Archive for March, 2015

The Cavalier

Posted: March 30, 2015 in Character
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  A lesser known bat-foe, The Cavalier has only shown up a handful of times in the many years of Batman compared to others, and let’s be honest, never had an impact on anything.

There were those few episodes back on the ’66 Batman television series were he threatened Gotham, no different from any other week on that show. I remember his schemes not being very good, but his Shakespeare quoting gave him a little flair. Little.

He appeared in the comics from time to time, with multiple origins. In the early years he was Hudson Pyle, an aspiring superhero who through a stream of events was blackmailed into committing crimes. Finally having a fight with Batman, ending up being gunned down by the police.

Later a new Cavalier showed up in Gotham. Mortimer Drake, an antiques dealer, who robbed museums to find valuable artifacts. Drake wound up working for Black Lightning at one point as an informant. At one point even found himself up against both Batgirl and Batwoman, which caused him to go into some self-reflection because he couldn’t hit a woman. Well, that didn’t last long because he wound up punching Batgirl in the face. I don’t know if those acts took place in that order, but those were both pre-crisis. His story most likely has changed since then, and I don’t know if he’s even in the New 52 as of right now.

When he did show his face in the Batman: Brave and the Bold series those handful of times, The Cavalier is the perfect villain to show up, quote a Shakespeare line or two, then get promptly handled by Batman, so The Bat can take on greater enemies. It always got a chuckle out of me, so that’s something.

Is The Cavalier in the cavalcade of great villains in The Batman Rogue’s Gallery? No, but when he does show up he plays the small part kind of okay.

 

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Cover Thursday 3/26/15

Posted: March 26, 2015 in Cover Thursday

Night of Owls

Posted: March 23, 2015 in Comic
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  The second volume, of sorts, to Scott Snyder’s run on The Dark Knight in the New 52 is just as fun of a read as the first volume.

Well, “of sorts” only because the Night of Owls trade paperback doesn’t cover just The Batman parts of the storyline, which Spilled over into the other Bat-related books such as Batgirl and Nightwing, so if you just got one part of the story it would have been short, disjointed, and confusing.

The different books in the collection were also written and drawn by their respective creative teams, which makes them fantastic chapter breaks if you can’t get through it all in one sitting, this is thicker than an average trade. And since time is somewhat important, the books go in order of time throughout the night, making a strong timeline of events. There is an emergency call from Alfred at the Batcave that went out to all  Batman’s allies in Gotham that went out through all the books, which put where everyone was at a specific time when things were going down. Except for Catwoman’s chapter, she came later on in the book, but earlier in the night, and not as integral as the others.

This takes place right where the last volume left off, with a legion of The Court’s Talons woken up to set Gotham “straight” by killing a bunch of people on a hit-list. And at the end of Court of Owls, there were a lot of Talons flying of to get their targets.

howSince the Court of Owls has a lot of history within Gotham untold to us, there are many flashbacks showing  some of the Talons came to serve The Court. For instance, the Talon that fights Batgirl has an interesting back story, she was a schoolgirl making balloon bombs that Japan sent over  across the Pacific during World War II in Nagasaki. Another Talon was a poor kid in Gotham who fell in love with a girl from a higher class, a more told type of story, but it did give an origin to Dick Grayson’s last name, an unexpected revelation. Then there are some Talons, like in Batwing’s chapter who don’t have a background, or anything. He just shows up,  out to get his target, in that case it was Lucius Fox. Luckily most of the chapters are more interesting than not.

Night of Owls as a whole has a good pace going with interconnected scenes between the members of the bat-family, until the end. Catwoman doesn’t feel out-of-place, but if they mysteriously left her out you wouldn’t notice, and the final scenes are of Bruce and Alfred at the grave of Alfred’s father, who had also served the Wayne family. Which leaves with a lot of questions to ask, like where did all the Talons in the Batcave go after they had been frozen? Or, how did Dick’s great-grandfather, a Talon captured by Batman escaped the cave and found Nightwing, I thought he was on ice as well.

Volume two into “new” Batman is as good as the first a definitely worth reading, adding an entire new mythology to something that has been well established is hard, The Court and Night of Owls does it better than you would think.

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Dark Knight Rises

Posted: March 16, 2015 in Movie
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  The final act in the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman movies. A follow-up to one of the best Batman movies ever, it does an okay job. As a movie about he Dark Knight, it leaves me a little disappointed.

Acting is good enough, all the returning cast does their job, most notably Christian Bale as Batman, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Michael Cain as Alfred. Newcomers Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hardy as Blake, Selina Kyle, and Bane respectively due a good part and add the mythos of the characters to a new universe.

I know what you’re thinking and yes, Blake is not a character you would recognize. Until the end where they reveal his real first name is Robin, then if you are like me you go, right, sneak in this character integral to Batman this other way. It’s a change, I’m not sure I like it, but it’s different.

