Batman Annual 1

Alternating Currents: Batman Annual 1, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman Annual 1, originally released November 30th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: A few years ago, fellow Retcon Puncher Patrick Ehlers suggested that deconstruction had become so commonplace in Batman stories that they had come to become inseparable from the character. That is, deconstructing the character had become as essential to the telling of Batman stories as Batmobiles and gimmicky villains have become essential to the stories themselves. It’s a compelling argument — especially when you consider the fact that modern interpretations of the character are all informed by Frank Miller’s famous deconstructions of the character — but I maintain that it’s largely incidental to his existence. To me, the key fact is that Batman has been around (and beloved) for 75+ years, so of course creators that grew up with the character are going to relish playing with that history. I can expound on why I think that negates Patrick’s point in the comments, but for now, it’s enough to say that I think the deconstructions have more to do with nostalgia than anything intrinsic to the character. Nostalgia is certainly a central theme in Batman Annual 1, an anthology issue that brings together some of Batman’s most famous stewards, past and present, for a walk down memory lane. Continue reading

Superman 11

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Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Superman 11, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: Superman 11 concludes the fantastic and fun “World’s Smallest” arc/prelude to the upcoming Super Sons series. Batman, Superman and Alfred have devised a series of tests for Jon and Damian to overcome by working as a team. With Robin: Son of Batman’s Maya Ducard and “not a man-bat” Goliath in on the fun, Superman 11 is a complete Patrick Gleason/Pete Tomasi partnership. With its classic approach of the character, Superman has consistently been one of the best Rebirth titles. But by throwing Damian Wayne into the equation Tomasi and Gleason up their game exponentially. Continue reading

Mother Panic 1

Alternating Currents: Mother Panic 1, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Mother Panic 1, originally released November 9th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

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Drew: A quarter century after the runaway successes of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, deconstruction remains a thriving mode of superhero storytelling. It makes sense that, in a world that is constantly retelling the same stories in films, television shows, video games, and the comics themselves, there’s little need to reiterate the beats we already know, so Batman’s origin, for example, can be cut down to a few iconic images, and the rest of the narrative can be given over to highlighting themes and ideas baked into that origin. That is, the narrative can be less about the story (since we all know it), and more about the telling. Of course, that approach tends to be reserved for characters whose origins have become common knowledge — heavy-hitters like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man — but what if that approach was applied to a totally new character? What if their origin was taken as a given, so the emphasis was more on texture than the specific beats of the story? You might end up with something like Mother Panic 1, an issue that blends a familiar presumption of familiarity with a truly unfamiliar character. The effect is disorienting — frustratingly so at times — but nonetheless alluring. Continue reading

All-Star Batman 4

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Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing All-Star Batman 4, originally released November 9th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: One of the tenets of Batman story is perception: the difference of worldview between Batman, his allies, and his villains. There’s the more popular battling ideologies of vigilantism vs traditional legitimate law enforcement or Joker’s anarchy vs Batman’s order, but All-Star Batman’s battle of ideologies is based on the age-old question of “is man inherently good or inherently evil?” Continue reading

Batman 10

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Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Batman 10, originally released November 2nd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Most writers have certain tics and styles that come to define their work: Brian Michael Bendis, for example, is famous (infamous?) for his unique style of dialogue and pacing. Tom King has made quite a name for himself over the past two years with his critically acclaimed titles (such as Omega Men, The Vision, and Sheriff of Babylon), all of which, as different as they are, share many of the same themes, tones, and idiosyncrasies. King’s run on Batman was never meant to be part of that “Trilogy of Best Intentions,” but it’s still strange to me that Batman 10 is his first issue that really feels like a Tom King comic. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing — turns out that King’s techniques without his usual depth of story can sometimes end up feeling more like a parody of a Tom King comic. Continue reading

Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6

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Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: What do you think of when you hear the word “sequel”? Do you imagine a story that deepens the themes established in the original (a la The Dark Knight or The Godfather Part II) or do you imagine a story that returns to the well more out of obligation than any artistic impetus (a la The Dark Knight Rises or The Godfather Part III)? Do you imagine a continuation of the original narrative, taking the characters in bold new directions, or do you imagine a barely disguised repetition of the original narrative, taking the characters in safe, predictable directions? While I try to keep an open mind, I’ve been around the block enough times to recognize that most sequels tend to rely heavily on nostalgia, carefully recreating situations to replicate the thrills of the original. Unfortunately, that phenomenon means even my disappointment in The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 all too familiar. Continue reading

Detective Comics 942

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Today, Michael and Ryan M. are discussing Detective Comics 942, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

Michael: The “Night of the Monster Men” comes to a conclusion in Detective Comics 942. Though I haven’t been the biggest fan of this storyline, I’d argue that its resolution came too fast, too soon. After four issues of monster mayhem and catastrophe, Hugo Strange is defeated and cuffed as quickly as he arrived. Continue reading

Trinity 1

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Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Trinity 1, originally released September 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Michael: This might be considered controversial but I like my superheroes to be friends. Superheroes fighting each other is a time-honored tradition dating back to the golden age, but we have taken that to the extreme in the modern day. The past year has given us Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War on the big screen and Marvel’s Civil War II is still on the shelves at comic shops. When characters have lived side by side with one another for 50+ years however, their personal relationships are far more interesting than their super smash battles. Enter Francis Manapul’s Trinity, whose purpose seems to be reuniting the three greatest heroes that DC has to offer and once again make them the greatest friends that DC has to offer as well. Continue reading

Batman 7 and Nightwing 5

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Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman 7 and Nightwing 5 (aka, parts one and two of “Night of the Monster Men”), originally released September 21, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: If I had to guess conservatively, I’d say that we’ve covered a billion crossover events over the last four years on Retcon Punch. These kinds of stories always beg the narrative question “why?” The commercial question is a lot easier to answer: I’m reading Batman, and I’m certainly not going to skip an issue of Batman, so I might as well pick up the attendant issues of Nightwing, Detective Comics, and whatever else might be participating in this story. The result is usually a tonal mess, superficially tying together the storytelling styles of a disparate set of teams with some arbitrary commonality. “Night of the Monster Men” cuts a different swath through the series bearing its banner, uniting them under one writer, the always excellent Steve Orlando, and a unified artistic vision. Continue reading

Batman 6

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Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Batman 6, originally released September 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: Comic book fans are extremely protective over their favorite superheroes, a fact that has probably been exacerbated by the internet. We debate on Batman’s actions as if he were a living, breathing person because he’s important to us. It’s the same way of asking the question “What’s the best Batman story of all time?” Art is subjective and comic books are no different. We may agree on many of the same things, but my Batman is different from your Batman. It’s why stories continue to roll out 75+ years after his creation. Continue reading