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

Doomsday Clock 5 Meanders

By Drew Baumgartner

Doomsday Clock 5

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

The essence of drama, and especially melodrama, is compression. Show only what’s important. So start the scene as late as possible and once the dramatic point is made, end it.

Dennis O’Neil, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics

Pound for pound, this might be some of the best writing advice I know. But in this age of sequels, prequels, spin-offs and tie-ins, it seems like it’s all but been forgotten. That is, the artistic discipline of narrative efficiency is no match for the commercial demands of more familiar content. I don’t mean to dismiss all sequels etc. out of hand (The Godfather: Part II is a goddamned masterpiece, and is both a sequel and a prequel), but I do think they need to work a bit harder to justify their existence — if the details of this prequel story truly are essential, why weren’t they included in the original. And that scrutiny goes double when augmenting a beloved masterpiece. It’s absolutely possible for a sequel to justify itself, even under those circumstances (again, The Godfather: Part II), but it’s no easy feat. Unfortunately, the longer Doomsday Clock wears on, the less it seems up to that task, not only failing to justify its existence, but pretty much every storytelling choice it makes. Continue reading

Finding Balance in Justice League: No Justice 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

slim-banner

We here at Retcon Punch, sadly, haven’t had much of a chance to discuss Justice League: No Justice until now, but I’ve been enjoying it immensely from the start. It has many of the same strengths as its predecessor, Dark Nights: Metal, but since No Justice is working with only four issues, avoids most of its excesses. No Justice is focused and easy to follow, yet still has a grand scope and a firm grasp on the characters and history of the DC Universe. It’s well-balanced, which plays right into the themes of the series and the goals of its various League factions. Continue reading

Trust Saves the Day in Super Sons 16

by Spencer Irwin

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

This month’s issue 16 marks the end of Super Sons (for now — a continuation is already solicited), so it only makes sense that writer Peter Tomasi, along with artists Carlo Barberi and Brent Peeples, would want to close on a milestone victory for Superboy and Robin. More important than the actual victory, though, is how they achieve it — partially by channeling their parents, but mostly by trusting in each other. Continue reading

Action Comics 1000: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner, Michael DeLaney, Patrick Ehlers, and Spencer Irwin

Action Comics 1000

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

“From the City that Has Everything”

Drew: Superman changed the world. That’s obvious enough in-universe, but it’s just as true of our world. Action Comics 1 created (or at least codified) the superhero genre, a genre that came to define both the 20th and 21st centuries, and is still growing as Action Comics rings in its 1000th issue. It’s a singular achievement, but celebrating it as such might not be in the spirit of Superman, for whom humbleness is as much a part of his character as heroism. He’s not one to take compliments easily, let alone brag, so any efforts to do so on his behalf run the risk of feeling crass. Most of the stories in this issue opted to ignore lionizing Superman outright, aiming instead to illustrate what it is that makes him so laudable, but in the issue’s opening chapter, Dan Jurgens came up with a way to address the issue with Superman himself, providing a commentary on the whole exercise of a huge anniversary issue, and offering a justification that even Superman can get behind. Continue reading

Dark Nights: Metal 6: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell 

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

slim-banner

Spencer: Now that the series has come to an end, I can safely say that I have very mixed feelings about Dark Nights: Metal as a whole. So much of this event has been about embracing gonzo, bonkers, throwback action, but much of that fun is buried under attempts to overexplain every aspect of the (often impossible to follow) plot. The stakes of the event never fully sank in for me, as aside from artist Greg Capullo’s hellish landscapes, most of the nightmarish aspects of the Dark Multiverse were buried away in tie-in issues, while the main series focused on fun, but straightforward action beats. That said, there were a few areas where this series shined, and Dark Nights: Metal 6 exemplifies them all. It’s a strong metaphor for embracing hope and community over nihilism and isolation, a powerful reminder of stories’ ability to inspire, and an ode to the past (and future) of the DC Universe. Continue reading

Strength in Teamwork in Batman 43

By Drew Baumgartner

Batman 43

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

On the surface, grief and regret may not seem all that similar; one deals with an inescapable force of nature, the other is preoccupied with (potentially avoidable) personal failures. I might argue that regret is a kind of grief, albeit over the death of an idea or an opportunity, as opposed to a loved one, but there’s a more fundamental commonality between these two: how personal they feel. This can make both grief and regret feel very lonely, potentially driving us away from the friends and family who might want to support us through those difficult times. It’s a trap Ivy falls into, trying to go it alone in the face of her own grief and regrets, but Batman and Catwoman (and the entire creative team behind Batman 43) have a better way. Continue reading

Knowing Your Opponent in Batman 42

By Spencer Irwin

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

About halfway through my first read of Batman 42, as Poison Ivy (through her minions) dangled Catwoman upside-down from a skyscraper, I suddenly remembered that the two characters are supposed to be friends. As if reading my mind, a few pages later Tom King and Mikel Janin addressed this head-on, with Selina appealing to their friendship and Ivy claiming that Selina doesn’t know the first thing about her. Apparently Ivy’s bid at world domination is meant to be benign, charitable even — a genuine attempt from her to fix the world, to redeem for past crimes. Apparently there was a rock of regret inside her that not even her closest friends and allies knew about — but Batman knows. His entire plan, and his eventual, inevitable victory, revolves around him having nailed down Ivy’s motives and methods. Continue reading

Not Quite a Moral Challenge in Superman 40

By Mark Mitchell

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

While Superman’s abilities to punch hard, fly fast, and jump high are the sizzle to his steak, the real meat (pardon the tortured metaphor) of Clark Kent as a character is his strong moral center. Comic books are lousy with characters possessing superpowers, but only a precious few represent truth and goodness like the man from Krypton. That’s why the Superman stories that really stick with us are the ones that find ways to challenge his moral certitude — and by challenging it, ultimately end up amplifying it even more. At multiple points, James Robinson and Doug Mahnke’s Superman 40 is on the precipice of testing the Man of Steel’s philosophical strength in interesting ways, but never shows any interest in doing so.

Continue reading

The Big Brother of Steel in Superman 39

By Michael DeLaney

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

With DC’s recent announcement that The Man of Steel will be regaining his red trunks, it looks like they’re embracing the the classic Superman of yore. Another example is Superman 39, which centers around Superman spending the day with young cancer patients. If that’s not golden age wholesome, then I don’t know what is. Continue reading