Rock Star Gary reflects on WCCW 07-02-1983

Taped from Dallas, TX

Airdate: July 2, 1983 (taped 06/17)

Attendance: 21,000

Hosted by Bill Mercer

Can Kevin win the NWA World title? Will the Freebirds retain the American tag titles against Kerry and Brody? And who will help me celebrate a championship edition of WCCW?

Read moreRock Star Gary reflects on WCCW 07-02-1983

Waiting for the Trade – Harley Quinn

Batman: Harley Quinn

by Paul Dini, Yvel Guichet, Aaron Sowd, Don Kramer, Wayne Faucher, Joe Quinones and Neil Googe.

Collects Batman: Harley Quinn #1, Batman Gotham Knights #14 and 30, Detective Comics # 831 and 837, Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn, Batman: Black and White #1 and 3, Legends of the Dark Knight 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 and Detective Comics (vol 2) #23.2

 

Why I Bought This: Because as mentioned before Harley is my favorite Batman villain and this is an anthology of stories about her. With the Suicide Squad film out this seemed like a good choice to review now.

The Plot: Key stories of Harley Quinn as a villain before she became an anti-hero.

(spoilers below)

Read moreWaiting for the Trade – Harley Quinn

Waiting for the Trade: Batman & Harley Quinn

Waiting for the Trade 

Batman: Mad Love and other stories.

by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

collects The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, The Batman Adventures Annual #s 1 & 2, The Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1, Adventures in the DC Universe #3, Batman Black and White #1, The Batman Adventures: Dangerous Dames and Demons, The Batman Chronicles Gallery #1, Batgirl Adventures #1, and Batman Gotham Adventures #10.

 Why I Bought This: Harley Quinn is my favorite thing about the 90s Batman Animated Series and this book recollects her famous, award-winning origin story so it was always on my list to buy and this past FCBD I picked it up during my local comic store’s sale.

The Plot: Mad Love is the origin of Harley Quinn by her creator Paul Dini (who wrote for the animated series). The “other stores” collected here represent all the other times Dini and Timm worked together on Batman comics—some are full length stories, while others are tiny little back up features from the annuals.

(Spoilers Below)

Read moreWaiting for the Trade: Batman & Harley Quinn

Extant’s Pull List – A Tale of Three Batman Books

DC  Comics continued its first month of post-Convergence stories last Wednesday, with a series of first issues and new directions for its line of comics. The main focus of the June 10th releases was the new Batman, as three books featured former police commissioner James Gordon in the new bat-suit.

With the original Batman thought to be dead following his recent “Endgame” battle with the Joker, the Powers Corporation and the GCPD team up to create the robo-Batman suit. Over in the main book, Batman 41, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, we see how the head of the Powers Corp. convinces Gordon to get in the suit. I also would guess that with the obvious flirtation between Gordon and the head of Powers Corp. – Geri Powers – the two of them will soon become an item, but that’s just a guess.

The issue sees Gordon take down a guy using an energy monster as a distraction from holding a former baseball player hostage, as the action is interspersed with his discussions with Det. Harvery Bullock about whether he should take the job.

Given interviews I’ve read, the Bat-suit seems to have been Snyder’s idea to shake things up, but he’s not afraid to poke fun at himself or his idea, as Gordon himself during the issue calls the suit a “roboBat bunny suit.” But the robot suit isn’t the only suit debuting here, as Gordon wears a more traditional superhero suit when he’s not in the bunny.

Over in Detective Comics 41, we see the formation of a new field team tasked with following Batman around and helping him make arrests, which was also touched on in the main Bat-book. My biggest problem here is that it seems that there was a lack of communication between Snyder on Batman and Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul on Detective, as Harvey Bullock is portrayed as having no idea who the new Batman is in Detective, while the Bullock in Batman seemed to be in the inner circle from Day One. Sure, DC has said there would be a looser continuity post-Convergence, but these Bat-books are clearly in the same universe, so I would hope for a little bit more collaboration. Detective Comics 41 also sees the return of Renee Montoya as a member of the Bat Task Force, likely putting an end to her time as the faceless vigilante, The Question.

The third book dealing with Gordon as Batman is Batman/Superman 21, which also ties in to the “Truth” story arc running through the other Superman books. Clark, still powerless, goes to Gotham with Luthor in tow to find Bruce to get some help in regards to his powers and instead runs head first into the new Batman’s robo-fists. In another seeming lack of continuity, there’s no mention of Luthor being a team mate of Superman in Justice League, although Clark’s mistrust of Luthor carries over.

Clark also confers with Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler, Alfred, on an alien artifact and questions him about Bruce’s whereabouts. Alfred begs Clark to leave Bruce be, as he believes Bruce’s death to be a reprieve from a life of fighting.

All three of these books tease that Bruce Wayne’s missing status is not a permanent change (DUH! It’s comics, after all). Clark makes a point of saying he believes Bruce is alive, but agrees to Alfred’s wishes to leave him be and work with Gordon. Over in Detective, Bullock makes it his “secret mission” to find the real Batman. And in Batman 41, we see a man sitting on a bench watching the sun set when another guy walks by him, looks and utters, “Bruce Wayne?”

While DC Comics’ solicitations for September, released this week, seem to confirm the return of Bruce Wayne before year’s end, you can still see Bruce as Batman in the Justice League books and in comedy title Bat-mite (which was reviewed last week).

I picked up the Bat-books this week to see what the new story would bring for Gordon and Gotham, but to be honest, the first issue did little to actually hook me, as they made it clear the status quo would be returned in a few months.

Quick Hits
Constantine: The Hellblazer 1 – DC Comics seems to have given up on mystic John Constantine’s existence in the main DC Universe and have returned him to England to deal with ghosts, demons and other things that go bump in the night with this new number 1. Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV handle writing duties while Riley Rossmo does an amazing job on art. This issue was clearly an establishing issue, but already the direction feels more like Vertigo’s Constantine than the New 52 version. We’ll see whether DC Comics can match the greatness of the former Hellblazer title.

Starfire 1 – A fish-out-of-water tale by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti sees the hero setting herself up in Key West and learning more about Earth culture. While Conner and Palmiotti produce an enjoyable issue, I’m not sure how sustainable story is as it currently stands. Then again, though, I thought the same thing about Harley Quinn and that seems to be one of DC’s most popular books…

Gotham Academy 7 – Writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher’s story about kids in school in Gotham introduces Damian Wayne, son of the Batman, as a new student. The writing is crisp and enjoyable and the artwork is absolutely stunning, especially on a digital screen. Definitely worthy of a pick-up, especially as the book starts a new direction.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the books that drop today, including new books for established heroes Martian Manhunter and Black Canary and Doomed, a story about a young man infected with the Doomsday virus. Also released this week in comic shops and online is Bryan Hitch’s new Justice League of America, and a continuation of the “Truth” storyline in Superman/Wonder Woman.

Waiting for the Trade = Batman * Judge Dredd

 
Batman & Judge
Dredd: Judgment on Gotham

writers Alan Grant
& John Wagner, artist Simon Bisley

This is an original
graphic novel from 1991

 

Why I Bought This: It
was in the $1 bin of a local comic store and I’m always a sucker for an
intercompany crossover. Even though my knowledge of Judge Dredd is limited to
that bad Stallone 90s movie and a Free Comic Book Day issue two years ago at
this price I figured it was worth a shot.

 

The Plot: Batman
& Judge Dredd are forced to team-up when Judge Death comes to Gotham and teams up with Scarecrow.

