Posts tagged Batman

Falling Out with Batman

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I’ve always loved comics.  I was into them as a kid and bought up a ton of them, although I didn’t read all of them.  Somewhere in my early teens, I fell out of the medium.  I got back into comics during my sophomore year in college thanks to my roommate, Anthony.  One weekend, I binged every book he had picked up during that semester and then set up my own pull list.  This grew to a $50-$60 a week habit before I quit cold turkey about five years later.  I got back in once I started writing for HorrorTalk.  During these three phases, I had different levels of appreciation for comics.  Now I wonder where it will go next because I don’t see the fun in the output of the Big Two publishers that I once did.

This isn’t meant to be a doom and gloom post about the downfall of the comic book industry.  It’s also not meant to be a Simpsons Comic Book Guy type rant about how super hero books are for kids.  With my decades of exposure to comics, I’ve developed a few observations.  Most recently, I’ve noticed that there really isn’t much in the way of character development when it comes to any of the major characters of Marvel or DC.  There are some exceptions to this rule and I’ll get to them in a moment, but stay with me for a second.

Let’s start with Batman.  Aside from his revolving door of sidekicks (who have progressed far more than he ever has), is Batman really all that different today than he was 5 years ago?  What about 10 years ago?  25? 50? 75? The core principles remain, of course.  He’s fighting a never-ending war on crime to avenge the death of his parents.  But, has he changed or developed as a character?  No, he hasn’t.  He’s still the same, gruff loner that he’s always been.  Although talented creators have told incredible stories featuring the Dark Knight, he hasn’t learned anything in his 75+ years of existence.  He still makes the same mistakes.  He still doesn’t let anyone in (which also leads to the same mistakes).  His war on crime might as well be America’s war on drugs or war on terror.  It’s never going to end and there’s no way to win it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read every single Batman comic.  There may be stories out there that show real character development for the world’s greatest detective.  I would argue that those are exceptions to the rule and/or momentary tangents from the main storyline.  To put it in NASCAR terms for a moment, those are pit stops along a racetrack.  He’s going around and around, occasionally stopping to refuel.


I have a glimmer of hope with some of the titles spinning out of DC Rebirth, the linewide relaunch, primarily Detective Comics, written by James Tynion IV with artwork from various artists.  It focuses on a Batman who is building a team around him including Batwoman, Red Robin, Clayface, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler, and later Bat Wing and Azrael.  He recognizes that he can’t fight this war alone and begins training the next generation of heroes to protect Gotham City.  Despite this awesome premise and a terrific cast, Batman still succumbs to the same pitfalls he always does, especially with how he handles loss.  Spoiler alert: NOT WELL.  When a member of his team “dies,” he retreats inward, thinking that he has to fight and train harder to prevent anyone from ever getting hurt ever again.  He shoulders the entire responsibility, turning his grief into a burden he must bear to protect not only this city, but anyone he cares about.  This pushes everyone away, even though they’re also in mourning.  The one person they can turn to who has been through this on several occasions (with his parents and Jason Todd to name a few), is emotionally absent and actively shuns them.  There is no shoulder to cry on here.  There is no grief counselor to help you get through it.  Instead, there’s just Batman who won’t even look at you.

The main Batman title, written by Tom King, while incredible, is more of the same with a smaller supporting cast.  Again, I want to clarify that I love both of these titles.  If I still had a pull list, they would both be on there.  I’ve been fortunate that DC Comics has started sending review copies out of their books so I’ve been able to catch up a bit between those and recent ComiXology sales.  It’s just that after reading hundreds and hundreds of comics from publishers big and small, I want to see these characters grow and change.  Most importantly, I want to see them learn from their mistakes, not make the same ones time and time again.

I think this is one of the many reasons why I loved Logan so much.  It showed an ending for a super hero character that is incredibly rare.  It was fitting and showed real growth.  If you look at Wolverine in the first X-Men movie and look at him in Logan, that is a changed man in more ways than one.  You can see how he went from X-Men to Logan.  Granted, this is a different medium and Hollywood has some luxuries that comics do not, but I believe the same principles can apply.

Warner Brothers owns Batman.  They can do whatever they want with the character.  Why not show an ending?  Why not show where Bruce Wayne’s life will end up?  Then you can reboot it anyway.  It’s not like there isn’t precedent for something like this.  Archie Comics did it a few years ago with Life with Archie, showing a future versions of the character where he married Betty or Veronica.  This depicted the adult lives of the signature characters as they went through common struggles.  It ultimately led to Archie’s death and people LOVED it.  Then Archie got rebooted and it’s one of my favorite books on the stands right now.  It can be done.  Take the chance and see what happens.

