Tag Archives: Batman

Why Does Batman Carry Shark repellant?–a brief review

Why Does Batman Carry Shark repellant?

Plume Books 2012          

288 pages–About $15

I really enjoyed Brian Cronin’s last book Was Superman a Spy? And I was looking forward to this in a big way.  Well, so much for that.

I generally have had good luck with books about comics.  Some of them have been outstanding (Between the Panels) and others almost as good.  But when I got this one in my Amazon order, I had been looking forward to it for a while, and had high hopes.  They were immediately dashed as I leafed through this and found little more than a book of lists.  While some of the lists are fleshed out with brief passages of information on the topic or specific items on the list, that is as informative as this book gets.  Some of the lists are in no way comprehensive.  Many are by creators in the industry.  While the opinion of a popular and successful colorist in the industry on who he thinks the great colorists out there are is interesting, it is hardly worth the price of admission.

Some of these lists are the “Top something of something” type lists, others are just arbitrary and kind of stupid.  The list of other heroes Wolverine has popped his claws into is not worth the effort to write, let alone to read it.

The text has some accompanying cover shots and other pictures, but the low-ish quality of the printing makes these unsatisfying.  While the contributions of some of today’s top creators are an interesting selling point, I’m sorry to say that this is as far as my interest went.  Once I read this, I felt a little ripped off, especially given Cronin’s previous book.

I don’t like being negative on this kind of thing, but I found this very disappointing.  If you like his contributions over at CBR, I can still heartily recommend the previous book, but give this one a miss.

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Batman the Court of Owls: Review

Batman-The Court of Owls

2012

DC Comics

176 pages

$25

I have now managed to read a few of the just-released collections of the New 52.  JLI was bland, and largely uninteresting.  I will read the second volume though, most likely since it will be the last until they continue the now cancelled monthly book in some other form. I have not finished Justice League yet, but will probably post something here when I do. I just could not stay with Animal Man despite its strong start.

For this collection of the first part of the Court of Owls story (issues 1 through 7 of the rebooted Batman series), I was honestly not all that excited about it.  There are a few others of the bunch that I was more eager to read than this, and I was not expecting much.  I knew I liked Scott Snyder’s writing and I have always thought that artist Greg Capullo (inked here by Jonathan Glapion) never got the attention he deserved working on Spawn, but for whatever reason I just could not get excited about this book.  Now I cannot wait for the next volume.  This is the best comic I have read in months, if not longer!

There are hints of storytelling mastery here from Snyder that his previous work has NEVER touched.  Tiny details round out a fairly stock story about a hidden and ancient menace in Gotham City, setting this apart though is a flair for character and pace, as well as the little details.   Small additions to Batman’s tech pay off later in the story and allow the story to skip over what would otherwise be pages of needless exposition.  The complete cast of the Batman family is explored, some members more than others, but it never feels forced like so many books do when they need to catch the reader up on the world.  There are problems though, like when you are reminded of bits in the characters’ past.  For a reboot (I know this was not really a reboot), there is a lot of past history that is still here.  The baggage of the old DCU is felt whenever Nightwing or Robin show up.  There are a lot of old sidekicks running around for this to be only Batman’s fifth year under the cowl.  The entire story is based on a comic book trope I have never cared for.  It is the “raise your hands, anyone who DIDN’T visit Krypton before it blew up.” story premise.  Not only is the Court of Owls cult retconned as something that has always been there, but never noticed, but specific connections to both Batman’s and Nightwing’s past are put into the myth.  The additions are well handled by Snyder, but they do stand out as retcons. Some of the building blocks are not interesting, but what the sculptor does with the clay is always more important that what he starts with.  This is the realization of story elements from the Gates of Gotham story from last year, and taken as part of that series it does work a bit better.  I just kept tripping over the reboot.

Capullo’s art is excellent, but with a few caveats.  His storytelling is not as tight as it could be, and I found certain panels lost in the page layouts.  There are moments where the style employed overwhelms the story.  That said, this is a great looking book.  While he occasionally goes off-model with faces, I am not prepared to say these are not deliberate choices.  There are moments where the style gets very wild and the iconography changes drastically to highlight the situation, so the more subtle instances may simply have stood out more for me than they were intended.  The one complaint I recall hearing from before I read this is the use of the page turnaround.  There is a point where you have to read the book on its side, then upside down.  This is not a new trick.  Dave Sim and John Byrne used it to great effect in the 80’s and there are several others before and since.  (Will Eisner, anyone?)  It is not that hard to navigate and I think the bitching about it was pretty silly.  Deal people, deal.

