Imposter Syndrome in The Dreaming 1

by Drew Baumgartner

The Dreaming 1

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

The Lord of the Dreaming has abandoned his post, leaving his realm in the hands of his followers and beneficiaries. That’s the premise of The Dreaming, but it’s also a reasonable explanation of “The Sandman Universe” group, where a handful of hand-picked creators have been given the keys to the settings and characters Neil Gaiman created back before Vertigo was even a glimmer in Karen Berger’s eye. I’m fascinated at Gaiman’s mentorship role here, and how Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely have addressed those real-world elements as meta-commentaries in the narrative, but I’ll limit the focus here to how they address the notion of reverence for what has come before. Continue reading

Time Travel is a Threat, Not a Savior in Paper Girls 24

By Spencer Irwin

Paper Girls 24

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

The cast of Paper Girls continually look to time travel for salvation, as a cure-all to whatever ails them. The problem is that time travel caused almost all of their problems in the first place, and only threatens to cause more in the future. Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matthew Wilson make this clearer than ever in Paper Girls 24, an issue that paints time travel as something that’s actively destructive and malicious. 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

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

How Layouts Drive Tension in Death of the Inhumans 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Death of the Inhumans 3

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Deep, thoughtful analysis is a rarity in the world of comics criticism. While it’s easy enough to dismiss itinerant continuity policing or grumbling about plot-holes as braindead drivel, there’s a much more insidious kind of shallow analysis that suggests that there are simple aesthetic rules that govern the medium. It may be possible to identify trends that are true for even a very large sample of comics, but there are just as many exceptions to those “rules.” Truly deep analysis, on the other hand, can introduce us to new analytical tools that can be applied to many other comics, even if the conclusions we draw from those applications have no universal trend. Such is the case with Matt Fraction’s “cover version: daredevil 230 and cutting techniques,” one of my favorite comics analyses of all time. I highly recommend taking the time to read that piece, but the short explanation for why I love it so much is that it introduced me to ideas I had never encountered before. Most important was the thought that the invisible structures that guide our reading experience might be only just invisible, and that we can unearth them by paying close attention to things like panel counts and layouts. Fraction identifies a triangle motif in Daredevil 230 that is obvious enough on some pages, but on others just loosely describes the areas of the layouts we might most pay attention to. Using those same techniques, I recognize a similar pattern on some pages of Death of the Inhumans 3, though they elicit a decidedly different effect. Continue reading

The Designs Define the Characters in Exiles 7

by Spencer Irwin

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

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Exiles has been extremely lucky to have a regular artist as talented as Javier Rodriguez, but the series is just as lucky to have found a guest artist like Rod Reis, one who’s just as talented, even if his style is entirely different. I could probably spend a month just gushing about Reis’ work throughout Exiles 6 and 7, but today I want to specifically talk about his character designs and how they inform so much about each character’s role and personality without a single word. 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

Intimacy, Friendship, and Romance in Runaways 12

By Spencer Irwin

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

Runaways 12 focuses in on two different pairings, which both eventually blossom into romance. In both cases, though, those romances are born of a deep friendship, of a deep intimacy which has been developed throughout several volumes of adventures together. Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson spend most of this issue digging deep into their intimacy in all its forms, be it emotional intimacy or physical. Continue reading