Video Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

I never played this game and I guess I kind of missed out, as I probably would’ve really liked this, back in the day.

I was a fan of the first Sunsoft Batman game for the original Nintendo, as it came out and was tied to the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

I never realized that this one was a direct sequel to it and I guess that makes it exist in an alternate timeline than the cinematic universe of the same era. Granted, these games are very different than the ’89 movie in that they have a very sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetic and deviate from the film’s story quite a bit.

So in this version of a sequel, the Joker has survived. They’ve also given him more of a comic book look, as opposed to using Jack Nicholson’s likeness. I’m assuming that was because the licensing fees to use his visage once again was too pricey and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things.

The game looks very similar to its predecessor; however, they’ve given Batman a larger sprite and stripped away the mechanics only to replace them with something worse. The weapons system may seem more advanced but it’s kind of confusing, tedious and annoying. Also, you can’t bounce off of walls and scale them like you could in the previous game.

This also adds in a few jetpack shooter stages that play more like a Gradius game than a normal Batman title. It’s kind of cool but I would’ve preferred having more standard levels with some good design. In fact, the levels in this game feel very small and are conquered too quickly.

Most of the bosses are just a big pain in the ass. Additionally, the first time you fight the Joker, he flies around in a pod like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games. It’s not cool and it’s pretty lame. The second time you fight the Joker, you basically fight a Joker-themed super computer. It’s also lame.

This game had some promise and I mostly enjoyed it but the improvements just ended up being disappointments. I would’ve rather just gotten a redesigned version of the first game with new levels and bosses.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the previous Sunsoft Batman game for the NES

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: Super Powers by Jack Kirby

Published: 1984-1985
Written by: Jack Kirby, Joey Cavalieri, Paul Kupperberg
Art by: Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, Greg Theakston, Mike Thibodeaux

DC Comics, 268 Pages

Review:

When I was a kid and super into G.I. Joe and Transformers, my cousin Billy was super into Super Powers and Marvel’s Secret Wars action figures. In a lot of ways, those two toylines were my introduction to many of the comic book heroes and villains outside of what a six year-old would know.

Playing with Billy’s toys and playsets, I was pretty captivated by them and it is probably a major factor in what got me to read superhero comics, as opposed to just G.I. JoeTransformers and Star Wars.

I never read either of the two Super Powers miniseries, however, so I was pretty excited to pick this up. Also, since this was primarily done by the legendary Jack Kirby, I thought that reading this was long overdue and that not having read this sooner was a major crime against my own soul.

This edition collects both of the miniseries, the first being five issues and the second being six.

Overall, this is a really fun time and other than Mister Miracle, it’s my favorite stuff that Kirby has done for DC. Essentially, this is Kirby writing and drawing the Justice League. It features many of the core League members while also using some of their main villains.

I really like what Kirby did with these characters and I really would’ve liked to have seen this spin off into a Kirbyverse for DC, as his style and charm worked well with these characters. This feels very ’60sish but it works even though this is an ’80s comic.

While Frank Miller and Alan Moore would drastically alter the tone at DC, just after Kirby’s Super Powers, this is a nice contrast to what DC became synonymous with in that decade. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Jack Kirby’s other work at DC Comics, as well as ’80s Justice League comics.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book Two

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 628 Pages

Review:

While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.

I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.

This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.

This was pretty poorly organized and executed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Comic Review: Infinite Crisis

Published: 2005-2006
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Phil Jimenez

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

I hated Crisis On Infinite Earths but I had hoped that this more modern version of it would’ve been more to my liking. I guess it is better but not by much because it falls victim to the same bullshit.

It’s overloaded with characters to the point that it’s difficult to follow and it just becomes a mega clusterfuck, trying to be larger than life while wedging a fuck ton of characters into double splash pages.

DC likes doing these big events that try to “reset” the multiverse and all they do is become overly complicated messes that ignore their own established rules because new writers don’t have time to read the old stuff or pay attention to it. In Geoff Johns’ defense, the event this is a spiritual sequel to was a convoluted shitstorm, so I don’t blame him for paying it no real mind.

If I’m going to try and look at the positives, there is really only one: the art by Phil Jimenez. It’s spectacular and it is lively and even if I don’t enjoy the story, it’s hard not to get caught up in the absolute beauty of Jimenez’s work. It’s stunning and even on those overcrowded splash pages, he fills the space magnificently and dynamically.

Apart from that, there’s not much to say. This isn’t as messy as its predecessor but it is still an over-sized shit meatball.

Rating: 5/10 – because of the art more than anything else.
Pairs well with: other massive DC Comics events that are overloaded with characters.

Vids I Dig 252: Comic Tropes: The Evolution of The Joker

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: The Joker is one of the most iconic villains in comic books. This video explains the history of his creation and discusses the writers and artists who made significant contributions to his history. From Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo many have written the Joker and he’s been different things in different eras: from a gangster to a prankster.

