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: 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

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.

Film Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Also known as: Batman 5 (working title), Batman: Intimidation (script title), The Intimidation Game (fake working title)
Release Date: May 31st, 2005 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Gleeson

DC Comics, Syncopy, Warner Bros., 140 Minutes

Review:

“But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just… poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you would be spared your pain.” – Henri Ducard

When this first came out on DVD, I watched it almost weekly for a few years. I loved this film and to me, at least at the time, it was the greatest Batman film ever made. Hell, before the DVD release, I think I saw this at least three times in the theater.

I would end up liking The Dark Knight even more but the Nolan trilogy started with this film and it was a great introduction to his more serious and realistic Batman film series.

In retrospect now, I like the 1989 Batman slightly better but it’s magic was undone by the later films that followed and even though it took eight years, Batman Begins was the cinematic reboot that we needed after the Schumacher Batman pictures.

This film is so good, as are the ones that follow, that I’ve kind of accepted that no one will ever make a Batman film series as great. Frankly, these are the best films that Christopher Nolan has made and while the first film in a trilogy can often times feel like a practice run, this one is fairly close to perfect.

My only real gripe about it is that the pacing feels a bit disjointed at times. But there is also a lot of story and a lot of characters to balance here. I think that Nolan got much better with that in the next film. These aren’t things that break the film in any way but if I can’t give this a perfect score, I feel that I should explain why.

This is still energetic and every scene feels necessary. But it also feels like so much was wedged into it that it could’ve actually benefited from an extra 20-30 minutes. And that’s not something I’m usually a fan of, as I love 90 minute running times and this picture is already well over two hours. But when a film is this good, I never seem to mind that it requires more of my time.

Nolan got the best possible performances out of all of the actors involved and everyone in this is absolutely perfect. This was well cast and even Katie Holmes, who was replaced in the sequel, pulled off the best performance of her career. Normally, I wouldn’t put her at the same level as everyone else in this movie but she held her own and I was disappointed that she was recast in The Dark Knight.

In closing, this is a stellar motion picture where everything just works in the right way from the direction, cinematography, acting, the musical score by Hans Zimmer and the great character development.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Comic Review: Red Hood: The Lost Days

Published: June 28th, 2011
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Jeremy Haun, Pablo Raimondi

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

I went into this with zero expectations but I’ve got to say, I was pretty enthralled with the story and it didn’t just fill-in the blanks between Jason Todd’s death and his reappearance as Red Hood but it gave so much extra context and meaning to the character.

Additionally, I loved how this tied into the Hush story arc and serves to set the stage for that epic tale while also leading into the Under the Hood plot, which saw Jason Todd come back into Batman’s life in a pretty badass way.

I wouldn’t read this story first, though. I’d save it for last because even if it is a prequel, I think it’ll read better with the knowledge obtained from the other two stories. Also, this might spoil those stories if you haven’t read them.

From  beginning to end, this was really engaging and it added new layers to Jason Todd’s redemption arc. It shows how he struggles with his new reality and how he is used and exploited in an effort to become a weapon against Batman. However, it also shows how well the character can adapt and how he doesn’t follow the paths that others have tried to lay our for him.

Additionally, the art in this was really good and it just added an extra sizzle to this already wonderful steak.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other early Red Hood stories, as well as his solo titles of the last few years.

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: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Family Business

Published: December 20th, 2016
Written by: James Bonny, Phil Hester, Christopher Priest
Art by: Tyler Kirkham

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

This is the conclusion to the Deathstroke run that happened before DC’s Rebirth. This series started with Tony S. Daniel writing and doing the art. However, this finale was written by James Bonny, who came in at the end of the previous volume.

Even with a change in writers, this stayed consistently good throughout and it helps bring a satisfying end to the story of Slade Wilson trying to rebuild his relationship with his children Rose and Jericho.

This picks up right where the previous volume ended, as it ended on a cliffhanger.

This also features a subplot with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, who involve themselves in Slade’s war with Lawman, Snakebite and Victor Ruiz. With Ra’s, we are given a big plot twist, as he’s always got deception up his sleeve. Both Ra’s al Ghul and Deathstroke leave this story with their lives but it sets up a real blood feud between the two villain heavyweights.

