Comic Review: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1

Published: July 25th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Freddie Williams II

IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

When this was first announced, I got pretty excited. But at the time, hunting down single issues of comics was hard for me, as my closest comic book shops are both 45 minutes in opposite directions. So I planned on waiting for it to be collected in a trade paperback format.

I mean, who doesn’t want to read a team up of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? On top of that, who doesn’t want to see Batman fight Shredder? Yeah, because that’s just about all I could think about when I first heard that this crossover was happening.

You get more than that though. You also get to see Shredder team up with Ra’s al Ghul and several Batman villains get exposed to mutagen and thus, turn into TMNT styled animal villains. The Penguin obviously becomes a penguin but my favorite was Mr. Freeze as a polar bear. You also get to see Casey Jones show up about midway through the story arc.

Overall, this was a lot of fun. I heard that the follow up wasn’t as good but I’ll read that once it’s complete. I think there are still issues coming out for that sequel run.

This comic is really just fan service done really well. It’s not an exceptional story but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to take these two franchises and smash them together and let everyone loose.

One of the highlights for me was seeing Alfred interact with Michelangelo. That shit was comedy gold.

I can’t call this a great book but if you love both franchises this is certainly worth your ten or fifteen bucks.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 2 and other recent TMNT crossovers.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Man-Bat

Published: January 31st, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 296 Pages

Review:

Having read several of these Batman Arkham collections, I have been inspired to read and collect them all. I love historical anthologies that feature stories about a single character, spanning decades from creation to the most modern incarnation. Like all the other books in this series, this one featuring Man-Bat starts off with a bang. But then things went off the rails for me.

It has been a really long time since I’ve read them, but the earliest appearances of Man-Bat were incredible and those issues of Detective Comics where he first appears are some of the best Batman stories of the early ’70s.

Following that stuff, this book features the first two issues of the ’70s Man-Bat comic, which I have never read. Yes, Man-Bat had his own starring title, albeit short-lived.

We then get into the ’80s where we see a more modernized version of the character’s origin. But as is the problem with some of these collections, we see more variant origin stories than we do just cool tales featuring the character outside of rehashing their beginnings.

As we get into the ’90s stuff, we are treated to the good writing of Chuck Dixon, whose IDW G.I. Joe stuff I loved in the late ’00s and early ’10s. While his tales are engaging the blatantly ’90s art style is incredibly hard to look at and really ruins those stories. They are a visual mess and unpleasant to look at. The pencils and ink are done to the extreme with thick lines and too much detail. It’s like Man-Bat needs a billion creases all over his body and to be covered in nonsensical shadows that defy any real lighting source. And everything just looks overly grotesque to the comic’s supreme detriment.

When we get into the stories from this millennium, we are treated to another rehash of Man-Bat’s origin.

For the most part, I liked this collection because the high points are damn good. As the book rolls on, however, you’re taken on strange, ugly rides. Maybe there just isn’t enough Man-Bat material to make a collection work.

The first third of this collection is great. It’s just a lot less engaging by the time you reach the late ’80s stuff and onward. The final story, which was made very recently, was a step up from the ’90s stuff but it didn’t serve much of a purpose.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Poison Ivy

Published: September 13th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 312 Pages

Review:

I love these Batman Arkham collections and I’ve read four of them before this one but had to take a break to read some other comics for awhile. So far, there are about ten of these collections: all at around 300 pages.

This collection featuring Poison Ivy was the next one on my list, as I have read plenty of her stuff since the late ’80s but never really got to indulge in her earliest stories before she became really popular in the early ’90s due to how great she was on Batman: The Animated Series.

This starts with her earliest stories and works its way up to more recent ones and is organized chronologically by the publish date.

The early stuff for her isn’t as old as some of Batman’s better known villains. Her first appearance was actually in 1966 around the same time as the Adam West Batman television show. This is probably why she was never included on the show alongside Batman’s most famous rogues.

Her origin tale is pretty good but she isn’t quite the character that she would become. In fact, her origin is rehashed in a few of the different stories collected in this big volume of tales. I do like the older Ivy stories and really enjoyed the one that saw her face off with Wonder Woman, as opposed to Batman, but it’s the later stuff that really made this book for me.

Once we get into the mid-’80s, we see a darker and more serious take on the character. Her story where she comes off as a reformed victim, only to be laying traps for those that wronged her is damn good. It’s also a two-parter and takes up sixty pages or so of this collection.