This ended up longer than I thought it would.  I’m going to break this up into another post with the next one showing a recent example of a DC character that has changed and in a really awesome way: Superman.

James Knows…Comics: Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith

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Sometimes two great tastes don’t taste great together. What works with peanut butter and jelly doesn’t work for everything. This was the case for me with Kevin Smith and Batman. I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan and I f-ing love Batman so when I heard that Kevin Smith was writing a Batman story I had to go change my Spider-Man underpants. Smith’s previous comic work on Daredevil and Green Arrow were both great so I was looking forward to what he could do with Batman.

I don’t know if it was the time away from comics or the tremendous exposure I’ve had to Smith lately through the various pieces of the SModcast network but this book just didn’t do it for me. Not only that, but this was one of the worst Batman stories I read. I understand Smith’s devotion to the character and I know how much artist Walt Flanagan put into the story but this was just not a good story. I think Batman was alright in the story but the Joker was where I was lost. It didn’t feel like the Joker. It felt like Kevin Smith in a Joker suit. It was clearly his voice throughout the book so the Joker’s dialogue is filled with poop jokes and thinly veiled gay innuendo.

The art by Flanagan is just OK and adds nothing really to the book. It felt average at best. I want to like it more because I like Flanagan but this was just blah.

Even with all this I’m still planning on picking up the duo’s next Batman book, The Widening Gyre. I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment or I’m just a loyal fanboy.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

The Dark Knight’s Babe Magnet

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There’s a reason that I try to bring my camera with me wherever I go. If I spot something interesting, I can take a quick snapshot and share it with everyone here. A few weeks ago I was driving home from work when I was behind a black Corvette at a stop light. When I got closer I got a better look at the license plate.

Yes, that says “BAT VET.” I bet that guy gets tons of ass.

Batman’s Past is Filled with Flimsy Rubber

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While shopping for groceries at BJ’s tonight I spotted a deal on a DVD box set I’ve had my eye on for a bit: The Batman Motion Picture Anthology. I thought the set had gone out of print and I was waiting for the inevitable re-release when I saw this for just $14.99. I snagged one immediately.

When I got home, Monica asked if I wanted to watch one of them. I suggested Batman Returns as it takes place during Christmas. We sat down to watch it which was the first time I’ve done so in I can’t remember how long. The movie came out in 1992 when I was 8 years old. I have a soft spot for comic book movies of all kinds and this one was extra special because it came out when I was all about comics as a kid. (Yes Mom, I know that I still have a bunch that are sitting over the garage that I have to get rid of.)

About halfway through the film, it struck me how this particular story of the Caped Crusader hasn’t aged well…at all. The suit is bulky and far too rubbery, Batman doesn’t seem to have many gadgets at his disposal and what he does use seems pretty unnecessary (elaborate bat signal signal in Wayne Manor?) and please don’t get me started on the Batmobile. At one point in time, this was held as not only a fantastic Batman and super hero film, but perhaps the best Batman film. The sequels certainly helped cement that status.

Maybe my tastes have changed over the years, but I think that now that we live in a world where things like The Dark Knight, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and numerous fantastic Batman comics that have come out in the last 10 years alone, there is barely a place for something like Batman Returns. I’m sure there is in the history books and stuff, but when compared to something like Batman Begins it’s almost no contest.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still several aspects of Returns that I love. The top of the list is Danny De Vito’s performance as The Penguin. While it wasn’t my favorite portrayal of the character (I’ve always been partial to the more recent misunderstood businessman and night club owner), De Vito was definitely the best part of the film. He was somehow despicable, charming, and pathetic all at the same time. I wanted to hate him, shake his hand and then wash it right away.

I’m sure that I’ll check out all of the features on this new 2 disc DVD as well as the commentary by director Tim Burton, but I guess Batman Returns is one of those movies that just can’t live up to the mantel I placed it on when I was a kid. Fortunately this is not the case for films like Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Those will always be awesome. Cowabunga.

And another thing, are all of the scores to Tim Burton movies exactly the same or is it just me?

