Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 1: Better Than Batman

Published: January 31st, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Javier Fernandez

DC Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

I’ve been reading Nightwing for about a year now but I was behind on all the Rebirth era stuff because I was tired of DC Comics hitting the reboot button every few years. But I heard pretty good things about this series and started reading them. Now I want to go back and get all the previous stories in the Rebirth era to help give context to the newer chapters.

This collection has two story arcs in it but they’re both very connected, as they deal with the character of Raptor and his relationship with Nightwing a.k.a. Dick Grayson.

Also, this story starts on the heels of Dick leaving the Spyral organization where he was known simply as Agent 37.

This first arc sees Dick become Nightwing once again, as he is pulled into the Parliament of Owls to help protect Damian Wayne, the current Robin and son of Batman. Nightwing is forced to work with Raptor but the two have their own agenda and we see them work towards defeating the Owls. The story also brings in the Kobra organization and deals with their rivalry with the Owls.

I’m not as versed on the Court/Parliament of Owls stuff as I should be but I did enjoy the story and what it meant for all parties involved. However, the real emotional weight and the real story doesn’t happen until the final two issues collected in this volume. This is where Raptor’s intentions become clear and where Dick discovers that the two men have personal ties to one another.

I’ve enjoyed Tim Seeley’s work for quite awhile. I was an avid fan of his Hack/Slash comic series and I’ve reviewed all five omnibuses already. He just seems to be having fun writing Nightwing and he understands the difference between Dick Grayson and Batman, as well as all the other Robins.

One of my favorite parts about this series is the evolution of Nightwing and Batgirl’s relationship. Seeley does a fine job of working in the romantic stuff without it being in the way of the story. This may actually be one of the best handled romances in modern comics, even if the two can never seem to get together or be on the same page at the same time. It’s certainly more interesting than whatever the hell happened with that Batman and Catwoman wedding fiasco.

I’m glad that I’m working my way through this series and anticipate picking up the second volume as I catch up to where I am now, around issue 50 or so.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Nightwing series, as well as BatgirlRed Hood and the OutlawsDetective Comics and Titans.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Two-Face

Published: November 10th, 2015
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 296 Pages

Review:

I’m really happy that DC Comics is putting out these Batman: Arkham trade paperbacks. They cover the long history of specific villains in the same way that the much beloved The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told anthology did. Many Batman villains have been around for almost as long as the Caped Crusader. It’s about time that those with a long history in the comics get a collection that covers their tales from all eras.

This Two-Face one really goes all the way back to the beginning and shows us how District Attorney Harvey Dent became the famous villain. I mean, we all know the story but have we all seen the original version of how it went down? Plus, back in the oldest days of his existence, he was known as Harvey Kent… not Dent.

While I read the Batman: Arkham on the Riddler first and loved it, this one eclipses that volume a bit. I prefer the Riddler slightly as a character but this anthology for Two-Face is so solid and perfect that I really can’t recommend anything else on the guy’s history. Although, there was this ’90s story where Two-Face reconnects with his wife after saving her but that was excluded and shouldn’t have been. However, that tale was collected in a 1995 anthology titled Batman: Featuring Two-Face and the Riddler, which came out in 1995 to coincide with the release of the film Batman Forever. You should also check that one out if you are a Two-Face fan but a few story selections are repeated in that trade paperback and this one.

In the Riddler volume, I wasn’t as keen on some of the more modern stuff but in this Arkham collection, the modern Two-Face stories that were selected are pretty damn good. The final story, which sees him in league with Scarecrow and the Court of Owls is pretty interesting and it shows an incredibly sinister version of the Two-Face character.

Real Batman fans out there should probably pick all of these Arkham books up. They do not disappoint and I actually plan on working my way through all of them. At the moment, there is eight volumes, all focused exclusively on a particular villain. There are also at least three more that are being released over the next year.

I just got the volumes on Mr. Freeze and Scarecrow in the mail, so those will be the next I read.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other villain anthologies under the Batman – Arkham banner.

