Border Town 2: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Spencer Irwin

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

PatrickBorder Town hinges on an obviously loaded concept: the membrane between the monster world and the human world lies along the border between the US and Mexico. All the xenophobia, all the paranoia, and all the actual danger is exaggerated. But there’s another component of the traditional border dispute narrative that’s cranked up to ten — culture. Writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos take care to bask in the cultural specifics of our heroes, while only hinting at the implied culture of the monstrous villains. It’s a fascinating look at what humanizes people on either side of either border. Continue reading

Man-Eaters 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Drew Baumgartner

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

Spencer: There’s quite a bit to unpack in the high concept behind Man-Eaters, and I don’t just mean its metaphors and allegories. Despite the fact that it takes place in a world similar to ours in most ways, the one new element Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk introduce — menstruation-triggered transformations into murderous big cats — opens up a bevy of new questions that beg to be answered. Thankfully, Cain and Niemczyk answer them with grace, simultaneously building both world and character effortlessly and never falling into the dangers of rote exposition. 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

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

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

Sandman Universe 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Sandman Universe 1

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

Drew: Of the “graphic novel” canon — that is, comics that non-comics readers have (however begrudgingly) deemed worthy of their time and interest — Sandman is far and away the longest. Persepolis and Maus constitute two volumes apiece, and Watchmen just the one, but Sandman spills into ten (or more, depending on how you count decades-later follow-ups like this one). However we diagnose that oddity — either as an unusually long, but no less novelistic “literary comic,” or as a more humble ongoing that was elevated to the pantheon of comics grownups aren’t afraid to read — I think the explanation is the same: the flexibility of Dream and his kingdom. Everybody dreams, affording Dream excuses to interact with every corner of the world, from kittens to serial killers, from William Shakespeare to the demons of Hell. And because of Dream’s role as a storyteller of sorts, the only guarantee in any issue was that it would contain a story (often wrapped up in a love letter to stories and storytelling). That is very much true of Sandman Universe 1, which spins its story off into four supporting series, but not before pausing to simply luxuriate in their worlds. Continue reading

Eternity Girl 6: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Mark Mitchell

Eternity Girl 6

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

Through our research, we discovered a disturbing statistic: 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide due to lack of societal acceptance. The national average is 4.6%. We were not willing to take that risk. For Ryland’s well-being, we were advised to allow him to transition as soon as possible.

The Whittington Family: Ryland’s Story

Drew: I first encountered this video as part of a training session for my job at a summer camp. It’s style, mostly still photos and text, doesn’t suggest a particularly moving experience, but the focus on Ryland as an individual helps pull the statistics in the excerpt above down to the human level. That is, anyone’s half-baked opinions about gender are rendered irrelevant in light of this kid’s very real risk of suicide if not accepted for who they are. Indeed, it’s a case that skirts the issue of gender almost entirely, finding the rate of attempted suicide in the trans community to be a much more pressing issue. These are issues that affect both Dani and Caroline but how they navigate their own choices (and their reactions to each other’s choices) lends further nuance to those dry statistics. Continue reading

The Seeds 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

The Seeds 1

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

Drew: Like a lot of people, I was deeply resistant to the concept of symbolism in my high school English classes. I don’t know if I resented this new (to me) world of symbols that I was so bad at identifying, or if I just lacked the imagination to conceive of writers having more literary tastes and aspirations than 15-year-old me, but I was incredulous that symbolism even existed in the works I was reading. My teacher was reading way too much into things (because, I reasoned, making things overcomplicated and boring was her job), and that no writer actually intended for these images to have any non-literal meaning. But my fixation on intent blinded me to the much more complex world of who was observing the symbolism. Is it just me, the reader, or are the characters themselves ascribing deeper meanings to the objects and actions around them? Or what if it’s the narrator, conjuring some kind of coherent aesthetic for the narrative as a whole? Perhaps it’s not the “writer,” but some diegetic force crafting these symbols, perhaps as clues to their motives or intentions? These are all questions wish I could go back to my teen self and ask, but honestly, I might be better off handing him a copy of Ann Nocenti and David Aja’s The Seeds 1, which interweaves all of these modes of symbolism with breathtaking ease. Continue reading

Action Comics 1001: Discussion

By Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin

Action Comics 1001

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

Michael: The distinction between Superman’s two long-running titles, Superman and Action Comics, has never really been made clear. Besides the dollar and cents of it all, the two books exist simultaneously to give different creators the opportunity to tell their own ongoing Superman stories. But what happens when it’s the same writer plotting both books? Continue reading

Infidel 5: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

Infidel 5

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

The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. […] None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.

Toni Morrison

Patrick: There is a lot to be stressed out about in 2018. One of the more insidious is also one of the more pointless: racism. It’s a series of prejudices and assumptions based on lies passed down by generations of systems put in place to keep the powerful in power. It is literally senseless. But it is also tenacious as fuck. Whatever else is going on, the looming specter of prejudice is going to warp everything else, muting solutions to all other societal problems. Pornshak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s Infidel 5 takes this uncomfortable truth and and shows just how persistent racism can be, even in the face of literal demons. Continue reading