Archive for June, 2014

Hush

Posted: June 30, 2014 in Comic
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Written by Jeph Loeb and art by Jim lee, hush is one of my favorite Stories about Batman.

One of the big reasons why I liked it so much is that, it was a mystery. Setup was issue one, and each month you got a little piece of the story. It takes the villain of the month concept and connects them into a tale along the way. Reading it As a collection is a bit different, it is still good, you just aren’t going to take a whole year to read it. Well hopefully not anyway.

The one gripe I have with Hush is, if you read DC comics, or even just Batman, you know all the characters in the book. Catwoman, Two-Face, even Superman all make appearances. Bruce and Nightwing talk like a father and his adult son would. The exception being Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend that comes back to Gotham, Thomas Elliot. Which, when one supposed lifetime friend of a major character, you’ve never heard of before in comics shows up, its like wearing a red shirt in Star Trek, you have a strong sense about where this is going. It’s like that, except Hush’s mystery is a bit deeper than that.

This I’m pretty sure, marks the almost return of Jason Todd, the Robin who was dead for twenty-ish years come back from the grave. Well, heavily hinted at coming back. Weird part is, for as realistic as Batman can be, there is a very set way of bringing people back from the dead, Ra’s Al Gul’s Lazarus Pits. Which are used sparsely enough throughout Batman stories as a whole. Caveat being whoever uses them tends to come back a little more mentally unhinged each time, so it was surprising when Batman said he had thought of using one to bring Jason back as soon as he died, but ultimately never did.

I think the action bits are just as good as the detective parts. Thanks a lot to Jim Lee’s art, character designs are amazing, and there are some pretty awesome splashes as well. Batman fights Superman at one point. There is an iconic image of The Dark Knight, while wearing a kryptonite ring, punching Big Blue in the face You might think that’s something that happens every other Thursday, but doesn’t happen that way at all in comics.

In the end, I think the story holds up, maybe not as well as the art, the finale gets weird when you have time to sit and think about such things, but it’s alright. Read it and you’ll see a bunch of memorable scenes almost non-stop. Batman almost kills The Joker at one point. They’re fighting and Batman just puts Joker on the ropes and seriously considers ending Joker’s reign of laughs forever, but Commissioner Gordon steps in and says if The Dark Knight pulls that trigger he has to arrest him for murder, and Batman is not about to become the criminal he tries to keep off the streets of Gotham.

Hush is a great Batman tale that is both action and mystery, the best kind

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Cover Thursday 6-26-2014

Posted: June 26, 2014 in Cover Thursday
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Welcome to the Batman Rodeo.

Welcome to the Batman Rodeo.

The 1980’s was a good year to be a fan of the bat. The Dark Knight Returns, Long Halloween, and Year One all happened that decade in comics, and in 1989 Batman left his mark on the big screen as well.

Twenty five years later, to the exact day if the Internet Movie Database is correct, of course I’m talking about the Tim Burton directed movie Batman starring Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as The Joker. I remember the first time I saw this film, it was a family pizza night in 1990, and we had invited my grandparents over to watch it with us because my grandfather liked Batman, so much so as he was the one to tell me there was no Robin in the movie because he had died in the comics recently. Thinking back, there might have been some wires crossed and maybe he thought Dick Grayson had died, not Jason Todd, but still, that was way more information than anyone had given me about current comics before, so I’ll give him a pass.

Being the seven-year old I was then I hadn’t seen or read many adventures of The Dark Knight, but the few episodes of Adam West as Batman I had seen I thought were enjoyable. My kid self thought the movie might be similar, or have some of the same tropes the show had. Even up to that night I first saw Batman, I had seen very little of anything about the movie, and by a small margin, knew it existed. Maybe I saw the Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in full costume, that’s about it.

I remember enjoying the first time I saw the ’89 Batman movie. The rubber Batman costume looked better than the tights of the past, and now it looked more like comic book Batman. The Batmobile didn’t look like a modified version of a car Bruce Wayne had, it was a whole new design made for this new Batman. The Joker make-up was better than Caesar Romero’s, but I think what I didn’t like about the old make-up was Cesar Romero never shaved and it was literally white paint over a mustache, which I always thought looked foolish. It was a definite more serious approach than the almost satirical approach done in the 1960’s.

Now that I’m older and watched the movie multiple times over the years, my enthusiasm has gone down a bit. I do still like the movie as a whole, it is not exactly a Batman origin, that’s there in a flashback. I don’t like how they define an origin to The Joker, if he is there as an antagonist, in anything Batman, Joker can just show up, no need for unnecessary back story.

Michael Keaton does a fine job as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. There’s one scene in particular, when Bruce Wayne meets The Joker for the first time in Vicky Vale’s apartment. Bruce Wayne gets a little out of character into crazy territory and utters the line “You want to get nuts, c’mon let’s get nuts.” other than that, he’s a solid Dark Knight.

Jack Nicholson is up and down. He eats the scenery out of every scene, which is all well and good. There are a few moments where if you took the make-up off, it would just be a scene with Jack Nicholson and not the character Joker.