TV Review: Gotham (2014-2019)

Original Run: September 22nd, 2014 – current
Created by: Bruno Heller, Danny Cannon
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Zabryna Guevara, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Victoria Cartagena, Andrew Stewart-Jones, John Doman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Morena Baccarin, BD Wong, James Frain, Jessica Lucas, Chris Chalk, Drew Powell, Nicholas D’Agosto, Michael Chiklis, Maggie Geha, Benedict Samuel, David Zayas, Cameron Monaghan, Richard Kind, Natalie Alyn Lind, Peyton List, Crystal Reed

Primrose Hill Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 66 Episodes (thus far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2015, near the end of season 1, plus additional updates written later.

I was going to wait until the end of the first season before reviewing this show, as I do with most new shows. I just can’t get that far and don’t think that waiting till the season ends will change my assessment. I’ve tried desperately to get this to work for me. I’ve tried a hell of a lot harder than most of my friends and Batman fans, who all gave up on this a long time ago. I saw some promise here and there but this show fails in just about every way. In short: it is pretty goddamned awful (*note: I no longer feel this way as revealed in the final update).

There are actually only a few things that this show has going for it but I’ll get to those shortly.

If you barely know anything about the Batman mythos and you find pleasure in watching mediocre cookie cutter detective shows, I can see where you might find this watchable. However, if you are a Batman fan and love and respect the franchise, this is a very painful experience.

On one hand, the producers are trying to spoon feed the audience with fan service in every episode but it is forced, poorly executed and unnecessary. In fact, it feels as if the producers read a couple Wikipedia articles about Batman and thought they had an intimate grasp. And the way they handle certain characters, goes to show that they don’t understand them at all.  At times it just feels like a cruel joke and it is Fox trolling the shit out of their audience.

For instance, Edward Nygma doesn’t need to speak in riddles every scene, Harvey Dent doesn’t need to display a split personality every other appearance, you don’t need to have constant Joker teases across multiple unrelated scenarios, you don’t need to show a little ginger girl playing with plants every time she’s on screen and Selina Kyle doesn’t need to parkour off of every object whenever she makes an entrance. I also don’t need to be reminded every five minutes about how Jim Gordon is a good cop and every other cop on the force is tainted by something. It is fucking overkill.

The acting is questionable, the writing is more often than not atrocious and despite the over abundance of horribly executed fan service, the show is just plain stupid on its own. It is an obvious attempt at being a cash cow and a ratings grabber and somehow it has worked in that regard, as it is coming back for a second season.

The whole premise of the show makes it a failure from the get-go.

To start, the worst part about most live-action superhero adaptations is the origin. The audience usually finds themselves roughing it through the early bits in an effort to get to the comic book action. Also, how many times has Batman’s origin been told? Now we are given a show that is an overly extended version of the lamest part of Batman’s tale. Who knows how long this could stretch: ten seasons, maybe? Hell, one has been enough.

The other main part of the show, is Jim Gordon trying to “save the city” and destroy corruption. Well, he’s doomed to fail because if he were to succeed, why would Gotham City need the Batman?

As far as characters, Bruce Wayne is okay and I like him being a little shit challenging authority and taking on the evil adults of his world but it isn’t enough to anchor a need for him on this show. Selina Kyle is awful and pretty much a caricature that just happens to look like a young Michelle Pfeiffer. The Poison Ivy character is unimportant and so far useless. All the villains who show up are poorly done and easily defeated. Barbara Kean is the worst character on television. Where did Renee Montoya go? Fish Mooney is sometimes great but mostly terrible. However, I don’t blame these actors, I blame the atrocious writing.

When it comes to positives, Robin Lord Taylor is amazing as the Penguin. In fact, at first, I hated that he was way too skinny to be the Penguin but he’s so good in the role that I don’t care. He is by far, the most interesting part of the show. Almost as good as Taylor is Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock. Then again, when isn’t Logue anything short of great? Ben McKenzie does a solid job as Jim Gordon and I do like Cory Michael Smith as Nygma, the man who will become the Riddler – even though the writers force riddles into every situation he finds himself in. Lastly, Sean Pertwee makes a fine Alfred Pennyworth and is my favorite live action incarnation of the character. Pertwee also looks a lot like his father in his older age and seeing him in action reminds me of the Third Doctor from the classic Doctor Who series.

