Apologies in Batman 40

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Batman: This is new, but I’m trying.
Catwoman: Yes, well, try harder.

Batman 40

How do we admit our failings? The #MeToo movement is bringing a lot of stories of abuse to light, which means there have also been scores of written apologies. Some don’t use the word “sorry,” some make excuses, some try to deflect with their own surprise admissions. No matter how carefully crafted these statements are, they are all bound to fuck up and fall short. Words do no erase actions. Batman 40 sees creator and creation in similar roles, trying to explain they way they botched handling Wonder Woman. It’s messy, it’s riddled with mistakes, and it’s a genuine expression of how it feels to put your foot in your mouth. Continue reading

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Batman 39: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Mark Mitchell

Batman 39

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

Drew: Hey, so what is fidelity? I think we all understand the general concept, but the exact borders of the definition are not entirely well defined. If your significant other dies, for example, very few people would classify moving on to another relationship as “cheating,” so we might fairly define “death” as one of the hard edges of fidelity. But what if they’re just presumed dead — say, on a desert island for years and years? Do we consider Helen Hunt’s marriage in Cast Away to be cheating on Tom Hanks? What if it had been Tom Hanks who forged the new relationship (on the island, somehow) — he knows he’s not dead (and could reasonably assume Helen Hunt isn’t), but do the rules of fidelity extend to seemingly hopeless circumstances of languishing in a remote corner of the world? These are certainly unlikely hypotheticals, but unlikely hypotheticals are what superhero comics are all about, and exactly what Batman 39 needs in order to maybe-kinda-sorta justify Batman and Wonder Woman hooking up. Continue reading

Mister Miracle 6: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

Patrick: I had a little bit of a rebellious streak in high school. No, no — not actually in school, but during my confirmation classes. See, I was a good kid, studied hard and had a lot of extracurricular activities, but I couldn’t help but be a smart-ass where it came to my religious education. It’s easy to recognize this as some pretty impotent angst in retrospect: I was only resisting a belief structure which relinquished control over me as soon as I decided there was no God. One of my shit-eatingest points of rebellion was my constant assertion that Jesus didn’t really pay the price of death the way we understand it. Even granting the reality wherein he was crucified and suffered horribly for a couple days, he got to come back afterward. It’s not the act of dying, but the cold state of “not living” that should be the sacrifice. I don’t want to speak for Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ respective rebellious streaks, but it seems like Mister Miracle 6 agrees with at least part of 16-year old Patrick. Risking or sacrificing one’s life is only valuable is the the life itself is something you have to do without.  Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Series

Series

We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2017.  Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Writers

Best Writers

In such a collaborative medium as comics, it can be difficult to say where a writer’s influence on the story ends, but there’s no question on where it begins: words on the page. Whether they thrill, elate, chill, or deflate, the best writers create characters, settings, and situations we want to return to, again and again. These are our top 10 writers of 2017. Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Issues

Best Issues of 2017

Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2017. Continue reading

The Weight of Influence in Batman 38

By Patrick Ehlers

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

About halfway through Batman 38, Batman discovers a clue that leads him to Dennis O’Neil Avenue. Longtime Batman fans are going to recognize that name, but even relative neophytes are gong to pause at the specificity of that name. Outside of some of the biggest names of the last century — Martin Luther King Jr or John F Kennedy — you’re going to be hard pressed to find a figure who’s full name is up on a street sign. Hell, Chicagoans love Casimir Pulaski, but the north-south thoroughfare that bares his name is simply called “Pulaski Road.” (Though, hilariously, there’s also a brown placard below the street sign designating it “Honorary Casimir Pulaski Road.” It’s a weird town.) But writer Tom King’s use of O’Neil’s full name makes the creators influence on this issue explicit, just as the story itself leans in to one of O’Neil’s pet themes: the psychology of Batman. Continue reading

Batman 37 Knocks it Out of the Park

by Drew Baumgartner

Batman 37

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

There are lots of reasons to love superhero comics. Maybe you’re in it for the high-wire action or the sci-fi worlds. Maybe you’re in it for the superhuman feats or the super human morals. There are as many reasons to love superheroes as there are superhero fans, but I think at some level, every fan must share some real affection for these characters, and perhaps even a childlike desire to be them. Those aspirations usually exist off the page, taking shape in our minds as we read, but Tom King and Clay Mann have found an elegant way to address the phenomenon in-universe: making Batman and Superman fans of one another. Continue reading

It’s Kirby vs. Lee in Mister Miracle 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Mister Miracle 5

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

Charlie: I’ve written myself into my screenplay.

Donald: That’s kind of weird, huh?

Adaptation

To call Adaptation “kind of weird” would be putting it mildly — ostensibly about Charlie Kaufman’s attempt to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, the movie is ultimately about itself, but becomes this weird fictionalized version of itself, as Kaufman invents a twin brother to introduce hackneyed thriller elements to the film’s closing acts. It’s much, much weirder than someone simply writing themself into their own screenplay. Heck, the actual script is credited to both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, and both were nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay even though Donald is a fictional character (or, arguably, a manifestation of Charlie’s most commercial writing instincts). But I think Mister Miracle 5 might just top it for meta weirdness, serving as a kind of final word on comics’ own Charlie and Donald Kaufman — Jack Kirby and Funky Flashman. Continue reading

Batman 36: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell

Batman 36

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

Spencer: Is Bruce Wayne the mask, or is Batman? Which one is “real”? It’s a long-standing debate amongst the comic book community, and given the myriad of different interpretations of the character, probably one that will never have a definitive answer. My own feelings about this question have shifted and evolved over time, but if you asked me right this second, I’d say that both Bruce and Batman are masks of sorts — the millionaire playboy and the dark knight, respectively. We don’t see him too often, but there’s a real Bruce beneath both those facades, one with real human emotions that often get buried beneath the weight of his own mythology. The best parts of Tom King’s run on Batman have been the moments where he’s let that real Bruce shine through, and more than anything it’s been Catwoman who has allowed this Bruce to do just that. In Batman 36, King adds another tool to his storytelling arsenal that similarly cuts right to Batman’s hidden humanity: his best friend, Superman. Continue reading