This article containsSPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
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 →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
Jim Gordon, The Dark Knight
Ryan: Since that line was uttered in lamentation of Gotham’s corruption, I feel as if it’s almost become a canonical outlook on the Caped Crusader. The thing about that line, though, is that it’s purely subjective on Gordon’s part, and particular unto the circumstances of that Batman story in that film. And almost every statement can be used against the point for which it was originally made, right? Even scientists with objective data sets can use the same numbers to support the opposite side of an argument, or the same verse of scripture used to prove opposing points. In Batman: White Knight 1, Sean Murphy takes Jim Gordon’s iconic statement and uses it to sow the seeds of a Gotham wherein the Joker justifies his action with that logic, both as a villain and a hero. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
I’ve never been a huge fan of dramatic irony — I can appreciate how giving us more information than the characters have can produce tension (or humor), but that information kind of gets in the way of relating to the characters. Still, I have a heck of a lot more patience for dramatic irony than I do its exact opposite, where characters are privy to information that is deliberately withheld from the audience. Not only does the tension it create feel cheaper (amounting to little more than a narrative chant of “I know something you don’t know”), it makes the characters even harder to relate to, as we’re necessarily left in the dark about what they might be thinking or feeling. All of which kept me from truly enjoying Batgirl 14. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 1, originally released June 15, 2016.
Michael: I keep saying this lately, but there is something so powerfully elemental about Batman. Not all Batman stories are exactly the same, but there is a certain amount of thematic carryover from one story to the other. I remember that, at the start of The New 52, I noticed a lot of similarities between Scott Snyder’s Batman and Grant Morrison’s that preceded it. Now I find myself doing the same thing with Tom King’s Batman and the Scott Snyder run that preceded it. Judging by the name of King’s first arc (“I am Gotham”) and the heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl, King is going to explore Gotham City as a character; a hallmark of Snyder’s run. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman: Rebirth 1, originally released June 1st, 2016.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Drew: There’s plenty of reasons to believe Freud never said such a thing, but whatever its origin, this quote always helps me keep perspective when attempting to parse the symbolism in a work of art. The last thing I want is to sound like Fred Armesin’s exaggerated (and nonsensical) lyrical analyses, so it always makes me nervous when I find my attention drawn to symbols within a comic. Even with that reticence, though, I couldn’t ignore the deeply symbolic nature of Scott Snyder and Tom King’s Batman: Rebirth, even if I’m not quite sure what all of the symbols mean. 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 →
Writing a mystery story in any medium is an unenviable task. It’s basically impossible to nail the landing. For my money, the ideal solution to any mystery is both surprising and logical. Once the solution is revealed, the audience wants to see that the answer was hiding in plain sight all along. Writing a satisfying conclusion like that is nearly impossible. It’s why when something like The Sixth Sense comes along it is so successful. But M. Night Shyamalan learned the wrong lesson from its success, thinking that audiences craved a “GOT YA” ending. And it’s why his other films that attempted a twist failed. Sure, the twists are surprising…but they’re meaningless and add no additional understanding to what came before. So after two (and a half) strong issues of Peter J. Tomasi’s Detective Comics mystery, we reach the end of The Bronze Age arc and, again, I ask: is that all there is? Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Batgirl 49, originally released March 2nd, 2016.
Michael: DC Comics has (sort of) clarified what its upcoming “Rebirth” is, and it has been changing my reading of every comic I’ve read from them in the meantime. It’s still anyone’s guess as to what kinds of changes “Rebirth” brings to the DC line, but we are definitely at the climax/resolution threshold of each title’s story. Case in point: the semi-continuity-resolving, Inception-ish issue that is Batgirl 49. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Batman 49, originally released February 10th, 2016.
Spencer: One of the concepts that’s made Batman such a popular hero for the past 75 years is the idea that anybody could become Batman. None of us are alien refugees or Amazon princesses, none of us can expect to be struck by Speed Force lightning or bitten by a radioactive spider (and survive, at least), but with the right training, resources, and determination, anyone could become Batman; and sure, most of us don’t have access to the seemingly unlimited wealth, technology, or training Bruce Wayne had, but they’re at least goals that someone living in our real world could feasibly aspire to achieve. In Batman 49, though, Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette make all those qualifications — and, indeed, the very possibility of anyone besides Bruce Wayne ever truly becoming Batman — moot. Being Batman is about more than gear or training or money. Becoming Batman requires great, tragic sacrifice; it involves dying, whether figuratively or literally. Continue reading →