Then there is the biggest problem I have with the movie. One giant glaring mistake sitting right out in front. Two words that should never be part of Batman in any form. Batman quit. In Bruce’s words he “retired” eight years prior, after Harvey Dent died. Right. The most determined unwavering character in all comics quits because both his friend and his “girlfriend” died. Right. Sounds more like a Spider-man plot than Batman to me.

So let’s put the Marvel-like story-work aside, Bane is a pretty awesome character in this. He is cold, calculating, and too powerful or the Bruce Wayne who has been hobbling around because of a bum knee for almost a decade. Put a brace on that leg and it seemed that the years didn’t slow down Batman one bit. The first confrontation between Batman and Bane in the sewers of Gotham was memorable, and Batman loses, hard. Bane broke the Bat in spirit. Not to forget, Tom Hardy’s Bane voice, easily replicated by speaking with an english-type accent into a Solo cup is much more pleasant than that horrible gravel filled throat that Batman does. Even though both are sometimes hard to understand.

Did Bane brake Batman’s back and send him to a hole in the ground prison where the only way out is to climb up an insurmountable wall? If Bruce healed up and climbed out to fight Bane later, without immediate medical attention, no, Batman’s back was not broken. It’s a little sketchy how long Bruce was down in that hole, or where it was, or how he was able to get back to Gotham from random place on earth. The scene at the football game was grandiose, but as a person who has watched an NFL game or two, I’m surprised the headset microphone worked as well as it did for Bane.

Selina “let’s not call her Catwoman ever, but let’s give her cat ears every opportunity” Kyle works as a love interest, for Bruce. Sort of. It’s not like another character could handle the duality of Bruce Wayne and Batman without having herself a dual personality.

Overall, the movie is decent enough to give it a watch, it’s a nice send off to this series Batman, even though it is a little weird. Even if it just to see a Batsuit that’s more agile than those stiff rubber looking ones you can’t turn your head in. Though it does look like a giant rubber tire suit in some scenes. You might come away saying they used the whole name someone just to have them reveal their true self later, because people who are Batman fans would figure it out in five minutes. You should watch the movie and close out the trilogy.

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  The third Arkham game based on Batman is more like an off-brand product licensed by the real thing.

That’s not a bad thing here. I like these Batman games, I am very much looking forward to Arkham Knight, it’s just that Origins doesn’t quite feel the same. Which should be true, the developers of both Asylum and Arkham City, Rocksteady, didn’t put their hands into this. Arkham Origins was made by WB Games, who did great for the most part.

There are some things about the game that, coming from to amazing games prior, make this feels odd. Such as during combat, it is more counter heavy, some enemies need two counters, it throws my timing off. Not a big deal, and you could say it is an evolution of the combat system, making it more complex. I will argue none of those things needed to change that way, and it’s frustrating to lose a long combo just because some martial artist thugsman needed me be to press the button twice when almost every other counter needs one. And yes I know those enemies with the knife are different, but I’ve never been able to pull off that specific special take down consistently enough for me to remember.

Combat in Arkham City was fluid. You could glide in from above and smash a henchman before he knew what was up, hop over and take two of his buddies down with a couple of hand to hand strikes, then quick-fire Batman’s batclaw at a fourth dude who ran around the corner just to be grappled and drawn towards you and smashed to the ground. I’m not saying that can’t happen, just there are slight tweaks that throw me off before any of that can take place organically as it once did.

Not to mention there seems to be far less grapple points than I remember previously as well. Before it seemed like wherever you stood, or move five steps and Batman was zipping around like he was some sort of “spider” man. In the new installment, once you get up and get going, yeah it’s great. There are a lot of times when I found myself just running around trying to latch on to something and can’t. Sometimes the location of the grapple point is too specific and if you’re not aiming precisely Batman just stands there, wishing somehow he could get up to that air duct five feet above his head.

There was that one time during a fight with Killer Croc in the beginning of the game, the screen went black and all I could see was the health bars. The sound was still audible, and I won so this one-off glitch wasn’t game ending.

If you are going to play this keep in mind one of the many glitches this game has is one that corrupts your progress. It hasn’t happened to me, though I hear that part of it has to do with the Anarchy missions, which I haven’t tried yet. Just keep that in mind.

Once you get past the weirdness, which for the most part is not that bad. I like the story. Black Mask hired a group of assassins to take out The Batman. Some big names show up, Deathstroke and Bane, and some lesser known bad guys try to kill Batman, The Electricutioner and Copperhead being two. Copperhead in this case is not a guy, they made her into a lady. I think it makes things more interesting for the character. Of course that plan is not how the whole story goes down. The Joker shows up at one point, which pokes some chaos into the mix, and this is supposed to be the first meeting of Batman and The Joker.

So you have a younger Batman and The Joker. They look and sound like it as well. Roger Craig Snith and Troy Baker lend their voices to Batman and The Joker respectively, and do an excellent job. They are trying to emulate Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to a degree, I’d like to see what they could do without that.

And the best thing in the game, that was introduced in Arkham City and expanded upon here is the investigating and detective work. There are several occasions where Batman deconstructs a crime scene going through evidence, looking at what is presented, and does actual detective work. It’s awesome, I wish there was more. Mechanically all you do as a player is look around and hold “A” at the prompt, but I like showing Batman as a detective, and that’s all you really need to do.