Comics Corner – Week of 12/4

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My ever-shrinking comic pull list got a little smaller this week. I almost didn’t go to Alternate Realities this week since there were only 5 comics that I wanted to pick up, but with the conclusion to Secret Invasion amongst them I figured I should probably make the trip. So here’s what I think of this week’s books. Feel free to skip to the end to call me retarded.

  • Batman #682 – I thought that the previous issue (which I didn’t really care for) would be the end of this whole Batman R.I.P. thing. Unfortunately, I was incorrect. It seems that there’s this issue and one more that basically consist of Grant Morrison trying to make sense of DC’s embarrassingly fucked up continuity. See, Batman R.I.P., this story that’s supposed to completely change the Batman stories forever and ever, takes place BEFORE the current crapfest, Final Crisis, where Batman (Bruce Wayne) is currently held captive and strapped to some weird machine. So all the thought of Bruce dying or in any way leaving the Batman cape and cowl behind is for naught because we know he’s still running around later on in Final Crisis. This issue jumped around like a crazy person and I still don’t really understand it. I think it’s supposed to be told from Alfred’s point of view and it basically jumps from weird point to weird point in the life of Bruce Wayne / Batman. I was going to pick up this and the next issue to make sure I had the issues that were in the trade. Now? Eh. I’m good with this. I don’t need anymore.
    Rating: ★★☆☆☆
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Comics Corner – Week of 8/13

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Here are my thoughts on the comics I picked up this week. Please note, some of these will probably come off as retarded to some people so consider yourself warned. I dropped all things Final Crisis from my pull list after last week. I’m done with that event and I’m practically done with DC altogether.

