Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Although Apocalypse has been out for years and is the sequel to this film, I finally have watched it, not that you need to have seen "part one" to enjoy this movie where Batman, Superman, and a few other heroes team up to rescue a kidnaped victim of the evil Darkseid. I'm obviously leaving out details to lessen the spoiler effects, although I will point out that cartoons produce the hottest women--both in terms of looks and attitude. As a random aside, the film begins with a throw away point of unmanned drones watching the streets of Gotham, something that is very much in our own future/present. For the most part, I felt the art and plot were better in this sequel and the movie was bloodier too (which might turn some people off), but did go on a little longer than it should have.

Batman (vol 1): The Court of Owls - Scott Snyder

Somehow unknown to the world's smartest man and greatest detective in history, the vigilante, the Batman, a group of people calling themselves the Court of Owls have really run his home city of Gotham for generations. Why? How? And more importantly, why do they decide now is the time to come out and exert their power and make themselves known to the Batman? I have no idea as not much really happens in this comic except that the Batman kind of gets stomped, which I suppose is comic talk for "wow, how tough!" Wow, how about explaining some motivation? The only thing that really interested me was the very brief exposition that the newly orphaned, pre-Batman, Bruce, actually did some detective work to search for the Court of Owls as a kid. That actually sounds like it could have been a fun tale. Instead, we have this with art that makes about four characters all look like Bruce, and a motiveless mystery. So much for the new 52. 

Harley Quinn: Preludes And Knock-Knock Jokes - Karl Kesel

My friend, Rainbow Blight, gave this to me as she knows how in love I am with Batman's female villains. It's rather a perfect gift as it focuses on various femme fatales of DC's Gotham's scene and drawn by Terry Dodson to exploit my every fantasy. The stories were fun, if nothing amazing, but I like the idea of trying to flesh out this often sidelined, sidekick character (even if it is hardly very feminist oriented).

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

It's been eight years since the vigilante had been accused of murdering DA Harvey Dent and he seems to have disappeared, but that's fine since Gotham is one of the safest cities around, that is until a mysterious demagogue plans to change all that in a violent communist/reign of terror revolution. To all the crying conservatives who wanted to gain a little press by claiming the villain, Bane, is an attack on Romney, you need to realize that the character is about twenty years old, so get a grip on reality. However, there are strong, blatant implications of class warfare caused by those manipulating others who feel they lack access to the American Dream. If anything, perhaps there is a lesson that ensuring people's opportunities is the best ways to ensure a stable society.

I saw the movie opening weekend--something I rarely do--with Cej--another rarity--with a police presence outside--due to a madman who was able to end the hopes and lives of dozens of innocents with entirely legally obtained tools. This incredibly sad event that took place in Colorado is sadly ironic as the movie plays with the theme of how tools, in the wrong hands, can become weapons of great destruction.

The movie itself, naturally, has a few flaws, as all movies do. The positives outweighs them since there is enough actions and levels of sophistication to keep you engaged and thinking. There are issues of pacing and sometimes I had difficulties hearing exactly what the characters said, which may have been a product of the theater if anything, just like the annoyance of the three people near me who felt the constant need to check their smartphones with their very bright display screens. I am a ridiculous sucker for Anne Hathaway, so that is just another reason for me to recommend it.

Batgirl: Redemption - Adam Beechen

For a Batman title there is an awful lot of murder...by the good guys. Batgirl, not Barbara Gordon, but the ninja assassin Batgirl seeks revenge on her "father" who raised her as a killing machine by, well, by murdering him. There are some exciting moments here, even if Batman seems rather whimpy and Robin far too adult-like, but not knowing the history of this Batgirl and some of her "friends" makes it a little hard to care.

