Friday, April 21, 2017

All Star Batman by Scott Snyder issue #5

The fifth installment of this series is also the conclusion to the My Own Worst Enemy arc concerning Two Face/Harvey Dent. And I liked it a lot, the way everything was tied up neatly, including the vital loose threads. For what it's worth, it's been an audaciously fun ride! Everything was fast-paced and the few parts that were humorous were campy and never bashful about being so. I liked the presence of KG Beast and the tug of war happening between Batsy and Two Face as well as Two Face and Harvey Dent themselves. But even with all the topsy-turvy shenanigans going on, Snyder still managed to deliver a character-centric story that has some impact, and it's in the moments he can craft that when All Star Batman truly shines.

This final piece to the Two Face arc was not perfect but it had brilliant markings. It held enough gravitas, sure, but if you start nitpicking at each layer you will come to realize that it was a flawed conclusion even though Snyder and co did a fine enough job with the landing. This series overall was offbeat and experimental which was why I opted to forgive some oversight and weak plot devices here and there, especially since this issue had a share of those. My enjoyment didn't lessen at all once I start inspecting these flaws because for the last four issues I was vigorously entertained and amused which means something. Snyder wrote a Batman story that actually made me giggle here and there, and in comparison with his grim and poignant run when he was still the writer for the flagship Bat series, this for me was a refreshing angle to experience concerning his writing for the character. 

John Romita Jr.'a art style is not for everyone, but for an action-packed and gimmicky adventure story with lots of fight sequences and landscape shots, his style worked pretty well to complement the punches that Snyder never hesitated to pull for every issue. The breadth of the illustrations for All Star Batman is remarkable; very dynamic and colorful and so easy to get lost in, most notably those lush flashback sequences about Bruce and Harvey's childhood. That unforgettable action scene on the train as well as the steamboat escapade for this issue were definitely easy stand-outs and Romita Jr.'s rendition of the scenes contributed to that memorable factor. I wouldn't say he's a favorite artist but I enjoyed the body of work he produced for this series alone.

That being said, I wanted to point out the increasingly unbelievable feats of physical strengths that Batman displayed for My Own Worst Enemy. The attacks he had to endure and soldier on have been massive and should have taken a toll on him, but Batman was still walking and kicking ass and I don't think that I can buy into that crap because Bruce Wayne is no Sups or Diana. He's a normal guy who has just undergone extensive training but even he should have limits. He has ruptured and fractured so many parts of his body so I don't understand how he can still stand up! At no point was this inhuman invincibility was addressed though, so let's chalk it up to simple oversight or casual negligence. It's not that important unless you dwell on it anyway. 

But I want to talk about the two dangling threads which were introduced in the first two issues then abandoned later on and finally resolved here in the last installment. I'm referring of course to the reason why Alfred shot the bat-plane in the first issue and why Gordon and the rest of the GCPD are in the Wayne Manor right now and  are apparently going to investigate a possible 'man-cave' underground. Both are consequential of each other as it turns out. Let me just show you this page of Alfred being uncharacteristically flippant and weird. Seriously, I don't recognize this Alfred. He's too easily rattled:

Gordon fared better, canon characterization-wise, because he got to me witty in those few pages he appeared in. His dialogue with Alfred subtly hinted that he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne but he's still tiptoeing around it for the sake of discretion and I like it because it shows Gordon is a competent and smart enough detective to figure out the real deal, but also upholds that he should keep Batman's identity a secret. So now we know why Alfred shot down that plane and then when the GCPD arrived underground, they didn't find the batcave at all but just some ordinary 'man-cave'. Gordon had a little laugh with that deception yet was relieved that Batman's secret gets to live another day. So those loose threads were tied up in a sort of anticlimactic yet acceptable way.

And now we come to the main event which was Two Face's treachery regarding the cure:

And Batman flipping the chessboard on him all along:

Good stuff. Two Face thinks he had the upper hand but Batman has it all along. I liked the angle that they were childhood friends but it didn't really contribute anything that meaningful in the story except maybe the fact that Bruce becomes privy about Harvey's daddy issues and how his abusive father would use a coin toss to determine whether or not to beat up Harvey. But the twist about that cure was a good one, I can give Snyder that. I like the fact that Batman modified it so that Two Face and Harvey are locked in a permanent battle of dominance. He's essentially stuck at being dissociative. It's a little cruel but also poetic.

The next villain arc is going to be about Mr. Freeze. That should be promising.

And yes, I know my review of this issue may have come off as lazy and rushed but I've been in a weird place in my life right now that not even reading and reviewing Batman cheers me up. I promise that my next reviews would be on-point again and less scattered. I'm slowly getting the feeling that I've been subpar in my analyses and insights ever since I came back from my trip. It must be mental fatigue, I don't know. Anyway, things will look up soon for tomorrow with my review of King's issue #5.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

(DC Rebirth) Batman by Tom King issue #4

The scope of David Finch's art for this issue in particular is outstanding, and that is not at all an understatement. Certain illustrations stood out, most notably pages that depicted gore and violence. I'm never that squeamish when it comes to seeing blood and guts in any medium I consume such as in television shows and comic books, but Finch's illustrations definitely made me stop and stare for a while just to appreciate the quality and breadth that he had contributed solely for this fourth issue. I don't think Tom King's story would be nearly as effective in form if Finch wasn't the artist who drew its scenes to life.

The fourth installment for I Am Gotham was provocative, especially since it made such a complete turn for the worst since last issue. The body count is unapologetically high and committed by the one person I never wanted to become bloodthirsty and possessed. The detestably fruitful alliance between Dr. Hugo Strange and Psycho Pirate yielded some terrible consequences. These two assholes managed to capture and inflict serious psychological damage on aspiring superheroes Gotham and Gotham Girl (Hank and Claire) who did not stand a chance so now the former has went on a psychotic rampage while the latter was reduced into a sniveling weak mess and had to be put under Alfred's care. It was a rather shocking escalation. I know things will go bad---but I did not expect that it would become even worse so soon. This was an overall spectacular issue, given the tight suspenseful drama at its core and Finch's impressive body of work for each page. King was also winning me over as a writer at this point.

