Comic Review: Catwoman: When In Rome

Published: June 18th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

DC Comics, 147 Pages

Review:

Being that I love the Batman comics that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did years ago, as well as their multiple Marvel miniseries, I’m not sure why I hadn’t picked up Catwoman: When In Rome until now.

It’s a pretty good solo story that sees Selina Kyle go off to Rome to get away from Gotham and her on again/off again relationship with Batman. Granted, he does have a very strong presence in the story, which I don’t want to spoil. However, this really shows you how the Bat has a tremendous emotional impact on Catwoman.

It should probably go without saying that I am a big fan of Tim Sale’s art. Mixing it in with a Jeph Loeb story somehow always brings the best effort out of Sale and this is no different.

Now I don’t consider this to be as good as Loeb and Sale’s Batman work but it still fits well within their version of the larger Batman universe. This is really a neat accent to their specific pocket of the mythos and honestly, I’d read anything they crafted that fit within the style and tone that they first created with The Long Halloween.

When In Rome is a much smaller and personal story than their Batman story arcs, however. And I guess that’s what I like about this, as it shows that they can tell smaller, more personally focused tales, where their Batman arcs involved lots of villains and characters.

Fans of the Catwoman character should probably love this and fans of the work of Loeb and Sale should probably love it too. It’s just a well-written and beautiful piece of work.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s other collaborations for DC Comics.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 2: Rough Justice

Published: June 16th, 2015
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Scott McDaniel

DC Comics, 292 Pages

Review:

This volume in Chuck Dixon’s lengthy Nightwing run kicks off right where the previous one left off and builds off of those stories.

We also get to see appearances from more well-known villains in this chapter but a lot of them are just glorified cameos. However, the stories involving Scarecrow and Man Bat were really damn enjoyable.

Beyond that, I like how this also features other villains that are developed more for Nightwing and the city he protects, Blüdhaven.

We get more of Blockbuster, who essentially serves as Blüdhaven’s Wilson Fisk-type crime lord. We also get more of female villain Lady Vic, as well as some others thrown into the mix.

I also didn’t mind the romantic subplot that Dixon developed for this story between Nightwing and his new building’s female superintendent. Add in his sometimes romantic partner Barbara Gordon and you don’t really know how things will play out.

Ultimately, this is a story about Nightwing breaking out on his own and trying to be his own version of a street level vigilante. This is the culmination of the lessons he’s learned from Batman and it shows how he’s applying all of that to making his own life in a different city that also deserves a hero.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.

Book Review: ‘The Official Batman Batbook’ by Joel Eisner

When I was growing up in the ’80s, this was my introduction to Batman. It was the first version I really got to know because I discovered it a few years before the 1989 movie came out. That movie then blew my tiny little mind but it also never diminished or replaced my love for the ’60s television series.

In fact, I loved that series so much that I bought this book with my miniscule allowance money and read through it in its entirety at least a dozen times. The big reason for that was because we didn’t have streaming services, DVDs or even VHS tapes of this show. I could only catch it when it was on sporadically and therefore, didn’t get to see all of the episodes until a friend of my mum’s made me bootleg copies of the entire series in the early ’90s.

This book was special because it gave a synopsis and extra details on every single episode. I’d read through them like a novelization (or a modern Wikipedia article), envisioning the scenes playing out for myself. It made me love many of the villains and characters before I even got to see them onscreen. This also helped generate a lifelong obsession with all things Vincent Price.

At some point in the ’90s, after moving around multiple times, this book was lost. It wasn’t until recently that I came across another copy and had to buy it and revisit it.

Sure, this is probably nostalgia speaking but this was a solid book and once again, all these years later, I couldn’t put it down.

This is great because it gives you so much information on the show and if you’re a fan of it and have never read this, you probably should.

While I don’t think this is even in print, you can find copies on eBay and periodically on Amazon. There is a version with a different cover but nothing pops quite like the original.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: if you want more about the ’60s Batman television series, check out the Batman ’66 comic books. I’ve reviewed many of them already.

Vids I Dig 485: Filmento: What ‘The Batman’ Has to Learn From ‘Se7en’

From Filmento’s YouTube description: We got a new teaser for Matt Reeves’ The Batman starring Robert Pattinson and it looks amazing. But more than great, it also looks and feels familiar — like Batman’s very own murder mystery detective thriller with The Riddler in vain of David Fincher’s Se7en. Plus, @The Film Theorists also made the same point in a great new video titled “Film Theory: This is NOT A Batman Movie! (The Batman Trailer 2021)”. And so, let’s take a look at 1995’s Seven starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman to find out what makes it the greatest detective movie of all time and what the Batman needs to do to reach the same level. In this episode of Film Perfection, let’s see what makes a great detective thriller.

