Saturday, May 31, 2014

[New 52] Batman by Scott Snyder issue #13

I first read the entire "return of the Joker" crossover event in the thicker collection that included all the tie-ins, and I was quite pleased about it. I, however, knew I missed out a couple of issues from Snyder's own line-up and that included this issue which picked up right after Batman's confrontation with the Court of Owls and the Talons that ended rather anti-climatically. The pacing of this story had a briskness to it that created enough tension and action that will make a reader definitely look forward for the next installment. But if you're an avid Batman fan like me, and the Joker is your most favorite villain, then the excitement is much more palpable for you already.

The issue opens with something akin to Shakespearean. It reminded me of the first few scenes in Julius Caesar where two non-supporters were discussing about the 'omens' of a dark reign to come and they blamed it all on Caesar's possible ascension as emperor of Rome.

In this case, a conversation between Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock sets up the tone and atmosphere for what's to come--including the bad weather and its nonstop downpour. Bullock mentions that a two-headed lion was born and other weird stuff, and they seem to be ominous signs which is something any Gothamite knows better than to take lightly.

AND THE JOKER SHOWS UP. DIM THE LIGHTS AND CUE THE MUSIC OF TERROR. The entire thing happened so fast that it takes too long for not just Gordon to react but also myself as a reader. The next few scenes were a daze of unpredictable deaths that are befitting of the Joker; the man always had this razor-sharp crackle of electricity--and you knew, just knew, that he will leave devastation on his path. His grand return to Gotham is particularly hard on everyone in the Bat-family but not exclusively so, because Jim Gordon is just as deeply affected (refer to The Killing Joke for this). But ever-confident Damian isn't worried because this is one Robin the Joker hasn't touched--yet.

Page after page, the Joker immediately plays mind games and massacre with a serious intent, with Batman getting closer and yet still managing to be one step behind. We see Harley Quinn in this issue, and even the Joker's number one fan and partner in crime is shaking her head, claiming he's not the same man she loved. So just when you think he's not dark enough, he unbelievably blackens that shade with a few more strokes and tricks up his sleeve. It all boils down to a cliffhanger that was rather chilling. It's frighteningly obvious that this Joker has no laughs to spare and more driven to slice his way through the innards. There may be small moments of blissful randomness in his ploys like the Clown Prince that he is, but something sinister has come back from the grave as well which seemed to make the Joker more of a precision instrument ready to cut right into the most sensitive nerve he could possibly find in Batman.

Getting back his torn-up face and sense of style, this Joker is on a personal mission; and he doesn't look like he's even half-joking anymore. Determined in his quest to repair Batman because he perceives him as getting soft, the Joker has orchestrated a masterpiece: to get rid of the very family that to him weakened Batman's resolve and purpose. 

And he knows exactly which one of Batman's family he's going to start with first...


* A promising start for a crazy ride ahead.

Friday, May 30, 2014

[Gotham] EW's exclusive interview with Bruno Heller

Entertainment Weekly asked Bruno Heller about his upcoming FOX series Gotham and the ideas and inspiration that will drive this show which he even proudly claimed will be visually superior to the Christopher Nolan movies themselves. 

He said some really interesting things during the interview and it has given us enough substantial tidbits on what to expect and watch out for. Heller did express some hesitation for the project when he remarks: "I don’t think Batman works very well on TV — to have people behind masks. Frankly, all those superhero stories I’ve seen, I always love them until they get into the costume. And then it’s, “Oh, okay, they’ve ascended, they’ve stopped becoming humans.” It’s their apotheosis. They go to heaven and they’re Superman. There have been so many great versions of it. This is a version of something else entirely." 

That said, the premise of the show would like to examine and fully explore the question, What if young James Gordon was the detective who investigated the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents? According to Heller, this will open up a refreshing and exciting line of storytelling pertaining to a world before Batman which could then provide us with an array of origin stories from both heroes and villains of Gotham City. To illustrate the creative process in the writing room for Gotham, Heller enlightens us with the basic rundown of how the show will expand its setting and characters: 

The first thing was starting with Jim Gordon, who is the most human and real and normal person in the DC pantheon. What would the city of Gotham look like to a young rookie cop coming into this world? And that’s where we calibrated. This is a world that’s going to become that familiar world of Batman, but it’s not there yet. It’s an embryo. A lot of the work was reverse engineering the story to look at what these characters were like when they younger. Penguin, for instance, is not a powerful gang leader, he’s a gofer for a gangster. It’s about giving the world room to grow, but at the same time giving the fun and pleasure and drama of that heightened world. One of the great things about the Batman world is [the characters] have no super powers. Nobody flies or leaps over buildings. You start with psychology and that’s where we build from.

So far, so good. It does seem like he wants to focus on character-driven narratives which might give his show a Lost-esque vibe if every episode is character-centric. It's a novel idea, personally. Heller also added that Gotham will be more of a serialized series than procedural which came as a surprise to me, considering this is network TV, but I suppose that should make the series standout from the other crime procedural. Another thing that would blows my mind is Heller's plan to bring in the Joker some time during the show (I wonder if it's by the middle or end of the first season), considering he did state that his favorite Batman comic book is Alan Moore's The Killing Joke.