However, there are a few things that didn't make sense to me, such as the participation of Amanda Waller in all this clusterfuck and apparently an appearance by the Suicide Club might just take place somewhere down the pipeline. But I digress.

What I want to tackle is Hank's regressed state which happened so quickly and so violently that I had to flip back and forth between pages just to make sure I'm witnessing such gruesome events unfold for real, and that they were all because of his doing. From a promising earnest idealist, Hank had now become a deranged killer who are doing things that go against everything he wanted to stand for as Gotham and according to what he wanted to emulate from Batman. It was mortifying and I hope to all the gods this can be fixed soon because I actually like him and his sister. Claire also needs to get back in shape and stop crying because I've grown tired of females being portrayed as broken damsels after a villain had took possession of their minds or some shit like that. 

I was pretty disappointed that she just broke down into an emotional mess. Not that going on a rampage like her brother did would be an improvement in her characterization but at least then she would be doing something instead of clinging onto Duke's arms for consolation. But then again, it needs to be pointed out that Gotham Girl seems to exist because Claire herself was said to be mirroring whatever her big brother wants to do, so she doesn't have a lot of things going for her in the first place already, so is it really such a surprise she would be so easy to manipulate and discard? I sure hope King can fairly resolve Claire's part in the equation. I know Hank well enough but I don't really know that much about Claire.

On more pressing matters, Batman tried his best to get through Hank but he was beyond reasoning with at this point.

Now that is some heavy Break-The-Cutie stuff

I can't wait to see how this drama would resolve and devolve yet again in the next issue.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

All Star Batman by Scott Snyder issue #4

Snyder's All Star Batman continues to be a worthwhile adventure, and the definition of which is that it's bat-shit insane! Still forty pages per issue, Snyder's series is packing a lot of heat and gimmicks balanced out by his sincere storytelling with emotional weight. All Star Batman is shaping out to be a thrilling bombastic ride that can get campy when it wants to be and, much like KG Beast, won't give a fuck if shit starts falling apart as long as it's for the sake of chaos and fun. I'll tell you who was not falling apart though and that's no other than Batman who had suffered so many physical attacks and injuries that I have no goddamn clue how he still manages to kick ass. Well, he's Batman. I suppose that explanation alone should suffice, amirite?

To recap, Two Face poured acid into Batsy's face mask. So his vision is impaired pretty badly. But hey, he's Batman.

I won't be doing a blow-by-blow description of the action sequences that happened for this issue because I shall maintain from here on out that one should experience All Star Batman's craziness firsthand because no amount of explanation can truly capture the spectacle that Snyder and Romita Jr. had produced for every issue. Granted, this issue wasn't as uneven as the first two which is an improvement because now there's an actual clear plot we can follow, and characters' actions and motivations do make sense in the long run---except for those distractingly colorful Talons. Fuck those guys. Also, check out them PECTORAL SPEAKERS!

That was, hands-down, my most favorite moment of this issue! Second only to that heartfelt dialogue piece between Batman and Duke which I will tackle later on. I mean, pectoral speakers, guys! That's All Star Batman in a nutshell. If you ever want to sell this wacky series to friends, just flip through the pages which illustrate the most ridiculous gadgets Batman had ever packed here in the series alone and we're all good to go! Nothing will ever beat that long-ass batarang from issues ago though. That shit can reap damage like a motherfucker! Ah, there are so many fun memories I can associate with All Star Batman already. But this mind-boggling yet entertaining series is not all just giant monsters beating the shit out of Batman and Penguin burning random people using his umbrella that apparently can shoot out fire in such fine precision, oh no. This series also has a central character conflict which is all about Harvey Dent and Two Face's ongoing rivalry as to which part of him has more claim over the other. 

My Own Worst Enemy is an episodic arc that builds up this tension between the two fragile sides of Dent; his earnest do-gooder persona and the twisted malicious alter ego who wants to destroy whatever goodness is left in Dent. Batman serves as the mediator, expressing a hopeful desire to save his friend from completely losing himself to the darkness. This was why he was willing to endure through brutal lengths just to ensure he can save Harvey Dent from Two Face---even if that means tying him at the back of one of his personal jetliners while he has some insightful dialogue exchange with his current protégé Duke.

I thought that this is one of the most brilliant writing achievements Snyder had put in paper. It worked both ways too in showing Batman's insight and investment on the conflict as well as Duke's own sympathetic angle in regards to the shit going down with his parents (who were still suffering the effects of Joker's toxin back in Endgame). Here we understand that Bruce is someone who believes in people and the goodness that they are and the greatness they can still become. He asserts that everyone has a potential to be redeemed even probably the worst of mankind. Nothing is ever black and white and even the most depraved and morally unethical may even do the right thing if they try hard enough to change their ways. Bruce appreciates the irony of holding onto such a notion, but it's by trusting in the humanity of people that gets him up every night to fight crime after all. This was in relation to Harvey's complicated relationship with his abusive father and to a lesser extent, Duke's staunch belief that his parents can escape the poison that is still hijacking their biology. Bruce expresses the same kind of optimism over Harvey's identity crisis. He wants to believe his friend is not beyond saving because life is all about second chances and unexpected miracles after all.

This fourth issue also concluded the side-story at the end of every issue entitled The Cursed Wheel which wrapped up in a flat note, if you ask me, but at least I no longer find myself that detached to Duke anymore. I think the side-story did a fine enough job establishing him as competent and driven by himself, and that his heart is in the right place even if he tends to make haste and commit small errors along the way. He can learn and grow especially since Batman chose him for a reason, and I have a lot of faith in Bruce's judgment so I'll give Duke more chances to prove himself. I hope to see more of the artist Declan Shalvey's work though.