Comic Review: Gotham City Sirens: Book Two

Published: May 5th, 2015
Written by: Tony Bernard, Peter Calloway
Art by: Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun

DC Comics, 288 Pages

Review:

Well, losing Paul Dini as the series’ writer was a bit of a blow to Gotham City Sirens, as this second book doesn’t live up to the pretty solid first one.

Still, this is mostly a decent read and it carries on the story Dini started. Although, it does feel like it knew it was going to be wrapping up, as the bond between these three women seems to dissolve just as fast as it gelled.

I guess the most interesting parts within this are the ones dealing with Harley Quinn and how she’s processing her issues with The Joker and their very abusive, one-sided relationship.

But I’m glad that this presents Harley well unlike the more modern comics with her that have turned her into a one-dimensional joke character that has evolved into DC’s half-assed attempt at trying to make their own Deadpool.

Compared to the first book, this is almost forgettable other than the Harley stuff.

The art is really good, however, and it helps carry this series as it quickly loses steam and sort of just whimpers away because DC Comics had to reboot their universe for the umpteenth time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the first book in the Gotham City Sirens series.

Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Also known as: Arkham, Gotham, Batman 3 (working titles), Magnus Rex (fake working title), TDKR (informal short title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2012 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Juno Temple, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Nestor Carbonell, Desmond Harrington, Thomas Lennon, William Devane

DC Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 164 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” – Selina Kyle

Where I’ve seen the first two films in this trilogy at least a dozen times each, I’ve only seen this one once: in the theater. If I’m being honest, I didn’t have much urge to see it again after my initial experience. But I’ll explain why as I roll on and review it.

I was pretty excited for this film but I also knew that it would be damn hard to top The Dark Knight or to try and replicate its greatness. Well, I wasn’t wrong. And while this isn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly the weakest of the trilogy and just falls flat when compared to the other two pictures.

To start, I was a bit perplexed when I first heard that Bane was going to be the big bad of the movie. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Bane but after following The Joker and Two-Face, I felt like the third film should’ve featured more of the old school villains, as opposed to bringing in a more modern one that is kind of boring by comparison. I mean, a Christopher Nolan movie featuring The Riddler, The Penguin or hell, even The Mad Hatter, could’ve been really intriguing.

What we got instead was pretty much a rehash of the threat and the plot of the first movie: Batman Begins. In fact, in this film, Bane is even tied to the same villainous organization of that film. We also get a curveball where we find out he really isn’t the big bad but that just kind of makes the overall story even more redundant.

I guess I understand why Nolan chose Bane, as he wanted to try and keep his Batman films grounded in reality as much as one can with a comic book property but seeing a secret Illuminati-type group descend upon Gotham City with the hopes of using a superweapon to destroy it is derivative of the director’s own work.

Now we do get Catwoman in the film but she is written to be the most sterile and boring version of the character I’ve ever seen. Sure, Anne Hathaway is stunning but for whatever reason, Catwoman just doesn’t feel sexy or believable as someone that can ensnare Bruce Wayne/Batman. She just isn’t interesting and it’s hard to imagine her as someone that could pull Bruce’s heart out of the pain it still feels, eight years after the death of Rachel.

Hell, Bruce’s little romantic moments with Miranda/Talia seem more genuine and their relationship isn’t supposed to be the one the audience is pulling for even before the big plot twist reveals itself.

The film’s overall story is trying to be as good of a thriller as the previous two. It just isn’t and that’s the real issue with it. While I do want to see the heroes beat the baddies and win out in the end, the film just comes off as repetitive and dull. It feels like a weak copy of the first two pictures with a much slower pace and a broken back side quest that slows the movie to a halt. I just can’t get as into it as I did the other movies.

Now I get that “breaking the Bat” and dropping him into a hole was about building him back up to make him stronger and that we needed to get him out of Gotham so that Bane could grow his power but it’s a half-assed recreation of the Knightfall plot. This story also only seems to borrow from it because it was Bane’s most iconic moment and biggest temporary victory in the comics. And with Batman overcoming his incredible injury and then climbing out of a hole deemed “impossible” to escape, it all kind of wrecks Nolan’s strive for realism. You can’t simply punch a popped disc back into someone’s spine.