The show is often times too distracted by its own mess and diverts away from characters with potential to focus on too many small parts in a machine that is too large for its own good. When the show is at its strongest is when the Penguin is on screen, Alfred is kicking ass or when it focuses more heavily on the crime families of Gotham City. The episodes pitting Sal Maroni against Carmine Falcone with a little Fish Mooney and the Penguin mixed in are the best that this series has offered up so far.

I still watch this show because I want to buy into it, I just can’t. The good parts keep me engaged but they are too far and few between. I don’t believe that the show will get better but there is enough good stuff to expand on and save it from being the generally uninteresting mess it is currently. But I probably won’t watch the second season on a weekly basis, as I do now. I’ll wait a year for it to be over with and then binge watch it over a weekend. If it picks up steam and corrects itself, consider me reinvested. If not, I’ll find better ways to spend my time.

Update:

Season 2 of Gotham has been infinitely better than the first. The shows is finding its footing and it now knows what it is trying to be. I like that it is creating its own world and veering away from being trapped by the expectations from an already established Batman mythos. The show is doing its own thing and honestly, at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce Wayne is killed off before even becoming Batman.

Update 2:

At the end of Season 3, the show has corrected a lot of its early mistakes.

Cameron Monaghan, who plays Jerome Valeska, who may or may not be the Joker but is probably the Joker, is the best version of Batman’s greatest villain I have ever seen in a live-action story. The kid is magnificent and really captures the magic of the comic book version of the legendary character better than anyone I have ever seen. Yes, he’s better than Heath Ledger and he has the same spirit as Mark Hamill who has voiced the character for decades.

Additionally, the show just becomes more interesting as it rolls on, even though it has some dumb plot threads. But when you don’t take this show seriously and just embrace its insanity, it works.

Most of the villains have evolved solidly, especially the Penguin and the Riddler. I also really liked the Mad Hatter story, as well as the plots that focus on Hugo Strange.

Gotham is far from a perfect show but it bounced back, in my opinion. It also works if you just take it for what it is and don’t try to force it into the box that is the already established comic book mythos. I see it now as an Elseworlds Tale, which is a title DC Comics gives to their stories that take place in different realities.

I’m glad I stuck with it as long as I did. For others who have, their dedication has paid off.

Comic Review: Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)

Published on: March 23rd, 2013
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

Being that I am a lifelong Batman fan and since I have been watching Gotham, where the mysterious Court of Owls is now a big part of the show, I wanted to check out their debut in comic book form.

I have to admit, I haven’t read a lot of the modern Batman stuff. The main reason, is that DC Comics constantly reboots their universe all the time and the constant changes aren’t just hard to follow, they’re incredibly annoying and I really don’t care for it to begin with.

So in this reboot of Batman, which doesn’t seem like a reboot, in any way, as I’m not sure what has changed and what hasn’t, we start with the large Bat Family all intact.

Anyway, Batman finds out that the old nursery rhyme about the Court of Owls may have some truth to it. After digging deeper, he finds that his family was somehow involved with the group. He then starts to have run-ins with The Talon, who is the bad ass assassin of the Court of Owls.

The story and the mystery are all really well written and this big change to the Batman mythos is kind of cool. I know that people were sort of split about this plot development a few years back when it happened. I like the concept and the idea.

The best thing about this collection of Batman issues 1 through 7 is the artwork of Greg Capullo. I used to love his work on Spawn and it is really cool seeing him draw my favorite hero.

Unfortunately, this collection doesn’t have a proper conclusion as it ends on a cliffhanger. That should be resolved in the following volume, which I have yet to read.

The Court of Owls is a decent read and a neat twist to the world of Gotham City.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman stuff from The New 52 era.