I think more people should read All Star Batman as long as they consider it a standalone series since it's more effective that way!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

(DC Rebirth) Batman by Tom King issue #3

The first pages of this issue was an unexpected serving of deja vu---in the most gruesome yet also moving way possible. For a split second, I thought King was giving me yet another rendition of the Wayne murders but the essential details about the scene are altered which led me to conclude quickly that this wasn't about Bruce Wayne's childhood trauma at all but another child's tragedy. A young boy was walking with his parents on a dark alleyway in Gotham. A mugger tried to rob them. He beat the father and was now getting handsy with the mother's jewelry. The scene was playing out exactly in a horrible nostalgic way until that crucial last moment when everything would have ended in blood and grief. At the last second, Batman appeared and saved everyone. 

It was a victory that was satisfying on an emotional level because of how much it means for Bruce Wayne as Batman to save even just one life in the hands of a petty crime. Most people forget that Batman was always about stopping street-level crimes. His night patrols were always composed of impeding organized crime or even the smallest crime committed in some alleyway in Gotham. Tom King showed us that in this flashback and reminded us that behind the Dark Knight will always be that traumatized boy who lost his parents one bad night where it changed the course of the rest of his entire life afterwards, and in becoming Batman he was channeling this loss into something demonstratively righteous and inspiring. He may not have been able to save his parents, but he can symbolically avenge their deaths by ensuring no one will ever lose their loved ones the same way he did particularly in cases where a tragedy can just  happen in the most mundane way possible such as during a late-night mugging.

Speaking of inspiring life-changing events, let's talk about these specific panels for a moment:

I'm sorry, but I was in goddamn tears right after reading this. How could I not be, seeing as how much Batman is my own childhood hero whose brand of justice and truth resonates with me to this day? Watching him prevent the same crime that claimed his parents' life was cathartic, and being able to talk to the boy who could have been him was a rather powerful moment. Later on, the readers will discover that this flashback sequence was about Hank Clover (and to a lesser extent, his sister Claire) who will become the superpowered fans named Gotham and Gotham Girl. This was their origin story which Bruce found out by himself while he was in FBI disguise to interview their parents who were more than eager to share their children's aspirations to become defenders of the city since they have been motivated and inspired by no other than Batman.

It was all the more reason why I was so moved about those panels above because I feel as if this was Batman not only speaking to Hank Clover as a young boy but also speaking to his child-self. These were the words he wished someone had said to him when his life changed after witnessing his parents' brutal murders in front of him, and he had no idea how to start picking up the pieces just yet. This was Bruce Wayne now as an adult and a vigilante wishing to reassure a kid just like him from before that hope blooms even in the most wretched of places, and that he doesn't have to stay powerless forever because one day he may even get the chance to fight back and rise from the adversity of his own fears and insecurities. That's the message a hero like Batman imparts and one that people should never forget or tarnish. This is why we read his story. At the heart of it all, this is about one man's victory over his own demons every time he becomes Batman and defeats his enemies. He is an inspiration.

Just ask Hank and Claire Clover. They decided to become Gotham and Gotham Girl because of him.

I was really happy about this issue because it humanized Hank and Claire and gave them convincing character motivations. I readily accept that they are simply noble and decent people who just want to give back to their city and help anyone who needs a hero at the end of the day. That fateful meeting between Hank and Batman that night was a hallmark for the former who found a role model to emulate and an altruistic purpose to share with his sister. It's so beautiful and I dread how they're going to be broken down once Hugo Strange and his Monster Men get to them. I know it's going to happen and I can only hope they survive the ordeal because at this point it has become rather easy and natural to root for these kids. Earnest idealists who want to do good being thrown into a gritty situation never fails to break my heart. The next issues are bound to get crazy and sad.


Friday, April 7, 2017


I'm going on an overseas trip from April 8-15 so I'll be unable to post new Batman reviews starting today so I can focus on getting ready mentally while also arranging a few tasks at home before I leave. But I shall be back with a vengeance around the 16th with new posts for King's Batman and Snyder's All Star Batman. Until then, I bid you all adieu!~

Thursday, April 6, 2017

All Star Batman by Scott Snyder issue #3

Things seemed to have settled down for All Star's Batman third issue where the dust has cleared for a bit and the action has to take a backseat to make way for some overdue exposition and narrative focus. For that alone, I think this issue feels more grounded and understandable as it also allowed Snyder's writing for the characters and the plot itself to shine. I definitely feel as if I'm back in familiar territory regarding his style of approach when it comes to crafting a beguiling Batman story. I thought it was pretty entertaining, of course, all those crazy shenanigans of Batsy fighting of hired muscle and other kooky mercenaries so he can travel upstate and save Harvey Dent buried somewhere within the malicious persona of Two-Face.

But the core strength in Snyder's writing are the small nuances of characterization that personally make his stories worthy of prolonged emotional investment in. If All Star Batman becomes a resonant piece that is not just all about spectacle and explosion, then I'm most certainly going to keep looking forward for the next installments. This issue had some great humorous moments in it still in spite of it having a more serious tone. Romita Jr.'s art continues to grow on me, and since his earlier illustrations portrayed fast-paced ass-kicking, it's commendable to see how his style can adapt when it comes to more subdued scenes.

Standout scenes here that I liked are anything with hired assassin KGBeast whose identity I didn't even reveal in my last review for the series. All you need to know is that he's an absolute doll and even though Batsy and Two-Face were able to get away from him for now thanks to Duke, I'm certain KG my man will make his surprise appearance later on. Another scene I enjoyed was that over-the-top Penguin scene since it reminded me so much of Gotham's own version played by Robin Lord Taylor. I can totally picture that version opening a personalized umbrella that breathes fire and turns annoying extras into a burnt crisp, which is exactly what Snyder's Penguin did here during that amusing scene. I don't know why I don't have a screenshot of that moment here. Damn.

