Clever Twists Make Bitch Planet: Triple Feature 5 a Standout

by Drew Baumgartner

Bitch Planet Triple Feature 5

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

As an anthology series, Bitch Planet: Triple Feature seems to offer a fairly open brief to its contributors: tell an eight-page story set somewhere in the world of Bitch Planet, examining how its entrenched gender and racial biases affect everyday life. But, of course, exactly how those biases manifest in the world of Bitch Planet often needs to be defined in the moment, as these short stories are often venturing into areas yet unexplored by the main series. For these, creators seem to have three primary approaches: 1) present the biases as they appear in the real world with little embellishment, 2) heighten or exaggerate the biases (or their enforcement) that we see in the real world, or 3) invert the biases that we’re familiar with, creating a bizarre reflection of the real world. Issue 5 features all of these approaches, and makes a strong case for each. Continue reading

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Batman 32: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 32

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

I don’t know.

Teenager, Traditional

Drew: I used to work as an Assistant Dean for an academic enrichment program — basically, high-school students would come to a college campus for a few weeks over the summer to take some classes and get a feel for dorm living. The Dean’s office was there to keep kids out of trouble, or, more accurately, to address the trouble that the kids inevitably got into. Most of the time, the motives for their infractions were clear enough — they skipped class because it was boring or they tried to sneak into the girl’s dorm to see their girlfriend — but every so often, a kid would do something so inexplicable, the first question had to be “why?” And the answer, invariably, was “I don’t know.” Sometimes, our better judgement eludes us, allowing weird impulses or emotions to lead us to actions we can neither explain nor defend. It’s a phenomenon that teens are particularly prone to, with their hormonally-charged emotions and only-partially-developed impulse control, but it happens to adults, too (even sober ones). It is one of these moments that turns out to be Bruce Wayne’s “greatest sin,” as the climax of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” leads him to a rare flash of moral weakness. Continue reading

A Glimpse Outside Non-Compliance in Bitch Planet Triple Feature 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Bitch Planet Triple Feature 4

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

Bitch Planet has always been about non-compliance, about women refusing to be denied their humanity in a system designed to do exactly that. For me, the real teeth of its social commentary lies in just how modest the infractions — and how strict the boundaries of compliance — are. These characters by and large are asking nothing more than to look the way the look, live the way they live, and love the way they love, and are imprisoned for having the audacity to do so. The “logic” of the fathers suggests that their lives would be so much better if they just chose to comply, though we’ve seen relatively little of what life is like for compliant citizens. Bitch Planet: Triple Feature 4 offers a hint at the larger world away from the penal system, following people who otherwise live within the strict boundaries of their world, but it sure doesn’t seem like life is any better for their compliance. Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 31: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin

Wicked + The Divine 31

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

In order to increase the likelihood that students will call for medical assistance in an alcohol-related emergency, some colleges and universities have instituted “Good Samaritan” or medical amnesty policies that eliminate or reduce judicial consequences for students involved in alcohol-related medical emergencies. Other schools may reject this type of strategy based on arguments such as the need to “avoid sending the wrong message” about the seriousness of underage drinking.

Doborah K. Lewis & Timothy C. Marchell,
Safety first: a medical amnesty approach
to alcohol poisoning at a U.S. university”

Drew: I first encountered the notion of a medical amnesty policy in college, though I can’t say I gave it much thought at the time. Indeed, it wasn’t until I was in a position to be worried about dangerously drunk/overdosing students not coming forward (I worked for several years at a summer camp for high-school students) that I started to appreciate how boneheaded the “avoid sending the wrong message” camp truly is. Mostly, it just forgets that the rules against drinking and alcohol use are there for the safety of the students in the first place, somehow valuing the sanctimonious tut-tutting of saying “you shouldn’t drink” over, you know, saving the life of a kid who broke the rules. It’s such an obviously flawed attitude, I was honestly taken aback when I saw reports that some sheriff in Florida was explicitly not offering amnesty to folks with warrants seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma. Or, more specifically, he was insisting on conducting unconstitutional ID checks in order to deter anyone with a warrant from seeking the refuge of a hurricane shelter, endangering their lives because he somehow values laws — the things society makes in order to protect people — more than actually protecting people.

