Superman: American Alien 4

superman amer alien 4

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Superman: American Alien 4, originally released February 17th, 2016.

Michael: When people ask me why characters like Superman and Batman work so well, my answer typically boils down to: they were the first ideas of their kind and in this case they were the best. The idea of Superman is incredibly simple and yet incredibly amazing. What a lofty goal it is to dream up the most powerful hero around who is a champion for good. Superman: American Alien 4 continues that trend of big dreams and hopeful ambition from all sorts of perspectives. Continue reading

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Fables 146

fables 146Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Fables 146, originally released November 19th, 2014.

Drew: I love thinking about art. I know that sentiment sometimes seems sterile to folks who prefer to “feel” art, but I’ve really never seen the two as mutually exclusive. Indeed, I think deep thought about why a work of art invokes the feelings that it does makes for a much more rewarding experience, not only for our understanding of the art and ourselves, but for our own emotional satisfaction. For me, analysis doesn’t distance me from the art, it immerses me in it, allowing for countless stories within our favorite works of art. Surprisingly, the biggest resistance I get to this approach is in music, where most people — including musicians — seem to dismiss analysis as a sterilized intellectual endeavor. I personally think this is the result of incomplete familiarity with the tools and techniques of music theory. Even trained musicians tend to think of “theory” as referring to harmonic analysis almost exclusively, which is effectively like saying literary analysis is just the cataloging of assonance. One tool is not enough to effectively analyze any work of art, and flattens all art to existing in a single dimension. Then again, certain works of art lend themselves particularly well to focusing on one — the orchestration of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, for instance — yielding a rich narrative about the work, even if it isn’t the only narrative. I’d argue that Fables has this kind of relationship with allusions — one that is particularly pronounced in issue 146. Continue reading

Best of 2013: Best Artist

2013 best artist

The comics industry might have trained us incorrectly. We’re meant to gobble up as much story as possible, as quickly as possible. That way we buy more comics, and Batman and Spider-Man can continue to punch dudes into perpetuity. But the books we read are far from disposable — they contain some truly astounding artwork from some of the most talented storytellers out there. They’re our directors, our actors, our choreographers, our set and costume designers. These are our top 13 artists of 2013. Continue reading

Batman/Superman 3

batman superman 3

Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Batman/Superman 3, originally released August 28th, 2013. 

Mikyzptlk: When I think upon my childhood friends that I am still friends with today, I sometimes wonder how our lives might have differed had we not become friends when we had. I also wonder what would have happened if we had not met until we were much older. I would be much different. They would be much different. Would we even have become friends at all? The third issue of Batman/Superman has me asking those questions as it explores how the World’s Finest heroes of Earth 2 became friends. Word of warning y’all, it’s totes adorbs.

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Batman/Superman 2

batman superman 2

Today, Mikyzptlk and Scott are discussing Batman/Superman 2, originally released July 24th, 2013.

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Mikyzptlk: Alternate universe stories are just plain fun. Shows like Star Trek: TNG, Sliders, and most recently, Fringe have all played with the concept of parallel Earths. It’s fun to explore how one change or another can affect the lives of the characters we know and love. By adding or removing variables, writers have a chance to dig into characters in ways they might not normally have the opportunity to do. Sometimes, this exploration is only for the benefit of the audience, and the story is just some kind of “what-if,” other times though, like in Batman/Superman 2, the parallel universe trope is used not only to explore variations, but to further the development of the characters as well. Continue reading

Batman/Superman 1

Alternating Currents: Batman/Superman 1, Drew and ScottToday, Drew and Scott are discussing Batman/Superman 1, originally released June 26th, 2013. 

