Best of 2016: Best Covers

best-covers-2016

You know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t judge the cover on its own merit. Some covers are so excellent that they pack all the drama, excitement and emotion of the whole issue into one succinct image. Sometimes they end up being their own surreal experience. And other times, we’re just exciting to see our favorite heroes kicking ass one more time. These are our top 10 covers of 2016. Continue reading

Robin: Son of Batman 9

robin son of batman 9

Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Robin: Son of Batman 9, originally released February 17th, 2016.

Spencer: Up until yesterday, I didn’t know that Robin: Son of Batman 9 was Patrick Gleason’s final issue as writer and penciller on the title. With the suddenness of the news — and the circumstances surrounding Gleason’s departure still unknown — it’s hard to tell whether this issue was meant to serve as the finale to his run, or was originally planned as the beginning of something more. Either way, it highlights Gleason’s greatest strengths as a creator, but a few of his more notable weaknesses as well. Continue reading

Robin: Son of Batman 6

robin son of batman 6

Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Robin: Son of Batman 6, originally released November 25th, 2015.

Spencer: “Redemption” can be an awfully selfish pursuit if the person seeking redemption is more interested in clearing their own name and conscience than about alleviating the pain they’ve caused others. I certainly wouldn’t accuse Damian Wayne of being selfish, but he is young, and still learning just what, exactly, redemption and forgiveness are all about. In Robin: Son of Batman 6, Patrick Gleason uses the events of the past five issues to teach Damian an entirely new definition of redemption, one focused more on others than himself. Continue reading

Robin: Son of Batman 5

Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Robin: Son of Batman, originally released October 28, 2015.

Michael: Here’s an odd question: do you ever have cognitive dissonance about traditional story progression when you’re reading a particular comic book? I know I do. I’ve been exposed to so many comic book series and arcs that I have been conditioned in a way. I often find myself judging the pace of a series and when it hits certain plot points – all based on standards set by prior comic books. Do stories need to be examined with such a focused lens? Or can we as the readers let go of any preconceived notions and trust that the creator has an intentional plan? Continue reading

Robin: Son of Batman 2

robin 2Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Robin: Son of Batman 2, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Spencer: We see a lot of redemption stories in comics (and in pop culture in general), and while many of them end in death, almost all of them end with the person seeking redemption finding some sort of forgiveness. Yes, the ideas of atoning for past crimes and being forgiven for them tend to go hand-in-hand, but should they? It’s an interesting notion, one which Patrick Gleason seems interested in examining throughout Robin: Son of Batman 2. Damian Wayne is out to atone for a year full of horrors he committed before becoming Robin, but atoning for some crimes is clearly going to be much harder than atoning for others — and it may simply come to down to who he’s seeking redemption from. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 40

batman and robin 40

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 40, originally released March 25th, 2015.

Drew: Bruce Wayne’s back was broken. Otto Octavius took over Peter Parker’s body. Superman had a mullet. Steve Rogers was dead. We often talk derisively of these kinds of easily-reversed changes in superhero comics because they seem gimmicky and cheap — what better way to boost sales than to trumpet the death of Superman? — but I’d actually argue that these stories offer a clever way of exploring what makes these heroes great. Moreover, they remind us not to take what we like about these characters for granted. Fewer characters have been put through quite so many changes recently as Damian Wayne, who has both died and gained superpowers, so while Batman and Robin 40 ends with him back in his non-dead, non-superpowered state, it’s actually kind of refreshing. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 38

batman and robin 38
Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Batman and Robin 38, originally released January 21st, 2015.

Mark: One of the complaints leveled at comic books is that nothing ever sticks. A character dies, only to be brought back at the next best opportunity. Damian was dead, but now he’s back. Reborn Damian has super powers, but it’s probably only a matter of time before he’s de-powered. Does the inevitability detract from what’s happening now? As a reader, that’s not something that’s ever bothered me. My only expectation/hope when reading a series is that individual arcs will be satisfying. Comic books are mini-rebooting between arcs all the time. If a good arc is followed by a bad arc, it doesn’t diminish what came before. 

Batman has had a lot of surrogate children over the years (it seems like recently we’re having a Robin graduation every year or so), but there’s obviously something unique about his relationship with Damian. It’s been a long journey to Damian’s resurrection, and finally seeing the Dynamic Duo back in action is a lot of fun. Still in the end, as much as this is sold as a new beginning, this issue is more of a concluding chapter to the Robin Rises saga. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 37

batman and robin 37Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 37, originally released December 17th, 2014.

…for us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

-The Nicene Creed

Patrick: Growing up in the Catholic church, I always had a little bit of a problem with this part of the Nicene Creed. On the one hand, it’s very clear: Jesus sacrificed everything — including his life — in order to save the whole world from sin. But on the other hand, death didn’t share any of the long-lasting consequences it does for anyone else. Jesus died, but then he returned, three days later. What’s more is that he transcends his human flesh and embraces his fully divine nature by hanging out with God in heaven. While the drama of death and resurrection is enough to stir a body to faith, it betrays a fundamental truth about death. What’s hard about death isn’t that someone dies, it’s that they stay dead. And yet, this narrative — of death and rebirth — is so powerful it’s one of the stops on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Batman and Robin has allowed Bruce Wayne to deal with Damian’s death in grounded, real ways for almost two years, but now that “resurrection” is in play, subtlety goes right out the window. This is Damian, the bat-Christ-figure to beat the band, and he only marches back on the field to fireworks. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 35

batman and robin 35Today, Spencer and Shane are discussing Batman and Robin 35, originally released October 15th, 2014.

Spencer: We here at Retcon Punch haven’t been subtle about our love of Batman’s new Hellbat armor. The suit is awesome, and what’s better is that it isn’t just some gimmick meant to push toys; writer Peter Tomasi has created “realistic” (in comic book terms, at least) reasons for the Hellbat’s great power and for why Batman needs to use it in this particular situation. Still, he and penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz understand just how cool the Hellbat is, and much of Batman and Robin 35’s success comes from how the creative team chooses to portray the suit — which, in some cases, means not showing it at all. The issue is visually dazzling, and the artists know which types of imagery to use to best convey the stories both on Apokolips and on Earth. Continue reading

Batman and Robin 34

batman and robin 34

Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Mark are discussing Batman and Robin 34, originally released August 20th, 2014.

Patrick: When The Death of the Family was heading into its final issue, Scott Snyder appeared in a ton of interviews claiming that this conclusion was going to have a lasting effect on Batman and the Batfamily. But after that story line wrapped up, Snyder took his own series into Batman’s past, conveniently avoiding working through much of this fallout. Similarly, Grant Morrison killed Damian in Batman Incorporated, but wrapped up his series only a few issues later. The emotional heavy lifting as fallen to Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, who have dutifully presented the most erratic, emotional and frustrating Batman possible. Everything that Batman is — the selfless knight of justice, the patriarch of the Batfamily, the infallible detective — has been undermined in the wake of these twin tragedies. Understandably, that pushes Batman away from his readers, and his alienation from the world started to reflect the audiences’ alienation from the character. In issue 34, Tomasi and Gleason have Bruce offer a naked apology to his protégés, but they’re also inviting us to trust Batman again. Fuck yes: I’m ready to forgive. Continue reading