Comic Review: Batman R.I.P.

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Tony S. Daniel, Lee Garbett

DC Comics, 213 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty sure I liked this when I read it back when it was current, about a decade and a half ago. However, I found it just weird and wonky this time around. But I’ve also aged quite a bit and in that time, read some truly incredible comics.

I was probably really into this, as it came out at the height of my Grant Morrison love. Plus, back then, I was more into weird shit and experimental storytelling. However, I don’t feel like any of that necessarily benefits the most mainstream of all mainstream comic book titles.

Having now recently read a good amount of Grant Morrison’s Batman run, my opinion on it has soured quite a bit. It’s stuck in this weird limbo where it’s too weird to feel like it fits within the top Batman title and it isn’t weird enough to truly feel like Grant Morrison, unrestrained. 

This feels like watered down Morrison and by trying to sit on the fence between mainstream acceptance and Morrison’s typical narrative style, it’s really just a boring, baffling dud of a comic.

The art is good, damn good. However, that’s not enough to save it from how disappointing it is, overall. Besides, this is a story from the pages of the most popular comic book in the medium and if the art isn’t up to snuff, DC Comics should close up shop.

This kind of wore me ragged, honestly. I don’t want to read anymore of Morrison’s Batman work and I consider it to be overrated, at this point. I also say that as someone that once liked it.

In the end, Morrison shouldn’t have his hands creatively tied but he also shouldn’t be allowed to go into Batman with reckless abandon. That’s what DC’s Elseworld Tales are for and frankly, that’s where Morrison’s Batman work should be.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s Batman run.

Comic Review: Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul

Published: August 28th, 2012
Written by: Grant Morrison, Paul Dini, Fabian Nicieza, Keith Champagne, Peter Milligan
Art by: Ryan Benjamin, Don Kramer, Adam Kubert, David Lopez, Jason Pearson

DC Comics, 248 Pages

Review:

Since I just read the first big collection of Grant Morrison’s Batman work, I also wanted to revisit this story, which tied to his larger body-of-work, and brought the characters to the Batman R.I.P. milestone event, which I will review in the very near future, as well.

This plot crossed over with several Batman titles, though, so it wasn’t just written by Morrison. It also features some work by the great Paul Dini, Fabian Nicieza, Keith Champagne and Peter Milligan.

Overall, it was a good story that built off of the Batman and Son arc, which brought Damian Wayne, a future Robin, into Bruce Wayne’s life.

This also brings back one of the more popular Batman villains, Ra’s al Ghul. I like how Ra’s pretty much just looks like a mummy in a green cloak the whole story. It kind of reminded me of Mumm-Ra, the primary villain of the ThunderCats franchise.

The art was also handled by multiple people due to this being spread out over several titles. Pretty much all of the art is really good and it reminded me of why I got back into reading comics in this era, when I had dipped out for nearly a decade around the mid-’90s.

This is a good, enthralling story that made some good, permanent changes to the mythos. It also shows that Morrison had a unique vision for the character and those around him.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other stories arcs within Grant Morrison’s Batman run.

Comic Review: Batman and Son – Deluxe Edition

Published: November 3rd, 2009
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III

DC Comics, 350 Pages

Review:

The Deluxe Edition of Batman and Son features all of Grant Morrison’s Batman run up to Batman R.I.P., although it excludes The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, which I will also review shortly.

It’s a hefty but surprisingly quick read, as it has a good, quick pace and is mostly pretty good. I actually read it in one sitting and found it kind of refreshing, as I haven’t liked many Batman stories within the regular continuity since Morrison’s era. Granted, I did enjoy some of Scott Snyder’s work.

I also loved Andy Kubert’s artwork and I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit as one of the premiere Batman artists. It was this era of Batman that got me reading the comic again after a several year hiatus and Kubert’s art had a lot to do with that.

This edition features a couple of story arcs. I liked the first one the best, as it is the debut of Damian Wayne, Batman’s son. It had been a long time since I read these issues but it was fun to revisit.

All in all, this was the start of one of the best runs in the last few decades and it didn’t disappoint. While it might not be as strong as my memories of it, it was still much better than most of the stuff that came after it.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other stories in the Grant Morrison Batman run.

Comic Review: Wonder Woman: Earth One

Published: 2016
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Yanick Paquette

DC Comics, 259 Pages

Review:

I wanted to read the entire Wonder Woman: Earth One story but this just collects the first two volumes, which ended with the words “to be concluded”. I guess Comixology never put up the third and final volume but whatever. So I can only review the first two-thirds of whatever this story was going to be.

The one thing I was most excited about was seeing Grant Morrison’s take on the Wonder Woman character.

However, this was just okay and just felt like it was an updated version of the character’s origin. Now I’m not too familiar with the Earth One continuity other than it being a New 52 thing where it exists as DC’s version of what Marvel did with their Ultimate universe. Basically, it is a way for them to reboot characters in an alternate timeline.

Having now read this, it didn’t feel necessary and there was nothing here that made me think that it was a better take on the character or those around her.

