The Limits of Control in Action Comics 1004

By Spencer Irwin

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

“For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and the two will be one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Mark 10: 7-8

I love the concept behind this bit of marriage/relationship advice, but the problem is that it’s, ultimately, just a metaphor; a couple can try to act as one flesh, but they’ll always be two different people with two very different sets of needs, and that can be a difficult thing to reconcile. In any close relationship the pressure to be on the same page at all times is great, and the temptation to try to control one another in order to reach that point can be even greater. Ultimately, though, you can’t control people, and especially not the people you love, no matter how close you are. That’s the lesson Clark learns in Action Comics 1004. Continue reading

Gratuitous Violence and Wasted Potential in Heroes in Crisis 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

slim-banner

What is Heroes in Crisis actually about? The answer drastically changes my reading of this issue. See, as a murder mystery it works quite well — it doesn’t alleviate all my criticisms (which we’ll get into in a bit, believe me), but there’s interesting hooks in the form of which of the two prime suspects is the murderer, why they did it, and how the Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman will react. As a murder mystery, Heroes in Crisis 1 is an enjoyable, if flawed, comic. But Heroes in Crisis has primarily been advertised and solicited as a more low-key, nuanced look at how superheroes handle trauma, and when judged by that metric, it’s far less successful. 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

Action Comics 1001: Discussion

By Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin

Action Comics 1001

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

Michael: The distinction between Superman’s two long-running titles, Superman and Action Comics, has never really been made clear. Besides the dollar and cents of it all, the two books exist simultaneously to give different creators the opportunity to tell their own ongoing Superman stories. But what happens when it’s the same writer plotting both books? Continue reading

Doomsday Clock 6 Circles Marionette’s Past as it Circles the Drain

By Patrick Ehlers

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

If I asked you to picture the single imagine that evokes Watchmen, what would you picture? Likely, you’re imagining the Comedian’s smiley face button, but I could also see an argument for Doctor Manhattan’s circular forehead logo. Both symbols are circles. I know that’s not exactly mind-blowing, but this is the level of visual rhetoric writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank are playing with in Doomsday Clock 6.

The series continues to slump along in much the same way it did last time we talked about it. This time, Marionette and Mime are the focus of the story, which really doesn’t do Johns or Frank any favors. Stripped of all but the most tangential references to the Watchmen universe, the creators are left with the tone and tools of the piece to tell a story that spans two tonally discrete universes. If that sounds like an inadequate set of tools to complete an impossible task, that’s because it is. Continue reading

Superman 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen thrown around about Superman as a character is that he’s “too powerful,” that nothing can challenge a man who can quite literally juggle planets. There’s a bit of truth to this, to be sure, but it’s a narrow criticism, one that only takes into consideration physical challenges; the most interesting Superman stories are the ones that challenge him morally, ethically, or in ways that make his physical abilities useless. Superman 1 is such a story, an issue that finds the character at his most physically competent, yet feeling more lost and helpless than ever before.  Continue reading

Superman Fails to Find a Better Way in Man of Steel 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Man of Steel 6

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

Superman always finds a better way.

Superman purist, Traditional

I’m paraphrasing pretty heavily here, triangulating a sentiment from the dozens of arguments I read (and participated in) in the wake of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but the idea that Superman can always come up with a solution that doesn’t involve murder is a ubiquitous one in Superman fandom. And I agree with that idea as it applies to that film — Superman certainly could have at least attempted something else (or the movie could have done a better job convincing us that he had exhausted his options) — but something about “always finding a better way” doesn’t quite feel like Superman to me. His moral compass true, and he’ll never fail to aim for a solution that satisfies his sense of what’s right and wrong, but the thought that he always comes up with a solution would rob those morals of any real consequence. While some Superman stories might resemble Sherlock Holmes in that “seeing how he solves it is the fun” kind of way, one of the most interesting things about Superman having such a strong morality is that it might be tested or bear some emotional cost. That’s a point Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Fabok leverage twice in Man of Steel 6, as Superman fails to “find a better way” in both his superheroing and family lives. Continue reading

Justice and Symbolism in Justice League 1

By Drew Baumgartner

Justice League 1

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

There was no word for justice on my planet. The closest was the symbol on this table. It meant going beyond what was supposed to be possible, the natural laws. Imposing on the universe a higher standard. An ideal.

Martian Manhunter, Justice League 1

Our conceptions of justice hinge on fairness and impartiality — the notion that we are all held to the same standards of behavior (and face the same punishment for flaunting those standards). We understand how that can break down in practice (humans aren’t great at partiality), but we can imagine justice as a kind of platonic ideal we can strive towards. And that may be the best way to think about it, but closer inspection reminds us that, if it’s a platonic ideal, it’s one that varies from society to society and changes over time. We might reflect on the “justice” of the past (or of other cultures) and find it to be decidedly unjust, but that’s not how justice works — it’s not an objective monolith, but a deeply subjective, dynamic concept. That is, justice is a moral construct that only makes sense in light of the values of the society that construct it. Martian Manhunter’s approximation of justice reflects that idea, adding no moral spin to the “ideal” he mentions — in J’onn’s estimation, any ideologically motivated action “beyond what was supposed to be possible” is justice. In short, J’onn’s brief for the Justice League works just as well for the Legion of Doom. Continue reading

Man of Steel 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Drew Baumgartner

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

Michael: Batman is a subject that frequents many pages of my sketchbooks and I assume everyone else’s.  Unlike the versatile Batman, I find that Superman is a harder character to draw, especially in his facial features. The face of Superman has to simultaneously convey strength, joy and a decent amount of charm. Thus far, I am enjoying Brian Michael Bendis’ depiction of Superman, and in Man of Steel 2, he is joined by 3 artists who tap into that Clark Kent Charm. Continue reading

Man of Steel 1 Reclaims Superman

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“Let’s make America great again / by making racists ashamed again.
Let’s make compassion in fashion again; / let’s make America great again.”

“Make America Great Again,” Frank Turner

In isolation, the words “make America great again” shouldn’t elicit a strong negative biological/emotional response. But this fairly innocuous phrase has been twisted beyond recognition by white nationalism, isolationism, and just general shitheadery. On Frank Turner’s newest record, Be More Kind, he attempts to overwrite the listener’s associations with those four little words on track five, boldly titled “Make America Great Again.” The song is big, joyful and rebellious at the same time, like all of Turner’s best tunes. I like it a lot, but I still flinch when chorus comes around. Some words and some symbols are just too thoroughly corrupted to be reformed. Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis’ Man of Steel 1 has a similar hurdle to overcome: attempting to return Superman to the platonic ideal that maybe only exists in the imaginations of Kal El’s biggest fans. The results are miraculous. Continue reading