In regards to people's tendency to compare the show with the Nolan movies, Heller has this to say:

The movies are a very rigorous, kind of Germanic take on that world. They’re visually stunning, but not particularly visually pleasurable. I would say this is much more on the street level of Gotham. There’s more people, it’s a more colorful place, it’s a more vivid place, it’s more crowded. The inspiration for me and Danny was New York in the ’70s, because we both remember that as a seminal moment, coming to the city for the first time. This is very much that kind of Gotham—intensely visual and three-dimensional and layered and gritty and dirty and sexy and dangerous.

I do appreciate that Heller plans to incorporate some color and life to Gotham and then deeply contrast that with the darkness and grime underneath. And though I'm largely a Gordon fan, I'm glad we also get Harvey Bullock, the 'other' detective of the original Batman stories. I'm quite the sucker for buddy cop dramas anyway and it would be interesting to see how Heller plans to develop and play out Gordon and Bullock on screen together; how their characters would react to each other and grow through one another. But aside from that dynamic, I very much look forward as to how they will handle the character of the young Bruce Wayne. From what I can discern, Gotham is strictly pre-Batman so we won't ever get to see him as the hero he will become but the process and motivation that will lead for him to one day take up the mask and costume. I'm very excited about this because I love Batman because of who he is underneath as well; that broken, traumatized child whose loved ones were taken away from him by a brutal, random crime. I wanted to see how the actor will play that angst on an intimate level. I want to see how his relationship with Jim Gordon is going to be, and yes, I'm excited to see their take on Alfred as well because he's always been the center that grounds Bruce growing up. On Bruce Wayne's character, Heller gives us this promise:

It’s not going to be young Bruce Wayne going out and saving the day, because that’s not what kids do. It’s about the strange education of this young man. He has a good idea of where he’s going early on. But it’s about the growth of this young man.

You can read the rest of the interview HERE.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin: "Born to Kill" by Peter J. Tomasi volume 1

I spent the last two weeks reading and individually reviewing the eight issues that composed this magnificent first volume. It had been an amazing journey for me to examine and discuss the character arc progress between Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his son Damian (Robin) which is the most important thing that writer Peter J. Tomasi himself emphasized throughout the issues. As for the villain NoBody, he explained in an afterword (his very own story proposal that he submitted to the company) that it was just the 'B' story that adds a dimension to what he wanted to achieve in the story, and that the emotional spine and theme of the first volume relies heavily on nature versus nurture, particularly on how Batman and Robin must learn to build a relationship based on trust, love and respect even if external forces would get in the way every once in a while, especially with a vocation like crime-fighting.

Damian is born and raised a killer. His mother Talia al Ghul and the rest of the League of Assassins had tempered his steel into something sharp and deadly. Bruce knew that his absence in the most formative years of his son's life has already been detrimental, and in the span of these issues, he tries everything to ensure that Damian walks the right path and not give in to the darkness that his natural instincts are much more attuned with. I really enjoyed reading Tomasi's proposal for the Batman and Robin line-up because it showed that he understands the direction he's heading and how to get there the best way possible. This collected edition also included an excerpt of the issue #7 script, and a gallery filled with artist Patrick Gleason's character sketches of Damian and some panel layouts.

Going back to the proposal, I would like to quote some of its insightful passages that I believe captured the essence of the first arc Born to Kill:

"Bruce sees Damian as a broken boy and is on a mission to fix him. Damian, on the other hand, only wants to be accepted by his father for who and what he is; he doesn't want to be looked at as some science project that needs to be modified."
"As Bruce wrestles with what it means to be a father in uniform and out, Damian is wrestling with himself too, using all his willpower to keep his natural instincts and inclinations at bay, trying his best to be the son his father wants him to be, but finding himself failing and not knowing who to turn to, especially when he starts to see Bruce as less of a fantasy father figure and more of a fallible human being. For Damian, it was easy to look up to Bruce when he was gone, but now that his father's back, Damian's finding it was simpler to love and respect the legend more than the man himself."

I think it's worth mentioning that there is an old continuity reference in Tomasi's writing though it was only implied. There was a time before when Bruce Wayne died and so Dick Grayson (former first Robin and now Nightwing) had to take over so he became the new Batman while he assigned Damian as his Robin. I wanted to point that out since there was a scene in one of the issues here where Damian (first issue and some other one) talked about the fact that Dick trusted him but Bruce can't do the same thing. In case you feel like that was a baffling thing to say, then that's the short backstory that should sufficiently cover it.

I can honestly say that this is my most favorite volume from the New 52 Batman titles yet, even surpassing the more riveting plot and suspense created in Scott Snyder's The Court of Owls. I'm a sucker for character-driven stories and exploration of character dynamics more than anything else in fiction so Tomasi's work for the first volume of Batman and Robin truly spoke to me. I'll be reading the next issues individually again very soon (as well as the collected second volume Pearl), but for now I'm picking up the Batman issues for Death of the Family and reviewing them separately. I've already read and reviewed the crossover/tie-ins edition of this story arc before, but I think Snyder's collected third volume edition is more compact and a better anthology than that one.