Before I get too off topic, my point is that we’re often too preoccupied with the letter of the law to really parse its spirit. Certain things may be illegal because they’re dangerous, but if coming forward about illegal activity makes things objectively less dangerous, we should encourage that behavior. The article I quoted at the top of this piece offers objective data in support of that idea after studying a medical amnesty policy at Cornell, but I think it’s crucial to note that this type of thinking doesn’t just operate at the institutional level. Even in our daily lives we often react badly to honesty simply because we dislike the truths being revealed, but like the researchers at Cornell, we must recognize how that attitude only makes the situation worse. I found myself thinking about this phenomenon a great deal as I read The Wicked + The Divine 31, as issues of amnesty (and lack thereof) cropped up throughout the issue. Continue reading

Nightwing: The New Order 1: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Ryan Desaulniers 

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

slim-banner

Mark: Dick Grayson is know for his perfection; the best ass in comics, the most suave personality, the most kickass combatant — generally the coolest guy in the universe. It’s an impressive feat, then, that writer Kyle Higgins and artist Trevor McCarthy (with colors by Dean White) are able to so thoroughly undermine Nightwing’s image of perfection in Nightwing: The New Order 1 without making us completely turn on the character. Continue reading

Batman 26: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 26

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

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

Joseph Stalin

Drew: Joseph Stalin likely never uttered this phrase, but while its provenance may be dubious, it’s hard to argue with its sentiment. We’ve all experienced this personally; individual deaths carry with them the nuance and beauty of the decedent’s death in a way that dozens of deaths simply can’t. Each of those deaths are felt singularly by the loved ones they affect, to be sure, but the rest of us can’t really fit the sum of those tragedies into our brain. They become, for lack of a better term, a statistic. This is why war stories are so rare in superhero comics — the higher death count doesn’t necessarily equal higher emotional stakes, so killing swaths of civilians runs the risk of making any one of those deaths lose whatever oomph it might have on its own. Writer Tom King seems keenly aware of how easy it would be for the victims of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” to become statistics, taking pains to emphasize just how deeply Batman feels each of those deaths. Continue reading

There’s No Virtue in Compliance in Bitch Planet Triple Feature 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Bitch Planet Triple Feature 1

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

It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished…. when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, ‘it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.’ And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever.

John Adams

There are always folks who will defend punishment for the guilty — whether it’s prison, public shaming, or being shot by a cop — but that often necessitates retroactively framing those who receive punishment as guilty. In the wakes of countless police (and neighborhood watchmen) shootings, the offenses that have been deemed worthy of death have ranged from stealing a pack of cigarettes to wearing a goddamned hoodie. It’s an absolutely despicable line of reasoning (even when it’s “I agree they didn’t deserve to die, but…”), but it falls completely on its face in the case of Philando Castile, who was inarguably guilty of no crime whatsoever. This is exactly the situation Adams was warning against. There is no virtue in innocence or — in the parlance of Bitch Planet — compliance, so why follow the rules at all? Continue reading

Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 4/5/17

We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing All-New Wolverine 19, America 2, Captain America: Steve Rogers 15, Nova 5 and Royals 1. Also, we’re discussing Hawkeye 5 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

slim-banner4 Continue reading

The Wicked + The Divine 26

wicked-and-divine-26Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Wicked + The Divine 26, originally released February 8, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Set in the aftermath of Ananke’s death, “Imperial Phase (Part 1)” has been an arc all about figuring out what to do next. Last month’s cliffhanger finally presented a tangible threat in the form of the Great Darkness (or at least some of its agents), but if you thought that’d be enough to unite the Pantheon against a common enemy, you’d be sadly mistaken. The Wicked + The Divine 26 finds these gods as divided and lost as ever…and perhaps suggests that’s the way they’re meant to be? Continue reading

Invincible Iron Man 3

invincible-iron-man-3

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Invincible Iron Man 3, originally released January 18th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Brian Michael Bendis is a polarizing figure in comics. I know plenty of people who consider him to be one of the best writers working today, but I know just as many who find his writing to be aimless and self-indulgent. I tend to think that he’s a very good writer with some very bad habits — I think he writes charming dialogue, but tends to write too much of it, for example — but I had been impressed at how well Bendis had curbed those habits in Invincible Iron Man, keeping scenes tight and efficient, and staying very close to the perspective of his protagonist, Riri Williams. That last piece really played to Bendis’ strengths, keeping the focus on his charming and well-written lead, avoiding the kind of wandering perspective that so often bogs his narratives down. Unfortunately, issue 3 loses some of that momentum, opening with a corporate power play between characters Riri has never met. Continue reading