This is the best Batman book in years.  While I am looking forward to reading the first collection of Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics, it will have a long way to go to impress as much as this story has.

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Batman: Year One animated movie review

The latest DC animated feature, Batman Year One is out and I have finally gotten a chance to watch it.

The DC films have been something of a mixed bag.  Some have been nothing short of brilliant (New Frontier) others much less so (Emerald Knights).  While this is clearly not a work of brilliance, neither is it junk.  I would say closer to the former though as the source material alone is one of the finest works in DC’s long and rich back catalog.  While that has never been a guarantee of a quality final product with DC, it is the best possible place to start.

The original Year One miniseries ( it was actually in the regular Batman monthly book from issue 404 to 407) was a backhanded way to reboot and update the origin of one of the oldest and best in the company’s long history.  While it was more of an update that a re working, much of it has become canon since, and it is one of writer Frank Miller’s finest works.  It was done as a bookend of sorts to The Dark Knight Returns and is far different in tone and style to that landmark work.

The film, like the original, is more s story about Jim Gordon.  His struggles in his new job with the Gotham City PD, his wife and baby on the way and the attractive new detective Essen that he works along side are there from the book, mostly intact, and serve to make his arc in the story far more interesting than that of Bruce Wayne.  There is not much you can jigger about with Batman’s origins, and there is almost nothing new there, save for the style in which it is told, but that style is what has defined the character for over 2 decades now.  The movie shows the same style of storytelling and similar pacing.  The book is as faithfully adapted as it can be, sometimes to the movie’s detriment.  As an example, the Selina Kyle subplot is not much use here.  In the book it provided a touchstone for the longtime reader, but did nothing to move the story along other than to flesh out the universe a bit.  I did not see the point of it then, and still do not.  The universe should start out as small as possible and THEN grow.  That is the function of the mention of the Joker at the end of the story, one of the few parts that never really worked in canon, assuming that the Killing Joke IS canon.

The animation is excellent, and never strays far from the style of the source material.  As is usually the case in these adaptations, there are lots of key iconic shots pulled from the source and they work well here.  There is a bit too much color, more than the book at any rate, and that could be a bit distracting at times, but only really at the start.   As the film gets going, things get much more subdued.  That could be by design though, to more slowly immerse you than the book did.  the quality of the disc is also very nice.  I have not watched the main featurette, but I can say that the Catwoman short is bloody awful.  Style substituting for any kind of story.  And since the style is a bit salacious, I felt dirty just watching it.  Fortunately, I did not buy it for the short. 

The voices are well cast with Bryan Cranston’s Jim Gordon being the real treat here.  I miss Kevin Conroy as Batman though.  Even when I read a comic with Batman, that is the voice I hear in my head.

Overall, this was very good, and as faithful to the source.  This is adult fare and I doubt younger viewers would even enjoy it, but longtime fans should.  I would have liked the Catwoman element to go away and be replaced by more of the Gordon and Wayne stories as this seemed a bit short for the material.  Ultimately, if you like the original, I would say that this will please you.

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OMF-ing G!! Detective Comics #1-review

Detective Comics #1

September 7th 2011

$2.99

Like many, I was not going to pick this up.  My experience with Tony Daniel’s Batman work has been a bit average.  I have never found the stories all that interesting and certainly not as compelling as Grant Morrison or even the classics by Denny O’Neil.  They never really lacked for atmosphere, but the actual story was usually two dimensional, even by modern comic standards.   Not that they were ever bad, just that they never stood out and really made you remember them.  What made me decide to pick this one up was a spoiler I saw online.  I’m not going to say where, as it will affect the overall enjoyment of the story.  But the spoiler was enough to get my hopes up that this might be more than just another average Batman story.  It was.  In a BIG way!

The basic plot is conventional enough, the Batman is trying to hunt down the Joker.  From there, the reboot takes over.  Batman has only been doing this for a few years and the Joker has been around even less.  He is a unpredicatble serial killer that no one can seem to catch.  Batman is once again working without the aid of the police.  Only Jim Gordon is on his side, and even that alliance seems a bit shaky.  The storytelling device of the internal monologue is ever-present, much more than it has been in recent years.  The Batman that I have grown tired of is gone though.  The attitude in the last few years has been “Batman knows all”, and to be honest, it has gotten old.  He should not be perfect and while he probably IS the smartest guy in the room most of the time, does he have to be such a prick about it?  Not here, it would seem.  While I would not call him humble, he is certainly not the Bruce Wayne we have gotten used to lately.  I have liked the idea that he is, and will always be the most experienced in the DCU, but I also would really like to see a human in that suit.  That is definitely something that was not there in Justice League #1.  Score one for the New 52!

