The Darkest Timeline in Batman 46

By Drew Baumgartner

Batman 46

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

From now on, I am Evil Abed. We are the Evil Study group, and we have but one evil goal: return somehow to the Prime Timeline, the one that I stopped you from rolling that die. Then we destroy the good versions of ourselves and reclaim our proper lives.

Evil Abed, Community

The notion of the “darkest timeline” seems to have entered the zeitgeist, mostly through tongue-in-cheek suggestions that we’re currently living in it, but it’s a relatively common concept in science fiction. Indeed, there are so many examples, I kind of split my metaphor on my discussion of Batman 45, touching on everything from Back to the Future Part II to It’s a Wonderful Life to that “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons where Homer keeps accidentally changing the timeline. But none are more explicit about the superlativeness of the badness of the timeline than Community‘s darkest timeline.

It stands as a kind of conceptual opposite of Gottfried Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds” theory — his explanation for human suffering that any other “world” (effectively, a different timeline) would be worse. The Back to the Future franchise suggests that the original timeline was neither the best nor the worst (Marty improves it in the first movie, turning his father into a successful science fiction writer, Biff makes it worse in the second, turning himself into a Trump-ian real-estate mogul), but most of these other examples only show changes to the timeline making things worse — effectively, that we’re actually living in the best of all possible worlds. This is definitely supported in the horrific timeline Booster Gold created as Bruce’s wedding gift, which is undeniably worse than the DC Universe as we know it, though on the surface appeared better for Bruce. That is, until Booster tries to fix things in this issue. Continue reading

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The Timeline Skews in Batman 45

By Drew Baumgartner

Batman 45

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

Here’s the present, 1985, the future, and the past. Prior to this point in time, somewhere in the past…the time line skewed into this tangent…creating an alternate 1985. Alternate to you, me, and Einstein…but reality for everyone else.

Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II

We’re all familiar enough with the notion of alternate timelines and the butterfly effect by this point that any reasonable time-traveler would have to fear ever changing past events — indeed, it’s a sci-fi concept so ubiquitous, even Abe Simpson thought to offer Homer a warning about it on his wedding day. And yet, we still like to imagine “what if” scenarios about making different decisions in only our own pasts, but those of fictional characters. The most well-known “what if” story in superhero comics might well be “For the Man Who Has Everything,” Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s clever parable about fantasy wish fulfillment. Superman’s fantasy necessarily focuses on his own experiences on a non-exploded Krypton, but the absence of Superman would obviously have profound effects back on Earth. That is, there are butterfly effects in that fantasy timeline we never see, that a Krypton-based Kal-El wouldn’t even know about. Cleverly, Tom King and Tony Daniel open on the butterfly effects of their alternate timeline in Batman 45 before circling back to explain how and why this alternate timeline was created in the first place. Continue reading

The Gordons Investigate Together in Batgirl 21

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 21

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

One of my favorite anecdotes (not mine), involves some confusion at an Arby’s drive-thru — a woman orders orange juice and drives away with a cup full of au jus. Of course, the entire premise of that story requires us to accept that anyone would order orange juice at an Arby’s, but I like the punchline enough to justify that minor suspension of disbelief. And that really is how I think about suspension of disbelief: if it’s justified — even retroactively — I’ll happily go along for the ride; if not, then the very odd detail of the orange juice at the Arby’s drive-thru probably shouldn’t be there. Such is the case with Batgirl 21, which finds both Babs and Jim independently investigating the same supernatural phenomenon, but never quite justifies their choices. Continue reading

Dumbass Details in Sideways 2

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Last month, I praised Sideways 1’s hyper-specificity. Writers Dan DiDio and Justin Jordan crafted an excruciatingly detailed world for the would-be superhero Derek and his geek-culture-obsessed best friend Ernie. Artist Kenneth Rocafort dutifully filled the pages with visual details, whether painstakingly realizing the Gotham City skyline or Ernie’s shrine to cosplay and video games. The high I was feeling from that issue has all but evaporated during the second issue as the details began to feel awkward, forced, or generic. Continue reading

Biological Truths in the Details of Sideways 1

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Kenneth Rocafort’s art is so packed with detail that shapes, lines and colors often find themselves marooned in the gutter and in the space between his panels. His visually noisy style gives the impression that Rocafort has so much creative energy that it simply cannot be contained by the incidents of the story he’s tasked with telling. As the rift-opening hero Sideways, Derek literally exists between spaces, and Rocafort is long practiced in filling those voids with exciting, vital details. Sideways 1 is marvelous introduction to a character I can’t wait to see more of. Continue reading

Batman Who Laughs 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers & Mark Mitchell

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

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Patrick: Outside of dance-able club hits, which state their desire to make you dance, very few works of art tell you what effect they intend to have on you. Batman Who Laughs has one purpose and one purpose only: to shock longtime Batman fans with a violent, evil twist on the Dark Knights’ mythos. And the book cockily asserts that it is going to surprise its readers, by having the titular laughing Batman address the camera directly and saying as much. “You really thought you had it all figured out. That you knew every combination in the deck.” The work assumes the reader is skeptical of its goal from page one — the remainder of the issue is spent trying to prove that this is the darkest, most twisted Batman story ever told. Continue reading

Batman Lost 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers & Michael DeLaney

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

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Patrick: For as much mythological importance as we place on origin stories, the question of how a superhero came to be very seldom adds up to his or her actual origin. Batman is the example in question, so let’s use him: a random mugging in crime alley, a broken string of pearls, two shots fired, an orphan. That’s quintessential, primordial Batman — the very stuff of which he is made. But that’s incomplete. A DC Comics murderers’ row of artists and writers set out to remind readers just how strange Batman’s origins really are in Batman Lost 1. In so doing, they also remind us how infinite and unpredictable Batman’s future truly is. It’s a dizzying collage of what-ifs and secret histories, all presented as true with unflinching authority. Continue reading

Discussion: Gotham Academy Second Semester 12

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Gotham Academy: Second Semester 8, originally released April 12th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: I recently just moved away from Chicago — a city which I called home for nearly 10 years. The move is bittersweet; I had been talking about moving for quite some time and was more than excited to finally make my escape from the Windy City. However, now that I’m gone, I’m finding I miss the place even though it often frustrated me. I think this boils down to the fact that despite its flaws, Chicago was my home for so long and that bred a certain respect, if not love, for the city. Gotham Academy has explored this same relationship between the individual and the city in surprisingly deep ways, and the series finale doubles down on this theme, reminding me that the place you call home is the place where you feel loved. Continue reading

Gotham Academy: Second Semester 8

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Gotham Academy: Second Semester 8, originally released April 12th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: The history of a place has a weird way of informing its present. Take the city of Chicago, for example: well known for gangsters and crime in the roaring ’20s, Chicago is well-known these days for an epidemic of gang related violence. On the flip side, New York was a bastion for immigrants early in its history and that holds true today in the modern era of xenophobia. While not all locations are tied to their past in such apparent ways, history has a curious way of making itself known in the present. Such is true in Second Semester 8, when the ghosts of Gotham’s past, both figurative and literal, collude to threaten the city once more.
Continue reading

Batman 20

Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Batman 20, originally released April 5th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: I have been beyond impressed with Tom King and David Finch’s “I Am Bane” — an arc that contextualizes every issue of Batman that can before it. Previously I wasn’t won over with King’s take on the Dark Knight but “I Am Bane” makes me ready and willing to see where he takes the character next. Continue reading