Batman 50

Alternating Currents: Batman 50, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman 50, originally released March 23rd, 2016.

Drew: The owner of my old LCS, Paul, was not a Batman fan. In his mind, a billionaire using his resources to “punch bad guys” was so misguided as to be immoral. Couldn’t Bruce Wayne do more good resolving the root causes of crime by building mixed-income housing or running programs for at-risk youth? Admittedly, Batman’s “punch bad guys” solution to crime lacks nuance, and seems increasingly outmoded the more we understand what causes crime in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s kind of key to Batman’s appeal — he can be a philanthropist on the side, sure, but nobody wants to read a comic where a guy dressed like a bat subsidizes grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods. To writer Scott Snyder’s credit, he started his run on Batman by having Bruce turn his attention to exactly that type of socioeconomic solution, a goal that forces within Gotham actively worked against. It was a smart move, but the fact that the Court of Owls would allow Bruce to be Batman, but drew the line at him rearranging the economic structure of Gotham speaks to just how ineffectual Batman is at affecting systemic change. With Batman 50, Snyder offers a more compelling justification for Batman — one that just might be the definitive answer to Paul’s criticisms. Continue reading

Batman 49

batman 49

Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Batman 49, originally released February 10th, 2016.

Spencer: One of the concepts that’s made Batman such a popular hero for the past 75 years is the idea that anybody could become Batman. None of us are alien refugees or Amazon princesses, none of us can expect to be struck by Speed Force lightning or bitten by a radioactive spider (and survive, at least), but with the right training, resources, and determination, anyone could become Batman; and sure, most of us don’t have access to the seemingly unlimited wealth, technology, or training Bruce Wayne had, but they’re at least goals that someone living in our real world could feasibly aspire to achieve. In Batman 49, though, Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette make all those qualifications — and, indeed, the very possibility of anyone besides Bruce Wayne ever truly becoming Batman — moot. Being Batman is about more than gear or training or money. Becoming Batman requires great, tragic sacrifice; it involves dying, whether figuratively or literally. Continue reading

Batman 48

batman 48

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 48 originally released January 20th, 2016.

Drew: There’s a concept in biology of “synapomorphy” which is, essentially, a trait that’s unique to one biological group (which can then be used to distinguish that group from all others). Milk production would be a synapomorphy of mammals, for example. What’s interesting is that these synapomorphies can pile up such that a given biological group might have many distinguishing characteristics — to expand on our mammal example, hair, inner ear bones, and a unique type of teeth are all synapomorphies. Each of these traits developed separately, but all have come to define mammals as a whole.

A similar thing can happen with the defining characteristics of fictional characters — particularly characters who exist in multiple media in stories told by multiple people. Batman is a prime example of this, with countless defining characteristics that range from costuming to gadgets to locations to supporting cast to overarching themes. Some were there more-or-less from the beginning, but others have become essential more recently as new stories are told. A few years ago, Patrick suggested that deconstructions of the Batman mythos have become so common as to become a defining characteristic of the character itself. I was initially skeptical — I can certainly think of plenty of great examples of Batman stories that are as straightforward as can be — but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that we’re living through the time when meta-commentary is becoming a defining characteristic of Batman storytelling. Or, at least, it’s a defining characteristic of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, but when they do it so well, it’s hard to argue that it should be any other way. Continue reading

Batman 47

batman 47

Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman 47 originally released December 9th, 2015.

Drew: I’ve complained before about the prescriptive nature of Chekhov’s Gun — that our awareness of Chekhov’s “rule” necessarily gives away elements of the ending. A great example of this is the first season of The Killing — I enjoyed it quite a bit, but Chekhov’s gun dictated that something must tie the mayoral campaign that features so heavily to the titular crime. The specifics can still surprise us, but we know we’re not being shown that stuff just for fun. Of course, the predictability of Chekhov’s rule loses its stranglehold on narratives that aren’t driven by plotting — say, a character study or a situational comedy. In those cases, we might actually be shown things just for fun (or nuance, or detail, etc). We tend to think of superhero comics as plot-driven narratives, but B-stories can often take on less plotty structures, as we learn more about a character, or are amused by their situation. It can be difficult, then, to know if a given element of a B-story represents a gun that will eventually go off, or just a portrait of someone who has a gun. These are the questions in my mind as Bruce grapples with his own obscured history in Batman 47. Continue reading

Batman 46

batman 46

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 46 originally released November 11th, 2015.

Michael: Batman 46 continues Scott Snyder’s ongoing query into what the legacy of Batman really means. The frightening Mr. Bloom continues to perform his preferred method of murder by poking his razor fingers through the bodies of various Gotham elite. Gordon and Julia momentarily put Bloom out of commission before he makes his inevitable escape. Geri Powers reveals a whole army of robo-batsuits and tells Gordon how she knows where Bloom is hiding and is going to mount an attack on him. Gordon pleads to let him get Bloom himself because he knows that this is all Bloom’s trap, which it is. Meanwhile, we have a brief scene where Bruce once again reassures Julie that he is not the same man and proposes to her. Another side story involves Duke Thomas breaking into The Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge in order to track down his missing parents and Mr. Bloom. Continue reading

Batman 45

batman 45

Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Batman 45, originally released October 14th, 2015.

Spencer: Does the man make Batman, or does Batman make the man? That seems to be the question at the heart of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Superheavy” arc, and with Bruce Wayne no longer under the cowl, it’s an especially timely one. Geri Powers, Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and even Duke Thomas all have different ideas of what role Batman (and Robin!) should play and how that role should be carried out, and those conflicting perspectives make Batman 45 a captivating exploration of the function and legacy of the Dark Knight. Continue reading

Batman 44

batman 44

Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Batman 44, originally released September 9th, 2015.

Michael: While Scott Snyder’s current Batman run could fit into the mold of “written for trade paperback collections,” he also likes his standalone issues. Batman 44 takes a reprieve from Jim Gordon’s inaugural Batman arc, “Superheavy,” to tell an all-too-real story about a murdered black teenager. Taking place shortly after Zero Year, the relatively new Batman does some detective work to find out a little more about this murdered teen: Peter Duggio. He discovers that Peter was mixed up with The Penguin, the Four Fives gang and a mysterious man (who readers know to be Mr. Bloom) who gave him some temporary super powers. When his powers ran out (Man-bat wings), Peter fell to his death. But before that he was shot four times by a police officer. Continue reading

Batman 43

batman 43

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman 43, originally released August 12th, 2015.

It seems like so many of these interpretations [of Batman] are somebody’s favorite. And the truth be told is that they all feel like it’s the same character. Regardless of how different they might be or how separate they might feel, they all feel like they’re Batman. They all feel true to the core conceit of what that character is.

Dan DiDio

Drew: As diverse as Batman stories can be, they’ve always shared some core tenants of who the character is and what he stands for. Or, maybe we need to be more specific — there have been a few different Batmen over the years, with some variation in guiding principles (and origin stories), but Bruce Wayne has always stood for the same things. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on this series has been a slow indictment of each of those guiding principles, from Batman’s relationship to Gotham to exactly where he falls on the “superstitious and cowardly” spectrum, but this issue takes away something even more central to Bruce than all of these things combined: his drive as a detective. Indeed, that seems to be the linchpin that makes Bruce Batman — without it, he’s almost unrecognizable. Continue reading