Drew: Determining a level of focus is perhaps the most important step in evaluating a work of art. These foci are specific to the style at hand — harmonic analysis is likely going to tell you very little about a rap song, just as an examination of brush strokes wouldn’t add much to a discussion of da Vinci. Intriguingly, these styles often begin to resemble each other as you zoom in and out — abstract paintings may share concepts of form, color, or composition with those of the Rennaisance masters, for example — further increasing the importance focus in an analysis. Geoff Johns has always written “big” — he’s been at the helm (or at least sharing the helm) of some of DC’s most important events over the past decade — and his writing has often chafed at the analyses of his critics. Justice League of America 7 actually avoids many of the pitfalls Johns is often cited for (a lot of stuff actually happens here), but it still has me wondering if we’re simply using the wrong tool for the job of evaluating a giant, Geoff Johns-penned event. Continue reading →
Patrick: Comic books have an unhealthy relationship with death. For superheroes and their enemies and friends and families, death is a temporary setback. It’s such a common assumption that heroes will come back from the dead, and that assumption affects our language as we talk about these characters. Here’s a good example — in the blurb introducing the new Marvel series Superior Foes of Spider-Man, the editor explains the conceit of the series by saying:
…One thing they have in common is their shared hatred for their nemesis, the Superior Spider-Man — even if he’s possessed by their old boss Otto Octavius at the moment.
“At the moment?” Dude, come on, let’s commit to the idea that Peter Parker is dead. Otherwise, he’s not dead — he’s on vacation. So, it’s nice a character so integral to DC’s mythology journey all the way to heaven only to discover that he can’t just pluck the souls of his family from the afterlife.
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Phantom Stranger 2, originally released November 14th, 2012.
Shelby: To me, the Phantom Stranger is a very old-fashioned kind of “hero.” There’s virtually no way to make the hard-boiled, fedora-wearing, mysterious man in the shadows seem like anything but old-fashioned. With his current origin as (probably) Judas Iscariot, he fits into that nebulous, religious category with The Spectre (of God’s Vengeance, for those of you keeping score). Unsurprisingly, he’s in here too; also not surprising, he’s an old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective. So, when Dan DiDio includes these characters with far more contemporary references, like kiddie soccer games and Star Wars quotes, it doesn’t fail so much as it just feels disingenuous.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Phantom Stranger 1, originally released October 10th, 2012.
Taylor: A long time ago I was talking to a friend about how we enjoy the use of biblical imagery and myth in our media. Neither of us is particularly religious but we both had to admit that there is something really engaging about the use of stories and symbols that have been a primary pillar of western civilization for over 2000 years. When an author is able to integrate religious themes into his or her work without bludgeoning you over the head with theology, the result is often highly entertaining, as fans of John Constantine will attest. However, it can never be stated enough that the author must have a clear vision in mind when alluding to religious imagery. While borrowing from a story here or a symbol there is fine, the most important thing is that it all hangs together with a clear vision held by the author. Phantom Stranger teeters on the edge of this abyss and in the proper first issue of the series the reader has to wonder on which side it will fall.
The Retcon Punch editors want to extend a HUGE thank-you to everyone that helped cover all 55 Zero Issues released in the month of September. And an additional thank you to the new readers that have been enriching the conversations in our comment sections. We couldn’t have done it with out you – and really, without you, what would be the point?
In that spirit, let’s all reflect on Zero Month. What were some of your favorite Zero Issues? What were your least favorite? Did any of these issues serve as an effective entry-point for you? What trends did you notice? Are these kinds of line-wide events fun, or a pain in the ass? Welcome to the Chat Cave.
In October, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman series will be reintroducing the Joker to the New 52 continuity, reigniting one of the greatest rivalries in comics history. But what does it mean for a hero to have a nemesis? Are nemeses important to the identity of a superhero? Who are the best nemeses? Welcome to the Chat Cave.
Shelby: A nemesis is an important character in a comic book. It’s an opportunity for stories to explore the dark side of our heroes. Very often, the nemesis represents the “flip side of the coin” of the hero; they are what the hero would be without the sense of morality and justice. The nemesis tests the hero to find his limits, and tries to push the hero past them. Also, the nemesis is an easy trick to pull out of the bag when you’re stuck for a plot.
With the release of the Zero Issues in September, DC is publishing origin stories for all of their current New 52 series. (Not so fast, JLI). They will also be introducing 4 new series by this same method. What are your thoughts on the new books? Are you interested in getting more origins on stories that just started over a year ago? With the sheer number of events and crossovers since the relaunch, is this just another easy cash grab or a meaningful addition to universe?
Peter: It is no secret that I love backstory and history. With the announcement of #0 issues that coincide with the 1 year anniversary of the New 52, I was pretty stoked. For me, these #0 issues, along with a ‘Third Wave’ with 3 interesting titles, there is probably NO WAY this could go bad. But then again, after some thinking there are DEFINITELY ways it could, and that’s what worries me.
Today, Patrick, Drew, Peter and Shelby are discussing The New 52 1, originally released on Free Comic Book Day, May 5th, 2012.
Patrick: Now that the dust has settled and we’re all able to calm down after a thrilling Free Comic Book Day, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. The issue that DC released was anything but an easy entry-point, packing in more characters and mythology than we’ve seen in any single issue since the relaunch. This book makes a lot of intriguing promises for long-time fans, but I doubt new readers were all that excited to spend 11 pages following a character they’ve never heard of.
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Justice League 6, originally released February 29th, 2012.
Shelby: I can appreciate the appeal of tradition. There is something very appealing to me about doing things “the old-fashioned way.” This isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate innovation, either, far from it. I just enjoy the comfort of doing things the way they’ve always been done. To me, this issue of Justice League is definitely a “classic comic book story.” Two parts action, one part cheesy dialogue, it’s precisely what you expect, and sometimes that’s what you want. There’s a fine line, however, between the enjoying the comfort of a classic and being frustrated by the same nonsense you’ve seen again and again. A very, very fine line… Continue reading →