JLA vol. 3: Injustice League - Dwayne McDuffie and Alan Burnett

How I loved those crappy Superfriends cartoons as a kid, mainly for the Injustice League. Finally someone decided to update the image and pit a bunch of nasty villains against the Justice League in a smart and violent way. I had just been talking to Cej about how the villains never seem to pull jobs like this and gang up against the good-guys. Well, job well done. Injustice_league

JLA: Kid Amazo - Peter Milligan

What little I knew about Amazo just annoyed me. He's a robot with all the powers of the Justice League's superheroes such as Batman and Superman (sure, I have no problem with the Flash and tapping into the "speed force" so he can travel at impossible speeds, but with robots I draw the line). Yet I thought Milligan's addition of yet another Amazo--his "son", which should have annoyed me even more--was pretty good. He merges the philosophy of  Friedrich Nietzsche and the struggle to overcome pedestrian notions of good/evil with Kid Amazo coming to terms with his being created as nothing more than a weapon along with the JLA's own trouble with being a cohesive, moral team. There's an added romance element that I don't think work, but overall an enjoyable read. kid_amazo

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

It's not a bad story about the two superheroes who are framed for murder, but, as Cory pointed out, there are far too many Brokeback Mountain moments. Especially apparent when Superman's girlfriend shows up and Batman leaves in a huff: "Oh, Clark, I wish I could quit you." Update: Watched it again years later and still it was ok with nice cameos of various heroes and the sadly still realistic plot of a mad, evil rich man becoming president, but this time felt the art was a little off and maybe wasn't as sold on the story. Had to update the picture here too as the link was broken, sorry.

Batman: False Faces - Brian K. Vaughan OR shut-up and let me read the comic myself

What not to do in and introduction: write about how crappy the stories are that you are writing an introduction for. Few things an author can do infuriates me more than when they are belittling their own work. And no, it's not that they are being open-minded to their flaws; you can do that without doing the equivalent of telling me not to read the work. If I then read it, suddenly I'm the idiot for reading sub-par work, or worse still liking it. When an author does this all they are really doing is either being unnecessarily defensive by beating the reader to the punch in terms of criticism, or, more likely, displaying such outrageous egotism that they have to inform their imbecilic readers as to what is wrong with the work as they couldn't possibly figure it out on their own. Really Mr. Author? The work you did at age seven isn't as good as the work done at forty-seven? I'm utterly shocked. You may have noticed that I have yet to write about the work this blog entry is dedicated to. I'm not going to.  If the author doesn't care for his own work, then why should I?

All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder vol. 1 – Frank Miller

Miller brought us the groundbreak The Dark Knight Returns, but he also brought us its pathetic sequel. Sadly, this story was closer to the latter. The collection introduces Robin to us and sets the stage for other meetings and events, but I just didn’t find the writing particularly good. I don’t believe that Black Canary would cripple everyone in a bar after a couple of idiots push her too far, I don’t buy that the cops are going to kill the soon to be Robin when whoever hired the man who killed his parents could have done the job two seconds later, I didn’t believe that steadfast Alfred would call anyone “love” (BTW one scene all is fine and the next he, apparently, drove the car into a bomb or something?), and I certainly don’t believe that Batman—tormented avenger who lost his parents to criminals—is in “love” with his job. Robin

Great Moments in Comic History: Batman #431

There’s no shortage of Great Moments in Comic Book History. There’s the death of Uncle Ben, the death of Gwen Stacy, the death of Dark Phoenix, the death of Superman (for some reason the “great moments” often involve death). But for me, the truly great moments were the quieter ones, the ones that made me really understand a character, introduced me to a new idea, or made me question my assumptions. Batman #431 by James Owlsey and Jim Aparo has such a moment.

batman-431

Honestly, I don’t even remember what this comic was about. I read it 20 years ago. But one scene has stuck with me all that time. Batman is on the hunt for some criminal, and as part of his investigation, he needs to search someone’s apartment for clues. Rather than barge in as Batman, he disguises himself as the building superintendent...

click to enlarge

batman-p1

Not only does this scene show Batman as an actual detective sifting through physical evidence, it demonstrates what makes Batman a real hero: he stays to fix the poor woman’s sink.

Another Great Moment in Comic Book History.

Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds - Gail Simone

birdsI really like the idea of having a woman writer focusing on some of the female characters (Oracle, Black Canary, and Huntress) of the DC universe and show how they can be every bit as butt-kicking as their male counterparts. Maybe it will draw in female readership and add respect to the heroes of that gender. Then again, maybe it will show how a bunch of girls get beat by a looney guy and sidekick, and one of the heroes is captured and all tied up--yum--, and they all wear outfits and have the body type to shame any Victoria Secrets model. I still can't decide if I like this title or Simone's work, but this is the second trade paperback I've gotten, so go figure. PS what ever happened to the TV show of the same name that I never got around to watching?