There is also that unexpected yet sensible appearance of the Talons who are sporting new colors that can only be described as flashy. Does the color change have anything to do with who they are? I feel that maybe they are a bunch of freelancers and don't serve the Court of Owls but Two-Face. Anyway, I'm mentioning the standout scenes first before I tackle the main attraction later. The last standout scene was the welcome appearance of Harold Allnut. This character is someone I recognize easily from Hush whom I recall had sold out Batman to Tommy Elliot with the promise of getting a voice since he's mute. Originally, he used to work for Penguin's crew before Batman decided to give him a new purpose leaning more on the righteous path. He's certainly talking here in this issue and I think his role is essential, considering he's a mechanic genius which can explain how Bruce is able to maintain the inner workings of the Batcave. Harold's participation can be a believable reason for that.

So let's get to the main story for this issue. In that wonderfully drawn flashback sequence, we find out that Bruce and Harvey know each other in childhood when they were both sent to a facility that I think deals with troubled children. Bruce had just lost his parents, and apparently Harvey has an abusive father who liked to beat him up by the whim of a coin toss. They reconnected as adults later on when Harvey became a District Attorney and Bruce became Batman. It took them a while to realize who they are to each other, but at that point it didn't seem to matter. Or does it? Two-Face remembers Bruce from childhood which is telling since Harvey and Two-Face don't know the same things as each other. They are completely disassociated from each other's memories, so the fact that Two-Face can remember this piece of Harvey's childhood can possibly mean HE was the one Bruce met as a child.

It's getting really fascinating and nerve-wracking at this point, especially that cliffhanger at the end where Two-Face administers the 'cure' that Batman will supposedly use to restore Harvey. Two-Face proclaimed that perhaps that 'cure' will instead make him permanent and not Harvey Dent---before he pours it all over Batman's eyes. So I don't know what the fuck that would entail but I'm excited to know soon! I also like the idea of Bruce and Harvey going way back. I feel as if it's a key to something.

The Cursed Wheel backup story, fortunately, has received some more grounded storytelling as well. This is shaping out to be Duke-centric piece which I don't mind at all because I want to be given a reason to like this character and so far being able to see him attempt to be a detective and follow the trail was great. It's making him more real while hopefully fleshing out his personality. That flashback scene about his mom waking him up in the middle of the night to tell him about a murder was rather awkwardly handled though, but other than that, the story is finally picking up steam, and Declan Shalvey's art is becoming rather engrossing to look at. This was a satisfying installment overall so I will give it a much higher rating than the first two.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

(DC Rebirth) Batman by Tom King issue #2

From what I can tell so far into the second issue for this flagship series, a lot of the classic mythos from the long run of Batman is being constantly rehashed here and rendered as something new, most possibly for the benefit of the fresh readership. This re-telling does not bother me, and I'd like to think that what Tom King is merely doing is paying tribute to the Bat-canon by allowing new readers to experience a version of one of its classic stories. This narrative choice makes sense too for DC's Rebirth theme in general since I believe the whole point of the re-branding is to revisit the roots of DC comics, and that includes some form of nostalgic appeal when it comes to framing the stories of their popular characters.

That being said, I would like to fully disclose that Dr. Hugo Strange is a Bat-villain I have loathed for a long time since reading Batman: Prey. He just rubbed me off the wrong way. And this was back in 2014 when I read it. So as soon as I got to the last few pages of this second issue where it was revealed that we'd be tackling Hugo Strange and the 'Monster Men', I was understandably torn. I seriously let out an audible grunt of dismay and annoyance to find that I'm going to have to deal with Strange again. Still, I actually have learned to appreciate the character more as years went by, mostly because of his recent adaptation in Fox TV's Gotham show during the second season. Actor B.D Wong nailed the character very well, or at least presented him in a way in which is villainy was convincing as well as his relevance to the canon altogether. The same thing goes for his exposure in the Arkham Asylum games which I didn't mind. I suppose my negative bias still holds in comics, however, but I will reserve any more critical judgments until I see how King plans to utilize him here for his story arc, I Am Gotham

Now I want to talk more about the other characters here, but first I want to get a cameo appearance out of the way. Solomon Grundy was featured in the beginning action sequence for this second issue. New superpowered heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl join in the mix to aid Batman in bringing down Grundy. It went as well as expected with a few hiccups here and there. I think I recognize Grundy from his appearance in The Long Halloween, if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, I liked the angle in which these superpowered newbies actually do look up to Batman and recognize the important work he had done for Gotham City. They weren't there to get into some trite macho contest with him or challenge his authority as a seasoned crime fighter or anything like that. So I like Gotham and Gotham Girl so far because they have shown humility by asking for Batman's tutelage as well as passion in what they want to do so they can help the city, even if they tend to get a little enthusiastic about it.

If all goes well, these two can even become dependable allies for Batsy, mainly to aid him in catastrophic events in which superpowers can make a difference in avoiding such disasters. Batman, of course, can acknowledge his fallibility; that he is not an invincible man physically---just someone who is resourceful and determined to fight. This was he told Alfred as to why he was willing to give Gotham and Gotham Girl a chance, and why he even introduced them to Commissioner Gordon. 

I would be remiss if I don't point out how witty and dry Alfred and James Gordon have been for this issue. It's refreshing to read Alfred being snarky as it reminds me of his Gotham counterpart. Gordon makes the best expressions too, especially after meeting the two superheroes aforementioned. What really takes the cake, though, was the fact that Batman pulled the Disappearing Act and even got the best of the two who were baffled that even they can't find him when they have superpowers at their disposal. That earned a chuckle from me. I think I'm going to have fun reading more Tom King if he keeps this up for the series.

