Archive for October, 2012



October 31st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Part of fun of writing about comics, for me at least, is the competition. I don’t mean scrapping with scrubs or anything, either. I mostly mean competing against my friends. Gavin, who is currently without power and won’t see this until he’s back, has been my funniest friend for going on ten years now. No one throws shade like the late, lamented Pedro Tejeda, the ghost of Funnybook Babylon. No one is as well-reasoned as Jamaal Thomas. Nobody’s got an eye for comics history like Chris Eckert. Tucker Stone is the king of insight, and Abhay has punchlines that’ll stop you cold. All these dudes do things that I wish I could do better, and I really dig seeing them work their craft.

Sometimes, my friends will do things that make me jealous, as in this post by Sean Witkze called Away From Human Memory: Editing And Composition In Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’. I got to read an earlier draft of it and it was good, but I’m still jealous.

Sean’s talking about how Miller controls the reader in Dark Knight Returns and Ronin, and it’s really good stuff. I know the basics of this stuff, how big panels make you do one thing and a stutter-y cascade of panels make you do another, but Sean turns jargon plain and lays everything bare, revealing new facets of works I thought I knew well. And I mean, I love Frank Miller’s body of work, I’ve been through these books dozens of times… but Sean is revealing the iceberg just beneath the water’s surface here.

It’s way deeper than “Frank Miller draws nice.”

Sean elevated the game. If you’re trying to figure out how comics work, to examine what a master did in a period when he dropped more classics than most people get in a lifetime, you should read it.

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This Week in Panels: Week 162

October 28th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Ahoy! In what Mother Nature will surely insist is my last post for a little while, here’s this week’s taste of comics read. I have my usual crew in Jody, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and Was Taters.

Interesting week in that we reached the end of many great Marvel runs due to the big Marvel NOW! changeover. Considering how fantastic the enders are for Journey Into Mystery, Incredible Hulk, Captain America and FF, I can’t help but notice how Marvel is flat-out making DC look incompetent in regards to the New 52. Everyone’s getting their own true sendoff without seeming rushed and pointless.

Though apparently Daniel Way’s final issue of Deadpool shit the bed, so we’ll ignore that one.

A-Babies vs. X-Babies (Jawa’s pick)
Skottie Young and Gurihiru

A-Babies vs. X-Babies (Jody’s pick)
Skottie Young and Gurihiru

All-Star Western #13
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Phil Winslade

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Crossover Celebration Part 3: Archie Meets the Punisher

October 24th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

When I talk to non-comic reading friends about comics, one thing I like to mention to mess with them is that Archie Meets the Punisher is a thing that happened. That always seems to get a little bit of a reaction out of them, but not as much as my claims that it was actually quite good! The usual follow-up to that is, “How could that possibly be good?” and it hits me as a loaded question. There are different reasons why it works so well, but it wasn’t for years until I found out the perfect way to explain it to the uninitiated.

Archie Meets the Punisher came out in 1994, just prior to the explosion of Marvel/DC crossovers that we’d see throughout the era. The Archie and Marvel camps were friendly with each other and there was a joke going back and forth that there should be a crossover where Riverdale becomes a darker and more violent place and Archie becomes a vigilante after his family is killed. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but writer Batton Lash came up with an outline that pleasantly surprised everyone involved and they moved forward with it.

Many crossovers are meant to be a look at the similarities and differences between the two parties involved. This book is less about the former and very much about the latter. On one hand, we have Archie Andrews, the optimistic and corny lead character in a town where the sun is always shining and the biggest tragedy is the decision over which hot girlfriend he’s going to ask out on any given night. Then you have Frank Castle, the dead-inside Vietnam veteran whose family was murdered by the mob, leading him to dedicate his entire being to showing no mercy to the criminal element. Granted, these are still the days when Marvel and DC weren’t overly violent, even in murderer anti-hero comics, and the only blood you’d see was a shadowy spray of black with no shot of the wound, but it’s still entirely messed up to do a story that mixes these two very, very different characters.

