Batman 1

batman 1

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 1, originally released June 15, 2016.

Michael: I keep saying this lately, but there is something so powerfully elemental about Batman. Not all Batman stories are exactly the same, but there is a certain amount of thematic carryover from one story to the other. I remember that, at the start of The New 52, I noticed a lot of similarities between Scott Snyder’s Batman and Grant Morrison’s that preceded it. Now I find myself doing the same thing with Tom King’s Batman and the Scott Snyder run that preceded it. Judging by the name of King’s first arc (“I am Gotham”) and the heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl, King is going to explore Gotham City as a character; a hallmark of Snyder’s run. Continue reading

Batman: Rebirth 1

batman rebirth 1

Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman: Rebirth 1, originally released June 1st, 2016.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Sigmund Freud

Drew: There’s plenty of reasons to believe Freud never said such a thing, but whatever its origin, this quote always helps me keep perspective when attempting to parse the symbolism in a work of art. The last thing I want is to sound like Fred Armesin’s exaggerated (and nonsensical) lyrical analyses, so it always makes me nervous when I find my attention drawn to symbols within a comic. Even with that reticence, though, I couldn’t ignore the deeply symbolic nature of Scott Snyder and Tom King’s Batman: Rebirth, even if I’m not quite sure what all of the symbols mean. Continue reading

Batman/Superman 32

batman superman 32

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman/Superman 32, originally released May 4th, 2016.

Spencer: I’m a sucker for fight scenes. When I was younger, my top priority for any piece of media I checked out was “lots and lots of fighting,” as my voracious consumption of Dragonball Z in middle and high school can attest to. I still have a soft spot for this kind of action — and I look forward to lots of lovingly, intricately choreographed fight scenes when I finally get to see Captain America: Civil War on Friday — but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that action without any sort of substance supporting it is just hollow. While the “Final Days of Superman” storyline has plenty of substance to it, little of it makes its way into Batman/Superman 32. This issue has tons of action, but little of it means anything. Continue reading

Batman 51

Alternating Currents: Batman 51, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman 51, originally released April 27th, 2016.

Drew: Nostalgia is a complicated force in superhero comics. On the one hand, a 75-year history is a unique and powerful tool, one that can be mined to celebrate past achievements and reward loyal readers; on the other hand, an audience’s fondness for that history may be exploited, used in lieu of actual quality to assure sales of a given title. These ends may not be mutually exclusive, but parsing the value of nostalgia becomes even more complicated when we consider our own relationship to the material. I don’t bring this up to spark a discussion of critical theory and the fallacy of objectivity (though that’s a conversation I’m always willing to have), but to acknowledge just how important Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run has been to me, personally, and to Retcon Punch as a website. Continue reading

Robin: Son of Batman 11

robin son of batman 11Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Robin: Son of Batman 11, originally released April 20th, 2016.

Spencer: Every once in a while you stumble across a premise so unique, exciting, or just plain off-the-wall bonkers that you have to check the story out. More often, though, a story will feature a more standard premise, and it’s up to the creative team to make those familiar ideas feel fresh, either by finding a new angle to explore the concept from, by using it to explore their cast in a novel way, or simply by having as much fun with it as possible. Sadly, Robin: Son of Batman 11 does none of these things. The Lu’un Darga are the definition of cliched, stock villains, and Ray Fawkes and Ramon Bachs do nothing to liven them up. Continue reading

Batman/Superman 31

Alternating Currents: Batman Superman 31, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman/Superman 31, originally released April 13th, 2016.

Drew: What is a comic book series? That sounds like a simple question, but it’s one of those definitions that falls apart under close scrutiny. Peter Tomasi understands how strange our notion of a series can get, as he piloted Batman and Robin through the better part of a year without Robin. In that case, it wasn’t the cast, but the creative team that allowed us to group those issues as part of Batman and Robin. But if we take that definition of a “series” as something to do with a serialized narrative told by the same person (or team of people), what do we make of “Super Legion,” Tomasi’s new eight-part crossover that cycles through four different titles? Does it function like its own miniseries, or do its constituent issues maintain enough of their series’ identity to keep them distinct? The answer lies somewhere in between, which makes Batman/Superman 31 one of the most fascinating, if troubled, individual issues I’ve read in quite some time. Continue reading

Batman 50

Alternating Currents: Batman 50, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman 50, originally released March 23rd, 2016.

Drew: The owner of my old LCS, Paul, was not a Batman fan. In his mind, a billionaire using his resources to “punch bad guys” was so misguided as to be immoral. Couldn’t Bruce Wayne do more good resolving the root causes of crime by building mixed-income housing or running programs for at-risk youth? Admittedly, Batman’s “punch bad guys” solution to crime lacks nuance, and seems increasingly outmoded the more we understand what causes crime in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s kind of key to Batman’s appeal — he can be a philanthropist on the side, sure, but nobody wants to read a comic where a guy dressed like a bat subsidizes grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods. To writer Scott Snyder’s credit, he started his run on Batman by having Bruce turn his attention to exactly that type of socioeconomic solution, a goal that forces within Gotham actively worked against. It was a smart move, but the fact that the Court of Owls would allow Bruce to be Batman, but drew the line at him rearranging the economic structure of Gotham speaks to just how ineffectual Batman is at affecting systemic change. With Batman 50, Snyder offers a more compelling justification for Batman — one that just might be the definitive answer to Paul’s criticisms. Continue reading

Batgirl 49

batgirl 49

Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Batgirl 49, originally released March 2nd, 2016.

Michael: DC Comics has (sort of) clarified what its upcoming “Rebirth” is, and it has been changing my reading of every comic I’ve read from them in the meantime. It’s still anyone’s guess as to what kinds of changes “Rebirth” brings to the DC line, but we are definitely at the climax/resolution threshold of each title’s story. Case in point: the semi-continuity-resolving, Inception-ish issue that is Batgirl 49. Continue reading

Dark Knight III: The Master Race 3

Alternating Currents: Dark Knight 3, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Dark Knight III: The Master Race 3, originally released February 24th, 2016.

Drew: There are a number of reasons The Dark Knight Strikes Again didn’t attain the critical and cultural success of The Dark Knight Returns, not the least of which being the insanely high expectations of following up a genuine cultural touchstone, but I think the biggest might be what DKSA reveals about DKR. That is, while fans, critics, and the culture at large tend to believe DKR was all about injecting psychological nuance to superheroes, DKSA suggests that creator Frank Miller’s interests were ultimately in the excesses of the genre — any emphasis on psychology was incidental to Miller’s pursuit of bombast. That’s not an airtight argument, but there’s no denying that DKSA went even bigger, trading the psychology of Batman for the sociology of the Justice League. Those interests are still very much in play in DKIII, though perhaps ultimately to pare the cast down to the key players of DKR‘s final showdown. Continue reading

Superman: American Alien 4

superman amer alien 4

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Superman: American Alien 4, originally released February 17th, 2016.

Michael: When people ask me why characters like Superman and Batman work so well, my answer typically boils down to: they were the first ideas of their kind and in this case they were the best. The idea of Superman is incredibly simple and yet incredibly amazing. What a lofty goal it is to dream up the most powerful hero around who is a champion for good. Superman: American Alien 4 continues that trend of big dreams and hopeful ambition from all sorts of perspectives. Continue reading