The rest of the cast is alright. Commissioner Gordon is forgettable, Robert Wuhl as the reporter in Gotham trying to make heads or tails of this Bat-Man phenomena is ok, as unneeded as it is. Kim Basinger as Vicky Vale never really does a good job. She gets moved along because of the plot. Jack Palance as criminal boss Carl Grissom, who double crosses Jack Napier is, well Jack Palance. Billy dee Williams as Harvey dent is great, and so underutilized, I don’t think I’m the only one who would have liked to have seen the alternate universe third movie where Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were still attached and Williams gets to play a major role as Two-Face, but I guess that was never meant to be.

Gotham City seen in the movie looks like it could be set in about four square city blocks. Either the theater, city hall, or a chemical plant is in every outdoor scene seemingly, and looks like you could even see all of them if the camera spun around to let you see the whole city.

All that being said, there are cases in which Batman which seem out-of-place.

The morning after Bruce and Vicky have a date, Bruce is hanging upside down on a contraption sleeping. I know it’s to show you that he’s taking his bat-persona too seriously, but it is a little ridiculous, especially to do that after a date with a woman he supposed to find attractive, and is still there not more than twenty feet away, in his bed still sleeping.

Alfred, for as good as he is in this movie leads Vicky Vale right into the batcave. It’s like she showed up at Wayne Manor, asked to see Bruce and Alfred just nodded and took her through whatever maze it takes to get to the batcave. Right to a more bewildered than angry Bruce at a giant bat-computer. To be fair Bruce had a conversation with Alfred about telling Vicky, but never told Alfred one way or the other, Alfred just assumed Bruce had told her. Which could have turned out real bad if Miss Vale decided to not like Bruce.

Near the end when Batman is flying his Batplane and captures the deadly Joker-toxin filled balloons, he just releases them filled with deadly Joker poison into the night. What happens when those eventually land somewhere? Not to mention Batman in a showdown with the Joker on the ground, and Batman still in his plane opens fire onto a Gotham street, which a moment ago had a crowd of people running around grabbing cash before the Joker started releasing Joker venom. Not only is Batman firing a gun like that out of character, but the fact Joker took pulled a hilariously long-barreled pistol and took down Batman, in one shot is at least a little eye brow raising.

None of these observances are new in the two and a half decades since the movie came out, and honestly they don’t even bother me any more than anything the 1960’s television Batman did. They are just weird inconsistencies with the vision I have of Batman is in my head. And in the end that’s okay, because that’s where new ideas come from.

All in all, I’d say give the movie a watch, it did more good for Batman as a whole than the negatives that are in there.

Cover THursday 6-19-2014

Posted: June 19, 2014 in Cover Thursday
Kids, eat your Wheaties. I'ts the breakfast of justice.

Kids, eat your Wheaties. It’s the breakfast of justice.

Batman Begins

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Movie
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The Batman movies that started In 1989 went from being a more serious take on The Bat to an almost re-imaging of the Adam West Batman tv series in four movies. The last one Batman and Robin almost killed off the Bat movies altogether, and there weren’t any for a good long time.

Until someone had the bright ides of taking Batman back to where it all began. I don’t know if Christopher Nolan knew he was in for a whole Batman trilogy at the start, but the first one wasn’t half bad.

Taking Bruce Wayne from being a man, to The Batman hadn’t been told in a movie yet. And barely glimpsed at in other media. To be fair, Batman Begins still skips a lot of the journey, but does take place where the interesting things happen.

Christian Bale is a decent enough Bruce Wayne, his Batman is a little to be desirable, but after George Clooney it was awesome.

Having Scarecrow be the main villain at the outset was a nice choice, but if you know Batman, then Ra’s al Ghul being in the movie meant there was going to be something else going down behind the scenes.

The movie itself is as you would expect. A pseudo year- one Dark Knight introduction. It doesn’t really change anything to the creation of the Bat mythos that might cause a fan to get upset, like silly costumes or terrible dialogue. It just does Batman.

Begins throws in a few new characters into the mix, Ducard played by Liam Neeson is the one who trains him in the League of Shadows, who turns out to be the main antagonist all along. Surprising as I was, as soon as it happened I should have seen it coming. Ra’s al Ghul is a clever villain. The second “new” character was Katie Holmes character Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s childhood friend, and secret crush.

Ducard was all about deception, making Bruce think Ra’s had died and the League of Shadows disbanded when Bruce refused his offer. It’s a good twist. A lesson learned, you can’t get rid of the League of Shadows, and their reach is beyond what you could ever comprehend.

However.

Rachel Dawes is a terrible character. If this had been a new movie with never before seen characters, I would’ve been ok. The existence of a MaryJane to Peter Parker equivelant for this universe’s Batman seems wholly unnecessary. If she is integral to whatever story they had, the storytellers could get there in a better way. I just want to poke her with a stick and ask “why are you even here in this movie”. Rachel doesn’t do anything of importance. There are at least two women better suited for Bruce’s attention. Even if you want to say, yeah, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have known each other since they were kids, Catwoman is a way more interesting character than Rachel, and they have the perfect chance to have Talia al Gul in the movie setting up their whole love/hate relationship for a later movie. No. Instead we get someone new, dull, and not worth their side of the story.

