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 →
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 →
Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Old Man Logan 1, originally released January 27th, 2016.
Michael: Comic books are full of lofty, almost impossible goals — typically on the part of the villain. We know all of the classics: world domination, citywide destruction, and the death of their most hated hero nemesis. The Joker might win small battles, but ultimately he will never win the war. Does knowing that a character will never completely achieve his or her goals ruin the story for you? Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men Annual 1, originally released December 24th, 2014.
Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
Emma Coates, “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling”
Drew: This is a pretty well-worn axiom of fiction writing, and while I don’t have any qualms with the assertion that good coincidences are bad, I think it’s important to acknowledge that bad coincidences aren’t necessarily good. We’re all familiar with how deflating a Deus ex Machina resolution can be, but I firmly believe that an arbitrary, unlikely problem — a Diabolus ex Machina, if you will — can be just as bad. Actually, it might be worse; while we might understand a writer painting himself into a corner (thus requiring a miracle to get out of it), there’s no such justification for a coincidence up front. The arbitrary rules of sci-fi technology has always been a pet peeve of mine, but as the laws governing time-travel take center stage in All-New X-Men Annual 1, the conflict became a full-on Diabolus ex Machina, derailing what could have been a thrilling, emotional journey. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Green Arrow 34, originally released August 6th, 2014.
Spencer: Eighteen months ago, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino began their run on Green Arrow, which had been a meandering, mediocre title ever since the New 52 relaunch. Lemire and Sorrentino arrived with a distinct style and a strong, specific vision, quickly transforming the title into one worth paying attention to. Now — with the exception of next month’s Futures End tie-in — their run has drawn to a close, and more than ever it’s apparent how much effort the creative team has put into rehabilitating Green Arrow. Issue 34 gives the conflict between Ollie and Richard Dragon a happy ending, but it also lays bare Lemire and Sorrentino’s strategy for creating a compelling superhero comic. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing Green Arrow 33, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Spencer: Despite being the title character, throughout Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s run on Green Arrow Oliver Queen has largely been a pawn, pushed back and forth by businessmen, various factions of the mysterious Outsiders, and even members of his own family (or sometimes all three!), all trying to use him for their own means. After declaring his independence from the Outsiders, though, Oliver Queen has moved to the front-and-center of his book — as Richard Dragon says, they’re both kings now. There’s still a massive focus on the supporting cast, of course, but now Lemire is using the supporting cast to teach us more about Ollie. I don’t necessarily understand every revelation, but it’s still a refreshing change of pace. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Justice League United 1, originally released May 14th, 2014.
Patrick: My gateway to regularly reading comics was Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern from Rebirth to Blackest Night. That’s a lot of outer space nonsense, to be sure, but the series was so caught up with the spirit of invention and exploration that every new revelation was imbued with so much energy that I was never really overwhelmed with how silly it all was. I’m sensing some of that same untethered enthusiasm in Justice League Unlimted 1, but the connection I’m going to draw is far more literal — both feature the background conflict between the planets Rann and Thanagar. The Rann-Thanagar War is one of those dense hives of modern DC mythology, mired in conflicting histories and muddy storytelling. Hell, I’m not even sure Rann and Thanagar are two separate planets since the New 52 started. In this issue, Jeff Lemire tries to give identity to the characters and concepts that are notoriously bad at sticking to any one.
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Justice League United 0, originally released April 23rd, 2014.
Shelby: We’ve seen a few different ways to handle zero issues. Not, “I have no issues, and I don’t know how to handle it,” or “I have issues with the mathematical concept of null value,” but with comic book issues numbered 0. I’m a big fan of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s execution of the zero with Harley Quinn 0, which established the character and setting, but more importantly established the tone of the title. Heck, if you really want to explore the gamut of what a zero issue can do, check out our insanely full coverage of DC’s Zero Month two and a half years ago. A zero issue can be whatever the creative team wants to make of it, and Jeff Lemire and artist Mike McKone seem so eager to start this story they just want to dive right in.
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Arrow 27, originally released January 8th, 2014.
Patrick: The mystery is an amazingly compelling form of storytelling. It’s also pretty straightforward: there’s a piece of information we don’t have and the author assures us that the reward of experiencing the story will be having the mystery solved before our very eyes. But there’s one big drawback, principally that the subject of a mystery takes places in the past. Sure, a detective might stop a killer from killing a second time, but they’re working to figure out a thing that already happened. The mysteries of the Green Arrow universe are vast, but even the most stunning revelations play out in the past. That might leave us with an interesting present, but it’s hard not to feel like we’re a little late to the party. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Green Arrow 24, originally released October 2nd, 2013.
Spencer: Perspective is an amazing thing. Things that look small or large from far away end up being the exact opposite. Some items, when viewed from another angle, reveal surprising secrets. Even as a more metaphorical idea, perspective is pretty great; when I have trouble writing these reviews, sometimes I need to take a step back from the issue at hand, look at it from an entirely new perspective, and then I’ll find the angle I need. In Green Arrow 24, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino play with both forms of perspective as Shado takes on Richard Dragon and Ollie faces down Count Vertigo. Continue reading →