book, or any other medium. While the complexities of this relationship with creativity are of too much detail to go into here, it will be said that a fair amount of imaginative endeavors are rebuffed due to the general population’s resistance to anything that diverges too far from their expectations. Many inventive music artists aren’t signed to major labels because their music isn’t traditional pop; many writers have to rewrite parts of their book so they will appeal to a larger base audience; and many TV shows craft generic characters and plots so that they will be liked by many, but perhaps loved by few. However, the comic book industry has always managed to buck this trend in many ways since its very inception, which itself was a departure from accepted norms. Whether this is due to the type of reader the comic book attracts or the type of artist it employs for its creation, I can’t say, but it seems like comic books have always been more willing to take imaginative chances than their counterparts in other media. Dial H is a perfect example of this daring and the seventh issue of this title is an excellent example of its imaginative prowess.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Dial H 6, originally released November 7th, 2012.
Patrick: Fall of 2010, I went to a movie at Chicago’s Music Box theatre with Taylor and Shelby. The movie was Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void. If you haven’t seen Enter the Void, the reason we were attracted to it was because the log-line is aggressively surreal: a single-shot, first-person perspective trip through life and death of an American expatriot in the sleazy underbelly of Tokyo. Sounds promising — and super weird — right? All three of us tolerated the visual and audio assault for the film’s 3-hour run time, but it wasn’t until we stepped out of the theatre and Taylor said “So, that sucked, right?” that I was able to process what the hell just happened. The movie is so relentlessly strange, that I couldn’t even respond to it as I was experiencing it. That’s frequently how I feel about Dial H: especially given the conclusion of the previous story arc – I just couldn’t get a handle on it. But now, China Mieville is kind enough to show us the cold light of day, and seeing them plainly, these characters and this world is boundless and exciting, with a healthy sense of humor about its own absurdities.
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Dial H 5, originally released October 3rd, 2012.
Taylor: Here’s the thing: metaphysical thought is messy, very messy. Thinking about where man came from, what he is made of, and where he is going yields no solid answers and often times leaves the thinker more confused than when he or she first began to ponder those ideas in the first place. When you add the outside world (and universe) to this equation things are obviously going to get even muddier. What is this something we see? What is this nothing we don’t see? If there’s nothing, doesn’t that mean there has to be a something to validate the nothing’s nothingness? It’s not easy to discuss these confounding and complex ideas in an artistic way given that you can’t ever really speak about them in a straight forward manner. To do that would feel somewhat dishonest and wouldn’t accurately reflect the feelings that come with this philosophical territory. In Dial-H 5 the reader is presented with some of these questions, but rather than falling back on stale mythologies or old tropes, the issue embraces the chaos of messy questions and does so with stylish story telling and complimentary artwork. Continue reading
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Dial H 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Dial H 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Shelby: Our biggest complaint about Dial H has been, not that it’s too weird, but that it’s too inscrutable in its weirdness. I love the madcap collection of heroes in this world and sad-sack Nelson, but this universe is damn confusing. The zero issue takes great steps forward in not only explaining a little bit more how the dials work, but also gives us an idea of just how broad this universe is. Turns out, this universe extends further through time and space than I ever realized.
Drew: I’m not a fan of origin stories, or really the starts of narratives in general. They often require large exposition dumps to make everyone’s personalities, means, and motivations clear to the audience. One of my favorite ways authors avoid cramming that much exposition into the beginning of a story is to start in medias res. Sure, the whys of the situation aren’t always clear — or even what exactly is going on — but that creates curiosity, a genuine interest in learning more, which almost never happens when we’re just given bare-faced facts with the understanding that this will be important later. Writer China Mieville has taken this tack to the limits of my curiosity in Dial H, delivering three months of questions without any real answers, leaving us floating uncomfortably in a confusing sea of possibilities. With this issue, we finally start getting some answers, helping the events of the previous three fall into place with surprising ease. Continue reading
Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Dial H 3, originally released July 4th, 2012.
Peter: Dial H is probably the weirdest book that I am currently reading. If you had told me a year ago that I would be reading a book about an overweight, chain smoking 30-year old man that uses a magic rotary dial to turn into obscure heroes, I probably would not have believed you. China Mieville has weaved an interesting world, full of lush characters and voices. The entire premise of this book is very interesting, but at this point, I am still unsure about the longevity of this series.
Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Dial H 2, originally released June 6th, 2012.
Shelby: I didn’t know anything about Dial H when I started reading it last month. The characters were foreign, the setting new, even the physics of the Dial H universe were wholly unknown. After the first issue, I was excited. Things were mysterious and unique! This is a superhero process I’ve never seen before! I couldn’t wait to know more. Well, China Mieville must have heard me, and decided to cram as much new stuff as possible into the second issue.