This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Here’s the present, 1985, the future, and the past. Prior to this point in time, somewhere in the past…the time line skewed into this tangent…creating an alternate 1985. Alternate to you, me, and Einstein…but reality for everyone else.
Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II
We’re all familiar enough with the notion of alternate timelines and the butterfly effect by this point that any reasonable time-traveler would have to fear ever changing past events — indeed, it’s a sci-fi concept so ubiquitous, even Abe Simpson thought to offer Homer a warning about it on his wedding day. And yet, we still like to imagine “what if” scenarios about making different decisions in only our own pasts, but those of fictional characters. The most well-known “what if” story in superhero comics might well be “For the Man Who Has Everything,” Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s clever parable about fantasy wish fulfillment. Superman’s fantasy necessarily focuses on his own experiences on a non-exploded Krypton, but the absence of Superman would obviously have profound effects back on Earth. That is, there are butterfly effects in that fantasy timeline we never see, that a Krypton-based Kal-El wouldn’t even know about. Cleverly, Tom King and Tony Daniel open on the butterfly effects of their alternate timeline in Batman 45 before circling back to explain how and why this alternate timeline was created in the first place. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Superman: American Alien 3, originally released January 13, 2016.
Michael: Here are two words for you: Max Landis. It’s likely that you have one of the two following reactions: A) “I heard that guy is a conceited ass” or B) “I have no idea who that is.” Consequently, I’d bet that Max Landis himself would say that neither of those reactions bother him all that much. Nevertheless, when it comes to Max Landis I can assure you of this: the man knows Superman. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Robin: Son of Batman 6, originally released November 25th, 2015.
Spencer: “Redemption” can be an awfully selfish pursuit if the person seeking redemption is more interested in clearing their own name and conscience than about alleviating the pain they’ve caused others. I certainly wouldn’t accuse Damian Wayne of being selfish, but he is young, and still learning just what, exactly, redemption and forgiveness are all about. In Robin: Son of Batman 6, Patrick Gleason uses the events of the past five issues to teach Damian an entirely new definition of redemption, one focused more on others than himself. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Robin: Son of Batman, originally released October 28, 2015.
Michael: Here’s an odd question: do you ever have cognitive dissonance about traditional story progression when you’re reading a particular comic book? I know I do. I’ve been exposed to so many comic book series and arcs that I have been conditioned in a way. I often find myself judging the pace of a series and when it hits certain plot points – all based on standards set by prior comic books. Do stories need to be examined with such a focused lens? Or can we as the readers let go of any preconceived notions and trust that the creator has an intentional plan? Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Batman and Robin 38, originally released January 21st, 2015.
Mark: One of the complaints leveled at comic books is that nothing ever sticks. A character dies, only to be brought back at the next best opportunity. Damian was dead, but now he’s back. Reborn Damian has super powers, but it’s probably only a matter of time before he’s de-powered. Does the inevitability detract from what’s happening now? As a reader, that’s not something that’s ever bothered me. My only expectation/hope when reading a series is that individual arcs will be satisfying. Comic books are mini-rebooting between arcs all the time. If a good arc is followed by a bad arc, it doesn’t diminish what came before.
Batman has had a lot of surrogate children over the years (it seems like recently we’re having a Robin graduation every year or so), but there’s obviously something unique about his relationship with Damian. It’s been a long journey to Damian’s resurrection, and finally seeing the Dynamic Duo back in action is a lot of fun. Still in the end, as much as this is sold as a new beginning, this issue is more of a concluding chapter to the Robin Rises saga. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Ra’s al Ghul 32, originally released June 18th, 2014.
Patrick: No one’s got a deeper bench than Batman. A lot has been made of the integrity of his relationships lately — it’s almost the most important piece of Batman’s mythology in the New 52. Check it out: Batman Eternal is all about Batman struggling with his relationship with the city, and even pulls Gordon out of rotation. This comes on the heels of The Death of the Family and the Leviathan killing Damian, which all just compounds the stress put upon those relationships. Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Robin, Red Hood, they all have reason to distrust the man who’s a superhero first, and a human being second. But Batman’s not just the biggest superhero in Gotham, he’s the biggest superhero in the DC Universe, so there’s no end to the relationships we can explore to learn something just a little bit more about Bruce Wayne. Continue reading →
Peter Tomasi can be seen as a workhorse of DC’s writer stable. He is constantly dealing with other people’s baggage in his own series, including the Batman and Robin-alteringdeath of Damian Wayne. But that’s not the only thread Tomasi has used to weave his Batman epic. Indeed, the loss of Robin has turned into survey of how the New 52’s Batman fits into rest of the Universe. Issue 30, titled Batman and Wonder Woman, plays with some of the best toys in the box. Patrick sat down with Pete and went through the issue page by page, so get your copy handy and join us on the Commentary Track.
Retcon Punch: First, can you talk about going after Wonder Woman and exploring the more magical end of the Universe. I know we’re chasing around resurrection pits and whatnot…
Peter Tomasi: Yeah,it seemed like a good place to explore. They’ve had Lazarus Pits all around the globe, and it felt like a cool bit that we hadn’t ever seen where: why wouldn’t a secret island full of Amazonshave one? Maybe there’s a little something-something going on there, and we could play with a little magic there. I don’t really do this a lot, I’m a very linear storyteller — I wrote this whole sequence of them going to the island first and all this stuff. Continue reading →
Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Batman 24, originally released October 16th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Origin stories. We are getting a lot of origin stories from DC Comics these days. I suppose it’s only natural given the relative newness of the New 52. It’s been a few years now, but there are still a lot of lingering questions and a lot more room to reinterpret certain origins. Still, I’ve been suffering from “origin-itis” lately, especially with Villain’s Month throwing a ton of new origins our way. While Peter Tomasi didn’t use the Two-Face Villain’s Month special to explore the origin of the villain, he’s certainly using this current arc to do so. So, how does he do? Well, Tomasi brilliantly circumvents my origin-overload by tying Harvey’s past directly into his present. Continue reading →
Drew: I’m not sure I’ve ever “gotten” Ra’s al Ghul. Sure, as the immortal leader of a criminal empire, he’s a great villain, but I never fully understood why he’s a Batman villain. The best Batman rogues highlight some important element of Bruce Wayne: Joker’s gleeful chaos reflects Batman’s brooding order, for example. Without a gimmicky hook, I was always left thinking that Ra’s was meant to highlight Bruce’s mortality, which is kind of a defining characteristic, but one that is brought up every time he’s put in moral peril, so not really specific to Ra’s. With Batman and Robin 23.3: Ra’s al Ghul, writer James Tynion IV finds that parallel in the way both men wield myths to make them stronger, turning in a character-defining secret origin that actually builds on the character’s history, rather than simply rehashing it. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman Incorporated 13, originally released July 31st, 2013.
It never ends. It probably never will.
Drew: What does it mean to end a run writing Batman? How do you “end” a story featuring a character that has been published in perpetuity for over 70 years with no signs of slowing down? Sure, Grant Morrison “killed” Bruce Wayne, but that was back at the close of his epic’s second act. No, the ending here had to be something much grander, something much truer to the unrelenting nature of Batman. The sheer scope of Morrison’s epic is deserving of the same pomp and circumstance of “the definitive end” of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, but Morrison manages to approach that same grandiosity with modest deference, keeping in mind that, while the he may be done, Batman will keep on going. That simple nod turns his elaborate love letter to Batman’s past into an equally impassioned love letter to Batman’s future, and gracefully shifts Morrison from center stage to the audience. Continue reading →