Everything beyond that is also pretty solid. The editor did a nice job selecting key stories out of the large collection of Poison Ivy tales that have been told over the years.

This is a good collection and frankly, I love that DC is finally releasing books like this for the Batman rogues that have a long enough history to fill up 300 pages.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

Published: December 19th, 2017
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

I haven’t been too keen on modern comics from the big publishers: Marvel and DC. I’m not wholly opposed to reading them, as there are a few titles I still like. However, modern writers seem to be trying to reinvent and alter things too much. Then there is the whole SJW movement in comics that are forcing change in a bizarre and unnecessary way, as oppose to creating new characters that can stand on their own.

The Batman Rebirth stuff doesn’t seem to be full of SJW meddling but it does make some drastic moves and alters the narrative in ways that don’t feel organic.

My biggest issue with this story, is that the Riddler, one of the main characters, is pretty much a murderous, blood thirsty psycho that carves question marks into his flesh and plays more of a mob boss with a penchant for green suits than the classic villain we all know and love. Also, he has sideburns, looks attractive and wears his dress shirts wide open like some sort of douchebag.

The Joker seems pretty much normal, even if he is drier and more bland than what one is used to. But his story starts with him not finding anything funny anymore. Sort of like the kid that takes his ball and goes home because the bigger kid keeps tackling him to the ground. The Joker has no energy here but I guess that’s the point of the story and how it plays out. Still, in no situation whatsoever, can my mind even imagine this sort of version of the character.

Then there is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which sees Batman turning a blind eye to Catwoman’s crimes as long as she grinds on his junk once in a while. Besides, she’s not a “sick” criminal. Regardless, Batman’s code seems to be thrown out the window as long as he gets to play “hide the churro” every few dozen pages or so.

And speaking of Batman’s code, he tries to kill the Riddler in cold blood, unprovoked in the moment, with a machete to the face. No, seriously. This is something that happens in this tale.

The problem with this story arc is maybe the same problem I have with modern comics. The writers and the creators either don’t have respect for the source material and want to put their own spin on things or they just don’t understand or know the source material. I’ve been reading Batman comics for over thirty years and this is the most un-Batman story I have ever come across.

The writer doesn’t understand these characters, tries to throw way too many into the story and then doesn’t even weave a good or engaging enough plot to give this any sort of point. The entire plot revolves around the Joker feeling gloom. The big reveal at the end shows that this was all an elaborate ploy by the Riddler to solve the biggest riddle of all: why won’t the Joker laugh.

I’ll tell you why the Joker won’t laugh. It’s because he’s lived for nearly eight decades and never has he been in a story as dull and as dumb as this one.

I really wanted to like this because it has been a long time since I’ve cared about Batman. Yes, I still read older stuff on a regular basis but the series has just been lost to me ever since the end of the Grant Morrison era.

On the positive side of things, the art is pretty damn good. I don’t like some of the new character designs but the book still looks nice.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably other Batman stuff in the Rebirth line but I doubt I’ll read anything else from this era.

Comic Review: Batman ’66, Vol. 5

Published: May 17th, 2016
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Jonathan Case
Based on: Batman (’60s TV Series) by William Dozier, ABC

DC Comics, 184 Pages

Review:

This is it, the final collected volume in the Batman ’66 run of comics. It’s a sad, sad day. But, there are some crossover titles featuring Batman ’66 and other TV shows from that era, which I will have to read. But for now, let’s see if the final collection in the series was a worthy finale.

Well, one cool thing about this final volume, is that it introduces us to more classic Batman villains that weren’t originally a part of the Batman television show from the ’60s. In volume three we got Harley Quinn and in volume four we got Two-Face. Here we get even more: Solomon Grundy, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Bane, Scarecrow and Killer Croc.

The first story in this book is called The Short Halloween, which is a play on words of the famous story arc The Long Halloween. This tale is about two mean trick or treaters dressed as the Joker and the Penguin, who are going around robbing kids of their candy. A young boy and his little sister go out as Batman and Robin in an effort to stop the dastardly villains. It’s a very short but cute story where the real Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder make an appearance at the end.

Following that story, we see the origin of the Batman ’66 version of Solomon Grundy, who is resurrected from beyond the grave by Hilda, the witch grandmother of Marsha Queen of Diamonds. After that is a third short story that takes Batman ’66 villain False Face and establishes him as Basil Karlo a.k.a. Clayface, who is a big time comic book villain that hadn’t yet appeared in any Batman ’66 related stories.