* Meaningful and emotionally resonant, the first volume humanizes Batman as a father and elevates Damian as a formidable Robin.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

[New 52] Batman by Scott Snyder issue #12

This issue of Batman might as well be read as a self-contained story and nothing else. Numbered right after the Owls saga, I wasn't really sure why Synder wrote this piece in, except to introduce Harper Row into the Batverse since she will eventually play a more prominent role later in the series. Nevertheless, this was actually a nice break from the Owls storyline (whose second arc I wasn't completely sold with, as I've expressed before in my official review).

I was instantly endeared with Harper Row in this issue because Snyder definitely cared about her as a character and it shows with the way he portrayed her. A young girl living in the fringes of society with a younger gay brother, Harper is independent-minded and very protective of her only family especially from the harsh realities of a city like Gotham. What I enjoyed most about this issue is the quality in which Snyder wrote Harper's inner monologues, particularly on her thoughts about why she chose to become an electrical engineer and why it meant so much to her to be the one who fixes the electrical grid of the city, which has some level of sheer poetry to them:

"Gotham's electrical grid is nearly a hundred years old...It's old and rickety. It shouldn't work anymore. That's the thing. But if you take the time to fix this and that, put a little spit and elbow grease into it, the grid endures. And the light stays on...I look at the lights in the windows of the bodega, or the street lamps on my block...And I think, if that old piece of junk can keep going, then so can you."

At this point, I was already fond of Harper. Her devotion to her brother is another thing that would really make you warm up to her as well. Another charming characterization that Snyder utilized is one that made me think about Doctor Who and how the companions usually respond to the Doctor when they cross paths with him. And this is exactly what happens to Harper. She was taken quite easily with the Dark Knight; after all he rescues her and her brother from some neighborhood bullies and even looks cool doing it. Those three set of panels where Harper's expression turned from surprise to pure bliss as she watched Batman disappear into the night might just be how I will react if I was part of the DC universe and I got the chance to see Batman myself. Naturally, she tries to know more about Batman, and discovers something about one of his operational utility which has something to do coincidentally with Gotham's electric grid.

Harper wants to show gratitude so she tries to aid Batman with the best way she can as he fights crimes in the streets. I don't want to spoil exactly what that is so you'll still have an incentive to read this issue yourself but I can feel Harper's excitement upon stumbling on this very lucky discovery. Her heart grew extra sizes just knowing about it, that's for sure. I know mine would! But underneath the layer of initial and unsurprising fangirl-ing that Harper displays for Batman is also a genuine and slightly desperate way of a young girl trying to connect with someone who is larger than life, hoping it will make her life exciting just by standing close to that light. For the first time in her life, she has someone to believe in and aspire to. From here on, I get Harper because I know her. I have been her before and in some ways, I still am--especially with Batman.

Ghost in the Machine is a great story all by itself. It was an effective and earnest introduction to a new character who will have a role to play in the coming issues someday.


* Rated high because of how much it appealed to me emotionally.

[GOTHAM] Thoughts on trailer and what's to come

This year's fall is going to be an incredibly geekgasmic experience for me. In the UK, Doctor Who Series 8 will premiere on August while American television is offering three new shows based on comic books. The CW's Arrow just ended with a phenomenal finale for its second season so in the meantime we are left anticipating for their other adaptation, The Flash, whose actor/character has previously made recurring appearances in Arrow already. On the other hand, NBC offers Constantine which was made into a Hollywood film a few years ago starring Keannu Reeves, but hardcore Hellblazer comics fans (like me) are pleased because it seems like this time around, the lead actor actually looks the part and has that sexy accent and wears the trademark beige trench coat. Let's hope that upcoming actor Matt Ryan will deliver the goods and not just the looks.

I'm equally excited for all these three shows but nothing makes my heart's tiny, sensitive veins explode within themselves than Fox's Gotham which will be set in a pre-Batman era with Jim Gordon as the lead character (before he became our beloved Commissioner) and played by former teen-show headliner Ben McKenzie (The O.C), whom I've always believed is a fine actor so Gotham might just be the breakout role he needs to launch a more successful and prominent career. Judging by the trailer (which I viewed multiple times in a span of a week since it came out), Bruno Heller (creator of my favorite shows Rome and The Mentalist) might just bring to our screens the same atmospheric moodiness and grittiness that Snyder has characterized Gotham with in his New 52 Batman line-up. I definitely want Gotham City to be a character of its own, teeming with madness and lush with madmen and rotten eggs, and perhaps this show might just give me that. I'm withholding higher expectations, of course, but I still have faith that it would be tremendously gratifying because I'm a fan of both Heller and McKenzie already, and I'm so excited to see how they will bring out Gotham in television, as head writer and lead actor respectively. So far, the trailer looks promising. McKenzie looks appropriately surly but I certainly want to see the heart and soul that define James Gordon. I look forward to the youngsters who play Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and Pamela Isley and their performances, and I do like that they included the sane versions of Edward Nigma and Oswald Cobblepot for good measure. The transformation for every villain should be explored deftly since Batman has one of the best rogues gallery in comics and each of them is a darker reflection of what he could have been. Also, there really is something about Gotham that brings the worst from its people. I hope Heller will capture that gloom and appeal in his adaptation. 