There are also cameos by Red Hood and Batman. The Clock King shows up in the last issue collected in this volume, which is actually the first Deathstroke issue of the Rebirth era. Needless to say, this ends leading right into Christopher Priest’s lengthy run on this character.

In the end, I really liked this series a lot, even more so than Priest’s, which I found to be mostly great.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina

Published: December 26th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela
Art by: Carmen Carnero, Raul Fernandez, Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 121 Pages

Review:

I mostly enjoy James Tynion’s writing. He does a pretty good job with this series, even if it isn’t wholly my cup of tea because I’m not a fan of large Bat-Family groups. I like Batman working solo or with one or two other close allies.

But I still like Tynion’s run on Detective Comics enough to keep reading it, so there’s that.

I think I am mostly drawn in to the Clayface stuff because I actually like seeing him trying to redeem himself and work on the right side of the law.

While Clayface isn’t the focal point here, though, we do get to dive deeper into Azrael’s world. Now he’s a character I have a love/hate relationship with. But in this series, so far, I mostly like him and this chapter wasn’t any different.

This also puts some focus on Zatanna, who I was happy to see pop up, even for one volume. More importantly, this gives us some good backstory to her and Batman’s relationship, going back to their teen years when Bruce was trying to train under her father.

Overall, this was a quick, energetic read that added some new things to the plot and also served to strengthen the bond between this team of characters.

Most importantly, this brought Stephanie Brown a.k.a. the Spoiler back while also dropping hints that Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin was possibly still alive.

In the end, I like where this volume went and it ended in a way that makes me want to see what happens next.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 3: League of Shadows

Published: October 10th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Fernando Blanco, Christian Duce, Marcio Takara

DC Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

This was a better volume in James Tynion’s Detective Comics run than the previous one. However, it’s really overcrowded with characters that mostly don’t connect for me.

I’m sorry but no matter how hard DC tries to push Orphan and Batwing, they’re just not that great. I don’t even really like Azrael that much, despite his popularity amongst many. And now that Spoiler is gone, I really only give a shit about Batman and Clayface.

In fact, Clayface is the most interesting character in these stories but he doesn’t get enough focus. I hope that changes, as I work my way towards the end of Tynion’s run.

This story is kind of a generic League of Shadows tale where Shiva is in charge and trying to screw with Gotham. Ra’s al Ghul does show up and his appearance severely effects Orphan but this all felt pretty forgettable.

I feel like this should’ve dealt more with the fallout after losing Spoiler and the death of Red Robin but it’s more focused on Oprhan’s mommy issues and Batwoman’s daddy issues.

All that being said, the art is f’n great!

Ultimately, I like Tynion but his Detective Comics run is pretty meh, if I’m being honest.

But I’m also a person that prefers Batman working alone or with just one or two people, preferably a Robin or Batgirl.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II

Published: August 14th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Freddie Williams II

IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 151 Pages

Review:

With the huge success that was the Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, you knew a sequel was imminent. In fact, there’s a third series, currently being published, and an animated film has also been released.

I think that this story was a bit better than the first one. I’ve really liked James Tynion’s work on Detective Comics over the last few years, as well as Justice League Dark, and he was the natural choice for merging the Bat and Turtle franchises.

It’s very apparent that Tynion has a passion for these characters and they all just sort of mesh really well together unlike other crossovers that seem forced or are penned by someone who may have a passion for one franchise but not both.

I also like that Freddie Williams II returned to do the art again. I think it really fits the tone of the book.

The plot here is better than the first corssover. It focuses on Bane taking over the Turtles version of New York City. Batman, Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing all show up to lend a helping hand. Eventually, the heroes have to free Shredder from prison and use him to give them an edge over Bane, who now controls the Foot Clan, along with Bebop and Rocksteady.

In the end, I can’t call these classics but they are pretty fun reads. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one but this arc is better paced, feels more organic and Tynion has found his footing better than the initial outing.

I can’t wait to read the third one, once it’s been collected.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 and 3, as well as other recent TMNT crossovers.