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“Compton, USA made me an angel on angel dust” [Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city]

October 22nd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

-Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is out today. Amazon’s got the regular version of good kid, m.A.A.d city for five bucks. You can also get the deluxe edition for ten bucks, which includes three extra tracks (“Black Boy Fly” is heat and shoulda been on the album) and a digital booklet. You should buy this album. I preordered the vinyl, which I feel like was a great idea, now that I’ve heard the album. I dunno if it’s a promo or what, but Lamar’s debut album Section.80 is $5.49 right now, and that’s great, too.

good kid, m.A.A.d city opens with a prayer played off a cassette tape and spoken by young men. “Lord God, I come to you a sinner and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe you raised him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus come to my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life and that I may live for him from this day forth. Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me with Your precious blood. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

It’s a common prayer. It immediately put me in mind of Yasiin Bey, bka Mos Def. He opened Black On Both Sides (and his other albums) with the phrase “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim.” It means “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the most Merciful,” and it is an expression of faith on the part of Mos. It’s always delivered in his own voice, almost a whisper. (You’ve heard Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” probably — “Bismillah” is used there, as well.) It’s Bey giving thanks and publicly expressing his beliefs.

Kendrick’s is different. It’s recorded, which is already one step of separation from Kendrick-the-character and Kendrick-the-artist. The men are unidentified and speak with no real intonation, two more steps of separation. It’s rote. It’s men at church going through the motions. It won’t make sense until you finish the album.

good kid, m.A.A.d city has a lot of skits, which puts me in mind of Prince Paul’s near-flawless A Prince Among Thieves. Sometimes it’s Kendrick’s parents calling to ask about their van, sometimes it’s him talking to his friends. Sometimes it’s something more violent.

But the skits work. Instead of being speed bumps, they aid the album into sounding like a cohesive work, rather than a collection of songs. They provide a narrative, or at least a through line, from song to song. It enhances the songs, rather than getting in their way. It’s probably half as good on shuffle, but as far as skits go, Lamar has the right idea.

The skits bleed back into the songs and vice versa. Sometimes a line of dialogue kicks off a song, and sometimes a bit of dialogue recalls Lamar’s past work. They don’t feel like they’re just skits. They’re connective tissue.

Tracks 1-10 form a story that ends where it begins. The last two tracks, “Real” featuring Anna Wise of Sonnymoon, and “Compton” featuring Dr Dre, are a… coda? An epilogue? Something.

-In thinking about it, it’s structured similar to A Prince Among Thieves, too. We start on Y, then we see A through Y, and then we catch up with Z. “Pain” segues into “How It All Started” which leads up to “You Got Shot,” and then we get the cruel finale of “The New Joint (DJ’s Delite)” b/w “A Prince Among Thieves.”

good kid, m.A.A.d city goes from “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter” to “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and then leads you through “Poetic Justice” before the cycle completes four songs later on “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst.” “Real” and “Compton” are the outro.

Less cruel and more uplifting than “A Prince Among Thieves,” but still similar in structure. Hook, then pull back, then stack tension until it’s too late to turn back.

-Son, there’s even a freestyle skit that’s explicitly presented as Kendrick Lamar rhyming in his homey’s car! Remember “What U Got (The Demo)” with Breezly Brewin and Big Sha?

My heart done hardened, ready to put the world on a milk carton
Fuck it, no one else deserve to live
I done gave all I got to give and still ain’t got shit (What?)
So who mad? You grab and ransom
And I’ma pierce his soul and touch the heart of his grandson (oh shit!)

I’ve been wanting to jack “ready to put the world on a milk carton” for a story or SOMEthing since 1999, man.

Anyway: parallels!

-Rap is influenced by real people living real lives, and then those same people allow themselves to be influenced by rap, creating a cycle that feeds on itself. Put differently, Cam’Ron didn’t invent “pause” or “no homo”, and Kanye didn’t invent “ham” or “cray.” But, after Kanye, a lot of people who aren’t from the south like to talk about going ham. After Cam, “no homo” became a phenomenon. It doesn’t take much for an idea to go global.