The spoiler that grabbed me was the last page, and it is a doozy.  It is my hope that this signals the start of the “something really different” I have hoped for from the reboot.  I don’t want, and I think many people out there might feel the same, the same tired old stories with a new number.  Now that they have thrown the baby and the bath water out, make it worth something.  Take chances.  Shake up the franchises.  With the exception of Batman and Green Lantern, what have they really got to lose?  And even there, not much.  This change, assuming it is real, substantive and far-reaching, could make all the difference in both saving DC and the industry as a whole.  The tried and true trademarks of the big 3 will always be there, but the month to month storytelling in the comics needs help, and if DC get it right, every other company out there could well be playing catch up for a while.

Visually, this is a great book.  Lots of instances where Daniel is borrowing from Frank Miller and Neal Adams and many other artist, but unlike so many cheap homages, this works very well.  Large, dramatic splash pages and small, tight extreme close-ups.  There are pages that feel like everything else is shut out.  You are very much pulled into this book in a way that I have not felt in many years.  As I was reading this, the world around me really did fade into the background.  I don’t mean to say the story and art were that much of a revelation, just that the way it was put together was that effectively done.  The book was that well structured.  The art was clean, crisp and consistent through the whole thing.  It has been a gripe of mine in the last few years as far as the art has been concerned.  Some pages in a book may well be great, while others either look rushed or are done by a fill in artist, both of which can pull you right out of a story if there is no narrative reason for the change.

I grade on a pretty tough scale when I think of these things, so I wont be that specific here.  But this book is probably sitting at #2 of the current bunch from the New 52.  I have several others to review, including the one at the top of that list for me, all of which I will get to in the next few days.   Stay tuned…

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The New 52 Starts here-ish. Justice League #1: Review

Justice League #1

August 2011

DC Comics

$3.99 comic only/$4.99 With digital comic included.

A long wait for the New 52 or DCnU (DC new Universe) as it has been called.  With the end of Flashpoint setting off the end and the beginning for DC Comics, and all the hype surrounding this reboot/restart/cajigger or whatever you want to call it, the expectations for these new number ones could not be higher.  For every whining fool out there that swore he would never pick up a book from DC (the popular phrase was “oh look, 52 jumping off points!”) there must be at least one that is interested to see what is going to happen.  With an initial print run of over 200,000 and 2 reprint runs already scheduled, this book is going to be the big seller for august (or Sept, depending on how they calculate it)  and one of the biggest of the year.  DC’s attempt to grab back market share from Marvel is off to a promising start, at least from a sales standpoint.  (SIDENOTE:  does anyone else recall the halcyon days when a book that sold ONLY 200,000 was not a great seller?  Ah for the return of the 70’s and 80’s!)

This book, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee is fun, I will say that much.  But I have to be honest, it is ultimately disappointing.  I was really hoping for a huge game changer.  Not just in story, but in the whole approach.  I had been hoping that this book might change the way we looked at comics.  Something that was such a clear shift of perspective in how we read and perceived comics, that the entire industry might follow suit. No.  That didn’t happen.  What did happen was a decent comic that will make me pick up the next issue, and ultimately that is what the goal is.

The book is a sort of soft boot for the rest of the new 52, as this book (and Action #1) take place 5 years prior to what will be current continuity for the rest of the books.  This issue really plays out as a team-up between Batman and Green Lantern.  Where Batman seems more and more like the Dark Knight Returns version, all-knowing and all-confident, with everyone around him managing to look like fools or amateurs in comparison, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern is a bit of a clown.  No experience and no subtlety, pushing with all his power to keep up with Batman, the Lantern comes off as an arrogant lightweight.  There is also a brief look at the pre-cyborg Vic Stone.  Does anyone but Geoff Johns really like this character?  I certainly don’t think he belongs in the Justice League.  As the issue ends, we see Superman, clearly post-Action Comics, but before his solo series starts presumably.  Not the intro for the most powerful hero in the DCU.  Next issue promises Batman vs Superman, but I don’t really expect much that I have not seen in other books.  I am hopeful, but not very.