I mostly enjoyed the art and at least the plot moved swiftly but it’s a pretty big disappointment considering how much I generally enjoy Morrison’s stuff.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming other Earth One stories, as well as modern Wonder Woman comics.

Comic Review: X-Men: Phoenix In Darkness

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Phil Jiminez, Marc Silvestri

Marvel Comics, 234 Pages

Review:

Well, this started out fairly interesting and strong but then it tried to go out with an explosion but instead, came out like a bathtub fart.

Written by Grant Morrison, a legend, with some of the art done by Marc Silvestri, another legend, this was pretty underwhelming and far from the best work that either man can do.

The story taps into the Phoenix Force, a plot device that was already done to death before this came out, and it doesn’t really offer up anything all that worthwhile to try and justify bringing it back into an X-Men story.

In fact, I actually enjoy Phoenix tales when done well but just like it’s been overused in movies now, it’s been overused in comics for a lot longer.

This story was a disjointed mess and in fact, it’s basically two different arcs collected into one book like it’s one plot. The first half was good and intriguing, the second half which shows a potential future for the X-Men was shit. And just like Phoenix-centric stories, potential X-Men futures have also been overused. In fact, it’s been overused and completely bastardized more than Phoenix plots.

Overall, this felt like a complete waste of time and the only real thing memorable to come out of it is that this appeared to be the start of the Cyclops and Emma Frost relationship.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other story arcs about Jean Grey as Phoenix.

Vids I Dig 172: Strip Panel Naked: Using 3D Space in 2D Comic Books

From Strip Panel Naked’s YouTube description: On this episode I look at how Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant build a constant approach to showing three-dimensional depth in their comic ‘We3’. Using a constant camera angle that shows off three levels of content, foreground, mid ground and background, in almost every panel. It also leans into that way to show certain movement, showing it not as lateral left to right movement and but as back to front movement. It aims to create a real sense of place and three-dimensional space.

Comic Review: Vampirella Master Series – Omnibus

Published: September 20th, 2017
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Carey, Warren Ellis, Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, James Robinson
Art by: Amanda Conner, Gary Frank, Joe Jusko, Louis LaChance, Mike Lilly, Mike Mayhew, Tim Sale, Mark Texeira

Dynamite Entertainment, Harris Comics, 545 Pages

Review:

I’ve kind of dug Vampirella my entire life, even if I hadn’t read many of her stories until more recently. She always looked like a cool, badass character and I’ve always enjoyed horror, especially vampire fiction.

Being that this is the 50th anniversary of the character and because I’m stoked for the new series that Christopher Priest is writing, I wanted to dive deep into Vampirella lore.

This gigantic omnibus was put out recently by Dynamite but it collects stories from the ’90s when Vampirella was being published by the now defunct Harris Comics.

What makes this collection special, is that it is a compilation of Vampirella stories from a ton of A-list creators in a time when comics were allowed to be harder, sexier, edgier and darker: all things that make Vampirella who she is.

Overall, most of this was entertaining. The only low point was the Kurt Busiek story because it was a bit slow when compared to the pacing of the others. I did like Busiek’s tale overall but it was also the largest and kind of took the wind out of the sails for me.

I wish that some of the other stories were larger or expanded on more, though. There were a lot of cool ideas tossed around and a lot of what was considered Vampirella canon was experimented on and retconned. Typically, I’m not big on retcons but with Vampirella having a rocky history, as far as being published regularly and with any sort of long lasting narrative, it doesn’t bother me. Plus, by the ’90s, a little reinvention wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In the end, I was glad to have finally read these stories and they’re certainly better than what was the standard in the early to mid-’90s.

I also loved most of the art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella stories, as well as comics featuring Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris.

TV Review: Doom Patrol (2019- )

Original Run: February 15th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jeremy Carver
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Doom Patrol by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, Grant Morrison
Music by: Clint Marshall, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Joivan Wade, Alan Tudyk, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Phil Morris, Curtis Armstrong (voice), Ed Asner (cameo)

Berlanti Productions, Jeremy Carver Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 15 Episodes (so far), 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this show before seeing it. For one, the Titans TV show put out by the same streaming service, DC Universe, was pretty shaky and had a lot of issues. Plus, Doom Patrol is such a bizarre comic, especially during its Grant Morrison run, which this is based off of, that I didn’t know how that would translate to screen.

So I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this show and then some. It exceeds my expectations, which is rare in the realm of TV superheroes where the field is dominated by inconsistent and now cancelled Netflix shows, as well as the CW wing of the DC TV universe, which has mostly turned to crap after some solid starts on a few of those shows.

Doom Patrol, however, feels more like AMC’s Preacher or FX’s Legion but without the mental clusterfuckery of the latter.

What makes this so damn solid is the ensemble. Everyone here truly feels at home in their roles and they have stellar chemistry as a group. Plus, adding in Timothy Dalton was a real win for the show.

