Mister Miracle 12: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Mister Miracle 12

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

Drew: Critics of postmodern fiction often suggest that its self-reflexiveness is flashy, but devoid of meaning. According to the argument, postmodernism is a bit like racing stripes on a car — it might be superficially appealing, but doesn’t actually change what’s under the hood. I would argue that those critics are forgetting (or perhaps taking for granted) one of the most basic roles fiction plays in our lives, as an analogy for reality, augmented and enhanced to reveal something to us about the world we live in. In that way, postmodern self-reflexivity is simply part of that analogy — particularly apt for addressing our own existential crises. There’s no clearer exemplar of this argument than Mister Miracle 12, which twists all of the miniseries’ questions about Scott Free’s reality into a moving commentary on life with depression. Continue reading

Recurrent Lyrics and Actions Empower Scott in Mister Miracle 8

By Patrick Ehlers

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

A lot of Mister Miracle stands on the foundation of process and repetition. The nine-panel grid is established early and repeated on every page. All nine panels will be committed to a single action. Then the next nine panels are committed to a different action. This repetition leads to the feeling of being trapped, both for Scott Free and for the reader. But issue 8 finds writer Tom King introducing a sort of rosetta stone for how to find joy and contentment in the inescapable repetition. “Hush, Little Baby.” Continue reading

The Power of Faith and Trust in Superman 36

by Spencer Irwin

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

Fans and creators alike often complain that it’s hard to find a proper challenge for Superman when the character is so unfathomably powerful. But as far as I’m concerned, the best Superman stories aren’t the ones that challenge him physically, but the ones that test his morals and ideals, his methods and resolve. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Superman has excelled in this respect, and issue 36 continues this streak, further defining Superman’s greatest strengths by showing what happens when he doesn’t live up to his own lofty standards. Continue reading

An Apokoliptian Mess in Superman 35

by Michael DeLaney

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

Superman 35 is the third chapter of the “Imperius Lex” arc, where Lex Luthor is trying to rescind his status as Lord of Apokolips. The Kent family has been separated across Apokolips, each dealing with the best of what Darkseid’s planet has to offer. It’s hard not to think of the last time Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason sent us to Apokolips in the pages of Batman and Robin. Unfortunately, this is light years away from that bombastic Bat-tale. Continue reading

The Evasiveness of Identity in Mister Miracle 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Mister Miracle 2

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

You are what you think all day long.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Identity is a frustratingly slippery thing. We all have one, but most of us would be hard pressed to describe what it actually is — what it is that actually makes us who we are. Is it our life experiences? Our relationships? Our interests? The information we absorb? It’s both none of and all of those things (and more). It’s the messiness of that notion that makes characters like Scott Free so compelling; born of New Genesis, raised on Apokolips, he has two families that are now locked in war with one another. The question of who he sides with slips into the messy details of who he is, an issue already strained by the questions he has regarding the very nature of his reality. To extrapolate from Emerson: who are you if you don’t know what to think? Continue reading

Robin Rises Alpha 1

robin rises 1Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Robin Rises Alpha 1, originally released December 24, 2014.

Patrick: One of my least favorite criticisms of serialized fiction is that a story “didn’t go anywhere.” We have an expectation that the journey we’re on with the characters is somehow part of an investment that pays off in a meaningful way as events progress. We literally use that term “pay off,” as though the entertainment itself in a cost-benefit proposition. I resent the idea that we can’t enjoy a single issue on its own merits, and instead comfort ourselves with the idea that one volume seeded something that will feel significant later. Robin Rises Alpha 1 closes out the Damian’s Resurrection story by finally giving readers a glimpse of what it means to have a superpowered Wayne behind Robin’s mask. It’s an issue frustratingly short on content, repeating themes, scenes and pages from elsewhere in Batman and Robin, all but guaranteeing that the pay-off here is a retread of the past, rather than boldly striking out into the future of the character. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 37

batman and robin 37Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 37, originally released December 17th, 2014.

…for us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

-The Nicene Creed

Patrick: Growing up in the Catholic church, I always had a little bit of a problem with this part of the Nicene Creed. On the one hand, it’s very clear: Jesus sacrificed everything — including his life — in order to save the whole world from sin. But on the other hand, death didn’t share any of the long-lasting consequences it does for anyone else. Jesus died, but then he returned, three days later. What’s more is that he transcends his human flesh and embraces his fully divine nature by hanging out with God in heaven. While the drama of death and resurrection is enough to stir a body to faith, it betrays a fundamental truth about death. What’s hard about death isn’t that someone dies, it’s that they stay dead. And yet, this narrative — of death and rebirth — is so powerful it’s one of the stops on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Batman and Robin has allowed Bruce Wayne to deal with Damian’s death in grounded, real ways for almost two years, but now that “resurrection” is in play, subtlety goes right out the window. This is Damian, the bat-Christ-figure to beat the band, and he only marches back on the field to fireworks. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 35

batman and robin 35Today, Spencer and Shane are discussing Batman and Robin 35, originally released October 15th, 2014.

Spencer: We here at Retcon Punch haven’t been subtle about our love of Batman’s new Hellbat armor. The suit is awesome, and what’s better is that it isn’t just some gimmick meant to push toys; writer Peter Tomasi has created “realistic” (in comic book terms, at least) reasons for the Hellbat’s great power and for why Batman needs to use it in this particular situation. Still, he and penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz understand just how cool the Hellbat is, and much of Batman and Robin 35’s success comes from how the creative team chooses to portray the suit — which, in some cases, means not showing it at all. The issue is visually dazzling, and the artists know which types of imagery to use to best convey the stories both on Apokolips and on Earth. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 34

batman and robin 34

Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Mark are discussing Batman and Robin 34, originally released August 20th, 2014.

Patrick: When The Death of the Family was heading into its final issue, Scott Snyder appeared in a ton of interviews claiming that this conclusion was going to have a lasting effect on Batman and the Batfamily. But after that story line wrapped up, Snyder took his own series into Batman’s past, conveniently avoiding working through much of this fallout. Similarly, Grant Morrison killed Damian in Batman Incorporated, but wrapped up his series only a few issues later. The emotional heavy lifting as fallen to Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, who have dutifully presented the most erratic, emotional and frustrating Batman possible. Everything that Batman is — the selfless knight of justice, the patriarch of the Batfamily, the infallible detective — has been undermined in the wake of these twin tragedies. Understandably, that pushes Batman away from his readers, and his alienation from the world started to reflect the audiences’ alienation from the character. In issue 34, Tomasi and Gleason have Bruce offer a naked apology to his protégés, but they’re also inviting us to trust Batman again. Fuck yes: I’m ready to forgive. Continue reading

Batman and Ra’s al Ghul 32

batman ras al ghul 32

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Ra’s al Ghul 32, originally released June 18th, 2014.

Patrick: No one’s got a deeper bench than Batman. A lot has been made of the integrity of his relationships lately — it’s almost the most important piece of Batman’s mythology in the New 52. Check it out: Batman Eternal is all about Batman struggling with his relationship with the city, and even pulls Gordon out of rotation. This comes on the heels of The Death of the Family and the Leviathan killing Damian, which all just compounds the stress put upon those relationships. Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Robin, Red Hood, they all have reason to distrust the man who’s a superhero first, and a human being second. But Batman’s not just the biggest superhero in Gotham, he’s the biggest superhero in the DC Universe, so there’s no end to the relationships we can explore to learn something just a little bit more about Bruce Wayne. Continue reading