This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Crossover comics almost always have a problem of feeling overstuffed. There are two complete casts of characters and two different worlds, all of which need to be honored in one way or another. Harley and Ivy meet Betty and Veronica 1 packs in a ton of individual character personalities, but ultimately fails to juggle them all at once. By the time we get to the climactic costume party, we’re tracking Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Kevin, Sabrina, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, to say nothing of Hiram and Smithers, who we can assume are all on-site somewhere. Artist Laura Braga does some incredible design work in this issue (so many costumes!), but continuity of space totally falls apart with so many players in a scene. This issue is at its best at its simplest, but it so seldom sticks to simplicity. Continue reading →
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.
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 →
Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing All-Star Batman 7, originally released February 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: A sympathetic villain is one whose immoral actions are motivated by noble intentions. Rather than being an outright force of evil, the sympathetic villain tends to have an ultimate goal — the ends of which justify the means. As a mass audience we tend to like our villains to be at least somewhat sympathetic — allowing us to latch on to some human emotion and understand them. You know who also likes to sympathize with his villains? Batman. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Batgirl 6, originally released December 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS!
Michael: Everyone loves a good ol’ fashioned superhero team-up, but what’s rarer is the superhero/supervillain team-up. Are they permanently at odds and butting heads or can they find a common ground? Do they even really need to fight at all, or can they just kind of…agree to hang out?
Batgirl 6 subtitles itself as a “Beyond Burnside Epilogue,” but outside having Barbara Gordon flying back from China and one brief mention of her adventures there this is very much a standalone issue. What Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque actually give us is a Gotham version of Snakes on a Plane: sans snakes, with plants. Babs just so happens to be on the same flight back to the states as Poison Ivy, who has a prehistoric, rotted flesh-smelling plant in tow. Ivy didn’t expect her plant pal — Aristolochia pugnaculi – to wake up so she teams up with Batgirl to stop the beastly plant from crashing plane. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Harley Quinn Valentine’s Special 1, originally released February 11th, 2015.
Spencer: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti had a rough road ahead of them when tasked with refashioning Harley Quinn into the star of her own comic book. A villain protagonist must walk a fine line, being sympathetic enough to earn the audience’s affection while still villainous enough to avoid losing the spark that drew readers to them in the first place. Conner and Palmiotti’s approach to Harley Quinn has often involved pitting their villain protagonist against people even worse than she is, having her stand up for animal rights, and giving her a sort-of family in the form of her tenants; judging from sales numbers, it’s been a successful tactic, but has Harley become a better person in the process? Despite being a holiday special, that’s the question at the heart of Harley Quinn Valentine’s Special 1, and it’s a surprisingly rich question to ask, even if the answer is a bit unclear, and the question often muddied and buried within the oversized issue’s many tangents and asides. Continue reading →
February 14th is about three things: socks with hearts on them, discount chocolates on the 15th, and corny Valentines cards for your friends. We can’t really share the first two with you, our loyal readers, but boy can we share the third! A couple years ago we made a bunch of corny Valentine’s Day cards, and we had so much fun we did it again last year. Because we’re once, twice, three times a lady, we’ve done it again and made a new batch of Valentines for you all. Feel free to print and pass them out to the nerds you love the most, just keep our name on them, huh? More after the break.
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Batgirl Annual 2, originally released April 30th, 2014.
Shelby: A couple years ago I saw Melancholia in the theater, I believe with the esteemed Retcon Puncher Taylor. Spoiler alert: it’s probably the most depressing move I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, but calling it a downer would be an understatement. In it, Kirsten Dunst plays an extremely depressed woman; at one point, she is physically incapable of getting out of bed, relying completely on her sister’s aid. For me, it raised the question of how much leeway should we give people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. While I was watching the movie, I was distracted by how seemingly mean the rest of the characters were to this severely ill woman, but you have to step back and think about the impact her illness has had on their lives. At what point do those closest to someone with this sort of disease finally snap from dealing with it, and can we really blame them for doing so? And finally, what happens when that mental illness manifests itself as super-powered criminal activity? (Okay, that last question is more about the Batgirl annual than Melancholia, but you get the idea.)
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Harley Quinn 3, originally released February 19th, 2014.
Drew: When someone accuses a joke of “going too far,” they tend to mean that it is offensive — that it has left the concept of good taste behind in the pursuit of a bigger laugh. But offensiveness isn’t the only metric of taste. Indeed, I would argue that even the most family-friendly humor can take its core concepts “too far,” neglecting to cultivate the expectations that jokes are designed to subvert. Taken too far, scenarios become unrecognizable, characters become unrelatable, and irony curdles into nihilism. It’s the reason I can’t really get into Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! — I’m unable to form a frame of reference for why it’s even supposed to be funny, making the experience little more than a parade of one-note awkwardness. I found myself feeling the same things as I read Harley Quinn 3, as the series continues to stretch its own rules to the breaking point. When absolutely anything is possible, it’s hard to be surprised by a punchline. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion 5, originally released February 12th, 2014.
Patrick: Let’s talk a little bit about the need for, and the necessity of, spectacle in superhero comics. At first blush, it seems absolutely crucial, right? If our characters aren’t using their powers and punching each other in the face and teleporting and zapping each other with lightning, then like, what’s the point of making them superheroes in the first place? There’s something about the non-stop, out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire pacing of Rogues’ Rebellion that feels like superhero comics stripped down past the concepts of good and evil and great responsibility all that stuff. It’s pure adrenaline-powered action, with only a modicum of scheming to slow things down. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that these are Flash’s baddies — and that we even get some time with Johnny Quick — as the plot ramps up to a fever pitch heading to the conclusion. Continue reading →
Spencer: Back in the summer of 2010 I was obsessed with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comics, and eagerly awaited the release of their movie adaptation. I spent the weeks leading up to it reading and rereading the comics and preparing myself for the awesomeness I knew the movie would surely be. After I actually saw the movie, though, I was oddly disappointed by the many changes made between it and the comics. It took me quite a while to reconcile the two versions, but once I did, I ended up seeing it twice more in theaters and it quickly became my favorite movie. I had a similar experience reading Detective Comics 28 this week. After last month’s introduction to the “Gothtopia” storyline I was expecting a lot out of this issue—specifically, more exploration of this new Gotham utopia—but the story ended up veering in another direction entirely. I was disappointed at first, but fortunately, the story I got instead ended up being pretty enjoyable in its own right. Continue reading →