Batman 44: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Mark: Comic book characters locked into perpetual monthly stories can never really change; someone like Batman is an archtype unto himself, and if you mess with that alchemy too much, you threaten to change what Batman is. I used to think of this limitation as a bug in serialized comic storytelling, that the lack of permanent change in a character somehow devalued the overall impact any specific authorial choices could have, but I’m beginning to see it as a huge advantage. Continue reading

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Strength in Teamwork in Batman 43

By Drew Baumgartner

Batman 43

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

On the surface, grief and regret may not seem all that similar; one deals with an inescapable force of nature, the other is preoccupied with (potentially avoidable) personal failures. I might argue that regret is a kind of grief, albeit over the death of an idea or an opportunity, as opposed to a loved one, but there’s a more fundamental commonality between these two: how personal they feel. This can make both grief and regret feel very lonely, potentially driving us away from the friends and family who might want to support us through those difficult times. It’s a trap Ivy falls into, trying to go it alone in the face of her own grief and regrets, but Batman and Catwoman (and the entire creative team behind Batman 43) have a better way. Continue reading

Knowing Your Opponent in Batman 42

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

About halfway through my first read of Batman 42, as Poison Ivy (through her minions) dangled Catwoman upside-down from a skyscraper, I suddenly remembered that the two characters are supposed to be friends. As if reading my mind, a few pages later Tom King and Mikel Janin addressed this head-on, with Selina appealing to their friendship and Ivy claiming that Selina doesn’t know the first thing about her. Apparently Ivy’s bid at world domination is meant to be benign, charitable even — a genuine attempt from her to fix the world, to redeem for past crimes. Apparently there was a rock of regret inside her that not even her closest friends and allies knew about — but Batman knows. His entire plan, and his eventual, inevitable victory, revolves around him having nailed down Ivy’s motives and methods. Continue reading

Batman 41: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Ryan Mogge

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: The traditional superhero narrative can boil down to “hero is on top, villain arrives and takes over, hero defeats villain and the status-quo is restored.” There will be a period — however long or brief — where the villain has won and all hope is lost. Instead of showing a gradual build to that moment of defeat, Batman 41 starts us off there. Instead of opening with the first act optimism of A New Hope, Batman 41 goes right for the bleak Empire Strikes Back act break. Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Series

Series

We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2017.  Continue reading

Batman 32: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 32

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I don’t know.

Teenager, Traditional

Drew: I used to work as an Assistant Dean for an academic enrichment program — basically, high-school students would come to a college campus for a few weeks over the summer to take some classes and get a feel for dorm living. The Dean’s office was there to keep kids out of trouble, or, more accurately, to address the trouble that the kids inevitably got into. Most of the time, the motives for their infractions were clear enough — they skipped class because it was boring or they tried to sneak into the girl’s dorm to see their girlfriend — but every so often, a kid would do something so inexplicable, the first question had to be “why?” And the answer, invariably, was “I don’t know.” Sometimes, our better judgement eludes us, allowing weird impulses or emotions to lead us to actions we can neither explain nor defend. It’s a phenomenon that teens are particularly prone to, with their hormonally-charged emotions and only-partially-developed impulse control, but it happens to adults, too (even sober ones). It is one of these moments that turns out to be Bruce Wayne’s “greatest sin,” as the climax of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” leads him to a rare flash of moral weakness. Continue reading

A Revealing Interruption in Batman 31

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There’s that part in The Princess Bride where the narrator announces the King died in the night and Buttercup was married to Prince Humperdink the next day. It’s a jarring bit of information, totally incongruous with the story we’ve come to expect, but the more impressive feat of storytelling is Fred Savage’s interruption a few seconds later. Savage’s character cuts in on Humperdink’s “My father’s final words were…” with an impetuous “hold it, hold it!” The effect his immediate: the audience is reminded why we’re watching this story in the first place. “Trust me,” the film implies “even if you’re momentarily upset, you’re going to have fun in the end.” Tom King and Mikel Janín’s Batman 31 pulls off a similar interruption, emphasizing the riddle (or is it the joke?) at the heart of this story arc: why is Bruce telling Selina about the War of Jokes and Riddles? Continue reading

Choosing a Side in Batman 29

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Marvel’s various takes on their Civil War franchise have all urged readers to “choose a side.” That’s not an approach Tom King and Mikel Janin can really take with “The War of Jokes and Riddles” though, because who wants to support either side of a war waged by sadistic supervillains? Yet, that’s exactly where Batman finds himself in Batman 29 — forced to pick between supporting either the Joker or the Riddler if he wants to end this war once and for all. Continue reading

Batman’s Biggest Weakness is Gotham City in Batman 28

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

What is Batman’s weakness? Some might say his mortality, some might say his relationships, while others might argue that Batman has no weaknesses. Batman 28 argues that Batman’s largest, most vulnerable spot might be Gotham City itself. Continue reading

Batman 26: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Batman 26

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

Joseph Stalin

Drew: Joseph Stalin likely never uttered this phrase, but while its provenance may be dubious, it’s hard to argue with its sentiment. We’ve all experienced this personally; individual deaths carry with them the nuance and beauty of the decedent’s death in a way that dozens of deaths simply can’t. Each of those deaths are felt singularly by the loved ones they affect, to be sure, but the rest of us can’t really fit the sum of those tragedies into our brain. They become, for lack of a better term, a statistic. This is why war stories are so rare in superhero comics — the higher death count doesn’t necessarily equal higher emotional stakes, so killing swaths of civilians runs the risk of making any one of those deaths lose whatever oomph it might have on its own. Writer Tom King seems keenly aware of how easy it would be for the victims of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” to become statistics, taking pains to emphasize just how deeply Batman feels each of those deaths. Continue reading