Now I want to review each episode here in my blog because anything Batman is automatically important to me and the top of my list. I can't, JUST CAN'T, wait to get started on this. So here's to new beginnings! <3

[New 52] The City of Owls by Scott Snyder volume 2

I first read and reviewed the hardcover edition The Night of the Owls which included the tie-ins from other crossover titles. I came back to this compact collection next since issues 10 and 11 were not included in Night edition at all which was baffling in itself since those are the issues that ended the second arc of the Owls storyline, and wouldn't it be relevant to include them alongside the tie-ins as well? But I digress.

Right off the bat, I was a massive fan of Snyder-Capullo's first volume The Court of Owls because I really enjoyed the way they distinguished Gotham City as a character of its own and not just a setting. I pointed out in my review that the collaborative efforts put in and expressed through Synder's prose and Capullo's illustrations have given the city's well-established atmospheric moodiness a new kind of appeal and gravitas that reeled me in completely. I also think that it was an undeniably great set-up in introducing the Court of Owls to the story, making them so creepily ominous that by the first volume alone, the Owls (and the Talons) could already be considered a formidable addition to the rogues gallery. I also believe that The Court of Owls is one of the new-reader-friendly comic books from DC's New 52; even the most casual Batman reader who may only be familiar with the Nolan movies can get into Synder's writing pretty easily, so this is most commendable.

That said, the sophomore follow-up The City of Owls leaves much to be desired. I've expressed my problem with the second arc of the Owl storyline in my review of The Night of Owls before and I still stand by it. It may include spoilers so I advise not to read the rest of this review then. But for those who have read it and might share the same complaints, here is a direct quote from my previous review:

"The direction of the Owl saga sacking the Gotham City like that was irresponsible and reckless, considering they had operated in the background and subtly at that for decades so I don't really understand why they choose to come to the light after all that hard work. Because they feel Batman is a bigger threat? Perhaps. But the logistics just don't add up. Here is a powerful and historical figure that had been integrated into Gotham City's very foundations and they managed to survive this long because of anonymity. And yet they come out with a force in order to eliminate important people in the city which they could have done easily through the manipulations and control they took pride in. No need for bloodshed, that's what I believe. I think we should all be able to acknowledge how absurd the Owl saga became when Synder decided to play his hand too loosely, essentially undermining the Court's supposedly intimate influence in the process. It had certainly dulled the sharp edge of their intrigue as well."

Those are my sentiments pertaining to Synder's creative decision for this second arc. I felt like the first volume had a remarkably solid foundation that the second volume managed to--I won't say 'undo'--but at least made slightly ineffectual by bringing out the Talons in a very public manner (possibly caused by executive meddling for the sake of a crossover event that would sell more issues?) which sort of cheapens the supposed secrecy and intrigue surrounding the Owl as a centuries-old organization. I'm honestly getting worried about DC's marketing style these days with their New 52 especially with the Batman titles. Another example is The Joker: Death of the Family, yet another crossover event with multiple tie-ins. I reviewed that collection as well and will be reviewing the more compact and commendable third volume of Snyder's Batman soon. I guess my qualms are directed at this annoyance because it certainly feels like Snyder has to adjust his artistic choices in storytelling to keep up with whatever DC feels would benefit their sales more which usually entails crossover after crossover and irrelevant tie-ins in the mix. It's starting to seriously irritate me. I take my Batman very seriously that way.

Nevertheless, let's get back to this second volume's better strengths such as the additional stories The Fall of the House Wayne and Batman Annual 1. They are supplements that were thoroughly enjoyable. I plan to come back to this review and include other links once I finished reviewing these two stories separately next week. Same goes for issue #12 Ghost in the Machine. I wanted to ensure that I'm not missing anything when I read Batman. Besides, why would I even deprive myself more stellar opportunities to talk about Batman?

I didn't mean to make this review some sort of letter that airs out my grievances pertaining to DC's crossover/tie-ins gimmick. I understand that the practice enables them to sell more issues but if the cost would be sacrificing the quality of the stories themselves then I just think they should allow their writers and artists to thrive in their respective titles and stop demanding them to correlate and intersect storylines. Am I overreacting to this or what? I mean, isn't the entire point of the Crisis Saga, that memorable colossal reboot in the eighties, to get rid of the multiple worlds that DC has created over the decades so we're left with a singular plane of reality? So why feel the need to overlap all Batman titles with crossovers when in the grand scheme of things, they actually do not help new readers themselves appreciate the comics medium? I'm relatively new to the game as well and even my patience and love for complex storylines are being tested by DC's insistence to make New 52 Batman more convoluted than it's supposed to be.

Whether or not my sentiments are valid, I'm just glad to get them off my chest. Perhaps Synder would have made the second arc stay true to his original vision from the first volume if DC didn't decide to make him expand his storyline in order for other writers to weave their own subplots. I apologize that you have to read through this crap when this was supposed to be a substantial review for The City of Owls but all these things I typed above are the feelings I experienced while reading this particular volume in the first place. Nevertheless, if you take the crossover tie-ins out of the equation and we are left with this volume alone, then it's actually quite satisfactory. Feel free to read the tie-ins in The Night of the Owls yourself for posterity's sake if you want.


*A gorgeous art style and highly definitive action sequences might be enough to distract you from the questionable aspects of the narrative. Still, a great follow-up.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #8

"Damian, what have you done?"

