Trinity 1

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Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Trinity 1, originally released September 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Michael: This might be considered controversial but I like my superheroes to be friends. Superheroes fighting each other is a time-honored tradition dating back to the golden age, but we have taken that to the extreme in the modern day. The past year has given us Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War on the big screen and Marvel’s Civil War II is still on the shelves at comic shops. When characters have lived side by side with one another for 50+ years however, their personal relationships are far more interesting than their super smash battles. Enter Francis Manapul’s Trinity, whose purpose seems to be reuniting the three greatest heroes that DC has to offer and once again make them the greatest friends that DC has to offer as well. Continue reading

Archie 12

Alternating Currents: Archie 12, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Archie 12, originally released September 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: In 2011, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted out 22 “story basics” she learned at Pixar. Every one of them is useful (and I encourage any storyteller to check them out, even if I cringe at how Coats’ list of lessons became “rules” as they were compiled by various bloggers), but #19 has always caught my eye because of how fickle audiences can be with coincidences. I suspect Coats is generally right, but I can’t help but think the magnitude of the coincidence is important, as well. Small coincidences that help characters get out of trouble (say, that the villain’s dropped weapon fell near enough to the hero to reverse the fortunes of their battle) would be more palatable than big coincidences that get them into it (say, that the dropped weapon landed on a button that began the self-destruct sequence on the ship just as it was hurtling towards the hero’s hometown). And, of course, these rules only apply when we’re concerned about verisimilitude — nobody ever complains about the outrageous coincidences in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon because those coincidences are precisely what make those cartoons so entertaining.

All of which is to say I think there are a few more variables in play than helpful/unhelpful in determining the success of a coincidence. Moreover, the specific profile of the coincidences in a narrative might help define it’s tone; an action thriller might allow for bigger, more unhelpful coincidences than would be appropriate in a parlor drama, for instance. In this way, a coincidence that strains credulity might not be a problem with the narrative so much as a sign that you’ve misjudged the tone of that narrative — different stories require different levels of credulity. As you may suspect, Archie 12 contains a few big coincidences that threw me for a loop, and while it would be easy to cry foul, the fact is that Archie has always been a bit cartoonier than I’ve been giving it credit for. Continue reading

Batman 7 and Nightwing 5

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Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman 7 and Nightwing 5 (aka, parts one and two of “Night of the Monster Men”), originally released September 21, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: If I had to guess conservatively, I’d say that we’ve covered a billion crossover events over the last four years on Retcon Punch. These kinds of stories always beg the narrative question “why?” The commercial question is a lot easier to answer: I’m reading Batman, and I’m certainly not going to skip an issue of Batman, so I might as well pick up the attendant issues of Nightwing, Detective Comics, and whatever else might be participating in this story. The result is usually a tonal mess, superficially tying together the storytelling styles of a disparate set of teams with some arbitrary commonality. “Night of the Monster Men” cuts a different swath through the series bearing its banner, uniting them under one writer, the always excellent Steve Orlando, and a unified artistic vision. Continue reading

Hadrian’s Wall 1

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Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Hadrian’s Wall 1, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Patrick: When you look at the landscape of genre fiction, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s an unforgivably small number of genres that modern storytellers deal in. Fantasy, mystery, science fiction, horror, superhero, spy, crime, romance, adventure – it sounds like an exhausting list, but it’s frustrating to consider just how many stories end up regurgitating the tropes and story beats of a dozen proto-stories. Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis’ Hardian’s Wall 1 struggles with its own genres — a murder mystery set on a space ship in the future — before revealing that their protagonist has a much more nuanced, much less plug-and-play story to tell. There is no genre called “living in the world with your ex fiction” (as far as I can tell), so the fallout of Simon and Annabelle’s relationship plays out among the stars. Continue reading

Black Panther 6

Alternating Currents: Black Panther 6, Ryan and DrewToday, Ryan D. and Drew are discussing Black Panther 6, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan D: Maybe it’s an American thing, but culture and media have trained me to almost always root for the revolution. Revolution is often associated with the fiery passion of change, the usurpation of the dolorous and oppressive status-quo, backed by the free-thinkers and do-gooders. Or maybe it’s the idea being studied in psychology about peoples’ need to root for the underdog. This, however, has not exactly been the case in the current run of Black Panther. Or has it? Issue six takes us a bit deeper into the side of the revolutionaries and the monarchy, and bring some new variables into the mix. Continue reading

