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

Justice League 7/Adventures of the Super Sons 2: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney

Adventures of the Super Sons 2:Justice League 7

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

Spencer: No two people experience the same piece of media the same way. That’s actually the entire foundation of what we do here at Retcon Punch — we exist to examine the different ways our various writers interpret weekly comic books.  Two books released by DC this week dive into this theme as well — Adventures of the Super Sons 2 explores how the same stories led two members of the Gang down very different life paths, while Justice League 7 finds three very different people reacting to some harsh truths about the universe in very different ways. Both drive home the same point: our natures and preconceived notions often have as much to do with how we interpret media as the actual media itself does, for better or for worse, no matter what the creators’ original intent may be. 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

Nightwing Annual 1 Takes on Fake News

By Michael DeLaney

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

We’ve all heard the sayings “Knowledge is power” or “The truth will set you free”, but what good is that when that knowledge is so easily weaponized and the truth is blatantly denied? Nightwing Annual 1 continues Benjamin Percy’s “Dark Web” arc with Nightwing taking on the literal embodiment of fake news. And while a certain president might use that term to mean “bad press”, what I’m referring to – and what Percy is focusing on – is the targeted online disinformation that swayed many Americans to vote for that president in the first place. Continue reading

Scarlet 1 Bridges the Narrative Gap

By Michael DeLaney

 

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

The medium of comic books isn’t an ancient indecipherable text, but it does have its own language that is learned and acquired by readers over time. Along with the significant portions of sequential art, readers must become accustomed to multiple forms of word-based storytelling. In Scarlet 1, writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Alex Maleev, and letterer Joshua Reed showcase an additional storytelling device not often seen in comic books. Continue reading

No One is Infallible in Justice League 6

by Michael DeLaney

Justice League 6

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

The Justice League is often elevated to a status akin to the gods of myth: immensely powerful, iron-willed and nearly unstoppable. The Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman is at the head of that pantheon of gods, with two veritable immortals and one mortal man who we consider incorruptible and infallible. With the epic cosmic stakes of Justice League 6, we are reminded that no one is infallible, and that a little humility might actually save the universe. Continue reading

Shot Compositions Sell the Relationships in The Wild Storm 16

by Drew Baumgartner

The Wild Storm 16

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

We met Angela Spica at a weird point in her life. While she was (mostly) passing as an eccentric engineer, her relationship to the world changed when she revealed her stolen transkeletal drysuit. That moment marked her as a fugitive, but she was already becoming something different before that, as her cybernetic makeup marks her as something more than “human.” That’s how she fell in with a group of oddities and aliens, but The Wild Storm 16 makes the case for Jenny Mei Sparks as a more natural peer. Their first meeting here doesn’t offer much more than the two simply sizing each other up, but Jon Davis-Hunt’s shot choices suggest that the two are on the same level — a stark contrast to the other big meeting in this issue. Continue reading

Batman 53: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: The “Cold Days” storyline in Batman 51-53 has almost been sort of a mystery story, but the mystery isn’t “did Mr. Freeze commit murder,” it’s “why is Batman defending him?” Retcon Punch’s own Drew and I had a small debate about it in the comments of our discussion of issue 52; I believed that Batman, in his grief over Selina leaving him at the altar, had falsely incriminated Freeze, and was now looking to find justice for him, while Drew countered that Bruce buying his way onto a jury and pitching his own defense of Freeze isn’t justice at all. It turns out that, in a way, we were both right; Bruce is indeed driven by his grief over Selina and the mistakes it’s led him to make, but he isn’t seeking justice, he’s seeking absolution. Continue reading

Pain as a Prescription in Catwoman 2

by Spencer Irwin

Catwoman 2

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

Catwoman 2 continues the series’ fascination with the qualities that tie Selina Kyle and her nemesis, Raina Creel, together, even when the way they express those shared qualities couldn’t be more different. While last month’s premiere focused on the two women’s contrasting takes on fashion and identity, issue two zeroes in on the idea of pain, specifically on treating pain like a tool, a solution, even a prescription. Continue reading