Many of the moments that need to be done well are not.  They are glanced over for bigger action bits.  The first instance where Green Lantern realizes that Batman is “just a guy in a suit”, with no special powers, should have been a strong character moment, but Lee is just not that subtle.  While there is some visual storytelling going on (more than usual for a Jim Lee book), I really missed those smaller moments that define what the characters are going to be.  This is the chance to make real change and develop these guys into something special.  More than just a retelling, and right now, that is what this feels like.  It is a retelling of a story we have never heard.

A quick word about the digital version.  I looked briefly at the book on my friend Kurt’s smart phone and was impressed.  The panels, formatting and the interface were easy and seamless.  There was a lot of versatility in the way you could read this.  One way the digital score over the paper version is the depth of the color and the black levels.  This looks much darker and richer than the printed comic.  It is a natural limitation of the print medium.  The best comparison I can make is what we all saw when we first opened the books in the 90’s that were utilizing the better paper and computer colors.  Like when you first opened Spawn #1 (ugh!) and were blown away by the visual quality of the product, if not the actual art or story.  I think the biggest likely benefit from day and date digital, will be the people, not that want one or the other, as those demographics will not change.  Many of us are in one camp or the other now.  Where the benefit will be felt is from the people who want both.  And there are those people out there, more I suspect, than anybody realizes.

This is a fun book.  It just isn’t worth all the build up.  But given the hype and press these have gotten, I am not sure that anything would have genuinely impressed me.  Sad to say, but true.

I am still very excited to see Action #1.  It holds most of my hopes for the main body of the DCnU, and after that, it will be up to the fringe books, like Justice League Dark to keep me on board.

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Well, it is certainly hard to ignore…

52 #1’s in September.  The reactions have begun to get at least a little more varied.  Ranging from “Oh boy! 52 jumping off points!” to ” But I actually LIKED where Batman inc was going”.  There have been piles of announcements ahead of the full official list and there are a few interesting things.

George Perez writing and drawing Superman (confirmed).  Just freaking cool.  I’m there.

Grant Morrison doing another Superman book (still unconfirmed).  I loved his All-Star book.  I’m there.

Batman inc is on a break until sometime next year.  I went on a break from a girlfriend once.  That didn’t work out all that well.

David Finch on Dark Knight.  What?  He pumps out 2 cruddy issues in 6 months and they are “rebooting”?  I can see the solicitation for  September 2012 already…”superstar Finch to release 4th fabulous issue!”  Ooh!  Can hardly wait to miss this one.  But since it will not be on time much, we will all “miss” it.  On the whole the Batbooks seem to be getting kind of the short end of the stick.  There is a little shuffling of names from one book to another, but nothing really cool.  Greg Capullo on a Batman book is pretty cool.  He is always a fun artist and getting away from Todd MacFarlane will do nothing bad for his career.  Looks like Jason will still be around, and they will continue to clean him up and make him an anti-hero.  Damian is still Robin, and Dick Grayson will go back to being Nightwing.  The part that bugs me is that Barbara Gordon will be Batgirl again.  Not from a continuity point does it bug me (The Killing Joke was never intended to be in canon), but rather the fact that I liked the Oracle angle.

A couple of things HAVE gotten my interest though.  Justice League Dark looks to be written by Peter Milligan and has a fabulous cast.  Any chance to see Madame Xanadu back in a book, since her great series by Matt Wagner and mostly Amy Reeder on art, is a real treat.

Also looking good is Animal Man.  A possible cover is below, along with the third book that looks super cool, Resurrection Man, a character from the late 90’s being brought back by its creator’s Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

At least from the odd corners of the DCU, things are looking interesting.  But to be honest, the whole “women need to cover their legs” thing is really stupid, and Power Girl in pants is gonna suck.  It is as if DC thinks that no one will notice the huge boobage on all the femal characters if thier legs are covered.  Take PG out of the mix and the cup sizes are still pretty spectacular.  We shall see, but I’m guessing this last only as long as the readers keep coming.  Sale dip, and off come the pants!

Justice League Dark cover by Ryan Sook

The return -again- of resurrection Man

Animal Man

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My Day at C2E2 part two

Let’s see now, where was I?  Oh yes, left of with Skeletor.

I will try not to be quite so wordy but I had a great time in even just the one day, so I’m feeling a little bubbly.