Comic Review: Crisis On Infinite Earths

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez

DC Comics, 359 Pages

Review:

Crisis On Infinite Earths is one of DC Comics’ sacred cows. Yet, I’ve never had much urge to read it because my experience reading massive DC Comics crossovers has never been that great.

But now I have read it because I felt like it was long overdue and because this is a storyline that is referenced a lot, still to this day, thirty-five years later.

The first problem with this story might be apparent by the number of tags at the top of this post. It’s overloaded with so many characters that it is mostly a convoluted clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

In fact, this post may be the record holder for the number of tags I had to add to it. And frankly, that’s not all the characters, just the ones I know because two-thirds of the characters here are generic one-offs or so minute to the DC universe that they aren’t worth noting.

Now I know that some people love the splash pages from this series, as they showcase dozens (if not over a hundred) different characters all in one giant image. If I’m being honest, I’ve always disliked them and they are why I never really wanted to read this. Most of the action is minimal and many of these scenes are just characters standing around. They lack the energy that a splash page needs and look more like they belong in a Where’s Waldo? book. And I don’t say that to come off as a dick because I almost always love George Perez’s art. This just seems like DC management telling Perez to squeeze in as many characters as artistically possible. It’s hard on the eyes and it’s shit.

Another big problem with this twelve issue story arc is that every moment feels larger than life. Well, when everything is so big and grandiose, that becomes normal and status quo. You can’t possibly go bigger and with everything being so big from start to finish, none of it is memorable. It’s just a busy, stressful read without allowing the reader to catch their breath and reflect on what’s happened. It’s kind of like a Michael Bay movie. Throw so much intense shit at the audience, don’t let them stop and think and they’ll just move from point A to point B to point C and so on, forgetting everything that happened two points prior.

This event was made in an effort to sort of reset the DC universe. Honestly, all it does is make a giant fucking mess of things and splatters the mess all over everything it touches.

The plot doesn’t make sense, I’m not sure what exactly changed and with so many universes crashing together into one, it’s not properly organized and then re-established in any sort of way that a reader can follow. If this was supposed to be a jumping on point for readers in 1986, I don’t know how they made sense out of any of it and then knew which characters to follow.

The main reason for the previous sentence is that this is so overloaded with people that you don’t get to really know any of them. There is no character development and this is written in a way that it assumes the reader knows all about every character in the story. For a seasoned comic book reader like myself, who has been reading comics for three and a half decades, I was lost and didn’t know who half of the low tier characters were.

Crisis On Infinite Earths should have been written as a Justice League story with some inclusion of the Fawcett Comics characters and the Golden Age DC heroes. All the third tier and lower characters could have made cameos but even then, they don’t really need to.

I really hoped that this was going to pleasantly surprise me but it hurt my head.

It was too much, too big and too long.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: mid-’80s DC Comics titles, as well as all the other massive DC crossover events.

Vids I Dig 215: Filmento: ‘Joker’: How to Make Evil Likable

From Filmento’s YouTube description: 2019’s Joker is a strange film in the sense that its one and only protagonist is the furthest thing from a traditional hero as can be — he’s a bad guy. Yet, despite all the evil acts Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck in this Todd Phillips movie commits, the audience never turns on him and instead keeps staying on his side. In today’s award winning episode of everyone’s favorite show Film Perfection, let’s see how this is made possible. Not sure how it will work in Joker 2 though, if we get one.

Comic Review: Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis

Published: 2015-2016
Written by: Peter J. Tomasi
Art by: Viktor Bogdanovic, Dexter Soy
Based on: the Batman: Arkham Knight video game by Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

DC Comics, 138 Pages

Review:

For those who have been around this site for awhile, you know that I loved the Batman: Arkham video game series, especially the final installment: Arkham Knight. I also really loved the Arkham Knight character even though he was a twist on a different well-known character. That being said, reading a comic book prequel to the game was right up my alley.

This was in my stack for a long time but I finally got around to it. In fact, I think I bought this at least two years ago. I have a really large stack, especially if you take into account my queue on Comixology.

Anyway, this was mostly okay but it was pretty drab overall. It shows the early planning before Arkham Knight takes over Gotham City but it didn’t give me any real info that I didn’t have already. At least, nothing that made this worth going out of your way to read. The game’s story is rich enough and this just felt like more of a cash-in attempt, banking off of the game’s popularity than it did a well thought out and executed story deserving of existing on its own two feet.

The highpoint is the art. Viktor Bogdanovic and Dexter Soy do stellar art in general but this book looked great from cover to cover.

I wish that I could say, “If you love the games, this is a must-read!” but it’s not. It’s okay, it exists. I guess you could read it if you’re interested but it’s not going to make the story from the game any better.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the game it’s connected to: Arkham Knight, as well as the other Arkham video games. Also, the Detective Comics story Medieval, which features a different version of the Arkham Knight character.