At one point on good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar and his friends take inspiration from a Jeezy song. “Last time I checked, I was the man on these streets,” Jeezy says. Lamar’s boy, in response, says, “Yeah, yeah, that shit right there. I’m trynna be the nigga in the streets.”

Rap album feeding on a rap album feeding off real life feeding off a rap album.

Trap or die.

-On “Sing About Me,” Lamar takes on the role of the sister of Keisha, a woman he talked about on “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” on Section.80. It’s the kind of song rappers make about how it sucks to be a lady. He name checks “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” you know? It’s a good example of those types of songs, probably on par with Lupe Fiasco’s “He Say She Say” or that verse out of “Kick Push II.” Patronizing, right? But in a way that makes me just feel like I get it, even if I don’t particularly dig the execution, rather than frustrated. His heart’s in the right place.

But on “Sing About Me,” Lamar directly addresses himself by way of the role of Keisha’s sister. “What’s crazy was, I was hearing about it, but doubted your ignorance. How could you ever just put her on blast and shit, judging her past and shit?” and later, “You lying to these motherfuckers, talking about you can help with my story. You can help me if you sell this pussy for me, nigga.”

“Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” was bleak and direct and sad and maybe leans a little too far toward victim blaming and not enough toward… anything else. It’s cool to see Lamar self-correct, explicitly self-correct, himself on wax. And then the next verse is a rebuttal to the sister, of sorts, as Lamar explains where he was coming from. No easy answers. That shows a thoughtfulness and fluidity that I really dig.

-Fluidity: good kid, m.A.A.d city doesn’t sound like Section.80 much at all. Lamar adopts multiple flows and crosses a broad range of subject matter over the course of good kid. It’s not as stridently focused on life as an ’80s baby like Section.80 was, but it’s just as sharp.

Lamar trades the post-Reagan Era trauma of Section.80 for life growing up in Compton on good kid, and it totally works. They’re two of a kind, as far as subject matter goes, but it gives each album a different texture. Section.80 is borderline funereal at times, a checklist of horrors and injustice. This one is more even, less focused on the foibles of a generation of young men that learned how to do everything spiteful and more focused on just how they live their life.

I mean, son made a song about peer pressure in 2012 and it’s subtle in all the right ways. That’s dope.

good kid, m.A.A.d city is an ill album. I ended up preordering the vinyl, just going by how much I liked Section.80 (it hasn’t left my iPod, Schoolboy Q’s Habits and Contradictions neither). I never do that, but I felt strongly that Kendrick Lamar would come through. And come through he did. It’s an album, a proper, listen to it front-to-back and let it simmer, album. Upbeat enough that you could spin it at a relaxed party, but down enough to spark deep thoughts. (Those voice mails, boy.)

-I’ve been thinking a lot about how little black boys grow up lately, in part because of real life and the Little Brother documentary project. What goes wrong, what goes off, and what goes down to make a good kid into something else. All kids are good, but it’s the poison we put in them that screws them up.

“Compton, USA made me an angel on angel dust” kind of sums it all up, in a way.

-I like this outro from Section.80 even more now, because good kid, m.A.A.d city builds on its blueprint:

“See a lot of y’all don’t understand Kendrick Lamar, because you wonder how I could talk about money, hoes, clothes, God, and history all in the same sentence. You know what all them things have in common? Only half of the truth if you tell it. See, I spent twenty-three years on this Earth searching for answers ’til one day I realized I had to come up with my own.

I’m not on the outside looking in. I’m not on inside looking out. I’m in the dead fucking centre looking around.

You ever seen a newborn baby kill a grown man? That’s an analogy for the way the world make me react. My innocence been dead. So the next time I talk about money, hoes, clothes, God, and history all in the same sentence, just know I meant it, and you felt it, ’cause you too are searching for answers.