(spoilers below)

 
Judge Death (undead psycho-cop who seems to have powers of
rot touch, intangibility and razor sharp nails: his philosophy is only the
living commit crimes so life itself is a crime that should be punished by death)
kills some young lovers making out in an alley. The couples’ screams attract
Batman and two Gotham cops. The cops unload
their guns on Death to no effect and he kills one of them. Batman uses martial
arts and accidentally impales Death on a fence. Bats thinks its dead but Death
soon rises up to attack again. This time the cop’s bullets hit a gas tank and
the ensuing explosion burns Death to ash, though its spirit rises up and vows
vengeance.

Batman examines Death’s gear and when he touches its belt
buckle he is transported to Mega
City (Judge Dredd’s
fascist crime-ridden future). Batman encounters another Dredd villain: Mean
Machine—a big bruiser with a low IQ, a cyborg arm, a metal plate covering most
of his head and a dial that controls his aggression on the headpiece.
Apparently he stole the dimension travel belt for Judge Death and wants to know
where Death went and why Batman took his place. Batman outmaneuvers him and
throws M.M. from a building but then uses a cable to save him. Their fight
attracts Judge Dredd. Batman sees Dredd is the law on this world and is willing
to cooperate in order to get home and stop Death; however Dredd insists Batman
be cuffed leading to Dredd sucker punching Bats and arresting him.

Mean Machine arrives in Gotham
via the belt and head-butts the cop from earlier. Meanwhile a telepath in
Dredd’s unit named Anderson
is called in to talk with Batman after he claims Judge Death is alive and on
the loose.

Batman is appalled by what passes for law and justice in
Dredd’s world. Dredd meanwhile wants to jail Batman for 20 years for various unlicensed
weapons on his utility belt. Anderson’s
telepathy verifies Bruce is telling the truth but Dredd is not dissuaded that
Batman belongs in jail. He also feels if Death has gone to another world he is
no longer in their jurisdiction and has no interest in chasing him down. After
hearing that comment, Batman breaks free and pounds on Dredd a bit until the
rest of the Mega City police force subdues him.

Back in Gotham, Scarecrow
breaks into a morgue to get glands he uses to create his fear toxin. Judge
Death’s spirit also arrives at the morgue looking for a new body to inhabit. The
villains quickly hit it off so that Scarecrow helps Death with the reanimation
ritual. Of course when its done Death decides to double cross Scarecrow and
kill him but Scarecrow’s fear gas puts a stop to that (and in a funny page we
see Death’s worst fears are cute cartoon animals).

Anderson frees Batman from
the prison transport and takes him to a dimension door facility and from there
back to Gotham. Dredd hears about the break
out and follows. Back in Gotham, Mean Machine
is head-butting various people looking for Death and gets directed to a heavy
metal concert for a band called Living Death. This just so happens to be where
Scarecrow wants to take Death to see what kind of fear they can instill
together on a large crowd. Anderson’s
psychic powers also track Death to the concert.

At the concert Death kills the band in gory fashion and then
attacks the crowd. Mean Machine sees Death with a new partner and feels
double-crossed so he attacks the stage itself by head-butting the support
pilings. Batman and Anderson arrive. She shoots Scarecrow’s fear canister
exposing him to his own gas which takes him out of the fight. Batman is not
doing as well against Death but then Dredd arrives and shoots Judge Death a
lot. Just then the stage collapses burying Dredd in the rubble. Death is about
to use his rot touch on Dredd when Batman makes the save with an electric
batarang that fries this body. When Death’s spirit goes to escape Anderson pulls him into
her own mind to imprison him.

Dredd makes Mean Machine docile by shooting out his
aggression dial. He’s ready to fight Batman too but Anderson convinces Dredd they need to go
before she loses control of Judge Death. And with that everyone goes home while
Batman takes Scarecrow back to Arkham.

 
Critical Thoughts:
I liked this well enough. It certainly isn’t breaking new ground, but then most
intercompany crossovers don’t break new ground—they just follow the template
Gerry Conway established in the 70s with Super
Man vs. Spider-man
.

It comes off as more of Dredd story than a Batman story as
it has two of villains and one of his supporting characters it, whereas
Scarecrow’s involvement is minimal and non of Bruce’s supporting cast is
present. Yes, I’d have liked to see a little more of Batman in Mega City
or a longer fight between Batman and Dredd (even if we know these fights always
end inconclusively) but the story told here is a consistent narrative
throughout. As someone unfamiliar with Dredd’s world I had no problem follow it
(and I’d even seen Judge Death before in the Free Comic Book Day issue, and
he’s a strong villain for this world.)

The art is painted, which gives the book a unique look.
There are some real nice splash pages in here. Judge Death comes off very
creepy in this format. Overall the art is a definite highlight.

 

Grade: C+. For
what I paid this delivered more than enough entertainment, but even its
original cover price of $6 would be fine for this story. Again we’re not
reinventing the wheel but it is a better than average example of the
intercompany crossover genre.

Best Batman stories?

I’ve been wanting to read some Batman lately, but I don’t know which stories I should be after. Growing up, I dug The Bat, but I never read the comics. So, what are some reckos? I’ve always heard Hush is great. What about The Killing Joke? Is Knightfall any good? Anything that’s graphic novel would be great, so I can download it straight up and don’t have to hunt them down one by one.

Batman

Batman Zero Year started today.  Perhaps an entry with your thoughts would be in order?

Huh, I would have figured Superman Unchained would be the biggest topic of conversation.  I haven't gotten to either one yet as I usually read them at work on break, but you can probably pencil me in for the exact opposite of whatever Jesse Baker felt like.  We can do a weekly pull list thread on Wednesdays if people want, though.  
Speaking of early years, I took a shot with Wolverine Season One and man was that ever a fantastic read.  Just a fun comic with Logan learning to be a civilized killer and picking out costumes and such.  

Waiting for the Trade – Batgirl

Waiting for the Trade
by Bill Miller
 
Batgirl New 52 Vol. 1
– The Darkest Reflection
by Gail Simone, Ardian
Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
collects Batgirl 1 – 6
 
Why I Bought This: I
always liked Batgirl best of the core Batman characters dating back to the Adam
West series. Since I mostly enjoyed the first three New 52 books I sampled, and
with Barbara Gordon finally returned to that role, this my next pick-up from
that line.
 
 
The Plot: Barbara
Gordon has regained the use of her legs and decides to resume her career as
Batgirl only to come across a new costumed serial killer known as Mirror.
 

Chapter 1 – A mystery man drowns an old guy with a garden
hose then scratches his victim’s name off a list that also includes the name of
“Barbara Gordon.” We see Batgirl on patrol and she comes across a home invasion
that she subsequently breaks up in a short but intense fight. We see Barbara
having nightmares of Joker shooting her and putting her in a wheelchair in The Killing Joke. When she wakes we get
a flashback of her recovery and moving out of her father’s house. This leads to
her getting an apartment with a new female roommate, who is something of a
political activist. At the hospital police are interrogating the gang leader
Batgirl took down the night before when the mysterious costumed man from the
opening arrives. He guns down some cops causing Barbara to head over there when
she hears about it through her police connections. Batgirl arrives just as our
killer storms the gang leader’s room but when he pulls a gun on her she again
flashes back to Killing Joke and
freezes. This allows the killer to dispose of the gang leader much to the
horror of the one surviving police officer in the room.
 
