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 →
Today, Mark and Patrick are discussing Reborn 1, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Mark: Most of the time, I’m at peace with the idea that death is the end of all things. Part of this peace is born out of a sense of self-preservation because I am a Wear-a-Nightguard-Otherwise-You’ll-Shatter-Your-Teeth level worrier by nature and worrying about something as far out of my control as the afterlife would be enough to end me, but some of it is also that I’m a (relatively) healthy 32 year old. Death is not looming over me at this moment (fingers crossed), and so it isn’t something I think about all that often.
But occasionally, when I’m lying in bed thinking about something dumb I said in 6th grade and fretting that that moment negatively altered the course of my life, an inescapable existential terror bubbles up. Someday I’m going to die, and that’ll be it. Lights out. For that reason, I envy people who believe in something greater coming after this life. It’s unquestionably comforting to think that there’s a great reward for living life well. The classic Western idea of an afterlife is Heaven—a paradise designed as a gift to God’s faithful servants for a job well done. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman 51, originally released April 27th, 2016.
Drew: Nostalgia is a complicated force in superhero comics. On the one hand, a 75-year history is a unique and powerful tool, one that can be mined to celebrate past achievements and reward loyal readers; on the other hand, an audience’s fondness for that history may be exploited, used in lieu of actual quality to assure sales of a given title. These ends may not be mutually exclusive, but parsing the value of nostalgia becomes even more complicated when we consider our own relationship to the material. I don’t bring this up to spark a discussion of critical theory and the fallacy of objectivity (though that’s a conversation I’m always willing to have), but to acknowledge just how important Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run has been to me, personally, and to Retcon Punch as a website. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman 50, originally released March 23rd, 2016.
Drew: The owner of my old LCS, Paul, was not a Batman fan. In his mind, a billionaire using his resources to “punch bad guys” was so misguided as to be immoral. Couldn’t Bruce Wayne do more good resolving the root causes of crime by building mixed-income housing or running programs for at-risk youth? Admittedly, Batman’s “punch bad guys” solution to crime lacks nuance, and seems increasingly outmoded the more we understand what causes crime in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s kind of key to Batman’s appeal — he can be a philanthropist on the side, sure, but nobody wants to read a comic where a guy dressed like a bat subsidizes grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods. To writer Scott Snyder’s credit, he started his run on Batman by having Bruce turn his attention to exactly that type of socioeconomic solution, a goal that forces within Gotham actively worked against. It was a smart move, but the fact that the Court of Owls would allow Bruce to be Batman, but drew the line at him rearranging the economic structure of Gotham speaks to just how ineffectual Batman is at affecting systemic change. With Batman 50, Snyder offers a more compelling justification for Batman — one that just might be the definitive answer to Paul’s criticisms. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Batman 45, originally released October 14th, 2015.
Spencer: Does the man make Batman, or does Batman make the man? That seems to be the question at the heart of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Superheavy” arc, and with Bruce Wayne no longer under the cowl, it’s an especially timely one. Geri Powers, Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and even Duke Thomas all have different ideas of what role Batman (and Robin!) should play and how that role should be carried out, and those conflicting perspectives make Batman 45 a captivating exploration of the function and legacy of the Dark Knight. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman 43, originally released August 12th, 2015.
It seems like so many of these interpretations [of Batman] are somebody’s favorite. And the truth be told is that they all feel like it’s the same character. Regardless of how different they might be or how separate they might feel, they all feel like they’re Batman. They all feel true to the core conceit of what that character is.
Drew: As diverse as Batman stories can be, they’ve always shared some core tenants of who the character is and what he stands for. Or, maybe we need to be more specific — there have been a few different Batmen over the years, with some variation in guiding principles (and origin stories), but Bruce Wayne has always stood for the same things. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on this series has been a slow indictment of each of those guiding principles, from Batman’s relationship to Gotham to exactly where he falls on the “superstitious and cowardly” spectrum, but this issue takes away something even more central to Bruce than all of these things combined: his drive as a detective. Indeed, that seems to be the linchpin that makes Bruce Batman — without it, he’s almost unrecognizable. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 41, originally released June 10th, 2015.
Michael: Batman as an idea has taken many different meanings in the character’s 75 year history: the ultimate mortal, Bat-god and arguably comics’ gritty landscape architect, to name a few. Above all else we have come to learn that being Batman is a sacrifice; you have to commit yourself to the cape and cowl, body and soul. We’ve seen how this sacrifice has affected many facets of Bruce Wayne’s life as well as the other heroes who have taken up the mantle of the bat. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo place Jim Gordon in that honored position and explore what exactly that sacrifice means for the former police commissioner. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Batman 40, originally released April 29th, 2015.
Spencer: Batman 40 is a dense issue. I’ve lingered over this issue in a way I haven’t lingered over a comic in quite a while. Every page is rich with meaning, both in the writing and the art, and it would take far more space than Patrick and I have allotted here to fully unpack it. Let me assure you all, though, that doing so is more than worth the time and effort. Batman 40 is a masterpiece that can be enjoyed on numerous levels, and I think it’s an issue we’re going to be dissecting for a long time to come. So let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 38 originally released on January 28th, 2015.
Drew: Fiction has a complex relationship with expectations. We want fiction to meet some expectations — that it should feature the conflicts and conceits pitched on the back cover, that it meets whatever network of expectations that might make it “believable” — but we also want it to defy others. The story of a farm girl suffering a concussion during a tornado may be believable, but it doesn’t capture our imaginations in the same way as the adventures she has when she thinks she’s whisked off to the magical land over the rainbow. Exactly how a story balances meeting and subverting our expectations varies from genre to genre, writer to writer, even moment to moment, but most stories seem to get the most mileage out of meeting our expectations just long enough to really surprise us when the unexpected hits. After three epic arcs of defying expectations, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman has an even more complex relationship with the expected, creating a situation where the surprises may very well be the expected norm to be subverted. Continue reading →
From lines at conventions to the internet petitions every time an assignment changes, its clear comic fans put a lot of stock in who writes and draws their comics, often to the exclusion of the rest of the creative team. While colorists have slowly been gaining more recognition, they are still largely the unsung heroes of the comics world, adding depth and meaning to the storytelling in ways so subtle as to be almost invisible. As we started preparing our year-end lists, we realized that we, too, had been overlooking the contributions of these indispensable artists, and decided it was high time to offer the best the praise they so rightly deserve. These are our top 14 colorists of 2014. Continue reading →