This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The past few issues of Action Comics have featured Superman at his worst. His determination to go back in time to watch Krypton’s destruction (all in hopes of proving that Mr. Oz wasn’t actually Jor-El) has practically made him the bad guy of this story, as his stubborn refusal to heed Booster Gold’s warnings to stop meddling in time have endangered all of history. Even at his best moments in this story, though, he’s come across as a bit shortsighted and condescending. It takes a revelation about Booster’s father to help Superman gain some much-needed clarity. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Flash 36, originally released November 26th, 2014.
Drew: There’s a lot of weirdness we accept in our comics — radioactive spider-bites, a dude who dresses up like a bat to scare bad guys, even dudes who dress up like birds to support the dude who dresses up like a bat to scare bad guys — but we tend to think of the morality as fairly straightforward. Oftentimes it is — Superman fights for good, Dr. Doom fights for bad — but the weirdness can also raise some bizarre moral questions. Is time-travel inherently immoral? Exactly how icky is the prospect of a body-snatched romantic relationship? Somehow, writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen manage to find the overlap between these inherently comic-booky ideas in The Flash 36. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Flash 32, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Spencer: Speedsters aren’t generally known for their patience. Before the reboot, one of Wally West’s best known qualities was his impatience, and Impulse was the ADHD poster-child; over at Marvel, Quicksilver’s attitude problem canonically comes from the frustration he deals with daily when he’s forced to interact with people who move so much slower than him. My point is, Barry Allen’s methodical, patient lifestyle is the complete antithesis to most speedsters — to use a comparison this issue makes itself, Wally is a basketball fan while Barry’s a baseball fan. The more I read this issue, the more I realize that Barry is the kind of guy who genuinely enjoys slowing down because it means he gets to spend time with the people he loves. It’s what grants him more patience than other speedsters, but it’s also aggravating his greatest flaw; Barry cares so much that he’s trying to be everywhere at once, help everybody at once. It’s an impossible task even for the fastest man alive, and in the process Barry may just be driving away the people who make it worthwhile to slow down in the first place.
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing The Flash 31, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Patrick: Because I spend a fair amount of my time writing about superhero comics, I end up having a lot of conversations about reboots and continuity and “fixing” timelines. You’ll notice that we tend not to dwell on those sorts of things in the actual content of these pieces — we always try to focus on the 20 pages in front of us, and not the uncountable pages that came before — but I’m of the opinion that retcons don’t actually work. If DC were to wipe out the New 52 with the Anti-Monitor next week and launch the old DCU the week following, writers, artists, press and fans would all have the last 3 years of storytelling informing their views on the characters. It’s just like how Aquaman may not have a mini-trident for a hand right now, but that will always be part of who the character “is,” even if it’s not part of who the character “is right now.” But we’re all fascinated with those universe changing mechanics, which is how The Flash 31 upstages itself with a history-altering Future Flash, when the more important character work is happening right now. Continue reading →
When I asked Kyle Higgins which of his issues he’d like to discuss, he instantly said “the last issue of Nightwing.” To which I, like an asshole, responded “you mean, your last issue of Nightwing?” It’s been an incredibly personal journey for Higgins, with its fair share of trails and tribulations, and his final issue effectively reflects on the entirety of his run. Patrick sat down with Kyle and went through the issue page by page, so get your copy handy and join us on the Commentary Track.
Retcon Punch: Let’s talk about the last issue! First of all, I love Russell Dautherman’s art in this thing. It’s warmer — the whole thing feels more naked to me.
Kyle Higgins: Yeah, it’s a more stripped down story. It’s a structure I haven’t done before — an intercutting structure. I had the idea pretty early on when I was writing the final issue to do flashbacks to all the villains that he’s fought. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash Annual 3, originally released April 30th, 2014.
…at the end of the day, the Flash is still the same tone as it was before. It’s still the same character, but kind of just reinvisioned.
Drew: The above quote isn’t about Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s new run on The Flash — Manapul was actually speaking about the start of his own run back when I interviewed him in 2012 — but it might as well be. That a statement can be used to describe a new take on the character as well as the newer take that succeeds is is a universal truism in comics, but it also speaks to an innate truth about the Flash: he needs to move forward. Of course, Jensen and Venditti aren’t privy to the clean break that started Manapul’s run, and have thus needed to address Barry’s past as much as his future. Fortunately, they are also paying attention to this series’ history of meta-commentary, addressing their own creative baggage right on the page. Of all the things they could have ported from the previous run, this is my absolute favorite, injecting The Flash Annual 3 with a sense of rebellion.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 30, originally released April 23rd, 2014.
Drew: I lost a part of my innocence when Richard Harris passed away. It wasn’t an existential crisis brought about by confronting mortality, but the cognitive dissonance brought about by his role of Albus Dumbledore being filled by Michael Gambon. I’m sure for many young Harry Potter fans, that was the first time they were confronted with the notion that the identity of a beloved fictional character is so dictated by casting decisions, but looking at the differences between the two actors’ performances, it’s almost as if they were playing different characters. Harris imbued the role with a quiet, almost doddering sweetness, while Gambon’s take was notably sterner. Both takes are supported by the books, but it had never occurred to me before seeing Prisoner of Azkaban that an actor’s (or director’s) emphasis on certain traits could have such a profound effect on the final product. I found myself thinking those same thoughts as Robert Venditti and Van Jensen assert their own read on Barry Allen in The Flash 30.
This notion is a kind of unofficial mantra for Retcon Punch. We fully embrace that our perspectives are limited, which is why virtually everything we publish features at least two writers and an open comment section. It’s an attitude that serves us very well when discussing works of art, where interpretation is paramount, but makes us decidedly less good at journalism, which aims to transcend interpretations in pursuit of facts.
We’ve largely shied away from reporting news (honestly, there are so many sites for comic news out there already), and while we will wade in every once in a while, our cross-talk format results in longer gestation times than the twitter-assisted news cycle tends to have patience for. We’re happy to focus on discussing comics and leaving the news to other sites, but we felt like we needed to speak up about the Janelle Asselin Controversy and fallout. This story is obviously bigger than the facts in question — something that might warrant the kind of longer, slower conversations we do here — and more importantly, it addresses issues that matter to us personally. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Batman/Superman 5, originally released November 6th, 2013.
Drew: Ironic detachment is a dangerous thing in a work of art. It calls our attention to the weaknesses of a story, but it can’t do much to address those weaknesses. In calling our attention to the foibles of a work of art, the artist is intentionally leaving them in, which either means they’re either left there intentionally (maybe just to point them out), or they’re actually unavoidable, in which case, making fun of them is entirely superficial. Either way, it makes the art about itself, which is great if the point of the art is to comment on the limitations of the form, but starts to break down if it needs to make any other points. Unfortunately, Batman/Superman 5 aims for something beyond its postmodern trappings, and falls firmly into this latter category. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and (guest writer) Shane are discussing Batman/Superman 3.1: Doomsday, originally released September 25th, 2013.
Spencer: Doomsday is a hard character to write. Of course he’s a legendary, unstoppable force, but he’s also a personality-less beast with little depth beyond an insatiable desire to destroy Superman. In short, he was a gimmick, but a wildly successful gimmick; considering all of that, I was quite curious going into this issue about what Greg Pak would do with the character. Much to my surprise, Pak decided to write a Doomsday story about how the monster’s legend affects various generations of his victims. It’s a novel approach, but I admit, some unclear or missing parts of the story make it a bit hard for me to figure out what exactly Pak is trying to say. Continue reading →