Plastic Man 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney 

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

Spencer: The first JLA comic I ever read was an issue from Joe Kelly’s early 2000s run. The story found Martian Manhunter corrupted and turned against a hopelessly outmatched League. The only hero who could stand up to him was, surprisingly, Plastic Man, whose shapeshifting skills were on par with J’onn’s and whose elastic brain resisted his telepathy entirely. Plastic Man was also an interesting contrast to the rest of the uber-serious League, a walking visual gag who cracked wise even as he fought the most powerful being on Earth one-on-one. That issue impressed on me the value of Plastic Man and the unique charm he adds to the DC universe. Gail Simone and Adriana Melo clearly understand the character’s appeal, and it’s ultimately Plastic Man’s charisma that carries Plastic Man 1 in its shakier moments. Continue reading

Justice and Symbolism in Justice League 1

By Drew Baumgartner

Justice League 1

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

There was no word for justice on my planet. The closest was the symbol on this table. It meant going beyond what was supposed to be possible, the natural laws. Imposing on the universe a higher standard. An ideal.

Martian Manhunter, Justice League 1

Our conceptions of justice hinge on fairness and impartiality — the notion that we are all held to the same standards of behavior (and face the same punishment for flaunting those standards). We understand how that can break down in practice (humans aren’t great at partiality), but we can imagine justice as a kind of platonic ideal we can strive towards. And that may be the best way to think about it, but closer inspection reminds us that, if it’s a platonic ideal, it’s one that varies from society to society and changes over time. We might reflect on the “justice” of the past (or of other cultures) and find it to be decidedly unjust, but that’s not how justice works — it’s not an objective monolith, but a deeply subjective, dynamic concept. That is, justice is a moral construct that only makes sense in light of the values of the society that construct it. Martian Manhunter’s approximation of justice reflects that idea, adding no moral spin to the “ideal” he mentions — in J’onn’s estimation, any ideologically motivated action “beyond what was supposed to be possible” is justice. In short, J’onn’s brief for the Justice League works just as well for the Legion of Doom. Continue reading

Finding Balance in Justice League: No Justice 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

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We here at Retcon Punch, sadly, haven’t had much of a chance to discuss Justice League: No Justice until now, but I’ve been enjoying it immensely from the start. It has many of the same strengths as its predecessor, Dark Nights: Metal, but since No Justice is working with only four issues, avoids most of its excesses. No Justice is focused and easy to follow, yet still has a grand scope and a firm grasp on the characters and history of the DC Universe. It’s well-balanced, which plays right into the themes of the series and the goals of its various League factions. Continue reading

Plot, Without Thematics to Match, in New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 23

by Mark Mitchell

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

It’s taken me twenty-three issues, but I am finally coming to terms with the kind of book New Super-Man is, versus the book I want it to be. What it is is a plot-driven book that smooths over its rough patches with sheer momentum and the clever mash-up of Chinese folklore with DC mythos. What it is not is interested in meditating on the themes it employs to drive its plot. Continue reading

Don’t Trust Authority in New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 22

by Mark Mitchell

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

Ahn Kwang-Jo, aka the Aqua-Man of North Korea, aka Dragonson, is so conditioned by his life under the authoritarian regime of North Korea to accept the word of authority figures as truth that when the old sea dragon bones responsible for his powers commands him to generate a flood large enough to kill millions of his countrymen, Kwang-Jo feels compelled to obey. He’s briefly conflicted, but his resistance is met with anger by his “true father”, and Kwang-Jo quickly acquiesces.

Continue reading

Dark Nights: Metal 6: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell 

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

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Spencer: Now that the series has come to an end, I can safely say that I have very mixed feelings about Dark Nights: Metal as a whole. So much of this event has been about embracing gonzo, bonkers, throwback action, but much of that fun is buried under attempts to overexplain every aspect of the (often impossible to follow) plot. The stakes of the event never fully sank in for me, as aside from artist Greg Capullo’s hellish landscapes, most of the nightmarish aspects of the Dark Multiverse were buried away in tie-in issues, while the main series focused on fun, but straightforward action beats. That said, there were a few areas where this series shined, and Dark Nights: Metal 6 exemplifies them all. It’s a strong metaphor for embracing hope and community over nihilism and isolation, a powerful reminder of stories’ ability to inspire, and an ode to the past (and future) of the DC Universe. Continue reading

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 21

by Mark Mitchell

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

Political commentary is not New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 21’s forte. It’s mostly informative in the sense that characters are literally declaring information, like when Bat-Man flatly proclaims that, “North Korea is an asylum inmate that only listens to China…” But while the political message of the book lacks nuance, that writer Gene Luen Yang bothers to go there at all is commendable. If every comic book is someone’s first comic books, than every fleeting discussion of Sino-North Korean politics is someone’s first fleeting discussion of Sino-North Korean politics — and that’s worth celebrating. (Information is power!) Continue reading

Green Arrow 38: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney 

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

Spencer: In the Justice League Unlimited animated series, Green Arrow isn’t recruited to the League for his skills with a bow and arrow, but for his conscience and candor. Indeed, in all the character’s best portrayals Green Arrow’s greatest strength isn’t his trick arrows, but his unflinching honesty, his willingness to stand up to (and get in the face of) absolutely anybody, and his “man on the ground” perspective. These qualities are at the forefront of Green Arrow 38, an issue where (outside of one largely symbolic image) Oliver Queen doesn’t fire a single arrow, instead saving the day simply by standing up for what he believes in. Continue reading

Batman 41: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Ryan Mogge

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

Michael: The traditional superhero narrative can boil down to “hero is on top, villain arrives and takes over, hero defeats villain and the status-quo is restored.” There will be a period — however long or brief — where the villain has won and all hope is lost. Instead of showing a gradual build to that moment of defeat, Batman 41 starts us off there. Instead of opening with the first act optimism of A New Hope, Batman 41 goes right for the bleak Empire Strikes Back act break. Continue reading

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 20: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell

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

Spencer: There’s a common belief that kids raised in sheltered, restrictive environments will go absolutely wild at their very first taste of freedom. I don’t know if the truth is that extreme — I was about as sheltered as they came as a child, and all my rebellions have been rather tame — but there is a lot of truth to the idea that needless restrictions and censorship just hurt people, regressing emotions and hindering growth and in many cases leading to actual physical punishment for meaningless offenses. New Super-Man and the Justice League of China 20 taps into the latter when it introduces its new “Aquaman,” Ahn Kwang-Jo. Continue reading