I’m not the next pop star. I’m not the next socially aware rapper. I am a human motherfucking being over dope ass instrumentation.

Kendrick Lamar.”

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This Week in Panels: Week 161

October 21st, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Look at that. Header image. It’s been long enough.

My Angels for this week are Was Taters, Gaijin Dan, Jody and Space Jawa. Jody, Taters and I all chose the same panel for Hawkeye #3 initially, but Taters and I decided to choose others for the sake of showing off how excellent this comic is. Bro.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #4
Darwyn Cooke and John Higgins

Bleach #509
Tite Kubo

Cross Manage #3

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Bride of the Ghost of the Revenge of the Son of the Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

October 19th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

I hope New York Comic Con, 4thletter and I live forever so I can keep making the title longer year after year.

I’m going to be honest with you. When you come back from an exhausting trip like this and you have a day or so to recuperate, the realization that you have to relive it all over again by writing it up is like a punch in the gut. But it’s my duty to write of my weekend where everyone was wearing a Bane mask, Finn hat and doing the Gangnam Style dance. It’s time to discuss New York Comic Con 2012.

This was a lonely year for me. David has long disowned the con, other David wasn’t going either and I wasn’t going to be joined by any of my coworkers. With all the UCB classes I’ve been taking, I decided to be a little more on the frugal side and went against getting a hotel. After all, the classes have made me so accustomed to commuting into the city that I figured I could just do that for four days in a row. Coincidentally, I had a show in the city the Sunday prior and watched a show with a friend the following Tuesday, so I ended up commuting six times in eight days. I spent about half a day in a bus over that time.

At least I had a press pass, which was nice. The only problem being that NYCC has decided to put their foot down and make it a little harder to get one of those. It used to be that you’d just fill out some stuff online. Now you have to fill out some stuff online, get an email for a link to a PDF document, print it out, fill it out, print out three articles, staple your business card, get an assignment letter from your editor (which I guess means David) and fax it all. Yes, faxing is apparently still a thing in 2012. I had no clue.


Thursday is the prelude, really. The place is only open for four hours and not as many people are there. I got to wander the floor a bit and enjoy a brief day of no insane foot traffic. At one point I ran into Neil Gibson at the Twisted Dark booth. I reviewed his comic less than a year ago and it was a really shittily-written review and I felt bad about it, so I bought a copy of the comic’s third volume. I mean, I guess I would have regardless, but at least now I feel like I redeemed myself in some way. Nice guy, although he was really annoyed that the printers fucked up their con copies of the book and added an extra page. Now all the reveal pages are on the right side instead of the left, ruining some of the suspense.

I perused through some of the comic-selling booths. It’s something I tend to do every con, but I keep forgetting to save it for Sunday, when the prices are cheaper. Every year I look for that one weird piece of comic history that hits me by surprise and I got that taken care of pretty early on with a comic starring Bob’s Big Boy.

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Tumblr Mailbag: On Faith and Writing

October 18th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been doing questions on Tumblr here and there. I had it turned off for a while, after it turned from “here and there” to “more often than I blogged music videos and pictures of Anna Karina and girls in hoodies.” But it’s back on now and at a much more reasonable pace. I’ve answered a few that I think are relevant here, too, so I’m going to ~crosspost~ a bit. Maybe it’ll spark some convo or something? No sé qué, but I’m doing it anyway. Original post. I don’t think I edited this one much at all, though. Fixed a typo here and there, tightened up a sentence or two, cut the weird bit about the comic-con sex parties…

When questions are turned on, you can ask me things here.

David, I’ve been following you ever since Spurgeon or MacDonald linked to your piece about Frank Miller’s ability to render acrobatics. I’ve noticed you’ve got a pattern of writing with conviction. I’m even noticing as I type this– your tumblr theme is “brutal simplicity.” I’m personally real interested in how faith systems affect folks’ art– do you have some sort of faith background that informs your writing and worldview?