I also hated the film’s ending but I think I’m done harping on the negatives, as I probably sound like I dislike this quite a bit, when I actually don’t.

The film is well-acted and that’s what really makes this work where it does.

I really dug Tom Hardy as Bane, even if his voice has become a social meme. I also just loved seeing the regular cast get back together for one more adventure. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are all so great in these roles and I loved the final act of the film where we get to see Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon get very involved. My only complaint about Caine’s Alfred is I didn’t like how Bruce pushed him away and left him without much to do in the second half of the film.

Additionally, I really enjoyed Marion Cotillard as the character who would reveal herself as Talia al Ghul. I only wish that we would have gotten to see her be more of a badass but her big reveal comes at the end of the movie and she’s not around much longer after that. Not having a Talia versus Selina fight was a missed opportunity.

The film also boasts great cinematography but why would anyone expect any less from Nolan at this point? I liked the brighter look of the town, especially in the third act, and how a lot of the film happens in daylight.

The final act, which sees Batman and the GCPD bring the fight to the League of Shadows in the streets was superb and chilling. Watching Batman and the cops take it to the villainous terrorists head-on was incredible and the best moment in the film. Watching Batman and Bane fight in a sea of people was also damn spectacular.

All in all, this is still one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It just happens to be the worst of its trilogy and if I’m being honest, it felt like Christopher Nolan and the writers were just tired and wanted to move on to the next phase of their lives.

However, even if someone else would have to step in and do it, I’d rather see this film series continue, as opposed to seeing Warner Bros. keep trying to reboot Batman. Just let Nolan produce and pick the best creative team to help build off of his vision. I mean, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nightwing movie in this cinematic universe would certainly get my money.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Comic Review: Gotham City Sirens: Book One

Published: October 28th, 2014
Written by: Paul Dini
Art by: Guillem March

DC Comics, 314 Pages

Review:

I didn’t know much about this series but I really like Paul Dini’s Batman work, especially what he did on the near perfect Batman: The Animated Series. I also like how he wrote Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on that show and thought that Dini gave them a fantastic dynamic, as well as superb chemistry.

This series adds Catwoman to that mix and since Dini did well with her character on that animated show, it just seemed like another reason to give this a shot.

Even though I anticipated liking this, I was still surprised by how good it is!

This brings the three women together as roommates, as they try and keep each other on the straight and narrow path, trying to be reformed criminals doing a little good in the world. Of course, things can’t be that simple.

The Riddler also plays a big role in this, as he helps the women where he can. That is, until he feels betrayed and personally hurt by them towards the end of this volume.

This is a pretty thick collection of stories, as it includes the first thirteen issues of the ongoing series. Within that, it features several story arcs, all of which are pretty good. There isn’t a dull moment in this run of issues and I actually really liked the standalone Christmas story that saw Harley return to see her family.

Dini gives us a lot of info on the backstory of all these characters and shows how some of their stories had some overlap at different times, whether they knew that then or not. For instance, the moment Harley met Ivy, she also met The Joker. Both characters would have an immense effect on her life.

So much happens in this and all of it is good. I dug the hell out of it much more than I thought I would. I’m sure I’ll read and review the second volume in the very near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Paul Dini Batman-related comics.

Comic Review: Batman: The Complete Hush

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Jim Lee

DC Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

Batman: Hush is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories of its era and honestly, it doesn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read it for over ten years but after recently watching the animated film adaptation, I wanted to give the source material a read again.

I’m happy to say that this lived up to my memories of it, as it’s just a great, well-layered story, where even if you figure out the big mystery, it doesn’t wreck the plot because there are so many surprises still woven in.

This features a lot of characters from both sides of the law but it doesn’t become bogged down by it and everyone truly serves a purpose with how they’re all tied to the main plot.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is good, simply because Jeph Loeb wrote it and he teamed up with the great Jim Lee, who provided some of the best and most iconic art of his career for this tale.

Hush is a solid comic book on every level. Saying too much about the plot might ruin things and this is a book that I definitely recommend. I’d rather people read it and discover its greatness for themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other major Batman story arcs from the late ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book Two

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 628 Pages

Review:

While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.

I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.

This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.

This was pretty poorly organized and executed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.