A Quiet, Touching Pay-Off in All-Star Batman 14

by Mark Mitchell

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

All-Star Batman has been an interesting coda to Scott Snyder’s prolific run on Batman. While never reaching the sustained highs of Batman in its best years, All-Star has allowed Snyder to experiment with the type of Batman stories he tells. Not every arc has been a knockout — I don’t know how into Alfred-Pennyworth-as-ninja I am, really — but there is something inherently interesting in watching an artist stretch himself. Continue reading

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[Obscuring] Place in All-Star Batman 13

by Patrick Ehlers

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

When I was a kid, my family used to spend parts of our summer vacation at a cabin in the woods outside of Hayward, Wisconsin with our good family friends, the Pfarrs. The Cabin — which was all we ever called it — had a kind of romantic mythology about it, slowly crafted by years upon years of family bonding. There was a ill-used road into town that we had nicknamed “sneak path,” and which carried a (probably bogus) story about a young couple driving too fast along it and slipping in raccoon guts and driving off the road. We were all told that the Cabin itself was drunkenly constructed backwards, so that delightful front porch was meant to be in back, overlooking the lake. I have no idea if that last one is true, but to this day it feels right. I close my eyes and I see this space – it’s a comfort, a complete flash-memory, and the most common setting for my dreams. It’s a place of subconscious and unconditional love. In All-Star Batman 13, writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque tap into the connection between place and relationships. Continue reading

Alfred’s Past Shines a New Light on His Relationship with Bruce in All-Star Batman 11

by Spencer Irwin

All-Star Batman 11

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

Alfred fills a peculiar role in Batman’s world. He’s Bruce’s father figure, but also his servant; he’s the Dark Knight’s staunchest ally, but also his greatest critic. The one thing these disparate titles have in common is that they cast Alfred as a supporting player — indeed, it’s often easy to forget that Alfred Pennyworth is a man with his own life and history, not just someone who cleans up after Batman. That’s something Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are out to change in “The First Ally,” a storyline that dives into Alfred’s past and uses his history with his father to shine a new light on his relationship with Bruce. Continue reading

All-Star Batman 10

Today, Mark and Michael are discussing All-Star Batman 10, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: It’s easy to take post-Crisis Alfred Pennyworth for granted: faithful household butler to Thomas and Martha Wayne who takes young Master Bruce under his wing as a surrogate father, guiding Bruce through the toughest years of his life. Alfred is Batman’s Batman, the person responsible for keeping the trains running on time, and the last man standing in Bruce’s corner when everyone else is against him. This characterization of Alfred is so ingrained in our consciousness thanks to the movies, animated television shows, video games, and, of course, comic books that have released post-Crisis, propelling the Bat Family’s cultural cache into a larger multimedia stratosphere than they’ve ever experienced before. But like most comic books characters, the Alfred we now know is not the Alfred that always existed. Continue reading

Batgirl 6

batgirl-6

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

Batgirl 5

batgirl-5

Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Batgirl 5, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: The human face communicates so much information that can’t be conveyed as effectively with words. We’re trained from an early age to pay attention in a conversation to not just what’s being said, but also to the subtle clues the face of our conversation partner provides. The same is true in art. When working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, one of the challenges for the artists of the Walt Disney Studios was learning to convey realistic emotions in their heroine’s face, since they couldn’t rely on the cartoony stretch and squish they were used to. Nowadays, when striving to create photorealistic humans for movies and video games, artists struggle with the Uncanny Valley — so well trained are we at studying our fellow humans’ faces that we become uneasy when something is just a tiny bit off. Continue reading

Huck 5

Today,  Ryan M. and Michael are discussing Huck 5, originally released March 16, 2016.

Ryan M.: One of those maxims that you hear all the time in writing classes is that conflict reveals character. Until a character is tested, you really can’t know who they are. It’s in times of turmoil that people show what they value and what they’re willing to sacrifice. By the same token, the unchallenged winner is under no obligation to show their cards. It’s easy to be invulnerable in victory. Unfortunately, lack of emotional openness does not inspire engagement. Continue reading

Huck 2

huck 2

Today, Michael and Ryan M. are discussing Huck 2, originally released December 16, 2015.

Michael: The tale of Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque’s altruistic and gentle giant continues in Huck 2. As scores of people gather outside, Huck has been holed up in his house under the watchful eye of his friendly neighbors. While his neighbors seem content to keep Huck hidden from the potential scorn and judgement of the media, Huck needs to go outside and help people. Because that’s just what Huck does. Huck generously accepts the calls for help then goes out into the world to right these wrongs, with a large group of watchers-by in tow. The issue gives us a little more insight into Huck’s origins, as we are introduced to his (twin?) brother. We are also introduced to a character referred to only as “Mrs. Jones,” who seems to have telepathic powers, perhaps due to Soviet experimentation. Continue reading

American Vampire: Second Cycle 2

american vampire 2Today, Scott and Greg are discussing American Vampire: Second Cycle 2, originally released April 16th, 2014.

Scott: Horror is a difficult genre for me. I have a tendency to avoid it because I don’t like gore. It’s to my own detriment, I’ll admit,  since I love the tension that only comes from good horror stories. I love that sense of dread, that pervasive fear of the unknown, the idea that something — anything — could emerge from the dark at any moment. That sort of tension is interesting to me, because it doesn’t imply that anything scary is happening, or even will happen, just that it could, at any moment. I swear there’s an episode in the final season of Breaking Bad with a low, ominous tone running through the whole thing, start to finish. It’s almost comical, really, but it made for a damn compelling hour of TV. Tension like that has to be earned, and when it is, it’s the best. American Vampire: Second Cycle 2 is at that level. For my money, this is as good as horror gets.

Continue reading

American Vampire: Second Cycle 1

Alternating Currents: American Vampire 1, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing American Vampire: Second Cycle 1, originally released March 19th, 2014.

The second button literally makes or breaks the shirt, look at it: it’s too high! It’s in no-man’s-land.

Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld

Drew: I spend a lot of time (maybe too much) thinking about form in narratives. Why do plot points happen when they do? How are they foreshadowed? How are they recalled? For all of my time and energy spent focused on these questions, however, I don’t have a lot of answers — theories for sure, but no solid explanations. Like, why arch forms are so pleasing to us. The return is an important part of the Heroes’ journey, but I’ve always been more satisfied with the more character-based return, like the Seinfeld quote above. It appears both in the series’ pilot and finale, and while the characters have entered a very different status quo by the series’ end, there’s something incredibly pleasing about the same turn of phrase returning verbatim. I’d like to suggest that it’s because it reinforces some fundamental truth about the characters — such that the very final scene of the very final episode is just as good of an introduction to the characters as the very first scene of the very first episode. That kind of consistency is incredibly difficult in any serialized medium, where the characters may need to settle in a bit before truly becoming themselves (and may change a great deal over the course of the narrative), but writer Scott Snyder manages a similarly impressive reintroduction here at the midpoint of American Vampire. Continue reading