 
Chapter 2 – The
killer makes his escape and Barbara pursues him in a rooftop battle that she
ultimately loses (and barely survives from falling to her death). At the
hospital surviving cop Detective McKenna tells Comm. Gordon her belief that
Batgirl is partly responsible for the gang leader’s death. Batgirl tracks the
killer to a cemetery where he reveals his name as Mirror. He kicks her ass
again but she is able to steal his list off him during the fight before he
retreats because the entire Gotham PD are on the way. That night Barbara goes
home and her roommate sees her covered in bruises and assumes Barbara has domestic
violence victim problems, although Barbara is able to talk her out of it. The
next day Barabara goes on a date with her physical therapist. Then we get a
montage of Barbara doing detective work until she is able to piece together who
Mirror is and find his hideout. His story is he was a federal agent/war hero
whose family burned to death in a car accident while he watched. This has made
him conclude that “miracles are simply God laughing at us” and so he kills anyone
who has received a miracle, particularly surviving a near death experience by
killing them in the way they should have died the first time. He reveals to
Barbara he has planted a bomb on a train to get to his next victim who survived
falling on train tracks once.
 
 
Chapter 3 – Batgirl boards the train and tries to outthink
Mirror since by changing the circumstances of how his victim would die but he
still detonates the bomb. Later she liberates her bat-cycle from the police
impound (she had to leave it outside the hospital when she chased Mirror on the
rooftops) and encounters Nightwing. They flirt by fighting as she convinces him
she needs to prove herself that she can solve this case on her own.
 
 
Chapter 4 – Barbara is having nightmares about being back in
the wheelchair. Barbara and her roommate decorate for Christmas leading Barbara
to reveal her best and worst Christmas. The former is one year ago when her
father got an experimental clinic in South Africa to accept her which is what
got her out of the wheelchair, whereas the latter is when her mother walked on
her and Comm. Gordon when she was 12. On patrol Batgirl breaks up a mugging.
She then laves a noet for Mirror on the grave of his family. Needless to say he
is not pleased to receive it and accepts Batgirl’s invitation to go fight in an
abandoned hall of mirrors. There fight is pretty physical and it looks like
Mirror is going to win and until Barbara forces him to confront the loss of his
family giving her an opening to KO him and send him to Arkham. That night
Barbara’s mother shows up at her apartment.
 
 
Chapter 5 – Batgirl is on patrol when she stumbles across a
carjacking. What is weird is the carjackers are upper level mobsters who never
get their hands dirty in public. It gets even weirder when Barbara stops three
of them only for the head mobster to kill his three sons and the jump off a
bridge in a suicide attempt. Batgirl catches him on her bat-cable only for a girl
with green hair to show up and attack her. The villain seems to have low grade
invulnerability as none of Batgirl’s blows phase her. Eventually the villain
just wanders off claiming to be “out of time” and Batgirl has to let her go so
she can finish saving the mob boss who is now mumbling the numbers “338”
uncontrollably. We then get a flashback to last issue’s cliffhanger with
Barbara’s mom. They go for a walk with mom announcing her intention to move
back to Gotham and hoping to start anew but Barbara
isn’t very receptive to the idea. At Gotham PD Detective McKenna is reinstated
(she was on mandatory psychological bereavement leave due to the death of her
partner by Mirror) and is assigned the bridge case which opened this chapter;
she’s happy for the assignment since she’s been investigating Batgril on her
own time anyway. Batgirl is pondering the meaning of 338, and comes across a
news story on protests of a historical building that the Wayne Foundation plans
to demolish at that address number. As Bruce is on his way to the site his
chauffer gets possessed and deliberately crashes their car and our mystery
villainess again shows up. She now has pink hair and using the name Gretel.
Batgirl takes down the chauffer so Gretel possess Bruce instead.
 
 
Chapter 6 – Batgirl is forced to fight Bruce and this causes
her flashback to some her early days training with him and then him visiting
her in the hospital after Killing Joke as
she worries this fight might be a bit too much too soon after her recovery
considering who Bruce really is. The fight ends up in Crime Alley (the sight of
the murder of Bruce’s parents) and that enables Barbara talk him free of the
mind control. He gives her his approval as Batgirl and plans to hold a press
conference tomorrow. We get Gretel’s origin: she was an investigative
journalist who went digging into a connection between the mob and the wealthy
elite and got shot and left for dead for her troubles. The bullet she took to
the head both cut off her pain centers and gave telepathic powers that enable
her to get men to do what she suggests. Barbara is able to investigate based on
something Gretel said during the last fight and discovers her identity. Gretel
finishes off the mobster from chapter 5 (who is the same one that shot her way
back when) off panel, while Barbara and Bruce set a trap with Bruce to be a
decoy at the press conference so that Batgirl can take down Gretel. At the
press conference Gretel possesses all of the male cops and has them open fire
on Bruce. Batgirl takes down the cops long enough for Bruce to escape and
change clothes. Detective McKenna attempts to arrest Batgirl but Batman arrives
and is like ‘uh, no.’ The two heroes confront Gretel and Batgirl tries to talk
her into surrendering out of sympathy for her tragic origin. Gretel forces a
fight and when she loses wishes for suicide rather than being powerless at the
hands of men again but Batgirl saves her anyway then turns her over to McKenna
while pondering if she could have turned out the same as Gretel if not for the
love of her father and Batman.
 
 
Critical Thoughts: Good
stuff all around. Both new villains have great origins and make good foils for
Barbara. They are both victims of terrible events so that you have empathy for
them but yet the story never shies away from showing they are mass murders and
why the need to be stopped. Mirror in particular makes a great first foe as he
is physically superior to Barbara and his schtick gives her intellectual
openings to try to overcome that, while also playing against her own fears that
getting back into the costume is tempting fate after being in the wheelchair
for so long. Even the minor villains are well-written. That home invasion scene
has a terrifying subtext where they tell their victims what they plan to do to
them but the reader doesn’t hear it, we only see the victims’ horrified reaction
to their plan.
 
 
Reading
about Batgirl in general proves interesting because there aren’t a lot of
non-powered solo females out there. Marvel’s Silver Sable is the only other one
who come to mind of the top of my head and she uses guns, which is a short cut
Barbara doesn’t have. Even when fighting muggers and gangs we see Barbara has
to use leverage and tactics because she is not as strong as they are. Overall
this book has a nice sense of realism. Barbara  knows how dangerous boarding a train with a
bomb on it is. She struggles to save cilvilians. She worries about the strain
on her spine in the more physical scenes. Best of all is her interior
monologue: it’s really written, let’s us know what she’s thinking and feeling
both in the action scenes and the detective scenes. Which is another good
touch, we see Barbara do the work on panel to solve these crimes. It’s very
much a case of showing and not telling us that Barbara is smart, when they
could easily take the shortcut that she used to be Oracle and she had a big
database and bam the clue is solved.
 
 
This book also introduces a good, well-written supporting
cast. It’s a good mix of new characters like the roommate, Barbara’s mother and
Detective McKenna with established characters like her father and sticking the
other Bat-heroes on the periphery. There isn’t a civilian character here that I
wouldn’t mind seeing again in future volumes and how their stories intertwine
with Barbara’s character arc.
 
 
Grade A. Overall
this is a real solid book with good writing that extends to the hero, her
supporting cast and the villains. This is a series I will definitely continue
to buy in trade.
 