I look forward for the third issue since Dr. Hugo Strange made his appearance at the last page, and I'm curious to see what direction King plans to take for the Monster Men storyline as well as how the presence of the two new caped heroes can serve the rest of the arc. I will hold off on giving higher ratings since I want to save them for issues that will truly stand out and shine. So far, it's all been a steady build-up to what I hope will be something spectacular!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All Star Batman by Scott Snyder issue #2

I liked this issue. Sure, it still had the same format concerning a non-linear approach to the narrative such as time skips, which I maintain was problematic during its debut. Luckily enough, for this second issue, Snyder was able to utilize the style better to suit the storytelling, giving him a good advantage to make most of the plot threads presented. His Batman even cracks me up because he made the silliest joke ever imaginable and I don't even want to repeat it because it's so rare for Bats to have a sense of humor. Still, I would also argue that if Batman ever had a sense of humor, he would be a total cornball. And Snyder just proved me right.

The real selling point of this issue was the fact that we finally get more nuanced moments between Batman and Two-Face. Sure, most of the time they bickered their way through the issue like a couple of dum-dums, but the interaction was very believable and even a little sad. There's an unspoken camaraderie between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent that we are too quick sometimes to gloss over to make room for punching and stabbing and whatnot, and yet the friendship itself was effectively rendered in that one page of art for this issue which featured an ambiguous flashback. I must admit it was beautiful to look at, and I need to see what happens in that flashback because I can smell some genuine bromance brewing. My radar is hardly wrong. 

The narrative flows better in My Worst Enemy Part 2 even if there were panels of dialogue here between Alfred and Duke that sort of slowed down the well-oiled machine of the issue's pacing. They didn't necessarily ruined the fun, though, because they at least gave good commentary concerning the relationship between Batman and Two-Face. I suppose my gripe for that scene is mostly just me becoming a little embittered about Duke Thomas in general. I'm trying my very best to like the kid, but no one is making it easy for me at the moment, so I'll just continue to ignore him until he proves worthy of my attention.

John Romita Jr. is an artist I knew best from the Kick Ass comics, and his art works best for action sequences very well especially for this second issue which featured exciting confrontations on the roof of a speeding train where Batman had to face an array of cameo villain characters who all want to set Two-Face free. The dialogue and most of the fight scenes were balls-out hilarious! How can it not be when you have Killer Croc, King Shark and Amygdala in one scene? These muscular beasts all have an axe to grind with Batsy and they were not afraid to make him their punching bag. My favorite moment had to be this panel which never fails to make me snicker because there is just something campy about it that I rarely get to see in modern Batman.

As I've said, what I like about this issue is the pacing which kept me engaged the entire time. We have Bats and Two-Face never getting along as a bunch of bad guys try to interrupt their quality time and make Bats suffer---but in the most entertaining Western way possible. Most importantly, there's a real story developing and progressing as we move further along the line. The time skips make more sense now too and a very good way to build up the suspense because it has a future scene stamped with Two Days From Now and it featured Gordon and the rest of GCPD staking out the Wayne Mansion for reasons I think will soon come to light as we find out what happens in Batman's mission to take Two-Face upstate. I have no problem whatsover with this foreshadowing because I always find the small moments of conflict between Batman and law enforcement to be a given in comics, and it certainly makes things more tense and realistic whenever the GCPD don't always have Batman's back, even Gordon who should be allowed to voice against his caped crusader ally every now and then. Speaking of tension and conflict...

I really appreciated that scene among the Penguin, Black Mask and Great White as they all hired a common assassin to take out Batman. I won't reveal the identity of said mercenary, but I sure hope he would become a consistent player who will keep stalking Batman and Two-Face for the rest of the issues. Said dude's cool attitude is also quite growing on me so I want to see him again.

This series in entirety is 30+ pages long for every issue and this is where that backup story The Cursed Wheel comes along. Nothing about it has yet to impress me, really, aside from the artwork done by Declan Shalvey. Other than that, the characterization for Batman here seemed almost like he was the Batman I knew and loathed a little during the first few issues of Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi. He was aloof, dismissive and even outright uncaring about anyone but the crime he must solve. He's not exactly showing his best foot forward here, especially if he truly wants to establish a good partnership with Duke Thomas whose motives to fight crime and join Batman were at least given some context here. I also enjoyed reading this panel below:

That right there summarizes my small complaint about Duke Thomas as a character and I'm glad Snyder was self-aware enough to address what I believe are most readers' grievances about him. I can't help but smirk a little when even Batman himself admits that perhaps he also thinks Duke is not cut out for this line of work but keeps him around for reasons he would not discuss as of yet. I don't know, it may be a tad petty of me to take cheap pleasure that Duke was knocked down a peg here, but it's not like I have any reason to like him or root for him at the moment. I just don't know what to feel about the character. Soon enough, Snyder might just turn The Cursed Wheel into a legitimately compelling Duke-centric story next to its mystery case, and I hope he can convince me to perceive his original character in a better light once it's all over. Fingers crossed but I don't have the highest hopes.

Overall, this second issue was a vast improvement from its debut because it's just tons of fun without necessarily sacrificing good storytelling. I'm more than eager to see what's in store for Batman and Two-Face as they continue with their road trip.


Monday, April 3, 2017

(DC Rebirth) Batman by Tom King issue #1

It's the very first issue of Tom King's run for Batman, and I didn't know what to expect but it certainly isn't an airplane about to crash Gotham, and the fact that only Batman has to stop it since the Leaguers who can prevent such a crash by using their superpowers (Sups and Lantern) are currently fighting their own monsters. As far as an action-oriented piece of story goes, this first issue had been spectacular. David Finch's illustrations were gripping to look at even if his overall style so far hasn't been at his best, at least as far as comparing it to his earlier work in his own line for The Dark Knight series during the New 52 lineup. 