I’ve been thinking about this question since you sent it in, mulling it over and feeling out the edges of it. I think the answer is yes, I do. I’m Christian, and protestant is as close as I’ll get to claiming a denomination beyond “Christian.” I went to a baptist church growing up, and a mission off and on, but I don’t know that I’m particularly baptist. I don’t go to church much at all any more, but I still believe, pray, give thanks, etc, and I figure I could go bar for bar with anyone in a casual religion conversation. I used to know the Bible really well, but it’s probably down to mildly well at this point.

Anyway, yeah, the things I prize most come from or are a reaction to my background in the church. Let me run down a couple:

Clarity: say what you have to say as clearly as possible, but don’t be afraid to throw some swing off in there to keep people paying attention. I hate it when preachers vamp, because I feel like that’s performance getting in the way of teaching, but when you find a speaker who’s charismatic and interesting, there’s a 90% chance that speaker isn’t just some schmuck who read a book. There’ll be some type of swing, a joke, a smile, a way of speaking that keeps you in.

Directness of speech: the church, the black church at least, can be pretty passive-aggressive and guarded. “Situation” was the one word I always picked up on. “I’m going through a situation, I’ve got a situation,” everybody’s got a situation. Nobody ever says that they’re so depressed that getting out of bed takes twenty minutes every day. Nobody ever says that they’re feeling the weight of the entire world on their shoulders and needs somebody to talk to. It goes in the other direction, too. If somebody thinks you got something going on, “I’ll pray for you.” And naw, I hate that. I understand not letting people know your business — I’m including myself in this for sure, I hate asking for help — but be specific! We can help each other if we know the deal. That thing you’re having trouble with, someone else has had that same problem and might be able to talk you through it. Be direct and be clear.

Well-reasoned arguments: A side effect of knowing the Bible reasonably well is wanting to fight people who know the Bible less well than you but still manage to talk louder. Last time I was back home, this guy was preaching from the Old Testament. I don’t remember the exact verse, maybe 1 Chronicles 12:8 but possibly not. (It probably was.) It was about how certain soldiers were like lions, at any rate. And when this false prophet was like, “Yes, back in the day, there were lion-men and–” I got up and walked out.

I dunno if dude wrote his lecture the night before or what, but how do you get to be like 45 years old and not understand how metaphors work? Or do any type of research? Why would a shepherd lie to his flock out of ignorance and arrogance? because the verse was CLEARLY referring to strength and fearsomeness, not dudes with lion heads tromping around. That’s moronic. But it’s a sermon, and you don’t interrupt those. (My favorite church format is essentially a college class, with back & forth and all. Sunday School > 11 o’clock sermons.)

But I could’ve eaten that guy alive any day of the week because he didn’t think his thing through. So one thing I try and make sure to do is to work the angles on whatever I end up writing about. I think about this stuff a lot more than you might expect, and even dumb posts like the thing about Miller drawing acrobatic moves was the result of like three weeks of thought and jokes/threats to friends about doing that exact post. And it’s such a nothing post, “Frank Miller draws jumps good,” but I still researched, read a lot of books… I knew most of it already, but I wanted to confirm that what I knew/believed was accurate/true. “I work the angles, sharp and precise.”

(I think this is also why I hate seeing underinformed people open their mouth about race & comics or creators’ rights & comics. They have the opportunity to do so much damage due to their own ignorance, and that’s not what people in a position to exert influence others should be doing.)

Honesty is another big one, and it ties into directness. I’ve amped up an opinion for dramatic effect (“The Winter Men is better than Watchmen”), but I’ve never expressed an opinion I didn’t hold for hits or whatever. I don’t argue things I don’t believe, and I only argue things I really believe in. I try to make sure that the person I am online is an accurate picture of who I am in real life. The only real difference is that I’m way smarter online (everyone sounds smarter in text) but way funnier in person (glib tumblr answers aren’t just a gimmick, they’re a lifestyle). I curse more offline, too, and generally don’t online.

