Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Hugo Strange

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

There really aren’t a lot of Hugo Strange stories. Well, at least when compared to the amount of Joker, Riddler, Two-Face, Penguin or Catwoman stories. But there were still enough to fill up an installment in the Batman Arkham Collections, which has been a trade paperback “best of” series for many of Batman’s top villains.

Granted, we might be scraping the bottom of the barrel now that they’ve done one for Joker’s Daughter and they have an upcoming one for Victor Zsasz but I digress.

I like most of these villain-centric collections and this one is no different, as it is nice to have the key Hugo Strange stories in one book. However, this also goes to show that the guy has been underutilized and underappreciated by Batman writers over the years.

This is over 200 pages but some of the stories are multi-part arcs. There’s maybe a half dozen different tales here but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough when compared to Batman Arkham Collections of the past.

Most of them were enjoyable but this makes me question as to whether they should have made this one.

It also made me wish that a good writer would come along and use Hugo Strange more or at least come up with something really great for him to do. He was utilized greatly in the Arkham Asylum games, as well as the Gotham TV show.

But maybe he’s just too much of a generic mad scientist type and with that, overloaded with tropes that most writers just aren’t interested in writing about. But the character debuted in 1940. So in 80 years, there really hasn’t been one great Hugo Strange story? C’mon, DC.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Joker’s Daughter

Published: December 26th, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 219 Pages

Review:

Out of all the Batman Arkham collections, this was the one I was least enthused about reading and I was kind of confused as to why Joker’s Daughter even got a greatest hits trade paperback when there were other more deserving Bat-villains worthy of a collection first. Hell, this came out before the Penguin one!

Anyway, she’s never been a major villain and I wouldn’t even rank her as a C-list character. She had an interesting run in the ’70s, disappeared, then reappeared more recently because… well, I don’t know. She’s just not that interesting.

While I feel like she could be made interesting, she just hasn’t been given anything worthwhile to do since her ’70s run where she had the schtick of playing the daughter of all the main Bat-villains. She’s also not actually the Joker’s daughter, she’s Duela Dent, the daughter of Two-Face.

This collection features just about every story with the character, as there aren’t that many to begin with. The only thing from memory that this was missing was her appearances in the Red Hood/Arsenal series.

It was kind of cool, however, seeing her earliest stories because it was very much a product of its time. None of this was great or all that good but if you have a thing for really obscure characters, it’s worth checking out, I guess. But there are so many other volumes in this collection that really make this one seem unnecessary.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Film Review: Batman: Hush (2019)

Release Date: July 19th, 2019 (SDCC)
Directed by: Justin Copeland
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Jason O’Mara, Jennifer Morrsion, Geoffrey Arend, Jerry O’Connell, Maury Sterling, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Sean Maher, Peyton List (I), Peyton List (II), Vanessa Williams, Tara Strong

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Riddle me this – “The less of me you have, the more I am worth”… what am I? Answer – A Friend.” – The Riddler

The DC Comics animated films are really hit or miss for me.

Mostly, I enjoy them but there are usually things that don’t click in the right way or the films claim to be adaptations of a famous story but then take tremendous liberties and are really only those stories in name only. Look at Gotham by Gaslight for an example of that.

For the most part, this takes a lot of liberties while still holding on to the spirit of the original Hush story.

The biggest difference here, is that Hush is not Thomas Elliot like in the comics but is actually someone else. Thomas Elliot appears in this film but he’s just a red herring. I won’t spoil the plot and tell you who Hush is though but I thought it was worth mentioning for those who would prefer a beat-by-beat adaptation.

I thought that the animation was some of the best DC has had, thus far. A lot of care was given to the character design, the actual motion in the film, as well as the visual tone.

The film also benefits, in my opinion, by not being cast with more well-known stars. Sometimes famous voices can be distracting in these films. Here, the main characters weren’t played by famous distinct voices. The more famous actors who were in this actually just blended in nicely and didn’t detract from the proceedings.

Overall, this is in the upper echelon of DC’s animated features. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely got a lot more positives than negatives.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics animated movies.

Film Review: Batman: Year One (2011)

Release Date: September 27th, 2011 (Spain)
Directed by: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Written by: Tab Murphy
Based on: Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, Katee Sackhoff, Grey DeLisle, Stephen Root

Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, 64 Minutes

Review:

“Twelve years. And the ache is still fresh. Like a raw angry nerve. But this isn’t about healing. I’m not looking for closure.” – Batman

This was a pretty short film, even for a DC Comics animated feature. Not counting the credits, this was exactly one hour and it played more like a pilot for an hour long Batman animated series for adult fans than it did a movie.

That’s certainly not a knock, as this was pretty solid, overall. It was a really good adaptation of the original Frank Miller story, even though these DC animated films take a lot of creative liberties.

It captures the gist of the story and the tone of the comic. Although, this does feel less gritty but I think that is due to it being very clean looking animation mixed with obvious CGI in parts. I wasn’t a fan of the CGI bits, as they stick out like a sore thumb and don’t blend well with the overall visual composition.

