Spencer: Patrick and I recently lamented a certain style of comic, the kind that tries to recap an entire lifetime with voiceover, practically becoming an illustrated Wikipedia article in the process. It seems as if the entire purpose of these comics is simply to relay information without attempting to further characterization or plot, and the longer I read comics the more this kind of story bothers me. This particular style seems to pop up most often when retelling origin stories (just check out our Zero Month coverage for proof), and that made me particularly cautious about picking up Secret Origins 6. Each of the three stories presented in this issue tackles the business of telling an origin story slightly differently, yet two of them still stick pretty close to this format. I suppose that raises the question of who this title is actually for: newbies who may need an illustrated Wikipedia article, or long-time readers who might expect a little more from their stories? Continue reading
Drew: I have a friend who used to love Law and Order — er, he liked it as much as a person can really like an episodic primetime drama — the point is, he was happy to tune in every week to see how the team handles the new case. That is, until his son pointed out to him how formulaic the show really is — right down to when in the episode they’ll nab the wrong suspect, find that key clue, or offer a plea bargain. It ruined the show for him — knowing what would happen next robbed every development of any drama, so he just stopped watching it. In some way, we all have this same experience with storytelling in general: the more stories we consume, and the more familiar with common formulas we become, the better we are at predicting what happens next. We recognize foreshadowing, we notice if we’re being intentionally misled — we just become harder to fool. Many of us are willing to put that aside to suspend our disbelief that maybe the hero won’t make it out this time, or maybe the lead couple won’t end up together, after all, but sometimes a writer still wants to surprise us. This often requires going into DEEP left field, which can make the resulting developments feel arbitrary, or even nonsensical. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of final act reveals we get in Flash 29.
Scott: As a kid, I didn’t enjoy ghost stories very much. I did my best to avoid them, but sometimes, late at night at a slumber party or around a campfire, it was impossible. I endured; listening wasn’t the hard part. In the moment, whatever shock or gore the stories contained didn’t affect me much. It was the aftermath, the lingering psychological torment — the fear, however irrational, that maybe the deranged killers they told these stories about might actually exist. In The Flash 28, Barry Allen is confronted with my greatest fear: the murderous monster from his childhood ghost story is real. A ghost story combined with a detective story, this issue is as fun as you can imagine, even though all of the elements don’t mix together quite right.
Today, Greg and Patrick are discussing Batman Black & White 2, originally released October 2nd, 2013
“Does it have a happy ending?”
Greg’s Dad, traditional
Greg: Whenever I recommend a movie to my dad, or tell him I’m working on a new project, this is his first question. He’s a high school assistant principal and deals with a lot of heavy stuff. At family dinners, when my mom would ask him how his day was, he would often just sigh. He wants his entertainment to provide respite and closure he doesn’t often get in real life. He’s a man who, at the end of Inception, stood up in his seat and yelled at the screen, “What?!”
I’d like to think I’m more open to the darker stuff than him. Yet while reading this black and white anthology series, I felt my gut stiffen and sour. I felt like I was being shown evil things for evil things’ sake. I wanted to stand up in my seat and yell at my comic book, “What?!”
Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Justice League Dark 23 originally released August 21st, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Mikyzptlk: Event comics are…strange. As Drew mentioned in his previous coverage of Trinity War, event comics like these can be hard to pin down. There’s usually a ton of damage and more colorfully clad heroes than you can shake a superpowered stick at. At the same time though, with so much going on, it can be hard to get to any meaningful characterization. It’s not impossible, but there’s just usually not that much of it. Another thing that event comics like Trinity War are known for is the idea that “Things Will Never Be The Same” after the events of said comics. In the end, what we normally get in event comics are shallow, action packed adventures that drastically change the playing field for our heroes. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, in fact, I think it’s kind of necessary. The ever-changing playing field helps to keep these decades old characters fresh, and help to prime our heroes for those character-rich solo stories we all love so much. While Trinity War has given us some interesting moments, I can’t help but feel impatient for the drastic changes it will bring. The penultimate chapter of the tale helps to reinforce that feeling. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Justice League of America 7 originally released August 14th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Drew: Determining a level of focus is perhaps the most important step in evaluating a work of art. These foci are specific to the style at hand — harmonic analysis is likely going to tell you very little about a rap song, just as an examination of brush strokes wouldn’t add much to a discussion of da Vinci. Intriguingly, these styles often begin to resemble each other as you zoom in and out — abstract paintings may share concepts of form, color, or composition with those of the Rennaisance masters, for example — further increasing the importance focus in an analysis. Geoff Johns has always written “big” — he’s been at the helm (or at least sharing the helm) of some of DC’s most important events over the past decade — and his writing has often chafed at the analyses of his critics. Justice League of America 7 actually avoids many of the pitfalls Johns is often cited for (a lot of stuff actually happens here), but it still has me wondering if we’re simply using the wrong tool for the job of evaluating a giant, Geoff Johns-penned event. Continue reading
Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger 11, originally released August 7th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Mikyzptlk: When Patrick covered issue 10 of this title, he brought up the movie What Dreams May Come. Okay, I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, but you’ve got to admit that it has it’s moments. I’m a fan of the movie myself, especially early on when we are first introduced to the concept of Heaven and its inner workings. Essentially, when you die you create your own Heaven. We get a similar description of Heaven’s mechanics in Phantom Stranger 11, which gives us a chance to peek into some of our character’s innermost desires. What happens, though, when all that is left for your main character to desire flies in the face of a Heavenly decree? Nothing good, surprisingly enough. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Justice League of America 6 originally released July 17th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Patrick: Did any of you guys ever play Warhammer? If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a table top war game where you assemble an army from your race of choice and battle against your friends’ armies. It’s the least pick-up-and-play game you could ever imagine – understanding the basic rules means reading a 100+ page manual, and keeping a cheat sheet with charts and tables with you at all times. And then there’s understanding your own army, for which you need yet other book completely dedicated to that race. Then you need the little metal figures to represent the members of your army (sold separately), and if you’re really hardcore you can paint them. Then you need a surface large enough to play on – one time my friends and I took a door off its hinges and used that when we were denied the dining room table. Ideally, this surface will be populated with trees and terrain and stuff like that. Setting up the Trinity War has felt an awful lot like setting up a Warhammer game. Everyone’s been reading extra books they don’t really want to read just so they can play in the big game. Now the event is actually here and I can’t believe I’m surprised that all the characters feel like pieces in a game. Continue reading
Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 21, originally released June 26th, 2013.
Taylor: When you’re John Constantine, it’s always good to predict future as best you can. In order to escape the jaws of death time and again, John needs to predict what his enemies will do and how they will do it. Usually the man is pretty good at that sort of stuff and since he is often the focus of Justice League Dark it’s easy to forget that there are other ways of going about things. In fact, in Madame Xanadu the team has a colleague who can literally see the future and who doesn’t need to indulge herself in guesswork of any sort. But how useful is this power? More importantly, how does she choose to use this power and is it responsible? Issue 21 of Justice League Dark delves into these questions while also exploring a character that — up until this point — we have known very little about.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Justice League Dark 20, originally released May 29th, 2013.
Drew: Comic books love team-ups, to the point that we rarely question their utility. Whether it’s random circumstance or a specific goal that brings the team together, once the team is formed, we kind of take it for granted that they will stick together. Who cares if Ocean’s 12 requires a ballistics expert (or whatever it is that Brad Pitt’s character does)? The team is the team — don’t question it. Unless, of course, you’re Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, who devote Justice League Dark 20 to examining the utility of each team-up, from the random cameos to the team’s core members. The result is a fresh, surprisingly compelling argument for the team’s existence. Continue reading