Waiting for the Trade – Batman

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Batman: Cacophony

By Kevin Smith and
Walt Flanagan

Collects Batman:
Cacophony 1-3

Why I Bought This: Actually
I didn’t buy this. It was a Christmas present from my lady, bought when we are
at Kevin Smith’s store. She chose it because it is not just Smith writing but
also art from Walt Flanagan of the Comic
Book Men
TV show, making it a fitting souvenir of our visit to the Stash.
The Plot: Batman
battles the Joker while new super-villain Cacophony arrives in Gotham. (Spoilers after the break)

 
Chapter 1 – Deadshot breaks into Arkham to confront the
Joker. Deadshot has been hired to kill Joker by the parent of a teen who
overdosed a drug called Chuckles, which is made from a low grade form of Joker
Venom. Joker is horrified that someone would take his trademark weapon and turn
into a recreational drug. Deadshot blows the cell open but before he can put a
bullet in Joker he is attacked by Cacophony: a hit man who never speaks except
to imitate sound effects. Cacophony fatally shoots Deadshot in the head and
frees Joker from Arkham. He then hands Joker a suitcase full of money and
disappears. Meanwhile serial killer Zsasz has just orphaned some kids when
Batman arrives in time to stop him from killing the children too. Comm. Gordon
calls Batman about the Joker escape. Bats goes to the morgue where he finds
Deadshot rising from the dead. Batman examines and admires Deadshot’s trick
helmet that not only blocks bullets but then explodes blood and locks down body
functions to simulate death. He also questions Deadshot on what went down at
Arkham but Deadshot has no details on who Cacophony is or what his agenda may
be. We meet Maxi Zeus, apparently a D-list Bat-foe who is now pretending to
have gone legit but is in fact selling the Chuckles drug. Joker takes a middle
school hostage where Zeus’s nephew attends. Zeus tries to first cut Joker in on
the profits and later threatens him. Joker is unimpressed and sets off a bomb;
killing all the children within the school as Cacophony watches from afar.

Chapter 2 – Joker murders a nightclub full of civilians
because the club is owned by Zeus. Batman arrives and has Joker on the
defensive until Cacophony arrives and shoots Batman in the shoulder from
behind. Batman takes the fight to Cacophony, but Cacophony responds by
connecting with a slashing knife wound across Batman’s torso, thus giving both
villains time to disappear. Batman does some research and learns Cacophony
previously fought Green Arrow v2.0 (I suspect in the Smith penned series that
resurrected the original that I’ve never read) as well as killed some minor
heroes that Smith most likely invented just to be his victims. Batman deduces
Cacophony considers himself a hero-killer but that he only targets human
superheroes. He also figures out Cacophony freed Joker as a hunting tactic to
draw Batman out and keep his attention divided. Meanwhile Zeus has lost his
mind and gone back to his super-villain identity, which involves pretending to
be a Greek god sans any actual powers. Batman finds Zeus romping with some
ladies. He snaps Zeus back to sanity and gets him to agree to turn himself in
and testify out of remorse for his nephew’s death. Joker makes a run at the
police station to get to Zeus where Batman is waiting for him. They fight on
the roof until Cacophony arrives as well.

Chapter 3 – Batman has managed to handcuff Joker to the Bat
Signal, but Joker uses a shard of glass to stab him in the leg, which gives
Cacophony an opening to shoot Batman in the head. The villains gloat over his
dead body until Batman pops up and breaks Cacophony’s wrist to disarm him, as
Batman’s interior monologue reveals he stole Deadshot’s trick helmet tech.
Batman pummels the wounded Cacophony so he stabs Joker in the heart as a
diversionary tactic. Batman is forced to choose whether to pursue Cacophony or
save the Joker and he chooses the latter much to Comm. Gordon’s disbelief. Five
months later Batman visits Joker in the hospital and they have a rather intense
conversation that ends with Joker claiming his desire to kill Batman is what
makes him as crazy as he is. Finally in the epilogue we see Cacophony go home
where he lives a normal middle class life with a wife and kids but in the
basement he has a trophy case for the masks of heroes he’s killed and he gazes
at the empty spot reserved for Batman’s cowl.

Critical Thoughts:
I enjoyed this story overall but it isn’t perfect. In fact I’d say it serves as
a microcosm for both the best and worst of Smith’s writing tendencies.

On the best front, as his films often show, Smith is one of
the best writers of dialogue in recent film history. Chapter 3 in particularly
is captivating and it’s all due to the dialogue scenes, first between Batman
and Gordon and then the big extended verbal confrontation between Batman and
Joker. The conversations feel important on a character level and each has their
own dramatic tension. It really is excellent writing.

On the flip side Smith has a tendency to wallow in bathroom
humor and vulgarity. We see that in his films; and while sometimes it works (I
would still to this day consider Clerks one
of the 10 best films of the 90s), other times it does not and comes across as
jarring and excessive to the point that it derails the entire story (The finale
of Clerks 2 being the most obvious
example in his films; although I HATED his Spider-man/Black Cat limited series
a few years back for the same reasons). In this story it’s not nearly as bad as
those other two examples in that it never derails the story because it is used
in minor asides and not major plot points; but it is present throughout and in
every case it’s jarring because it’s not adding anything to the story; it’s
just showing the Smith is too big a writer for DC editorial to reign in and
edit. If anything it’s similar to Dogma,
which as a film has a strong story and good dialogue about interesting issues,
but would be a stronger film with a few less forays into bathroom humor. Smith
has fairly intense Batman crime noir story here: he doesn’t need to have Joker
offering gay sex to Cacophony, Zsasz cutting his own penis with a knife and
Joker telling Batman he saw his testicles because none of these things further
the story or the characters in any way; and plenty of other writers, who don’t
have Smith’s pedigree, have managed to tell Batman-Joker stories for years
without resorting to cheap and tawdry writing.

As far as the art, I like what Flanagan does here a lot. I
again go to chapter three, and for as great as the dialogue scenes in the
finale are, those scenes are preceded by a hell of a fight scene on the roof in
the rain with some big shocking moments and his art is a big reason the scene
works as well as it does. He also gets some nice facial shots, particularly on
Joker, for the conversation between Joker and Batman that closes the story.

I will say Cacophony is not much of a villain conceptually.
His shtick of imitating sound effects is more odd than interesting; although
this is mitigated by even Batman noting the Gotham
villains are “running out of gimmicks and kinks” when he first meets him. We
also don’t really get an explanation of why he is such an adept fighter: he
wounds Batman in every fight they have, and practically kills both Joker and
Deadshot with little difficulty. These aren’t major criticisms because if this
was a start of a longer run on the title for Smith, I’d say this is a good way
to introduce a new major villain if you were setting up to answer those
questions over time; but for a three issue limited series it feels unresolved.
I will add I like the finale that shows he is a family man when he isn’t being
a super villain as that is not something we see very often. 

One other observation that Batman saving the Joker even
after he kills middle school students in this story makes clear is how much
comics in general have let their heroes creep ever more hardcore over moral
lines. Batman is such an icon in pop culture that his no killing code has
become untouchable, whereas less popular characters aren’t so lucky. So that
while 20 years ago Batman was the darkest of DC’s major heroes, now characters
like Aquaman and Wonder Woman (who no casual follower of superheroes would
consider darker than Batman) are much more ruthless than he is: they both
casually stab people with tridents and swords now and have no problem letting
enemies die. My point with this paragraph isn’t to criticize Smith’s story,
just to point out what I think is a fairly damning trend in 21st
century comics overall.