Doom Patrol 1

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Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Doom Patrol 1, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, I’m shocked at how shocked characters are in their supernatural circumstances. Haven’t they seen movies before? I like my characters to be a little more well-versed in the genre that they are a part of – in 2016 I think that any encounter with an alien, wizard or monster should lend comparisons to similar stories from pop culture. In a way Doom Patrol 1 fulfilled that wish of mine. The characters within had little to no shock when it came to robots, exploding gyros and roommates popping like piñatas. Continue reading

The Fix 5

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Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Fix 5, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The stars of The Fix are not good people; Roy, especially, has been portrayed as completely immoral and self-serving. There’s one more aspect of his personality, though, that we shouldn’t forget, one which Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber thoroughly remind us of in The Fix 5: he’s pretty bad at being a criminal, too. Roy’s ability to break the law and get away with it has more to do with the corrupt institution he serves than his own skills, meaning he’ll squander any chance he has to progress as a criminal. For the citizens of The Fix‘s L.A., that’s probably a very good thing. Continue reading

Superwoman 2

Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing Superwoman 2, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan M.: If I read a novel in one sitting, I retain next to nothing. The plots, characters, and relationships all start to run together in my mind. I read an entire new adult series about college football players and the girls who love them in the past week and I couldn’t tell you any of the character’s names. I think one was Dallas? Too much story in a finite space leads to nothing making much of an impact. That’s how I feel about Superwoman 2, an issue with so much happening, that nothing has very much meaning. Continue reading

Gotham Academy: Second Semester 1

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Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Gotham Academy: Second Semester 1, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: During the spring of my senior year of college I went nowhere for spring break. I don’t mean this as a metaphor in any way, I didn’t even head home for the week long reprieve from school. While that probably sounds boring, I remember that particular break with fondness. I’ve always been somewhat of an introvert and the time alone was welcome after the constant socializing that is college life. Still, it was weird to see my campus, so usually full of people, empty and devoid of life. Everything seemed at once the same yet different and changed. Remembering this experience, I don’t blame Olive for feeling lonely while spending the holidays alone at Gotham Academy in the first issue of Second Semester. This becomes even more true when I consider just how weird and mysterious Gotham Academy can be, unlike my own university.

Continue reading

The Uncanny Inhumans 13

Alternating Currents: Uncanny Inhumans 13, Drew and Patrick
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Uncanny Inhumans 13, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Most people believe that the 20th century was a death struggle between Communism and Capitalism, and that Fascism was but a hiccup. But today we know better. Communism was a fool’s errand. The followers of Marx gone from this earth, but the followers of Hitler abound and thrive. Hitler, however, had one great disadvantage. He lived in a time when Fascism, like a virus… like the AIDS virus… needed a strong host in order to spread. Germany was that host. But Germany did not prevail. The world was too big. Fortunately, the world has changed. Global communications, cable TV, the internet. Today the world is smaller and a virus does not need a strong host in order to spread. The virus… is airborne. One more thing. Let no man call us crazy. They called Hitler crazy. But Hitler was not crazy. He was stupid. You don’t fight Russia and America. You get Russia and America to fight each other… and destroy each other.

Dressler, The Sum of All Fears

Drew: I’m not sure if the above quote appears in Tom Clancy’s novel, but it sure plays a key role in its film adaptation, where a group of fascists run a false flag operation in hopes of pitting Russia and the US against one another. The narrative of a neo-nazi faction gaining by pitting the two powers that be against one another certainly has real-world resonance in the rise of the alt-right during this election cycle, which I suppose highlights the danger of steamrolling any narrative into a simple dichotomy. The US and Russia may have been the only superpowers left, but they were far from the only interests that could benefit from their antagonism. Unfortunately, international relations aren’t always subtle enough to fully understand those smaller interests. The same could be said of superheroes, which, even when they’re fighting with one another, tend to be almost entirely two-sided. The Inhumans already represent a kind of third party to Captain Marvel and Iron Man’s “Civil War,” but an even subtler point is how even smaller factions might exploit that conflict to their own ends. It’s The Sum of All Fears, but with superpowers in place of, well, superpowers. Continue reading