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 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: 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.

Comic Review: Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying

Published: 1989
Written by: Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Art by: Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett

DC Comics, 116 Pages

Review:

This story arc came out not too long after A Death In the Family and it serves as a sort of resolution to it, as it shows how Batman has been much harsher in the streets and how the possibility of a new Robin starts to help him overcome his grief after losing the second Robin, Jason Todd.

While this isn’t the first appearance of Tim Drake, that happened in the previous arc – Year 3, this is where he enters the lives of Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth and Dick Grayson.

This story also crossed over with The New Teen Titans and involved some of those characters as a minor supporting cast for Dick Grayson/Nightwing’s part in the story.

We also see Batman, Nightwing and Tim Drake unofficially playing Robin try to take down Two-Face, a villain with major ties to the deceased Jason Todd. We even get to see a brief appearance of The Joker, the person who murdered Jason, and how he’s involved with this story’s plot.

The action and the crime solving in this aren’t anything great but they serve as a good framework to tell the more important story here, which is pulling Batman out of the darkness and allowing him to love those around him once again. It also serves to establish who Tim Drake is and why he might be better suited for the Robin role than Jason Todd was.

The writing was solid and I also loved the art by Jim Aparo, who will always be one of my favorite Batman artists because he was one of the top guys drawing these books when I first started buying them regularly.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Batman: A Death In the Family and Batman: Year 3.

Comic Review: Batman: A Death In the Family

Published: 1988
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

A Death In the Family was one of the biggest Batman stories to happen around the time that I was getting into comics as a serious reader and not just a casual one, who just occasionally picked up stuff other than G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

When I was in elementary school, this is a story that all the kids talked about and I remember trading my hardcover copy of Arkham Asylum for this and The Killing Joke. I felt like I definitely won in that trade and it’s mainly because of this story.

I was the rare Jason Todd fan. Sure, nowadays other people like him because of how he came back as the Red Hood and carved out his own legacy. Before that, however, people pretty much hated Jason. I think I mainly liked him because he was Robin when I started paying attention and I saw through him being a prickish pain in the ass and knew that there was something deeper inside him that was needing to come out. The problems Jason presented Bruce/Batman with were different than Dick Grayson’s, the original Robin. He simply made things more interesting, as you knew his attitude and temperament would somehow come to a head in a big way.

While I love this story and I really liked how it altered the Batman series going forward, I always thought that Jason died too early and that they missed out on exploring him more. I guess that’s why I really gravitated towards his stories when he finally did return, nearly two decades later.

In regards to this story, it’s exceptionally well written and presented with great care and a respect for the character, even though the fans called a hotline and actually voted for Jason Todd to die.

This is still one of the best, all-time classic Batman stories ever written. It also has great art by Jim Aparo.

I liked that this takes things out of Gotham City and that the story is kicked off by Jason Todd discovering that his biological mother is out there, somewhere. He goes in search of her and while that’s happening, The Joker is off selling a missile to a Middle Eastern tyrant, which brings his story and Jason’s crashing together in a tragic and emotional way.

Jason does find his mother but what he finds with that costs him his life and turns Batman into someone that wants vengeance against The Joker for what he did to the child that Batman was supposed to raise and protect.

This is a pretty heartbreaking story that has stood the test of time and is still emotional, even if you are aware of what actually happens to Jason Todd after his death.

If you are a fan of the Caped Crusader and haven’t read this, you probably should.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Batman comics of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as the early Red Hood stories from the ’00s.

Vids I Dig 418: Filmento: ‘The Dark Knight’: How to Begin a Movie

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight still remains one of the strongest superhero movies to date and overall features a lot of great stuff, from the Joker to the physicality of the practical action. But one aspect to learn from it especially is how to begin a movie — more specifically, how it handles the “day in the life” section its beginning consists of. And since we’ve had some Filmento haters argue in my Kristen Stewart Underwater 2020 movie video that The Dark Knight doesn’t have a day in the life section, let’s dig deeper into the film’s opening to see why that argument is dangerously false — what that term means and how to do it effectively. Here’s how to begin a movie.