 

Grade A-. Yea,
there are some unnecessary moments but the core story is well told in both writing
and art. You have four villains working at cross-purposes with clearly defined
motivations leading to a finale that feels high stakes to the hero on a
personal level. If you are someone who only reads Batman occasionally this is a
fine self-contained story featuring him and his greatest foe, making it an easy
trade to recommend.

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – JLA New 52

Waiting for the Trade

 

by Bill Miller

Justice League vol.
1: Origin

by Geoff Johns, Jim
Lee and Scott Williams

collects Justice
League 1-6.

 

Why I Bought This: Even
though I’m primarily a Marvel reader, like most of the comic-buying public I
was pretty intrigued when DC launched its New 52. This being the flagship title
is the obvious one to sample. Plus Jim Lee’s art in the preview pages looked
fantastic. On Cyber Monday, Midtown Comics put all the volume 1 New 52 trades
on sale at 40-percent off so I finally picked this up (along with Aquaman and JLI).



The Plot: The
Justice League comes together for the first time to deal with the threat of
Darkseid. Your heroes are Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green
Lantern, Flash and Cyborg.

Chapter 1 – Gotham Police are chasing down Batman with a
helicopter as he runs across rooftops in pursuit of an unknown foe. Batman
catches it and finds a non-human cyborg. Batman is on the defensive when Green
Lantern arrives and he and Batman meet for the first time. Police open fire on
the heroes; and while GL’s force field keeps them safe it gives the cyborg time
to counterattack by breathing fire. This results in the heroes having to save
the cops while the cyborg escapes. GL informs Batman the foe is definitely extraterrestrial
as well as filling him in on the whole GL Corps shtick. GL is also agog when he
learns Batman has no powers. They trace their foe to the sewers where it seems
to be planting a bomb. When GL tries to intercede it blows itself up, shouting
“For Darkseid” as it does so. They discover the bomb is actually a Mother Box,
which Batman deduces is an alien computer. This causes GL to suspect Superman,
whom neither he nor Batman has met yet. While Batman advises caution given
Superman’s power levels, GL flies them both to Metropolis. Cut to an interlude
where African-American teen Vic Stone wins a high school football game while
college scouts are watching, but mopes because his dad doesn’t attend. GL and
Bats arrives in Metropolis where Superman has just finished a battle. GL
cockily confronts Supes only to be easily knocked across the city; leaving
Supes and Bats staring each other down.

Chapter 2 – In Central City, Flash is working at his day job
doing CSI stuff while other police officers talk about the need for an
anti-Flash taskforce. In Metropolis Batman is exhausting his utility belt on
Supes to no effect, as we learn Supes off-camera also battled one of the Mother
Box planting aliens. GL recovers and tries to contain Supes with his ring but
Superman is too strong. GL is desperately on the defensive so he uses his ring
to radio Flash for help, as apparently they’ve met, worked together before and
even shared secret identities. Flash arrives instantly and uses his speed to
confuse Superman for a bit, but ultimately Supes is able to move fast enough to
hit Flash with one finger and take the fight out of him. Batman then uses that
interlude to talk sense into everyone, and the heroes band together to
investigate the Mother Boxes. Cut to STAR Labs where they too have a Mother Box
and are trying to decipher what it does. Heading up the project is Vic Stone’s
father. Vic arrives and his dad blows him off, feeling human athletic prowess
is no longer relevant in a world of super-humans. Back with the heroes, who
even with Superman’s X-ray vision and Barry’s CSI background are finding it
difficult to get evidence from the Mother Box. Suddenly all the boxes activate,
opening Boom-tubes to let the Parademon (aka the fire-breathing cyborg alien)
army invade the Earth. At STAR Labs Vic Stone takes a bunch of shrapnel when
the portal opens.

Chapter 3 – in Washington
DC Col.
Steve Trevor is being debriefed about his first meeting with Wonder Woman and
the Amazons of Paradise Island, while Wonder Woman explores DC and has ice
cream for the first time. This new interpretation of Wonder Woman carries a
sword at all times (on her belt, opposite her magic lasso) and also seems to be
extra-eager for combat. When Parademons explode over DC she is happy to engage
them in battle. Back at STAR Labs Dr. Stone reveals he already lost Vic’s mom,
he won’t lose Victor too even though the shrapnel in the youth is emitting
weird energy. In Metropolis, Bats, GL and Flash are holding their own, while
Superman is taking entire squadrons of the Parademon army down with ease. Back
at STAR Labs Dr. Stone gets his son in their safe room where the other sci-fi
tech gizmos are stored and performs emergency surgery with them to save his
son. As more demons pour into Metropolis, Wonder Woman arrives to give Superman
a hand. The heroes drive the demons back as Vic Stone comes online as Cyborg
and is somehow patched into whatever background noise/orders the Mother Boxes
are giving the demons. The demons erect a tower in the ocean (but within sight of
the Metropolis docks/shoreline), which causes Aquaman to arrive on the scene as
well.

Chapter 4 – Cyborg is in a lot of pain, and is trying to
come to terms with what his father did to save his life when the demons break
down the wall to the safe room causing Cyborg’s arm to reform into a laser gun
which vaporizes the demons. (His powers in general seem to be like the villain
in Terminator 3 here). With the threat
at STAR Labs defeated Cyborg runs off into the night feeling his father made
him into a monster. In Metropolis Aquaman meets all the heroes for the first
time, and tries to take the leadership role claiming his experience as King of
Atlantis. GL mocks Aquaman and his powers just as the Parademons mount a new
attack from the ocean and Aquaman has an army of sharks jump out of the ocean
and eat the entire Parademon army, except for one whom Aquaman kills with his
tridents thus shutting GL up. The military arrives and fires on the heroes but
Wonder Woman uses her bracelets to protect everyone. Cut to Cyborg who is
getting flashes of Apokolips in his head. He takes out a few demons and manages
to activate one of their Boom Tubes to teleport to the other heroes in
Metropolis. He warns them of what is coming but it is too late as Darkseid
arrives via Boom Tube.

Chapter 5 – Darkseid takes out the military fighter jets
with one shot of his Omega Beams. Flash and Superman get his attention so he
shoots Omega Beams at them. The beams actually split as the heroes do and keep
pace with their speeds. Flash is able to avoid the beams by getting them to hit
some Parademons but Superman is overtaken, knocked unconscious and kidnapped by
the Parademons into their ocean tower. As the next most powerful hero (and
rashest) GL tries to fight Darkseid one-on-one next. Darkseid keeps breaking
his constructs and eventually grabs GL and breaks his ring hand. To his credit
GL attempts to keep fighting but Batman talks him down by unmasking and telling
him his origin. Batman tells GL to come up with a team-based attack using the
combined superpowers at hand to keep Darkseid busy long enough for Bats to
sneak into the tower and free Superman. Once Bats gets there he realizes it is
going to be tougher than he thought since the inside of the tower is a portal
to Apokolips.