The plot and the script are very good though. But they are truly brought to life by a heck of a cast that boasts Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie (who went on to be the star of Gotham), Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, Alex Rocco, Jon Polito, Stephen Root and solid voice actress, Grey DeLisle. The voice acting was superb and it made this a better film than it would have been with a lesser cast.

I guess I actually would’ve liked this to be a bit longer. It rushes through the story, which isn’t too dissimilar from the comic it is based on, but I felt like some added context and more plot and character development could’ve put this at the level of the two-part The Dark Knight Returns animated picture.

Still, this is a good outing by Warner Bros. animation studio and it’s definitely in the upper echelon of animated Batman flicks.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other DC animated films, primarily those featuring Batman.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Killer Croc

Published: June 28th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 291 Pages

Review:

Killer Croc is a Batman villain that I have dug since I first read a story with him in it in the late ’80s. I’m glad that he has had staying power and is now pretty close to being an B+ level villain in the Batman and larger DC mythos.

This collection, like the other Batman Arkham villain compilations features a dozen or so stories focused on this specific character, all from different eras with a slew of different writers and artists.

But in the case of this book, that kind of hurts the overall compilation.

Now most of the writing is good with stories by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Tim Seeley and others. It’s the big style variance in art that damages the overall presentation.

The problem is that most of the stories featured here are from the ’90s. At the time, DC Comics had a lot of artists that experimented with a lot of different art styles. Most of the stuff here looks like ’90s indie stuff that is trying way too hard to be edgy and extreme. A lot of it comes off like massive eye sores and the strong contrast in style from chapter to chapter is kind of jarring. But this is a compilation and these things happen when you’re wedging a dozen or so stories into the same book.

However, this collection also brings to light one of my biggest gripes about the Killer Croc character and that’s that everyone draws him differently. Sometimes he’s just a jacked dude with scaly skin and other times he’s the size of the Hulk with an actual crocodile looking head, snout and all. I’ve never been a fan of his inconsistent look and some of these artists go too wild with it.

Being mostly a product of the ’90s we also get some over the top violence in one story in particular, which sees Killer Croc literally chomp a woman in half. While that stuff doesn’t bother me, it seemed out of place in the book and just reminded me of a time when DC Comics seemed like they were trying too hard to fit within what they thought were the times.

I did enjoy this collection, despite my gripes about it. They could only work with what they had in their library but I can’t believe that some of these are considered the best Killer Croc tales. Maybe someone needs to step up and do the character some justice, treat him with care and give us something with more meat.

I also found it odd that none of his Suicide Squad stuff was here, as some of those stories really build up the character in interesting ways.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Clayface

Published: August 15th, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I’ve read a bunch of these Batman Arkham collections and I’m glad DC Comics is still putting one out a few times per year. If you remember those old collections like The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told or The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, these are similar and are always focused on one character: a Batman villain.

Now I say that these are focused on one villain but this installment is a bit different, as it features Clayface, which there have been multiple versions of over the years and all of them are pretty unique.

What I really loved about this is that it gives us the first appearances of every Clayface in regular Batman canon. Hell, it even gives us the story of the Mud Pack, which was a villain team comprised of multiple Clayfaces.

The Clayface that most people are familiar with is the original, Basil Karlo. He was the one featured in Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s and has monopolized Clayface’s comic book appearances since.

However, I loved seeing all the different versions here. My favorite story and now my favorite Clayface is the third version a.k.a. Preston Payne. I knew of him but never got to read his debut until now. His look and armored suit were badass and his story was fantastic thanks to the great Len Wein. As much as I like Karlo, I’d love to see Payne make a real comeback.

Overall, this was a pretty cool collection. Most of these are stories I’ve never read but they also gave me better clarity on the bizarre history of the Clayface moniker.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections, as well as Clayface-centric stories.

Comic Review: Red Hood/Arsenal, Vol. 1: Open for Business

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Denis Medri, Paolo Pantalena

DC Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

I was a fan of Scott Lobdell’s work on Red Hood and the Outlaws, so I figured I’d go backwards and read his short-lived Red Hood/Arsenal series that takes place just before the formation of Red Hood’s Outlaws team with Artemis and Bizarro.

Also, with the recent death of Arsenal and Red Hood having to deal with it and process it, I wanted to get more context to their friendship.

This was a good read, a pretty energetic story and it does do a lot to show you how special Red Hood and Arsenal’s relationship is. It also channels back to events that effected them before this story. And maybe I’ll have to go back further and read those too.

However, this wasn’t as good as the Red Hood and the Outlaws stuff that followed. While both are written by Lobdell, the more recent (and still ongoing) series has just a bit more depth to it.

This collection is the first of only two in this series and while this one serves to set things up, upon finishing it, it doesn’t feel like there is much to look forward to, as the series seems to present itself as something with more longevity than just one more arc. And maybe that longevity was intended to be the Outlaws series but I know that I’ll probably want more of Red Hood and Arsenal than just this small sample size. Especially, now knowing what Arsenal’s fate will be down the road.

If you like Red Hood stories though, this is probably worth your time. It’s hard to judge it though, as there is one more volume after it and maybe I should have just read both as one body of work.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Red Hood and the Outlaws.