One of the things that the wife and I were particularly looking forward to was the chance to meet Danielle Corsetto, creator of the webcomic Girls with Slingshots.  We were a little scared when we failed to find her booth right off, and wandered about for a bit looking for them.  Despair soon started to fall as we still failed to find her.  For those not in the know, GWS is a spectacularly funny webcomic she and I discovered a few weeks ago when we were looking through the C2E2 guest list.  I had been hoping mt favorites would be there again this year (Wondermark and Questionable Content–links on the home page) and finding that they were not, was looking for other things that might be fun.  Faye, that’s the wife as a reminder, saw the strip first and quickly got me into it as well.  The adventures of Hazel, Jaimie McPedro (the talking cactus!) and the legion of odd kitties they have has been one of the most fun strips I have ever read.  Started in 2004, the strip has been going strong ever since and has been Danielle’s full-time gig for quite some time.  As things were really looking bleak, we saw the booth.  There was nobody in the way at that moment and we pounced!  She was an absolute delight to speak to.  We each got McPedro plushies, and she did up word balloons to go with them.  Since we are both dirty minded, we asked for something dirty in the balloons and she happily obliged.  The less dirty of the 2 is below…

The drunken hero of our story...

She was a blast.  I also got the kitties poster which she added a ghost kitty sketch to, and a Special K mouse pad which she drew on as well.  Then she posed for a picture holding one of our McPedros with another in the foreground.

We all have photos like this in our past.

The big mission for Faye had been completed, and to be honest, meeting the creator of something I am currently very into was a lot of fun.  Most of what I do at these cons is talk to the older creators that were influencing my more formative years, so to have something current be as much fun as GWS is made this all the more special.

Then we moved on and found one of the collectibles booths that specialized in the more rare and, to be fair, pricey stuff.  I was not going to be able to pay the kind of money being asked for this beautifully crafted shield, but the guy selling it was more than willing to let me get a picture with it if we went over to the booth next door and donated $5 to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Awareness folks that were there.  With the donation happily made I got my hero moment.

Not quite the Cap I remember

This thing was magnificent, and if I had $450 to spend on something that would sit on a shelf  (except for those times when the wife is out and I can stalk bravely around the house with it on my arm) I would have bought it in a heartbeat.

No comic and sci-fi convention would be complete without a little Doctor Who stuff, and in the booth that featured Mr. McNiece, mentioned last time was a great “Ironside” Dalek from the episode Victory of the Daleks.  I was surprised at how good it looked and didn’t think to ask if it was something that the store running the booth had created or if it was a genuine prop, or just a great replica.

Then we went back into Artist’s Alley for a while.  I have found that I need to do the alley in multiple trips through.  Partly due to the lines that may cause me to shy away until later, but also because I get a little overwhelmed.  You can very quickly become blinded to what you see and not remember any of it.  I try hard to hit a specific list of creators that I want to be sure not to miss.  I like to get them done and be sure I don’t miss the things I specifically came for.  I like the con sketchbooks a lot and I usually bring one item for each of them to be signed.  This year Gail Simone, Adam Hughes, Kevin MaGuire, Jill Thompson, Terry Moore and Dexter Vines were just a few of them and I managed to catch all of the above and most of the others on my list.  I will go into more about the people and the art next time.  Here I want to continue with the fans and the fun sites that you always see at these cons.

Among the many amazing costumes this year were a few more mid level characters represented.  Every cons sees lots of Wonder Womans and Batmen, not that many get graced as effectively by Booster Gold and Arnold J Rimmer from Red Dwarf!  As these two shots below show, you can do basic costumes well and if you really want to much more difficult costumes well if you are willing to make the effort to do it right.

Toodle-pipskie

The greatest hero you've never heard of.

There was lots of Marvel costumes too.  Some of the best were the Age of Apokolips versions of Wolverine, Rouge and Magneto.  At I think that’s where they are from since I didn’t read that series.

So what do you think? Taco Bell or Fishy Joe's?

I will wrap up this post with the last few of the very best pictures my wife Faye so ably took.  The next post will cover the stuff I brought back with me.  Well some of the stuff.  It is very easy to spend yourself into the poorhouse at these things just buying only the coolest stuff and leaving the just kind of cool for someone else.

The captions for theses following pictures say it all really…

A Star Wars family

No con is complete without Slave Leia

Good costumes for the MOS and the DK

The Dread Pirate Wesley

And no group of con pictures would be complete without hearing from the lovely ladies.  With these, I will leave you till next time when I wrap up my coverage of C2E2 2.0!

"I'm sorry Messrs Allen and West, DC Comics will not longer be needing your services."

An Adam Hughes drawing come to life!

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