Drew: Last month, Patrick compared Superman 16 to a joke with an aborted punchline — the entire issue was spent building towards a payoff that simply evaporated when we finally arrived. Superman himself has a very similar experience in Superman 17, when he comes face to face with the Oracle, who shows Superman a confusing series of images, but disappears before giving any explanation. It’s a frustrating experience for Clark, one that very pointedly reflects my reactions to both this issue, and the H’el on Earth event as a whole. Continue reading →
Patrick: I likes me a good anti-hero. There’s nothing quite like cheering for a character’s success and failure at the same time. Let’s take Walter White as a perfect example of this in modern fiction. He is a terrible husband and father, and an even worse friend, who makes dangerous decisions in the name of greed, power and desperation. And yet, I cheer every single one of his personal victories, no matter how immoral they might be. So much of Breaking Bad is about that character finding a way to feel powerful in the face of illness and poverty, and about how that need to feel powerful never goes away. The ride is exhilarating because there’s nothing more satisfying than a character with agency. Say what you will about Walter White — he has goals and he takes the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Supergirl has no such agency. She spends the majority of issue 17, fighting Wonder Woman just because, and then stops fighting her for equally arbitrary reasons. Neither a hero, nor an anti-hero, Supergirl ends up the clueless victim of her own series.
Mikyzptlk: Ah, the Ticking Clock. This dramatic device has been used countless times in probably every story telling medium imaginable. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s fairly simple. If you are a writer and want to add a bit more tension or urgency to your story, just introduce a countdown or time bomb element of some kind. The H’el on Earth event has been using this particular device since the Star Chamber threatening Earth was introduced. Superboy 17 introduces yet another ticking clock, and, as it turns out, it’s fairly effective.
Patrick: You know that knock-knock joke that goes “Knock-knock.” “Who’s there?” “Banana?” Of course you do, we were all kids once. It’s a simple exercise in tension and release: when you hear “orange,” you get a visceral little rush knowing the “orange you glad I didn’t say banana” is mere moments away. The Justice League’s assault on the Fortress of Solitude has been one long Banana Knock-Knock joke. But when we finally get the “orange,” the door we’re knocking on teleports somewhere else, making me wonder why the fuck we’ve been putting up with this jokester saying “banana” for so long.
Shelby: I’m usually pretty excited for annuals. They’re an extra opportunity to spend time with the books I’m reading; about twice as long, and often separate from the main continuity, for me annuals are a fun, special thing to read. Lately, however, my streak with annuals has not been so great. I hated the New Guardians annual, because it was so removed from main continuity as to be an intro to a new book. Moreover, DC led me to believe otherwise by showing me a cover featuring Kyle, and then changing the coloring slightly to have the cover actually feature Jedidiah Caul of Threshold. I’ve got a similar complaint here with the Superboy annual; DC promised me Rose Wilson, daughter of Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, and gave me a regular issue stretched out to annual length by repeating the same terrible dialogue and character posturing over and over again. Continue reading →
Drew: Supergirl really drew the short straw on this crossover event. She very quickly aligned herself with a villainous cipher whose motives and methods have yet to be fully explained, which makes her gullible at best, downright stupid at worst — traits we generally don’t associate with heroic figures. We could excuse some of this based on her desire to return to Krypton, but each moment she spends with H’el without asking for just a little more information strains credulity that much further. Supergirl 16 does well, then, to give Kara time away from H’el, reasserting that this character — and this series — might just have some agency after all. Continue reading →
Patrick: Drew had to fight pretty hard to find some meaning in last month’s issue of Superboy. I’m not saying his assertions are wrong, but they certainly meet Tom DeFalco more than half-way. Shelby was not so kind. This issue, by comparison, brings some strong characterization of Superboy, non-stop action and an interesting theme (with clever call-backs). This issue isn’t going to start any Superboy-revolution, but it is a tonally consistent, exciting story. Maybe I’m setting the Superbar pretty low at this point…
Drew: Ironically, I’m kind of a sucker for stories about con men. I like movies like Matchstick Men and Catch Me if You Can more than they probably deserve, and the scams from LOST and Justice League Dark might be my favorite parts of those series. With so many compelling, relatable con artists running around fiction, it’s easy for me to forget that they’re generally bad guys. It’s somewhat understandable that they aren’t depicted negatively more often; we like to think that we’re smart, and that the protagonists we identify with are also smart, so it’s a risky move to depict a hero being taken in by a scam. Mike Johnson attempts that risky move in Supergirl 15, with decidedly mixed results.
Drew: We’re pretty big fans of meta-commentary here at Retcon Punch. That is, the notion that the way a story is told can reflect the themes of the narrative itself (or vice versa), adding another level of meaning to the work, and often some kind of experiential element. This can happen when a character experiences time in an unusual way, or when our expectations for a title might be unreasonable, but we generally treat those moments as specifically designed by the creators to speak to our own experience of the title. Tom DeFalco isn’t responsible for the strange identity crisis Superboy (the series) has experienced in the New 52 (at least, not solely responsible), but issue 15 finds him tying that in beautifully to Kon’s own identity issues. Continue reading →
Drew: For being a site run by DC fanboys (and girls), we’re not great about covering Superman’s corner of the DC universe. In fact, aside from a few annuals and zero month, we’ve barely covered any titles anchored by DC’s oldest superhero. There’s plenty to not like about the way DC has handled Supes in the New 52, but our two biggest problems hinge around the increasingly strained explanations to superpower villains and the often lazy assumption that Krypton is automatically interesting. With Supergirl 14, the H’el on Earth crossover seems poised to give us an emotionally satisfying exploration of both of those ideas, which could serve as an important turning point for the Superman family.