Since this issue was action-based, there is not much content to talk about regarding the plot itself as of yet except of course the revelation at the end which definitely proves rather promising to see unfold by the next issues. What I would like to discuss first is the underlying commentary regarding Batman as the self-appointed hero and defender of Gotham City. Unlike the aforementioned Leaguers, Batman, of course, does not possess superpowers. His speed, agility and strength came foremost from a rigorous training regimen that Bruce Wayne had explored all his life. He had to travel through continents to learn and hone several fighting techniques before even coming back to his city so he can start his one-man crusade. He has immense wealth and above-average intelligence to match his physical prowess and this was why he was regarded not just as a formidable fighter but also as a great detective. But it's mostly about his wealth as a Wayne heir that enabled him to sustain a crime-fighting nocturnal career. How else can he build his own Bat-cave and other gadgets if he didn't have serious cash to burn?

There are many obvious reasons why Batman is a lot of people's favorite go-to hero and they mostly have something to do with state-of-the-art weaponry, gritty person as the Dark Knight who stalks the criminal underworld, his incomparably unique Rogues' gallery; villains who are just as off-beat and compelling as he is, and---the primary reason we often hear nerds would say---the fact that he was not blessed with superpowers but had rather acquired his skills through sheer will and discipline alone. We can also add his personal tragedy into the mix; an orphaned boy who had to watch his parents get gunned down by a mugger one fateful night and how that traumatic experience and his survivor's guilt changed and tempered him into a badass steel.

So why do I tackle something that's already general knowledge about Batman? It's because this first issue by Tom King seems to have the makings of exploring why Batman is the hero Gotham needs/deserves. It's a theme that had been written countless times in the long 75 years run for the character in comics. It's something of a staple now too that in the hands of a capable writer who may have great insight to share, the story of examining why a flawed, human and determined crime fighter like Batman appeals to us (by the simple reason that he lacks superpowers and yet gets shit done anyway and does it so with style) can be a worthwhile read once more for both old and new fans who are reading this title. Sure, it's been done to death, but who says it can't happen again and be magical just the same? Say, you've read this issue yourself, and then you got to those crucial pages where the airplane is guaranteed to crash and burn straight into the heart of Gotham. Now, tell me honestly as you read it---

---did you ever doubt that Batman would be unable to pull off something awesome and save everyone at the last minute?

Superhero comics are a wish fulfillment designed to tell stories of heroism and vibrant hope where one man or woman's fierce dedication and strength of will can make a difference in a city often bereft of redemption in the first place. Since they operate that way, a hero saving the day is no strange feat and may even be formulaic and predictable. And so when Batman was able to swing the direction of the malfunctioning airplane by riding it like a badass (the mechanics of which you need to read for yourself so pick up the issue), readers like me are willing to suspend belief and just say, "Yes, of course he can do that shit. He's Batman!" 

It's the same sentiment that Jim Gordon has. He had rather comedic lines for this issue, the most notable of which is when he contacted Batman to ask where he is in the middle of all this commotion, and Batman confidently answers, "I'm on the plane." And Gordon's ready if not snarky response was, "Of course you're on the plane." He knows that Batman is already about to prevent the latest disaster as it strikes Gotham City. Of course he is! With an almost cynical scoff yet grateful relief, readers do the same thing too every time Batman rises up to the challenge and we don't have to pretend anymore that it's anything we can expect otherwise.

The last two pages has Batman about to crash the airplane on sea to hopefully avoid more casualties, but suddenly two flying caped crusaders came swooping in to lift it from under Batsy. His reaction was to call out Sups' name because who else can do that? He was mistaken, however, and instead came face-to-face with these amusingly clad champs who apparently are the new heroes for the city. They even named themselves appropriately in case to make the representation as clear and concise as possible.

This should be fun.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

All Star Batman by Scott Snyder issue #1

"Batman has always been a character who demands your best" ~Scott Snyder

Surprise! I know I've said I only plan on reading and reviewing Tom King's series for Batman, but I decided to mix it up and add this other Bat-title on the rundown because why not? It's no secret at this point that I'm a Snyder loyalist, I must admit, and I'm very pleased that he is still writing Batman to this day and within a story premise that may prove to be less gritty and more entertaining and fun than what I'm used to from Snyder's writing and interpretation of the character. I don't think Snyder can give up Batsy that easy hence this off-beat series which promises road trips in line with a different villain to focus on for every character-centric arc. I'm down with that because Batman has the best rogues' gallery ever and I want to be reminded once more what makes them great in the first place. For this first issue, we have Harvey Dent, more notoriously known as Two-Face.

I'm reviewing a single issue, in case you didn't realize that the covers I featured above for this review are the variant colors for the first issue. It's my new thing now. I plan on posting all covers for an issue just to compare them side-by-side.

With the talents of John Romita Jr., Dean White and Danny Miki for pencils, inks and colors respectively, the first issue for All Star Batman entitled My Worst Enemy has been a mixed bag of awesome potentials and sporadic moments that baffled me all throughout. Visually speaking, it was a feast for the eyes. Everything looked vibrant and dynamic for every page, which definitely made the pacing more engaging and very action-oriented in spite of how much of Snyder's writing in general (including his dialogue) suffers expository indulgence. I definitely liked the opening sequence at the diner with Firefly and Killer Moth's attack on Batman. There was something endearingly Western about the entire tone and setting of that opener which I appreciated. 

Otherwise, it's an uneven issue overall, but I blame it mostly on the needless time skips and flashbacks. As soon as I finished reading, I decided to re-read again but this time by following a more chronological sequence---and it made more sense! So I can only imagine that choosing a flashback device was just a gimmicky move for Snyder and co. which he isn't above doing, really. Still, when he had used that before in his own Batman flagship run, it was more cohesive. Here for All Star Batman, it just felt sloppy. That is my first complaint about the narrative for this issue. If Snyder just stuck to a linear progression, this issue would have been fine. Still, it didn't take away from the intriguing premise concerning Batman and Two-Face. 

