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

The Man of Steel 5 Lets Superman Define the Symbol

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Early in this issue, Superman catches a glimpse of a symbol on Rogol Zaar’s chest, and while he gets a good look at it, he can’t quite make out what it’s supposed to mean. The symbol is one that writer Brian Michael Bendis and his collaborators have been playing with from the very first pages of Man of Steel — a perfect circle with something interrupting that perfection. Bendis’ various collaborators have cast a number of different circles and spheres to play the role of this symbol: sometimes it’s a collapsing Krypton, or a quiet Earth, or the reflection of Rogol in Superman’s eye. My favorite circle actually appears in this issue, as Rogol’s eye peering into the opening of the bottled city of Kandor. Bendis has been teasing meaning in this shape for so long that when Superman finally decides he is interested in divining that meaning, the character and the reader are united in purpose. 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

Justice League: No Justice 4: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin

Justice League No Justice 4

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

Everything changes here!

Comics solicit, traditional

Drew: Okay, that epigraph is maybe too cute by half, but seriously, what does it mean for “everything” to change? The closest parallel I can draw to real life is the conventional wisdom that “a baby changes everything,” but even then, we understand “everything” to be decidedly limited in its scope. Certain events might be life-changing, but only for those with some connection to said events. And yet: comics. Big crossover events are promoted with the promise that the events with change “everything,” and while we might understand “everything” to be limited to the folks involved (in the same way that it is for a birth), there’s also tons of details we might assume exempt from “everything,” from the laws of physics to the peculiarities of english grammar — some things never change. Even so: some comics events are bigger than others, so there’s a range of just what “everything” means. Maybe it’s interpersonal dynamics of the superheroes involved, maybe it’s the principles of the universe as we know it. In its finale, Justice League: No Justice reveals that it falls almost entirely into that latter category, sending the DC Universe into decidedly uncharted territory. 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!

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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

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!

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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

Green Lanterns 40: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Mark Mitchell

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

Michael: Tim Seeley’s Green Lanterns has the DC logo on the cover, but it feels like a very Marvel series, particularly The Amazing Spider-Man. In the heyday of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era, ASM had socially relevant messages, long-running narratives, and, of course, the down-on-his-luck protagonist. The modern Amazing Spider-Man tales try that same type of storytelling with an occasional social media flair — to varying success. With ties to prior issues and the constant personal problems of our heroes, and a superhero dating app, Green Lanterns 40 fits right in with that ASM mold. Continue reading

Dark Nights: Metal 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Mark Mitchell 

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

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Patrick: Throughout Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman, the creative team valued invention over archeology. The character of Batman has been around for so long that deconstruction of the character is practically in his DNA, and while Snyder and Capullo found ways to riff on Batman’s history, their stories were always new. New threats, new allies, new secret identity. With Metal, the latest DC event, Snyder and Capullo turn inward, to explore, refine, and recontextualize the mythology and iconography that is already part of their multiverse. There’s a premium on re-arranging existing pieces into an entirely new whole. Continue reading

Justice League 49

justice league 49Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Justice League 49, originally released April 27th, 2016.

Michael: Guys I did it again: I thought that my love for Geoff Johns and the Justice League would win out over the cynical critic that lives inside of my brain. But I was wrong; oh so very wrong. Justice League 49 is the penultimate chapter in “The Darkseid War,” continuing the story’s overarching theme of “doing stuff, undoing stuff and redoing the stuff – at high volumes.” Continue reading