"What I had to do....what I needed to do...for you, father."

The NoBody storyline comes to a full stop here in the eighth issue fittingly entitled Black Dawn. If you have been following my reviews of the first seven issues of Tomasi-Gleason's Batman and Robin for the New 52 line-up then you might have gotten spoiled already (that is of course if you decided to read everything I've posted in spite of the spoilers warning stated).

This final issue was the resolution of the entire NoBody arc, and I think that, as a whole, it was more than a satisfying symphony of remarkable notes that were consistently delivered in character drama and plot suspense. Tomasi's writing and Gleason's illustrations were able to cultivate the much needed thematic resonance since they began this exciting collaboration, emphasizing the discordant pieces that don't fit just yet, but all the while preparing us yet still taking us by surprise when that gradual crescendo comes to its grand finish.


The last issue ended with Damian thrusting his two fingers right into NoBody's forehead which instantly killed him. Morgan himself explained in issue 6 that the cranium tissue is particularly delicate in that position. With the right amount of pressure, you can incapacitate someone or end them for good. Damian leaned on the latter which is a crucial moment for all of us. It was awful, just awful, for Batman to witness his ten-year-old son finally give in to his killer instincts; a boy who was hidden from him for years by his own ex-girlfriend and only to be trained as a top-notch assassin. It was awful because Bruce wanted something more for Damian than a life of violence and cruelty which is why he became his Robin. He wanted to make sure Damian applies the same kind of noble direction and restraint that he does when it comes to confronting and eradicating the evils of the world.

And yet in that moment, Damian kills NoBody and not because he wants to prove a point by blatantly disregarding his father's moral code; it was simply because he wanted to be pragmatic about the whole thing. If NoBody lives, he will continue to haunt them. Damian placed himself in a position that Batman would not take, and consequentially carry that tremendous amount of burden for the rest of his crime-fighting career.

If Bruce knew just how far Damian is willing to go to protect his father, then he would have chosen to stain his own hands with blood. But now he knows perfectly well that his son is a lot more driven to do whatever it takes for the people he loves.

The cover from the previous issue was again misleading. It featured Batman with his mask falling off and pushing a blade into NoBody. And then we discover in a full-paged panel that Damian kills NoBody just to end the cycle from repeating again. It was harrowing and yet a true necessity; one option that not even Bruce Wayne himself as Batman is strong enough to choose every once in a while for truly heinous scum out there. The fact that Damian can and will choose that option only means that the next stories that come after will be something to look forward to indeed. Here we have a Robin whose ferocious loyalty and ability to make hard decisions will greatly contrast and complement Batman. I don't know about you, but this makes me so happy!

In the last moments of the issue, we get this heartfelt exchange from father and son that truly captured the significance of the moment they have survived together:

I can't express just how much this broke me apart. Bruce still clings to his ideals but also finally has an honest conversation with Damian as to why it matters that they should not take lives of the bad men they are faced with every day. And Damian finally admits how much he idolized his father and how much he wanted to follow his father's footsteps and probably fill in his shoes someday. That to me is a promise of brighter things to come for these two unlikely partners. And then we get this panel:

So I'm crying forever, thanks.

I would like to tirelessly commend Tomasi and Gleason for what they have achieved in the first eight issues of Batman and Robin. It's a great work of art in general, and an engrossing emotional read. I can't wait to read more about Damian as Robin. This is a strong beginning. Let's keep it up!


[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #7

"You try to murder my son and you EXPECT TO LIVE?!"

HOLY HELL! If people have been complaining about the lack of substantial action in the previous Batman and Robin issues (which I consider secondary only to the father-son character arc but that's my prerogative) then issue #7 Driven should shut them the hell up. This is worth all the anticipation in the world.

Artist Patrick Gleason is at the top of his game here; each panel sequence is rendered with a vicious style, pulsating with vigor and energy all throughout as it showcases the final confrontation between Batman and NoBody. Everything is just teeming with an ash-and-blood color palette that it's a real treat to the eyes. The scope of this issue would make a rather scintillating animated succession if it was in a cinematic medium. It certainly accomplished that certain vibe and feel to it. This is an explosion of color and fireworks that readers may have been looking forward to since Tomasi-Gleason has started this story, and it was definitely satisfactory.


The fight scenes also featured dialogue exchanges between Bruce and Morgan as the latter bemoans Bruce's personal crimes against him. It's worth noting that Morgan may be the reflection of what Damian could have been if he lacked constant and loving fatherly support. Morgan's motivation to take revenge on Bruce is quite pitiful. He blames Bruce for the loss of his own father's respect for him when the truth is Henri Ducard is not a role model any son should look up. Bruce makes a point to drive home the truth that Morgan is a nobody; an outcast who chose to embrace his anonymity and despair by failing to conquer them; and that Bruce is a somebody that will stop him from shedding more bloodshed.

