Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Detective Comics 42, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Patrick: Creators on long-running comics are always trying to shake up the status quo. That can be exciting for fans, who love (or love to hate) seeing their favorite properties monkeyed with. And eventually, there’s always the added reward of the return of the original status quo — the status quo ante — which reinstates all our old standards. I try not to be a cynical reader, but sometimes I can’t escape the idea that characters are changed more or less arbitrarily in order to generate conversation and enthusiasm about a series. It’s not like this is bad — change means growth, and I’d love for superhero comics to embrace more growth — but the tendency to revert to a status quo ante makes any attempt at growth feel impotent. Bruce Wayne is dead. Sure. New status quo. He’ll be back. Status quo ante. But what about everyone caught in Batman’s periphery? They have to change too, but there’s nothing forcing them to change back. Detective Comics 42 hovers around this periphery, challenging and pushing characters that may actually be capable of growth. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Detective Comics 40, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Mark: On a week to week basis, comic books are junk food. Most everything that comes out is disposable, easily forgotten. While occasional stories and arcs will make a mark, for the most part Batman’s latest encounter with a violent psychopath quickly becomes only of interest to the most diehard continuity enthusiast. These are the same stories that DC has been telling for basically 30 years, and they work. They’re engaging. They sell a dwindling number of books. Detective Comics 40 ends an arc built around hatred, revenge, and the murder of children. It’s another take on the classic Batman formula: a new threat emerges in Gotham, Batman tries to control the threat, Batman loses control and order in Gotham is threatened, Batman confronts the source of the threat, almost loses, but through strength and determination, Batman defeats the threat. Mad libs “threat” for the name of any member of his rogue gallery, and you’ve got yourself a Batman story. Continue reading →
Without artists, all of your favorite characters, scenes, costumes, and locations would just be words on a page. In short, they’re the ones that make comics comics. That’s a lot of responsibility, yet the best artists manage to juggle all of those tasks and inject some meaningful art and style into the proceedings. Whether its a subtle expression or a jaw-dropping action sequence, our favorite artists add the requisite magic to make their worlds and characters real. These are our top 14 artists of 2014. 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, Drew and Scott are discussing Detective Comics 32, originally released June 11th, 2014.
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 →
Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Detective Comics 31, originally released May 7th, 2014.
Shelby: I love magic tricks. Granted, I understand it’s not actually magic; I am an adult, after all. Even knowing it’s all just slight of hand, I still fall for it every time. Personally, I think the most effective illusions are the most simple; some quick misdirection, maybe some witty repartee, and suddenly there are three foam balls in my hand when I could have swore I started out with one. That’s one of the reasons I like Batman as much as I do; he’s got the fancy gadgets and whatnot, but at its core his act is one of illusion and misdirection. We look for what he leads us to believe is there, and gives us something completely different while our backs are turned. Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul have adopted a similar approach with Detective Comics, and it’s just as effective as any close-up magic I’ve seen.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash Annual 3, originally released April 30th, 2014.
…at the end of the day, the Flash is still the same tone as it was before. It’s still the same character, but kind of just reinvisioned.
Drew: The above quote isn’t about Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s new run on The Flash — Manapul was actually speaking about the start of his own run back when I interviewed him in 2012 — but it might as well be. That a statement can be used to describe a new take on the character as well as the newer take that succeeds is is a universal truism in comics, but it also speaks to an innate truth about the Flash: he needs to move forward. Of course, Jensen and Venditti aren’t privy to the clean break that started Manapul’s run, and have thus needed to address Barry’s past as much as his future. Fortunately, they are also paying attention to this series’ history of meta-commentary, addressing their own creative baggage right on the page. Of all the things they could have ported from the previous run, this is my absolute favorite, injecting The Flash Annual 3 with a sense of rebellion.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 30, originally released April 23rd, 2014.
Drew: I lost a part of my innocence when Richard Harris passed away. It wasn’t an existential crisis brought about by confronting mortality, but the cognitive dissonance brought about by his role of Albus Dumbledore being filled by Michael Gambon. I’m sure for many young Harry Potter fans, that was the first time they were confronted with the notion that the identity of a beloved fictional character is so dictated by casting decisions, but looking at the differences between the two actors’ performances, it’s almost as if they were playing different characters. Harris imbued the role with a quiet, almost doddering sweetness, while Gambon’s take was notably sterner. Both takes are supported by the books, but it had never occurred to me before seeing Prisoner of Azkaban that an actor’s (or director’s) emphasis on certain traits could have such a profound effect on the final product. I found myself thinking those same thoughts as Robert Venditti and Van Jensen assert their own read on Barry Allen in The Flash 30.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Detective Comics 30, originally released April 2nd, 2014.
Welcome to Gotham City. It has the potential to be great…for the both of us. It’s a new start.
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Drew: Two figures arrive in the big city for the first time. It’s the start of many a classic story of city life — including this issue — but it also accurately describes Manapul and Buccellato’s “move” to Gotham. After a stellar run on The Flash (ha), Manapul and Buccellato have brought their signature meta-commentary to DC’s namesake, opening with the quote above. The line is not necessarily spoken — it could plausibly be said by Elena or Annie Aguila (the two figures we see arriving in Gotham), but is rather explicitly not represented as dialogue, or even internal monologue — there’s no speech balloon, no voiceover box, not even a quotation mark, suggesting that this really is the creators speaking directly to the audience. It’s a bold move, but exactly the kind that gives me confidence that this does indeed have the potential to be great.
The comics industry might have trained us incorrectly. We’re meant to gobble up as much story as possible, as quickly as possible. That way we buy more comics, and Batman and Spider-Man can continue to punch dudes into perpetuity. But the books we read are far from disposable — they contain some truly astounding artwork from some of the most talented storytellers out there. They’re our directors, our actors, our choreographers, our set and costume designers. These are our top 13 artists of 2013.Continue reading →