Batman 50

Alternating Currents: Batman 50, Drew and Michael

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

Batman 48

batman 48

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 48 originally released January 20th, 2016.

Drew: There’s a concept in biology of “synapomorphy” which is, essentially, a trait that’s unique to one biological group (which can then be used to distinguish that group from all others). Milk production would be a synapomorphy of mammals, for example. What’s interesting is that these synapomorphies can pile up such that a given biological group might have many distinguishing characteristics — to expand on our mammal example, hair, inner ear bones, and a unique type of teeth are all synapomorphies. Each of these traits developed separately, but all have come to define mammals as a whole.

A similar thing can happen with the defining characteristics of fictional characters — particularly characters who exist in multiple media in stories told by multiple people. Batman is a prime example of this, with countless defining characteristics that range from costuming to gadgets to locations to supporting cast to overarching themes. Some were there more-or-less from the beginning, but others have become essential more recently as new stories are told. A few years ago, Patrick suggested that deconstructions of the Batman mythos have become so common as to become a defining characteristic of the character itself. I was initially skeptical — I can certainly think of plenty of great examples of Batman stories that are as straightforward as can be — but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that we’re living through the time when meta-commentary is becoming a defining characteristic of Batman storytelling. Or, at least, it’s a defining characteristic of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, but when they do it so well, it’s hard to argue that it should be any other way. Continue reading

Best of 2015: Best Artist

best artist 2015
Without artists, all of your favorite characters, scenes, costumes, and locations would just be words on a page. In short, they’re the ones that make comics comics. That’s a lot of responsibility, yet the best artists manage to juggle all of those tasks and inject some meaningful art and style into the proceedings. Whether its a subtle expression or a jaw-dropping action sequence, our favorite artists add the requisite magic to make their worlds and characters real. These are our top 10 artists of 2015.
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Best of 2015: Best Issues

best issues 2015
Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2015. Continue reading

Batman 47

batman 47

Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman 47 originally released December 9th, 2015.

Drew: I’ve complained before about the prescriptive nature of Chekhov’s Gun — that our awareness of Chekhov’s “rule” necessarily gives away elements of the ending. A great example of this is the first season of The Killing — I enjoyed it quite a bit, but Chekhov’s gun dictated that something must tie the mayoral campaign that features so heavily to the titular crime. The specifics can still surprise us, but we know we’re not being shown that stuff just for fun. Of course, the predictability of Chekhov’s rule loses its stranglehold on narratives that aren’t driven by plotting — say, a character study or a situational comedy. In those cases, we might actually be shown things just for fun (or nuance, or detail, etc). We tend to think of superhero comics as plot-driven narratives, but B-stories can often take on less plotty structures, as we learn more about a character, or are amused by their situation. It can be difficult, then, to know if a given element of a B-story represents a gun that will eventually go off, or just a portrait of someone who has a gun. These are the questions in my mind as Bruce grapples with his own obscured history in Batman 47. Continue reading

Batman 46

batman 46

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 46 originally released November 11th, 2015.

Michael: Batman 46 continues Scott Snyder’s ongoing query into what the legacy of Batman really means. The frightening Mr. Bloom continues to perform his preferred method of murder by poking his razor fingers through the bodies of various Gotham elite. Gordon and Julia momentarily put Bloom out of commission before he makes his inevitable escape. Geri Powers reveals a whole army of robo-batsuits and tells Gordon how she knows where Bloom is hiding and is going to mount an attack on him. Gordon pleads to let him get Bloom himself because he knows that this is all Bloom’s trap, which it is. Meanwhile, we have a brief scene where Bruce once again reassures Julie that he is not the same man and proposes to her. Another side story involves Duke Thomas breaking into The Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge in order to track down his missing parents and Mr. Bloom. Continue reading

Batman 45

batman 45

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

Batman 43

batman 43

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.

Dan DiDio

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

DC Round-Up Comics Released 7/29/15

DC roundup3

Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Michael, Spencer and Patrick discuss Batgirl 42, Gotham By Midnight Annual 1, Lobo Annual 1 and The Flash Annual 4.

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Michael: Have you ever noticed how the fifth Wednesday of a month always brings an odd grab bag of titles from DC? It’s typically full of books that are behind schedule and trying to catch up and the occasional Annual issue. So I guess it’s no surprise that this week’s DC offering is full of five Annuals in total. Let’s cover a few of them, shall we?

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Batman 41

batman 41

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