We then get a story revolving around Carolyn Jones’ Marsha Queen of Diamonds but Hilda isn’t there, probably because she had just been in the Grundy story. Then we get our second Harley Quinn tale in the Batman ’66 universe, which also has a one panel Cesar Romero Joker cameo. Then we get to see the Joker, the Frank Gorshin Riddler, the Burgess Meredith Penguin and the Eartha Kitt Catwoman team up and hold an advertising agency hostage in a story that just features Batgirl as the hero and parodies the television show Mad Men.

The next story is one of my favorite in the Batman ’66 franchise, it is the debut and origin story of Poison Ivy. The story started with the “murder” of Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac, who you find out, is actually just in a catatonic state due to a poisonous plant concoction. Batman and Robin investigate and fall into the clutches of Ivy. The Ivy character is well written here and she is handled in a way that really fits the Batman ’66 style.

Next up, we are introduced to the Batman ’66 version of Bane, who is in league with the Riddler and comes to Gotham City as a lucha libre star. He crushes his opponents and believes that he breaks Batman’s back ala the classic Knightfall story arc. Bane returns to his home country as its ruler but Batman, Robin and Batgirl show up to change his plans.

We then get two shorter stories, each introducing us to two other classic villains yet to appear in the Batman ’66 franchise: Scarecrow and Killer Croc. Both are pretty straightforward and quick tales but it would have been cool to see them get more fleshed out had this series continued on.

Then we get a tale that features the first comic book appearance of Shelley Winters’ Ma Parker. Alongside her are a team of villains comprised of Killer Croc, Solomon Grundy and Killer Moth, in his only Batman ’66 appearance. The Julie Newmar Catwoman enters the story in the second half.

Lastly, we come to the grand finale of the entire Batman ’66 series with a story called Main Title. This awesome and incredible final issue is a recreation of the opening credits to the Batman show. So we get an actual narrative and see all (or most) of the Batman villains make a cameo as they try to overtake Batman and Robin. This whole fight takes place in a movie studio in a green screen room, explaining the green background in the classic show’s opening credits sequence. This was a pretty creative send off for this series and brought things full circle.

Initially, I thought that I wouldn’t like this volume in the series as much as the others because it had such a high emphasis on wedging in as many new villains as it could. However, every story was well crafted and served a purpose. This actually ended up being my favorite of the five volumes. As a fan of the 1960s Batman televison show, this was as perfect as a comic book can get featuring this particular pocket of the Batman universe.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The rest of the Batman ’66 comic collections.

Comic Review: Batman: No Man’s Land – The Complete Saga (Volumes 1-5)

Published on: September 1st, 1999 (Volume 1)
Written by: Bob Gale, Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka, Ian Edgington
Art by: Alex Maleev, Dale Eaglesham, various others

DC Comics, 1040 Pages (total over all 5 volumes)

Review:

There have been a lot of huge stories in the Batman mythos over the last 75 plus years. This story may have been the biggest.

Following the events of Contagion and Cataclysm, No Man’s Land tells the long and epic tale of life within Gotham City after a massive earthquake.

In a nutshell, everything was nearly destroyed and the United States government condemned the city and requested that everyone leave, as it was christened “No Man’s Land”. Nothing comes in and nothing comes out of Gotham City in this world. It is essentially like the world in Escape From New York. Except this is Gotham City and this world is full of Batman, his allies and his enemies.

This event took place across every Batman related title throughout 1999. It encompassed the entire Batman world and involved just about every living character that existed in the flesh, at the time.

This is a great series to pick up, as it sort of reinvents and reestablishes the Batman landscape. With Gotham being wiped out everything literally has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Batman reestablishes his connections with his allies and makes some new ones in the process. This series also invloves just about every major Batman villain, so each chapter in this series is literally a Who’s Who of Batman’s rogues gallery.

This series is also notable for being the first time that Harley Quinn and Mercy Graves appeared in comic book form, as part of official DC Comics canon. Both characters started out in the DC Animated Universe but became so popular that they were officially adopted by DC.

The art and the writing in this series is well beyond top notch. There are a lot of things that make this one of my favorite Batman sagas, if not my absolute favorite.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how Batman would live in a post-apocalyptic scenario, here’s your chance.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The big Batman events leading up to this: Knightfall and Cataclysm.