Other than that, I thought this was a good movie. Michael Cane as Alfred was great, and Gary Oldman as James Gordon was an excellent choice.

Depending on whether you think Bruce Wayne should know who killed his parents, certain scenes might be a little maddening, but Batman Begins tries going to the core of who Batman is like no other theatrical release has. Not only does Batman tackle two big villains, but the major a crime syndicate and it’s lord. A trifecta of justice if you will.

batman_8

Joker’s most insidious plot, balloons with his own mug on them.

In case you missed it

Two-Face

Posted: June 9, 2014 in Character
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Harvey Dent, Gotham District Attorney, friend of Bruce Wayne, and villainous foe of Batman monikered Two-Face.

Mirroring the dual identity of The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne, Harvey’s bi-personality is more severe. While the man, DA Harvey Dent is hard-working on the “law” side of justice, his alter ego however isn’t definitely on any one side. Batman is the opposite, always in one state of mind, focused. It isn’t that Two-Face is at constant odds with himself, but he always refers to himself as “we”, it’s a reminder that there are two men in one brain.

With a person of two literal minds in the world of Batman, Two-Face might be a little obsessed with probability, flipping a coin before they make any decision, for better or worse. I’m sure it’s gotten Batman or Robin out of a jam a time or two.

In the end, Bruce Wayne being a good friend to Harvey Dent doesn’t necessarily make Batman want to lock Two-Face away in Arkham and that be that. When all is said and done, Bruce wants his friend back, and sometimes Harvey can get ahold of himself, just long enough to give Batman the confidence to continue trying to help Dent. Despite all the criminal activity Dent has gotten into, Bruce believes he can still put his friend back together for good.

There can be only one.

There can be only one.

Written by Frank Miller with Jim Lee’s art All-Star Batman graphic novel is dividing to put it mildly.

The visuals Jim Lee provides might be my favorite Batman comic art. It looks good, some of the non action sequences look just as good posterized as some of the big splash pages, and the colors are well done.

Story wise, it seems with other Frank Miller tales of The Bat, Batman looks a little unhinged.

I like this book, it’s an interesting take on a partial retelling of how Batman met Robin. Sort of. Before you think about what’s happening.

The story doesn’t pull anything from left field and all the pieces are where you would think they are. Bruce Wayne’s parents tragically die in an alley, skip a few decades and he’s now Batman hunting criminals in Gotham city. Wayne one night goes to the circus, and witnesses the same thing happen to a boy the same age he was when his world crashed around him.

And then things get real nuts.

Right off the start, Bruce outright kidnaps young Dick Grayson by way of Batman, takes him to the Batcave and tells him he has to fend for himself for a while. So For a good chunk of the book Dick Grayson turns almost feral living in the Batcave subsisting on a majority of rats as his diet. Grossly extreme if you ask me.

Throughout the book you see how this more extreme version of Batman. Miller’s views other members of The Justice League are as far as how he writes Batman.

Wonder Woman has a man-hating feminazi attitude, she neither promotes women, nor show any compassion at all towards anyone. Wonder Woman is in one scene, a secret meeting of The Justice League, where she calls a random guy on the street a “sperm-bank”, repeatedly says she hates everyone in The Justice League, hates Batman, calls Superman a wuss for not making everyone bend to his will, and just has general contempt for men for making the world a terrible place in eight pages. Then Superman scoops her up gives her a kiss, Wonder Woman leaves stating one last time on her way out she hates them all and Superman just says, “She’s a really nice girl”. The whole scene makes all those characters out-of-place, and Wonder Woman is so poorly written, she didn’t need to be there, vocalizing how much she thinks everyone sucks, but she has to because traditionally she belongs to that group.

Throughout the book Batman berates Hal Jordan for not wiping out all crime with his ring, and saying he would do a better job with it. Batman’s fascination with Green Lantern’s power ring is so overboard there is a scene in which Batman and Robin put on all yellow suits in an all yellow room and invite Green Lantern to talk. Once they’re all together, The Dark Knight even offers Jordan a nice refreshing glass of iced cold lemonade to quench his thirst. To say Batman is a bit of a dick in All-Star is putting it mild. To put insult to injury Batman even has Robin fight the weakened hero. A grown man tells a twelve-year-old to fight a Green Lantern without his ring. Which seems like it would be one-sided, but apparently Batman put a little too much savagery into Robins training and Dick punches Hal in the throat and nearly kills him, if Batman wasn’t there to administer first aid right as Hal Jordan collapsed Robin would have murdered a superhero.

If you like a different take on Batman, especially those where Batman loves being the “Goddamned Batman” and isn’t afraid to tell you, upon riding a very tall noble steed, and can overlook how certain characters are portrayed as their own worst versions of themselves through stereotypes, this might be entertaining for an elseworlds tale. However, there was supposed to be more of this, at least a second volume, that’s very unlikely to happen at this point, and maybe that’s more a good thing now.