Ghost Rider 1

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Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Ghost Rider 1, originally released November 30th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!

Patrick: I’m not great with first impressions. I’ve got so many nerdy and niche interests, and I never want to unload all of that alienating garbage on someone when we first meet. That usually leads me to under-share, but on the odd occasion I give myself green lights, things get weird fast. Striking the balance between being withholding and being an emotional exhibitionist is hard, but it’s exactly what’s required of a good first impression. Felipe Smith and Danilo S. Beyruth give themselves all green lights with Ghost Rider 1, and while the result reveals an awful lot about what this series is going to be, it is frustratingly unfocused, bursting from overstuffed plots from the very first issue. Continue reading

Batman Annual 1

Alternating Currents: Batman Annual 1, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman Annual 1, originally released November 30th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: A few years ago, fellow Retcon Puncher Patrick Ehlers suggested that deconstruction had become so commonplace in Batman stories that they had come to become inseparable from the character. That is, deconstructing the character had become as essential to the telling of Batman stories as Batmobiles and gimmicky villains have become essential to the stories themselves. It’s a compelling argument — especially when you consider the fact that modern interpretations of the character are all informed by Frank Miller’s famous deconstructions of the character — but I maintain that it’s largely incidental to his existence. To me, the key fact is that Batman has been around (and beloved) for 75+ years, so of course creators that grew up with the character are going to relish playing with that history. I can expound on why I think that negates Patrick’s point in the comments, but for now, it’s enough to say that I think the deconstructions have more to do with nostalgia than anything intrinsic to the character. Nostalgia is certainly a central theme in Batman Annual 1, an anthology issue that brings together some of Batman’s most famous stewards, past and present, for a walk down memory lane. Continue reading

Batgirl 5

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Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Batgirl 5, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: The human face communicates so much information that can’t be conveyed as effectively with words. We’re trained from an early age to pay attention in a conversation to not just what’s being said, but also to the subtle clues the face of our conversation partner provides. The same is true in art. When working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, one of the challenges for the artists of the Walt Disney Studios was learning to convey realistic emotions in their heroine’s face, since they couldn’t rely on the cartoony stretch and squish they were used to. Nowadays, when striving to create photorealistic humans for movies and video games, artists struggle with the Uncanny Valley — so well trained are we at studying our fellow humans’ faces that we become uneasy when something is just a tiny bit off. Continue reading

Death of X 4

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Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Death of X 4, originally released November 23rd, 2015.

Patrick: At the risk of making a statement that’s been made a million times already: 2016 has been a hell of a year for high-profile deaths. Calling them “celebrity deaths” would be underselling it — figures like Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro and Prince virtually changed the fabric of reality simply by existing in it. But for all their earth-shifting influence, their deaths were all quiet, ultimately meaningless affairs. These revolutionaries did not die they way they lived, which is to say, their deaths made no specific statement. Bucking the trend, was David Bowie, who had released an eerie, melancholy record in the final weeks of his life. Bowie knew that his life was performance – it was challenging and honest – and that his death should be the same. In Death of X 4 Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule close the book on the life of Scott Summers, insisting that he die the way he lived, a revolutionary, even if that’s a performance he was never putting on.

Continue reading

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 9

hal-jordan-green-lantern-corp-9Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 9, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: One of the greatest appeals of the Green Lantern Corps is that there’s a limitless cast of characters to explore. The Green Lanterns are too numerous to count, and that’s not even getting into new recruits or the other Corps. Each of these Lanterns bring something different to the table, and the best writers are able to mine these characters for all they’re worth, figuring out how and when to best deploy their casts’ various abilities and relationships in order to best serve their story. In Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 9, Robert Venditti and Rafa Sandoval put on a clinic in this regard, not only taking full advantage of the mass of characters they’ve trapped together beneath Brainiac’s dome, but pulling out a few big surprise appearances from the franchise’s past as well. Continue reading

