This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
The danger in discussing a single issue of a serialized comic book is that a moment or character beat that doesn’t work in isolation might end up folding in nicely once more of the story is laid out to see. Since comic books are designed to tell their stories episodically, the fact that irrational behavior might be explained in the future doesn’t forgive the initial irritation, but it does help calm it. Such is the case in Joshua Williamson’s The Flash 25, where my profound annoyance in the previous two issues (especially The Flash 23) at Barry being so unaware of how selfish and dangerous he’s been by not telling Iris about his secret identity is resolved simply by having Barry acknowledge his foolishness. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan D. and Taylor are discussing Batman Annual 4 originally released September 30th, 2015.
Ryan: Batman has been happening for quite some time, both in the real world and in the oft rebooted DC Universe. Fans of the series remember his numerous encounters with his rogues gallery throughout the years, as villains escape time after time from the doldrums of Arkham Asylum to once again terrorize the city of Gotham. The formula for Batman may even be seen as a little tiresome: villain arrives, terrorizes Batman, Batman wins, villain returns again, eventually — maybe teaming with another foe, something messed up happens to Bruce Wayne’s personal life, his family rescues him, rinse, repeat. So what is it that draws us back into Batman narratives when the conceit can seem formulaic? Much of its appeal, I would argue, comes from the long-standing history which the reader shares with the character, one which can make jumping into a title so compounded with spin-offs and mini-series and event tie-ins intimidating for some. Batman Annual 4 offers an easy jumping-in point as Bruce Wayne undergoes yet another identity crisis, catching a casual or first-time reader up while showing the audience why a protagonist mired in the past can be so fascinating.
Today, Michael and Shane are discussing Convergence: The Question 2 originally released May 6th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence last week, click here.
Michael: Gotham is a terrible place and everyone knows it — real and fictional. It’s a city full of human heroes whose days will all come to an end eventually; lending itself to tales about struggling for what’s right no matter what. Despite that, Greg Rucka has put Renee Montoya through high-stakes, supernatural apocalypses before. Convergence: The Question 2 is not an “end of the world” story in that sense, however, but the stakes and the message make it feel just as important. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing American Vampire: Second Cycle 2, originally released May 21st, 2014.
Shelby: Appropriately enough, I watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula last night. In the movie, Vlad the Impaler becomes a vampire after desecrating a chapel, denouncing God, and drinking the blood that pours from a cross he himself stabbed. That’s why crosses make them recoil and pieces of the Sacrament burn; their powers are derived from the Devil. Despite this connection, American Vampire: Second Cycle finds our blood-thirsty protagonist being hunted by the Devil himself. If you know the world Scott Snyder created with his first cycle of American Vampire, though, it’s not all that surprising. The American vampires have had a rebellious, outlaw streak in them ever since the first one came around.
Today, Scott and Greg are discussing American Vampire: Second Cycle 2, originally released April 16th, 2014.
Scott: Horror is a difficult genre for me. I have a tendency to avoid it because I don’t like gore. It’s to my own detriment, I’ll admit, since I love the tension that only comes from good horror stories. I love that sense of dread, that pervasive fear of the unknown, the idea that something — anything — could emerge from the dark at any moment. That sort of tension is interesting to me, because it doesn’t imply that anything scary is happening, or even will happen, just that it could, at any moment. I swear there’s an episode in the final season of Breaking Bad with a low, ominous tone running through the whole thing, start to finish. It’s almost comical, really, but it made for a damn compelling hour of TV. Tension like that has to be earned, and when it is, it’s the best. American Vampire: Second Cycle 2 is at that level. For my money, this is as good as horror gets.
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing American Vampire: Second Cycle 1, originally released March 19th, 2014.
The second button literally makes or breaks the shirt, look at it: it’s too high! It’s in no-man’s-land.
Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld
Drew: I spend a lot of time (maybe too much) thinking about form in narratives. Why do plot points happen when they do? How are they foreshadowed? How are they recalled? For all of my time and energy spent focused on these questions, however, I don’t have a lot of answers — theories for sure, but no solid explanations. Like, why arch forms are so pleasing to us. The return is an important part of the Heroes’ journey, but I’ve always been more satisfied with the more character-based return, like the Seinfeld quote above. It appears both in the series’ pilot and finale, and while the characters have entered a very different status quo by the series’ end, there’s something incredibly pleasing about the same turn of phrase returning verbatim. I’d like to suggest that it’s because it reinforces some fundamental truth about the characters — such that the very final scene of the very final episode is just as good of an introduction to the characters as the very first scene of the very first episode. That kind of consistency is incredibly difficult in any serialized medium, where the characters may need to settle in a bit before truly becoming themselves (and may change a great deal over the course of the narrative), but writer Scott Snyder manages a similarly impressive reintroduction here at the midpoint of American Vampire. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Animal Man 28, originally released February 19, 2014.
I’m sorry I was late, baby. I had to go to space.
Buddy Baker, Animal Man 28
Shelby: I feel like this quote from the latest issue of Animal Man perfectly sums up my experience with Buddy Baker in the hands of Jeff Lemire. Buddy’s defining characteristic has, for me, always been his connection to his family. Nowhere else have we seen someone forced to balance a spouse and family with being a superhero, occasionally having to go to space, etc. Mostly, Buddy’s balancing act has brought a lot of suffering to the Baker clan, so it’s nice to see our favorite family man finally get a real win.
Today, Scott and Drew are discussing Animal Man 26, originally released December 18th, 2013.
Scott: If you could board a space shuttle and take off on a one-way trip towards the other end of the universe, would you do it? Could you leave behind the life you know forever in exchange for a unique human experience, a first look at the beauty and wonder of the cosmos? It’s a question many people would at least consider. Now, instead, imagine you woke up tomorrow and you were already on that ship, zipping past the asteroid belt, never to return home. Would you feel the same way about the experience if you didn’t get to make the choice? Would it be easier or harder to accept that your life would never be the same? Buddy Baker now finds himself in a situation where his life will soon be completely and eternally changed, and by no choice of his own (it also happens to an outer-space-related change). It’s a crazy curveball from writer Jeff Lemire. Continue reading →
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Animal Man 25, originally released November 20th, 2013.
Scott: As a writer, it’s my perpetual fear that whatever idea I’ve just come up with has already been done. Even if I believe an idea to be entirely my own, I’m always a little afraid someone out there will find a similarity to some other work, and I’ll be branded an idea thief. Writers and artists accused of stealing or copying material are ridiculed to no end on internet forums. Think of the hit Dane Cook’s reputation took when he was accused of stealing material from Louis C.K. Of course, it’s entirely possible for two creative people to independently come up with the same thought. That makes it all the harder to judge two concurrent works that share strong similarities. It’s impossible to know which creator had the idea first, and unfair to blame either one for sharing what is, to them, an original concept. Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire is fighting the perception that his story is too similar to semi-sister comic Swamp Thing. Fair or not, an otherwise strong issue of Animal Man suffers from feeling a little too familiar. Continue reading →