Batman Damned 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: What is the first thing you do when you pick up your copy of Batman Damned #1? You’ve got fifty pages of stunning Lee Bermejo art on oversized, oddly-shapped pages, and a script from the legendary Brian Azzarello. It’s a mature, confident riff on Batman and crime and dark magic, but you eagerly thumb through that intrigue and drama and blah blah blah until you find the panel where you can sorta see Batman’s dick. Can you spot it without someone else increasing the contrast and circling it? It’s a rush — a taboo look at Bruce Wayne’s dong flopping lazily to right. And now, because you have this comic in your hands, you’re one of the people that saw it first hand.

It is a quintessential “made you look” moment. Bermejo and Azzarello have such command over the readers’ eye that they are able to direct us to one specific panel before we’ve even considered buying the book. Once this masterpiece is in your hands, you discover that it’s all about misdirection, slight of hand, and controlling what the reader sees and when they see it. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1 Presents a Feminist History

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Pixar

As a kid, I always suspected the inanimate objects in my life had secret lives of their own. It wasn’t so much that I thought they got up and walked around when I wasn’t looking, but that they had feelings and aspirations and friends that they cared about. That was the bit about Toy Story that really hit me when it came out — that my toys were desperate for my love and attention, and they felt neglected when I turned my attention elsewhere. Worrying about the feelings of inanimate objects speaks to some of my most well-worn neuroses, but I’d defend those early experiences as helping me practice sympathy for other humans. I hesitate to call Toy Story a feminist history, since the marginalized perspective it adopts is entirely fictional, but it certainly has the shape of a feminist history, cuing us (or, at the very least, eight-year-old me) into the heretofore ignored plight of children’s toys. (To be clear: “feminist history” isn’t the history of feminism, but feminist approaches to history — approaches that highlight otherwise overlooked perspectives and narratives in history.) With Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, Saladin Ahmed and Garry Brown achieve something similar, retelling the classic arc “Alien Costume Saga” from the perspective of the Venom Symbiote. Continue reading

Full-Page Cutaway Gags Establish Tone in Superman 3

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: In its abstract, the story of Superman thus far is bleak. The Earth has been stranded in the Phantom Zone, everyone on the planet is suffering from Phantom Zone-related environmental poisoning (including the superheroes), and all the scariest Kryptontian villains have teamed up with Rogol Zaar to defeat Superman. That’s pretty dire, right? This thing is even dark down to its artistic team: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado work with realistically shaped and shaded characters, which sort of insists that all of this is happening to real human beings with real human physiology. Luckily, writer Brian Michael Bendis sets aside real and relevant space in the issue to make jokes and have fun with this Superman adventure. Continue reading

Creator vs Creation in Daredevil 608

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“I did not ask for the life I was given. But it was given nonetheless.”                                                                 Mr. Eko, LOST

No one ever asked to be born – we emerge from the womb and are saddled with struggles specific to our circumstances. In Daredevil 608, Mike Murdock emerges from the ether/Matt Murdock’s imagination and has to deal with a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge his existence. Thus, he takes some aggressive measures to make them acknowledge it. Continue reading

“The End” is the Enemy in Fantastic Four 2

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Back when the Future Foundation rode off into the sunset at the end of Secret Wars, ready to recreate and explore the multiverse, many fans (myself included) saw it as the perfect farewell to the characters. This leaves Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli with the unenviable task of bringing this “ending” to an end, of justifying more adventures for characters who had already received their happily ever after. Interestingly, Slott and Pichelli do so by demonizing the very idea of “endings,” by making “the end” the very villain that brings the Fantastic Four back together. Continue reading

Taking Control of Your Own Story in The Wicked + The Divine 39

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

See, I refuse to think of rock and roll as my career
Tell me all my opportunities, ask me if I care
The rock star lifestyle ain’t for me
I quit
Got somewhere else I’d rather be
So I quit
I quit, I quit

“I Quit” — Descendents

Fame isn’t for everyone; hell, fame isn’t for most people. But fame is also a trap, and something that takes a lot of work and luck to achieve, so I admire the hell out of anyone who’s willing to give it up, whether it be to broaden into less lucrative aspects of their medium or to get out of show business altogether. It takes a lot of clarity and guts to make that decision, and in The Wicked + The Divine 39, Laura Wilson — no longer Persephone — has both in droves. Continue reading

Subjectivity in Symbols and Characters in The Seeds 2

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ann Nocenti and David Aja’s Seeds is, on the surface, about a race of aliens that comes to earth to document, or possibly expedite, the extinction of the human race. But even from the end of the first issue, this tidy sci fi premise has already been upset: one of these aliens has feelings for a human woman. Those are clearly defined roles for the humans and the aliens, right? And even that little twist falls into the dramatically convenient theme of love blossoming on the battlefield. Issue 2 of Seeds more thoroughly explores the difference between what is expected of an actor and how they actually act. Continue reading

It’s Power vs Responsibility in The Amazing Spider-Man 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 5

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

We tend to define power optimistically — we might list the duties of say, the President of the United States, for example, with the expectation that they’ll wield their power responsibly. But there’s another (perhaps more timely) way to define power, not by the amount of good it allows someone to do, but by the amount of harm it allows someone to inflict. Try as we (or Uncle Ben) might to link the two, power and responsibility are independent variables. That is, “With great power must also come great responsibility” isn’t a statement of some inviolable rule of the world, but a goal to strive towards. That’s why the “must also” part is so essential (and so missed from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) — it makes it clear Uncle Ben isn’t just stating a fact. Indeed, that power can be separated from responsibility is precisely what this first arc of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man has focused on, demonstrating the inefficacy of either without the other. Continue reading

How Directionality Sells the Drama in Ms. Marvel 34

by Drew Baumgartner

Ms. Marvel 34

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The only limits in comics are those of the imagination and the page itself. That sounds grandiose, but I genuinely believe that to be true. There are no CGI budgetary restrictions or limits of practical effects that could make a shot or a sequence impossible (though time constraints may make big crowds on horseback less likely), no locations on earth (or off) that can’t be used, no detail to small that can’t be captured in a panel. That means comics are a medium with nearly infinite potential for flashy epicness, which can easily hog our attention. But its the fundamentals — nearly universal to all storytelling — that ultimately make a comic sing: characters, clarity, and heart. Sometimes those flashy elements can help connect us to those fundamentals, but sometimes it’s the simpler details that sell the story. Such is the case with G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon’s Ms. Marvel 34, which utilizes one of the most basic givens in the medium to remarkably effective results. Continue reading

The Mercenary Gamers of Leviathan 2

by Michael DeLaney

Leviathan 2

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There is a not-so-subtle “might makes right” mentality that is associated with America. Our overprotectiveness of the Second Amendment, the immense firepower of our military, and just the general “America Fuck Yeah” of it all often makes us look arrogant and overconfident. In John Layman and Nick Pitarra’s Leviathan 2, we see that arrogance and overconfidence of the American military-industrial complex in action. Continue reading