But like, past that? I think if you meet me in real life, I would be the exact person you expect if you were familiar with my work. I’ve got a black power tattoo on my arm, I’ve done a pretty detailed job of documenting why I like certain types of music, and I’ve even written about fashion. That stuff derives from my life and feeds back into my life. Writing about black history & comics is like pulling teeth, but it enhances my knowledge of black history and myself, which in turn alters (altered, at this point, I think I’m done with BHM) the approach I take next year.

I try to be honest with my readers and with myself. What you see is what you get, you know? If I’m being a turbodick for no reason, I’ll apologize. I’ve written a few awkward apology emails in my time, and I’ve definitely apologized on the site. I never like when people demand an apology because screw you, I’ll apologize when I actually feel sorry. It’s worth more if you mean it, and I try to make sure that I mean it if I have to apologize. If I don’t mean it… ah well, them’s the breaks. Which sounds like something a turbodick would say, but as a dude who has given and received insincere apologies… I’d rather you hate me for me than fake like I like you. That’s just another type of lie.

That’s also why my name is on everything I do, too. I shed pseudonyms entirely a few years back (I think Twitter’s the last holdout, but my name’s on that, too) because I think it’s important that I be held accountable for what I do and do not do. I’ve never said anything online I wouldn’t say in real life if you gave me half a chance, and I feel good about that. I might say it better or more eloquently online — it’s sorta hard to get obscure rap quotes right when dissing someone on the fly I guess — but I keep it as real as I possibly can.

(Eloquence = rap quotes??? what is wrong with me)

There are a few other things, too. At its best, Christianity isn’t so much a religion as a blueprint for self-improvement. Constant self-interrogation, carving out the parts of you that aren’t Christ-like, pushing for a better you by any means necessary. I apply that to my writing, looking for new ways to do old tricks, better ways to deliver points, and just getting better. I attack my work to find out what doesn’t work and turf whatever doesn’t fit.

So yeah, I hadn’t realized it until recently, but faith, and the structures we’ve built up around faith, have definitely affected how I work. I think I chalk a lot of this stuff up to a Malcolm X influence, especially the directness and swagger, but I guess I’ve got a lot of fathers.

Really good question.

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Presidential Debates: Livetweeted

October 16th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Word on the street is that the Big Pun hologram went off without a hitch… and then went off. The night is young, and the Big Pun hologram is already fighting and hiding his gun. The debate moderator is bugging, screaming, “Who the FUCK invited Pun?!”

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The “Macho Man” Randy Savage Plus Prop Challenge

October 15th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

It’s become a recent tradition for me to do the Plus Prop challenge every time I make a visit to New York Comic Con. First time it was with Venom and that was fun. Then I used Juggernaut and that worked out well too. This year I wasn’t sure who to use. With so many choices and some reader support, I settled on using the late, great Randall Poffo, known by many names: Bonesaw McGraw, Rasslor, Leonard Ghostal and most famously, “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

And so, I spent much of Comic Con’s four days badgering various comic artists for commissions at Artists’ Alley. The challenge is to draw Randy Savage plus another object. Any object. What that object is is up to the artist and not me. This one ended up being a ton of fun and most of the artists were incredibly into it. Before he even drew anything, Chris Giarrusso and I spent like a half hour talking about how great Savage’s promos were. So sit back and snap into the fruits of their labor.


Randy Savage with Skull
by Jacob Chabot

Randy Savage with Mjolnir
by Chris Giarrusso

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This Week in Panels: Week 160

October 14th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

I’m going to be quick about this one because after four days of New York Comic Conning, my dogs are barking and my leg muscles are painfully trying to rebuild themselves. I’ll talk about my experiences later. For now, I got panels from myself, Gaijin Dan, Jody, Was Taters and Space Jawa.

And they’re ALL BATMAN!

…okay, maybe not. But the first chunk are.

Batman #13 (Gavin’s pick)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Jock

Batman #13 (Jody’s pick)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Jock

Batman #13 (Taters’ pick)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Jock

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