  • 100 Bullets #94 – Holding off on this one until the series ends. I think I’m going to drop the book and just pick up the last trade when it comes out. No sense in me shilling out the $3 a month for it if it’s just going in a box for now.
  • Action Comics #868 – Geoff Johns’ look at Brainiac continues. I’m loving the “horror story” vibe that this story is giving off. Brainiac is essentially the Kryptonian Boogieman. Children are terrified of him and rightly so. Now he’s found Earth and his drones are descending on it to destroy the planet while Superman is away. Action, Adventure, Drama. I’m digging this book.
    Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Amazing Spider-Man #567 – The conclusion to the arc featuring a new lady Kraven. This issue wrapped up the arc pretty well and definitely left things with a lot of room to grow. I loved the “twist” of adding Peter’s roommate Vin to the mix. I didn’t really care for the way Peter’s face looked in the Daredevil costume though. It looked too open and just weird. Again, I don’t remember why Vermin is alive because I could have sworn he was dead. Although maybe that’s a result of the whole “Brand New Day” thing. Speaking of, I just noticed that that header is no longer on the top of the comic. Bout damn time. Next issue picks up the “New Ways to Die” arc featuring Venom and Green Goblin. I’m really looking forward to that.
    Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Angel After The Fall #11 – I’m pretty sure this is the penultimate issue so at least I’ve got that going for me. This issue actually gave us a lot of information about what Gunn’s been up to and why he’s been doing what he’s been doing. I can’t tell if it’s the vampire part of him or if he’s just been driven insane by the events in Los Angeles. This issue felt like it flowed a bit better with some dialog that was closer to the spirit of the Buffyverse, especially the interaction with Spike and the others. I seriously have no idea what’s going on in the last page. If it was a cliffhanger I think it failed because I don’t see what’s going on. This could probably be due to the horrendous art. The second to last page seriously looked like something out of a crumbled up old Peanuts comic. Seriously go check it out. Gwen looks like fucking Charlie Brown with a wig on. I don’t understand how the art could be so piss poor in this book. You’d think that with the attention that is undoubtedly on this book that they’d at least spring for a halfway decent artist. Ugh.
    Rating: ★★☆☆☆
  • Astonishing X-Men #26 – The second issue of Warren Ellis’ run on this book. While I’m a big fan of Ellis’ work, this one just isn’t up to par for me just yet. There’s some interesting theories popping around and I’m liking what he’s done with the characters so far. Cyclops has changed, or as he puts it, grown up. The X-Men have to face the fact that mutants are literally an endangered species now. If they hope to survive, they’re going to have to resort to drastic measures like kill or be killed. Cyclops mentions that both he and Storm have killed before, but I don’t recall whom or when. If anyone can fill me in, please do.
    Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Batman #679 – Part 4 (or is it 5?) of Grant Morrison’s “Batman R.I.P.” storyline. I feel like I have to go back to the beginning of Morrison’s run and re-read the whole thing because I’m starting to get lost in this. There’s a whole lot of jumping around and Batman’s in a weird purple costume and he’s a schizophrenic hobo now. Sure. It’s Grant Morrison. Go with it, right? Eh. I’m starting to lose faith in the man. The re-introduction of Batman’s arch-rival certainly gives me hope for the next couple issues though. I loved what Morrison did with the Joker so I’m looking forward to when he actually gets to use him.
    Rating: ★★★½☆
  • Booster Gold #11 – When I heard that Geoff Johns was leaving this book, I was ready to drop it on the spot. Chuck Dixon is filling in for a quick 2 issue arc before someone else takes over the book. Booster is sent to fix a time hole created by a backwards time traveler and an encounter with Batman and crew. He just doesn’t know how to fix it just right. This issue was not nearly as good as the previous arcs. It felt a little hokey and just small time. Johns’ run was almost epic, but on a scale that someone like Booster Gold could still take on. I think I’m going to give this book two more issues (one to end Dixon’s arc and then one more for the new guy) before I make my final decision though. If they’re anything like this though, I’ll be dropping it.
    Rating: ★★½☆☆
  • Fantastic Four #559 – I considered dropping this book because while it’s written by Mark Millar, it got a little out there with the first arc. This issue convinced me otherwise though. I just want to know more. Is the Earth really doomed to be destroyed within 30 years? Why is the Hulk leading a strange group of super villains to capture Johnny Storm and Dr. Doom? And is that who I think it is at the end there? Holy shit. How can I not read the next issue now? The art is the only thing that I’m a little iffy on with this book now. While Brian Hitch’s earlier issues seemed a bit more detailed, this one seems almost sketchy with some things definitely looking unfinished. I feel like the art in a book like Fantastic Four should be crisp and clean and that’s not the case here.
    Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Green Lantern Corps #27 – I think I’m going to stick it out with this book. I just love the Green Lanterns now. This issue starts up a new arc with someone brutally killing the families of several Corps members, mostly rookies. I don’t recognize the face at the end of the book, but it is most likely a member of the Sinestro Corps. The hunt should be on in the next issue. Oh, and Mongul’s not dead? Sure.
    Rating: ★★★½☆
  • The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe (One Shot – Reprint) – I think I red this issue awhile back. Essentially it’s a sort of “What If…?” story where Frank Castle’s family is killed not by criminals but as a result of a battle between super powered individuals. Castle freaks out and kills some of them, then he’s recruited to kill them all, hence the title. It’s an interesting little story that shows what can happen if things go too far. You can also see how this issue could have planted the seed for Garth Ennis’ The Boys later on as it deals with a lot of the same themes (ie: policing super heroes). Not a bad read.
    Rating: ★★★½☆
  • Secret Invasion #5 – OK. Let’s get on with it already. The Skrulls have invaded. Some shit went down and then I feel like I’ve been hanging around waiting. It’s like the wind was knocked out of me and I’m just waiting to get it back. Now it looks as if that will happen with the NEXT issue. Thanks? Issue 6 of 8 is when things are going to heat up? Is Bendis taking lessons from Grant Morrison and Final Crisis? This issue also showed us that seemingly all the heroes on the Savage Land ship were indeed Skrulls thanks to some nifty super gun that Reed Richards invented on the spot. That’s pretty disappointing because one of the really intriguing parts of the first issue was that ambiguity of those long lost heroes. Even if one of them was the real deal, even f’ing Mockingbird, it would have made it worthwhile and caused so much more drama. Instead it felt like a publicity stunt. It was just a flash in the pan. I’ve still got hope for this, but I’m a little let down. Let’s wrap this up, Bendis. This better not be another House of M.
    Rating: ★★★½☆
  • Secret Invasion Inhumans #1 – I feel like the Inhumans haven’t really gotten enough play. Sure they basically isolate themselves away from Earth on the moon, but they’re just so interesting up there. There’s got to be more drama, no? Thankfully with the proof that Black Bolt was really a Skrull (for who knows how long) there’s some hope yet. Medusa and Crystal set out to find their true king while Black Bolt’s brother causes some mischief as usual. It would be a safe bet that he’s a Skrull, but I feel that might be too obvious. I think I’m going to stick with it for this mini-series, unlike Front Line and Fantastic Four.
    Rating: ★★★½☆
  • Secret Invasion Runaways Young Avengers #2 – Since I love both teams involved with this story, I’m definitely sticking with it. (I also like that Marvel kept most of these tie-in mini-series short, between 3 and 4 issues, with Front Line being the exception at 5. Makes it a bit easier to swallow.) This issue moves things along pretty quickly as both groups are confronted by even more Skrulls. I like that this mini-series is addressing some of the factions within the Skrull religion that Bendis has mentioned in interviews, but has yet to address in his books. Here we see a group of extremists hellbent on removing the prodigal son of their former queen, Young Avenger Hulkling. Next issue wraps this one up.
    Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Secret Invasion X-Men #1 – So apparently with all the planning and preparation that the Skrulls did for this invasion, they forgot to check in on one of the most powerful super teams in the Marvel Universe. I guess they didn’t get that change of address form that the X-Men sent out when they moved to San Francisco because they were surprised to see the mutant team there to stop them from taking over the land of Rice-A-Roni. I find this incredibly hard to believe. Does this mean that there’s not one Skrull among the mutants? It seems to be a safe bet. If one is revealed, this entire issue won’t make a bit of sense. As a result, I’m probably going to skip this mini-series. It definitely seems like it’ll be easily forgotten about and not really matter to the big picture anyway.
    Rating: ★★☆☆☆
  • Walking Dead #51 – I think this is the only comic that I actually fear reading each month. After the last arc where writer Robert Kirkman essentially proved that literally no one is safe, I read the book by peaking through my fingers at times. This issue was heart-breaking. I thought things looked a little odd when the phone first “rang” but I didn’t think anything of it. Then BAM, I’m hit with that doozy. What a book. Also, in reading this issue I got to thinking about just how old Rick’s son Carl is. He’s got to be like 10 at the most, right? Throughout all this he’s got to be pretty mature for his age by now though, especially since he basically has to take care of his Dad now. Oh man. I can’t even imagine what could happen next with this book.
    Rating: ★★★★★
  • Welcome To Hoxford #1 – This was the first issue of Ben Templesmith’s new series. He wrote and drew this book and man, was it creepy. I’ve been a fan of Templesmith’s art in Fell and this is very similar. There’s this underlying creepy-ness factor that runs throughout the entire issue. I also feel like it’s got an almost dreamlike aura about it. The colors blend together and people’s faces can stretch and contort into weird shapes and it would be natural here. Hoxford is a new privately-owned maximum security prison / rehabilitation center. A group of inmates on death row are transferred there and they are definitely an interesting (re: insane) bunch. It seems that the guards and the warden are just as strange though. The book is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Fell. I feel like it’s a bizarre and twisted version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I love it.
    Rating: ★★★★½