Film Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

Also known as: Batman Begins 2 (working title), Rory’s First Kiss, Winter Green (fake working titles)
Release Date: July 14th, 2008 (Buenos Aires & New York City premieres)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, 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, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Ritchie Coster, Michael Jai White, Colin McFarlane, Tom “Tiny” Lister, William Fichtner, David Dastmalchian

DC Comics, Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker

I was a bit apprehensive about revisiting this for the first time in a long time. The reason being, is that I remembered it as being perfect and it was the movie I saw in the theater more times than any other. But with so much time passing, I had worried that my take on it now could have soured a bit.

I’m glad to say that it didn’t, as this is still a masterpiece of crime fiction and social commentary.

As far as superhero films go, I still think that this is the greatest one ever made. I think a lot of that has to do with the realistic approach of the film and just how real and plausible it comes across even though it features a man in a bat costume and a criminal in clown makeup. Not to mention a guy with half his face burnt off and some wonky sci-fi gadgets like the incredibly high-tech sonar surveillance computer.

This is a film where just about everything went right. It was a perfect storm of great writing, great direction, great acting, stellar cinematography and an incredible musical score.

It was well balanced between action and drama and even with its somewhat lengthy running time, there isn’t a wasted moment in the film. Every scene has meaning and every scene does exactly what it needs to without dilly dallying and slowing the pacing down. At the same time, the timing is impeccable and this film perfectly creates tension when it needs to. The whole film is about escalation and the final product is a perfectly curated example of that.

It’s sad and tragic that Heath Ledger died before this was released. It would’ve been cool for him to have seen the final product and to have enjoyed the fanfare and praise his performance as The Joker got. It’s hands down one of the best performances of that decade and even though his death gave the role an added level of mystique and importance, it stands on its own as one of the greatest villain portrayals in motion picture history.

Additionally, I also really liked Ledger’s version of The Joker, as he kind of did his own thing with the character and it forced Nolan to kind of portray the character differently than what was originally intended. And while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the comic book Joker, which no film has done thus far, it kind of exists as its own, great thing and it added so much to this already stellar trilogy.

My only real complaint about the film was how growl-y Bale’s Batman voice was. I much preferred his voice in Batman Begins and I think most people did, as well. I’m not the only person to point this out and in fact, it sort of became a social meme after the movie’s release.

That being said, the Batman voice doesn’t wreck the film and I still think it’s a damn near perfect movie that transcended the superhero genre, forever changed it and hasn’t yet been eclipsed regardless of some of the superb comic book movies that have been released since.

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

Comic Review: Gotham City Sirens: Book One

Published: October 28th, 2014
Written by: Paul Dini
Art by: Guillem March

DC Comics, 314 Pages

Review:

I didn’t know much about this series but I really like Paul Dini’s Batman work, especially what he did on the near perfect Batman: The Animated Series. I also like how he wrote Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on that show and thought that Dini gave them a fantastic dynamic, as well as superb chemistry.

This series adds Catwoman to that mix and since Dini did well with her character on that animated show, it just seemed like another reason to give this a shot.

Even though I anticipated liking this, I was still surprised by how good it is!

This brings the three women together as roommates, as they try and keep each other on the straight and narrow path, trying to be reformed criminals doing a little good in the world. Of course, things can’t be that simple.

The Riddler also plays a big role in this, as he helps the women where he can. That is, until he feels betrayed and personally hurt by them towards the end of this volume.

This is a pretty thick collection of stories, as it includes the first thirteen issues of the ongoing series. Within that, it features several story arcs, all of which are pretty good. There isn’t a dull moment in this run of issues and I actually really liked the standalone Christmas story that saw Harley return to see her family.

Dini gives us a lot of info on the backstory of all these characters and shows how some of their stories had some overlap at different times, whether they knew that then or not. For instance, the moment Harley met Ivy, she also met The Joker. Both characters would have an immense effect on her life.

So much happens in this and all of it is good. I dug the hell out of it much more than I thought I would. I’m sure I’ll read and review the second volume in the very near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Paul Dini Batman-related comics.

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.