52 (Don't) Pick Up: A Comics Review of 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen (DC Comics) This seems like filler and sells only on the merits of the goodness that was 52 itself by throwing a giant "52 Aftermath" logo on the cover. The main characters, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman did not feel well-written and I did not care about anyone in this story. It felt disjointed at times and I think even a bit directionless, so even when I enjoyed moments, that enjoyment quickly vanished, as should this story.

I don't know what the later implications were, especially of Dr. Whatshername becoming ruler of Egg Foo's island. Or is it Egg Fu? Does anything that happened in this story matter later on? Some of the Checkmate stuff was cool, such as Snapper Carr now being someone who watches the Wat...I mean JLA, but I haven't faithfully followed Checkmate or Wonder Woman, which is there I'd imagine some of the results of this mini-series are shown.

Normally I enjoy Giffen's writing, but not here. I enjoy VanSciver's art, though I already cannot recall if there was a fill-in artist on some later issues. That's how memorable the overall package is.

It seems like since the four horsemen are supposed to be adapting to Earth, not Apokalips, they might look different than their previous forms. It's been a few years since 52 ended, almost two years to the week, I think, and I'm pretty sure the horsemen looked the same: some still creepy, other aspects are just stupid.

I've already added this book to my Sequential Swap list for trade...

Collects issues 1-6 of the DC Comics mini-series by writer Kieth Giffen and penciler Ethan Van Sciver. Hmmm. $2.99 per issue, times six issues equals $19.99?

Critical Response Time: Sean T. Collins on Batman: Knightfall Part I: Broken Bat

In response to Sean T. Collins' review of Batman: Knightfall Part I:  Broken Bat. Please read  before continuing for fuller context. I thought this first volume was great as well. The build up was terrific, as best I can remember, which does seem pretty vivid now that I've read your review, as I've not read this since 1994 or so.

I thought the remainder of Knightfall was lacking, didn't read much of Knightquest and Knightsearch, but Knightsend, Prodigal, and Troika were great and it seemed Batman and Detective Comics were on this great high for years (Dixon, Moench, Rucka, Brubaker) until around War Games. It seems that around the time of Identity Crisis, things got dark.

Yes, in the nineties Batman had his back broken, but it didn't have the uncomfortable feel that I got from War Games and many other stories from the Big Two over the past five or six years. It's like there's no more heart (maybe those dumb monkey moments) in storytelling and it's all about topping the previous writer's over the top ultraviolence. I don't care anymore, with few exceptions, like Bendis and then Bru's Daredevil. That works for me.

I'm wondering if post-modern has taken over the mainstream of the Big Two and is as far as superhero stories can develop, stories constantly regurgitated, each time a little more nasty and that much less satisfying.

It's like beginning with Alien, heading into Aliens, then the first Predator, and Alien 3 to end up with AVP: Requiem and being throat-raped a lot more violently and being aware while it's happening by the Alien/Predator hybrid instead of the unconsciousness-inducing facehugger, which by name alone doesn't sound so bad.

This is something I think David Wolk, in Reading Comics discusses some (Only about half way through myself). Where is the fun? Marvel's G.I.Joe series is one of my favorite and is so fun, but Casey's America's Elite... Not fun. A few characters, some favorites died in Hama's original stories, but when Casey or others kill Joes or Cobras...it's not fun. Why is this?

Is comics violence becoming hyper real, and therefore taking away from the fantasy element in regard to the violence?