After a few great pages of action, and with an unmasked Batman now holding down Morgan into the acidic container, he briefly catches the eye of his ten-year-old son who was bleeding and scared in the corner. Bruce would have killed Morgan right there and now but it was Damian's dazed expression that made him reconsider and remember his promise never to take a human life. In the grand scheme of things, Bruce knows what matters is that Damian is out of harm's way, and so he takes out Morgan and decides to tie him up in chains instead as he looked for a means of escape from the crumbling place. Bruce was preoccupied so he had his back turned away from Damian and Morgan. And an ominous exchange happens at that moment:

The issue ends with a punch to the gut. Damian Wayne has done the unthinkable and he didn't even have a moral discussion about it with his father. Remember what I said in my review for the previous issue of how awful it would have been for Bruce if he ever witnessed his son kill someone? Well...we all just became privy to that and I don't think that even I was the same person I was when I started reading Tomasi's Batman and Robin. It's that grueling and emotionally magnetic.



[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #6

Let me just say first and foremost that the cover is breathtaking though misleading. There wasn't going to be an all-out battle between father and son but I understand the need to feature that cover, considering the circumstances we were left with the last issue. I can honestly say that the first two issues that were released monthly may have a slow pace to them especially if you're an avid reader who follows other more action-oriented titles. But I would like to state for the record that Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin is one of the best ones I've encountered in the New 52 line-up so far!

I think Tomasi was bold and wise enough to craft each issue with layered characterization as the major focal point as oppose to the action and suspense that is of secondary presence in his issues. Being able to create drama and sympathy between and for his two leads is something I need to applaud him for. The Real Me is an issue that completely blew me away because I did not expect that at all. I'd like to warn everyone not to proceed anymore if you haven't read this yet since I'll be discussing the climax that comes after all that build-up in the last five issues. It's surely obvious by now that I love, love, LOVE the conflict between father and son and I'm pleased that Tomasi gave me more than I can handle. My heartstrings have been tugged along each issue and The Real Me was no exception.


In the final scene of the last issue, we were left with NoBody giving Robin a gun and urging him to shoot the criminal scum they have at their mercy. Robin pushes the barrel on the guy's forehead and after a few more dialogue exchange with NoBody in which he insists that Robin proves himself to be an ally, the boy wonder pulls the trigger without a moment's hesitation. That willingness to kill criminals is everything Batman stands against and Robin crossed that line so easily that it was disheartening for me; and it was fortunate that Batman didn't get to witness it. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AWFUL!

HOWEVER, the gun was empty since NoBody just really wanted to see if Robin will pull the trigger. So they decided to merely incapacitate the criminal and take him to a remote location somewhere. Meanwhile, Batman continues to search the Gotham streets and the story of how he came across and worked with the Ducard father and son. The flashback sequence was great; seeing Henri Ducard favor Bruce over his own son Morgan provided additional insight as to why there is a seething rivalry between the now-NoBody Morgan and Batman, though it seems to be more of a pressing issue on the former's end. I won't go into further details about this backstory since it only serves as a way for Batman to explain to his son Damian why he's not always honest about certain things in his past. But the bottom line is that Bruce beat up Morgan pretty badly that when he dropped off Morgan to his father, Henri could not even accept his son back because Morgan's defeat is a weakness he could never forgive. It seems like this is a personal vengeance for NoBody then. Bruce made him lose the respect of his father and so now he is going to ensure Bruce is going to lose his son in more ways than one. A fitting quid pro quo, sure.

The last few scenes show NoBody actually dropping the criminals he catches into a large container filled with acid--and surprisingly, Damian protests about this unusual punishment. They had a brief altercation and it was then that we found out that Damian has activated a button in his costume which allows his location to be tracked down. NoBody has noticed this before their fight and he angrily proceeds to reprimand Damian brutally for playing him for a fool. Damian iterates that his issues with his father were real but he used that angle to make NoBody believe that he has turned coat due to that because Damian planned all along to get close enough to NoBody and deal with him himself. Batman had no idea about that and neither did us readers. NoBody then questions him about almost shooting the criminal point-blank with a gun earlier to which Damian explains that he knew the gun had no bullets because of the weight. NoBody then asked why Damian would betray him like this, after promising him the freedom and honesty that Batman/Bruce can't even give him.

And Damian simply states that Batman is his father. In spite of their differences and no matter how difficult it has been to form a bond with him, Damian as Robin and as his son won't just turn his back away like that just because his feelings were neglected. I don't know about the other readers but I was truly duped the entire time. I really thought Damian betrayed his father. Tomasi set up his character with a darker edge that it took me no convincing whatsoever to believe Damian would switch sides just because he was raised and bred to be a killer, and because he is stubborn and bitter about the way Bruce dismisses him in the last five issues. AND I WAS PROVEN WRONG, and it hurt me so much because I can't believe I even doubted Damian.

AND I ALSO COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT DAMIAN IS FIERCELY DEVOTED TO BRUCE/BATMAN ALL THIS TIME even if it feels like the hardest thing to do especially since this is Bruce Wayne we're talking about. He's not exactly an easy man to love because he hasn't allowed people to come any closer, including his own son Damian. And that's why it actually feels understandable for Damian to seek approval and honesty from somewhere else, even if it's from a villainous bastard like NoBody. BUT I SHOULD HAVE HAD MORE FAITH. I thought that just because I know who Damian is and what he's capable of, it doesn't mean that I know HOW HE REALLY FEELS INSIDE, and that he intrinsically loves his estranged father even if theirs is the most imperfect and tragic relationship. EVER!