Now I've always found Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent's relationship to be layered and poignant, and I also have every confidence that Snyder can deliver some emotionally resonant punches later on as this arc progresses. One of the most interesting revelations in this issue is the fact that Two-Face is color blind in his left eye. There's a metaphor about it that's poetic. Batman's decision to bring Dent/Two-Face upstate somewhere to help restore his sanity should provide readers some twisted and amusing road-trip shenanigans, especially since Dent is making it unreasonably difficult for Batsy to do this. As it turns out, Dent has garnered more connections in the criminal underworld which also made him privy with everyone's business. This enables him to emotionally blackmail people into stopping Batman's mission to go upstate and free Dent from captivity by announcing he can reveal everyone's secrets for all the public to know. I think that's the basic gist of it. That explains why even simple civilians like the ones at the diner impeded Batman's escape with Dent. Before we go on, here's a cool panel of Batsy stalking the fields:

And now for my second complaint which might be a small nitpick: what is up with Duke Thomas, really? I don't want to jump into the bandwagon of Not Giving New Characters A Chance, but what has he done to deserve such a crucial role for the Rebirth Batman storyline anyway? I don't think he has earned his place beside Batman nor has he really grown and developed into a character I can honestly say is one I will actively root for from this point on. Correct me if I'm wrong but was he also the one who helped Bruce Wayne remember who he was back in Superheavy arc when his entire identity had been erased? How the hell did a complete stranger manage to do that? I might be misremembering a few details because I've been away for so long, but Duke Thomas certainly left no impression on me while I was reading Endgame or Bloom. But he's here now and I just have to get on with it? Look, all we're told is that he's just a good kid who is capable of becoming a part of Batman's crusade, and yet the readers are not shown as to WHY and HOW that is the case. He just shows up in Rebirth issue one day and accepts Batman's offer to become 'something better' than Robin. Excuse me, but what in the name of Mary Poppins' frock does that even mean, 'something better'? 

First of all, that's very rude and an outright disservice for what all each Robin stood for as Batman's partner that went beyond being his underage sidekick. I know Duke Thomas must soon play an important role later on since all this hype about his character makes me believe that this will be the case, but can we all calm the fuck down and desist telling readers so early that he is 'something better' than Robin? That's a shitty thing to say about a character who has been a part of the Batman mythos for a very long time. I also don't think Snyder is giving his original character a fair fighting chance to prove himself as one day becoming awesome with his own making by just declaring him as someone above the Robin title already. Let Duke Thomas grow and develop as a hero I want to root for, much like Peter J. Tomasi did when he wrote Damian Wayne. 

And yes, I still maintain that I am a Snyder loyalist but the biggest fan can also be the harshest critic. That's how much Scott Snyder as a Batman writer means so much to me; I truly want him to give his best for a character like Batman who deserves it the most, and so I would point out things I feel he must work on to improve his story for All Star Batman. I only want him to succeed.

There's also a backup story called The Cursed Wheel whose pencils and colors I actually prefer more than Romita Jr.'s work, surprisingly enough. I don't have much to say about this story yet since it's in its initial stages, and also because Duke Thomas is here again and I'm still pretty salty about this character for now. Anyway, I have only the highest hopes for All Star Batman. There are weaknesses here to overcome for the narrative's approach but I can't wait to read more of the next issues to see how Snyder will improve upon this debut issue. I'm certain he has more surprises up his sleeve! Like a chainsaw-wielding Batsy!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Batman by Scott Snyder and Tom King [ R E B I R T H ]

The DC Universe Rebirth is a "2016 relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing monthly superhero comic books. Using the end of The New 52 initiative in May 2016 as its launching point, DC Rebirth restored the DC Universe to a form much like that prior to the 'Flashpoint' storyline while still incorporating numerous elements of The New 52, including its continuity." Many of these titles now have a twice-monthly release schedule and cost about $ 2.99. 

And yes, I straight-up copied that from Wikipedia, sue me. I have been out of touch from my comics for months now because of other preoccupations. I would do my research better next time, which I did too, particularly about new Bat-writer Tom King himself. The man's a multi-tasker since he's currently writing for DC, Marvel and Vertigo. Before doing Batman, he's written for Grayson and outside of his comics career, he joined the CIA counterterrorism unit after 9-11. So that makes him a badass by default. He had an original superhero graphic novel afterwards, and I suppose that explains why he would be a perfect fit to write Dick Grayson becoming an undercover spy in the aforementioned series, and why he's writing for the flagship Batman title now. King's credentials are pretty damn impressive, so I'm definitely intrigued now to see what he can offer content-wise for his run for Batman. The man interned for Chris Claremont as an assistant writer for X-Men too! Just WOW.

This Rebirth issue is a prologue of some sorts, although most readers might mistake that with the relaunch, issues stamped with Rebirth on different titles meant that there's a continuity here that goes back to the official major story of DC Rebirth. It's not the case, though. Batman: Rebirth is a standalone story much like the others which I think should be the case so that readers who only prefer to read Batsy's adventures and follow them religiously can just focus their energies on this title and other Bat-related titles as oppose to purchasing other titles with Rebirth stamped on it that had nothing to do with the Dark Knight. But I digress.

Interestingly enough, this was a collaborative work by Snyder and King. I suppose one can take it as the predecessor passing the torch to the successor symbolically here by writing a collaboration, and in some ways I think it works well. Overall, Rebirth wasn't exactly a stellar standalone. The small moments of dialogue and callbacks to classic roots are what made this issue great, but as a sum of all its other parts, Rebirth just didn't hold that much weight as a standalone. I liked it for those small moments, though. Such as the dialogue exchange between Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox because it was funny (thanks to Fox's dry sense of humor and easy comebacks) as well as enlightening (how Fox managed to get Wayne Enterprises back from government control) if not entirely meta (how comics would usually have their billionaire heroes claim back their empires without that much difficulty).