Dark Knight Notes

Since Paul begged---begged me to post something about the Dark Knight movie, here are some thoughts (spoilers, of course):

  • It's far from a perfect film. But it's a good film, and it's a decent sequel to Begins
  • Unlike Mark, I thought everyone's acting was fine. Unlike Paul, I didn't see anything stellar about Ledger's performance. Look, if Ledger's final film had been Bedtime for Bonzo, people would be saying it was an Oscar-worthy performance. Hollywood protects its own.
  • The ending makes no sense. If you're going to lie about Dent's crimes, then say the Joker was responsible. Saying it was Batman is just stupid.
  • Seeing the movie in IMAX means that the city-scape scenes are 2x as big as the interior shots. It was cool, but I'm not sure it was worth the extra $6
  • Christian Bale's mouth has always freaked me out. When he wears a mask and talks funny, it only heightens the panic.
  • Michael Kaine must have had some face-work done. He looked a lot younger this time around
  • Gyllenhal is a much better choice for Rachel (in that she has some acting ability), but she still doesn't seem right for the part. Also, it's not clear how much time has passed between Begins and DK, but I got the impression it was a couple of months at max. Her relationship with Dent seems too deep for a couple of months. And was she a lawyer in Begins? Maybe I'm confusing her with Vicki Vale, but it took me awhile to realize who she was.
  • Like Mark, I felt that the whole China "extradiction" sidetrack was unnecessary, but it didn't bother me too much. I got the sense that (director) Nolan thought, "I've got an extra $2 million. I'm going to China!"
  • I was happy to see the (somewhat) deeper subtext of how to respond to terrrorism. I honestly don't think that we can see enough of this kind of moral debate in our popular entertainment---especially as most movies glorify violence, torture, and revenge. Dark Knight, of course, does glorify violence as well, but there you go....
  • Likewise, the responses to terrorism/"evil" were also nice, especially the whole "tapping into your phones" that Freeman has a problem with. (Although the technology seemed a little silly.)
  • Unlike Mark, I never thought the citizens of Gotham were particularly bad, and I found the whole we-won't-blow-them-up to be a pretty interesting scene, and a nice answer to the subtext of "what should we do about terrorism?" You don't have to become as bad as the people who hurt you. Of course, the Joker should have been delighted that he was thwarted, if he truly loves the unexpected.
  • For a guy who doesn't care about money, the Joker sure seems to be able to afford a lot explosives.
  • Although there were 2 villains, the movie largely made them organic to the plot. It was nice to see Dent's progression, and for a moment I figured his transformation would be left to movie #3. But it worked pretty well within the story, and the movie largely avoided the awful problems of Spider-Man 3, all 3 X-Men, and of course, the mid-Nineties Batman films, which all rammed excessive and unnecessary characters down your throat.
  • Instead of all the extra story padding and SFX, I would have liked to have more about Batman himself---his parents and his motivation. It was fine for him to question his role as dark hero, but his parents should have been a factor.
  • It was great to see Batman re-assert his moral code---which was largely missing from Begins. And saving the Joker somewhat makes up for letting al-Gul die, and it was a nice counter to the Burton film as well.
  • Batman should not use guns---even on his impossible motorcycle.

Countdown: Arena - A Comic Series Review

This is me angry that I even spent $5.00 on the whole series which retails for $13.00 at cover price. Countdown: Arena was crap. A story that never need been told. Shit! Shit! Nice Kubert covers is all. It would have been nice (maybe I missed this,) if there was a guide to the different universes so readers could look up basically which universe was which. What a lame fuck around. Though this universe glossary would not have made the story itself any better. I feel like I need to read Zero Hour again. Right now. If memory serves, that story was just as good...

What is this series about? The Monarch is gathering an army of armies to stop the Monitors, aliens who have made it their job to make sure there are no interuniversal crossings. So The Monarch has taken our favorite heroes in various incarnations from their respective universes (apparently there are 52-Thanks Infinite Crisis). So there are three Superman, three Batmen, three Blue Beetles, etc, and each group of three must battle within the group to show who is the best fighter.

This worked about as well as most of the fights in DC versus Marvel. Originally it seems this was to be an 8-issue series, but it turned into 4-issues, the fourth extra-sized. ...Even with the extra space, I doubt this would have been a good story. It should have been left as minor exposition into how Monarch gathered his army.

Obviously I'm behind on my reading, so I'm off to finish the last 20 issues of Countdown, but only after I finish volumes 3 and 4 of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus.

My understanding is that Countdown: Arena will soon be available in TPB with some additional content. Hopefully this additional content will be so good that it makes up for the lack in the titular story. You can pre-order the collection here, on Amazon, or through your friendly local comic book shop, which is preferred if you want to keep that place in business.