Superman 14

superman-14

Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Superman 14, originally released January 4, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: There was something in the air starting around 2005 that demanded male-driven pop culture be characterized by “grit.” Space marines were to be bald, worlds were to be painted in shades of concrete, and heroes were meant to be broken. It’s perhaps unfair to lay the root of this phenomenon at the feet of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins — but here we are. Whatever you think of the movie itself, there’s no question that Nolan’s take on Batman had the (unintended?) side effect of making the character joyless. Everyone wants to be Batman, but who would want to be that Batman? By the time The Dark Knight Rises was released in 2012, this No Fun Allowed Batman was so ingrained in the public consciousness that when Nolan and his brother Jonathan attempted to inject a bit of levity into the proceedings with a handful of actual jokes, some fans of the series balked. And who can blame them? For many, this was the only Batman they knew, and Batman — an adult man who dresses as a bat to beat up clowns and squat fat men and women squeezed into male-gaze fetish gear — was nothing to joke about.

Whether by decree of shared corporate Time Warner overlords or just an attempt to reinvigorize their lineup by capitalizing on the trends of the time, DC’s 2011 New 52 re-launch became an exercise in Nolanization. And while perhaps never as literally grey as the video games of the time, the race to appeal to the same Mountain Dew Gamer Fuel-fueled demographic had the (again, unintended?) side effect of slowly and fundamentally eroding what was so beloved about many of DC’s characters to begin with. To be fair, before Rebirth DC had already begun course correcting toward a more vibrant, diversified, and generally happy lineup of characters, but in some cases the rot was considered too deep. Let us pour one out for New 52 Superman, a sacrificial lamb killed off as a sign of good faith toward spurned fans. Continue reading

Batman 6

batman-6

Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Batman 6, originally released September 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: Comic book fans are extremely protective over their favorite superheroes, a fact that has probably been exacerbated by the internet. We debate on Batman’s actions as if he were a living, breathing person because he’s important to us. It’s the same way of asking the question “What’s the best Batman story of all time?” Art is subjective and comic books are no different. We may agree on many of the same things, but my Batman is different from your Batman. It’s why stories continue to roll out 75+ years after his creation. Continue reading

Justice League: The Darkseid War Special 1

darkseid war special 1

Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Justice League: The Darkseid War Special 1, originally released April 4, 2016.

Michael: Damn, in a few weeks “The Darkseid War” will have been going on for an entire year — roughly the same amount of time that Jim Gordon was the Caped Crusader in the pages of Batman. Whereas Gordon’s tenure as Batman felt like it was cut short, “The Darkseid War” almost feels like it has been going on for eternity. Though Justice League is still full of powerful superhero smash-em-ups and the League has seen its fair share of changes, “Darkseid War” has been crawling at a snail’s pace. Unfortunately for us all, Justice League: The Darkseid War Special 1 is more of the same. Continue reading

Cyborg 1

cyborg 1Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Cyborg 1, originally released July 22nd, 2015.

Michael: Words are an interesting thing, are they not? In one of those “Woah, its crazy how humans work” moments, the assemblage of letters, words, sentences, punctuations and so on is impressive. Memorable moments in pop culture can often be whittled down to a few buzzworthy quotes – especially with our 2015 short attention span. This particular mindset heavily influenced my reading experience of Cyborg 1; and that’s not really a good thing. Continue reading

Justice League 20

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Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Justice League 20, originally released May 22, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.

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Scott: What is the greatest threat to the Justice League? For a group with the power to make neutralizing powerful villains and preventing catastrophic events seem routine, maybe they should be looking at one another as possible threats. It’s hard for the Justice Leaguers to believe that one of their friends could let power get to his or her head or, worse yet, actively be working against them, but that’s a reality they must face. Justice League 20 explores different types of threats to the Justice League, those present, pending, and merely theoretical.
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Green Lantern 20

green lantern 20 wrath

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Lantern 20, originally released May 22nd, 2013. This issue is part of the Wrath of the First Lantern crossover event. Click here for our First Lantern coverage. 

Patrick: Geoff Johns’ final issue of Green Lantern is framed with a narrative device I was first introduced to in the movie The Princess Bride: the old man reading the story to a young man. The flick is an adaptation of novel, and the novel proports to be a rediscovered classic, heavily annotated by the “editor,” William Goldman (who actually just wrote the whole thing). All three of these example serve to elevate the story itself – you don’t need to look to the real world to find a captive audience, there’s one right there in front of you. This issue takes the entirety of Johns’ run and gives it a reverent audience, promoting the nine years since Green Lantern: Rebirth to mythic stature. I’ve been following the entirety of that run, so I’m part of that audience, and I’m moved and affected in very real ways reading this issue. But the bright lights and decades-old mythology groan under the weight of so much self-congratulation. This is a victory lap – mileage will vary.

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Justice League 16

Alternating Currents: Justice League 16: Drew and ZachToday, Drew and guest writer Zach Kastner are discussing Justice League 16, originally released January 23rd, 2013, This issue is part of the Throne of Atlantis crossover event. Click here for complete ToA coverage.

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Drew: “What if there was a problem so big, Superman couldn’t solve it?” is the question the Justice League was designed to answer. This was something Johns managed quite well in this series’ first arc, justifying the League’s formation with a truly global threat. This issue effectively voids that answer by asking “yeah, but what if there was a problem so big even the Justice League couldn’t solve it?” Continue reading

Justice League 15

justice league 15 Throne

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Justice League 15, originally released December 26th, 2012, This issue is part of the Throne of Atlantis crossover event. Click here for complete ToA coverage.

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Drew: Sitcoms and comics are notorious for featuring one- and two-dimensional characters. This isn’t the result of laziness on the writers’ parts — actually, it’s their desire to work indefinitely. Narratives that don’t go on indefinitely are free to give their characters actual character-defining arcs — that’s kind of the point — but those that have no defined endpoint must more or less tread water to avoid ending. This is why we know the status quo will always be restored. Sure, Bruce might stop brooding for a bit, or Hal might lose his ring, or Superman might die, but as long as people are willing to see their further adventures (and pay for them), they’re bound to return to their resting state. Individual titles focusing on those characters are free to bend the rules a bit, but cameos in other titles kind of rely on the platonic form of the heroes. Because Justice League essentially acts as a series of cameos, it is particularly invested in not giving these characters any sense of emotional arcs. Of course, that doesn’t stop Johns from trying to shoehorn those in from time to time, too.

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Aquaman 0

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Aquaman 0, originally released September 26th, 2012. Aquaman 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Shelby: Geoff Johns is a big picture kind of guy. When he gets an idea, it’s a big idea. This plays out well in trade paperback collections of his story arcs, when you can read them in great big chunks. It doesn’t always work so well in the monthly issues; when a huge story is dragged out over months, the pace slows and it’s hard to keep that big picture in your mind. I think Johns found a solution to the problem: just write an issue with a story so big it spans all the oceans, treat it like the opening scenes of a movie, and give your artists plenty of elbow room.

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The New 52 1 (FCBD issue)

Today, Patrick, Drew, Peter and Shelby are discussing The New 52 1, originally released on Free Comic Book Day, May 5th, 2012.

Patrick: Now that the dust has settled and we’re all able to calm down after a thrilling Free Comic Book Day, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. The issue that DC released was anything but an easy entry-point, packing in more characters and mythology than we’ve seen in any single issue since the relaunch. This book makes a lot of intriguing promises for long-time fans, but I doubt new readers were all that excited to spend 11 pages following a character they’ve never heard of.

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