Drew: Paper or plastic? Beatles or Stones? Smooth or crunchy? We love our false dichotomies, and while Marvel vs. DC may be the most obvious example in the world of comics, Batman vs. Superman is a close second. They’re presented as polar opposites enough to make it feel like a given, but are they really so different? Superman may draw his power from the sun, and Batman may draw his power from the shadows, but move beyond their color palettes and you’ll find that both fight for justice, both refuse to kill, and both have a penchant for wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes. Of course, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find that their reasons differ on a fundamental level, growing out of their profoundly different psyches. It’s those differences, rather than the light/dark dichotomy, that Greg Pak sets to explore in Batman/Superman 1, and the result is a surprisingly fresh take on the pairing. Continue reading

Before Watchmen – Ozymandias 6

ozymandias 6 B4WToday, Michael and Shelby are discussing Ozymandias 6, originally released March 13th, 2013. Ozymandias is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).

Michael: What you don’t show is as important as what you do show. If a story is told well, you can thankfully take this writerly aphorism for granted. We’re free to focus on what we are shown, because it’s gripping and we care about these moments over others. The rest — the implied events — blends into the background. It might be important. It might be necessary we know about it, but it isn’t right in front of us, on the page, and that’s OK. Unless that story is Before Watchman: Ozymandias 6, then it’s not OK. Every grinding gear of a story must be on display. It’s my own fault. I crave the supplemental information and shifts in perspective — I’m just upset when it doesn’t work out.

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Animal Man 18

Alternating Currents: Animal Man 18, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Animal Man 18, originally released March 6th, 2013. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Drew: Many fans were dismayed when DC spoiled the end of Batman Incorporated 8, but it really wasn’t just that they had made those spoilers available — it was that they made them unavoidable, popping up when you accessed their website with no way of avoiding the information. Sure, you could argue that the cover to that issue (which had, unfortunately, already been leaked) gave the ending away, but it’s not exactly like comic book covers have to be representing actual events in the issue. Case in point: Batman R.I.P., which — contrary to what the title suggests — [SPOILER] doesn’t feature the death of Batman. In fact, the well-known hyperbolic nature of comic book covers is precisely what made me so skeptical that Animal Man 18 would actually feature “the most TRAGIC DAY in the life of BUDDY BAKER!” (Spoilers after the jump) Continue reading

Before Watchmen – Ozymandias 5

ozymandias 5 B4WToday, Patrick and Michael are discussing Ozymandias 5, originally released January 30th, 2012. Ozymandias is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).

Patrick: In a sequence that perfectly epitomizes how I feel about the Ozymandias mini-series, Adrian Veidt holds a press conference as his alter ego. He removes the mask and the costume, revealing to the assembled reporters that Ozymandias and Adrian Veidt are one and the same. He says that all non-Doctor-Manhattan heroes have effectively become irrelevant — a sentiment echoed at one point or another by just about everyone in the Watchmen universe. Vedit can accomplish more good as the head of Vedit Industries, which prompts one reporter to ask “So, this is all about the money?” Never mind that this isn’t at all what Vedit was saying, he addresses the question head-on, bluntly saying “In this end… isn’t everything?” That reads as a rather cynical explanation for Before Watchmen, but interestingly, Veidt can’t keep his word about staying out of costume, donning the cape again to fight petty crime during the police strike. The message? It’s all about money… except when superheroes are involved: then it’s about something else.

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Before Watchmen – Ozymandias 4

ozymandias4B4WToday, Drew and Mogo are discussing Ozymandias 4, originally released November 28th, 2012. Ozymandias is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).

Drew: I don’t envy Len Wein. The thought of writing a prequel to one of the greatest comic books of all time is daunting enough, but Wein faces the additional task of writing the thoughts of the smartest man on the planet. Super-intelligent characters like Sherlock Holmes are difficult to write realistically — the writer has to come up with problems whose solutions aren’t already apparent to the supporting cast and audience — but Adrian Veidt is an order of magnitude more difficult. This is someone who predicted the end of the world, then devoted years to realize a convoluted plan to divert it. Anything shy of that level of planning and premonition is going to feel like a letdown, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what we get inOzymandias 4. Continue reading