I’m really glad to see Brendan Fraser in this, as his career has felt like it’s been on a hiatus for quite some time. He is the glue that holds this group together. He plays a conflicted, complex character going through some serious shit but he’s just so good at it.

Also, Diane Guerrero, who I liked on Orange is the New Black, steals the f’n show in every scene that she’s in and that’s a true feat considering how good everyone else is on this show. She plays a character with 64 different personalities and she shows incredible range and talent in her ability to pull them all off and sometimes switch from personality to personality on a dime. It’s very similar to James McAvoy’s character in Split and Glass but Guerrero is really impressive in that she has to pull this off over 15 one hour episodes.

I also really love April Bowlby on this show. I’m mostly only familiar with her role as Kandi on Two and a Half Men, where she was a real highlight of that show. I’ve seen her here and there over the years but man, she shines on this show and I’m glad to see her working on a project that lets her do some real dramatic and emotional work.

The show takes some liberties, as all superhero shows do, but it does feel close to the source material and the spirit and camaraderie of the group is alive and well. While it’s not yet as nutty as Grant Morrison’s material, I think the show does a good job of keeping its bizarreness more palatable for the normies that don’t read the comics.

Unfortunately, being exclusive to DC Universe works against the show. It makes it hard for casual viewers to find it and just six months into its existence, the streaming service is already in trouble. So despite how good this show is and the mostly positive response I’ve seen from others, it’s future is probably in doubt because its home’s future is definitely in doubt.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Legion, Preacher and other TV shows put out by DC Universe, such as Titans and the upcoming Swamp Thing.

Comic Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Published: 1989
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Dave McKean

DC Comics, 220 Pages (25th Anniversary version)

Review:

I bought Arkham Asylum in 1989. I was ten years-old but the first Tim Burton Batman movie had just come out and I was buying Batman comics like they were fresh hotcakes and I had a serious case of the munchies. By the way, no one batted an eye at a ten year-old buying a comic like this in 1989.

Anyway, at ten years-old, this shit was totally over my head. As a forty year-old, this shit is still totally over my head. I’m not saying that it’s tough to absorb, it’s just batshit crazy (pun intended) and reads more like Grant Morrison’s nightmares than a coherent or worthwhile Batman comic book.

While I really am in awe of Dave McKean’s art, it just doesn’t resonate with me in the way that I feel it should. I’m not keen on his character design, even if I like the overall style. But this book looks like Batman and his villains trapped within the pages of a Nine Inch Nails CD booklet from 1994. My teenage self probably saw that as cool but my older self thinks it is a weird mashup that doesn’t really fit no matter how dark you try to make Batman appear.

Getting back to the story, it is a mess. Morrison is a good writer when he’s focused and has more real estate to tell a story. For instance, his run on Doom Patrol was strange as hell but over the course of that lengthy run, there is a glue that binds it all together in a neat way. Maybe if Arkham Asylum was an intro to a larger story, it could have spread its wings and flew. But honestly, the story feels stifled and confined like the inmates in the Asylum itself.

Also, Batman does not feel like Batman here. But then neither does the Joker or Two-Face. As far as these characters go, Morrison misses the mark. But he was young when he wrote this and maybe he sacrificed character continuity for trying to be a hip edgy boi. I hate to say it but this feels like edgy boi bullshit.

This isn’t a total waste though. It certainly is a work of art and it helped steer Morrison’s career in the direction it needed to go. Plus, his Batman stories a decade and a half later were damn good.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Grant Morrison’s runs on Batman and Doom Patrol.

Documentary Review: Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (2010)

Release Date: October 9th, 2010 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Sequart Organization, Respect! Films, Halo-8 Entertainment, 80 Minutes

Review:

I have really enjoyed the comic book documentaries that Patrick Meaney has made. However, this one was kind of a dud, which is unfortunate, as I have liked some of Grant Morrison’s work over the years.

This was also Meaney’s first documentary, so there’s that.

What I mean, is that this felt amateurish and the editing wasn’t as good as it became in his later films. This was mostly talking head interviews and even then, most of them were just one or two sentence blurbs that came out pretty rapidly. Also, this was definitely a puff piece where everyone interviewed just praised Morrison like he was the second coming.

A lot of this felt insincere. And I don’t mean that to knock Morrison but this wasn’t a good documentary or very interesting. I anticipated really delving into the man and really getting some insight into his best work. Instead, this is just a bunch of people trying to sell you on Morrison, a guy you probably already know if you’re taking the time out to watch this.

I don’t care that he’s an alien abducted wizard and how “cool” this “rockstar” is, I want to know more about his creative process and why he did certain things a certain way. There’s a lot of “Oh, yeah… that was great! And then so and so stole it for this movie!”

This was just a lot of people giving Morrison a community wide handjob, telling us he’s great but not actually telling us what makes him great and why his work is great.

This was a real bore to get through but I’m glad that Meaney’s documentaries got better. Check out the one on Image Comics and the one on Chris Claremont. Those were infinitely more engaging than this was.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Patrick Meaney’s other comic book documentaries but his later ones are much better.