Chapter 6 – Darkseid is incinerating civilians until the JLA
hits him with everything at once. Wonder Woman tries to use her lasso to get
info on why Darkseid is here on Earth, to which he just says “For her,” and
before WW can get him to clarify he decks her. Back on Apokolips Batman finds
Dessad torturing Superman, presumably as part of some brain-washing process. On
Earth Darkseid tries his Omega Beams but her bracelets deflect them and she
counters by stabbing him in the eye with her sword. As he reels from that
Aquaman stabs him in his other eye with his trident. The heroes are dismayed to
see Darkseid is still standing. Cyborg decides to try overriding the Mother
Boxes again to Boom Tube Darkseid back to Apokolips. The Boom Tubes powering up
gets Dessad’s attention on Apokolips thus giving Batman an opportunity to free
Superman. Superman returns to fight Darkseid, but Darkseid proves stronger than
him. The heroes combine to push Darkseid back into the Boom Tube as Cyborg uses
it to teleport Darkseid and his army away. In the aftermath the humans of
Metropolis/the world love the heroes. They then get invited to meet with the
President, who publically embraces them for saving the world, assuming they are
a team. The JLA go along with it for the greater good of human/super-human
relations. They receive their name from a reporter during a second mission,
which we see only in passing press coverage as they fight with Starro
recreating the famous cover of the original first JLA story. Finally we get two
epilogues: first in London
shadowy figures discuss the arrival of superheroes in the world and embrace the
super villain moniker; second Pandora of Greek myth fights with Phantom
Stranger before blackmailing him into leaving her alone while announcing plans
to use the JLA to end her curse.
Critical Thoughts: Let’s
start with the positives, which is the art is absolutely jump off the page
amazing. This is Jim Lee at his very best; reminiscent of the stuff he and
Liefeld were doing when they hit it big in the 90s on the X-books. Every hero
gets a stunning pin-up when they arrive in the story for the first time. I
really like Wonder Woman’s new costume. As an Aquaman fan I have to say he has
never looked cooler, or in the scene where shark army jumps out of the water more
badass, than he does in this book. Furthermore the art works beyond the pin-up
cool to enhance the story. For example, in the first meeting between Batman and
Green Lantern the art visually reinforces that these are two different types of
heroes. The Superman debut fight is rendered (and written) in such a way to
make Superman and his power levels feel fresh and new, which is no easy feet
considering how well we all know Superman. It’s really one of the best fight
scenes I’ve seen in some time, especially once Flash arrives. The sequence
where Superman and Flash try to outrace the Omega Beams is also drawn to really
give a sense momentum and wonder to the action.

In terms of plot and story elements there is both good and
bad here. The dynamic of the heroes’ first meetings and reactions to each other
is handled very well. It’s also interesting to see the heroes of the DC
Universe not being trusted by the public and law enforcement. While I don’t
read as much DC as Marvel, I’ve never seen that before in their
universe—usually each hero has their fictional city they watch over like a
guardian angel and everyone there loves them for it. Of course by the end of
the story the heroes have turned the corner to that more beloved status quo, so
I guess it’s not something they’re going to explore any further.

I thought Green Lantern’s reaction to Batman’s lack of
powers was just great. GL’s portrayal in general is interesting, as he’s
arrogant and rash but we still get to see the determination that powers his
ring and makes him a hero when he fights Darkseid. There’s a funny moment where
he brushes up against Wonder Woman’s lasso and reveals he’s going to be the one
save day because he likes to impress people. All that said I didn’t really buy
the scene where Batman supposedly turns it around for GL to be more of a team
player by unmasking. I think it’s something done more to be dramatic for the
reader than the characters. By which I means as readers we know Batman’s secret
identity is important so seeing him unmask is a big deal. But within the logic
of the story it feels out of characters for Batman to unmask to someone he just
met. More importantly why should GL care, who Batman is? It’s not like they’ve
been fighting alongside each for years and suddenly Batman trusts him with this
big thing. It’s more like, “So uh yea my parents were killed by a mugger when I
was a kid so we better stop this alien invasion, kay?” I think there are easier
ways within the story’s own logic to get to “We need to work as a team for this
one” than jumping to Batman unmasking.

Among the other heroes, I can’t say I like the new Wonder
Woman interpretation. I seem to recall her classical interpretation being that
she’s the emissary of peace into Man’s World. Now she’s the exact opposite of
that as this blood thirsty battle seeking sword wielding demigod. Hell, even
though I didn’t read it, I know I read online that there was a DC event story a
few years ago where the big three’s relationship fractured because Wonder Woman
used a sword to kill Maxwell Lord when he possessed Superman. It sounds like
the whole point of that story was Wonder Woman went too far, and that even she
knew stabbing someone is a big deal with consequences; and yet now we’re going
to make it that she casually stabs people all the time.

Which leads to my next point, I found the scene with Wonder
Woman and Aquaman stabbing Darkseid in eyes far more viscous than I prefer a
mainstream superhero comic to be. Admittedly it is good strategy giving
Darkseid’s eyes are his power source, but I think A-list heroes who appeal to
kids should be presented as morally above such tactics. Actually the eye
stabbing scene is another way this book reminds me of a 90s comic, as I
remember when X-Force launched they had Shatterstar stabbing people in the eyes
to show how grim and gritty they were. Objectively I can see that both Wonder
Woman and Aquaman have roots in Greek myth where viscous things, including
blindings, befall people all the time. So yes, an artistic argument can be made
to portray those two characters in this way; however, I’m not sure personally
it’s what I want to see. I had decided if I liked these first three New 52
trades I probably sample Wonder Woman
and Batgirl next and this
interpretation makes me less likely to buy Wonder Woman’s solo title.

This brings up the next question I can see both sides too,
which is what is Cyborg doing in this book? You have DC’s six most important
well known A-list heroes and then this random C-lister better associated with
the Teen Titans hanging out with them. It doesn’t help that his origin scenes
are probably the least interesting parts of this trade. That said if you are
rebooting your entire universe for the 21st century I can absolutely
see and respect the need include an African-American hero in your A-list
flagship title that younger readers are most likely to read. When you throw in
that this relaunch is also meant to reach out to lapsed comic fans, Cyborg is
probably a better choice than most other African-American heroes to fill thus
role since he was part of the final season of Super Friends that also heavily featured Darkseid. (And this story
even manages to work the “Super Friends” name into the final chapter when the
President introduces the heroes to the public). Then again if the goal is to
make Cyborg an equal of these other heroes, why is he a teenager just getting
his power when everyone else on the team are fully power adults? As I
understand it the next trade jumps ahead five years so by then Cyborg should be
about 23 years-old and on more equal footing with his teammates, so hopefully
that criticism works itself out.

My final criticism, and it’s a big one, is the ending of the
Darkseid fight both makes very little sense and falls flat on a dramatic level.
On the doesn’t make sense front, Cyborg uses the Boom Tubes to teleport
Darkseid back home. So why can’t Darkseid return again, if not immediately then
certainly in a couple of days at most if he wanted to? Didn’t he build these
things to begin with? He can’t fix and repair them on Apokolips, which is
galaxies away from whatever signal Cyborg is generating. It seems the heroes
were not terribly effective against him physically so there’s does not seem to
be a logical reason he wouldn’t return fairly soon once he got tech support on
the phone to fix his Mother Box problem. Fanboy logic nitpicks aside, on
narrative level it’s not a satisfying solution to the fight either, which is a
much bigger problem when your climax doesn’t work. The heroes entire plan is
keep Darkseid busy so Batman can free Superman so that Superman can then kick
some ass, but when Superman is free we don’t get to see any ass-kicking and
after two chapters of working towards that goal, it’s a letdown that Supes
doesn’t get the big cut loose moment at the end.

Grade: The art is an A+; the story is a B-. Story means more
to me than art so let’s call it a B+.

