Drew: Last month, Patrick compared Superman 16 to a joke with an aborted punchline — the entire issue was spent building towards a payoff that simply evaporated when we finally arrived. Superman himself has a very similar experience in Superman 17, when he comes face to face with the Oracle, who shows Superman a confusing series of images, but disappears before giving any explanation. It’s a frustrating experience for Clark, one that very pointedly reflects my reactions to both this issue, and the H’el on Earth event as a whole. Continue reading →
Patrick: You know that knock-knock joke that goes “Knock-knock.” “Who’s there?” “Banana?” Of course you do, we were all kids once. It’s a simple exercise in tension and release: when you hear “orange,” you get a visceral little rush knowing the “orange you glad I didn’t say banana” is mere moments away. The Justice League’s assault on the Fortress of Solitude has been one long Banana Knock-Knock joke. But when we finally get the “orange,” the door we’re knocking on teleports somewhere else, making me wonder why the fuck we’ve been putting up with this jokester saying “banana” for so long.
Patrick: Drew had to fight pretty hard to find some meaning in last month’s issue of Superboy. I’m not saying his assertions are wrong, but they certainly meet Tom DeFalco more than half-way. Shelby was not so kind. This issue, by comparison, brings some strong characterization of Superboy, non-stop action and an interesting theme (with clever call-backs). This issue isn’t going to start any Superboy-revolution, but it is a tonally consistent, exciting story. Maybe I’m setting the Superbar pretty low at this point…
Patrick: The title page for Superman 15 contains the name of the series, but you have to really look for it. The title of the issue, “Because I’m a Scorpion” dwarfs iconic “Superman,” but it’s all dwarfed by the splash page of Superman and Superboy punching rockets out of the air. It’s symptomatic of one of the problem’s this series faces: Superman’s personality is being over-shadowed by that of artist Kenneth Rocafort.
Drew: Ironically, I’m kind of a sucker for stories about con men. I like movies like Matchstick Men and Catch Me if You Can more than they probably deserve, and the scams from LOST and Justice League Dark might be my favorite parts of those series. With so many compelling, relatable con artists running around fiction, it’s easy for me to forget that they’re generally bad guys. It’s somewhat understandable that they aren’t depicted negatively more often; we like to think that we’re smart, and that the protagonists we identify with are also smart, so it’s a risky move to depict a hero being taken in by a scam. Mike Johnson attempts that risky move in Supergirl 15, with decidedly mixed results.
Drew: We’re pretty big fans of meta-commentary here at Retcon Punch. That is, the notion that the way a story is told can reflect the themes of the narrative itself (or vice versa), adding another level of meaning to the work, and often some kind of experiential element. This can happen when a character experiences time in an unusual way, or when our expectations for a title might be unreasonable, but we generally treat those moments as specifically designed by the creators to speak to our own experience of the title. Tom DeFalco isn’t responsible for the strange identity crisis Superboy (the series) has experienced in the New 52 (at least, not solely responsible), but issue 15 finds him tying that in beautifully to Kon’s own identity issues. Continue reading →
Drew: For being a site run by DC fanboys (and girls), we’re not great about covering Superman’s corner of the DC universe. In fact, aside from a few annuals and zero month, we’ve barely covered any titles anchored by DC’s oldest superhero. There’s plenty to not like about the way DC has handled Supes in the New 52, but our two biggest problems hinge around the increasingly strained explanations to superpower villains and the often lazy assumption that Krypton is automatically interesting. With Supergirl 14, the H’el on Earth crossover seems poised to give us an emotionally satisfying exploration of both of those ideas, which could serve as an important turning point for the Superman family.
Today, Drew and (special guest writer) Nick Idell are discussing Superboy 0, originally released September 12, 2012. Superboy 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Drew: I’ve never been a big fan of origin stories. They tend to be overly plotty, displacing more telling character moments in favor of unwieldy exposition. In short, I see them as a necessary evil we often need to get out of the way before the real story can begin. It’s unfortunate, then, that I live in an age where superhero origin stories are so ubiquitous, every third Spider-Man movie needs to revisit that well. We’ve fetishized origins, pushing them to ever-increasing complexity, straining the very limits of pre-title copy that attempts to explain it all. “The Supergirl and Robin of Earth-2 are trapped on Earth-1” sounds relatively snappy, but likely requires an explanation of what the fuck Earth-2 is, and how exactly they get trapped in the first place. These baroque origins relay details, which requires more space to properly explore, resulting even more bloated exposition. “Scientists clone Superman” is such a clean, self-contained idea, but Superboy 0 finds writer Tom DeFalco ladling on the details, buddying the message into an inexplicable hash.