Batman 50: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 50

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

Drew: Bruce Wayne understands that his responsibilities as Batman demands sacrifice. He devotes his time, body, and earthly resources to his mission to fight crime, and generally takes that mission very seriously. All of which can look like he’s sacrificed his own happiness in order to be Batman. Or, more precisely, that his happiness is a necessary sacrifice for his existence. Batman’s drive, the argument goes, comes from his grief, anger, and sadness, so anything that blunts or dilutes those feelings weaken his mission. It’s a position DC Editorial staked out back in 2013, when Dan DiDio explained why Batwoman’s marriage could never happen, but it’s not necessarily a philosophy writer Tom King ascribes to. Indeed, King has argued that Batman’s happiness is a valuable source of drama, stating “There’s no conflict in having Batman be sad. There’s conflict in having Batman be happy.” That may mean King sees Batman’s happiness as only a temporary condition, but it’s obviously not out of the question. The point is, it’s a hotly debated topic, and one that King cleverly allows to play out in the pages of Batman 50. Continue reading

Narrative Efficiency in Captain America 704

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 704

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

Superhero stories are high-concept endeavors. Beyond the origin of the hero’s powers and commitment to justice, there are villains and supporting characters that might require just as much explanation. Monthly comics tend to smooth this over by taking our knowledge of those high concepts for granted, cramming all of that exposition into a logline on the cover page in order to make room for actual action. It’s a popular solution, so ubiquitous that explaining it in this way feels almost unnecessary. But then we encounter those superhero stories — perhaps it’s a miniseries with a new character or an alternate universe — that have to fit that logline into the story itself, forcing us to recognize just how much explaining really is necessary in the genre. Captain America 704 is one such story, catching us up with (and ultimately thwarting) a multi-generational plan and addressing some long-standing Cap mythology. Continue reading

Secrets Don’t Stay Secret for Long in Dead Hand 3

By Spencer Irwin

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

Secrets rarely stay secret for long, but this is especially true when kids are involved. Younger children will repeat anything and everything to anybody, while older children and teenagers tend to be naturals at sniffing out lies and seeing through bullshit. What this means for the cast of Kyle Higgins and Stephen Mooney’s Dead Hand is that the secret of Mountain View is coming closer and closer to being revealed — unfortunately for them, the loss of that secret could very well mean the end of the world in a fiery nuclear holocaust.  Continue reading

Doom’s Secret Origin in Marvel Two-In-One Annual 1

By Drew Baumgartner

Marvel Two-in-One Annual 1

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

Each is described as being the strongest man in the world and each as battling against “evil and injustice.”

Judge Augustus Hand (writing for the majority)
Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc.

Augustus Hand served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1928 to his death in 1953, and just might be the most quoted judge when it comes to the definition of the superhero, owing to the decision he wrote when the Second Circuit ruled that Wonder Man did indeed constitute copyright infringement on Superman. His decision provided a revealing definition for the genre, insisting not just on superpowers, but a selfless, pro-social mission. Indeed, it’s not until after that decision that you see superheroes whose superpowers and pro-social mission are seen as separate things, with perhaps separate origins. That is, while Superman fought crime because he could, and Batman became a superhero specifically to fight crime, Spider-Man only picked up his pro-social mission after Uncle Ben died, well after he’d been using his powers for decidedly less selfless purposes. In that way, we might understand Marvel Two-In-One Annual 1 as a key part of Victor Von Doom’s superhero origin; it’s the story of how he became a good guy. Continue reading

Despicable Deadpool 300: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner & Patrick Ehlers