Waiting for the Trade: Batman vs. Bane double comic & movie review

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Batman: Knightfall – part 1 : Broken Bat
by Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon.
collects Batman 491-497 and Detective Comics 659-663.
Why I Bought This: I actually bought this 20 years ago when it was relatively new. I think it was mandatory in the 90s to own both this and Death of Superman. I found it by accident while cleaning about three months ago, and decided to reread it before the movie came out. Finished with about a week to spare, I got busy with work and didn’t have time for a review until now.
The Plot: Bane comes to Gotham and releases the inmates in Arkham Asylum. Batman has to fight his way through them over several days. And when Batman is exhausted, Bane attacks and defeats him.

Chapter 1 – Bane frees the inmates at Arkham. Batman and the police fail to stop Joker and the rest of the more dangerous inmates from escaping.
Chapter 2 – The Mad Hatter possesses some generic thug type looneys and Film Freak. He sends Film Freak to spy on Bane, who discovers and kills him. Batman crashes the Hatter’s tea party and defeats him.
Chapter 3 – the Ventriliquist teams up with an over-sized thug named Amygdala and begins looking for his favorite puppet. Batman defeats the over-sized thug while Ventriloquist escapes. Robin faces a henchman of Bane’s named Falconer and loses, but the villain retreats instead of capturing him as part of Bane’s larger plan.
Chapter 4 – A knife-wielding psycho takes a girls school hostage. Batman defeats him, although a few cops and students die first.
Chapter 5 – Killer Croc is seeking revenge on Bane, who broke his arm in some prior book. Robin encounters Bane and is quickly defeated.  When Killer Croc attacks. All three are washed away into a flooding sewer.
Chapter 6 – Robin saves himself. Joker teams up with someone named Stirk, who apparently has fear powers. At Joker’s behest Stirk attacks Comm. Gordon but Batman saves him. Joker decides to team with Scarecrow instead and the two of them kidnap the mayor.
Chapter 7 – Firefly is setting things on fire, and has apparently upgraded his costume to whatever he used to have to a flying armor suit with a flamethrower. Batman fights him but he escapes, while Robin looks for clues in Firefly’s past. Batman fights him again and the two fall into a pit of fire.
Chapter 8 – Batman saves himself but takes some bruises and Firefly escapes again. Poison Ivy kidnaps Gotham’s elite (including Bruce Wayne and Luscius Fox), while Joker uses the mayor to lure the police into a trap. Bruce changes to Batman and defeats Ivy and her thugs. Joker’s trap blows up killing several cops.
Chapter 9 – Riddler’s thugs abandon him because he won’t go forward with heist since the news is so busy with the other psychos they are not reporting on his riddles. Batman fights Firefly in a zoo, while Robin takes on Riddler in a TV studio. The heroes win both fights but Batman is more exhausted than ever.
Chapter 10 – Batman saves cops from another of Joker’s traps. He takes a whiff of Scarecrow’s fear gas, which causes him to flashback to the death of the second Robin pushing Batman into an enraged state and he severely beats Joker until Scarecrow fires a bazooka causing another flooded tunnel.
Chapter 11 – Batman saves the mayor from the flood. He then takes on Bane’s three thugs and wins before Bane confronts him at Wayne Manor.
Chapter 12 – Batman is out on his feet before the fight begins, whereas Bane has super strength. He pummels Batman effortlessly and then breaks his back.
Critical Thoughts: This really isn’t a very good story to be honest despite its fame at the time. It’s mostly just a very straightforward series of fights, and to be honest I’ve seen better fight scenes frequently and often.
Also Bane has no real motivations. He just shows up in Gotham wanting to take down Batman for reasons that are never elaborated on in this trade. He doesn’t even know the Bruce Wayne connection until half-way through the story (and he discovers Batman’s secret ridiculously easily considering how long Batman’s A-list foes and Gotham’s organized crime have failed to turn anything up). In a lot of ways this story is a clear example of creating an event first and a story to get there second. I suppose the same thing could be said of Death of Superman (which preceded and obviously influenced this) as Doomsday shows up out of nowhere with no real motivations for an extended fight scene in that one too but I’d at least argue that fight scene was better paced. Plus that story had the novelty of coming out first and really the surprise of anything being able to hurt Superman carried it better than this. (Plus “Reign of the Supermen” is a tremendous follow-up story, whereas Azrael taking on the mantle of the Bat and failing is nothing Marvel fans hadn’t seen 5-years earlier with “Cap No More” and to a lesser extent in Thor and Iron Man as well).  
Grade D+ – Batman is a rightly given credit for having a great rogue’s gallery so seeing several of his foes in this story stops it from being terrible. For a character I never heard of, I actually found the Firefly stuff the best part of this story. Riddler’s chapter is also a nice look into his motivations. But overall reading this again did little for me.
Bonus movie review: Speaking of doing little for me, we have Dark Knight Rises. I saw this opening weekend but didn’t bother to review it until now because it borders between meh and truly terrible so much that I wasn’t motivated to write about it. At this point my opinion leans closer to this being another failed third superhero movie much in the same vein of Spider-man 3, X-men 3 and Superman III.
The only thing I really liked about it was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Otherwise Bane is just as flat and uninteresting in this as he is in the comics. I find little of what happens once he conquers Gotham to be credible, and I find the nuclear bomb time limit to be completely arbitrary so that Bruce can recover from his injuries. The back-breaker scene is also pretty flat compared to the comic book version. I also found the political imagery downright bizarre and distracting. Whatever Nolan was going for on that front fails completely.
Furthermore I don’t buy for 10 seconds that there has been no crime in Gotham for 8 years or that Batman/Bruce would fall into utter despair for that long a period of time over the death of some chick. Hell I think Batman only suits up three times in this entire film (once to fight Catwoman and test the Batwing, once to lose to Bane and for the finale.) So yea, far and away the weakest of the three superhero films this summer and probably the second worst Batman film ever made after Batman 4 with Mr. Freeze. Grade D.

Batman Overviews


Hey Scott – 
Since you were so complimentary in both words and plugs for my Spider-Man overview some weeks back, I though maybe you would be interested in the Epic, Two Part Batman Overview – to read and/or share with your readership as you may see fit:
Animated: http://wp.me/p1y3vo-qO
Live Action: http://wp.me/p1y3vo-ry 
PS – To warn you and anyone else…if you though the last ones were long…you may want to bring your lunch.
Thanks!

That's OK, I like reading them at work at lunch.  Thanks for all the hard work!   

The Piledriving Critique: Summer Blockbuster Food

Why review the movies, when you can review the food?

Remember to follow me on twitter! @maskedreviewer

Also my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and family of those people in Colorado that were victims in that horrific shooting.

BROCK V. BRYAN!?!

Hey Scotty, With all the hullabaloo about Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan since Wrestlemania, I have to ask. Do you think the WWE are going to use up one of Brock’s matches against Daniel Bryan. I bet the two of them could have an epic David vs. Goliath matchup. My concern is that you’d have to feed Brock a few victims to really build up the importance of D-Bryan being able to hang for longer than a few minutes with him? Also, with John Laurenit-whoever you spell it pitching Punk to defend his title every week, do you think they’re doing a Batman: Knightfall type angle, with Punk so exhausted from beating everyone else that Brock can just step in, break his back and walk off with the title? Finally, even though I said I’d retire from asking for a plug, like all good wrestlers, I LIED! 🙂 Any chance you could plug my wonderful and not at all Batman biased Top 30 Comic Book Films of All Time http://bit.ly/sDvokz Thanks, your old friend, That Film Guy

My god man, are you trying to cause the implosion of the universe due to the awesomeness of two money-drawing blog topics being pitted against each other in a battle for the ages?  If so, WELL PLAYED.  YES!  YES!  YES!  As for the serious answer, I’m pretty certain they’re keeping Bryan far away from Brock given they apparently have to pay out more than their usual PPV break-even point just to get him in the ring.  David and Goliath is nice when someone thinks David has a shot, but they’re better off having Brock go through the big guns and making all their money back.  For question 2, yes.  Brock is THE GUY and you need to get the belt on THE GUY, so whether it’s Brock dismantling Punk or the more likely scenario of them putting the belt onto a bigger draw and having Brock dismantle THEM, yes, Punk seems to be on borrowed time with that belt.  And no, I will not plug your site.