Film Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Release Date: August 1st, 2016 (Premiere)
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller

DC Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., 123 Minutes (theatrical), 136 Minutes (extended cut)

suicide-squadReview:

Let me start by saying that I am really glad that I didn’t pay to see this movie in the theater. From the awful trailers, I expected this to be pretty bad. Well, it somehow managed to exceed the negative expectations I had for it.

It sucks, because on paper, this is a movie I should have loved. I really wanted it to be great. But ultimately, it goes to show that DC has no idea how to make a movie unless Christopher Nolan is in charge of it. I mean, between this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, I already want DC to start over.

I watched the extended cut of the film, as I heard that it fleshed things out and made the story more coherent. It did? Because what I got was a very disjointed clusterfuck that made little-to-no sense at all. The film was hard to follow due to its inconsistent pace, awful editing and never really being able to explain what is happening on screen in any sort of intelligible way.

The biggest issue with this picture isn’t that it is a giant mess that plays more like a series of vignettes. The biggest issue is that it is trying so damn hard to be cool and edgy.

First is the music. Yes, there are great and iconic songs in this movie. However, they’re all songs already used in other films, in other iconic scenes. It’s like David Ayer made a Pandora station called “cool music from cool movies” and then just used the first twenty tracks that played. It was really a piss poor use of those songs and their usage doesn’t make much sense, for the most part, except to establish, “Look how cool we are using this cool song that everyone knows is cool! Aren’t we fucking cool?! C’mon, we’re cool, right?!”

Apart from the pop tunes, the score of the film is boring and generic. Suicide Squad is another movie, in a long line of blockbusters, that can’t give us any memorable themes to sink our teeth into. Long gone are the days of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, John Williams’ Superman theme and a slew of others.

Then you had Will Smith’s Deadshot, in 2016, dressed like a cool character from a 70s blaxploitation flick. Killer Croc only cared about having BET in his cell, El Diablo had to play up the Mexican gangster card to the max and everyone else was too uninteresting to matter.

Harley Quinn was tolerable but pretty one-dimensional. The film does nothing really to show how she falls for the Joker. There are just a few flashbacks but they aren’t even that important. Sure, she proves her love by jumping into a vat of chemicals but why? Where is the build to that? How did she go from a presumably normal psychiatrist to Harley Quinn? I mean, I know, because I read the comics. But it is obvious from Suicide Squad that the people behind the movie never read them or just didn’t care enough about the character to give her life.

The Joker was awful. You had him covered in juvenile tattoos unfitting of the character. The Joker also had fronts in his teeth while being some sort of nightclub owner that cared about supercars and living in opulence. The Joker was also more of a wannabe punker trust fund kid than anything that felt Joker-like, at all. It was like some angry rich emo teen saw the real Joker on television and did his best trying to emulate him, all while never actually understanding the character. Wait, this is Jared Leto playing the Joker, so this is exactly what happened in real life.

The villain is the Enchantress. She is a boring villain. Granted, she is super powerful but that just makes me wonder why this “suicide squad” of extremely dangerous villains, mostly without superpowers, is sent to take her down. Where is Batman? Where is Wonder Woman? Aquaman? The Flash? Superman is “dead”, if this fits in the timeline after Batman v Superman. But seriously, wouldn’t any of those people be more capable and experienced? And the leader of this squad is a guy who has an emotional attachment to the villain? So the one good guy holding it together and trying to control these villains, is an emotionally unstable wreck?

The writing in this film sucks. The dialogue sucks and just serves the overall point of this whole film, “Ooh, ooh! Look how cool we are!”

The movie is also over two hours, which was too long. It should’ve been 90-100 minutes. 105, max. There was so much useless garbage scene-wise. Maybe the problem is the fact that they don’t even set off on their mission until 43 minutes into the picture.

What really sucks, is that the Suicide Squad was already on the CW show Arrow. They were handled really well and their story was building good momentum. Then because of this film being made, DC told the producers of Arrow to nix those characters. So a really good live-action version of the Suicide Squad was sacrificed to give us this shitty film.

David Ayer made a really bad movie. But that doesn’t seem to matter, as DC is letting him make a spin-off called Gotham City Sirens. That film is supposed to feature Harley Quinn and other female Batman villains.

It takes a lot for me to really hate a film. I hate this film. Comic book films have jumped the shark and at this point, it feels like exploitation of the original creators’ characters for a quick buck. DC Comics has yet to make a film that has any sort of soul. Suicide Squad is the worst of them, so far. I want to give Wonder Woman and Aquaman a chance but man, am I losing faith. Not that I had much since Man of Steel.