Despicable Deadpool 300

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

slim-banner

Drew: Five years into this run, pointing out that Deadpool is a Sad Clown would be lazy analysis — not only has that point been well established, but the series itself has managed to explore it so thoroughly, reducing the character’s emotional journey to a two-word summary couldn’t possibly do it justice. And yet, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to begin this piece than embedding Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown,” not because of a shallow similarity between the content of these two works, but because of some profound similarities in how they treat that content. The lyrics describe a narrator who puts on a good face in spite of his profound sadness, but the music doesn’t betray that sadness for a second — it sounds like any other Motown hit (though that bouncy bassoon that maybe hints that this song is about a clown). By this point in the story, Wade Wilson has completely dropped that fascade of silliness, but just like the instruments in “Tears of a Clown,” the series itself maintains that clownish exterior. Continue reading

A Good Laugh Goes a Long Way in Infinity Countdown 3

by Taylor Anderson

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

One of the things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done right since its inception is to make their movies funny. Of course, some movies are funnier than others. Thor: Ragnarok has more humor than the first two Thor movies combined. Even the grandiose Avengers movies always find time for a laugh in between the action and making sure every hero has their proper amount of screen time. This humor isn’t always present in Marvel comics, and huge crossover events are often more muted in their humor. Luckily, that’s not the case with Infinity Countdown 3. Continue reading

Life and Death (and Colors!) in Infinity Countdown 2

by Taylor Anderson

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

Life is literally defined by two things: birth and death. Sure, there’s a bunch of stuff that comes between those two milestones, but if you’re looking for something that all living things have in common, birth and death are pretty much it. Unsurprisingly, these two events have taken on a symbolic meaning for us humans. Ideas such as Yin and Yang, Light Side and Dark Side, Good and Evil, all stem from the dichotomy between the giving and extinguishing of life. It’s unsurprising, then, to see these two pillars of life make an appearance in Infinity Countdown 2. The grand scale of narrative presented is ripe for such grand themes as birth and death. Continue reading

Exiles 1: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Ryan Desaulniers

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Mark: The best teams are made up of strong, diverse personalities that bring out the best in each other. This is especially true in fiction. The individual members don’t need to always get along, conflict drives any story, but a certain baseline level of respect is necessary. One of the most impressive feats of team building in recent history has to be 2012’s The Avengers. Looking back with full knowledge of the incredible success Marvel Films has achieved almost unblemished since Iron Man ten years ago, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that The Avengers worked at all, but at the time it was incredibly risky. Going back and watching The Avengers now, the first two-thirds of the movie drag quite a bit as writer and director Joss Whedon works to establish the team dynamics, but that groundwork was necessary not just for the first movie, but for the Marvel Films team-ups to come. Again, we take for granted now that all of these characters can seamlessly interact with each other, but that’s only because the hard work was done by that essential first Avengers film. In Exiles 1, Saladin Ahmed, Javier Rodriguez, and Alvaro Lopez begin the work of building their own superhero team, and, like The Avengers, their patience in this premier issue sets them up for long term success. Continue reading

Batman 44: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Taylor Anderson

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

Mark: Comic book characters locked into perpetual monthly stories can never really change; someone like Batman is an archtype unto himself, and if you mess with that alchemy too much, you threaten to change what Batman is. I used to think of this limitation as a bug in serialized comic storytelling, that the lack of permanent change in a character somehow devalued the overall impact any specific authorial choices could have, but I’m beginning to see it as a huge advantage. Continue reading

Analog 1: Discussion

By Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

Patrick: I listen to a lot of Slate’s Trumpcast. Y’know, because the president has me in a nearly constant state of low-key panic, and I feel utterly powerless to stop our democracy from crumbling, so like, might as well listen to a podcast about it. One of the things that comes up on the show pretty often is the idea that we need to let go of the idea that there is one smoking gun that will implicate the administration and the president himself in collusion with the Russian government. There is no evidence so ironclad that it would force impeachment. Further, impeachment and removal from office would not address the systemic problems with corruption, bigotry, and foreign interference. There’s no “one solution” because there is no “one problem.” Gerry Duggan and David O’Sullivan’s Analog 1 takes a very specific speculative high-concept pitch, and gradually reminds the reader of everything else that is intriguing and terrifying about their world — there is no “one problem.” Continue reading