Waiting For The Trade #2

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Batman & Dracula: Red Rain
by Doug Moench, Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III &
Les Dorscheid.
A brief introduction: So I want to thank Scott for the opportunity to write
this column on his blog. I figured I’d provide a brief bio, so readers will
know what to expect moving forward.

I’m primarily a
Marvel fan when it comes to comics. My favorite titles are Captain America and the
Avengers, Spider-man and Cosmic Marvel (Quasar, Silver Surfer, Thanos
crossovers, etc). I am of course familiar with DC’s major heroes but the only
DC book I ever seriously collected was JLI (although I did read the whole
Death/Reign of Superman arc in real time as well). From about 1985 (thanks to Secret
Wars) to 1995 I collected most of the Marvel line, although I dropped the
X-books about halfway through that period. Then in 95 the comics I loved were
beyond awful (Spidey’s Clone Saga and Avengers the Crossing) and I dropped the
hobby for about a decade with very few exceptions. Enter 2006, when I read in
the newspaper about Spidey unmasking for Civil War and I entered a comic shop
for the first time in a long while. While ultimately I was not impressed with
Civil War, that same first day back I picked up Annihilation since Quasar was
on the cover and was blown away by it. After about a year I realized I wasn’t all
that enamored with current Marvel except for the cosmic line but one of my
comic shops has a discount trade bin and I was able to pick up some Spidey from
the period I missed at $5 a piece. This got me into the trade paperback habit,
so I began following the few current books I liked (primarily Guardians of the
Galaxy) through trade instead of single issues. Throw in things like Amazon and
online comic dealers and I see no reason to ever pay $4 for a single issue when
half the time I can get trades at that price.
I tend to read
trades like I read real books, generally about a chapter a day on the one I am
most engrossed in and reading chapters of others concurrently when spare time presents
itself. I probably have 20 trades I haven’t read yet, about a dozen of which
are in various states of started so there should be no shortage of material to
review. That brings us to now. I told Scott I’d write reviews as I finish whatever
I am currently reading giving him about three columns a month, maybe more.
Again most of what I write about will be Marvel but in those 20 books I
mentioned I do have some Aquaman, Godzilla and Star Wars on deck so there will
be variety too.

And now on with the review.
Why I Bought This: Dracula is one my favorite characters in fiction. I
also enjoy whenever iconic characters are brought together. There are some
obvious parallels that can be drawn between these two, and I was looking
forward to seeing the execution. Additionally in Dec. 2010 I was given a
Batman-Dracula animated film as a gift and that ended up being very well done
and quite enjoyable, so when I learned about this completely unrelated graphic
novel from the early 90s I decided to track it down on Amazon.
The Plot: The non-spoiler version is contained pretty much in
the title. Dracula comes to Gotham
City and Batman has to
stop him. The Red Rain in the title is a reference to this being an Elseworlds
(i.e. out-of-continuity) story set in the near future in which pollution has
caused the rain to become red. Although ultimately this subplot has little to
do with main story other than a one panel scene in which Dracula explains the
rain is affecting people on a genetic level and thus afflicting him with madness
when he feeds. However, despite saying this he doesn’t seem to act any
different than we would expect Dracula to act anyway. I guess I should add
technically this is not a trade paperback but an original graphic novel but I
figure they’re similar enough, and I wanted a shorter review this time so I
could write the introduction.
For those who want
more of a play by play (spoilers ahead: you’ve been warned) Dracula comes to Gotham and begins feeding on the homeless creating a
vampire horde. Batman begins to have the kind of bad dreams that plague heroes
in vampire fiction while investigating what he believes to be slasher killings
at first. He stumbles upon a female vampire and is surprised by her strength,
and begins to investigate supernatural causes to the crimes. He tracks the
vampires to their lair but is about to be overwhelmed by their numbers when he
is rescued by a group of good vampires. Then Dracula arrives and mentally
dominates the good vampires, giving us our first one-on-one fight with Batman
and Dracula. Despite being wounded Batman fights Dracula to a stalemate by
using his own blood to paint a crucifix on the wall and his force of will to
hold Dracula at bay until sunrise.
We get the origin
of the leader of the good vampires, Tanya, and learn she has been visiting
Bruce in his dreams to give him vampiric powers while keeping him alive so he
can be a physical match for Dracula while being immune to his power to command
the undead. Batman and Tanya lure the vampiric horde into the Bat Cave
where Batman detonates a bomb totally destroying Wayne Manor and thus flooding
the cave with sunlight killing all of the vampires including Tanya.
Dracula does not
take this setback well and kidnaps Comm. Gordon, whom he decides to torture to
death rather than bite in a nod to his Vlad the Impaler days. He also mentally
takes control of the Bat
Cave bats that were freed
in the explosion and sets them loose on the city. Batman, now armed with
vampire-slayer versions of his weapons like silver batarangs, rescues Gordon
and begins the final battle forcing Dracula to retreat to the skies. He then
surprises Dracula by unveiling his own batwings thanks to Tanya and they fight
in the air above the city. Even with his newfound powers Batman finds Dracula
is still far stronger than him. He bites Bruce, who just before passing out
uses his knowledge of leverage to impale Dracula on a wooden telephone pole
that had been split by lightening. Batman then dies in Alfred’s arms. We see
Bruce Wayne’s funeral only for Batman to be reborn on the final page as a fully
undead vampire.
Critical Thoughts: I liked this. I think how both characters are
portrayed when in this sort of crossover/pastiche is always a primary concern.
Dracula comes across as ruthless and evil but also commanding, powerful and
used to getting what he wants; which is how he should be. Batman on the other
hand shines in the fight scenes were he is clearly outmatched but manages to
survive based on resourcefulness and willpower. The scene where uses his blood
to paint a crucifix and then stares Dracula down until dawn is a particular high point in the story.
I liked some of
the quiet moments as well, especially the scene where Batman visits the occult
specialist to research vampires and it leads to a philosophical debate on the
nature of evil.
I should also
mention this story is much bloodier than I would expect from a mainstream super
hero comic. The art in general is more inline with a horror comic than a
superhero comic but it works for the story.
Overall Grade: B+. We’re not reinventing the wheel but then these
types of stories where two archetypal characters meet for the first time are
not intended to do that. Within the confines of this subgenre it is a well-told
engaging story. Both characters are treated with respect particularly Dracula,
whom let’s face it is in the public domain and could easily have been placed
into an in-continuity story where Batman prevails against him like he does any
other super-foe. Instead we get the Elseworlds treatment so that we have a more
human Batman and Gotham isolated from the larger DC Universe suddenly beset by an
iconic unstoppable evil, which when you think about it isn’t that far off from
the atmosphere Bram Stoker used when he sent Dracula into London originally.