Debunking the Myth of the Prepared Hero in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro-Series: Donatello

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Why does Batman win every fight? Because he’s prepared for every conceivable eventuality. Superman goes nuts? Batman’s got magic. Or Kryptonite. Or both. This same sort of logic has been applied all to all the genius superheroes. Sure – why wouldn’t Tony Stark have armor designed specifically to fight the Hulk? Even Infinity War (the movie) depicts Doctor Strange literally experiencing all possible outcomes until he stumbles upon the one way to defeat Thanos. But those stories never really take the time to explore what that process of hyper-perparation looks like, or the toll in takes on the heroes’ relationships. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Macro-Series: Donatello shows just how damaging it is to always only prepare for disaster. Continue reading

The Punisher 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers

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

Michael: Comic book readers are probably familiar with the idea that “Batman always wins” – he’s an inevitable force of nature. I think that The Punisher is similar in this respect. Frank Castle is primarily a hunter, but when the roles are reversed he’s as wild as a cornered animal, finding any and every way to disarm opponents and escape. Such is the case in Matthew Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski’s The Punisher 2.

Frank Castle isn’t a complicated man – at least he probably doesn’t consider himself to be. He’s got two rules: kill criminals, don’t kill cops. That second part tends to make Frank’s life a little more difficult, as he has to get creative when he is evading New York’s finest – as well as its superheroes. Continue reading

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

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

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

Razing Mash-Up City in Cosmic Ghost Rider 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

The very concept of “Cosmic Ghost Rider” is a great example of Writer Donny Cates  using disparate ideas from all around the Marvel universe as the building blocks for something wholly new and exciting. In my write-up of issue #1, I called it “Mythological Omnivorism”, a turn of phrase that I like, but which feels a least a little dishonest. Cates and artist Dylan Burnett weren’t consuming this mythology so much as they were shuffling, repackaging, and repurposing it. Issue three is where the consumption begins – and all of those jumbled-up building blocks are devoured to sate the gluttonous reader’s appetite. Continue reading

Past and Present Trauma Collapse into One in Batman 54

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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More than any other medium, comics have a rigidly prescriptive relationship with scenic transitions. Settings change on a page turn. Not every turn of the page will give the reader a new scene, but every new scene requires a new page. There are exceptions, of course. Creators can cut away to a quick one- or two-panel scene to provide context to a page. It’s also pretty common to run two scenes simultaneously on alternating panels on a page, like in Watchmen. But even in these cases, the scene or scenes at play are allowed to end at a page turn. With Batman 54, writer Tom King and artist Matt Wagner toss that conventional wisdom out the window, transitioning into and out of extended flashbacks part-way through the page. The result is a conflation of past with present, and of suffering with healing. Continue reading

The Punisher 1: Discussion

by Ryan Desaulniers and Patrick Ehlers

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

Ryan: We all know Frank Castle’s deal: a veteran whose family was unceremoniously gunned down takes to arms in a one-man war against crime or for whatever cause he sees fit to fight for. In the numerous Punisher stories since his inception in 1974, and particularly since the seminal Garth Ennis PunisherMAX run with the character, writers have been trying to find ways to connect a man who commits so many reprehensible acts of cruelty and murder with an audience. Castle sports the label of “anti-hero” to an audience that consumes his stories in various mediums, but writers keep pushing to see how far his character can go and still elicit sympathy from the readers, using different tactics to do so. The Punisher 1 by Matt Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski, however, leaves all of these devices behind, giving us a Frank Castle title that is bereft of almost any means of identifying and excusing Frank’s actions, save for the fact that Castle fights against even more villainous figures. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers 

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

This is the true story of seven strangers picked to work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

The Real World.

Spencer: Despite that famous tagline, reality television rightfully has a reputation for being anything but real, with contestants purposely taking on certain roles for the camera and producers editing footage in misleading ways to construct particular narratives (whether they’re “true” or not). Part of what makes West Coast Avengers so interesting, then, is that, despite its “superhero reality show” concept, creators Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli seem devoted to depicting the sad realities of their cast’s lives, to finding the truth behind their day to day existences, even when those existences are patently absurd. Continue reading

The Ruin of Structure of Days of Hate 7

by Patrick Ehlers

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

The very first image in Days of Hate 7 is New York City at at night from a distance with the text “Seven Weeks Later.” While the apocalypse-in-motion setting for this series will sometimes lean in to ruined urban landscapes–and there is plenty of that later in the issue–for the this introductory moment, the city skyline seems relatively intact. This skyline is the exception; the sterling faux-beacon for civilization in a world where all other structures, be they physical, societal, social or psychological, have collapsed. Continue reading