Mike Janin's illustrations were invigorating to look at in spite of the darker color palette that made most of its panels muddy and not as polished as one might expect. We don't get to see Batman get into thrilling fight sequences here and instead he faced a singular foe in Calendar Man...who apparently has supernatural powers now? I don't have a problem that his characterization has changed because I believe it at least made him formidable enough, and the concept of him aging as seasons turn (and that means he dies by winter and gets reborn again in spring) was for me brilliant, but I sure hope we get an actual explanation about the sudden shift of his representation in canon. Speaking of characters, we're getting Duke Thomas as the new addition for this series. He's not entirely new, though, so to speak. He first appeared back in Zero Year when the Riddler shut off the power in Gotham City and challenged the citizens to 'get smart or die by natural selection' because as the Riddler, he gets to be an asshole. 

Zero Year is hands-down my most favorite story arc from Snyder's run, but even I have to research who Duke Thomas is again because I've forgotten all about him for a moment. What we all need to remember foremost is that Duke Thomas has the worst luck. After that debacle during Zero Year, he had also suffered during Endgame during Joker's crazed seige in Gotham. His parents were subjected to the mind-controlling gas. In the meantime, Bruce just offered Duke a place to stay in the mansion while they try to figure out how to reverse the effects of the gas. He also offered him a place by his side as Batman while he fights crime. Duke said he has no interest in becoming the next Robin and even quipped that 'Robin doesn't need a Batman' which is just rude. But Bruce countered that he wasn't offering to train Duke as Robin at all, so way to go on being presumptuous. I for one would like the last Robin to be Damian Wayne, so this is good news. And then Batman showed him a yellow outfit that Duke apparently has to wear now. I'm not sure how to feel about Duke for the time being. I wasn't happy about his snarky comment but I'll give him a pass.

The issue ends with Calendar Man being reborn once spring rolled around. So I guess we'll be seeing more of him and hopefully we finally get a reason why he has powers now all of a sudden. Bruce and Duke are training together by kicking trees which I believe is an improvement on subtlety for Bruce who was doing pull-ups on a skyscraper next to the helicopter pad during the first few pages of the issue. I mean, look...I'm a woman who digs Bruce/Batman very much so that piece of fanservice tickled my ovaries, don't get me wrong, but other than that why would Bruce Wayne even do something so exhibitionist which might only call to attention that he is Batman? My best guess is that it was done for the ladies because ladies read Batman comics too, and we totally would appreciate some shirtless superhero acrobatics thrown our way every now and then as we flip the pages. 

Now was there sarcasm laced within that appreciative statement of my gratitude on behalf of all women for Snyder and King (and Mike Janin most of all) who drew Bruce Wayne in tight black shorts as he hangs suspended on the skyscraper, all sexy perspiration and rippled muscles glistening under the golden sun? You will probably never know, nerds.

It just wouldn't be summer without a sexy Brucey hanging suspended thirty stories high of a skyscraper


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This Year's Month of April is all about the Bat!

It's a crying shame that I haven't read any Batman since Scott Snyder's run came to a recent close, nor reviewed any issue since August. I'm honestly out of touch with my DC comics, it's as if I've been lobotomized. I know I have tons of reading to catch up to, but I will not rush in a frenzied panic to get through everything new in Batland, of course, and will instead focus on one series for this month. I've been preoccupied with other real-life concerns, sadly, as well as other nerdy preoccupations. 

What could be more important than writing Batman reviews, you ask? Well, since August of last year I've been swept away with some roleplaying writing at Twitter for a certain fandom. I would not elaborate more on that, but let's just say it's been time consuming and creatively rewarding. However, I will always find time to devote myself on this Bat-blog (alongside Hellblazer: John Constantine and X-Men, of course). And so, for this coming month of April, I shall start reading and reviewing Tom King's issues for the current Batman run, DC's flagship series for the titular character in question. I must admit, it's a little disheartening to get into DC comics these days, mostly because I've grown attached to writers like Snyder and Tomasi and their respective runs so for a time I truly wasn't ready to close that chapter just yet. But it's been MONTHS, and I can now say with confidence that I'm freaking excited to sample what writer Tom King and artist David Finch has in store for all-new Batman! It's a crime to be slacking off with my Bat-duties at this point in time. Seven months of absence! I'm even a little ashamed to show my face here.

As I type this announcement, I believe King's run is on its 19th issue. Now I've recently just started posting new reviews again on my novels-centric blog Reademption Literature just midway this month, so it's going to take me some time to get used to the practice again of posting reviews at least twice a week. I'll find my momentum soon enough but be fairly warned that I'm going to approach King's issues with the eyes of someone who would do her darndest not to be too harsh with my criticisms. It's too early in the game to be bitter and nitpicky after all. I want to give Tom King and David Finch a fighting chance to please me as a Bat-fan because my foremost priority in embarking this journey once more is to enjoy myself and get entertained. Of course, anyone who has been following my reviews should know that I tend to get very emotional too about Batman (especially about DAMIAN FUCKING WAYNE) so I sure am hoping King can strike a chord in my heart and pluck it until it snaps. That's the goal! I mean, what's the point of reading and experiencing comics if it's only a casual thing, amirite? Wouldn't you rather read and weep?!

It's like saying you'll engage in a romantic, monogamous relationship with someone but not even bother to give it your all. That's what reading means to me, especially when it comes to my goddamn comics. You better believe that for the rest of summer, my attention will be focused primarily with Batman for April and Hellblazer for May.

But I digress. I want April to be all about Batman especially since the 24th of that month would be my own birthday so I hope I can cook up something special for myself and Batsy by that time. Unfortunately, I would be unavailable to post reviews for April 8-15 because I'd be backpacking around select parts of Asia in a one-week span. But hey now, I still have another week ahead to post a good six reviews at least. And so do look forward to my new 2017 reviews, fellow geeks! I can hopefully make them as colorful and insightful as possible while also try not to take things too seriously unless an issue holds enough emotional gravitas that I have to get a little melancholic about it which, history will show, I am more than prone to become when it comes to my Bats.

Here's to new beginnings for BATMAN COMICS GEEK! It's now on its fourth year, if you can believe it!