ZOMG! Dark Knight II Villain Revealed?

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So The Dark Knight has been out for three weeks and it’s made over $400 million. It’s set to make even more in the rest of it’s theatrical run. Yes, I thought it was a great film and yes, I saw it twice. There’s plenty to talk about the film as there was just so much to it. That doesn’t seem to be enough for people though. While the film’s only been out for three weeks, they’re already talking about the sequel. Seriously? Give it a little while to cool off first. Do you really think that the writers or director Christopher Nolan have anything written down yet? Do you think they’ve already cast anybody outside of the returning characters for the next film (which I’ll admit has to come to fruition)? If I was any of them I’d be drinking Kool-Aid out of a big mug made out of crushed sports cars and sitting on a giant pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck. Yeah, we’ll make a sequel. Just let me finish the next few laps around my huge bank vault first.

I realize that by posting about this I’m creating some sort of Catch-22 black hole self-repeating loop, but I don’t care. There’s all this talk now about who will be the next villain in the third film. I don’t believe any of it for the reasons I mentioned above. It’s too soon. That won’t stop the rumor train though. The Dark Knight is big news right now and any news, even false and horribly incorrect news is bound to get readers. Hell, I’m sure that this post will get some hits just because I said the name of the film and the word “sequel.” Despite the fact that it’s been proven that one of the rumors mentioned in the Yahoo blurb is false, that won’t stop people from writing about it like it was fact.

I just don’t understand why people can’t just enjoy the movie for what it is. Why do we need to be so concerned about the sequel now? Even if we found out the complete details of the next film including the plot and who’s playing who we won’t see anything for at LEAST two years when a teaser trailer might pop up. Then we’d have another six months to a year to wait for the actual film. So why rush to get the information now if we’re not even going to be able to do anything with it aside from saying “Man, that’s going to be cool!” for years?

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