Bloody hell, even Batman is in for a surprise when NoBody communicates with him and asks him to listen as he breaks particular parts of Damian's body. And Batman is fucking pissed! He has lost his cool in those last panels and is now screaming for blood. Oh-oh.


* I'm reserving the perfect rating for the last two issues.

Monday, May 26, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #5

"Not knowing where you are but knowing who you're with is painful and frustrating."

Repercussions are now fully realized in this issue as Batman searches for his lost Robin. In his pursuit across Gotham, Bruce Wayne makes a recorded conversation addressing his son Damian, and in which he divulges the story on how he met Henri Ducard and his son Morgan (who is also the villain NoBody). Meanwhile, Damian teams up with NoBody and infiltrates an embassy where its ambassador profits from human trafficking. Here NoBody offers him the choice of getting away from under the shadow of Batman for good--even if it means by fire and blood. But will he take it?

The issue starts with brisk elegance. Bruce finds a piece of paper on his parents' grave site. It was a note from Damian that simply says: I had to leave. The lie is over. Alfred then shows him the sketches that Damian has been drawing in the last few weeks; pictures of mutilated bodies and other sorts of macabre that underlies the pain of a neglected and high-strung child. Bruce immediately leaves to look for him, all the while making a rather emotionally stirring recording of all the things he should have said and done that might have prevented Damian from leaving him. Reading those panels almost made me tear up. Bruce himself is emotionally crippled with all the losses and moral obligations he had to deal with; and being Batman might just cost him his one shot of having a family again.

A searing question then prevails from Bruce's litany: "Why would you step into the darkness so fast?" It's a question that drives right into the heart of things, whether there's a direct answer or not. Bruce expects Damian to choose the light like he had done after a tragedy has befallen him as a child before, but I think he is slowly coming to terms that Damian's wounds go deeper than what he has seen so far. Bruce's absence in his life growing up is just as harmful as Talia's choice to raise him to be a killer. This is the tragedy that marks Damian Wayne.

In just a span of a few issues, Tomasi has presented us a well-paced and earnest narrative that examined a most intriguing and highly volatile relationship. Suddenly, this isn't just about Batman trying to impose his set of standards and legacy into the reluctant shoulders of a relatively inexperienced sidekick. This is now more about a father who needs to fight for his child's soul or lose him forever to the evils he sought to eradicate in the first place. Gleason's artwork has haunting angles as well which only serve to emphasize the sadness that the panels are dripping in.

This issue not just explores Bruce's torn feelings but also Damian's quiet rage. During a conversation with NoBody, he asked if Damian is prepared to make his father an enemy and to which Damian replies coldly: "He already is an enemy. Pennyworth's [Alfred] been more of a father--at least he hasn't dropped in and out of my life expecting me to be some Bruce Wayne replica that supposed to think, act and breathe just like he does every second of the day." This is a notable piece of dialogue. It highlights Damian's perception of Alfred whom he does have quite a bit of affection for because the butler seems to be the only one who recognizes how lonely he is; and Damian might also be unconsciously referring to his upbringing. His mother Talia groomed him to be an heir to the al Ghul empire. His father expects him to be a hero like he is as Batman. And he detested both of his parents' self-centered intentions. It's not at all surprising then for him to step into that darkness that fast when there is nothing else on the other side that's worth clinging onto.

Issue #5 Mutineer has great layers to its narrative and characterization, most especially on Damian Wayne. This is truly an emotional story that is worth the monthly wait.


[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #4

The daily installment reviews that I provide for Tomasi/Gleason's Batman and Robin must seem like tedious work to the uninterested observer, but I think this is the most fun I had in weeks! If it's not official by now, I should state for the record again that Batman is very important to me because he is my childhood hero, and more often than not, comic books that depict him in ways that really speak to me deeply are always a welcome treat. So far, Tomasi's writings for the dynamics between Batman and the fourth Robin who is also his estranged son Damian have been highly engrossing for me in a personal level. This issue showcases why.

Here in Matter of Trust is where things have finally progressed. NoBody abducted father and son last issue and is now imparting an fittingly antagonistic soliloquy pertaining to Batman's moral code: his refusal to kill the psychopaths and murderers he had encountered throughout his crime-fighting career. NoBody blames Batman for this weakness, accusing him of adhering to a moral standard that is not viable when you put it in a more realistic perspective. While locked in this philosophical discussion, NoBody proceeds to systematically beat up Batman in front of Damian whose dormant feelings for his father finally begin to reach the surface. This is probably the first time Damian shows that he feared for his father's life at that moment and this might be NoBody's other agenda. While reading this, I definitely get the sense that NoBody sees something in Damian that he could use against Batman, and I believe it as well.

Batman and Robin do manage to make their escape afterwards and Gleason was able to provide us a brief yet still thrilling sequence of explosions across the next pages. The real conflict has only began, however, when Bruce and Damian get to argue over the former's reluctance to trust his son with pertinent information and the latter's bullheadedness and lack of faith in his father's choices. I completely understand the validity in both sides. Bruce wanted to teach his son good values and follow his example but fails to recognize that Damian has to make these choices independently; and that the only way for him to embrace Bruce as his father is if Bruce displays genuine affection for the boy. Damian, on the other hand, has a misguided hero-worship for his father whom he had spent a decade of his life fantasizing so he finds it almost unthinkable to reconcile that Bruce is a man who makes mistakes and may occasionally take his feelings for granted.

