Today, Michael leads a discussion about Convergence 8, Action Comics 2, Blue Beetle 2, Booster Gold 2, Crime Syndicate 2, Detective Comics 2, Infinity Inc. 2, Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters 2 and World’s Finest 2.
Michael: When’s the last time you read a true finale from Marvel or DC? I’m talking final word, last story, completion of a hero’s journey, close-the-book-on-it ending. I could probably only count a handful of those types of finales in the past couple of years; maybe. Like any analysis of the Big Two, it can be seen in two ways: cynically or inspiringly. Cynically, there will never be a “final story.” The Coca-Cola and Pepsi of comic books always leave a door open for potential future stories because they want your money. Inspiringly, we are witnessing the sagas of modern mythology: endless heroic epics. These stories will never come to a true end because their legend continues and the heroes never say die. It can be impossibly cheesy, but the end caption “Never the end” always clutches at my heart strings. After eight weeks, 41 books and 89 issues Convergence has finally met its end. I think there is a strong argument for the inspiring read of “Never the End” present in most of these finales. Conversely, Convergence been criticized as a sales stunt, so the more cynical finale read is just as viable. Two months later what have we learned? For one, nostalgia can be expensive. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-Star Western 26, originally released December 31st, 2013.
Drew: I’ve always been suspicious of happy endings. Not that I’m a grump or a pessimist (or, not just because I’m a grump and a pessimist), just that I think the tendency to wrap stories up with a nice bow tends to make them same-y. Knowing everything will work out in the end robs stories of most of their drama, and more importantly, they tend to ring false. Still, there’s something undeniably alluring about a happy ending — a gentle reassurance that the characters will be okay specifically, and that things tend to work out generally. It’s incredibly tricky to acknowledge both aspects of the happy ending, but Alan Moore’s classic “For the Man Who Has Everything” does it beautifully by presenting (and ultimately rejecting) a classic “what if” scenario. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti aim to tap that same magic in All-Star Western 26, but as is the case with most comparisons to Moore, they come up just a little short. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 24, originally released October 23rd, 2013.
Drew: The lone wolf has always been an alluring figure. Every continent has their tales of solitary, wandering soldiers — most often period stories (knights, ronin, cowboys) — but comics have always featured that notion pulled into the modern day. All-Star Western has always been about playing with that line, often in reverse, pushing our expectations of superheroes back to the old west, but the current arc makes that relationship explicit, pulling Hex into the modern day DC Universe. Surprisingly, he fits in quite well. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and guest writer Sarah are discussing Batman: The Dark Knight 23.2: Mr. Freeze, originally released September 11th, 2013. This issue is part of the Villain’s Month event. Click here for our Villains Month coverage.
Patrick: A buddy of mine just had his car stolen. He lives in Los Angeles, and it’s not like that kind of thing is common place, but… well, you expect to encounter a certain amount of shit living in a big city. Cost of doing business, I suppose. His folks don’t live in the area, so he reached out to his friends for help, advice and rides — they were happy to oblige him with all three. It became clear that my friend had found a “family,” which is a concept just abstract enough to really mean something. It didn’t much matter that not everyone could help him in tangible ways, love and emotional support were exactly what he needed in that moment, and this “family” was able to provide it. They were a comfort, a safety net and a reason to push past the tragedy and on to better things. Victor Fries longs for that connection so much it that drove him to project nonexistent feelings on to a perpetually frozen wife. Now that he’s discovered he has real family out there, it’s becoming increasingly clear: it wasn’t the “wife” part of the “frozen wife” of which he was so enamored. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing All-Star Western 20, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Patrick: If you go back and watch old Flintstones cartoons, you realize that there’s not much to them beyond their prehistoric trappings. The setting is to unique and weird that it totally trumps character or story or even the jokes. The same can be said of the Jetsons — neither of these shows had characters or relationships that would hold any water if they were to be set in a modern day context. So the 1987 animated feature The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones was little more than the characters pointing out how strange the lives of their counterparts were… that and a convoluted time travel plot. The raw charisma of Jonah Hex and Booster Gold save All-Star Western 20 from a similar fate, but not by much. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Batwing 19 and 20, originally released April 3rd and May 1st, 2013.
Patrick: We’ve seen a lot of creatives shifts in the DC line-up in the last couple of months — and there are a few more up-coming — but none have been quite so bold as Batwing to explicitly toss out the old version of the character for a new one. Not only does the Batwing costume change, but the man behind the costume changes, and there’s nothing to connect one Batwing to the next. And that’s the real problem: the concept of Batwing is one that require justification and understanding. Through this transition, new series writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do nothing to explore that for either the venerable David Zavimbe or the newbie Luke Fox. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 19, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Drew: Time travel does weird things to stories. Leaving aside whatever chronology wankery that usually goes along with it, time travel stories actually require pretty specific things of their characters. If they are going to the past, for example, they must not know history that well (or events have to play out in a way different from what they learned). Sure, having a character aware of the hands of fate sounds good, but knowing everything before it happens sure sounds boring. Making the time traveler relatively unaware allows for all kinds of neat dramatic irony — we know how things play out even if the characters don’t. This is especially true of historical events we might recognize, but it’s also true of smaller period details. We laugh when Bill and Ted high-five Napoleon, or when Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Goode because we understand that that’s not how someone from that time period would behave. It’s this smaller-scale dramatic irony that permeates All-Star Western 19, as Jonah Hex runs into a time-displaced Booster Gold. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 18, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Patrick: You could make the argument that All-Star Western is anti-intellectual. All of the more affluent and educated residents of 1890s Gotham City are ineffectual or massively corrupt. The possible sole exception to this rule is Amadeus Arkham, but he is routinely upstaged by his savage brute of a partner. Even when you think “oh, now it’s time for Arkham to use science or some detective work,” it’s Hex’ anecdotal crime solvery that saves the day. And if we apply a little bit of outside information, we know that Arkham will eventually turn his focus back to his true passion — the real focus of his lifetime of study — and found a hospital for the criminally insane. Arkham Asylum is a failure, a permanent stain on his family name. This is the turn of the century we’re talking about here, so why is every progressive thinker made out to be evil, a dandy, or both? Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-Star Western 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Drew: For all of the subtle differences fans can talk about in DC’s current publishing lineup, the fact is: they publish A LOT of superhero comics. A simple lack of capes and tights is enough to make a title like All-Star Western stand out, but writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti aren’t content to rest on those laurels. Indeed, recent issues have cribbed stylistic elements form the likes of parlor dramas and Victorian novellas, in addition to the old Westerns that inspired the characters in the first place, all while seamlessly folding in elements of DC’s own fictional universe. It’s a tonal chameleon, taking on whatever style best fits the material at hand. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing All Star Western 16, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Taylor: There is a certain beauty to be had in simplicity. In a culture that tends to think more is better, simplicity has become something of a rarity that is all too infrequently encountered in our everyday life. However, even though American culture tends to favor the louder and busier aesthetic, there are signs that the simple and austere are gaining favor. Japanese aesthetics, known for their Spartan feel, and Scandinavian aesthetics alike are ever gaining popularity in America. The signs of this change in the wind are more pervasive than we might at first believe. Nearly every person who has a single ounce of nerd running in their veins is familiar with the minimalist renderings of famous movie posters. Further, and on an even broader scale, the design of most Apple products is nothing short of a minimalistic and simple genius. But what about comic books, are they too moving toward a simpler feel? Do they believe that sometimes less truly is more? If All Star Western 16 is any indication, then the comic book world truly has embraced this motif. But that then raises the question, when put into practice is simplicity a good thing for comic books?