Parallels, Dramatic Irony, and Time in The New World 1

by Drew Baumgartner

New World 1

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

My wife is itinerantly averse to spoilers, to the point that she refuses to watch trailers for movies. It’s an attitude I can sympathize with (many trailers seem more like hyper-condensed edits of the entire film than teasers), but can’t fully understand — how could she possibly know if a movie appeals to her if she doesn’t know anything about it? To me, some foreknowledge of the genre and basic premise of a narrative is essential to my interest in it. Of course, in serialized media — especially ones with particularly high-concept premises — the first chapter might just cover the “basic premise,” effectively spoiling its own plot. But the thing I’ve always resented about “spoiler” talk is the way it privileges plotting (and especially surprise twists in plotting) over every other narrative element. There are real, unique pleasures to be mined from having more perspective than the characters within the narrative, and a well-told story will use those tools as effectively as any narrative twist. Aleš Kot and Tradd Moore demonstrate the value of those tools on both the micro and macro level in The New World 1. Continue reading

Batman 50: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 50

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

Drew: Bruce Wayne understands that his responsibilities as Batman demands sacrifice. He devotes his time, body, and earthly resources to his mission to fight crime, and generally takes that mission very seriously. All of which can look like he’s sacrificed his own happiness in order to be Batman. Or, more precisely, that his happiness is a necessary sacrifice for his existence. Batman’s drive, the argument goes, comes from his grief, anger, and sadness, so anything that blunts or dilutes those feelings weaken his mission. It’s a position DC Editorial staked out back in 2013, when Dan DiDio explained why Batwoman’s marriage could never happen, but it’s not necessarily a philosophy writer Tom King ascribes to. Indeed, King has argued that Batman’s happiness is a valuable source of drama, stating “There’s no conflict in having Batman be sad. There’s conflict in having Batman be happy.” That may mean King sees Batman’s happiness as only a temporary condition, but it’s obviously not out of the question. The point is, it’s a hotly debated topic, and one that King cleverly allows to play out in the pages of Batman 50. Continue reading

Eddie Learns He Knows Nothing in Venom 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in middle school. I woke up thinking about it, I fell asleep thinking about it, I viewed everything through the lens of Magic. Friends were people I played Magic with, and school was just something I had to do before I could play again. I was in love: for almost three years, that game completed me. In 1995, my friends and I went to Gen Con in Chicago, a massive hobby-store convention, which mostly meant Magic and Warhammer. That’s when I realized just how miniscule my obsession actually was. I wasn’t a Magic expert, I was a kid with a hobby in a convention center full of adults who had been living this nerdiness since before I was even born. Magic opened me up to a love of gaming and fantasy, but for these folks, it was the culmination of their lifestyle. Issue 3 of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom gives Eddie Brock his very own Gen Con ’95 moment as he comes face to face with the god of the symbiotes. Continue reading

Batman 49 is the Anti-“The Killing Joke”

by Patrick Ehlers

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

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Tom King and Mikel Janin’s Batman 49 gives Catwoman and Joker an opportunity to discuss the role humor plays in both their lives and the greater Batman franchise. Joker’s goal in all of this is to get a laugh out of Selina, and by the end of the issue, she obliges him with a joke of her own and a chuckle. Sounds like Killing Joke, right? Here’s the thing – King gets us there by trading in connection, nostalgia and shared history, where Alan Moore and Brian Bolland got there by trading in misery. The result is an inversion on the classic story, and an update on the storytelling values in Batman and in comics in general. Continue reading

Who Controls the Page in Daredevil 604?

By Patrick Ehlers

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

“I’m gonna need the room.”

Father Jordan, Daredevil 604

Charles Soule and Mike Henderson’s Daredevil 604 is all about controlling space. Within the world of the story, that’s about dispersing satanic mists, or driving out swarms of ninjas. On the metatextual level, that’s about which character commands the space on the page. With the introduction of the Order of the Dragon (or Ordo Dragonum, if you’re nasty), the pages become thick with both action and potential, but it’s still on Daredevil to take control of every square inch of the city… and by extension, every inch of the page. Continue reading

The Symbiote Stands for Addiction in Venom 2

by Ryan Desaulniers

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

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If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict.

William S. Burroughs, Junkie

Is it possible to explain addiction to someone who has never been addicted? The closest parallel I can draw is the deep, resounding heartache felt when ending a long-term relationship, when the hurt is so big that it is all-encompassing, physically affecting you, turning your stomach, switching your brain off from rationality. Maybe that’s close, but there’s plenty less stigma associated with heartbreak than addiction and its corresponding mental health cycles. Different forms of media endeavor to bring addiction out of the shadows and prove that it is no indication of a flaw in a person’s character, but even a well-told story like that of Requiem for a Dream might offer the non-addict a catharsis based upon their security in never living that experience as opposed to an understanding of those who have. Venom 2 offers a compelling look at a character in a narrative rife with addiction imagery and symbolism which might just lend a window into the life of someone struggling with their relationship to a substance. Continue reading

Secrets Don’t Stay Secret for Long in Dead Hand 3

By Spencer Irwin

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

Secrets rarely stay secret for long, but this is especially true when kids are involved. Younger children will repeat anything and everything to anybody, while older children and teenagers tend to be naturals at sniffing out lies and seeing through bullshit. What this means for the cast of Kyle Higgins and Stephen Mooney’s Dead Hand is that the secret of Mountain View is coming closer and closer to being revealed — unfortunately for them, the loss of that secret could very well mean the end of the world in a fiery nuclear holocaust.  Continue reading

A Reveal as a Punchline in Batman 48

by Spencer Irwin

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

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Last time Tom King and Mikel Janin put out a Joker story — in “The War of Jokes and Riddles” — the Clown Prince of Crime wasn’t exactly himself. Batman 48, then, gives King and Janin a chance to show their take on a more platonic form of the Joker. He’s probably more manic and scrambled than usual, but just as devious, cunning, and ruthless as ever. Most importantly, though, this Joker is wickedly funny. Batman 48 is jam-packed with black humor and perfectly constructed (albeit remarkably morbid) jokes. In fact, the entire issue can be viewed as one long set-up to a perfect punchline. Continue reading

The Difference Between Mayoral Action and Superhero Action in Daredevil 602

By Patrick Ehlers

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

“New York City’s uniformed protectors are under attack by the Hand.” It’s a straightforward premise, one with both obvious drama and an obvious solution: superheroes fight the ninjas. But as of Daredevil 601, Matt Murdock is more than just a superhero; he’s also the mayor of New York. Suddenly those simple solutions don’t seem quite as simple. Charles Soule, Mike Henderson, Matt Villa and Clayton Cowles’ Daredevil 602 illustrate the difference between the streamlined drama of the superhero and the complicated drama of the mayor. Continue reading

Setting a Mood in Venom 1

by Spencer Irwin

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

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First issues have a lot to do, and Venom 1 checks off many of those requirements with subtle aplomb. It establishes its hero’s goals, modus operandi, and morality in a casual, understated way, and spends plenty of time looking towards the future, expanding Venom’s world in intriguing new directions. Despite all that, though, more than anything Venom 1 is interested in creating an atmosphere, setting a mood. It’s an issue that’s bleak and relentless, and for once, I mean that as a compliment. Continue reading