Should you play Arkham Origins? If you liked the previous two, then yes. If you haven’t? It’s called “Origins”, you are not going to get lost if you know Batman is Bruce Wayne. Just be wary of the of the ways this game can act up.

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The Killing Joke

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Comic
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  Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s most popular oversized single issue of Batman.

The start of it has The Dark Knight going to Arkham Asylum, walking past inmates and members of his rogue’s gallery to have a heart to heart conversation with The Joker.

With the way Bruce acts, this story has to take place near the end of Batman’s era. You know the time in a relationship when one person realizes the whole thing is just a miserable unhealthy existence, so they try to be an adult and talk it over. Batman even starts out the heart to heart by saying, I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately. Of course in this case when he says that one day eventually either I’ll kill you, or you’ll kill me, sooner or later, The Caped Crusader is talking about literal murder and not just giving them a beating.

That’s partly the reason when the person sitting across the table “fnapping” playing cards amidst a game of solitaire turned out to be an impostor, Batman got real mad. Partially because an insane criminal had gotten loose, but also because that other person in the conversation he was trying to have wasn’t there.

The insane escaped criminal in question was out, buying an old dilapidated carnival as a place to carry out his

own twisted plan. Which is one of the most iconic events to happen in this book and resonate throughout other story lines. The Joker shows up at Commissioner Gordon’s home and shoots Barbara Gordon point-blank while she was opening the door, paralyzing her from the waist down. It happened so fast, that by the bottom of the page The Joker was already in Gordon’s living room telling him that his daughter was most likely never going to walk again.  I think this was done on purpose, to show how life can change in a blink.

One of my favorite things in Batman is when he gets shown as a detective. Sometimes writers won’t show Batman going through the puzzle and just skip to the end, or Robin will figure it out and Batman is two steps ahead of everyone. It is nice to see The Dark Knight go through some detecting work, in this case talking to some of the underbelly of Gotham to get leads, culminating in him driving the Batmobile up to the carnival where his arch nemesis is and trying to have that heart to heart conversation again.

The Joker, who at this point kidnapped James Gordon, and before leaving the scene at the Gordon’s home had stripped the defenseless Barbara of her clothes and taken pictures of her, just to see if he can drive her father into madness. Who The Joker had caged and naked, only to be brought out and tortured emotionally by being forced to face the pictures of Barbara. Because The Clown Prince of Crime thinks we’re all just one bad day away from turning out like him, that even the most level even headed person could be pushed to insanity.

All this is being juxtaposed by a few flashbacks of The Joker, and how he had a normal life at one point. Well, “normal” as anyone can conceive of, he has a wife and baby on the way trying to make it with his comedy act. It is not an act any of the clubs want to show, so to get money to provide for his family The Joker turns to organized crime. Things go real bad the day of the crime, both personally for The Joker and when the heist goes down. The chemical plant The Joker used to work at, and the target for his shenanigans, hired more security and Batman shows up. During the chase from the altercation, Batman helps create the green haired clown we know as The Joker. I’m not real keen on having a solid background for The Joker, but the slice we see works for the story.

In the present, we have The Joker projecting what happened to him and it is not working. James Gordon still has some sanity left when Batman arrives.

The hero arrives, he’s not diving into the fray to kick-ass. Batman enters the scene, confronting The Joker, and starts with his “we need to talk” speech. The two tussle and The Joker runs off into the carnival, but before Batman goes after him commissioner Gordon tells him to bring him in by the book, to show how ineffective his plans were.

Off Batman goes to find The Joker, with full intentions of completing the “one day one of us is going to kill the other, but let’s talk and see if we can get over that” talk. There is a bit of a battle, Batman tells his adversary what he’s thinking, how the Commissioner moments before hand told him to do things by the book, and after The Joker pulls a gun on Batman with intention ro shoot him, but it turns out to be the wrong gun, he tells one last joke, Batman starts laughing. Then the camera pulls both characters out of shot and the laughing stops.

The way Batman acts, says that one day one of us is going to kill each other, sooner or later, you could imply Batman took care of it right there and killed The Joker on the spot. I think the way batman felt he needed to have that discussion, he already made up his mind about what he was going to do, and in the flashback scene where The Joker first emerges as the clown, you can see his reflection in a puddle. At the end, there is focus on a rain puddle, but no reflection. Maybe to imply Batman caused this creature to be born, and was the reason he was taken out.

Of course you could say none of that happened, if there was an extra last page Batman just punched The Joker out because he was fed up with him  yeah, you could say that, the end does not put a definite cap on the situation. However. Having Batman take things into his own hands and stopping his greatest foe permanently is vastly more interesting than, say having the same Batman/Joker story end with the bad guy sent to be locked up, only to escape and have a never-ending repeating story.

Should you read The Killing Joke for yourself? Totally, it’s worth the read, and it’s not super long either so it won’t take that long.