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 →
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 →
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, 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 →
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 →
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 →
Today, 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.
Today, 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 →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Animal Man 28, originally released February 19, 2014.
I’m sorry I was late, baby. I had to go to space.
Buddy Baker, Animal Man 28
Shelby: I feel like this quote from the latest issue of Animal Man perfectly sums up my experience with Buddy Baker in the hands of Jeff Lemire. Buddy’s defining characteristic has, for me, always been his connection to his family. Nowhere else have we seen someone forced to balance a spouse and family with being a superhero, occasionally having to go to space, etc. Mostly, Buddy’s balancing act has brought a lot of suffering to the Baker clan, so it’s nice to see our favorite family man finally get a real win.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Animal Man 27, originally released January 22nd, 2014.
But as a Go game progresses, the possibilities become smaller and smaller. The board does take on order. Soon, all moves are predictable.
Maximillian Cohen, Pi
Drew: Do you ever find yourself wondering exactly how apt an analogy is? Or that it might be more apt than we realize. One of my favorite moments from Darren Aronofsky’s Pi finds Sol positing that the unlimited possibilities of a game of Go reflects the chaos of life, and Max not quite refuting his point with the quote above. Maybe life simply becomes more predictable as we move through it. That’s certainly true of narratives — what starts as a completely open field often falls into a well-worn pattern as it winds to a close. Take Animal Man: as a series, it has been as original and unpredictable as they come, but as Jeff Lemire sets up his endgame in issue 27, some of the beats feel a bit more familiar. In fact, this issue seems to employ just about every tension-goosing tool in the box, building to what promises to be a pretty spectacular two-part finale. Continue reading →