A.D.: After Death Volume 1

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Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing A.D.: After Death Volume 1, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: A frequent criticism of popular fiction is the overemphasis on plot instead of character. There’s a lot of moving pieces involved in “epic storytelling” and oftentimes the emotional resonance of the characters in a story gets left by the wayside in service to the overall concept. Sometimes the fantastical plot of a story so greatly eclipses everything else that the personal relationships of the characters are rendered completely irrelevant and uninteresting. Then there’s A.D.: After Death Volume 1. Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 64

Alternating Currents: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 64, Taylor and Drew

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 64, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: On any given day I feel like I know the people who are close to me. I know my girlfriend, my friends, and my family in a way that makes me feel like I truly understand them. While this holds true on most days, every so often I am surprised by a sudden thought or action by these people who I thought I knew. Maybe it’s a sudden fit of passion or a change of previously held beliefs, but on occasion I look at the people I know and wonder — who are you? At times like these I’m acutely aware of our inability to truly know another person, and that realization is at once terrifying and exciting. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 64 captures this feeling perfectly, but it comes at the expense of contradicting long established character development. Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 1

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Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 1, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: It’s odd that we have a concept of ideas that are “ahead of their time” — that is, it’s odd that ideas are so often rejected only to be later praised that we have a phrase to describe the phenomenon. Optimistically, the fact that those ideas can be reappraised suggests that you can’t keep a good idea down, but the other side of that coin reveals how common it is to reject good ideas in the moment. Indeed, the very fact that those ideas can later be proven to have value illustrates that the initial problem wasn’t with the idea, but the people involved in implementing it. Maybe it comes down to personalities involved or the politics surrounding an idea, but good ideas can be rejected for reasons totally unrelated to the quality of those ideas. Those mistakes may be corrected by history, but often over the course of generations. To me, the best way to speed up that process, unlocking the value of good ideas sooner, is to constantly reevaluate our decisions, never defaulting to the assumption that the “best” idea always wins. Such is the case with the idea of the Ultimates — the politics and personalities involved may have prevented that idea from reaching its fruition the first time around, but that doesn’t mean it should be discarded completely. Continue reading

Thanos 1

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Today, Drew and Ryan D are discussing Thanos 1, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Traditional

Drew: This line is often used to sell a given story as some kind of ultimate showdown, but it always strikes me as thoroughly self-defeating: either one or both of those adjectives simply prove to be false. That is, the answer can’t be as interesting as the question suggests, since the answer necessarily reveals that the question was built on a false premise. Or, if you’re feeling more diplomatic, you might take Superman’s answer to this question from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman: “they surrender.” It’s an elegant solution, but is ultimately far less entertaining than the premise suggests — “they surrender” isn’t exactly the white-knuckle conclusion the question implies, and again, betrays the falsehood of those adjectives.

Such is often the case in superhero comics, where villains are routinely trotted out as unstoppable, only for our hero to miraculously give lie to that claim. It’s enough to make anyone doubt the increasingly hyperbolic claims made of villains. This becomes especially true of big name villains, who continue to be heralded as some kind of ultimate threat, in spite of the fact that they’ve been beaten in virtually every appearance. Thanos is a prime example of this — the seriousness of his threat diminishes with each subsequent return (especially after that time Squirrel Girl defeated him) — leading to even more hyperbolic claims made next time. Cleverly breaking that pattern, Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s Thanos 1 sidesteps the Worf Effect by lampshading the inevitable conclusion in the first issue. Continue reading

Slam 1



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Today, Shelby and Ryan are discussing Slam 1, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Shelby: I’ve always been fascinated by roller derby. I’ve loved quad skating ever since I was a kid; I’ve thought about trying out for roller derby, but the Chicago groups meet pretty far south of me, and without a car it isn’t really feasible. Plus, I’ll be perfectly frank, it would take a LOT of work to get my cheeseburger-loving self into shape; derby girls do NOT mess around — they are serious athletes. It’s why I have such a crush on the sport as a whole. These women are strong and tough, relying on their own personal strength and the strength of the bond they have with their teammates. Writer Pamela Ribon and artist Veronica Fish channel that strength perfectly in issue one of Slam! Continue reading