Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Justice League of America 1, originally released June 17th, 2015.
Michael: I’m having a difficult time managing my expectations with this new direction that DC is putting out. Curiously, I’m being overly optimistic that these new books will be excellent and do away with the New 52ishness of recent memory. Basically, I’m falling for DC’s sales pitch hook, line, and sinker. While Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America 1 has some trappings of the New 52, I think he’s trying to blaze his own trail with DC’s trademark team. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and (guest writer) Shane are discussing Batman/Superman 3.1: Doomsday, originally released September 25th, 2013.
Spencer: Doomsday is a hard character to write. Of course he’s a legendary, unstoppable force, but he’s also a personality-less beast with little depth beyond an insatiable desire to destroy Superman. In short, he was a gimmick, but a wildly successful gimmick; considering all of that, I was quite curious going into this issue about what Greg Pak would do with the character. Much to my surprise, Pak decided to write a Doomsday story about how the monster’s legend affects various generations of his victims. It’s a novel approach, but I admit, some unclear or missing parts of the story make it a bit hard for me to figure out what exactly Pak is trying to say. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and guest writer Jennie Seidewand are discussing Action Comics 23.2: Zod, originally released September 11th, 2013. This issue is part of the Villain’s Month event. Click here for our Villains Month coverage.
Drew: The final shot of “Face Off,” Breaking Bad‘s season 4 finale, is absolutely devastating, revealing exactly what lengths Walt was willing to go to in order to survive. It’s a paradigm-shifting twist, one that challenges much of what we thought we knew about the character, and one that risks alienating the audience by keeping them in the dark. It’s an incredible feat that that reveal doesn’t fly Breaking Bad off of the rails — one that can largely be attributed to the fact that the series had long been about Walt’s lies and desperation, and about testing the audience’s sympathy for him. Writer Greg Pak employs a similar tactic in Action Comics 23.2: Zod, keeping the audience in the dark about Zod’s crimes until long after the fact. Unfortunately, without four seasons of incremental steps towards that crime, the reveal lacks any actual surprise. Continue reading →
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: I likes me a good anti-hero. There’s nothing quite like cheering for a character’s success and failure at the same time. Let’s take Walter White as a perfect example of this in modern fiction. He is a terrible husband and father, and an even worse friend, who makes dangerous decisions in the name of greed, power and desperation. And yet, I cheer every single one of his personal victories, no matter how immoral they might be. So much of Breaking Bad is about that character finding a way to feel powerful in the face of illness and poverty, and about how that need to feel powerful never goes away. The ride is exhilarating because there’s nothing more satisfying than a character with agency. Say what you will about Walter White — he has goals and he takes the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Supergirl has no such agency. She spends the majority of issue 17, fighting Wonder Woman just because, and then stops fighting her for equally arbitrary reasons. Neither a hero, nor an anti-hero, Supergirl ends up the clueless victim of her own series.
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.
Drew: Supergirl really drew the short straw on this crossover event. She very quickly aligned herself with a villainous cipher whose motives and methods have yet to be fully explained, which makes her gullible at best, downright stupid at worst — traits we generally don’t associate with heroic figures. We could excuse some of this based on her desire to return to Krypton, but each moment she spends with H’el without asking for just a little more information strains credulity that much further. Supergirl 16 does well, then, to give Kara time away from H’el, reasserting that this character — and this series — might just have some agency after all. Continue reading →
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.
Shelby: It’s the holidays again, which means we must all learn the lesson: families are hard. As an adult, visiting your family forces you back to the person you used to be when your were a child. Sometimes, that’s a hard thing to reconcile with the person you’ve become. I’m super lucky; my family understands I’ve become my own person, and respects the choices I’ve made. I know there are LOTS of people for whom that isn’t the case. Clark Kent, on the other hand, is super unlucky in this regard. He spent all of his life thinking all his family was dead. Suddenly, he’s got a cousin who hates everything he loves and an adopted brother who not only hates everything he loves, but is also hell-bent on destroying it. Oh, and a clone. That makes for a real awkward Christmas dinner.