It's a rather maddening push-and-pull dynamic, with both parties insisting one has more superior claims and complaints over the other. Alfred listens to this dialogue in silence and it was only when Damian walks out of the Batcave that the butler shares his insights:

The last scene was truly heartbreaking for me. Damian stands over his grandparents' grave and airs out his grievances. He catches a firefly, holds it between his fingers and crushes the light in its tail. He has never looked so young and lost the way he did at that moment and it was in this vulnerable state that NoBody appears at an opportune time and promises Damian the honesty and freedom that his father is never able to give him so far. Damian didn't have to say anything. He merely crushed what was left of the firefly earlier and that already speaks volumes to his choice.

I am definitely excited to see what happens now. Bruce's insistence to keep his son at arm's length in blind belief it will guarantee his safety and teach him restraint and discipline will now completely backfire because Damian is also his mother's son, and there is more darkness to him than neither Bruce or us readers would care to admit. And he's going to show us just how deep that abyss goes...


I plan to save the perfect rating for now. I'm giving props for all those great dialogue exchanges between Batman and NoBody, Bruce and Damian, Bruce and Alfred and Damian and NoBody

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #3

Now this is more like it! I criticized the last issue for being too brief without being able to create enough action and suspense within the limited scope of pages--so I suppose Tomasi finally took the reins and went ahead with that expectation from the readers, providing us with a much needed sense of urgency and fatality for the third installment, Knightmoves.

It must be said that so far his Batman and Robin series truly feels like a personal examination in a character-centered level; even the plot surrounding the new villain NoBody serves as a commentary on the intense and contradictory dynamics between Bruce and his son, the stubborn-for-his-own-damn-good Damian. I really enjoyed the interplay going back and forth among these three characters during this issue. Damian's ferocious need to prove that he is his own brand of vigilante is becoming dangerous for his father who built a reputation and curtailed a legacy that he hopes one day Damian can emulate and embrace. But since NoBody has expressed his intention of annihilating Batman, Bruce had to forbid his son to go out in patrols, much to the eager former little assassin's chagrin.

His scenes with Alfred as they played chess were delightful, particularly since Alfred understands that underneath all the bravado and excess, Damian is just a boy looking for adult guidance, and his closest kin can't decide whether or not he should be a father first and his crime-fighting partner second, or the other way around. I don't think Bruce could ever decide with finality on this one, because I believe being in the vigilante business means there is always more chaos and each situation would require a unique way of responding to it. In some cases, he should be a father first; in others he must put aside personal affinities and be Batman. It's a complicated arrangement and the key to handling it is to deal with it together but for now, both father and son have yet to form that kind of bond.

I would also like to point out that there is this streak of malice that naturally shows in Damian with his every decision and movement. Determined not to be undermined by his father, Damian decides to go patrolling on his own and ends up beating thugs almost to their deaths. During this crucial scene, his display of anger made me worried. It's obvious that the boy is misguided. NoBody witnesses this and acknowledges that there is more darkness to the boy that neither Bruce or Alfred can truly understand. In a climactic confrontation, NoBody captured both Batman and Robin and took them to a remote location. This feels like a beginning of a psychological torture that would definitely put the father and son's loyalty to each other to a test. NoBody has finally found a weakness and he will be relentless in exploiting it. What makes it frightening is that Damian might just give in because it is apparent even to the readers that this is a boy maltreated in so many ways that going full-on murderous seems to be his default.

I'm not saying he has no morals; clearly when NoBody taunted him to kill the thugs earlier, he held his ground and refused to finish them. But NoBody was still right when he points out that Damian does wish to completely give in to his killer instincts and the only thing that holds him back is his father. Whether he admits it or not, Damian does want to gain Bruce's approval and confidence but that seems to put a strain on him because he was born and raised to kill--and perhaps that nagging impulse is a lot stronger than his desire to create a meaningful connection with his estranged father.

Another moment I appreciated is the fact that in the last issue, Bruce bought a pet dog and quite awkwardly imposed that Damian names it because it's his pet now. Damian, understandably, rejects the dog because he had never seen himself being a normal kid who would like to take care of animals. It's just another way for Bruce to make him do something that goes against his natural instincts; and this is why Damian keeps pulling away no matter how much he wants to be reeled in by his father's noble intentions and well-meant gestures. Alfred is privy to all of these moments, and I sort of feel sorry for the butler because I can see that he wanted to smack both of them sometimes but would not overstep his role.

So I really liked this issue because the drama and action have finally escalated and it promises that the next issue will be a better one in terms of exposition and plot development.


[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #2

"There's a part of Damian that's broken, and it's my job--my responsibility--to fix him." 

"It's your job to be a father, not a mechanic, Master Bruce."

This piece of dialogue essentially encapsulates Tomasi's writing of Bruce and Damian Wayne not only as Batman and Robin but also as father and son. I'm quite pleased that he's taking the time to develop this relationship alongside the plot for his series which is finally beginning to take shape in this issue, Bad Blood.

Remember that first scenes in the first issue that made no sense unless you're familiar with Grant Morrison's Batman Inc.? Well, I suppose I need to do a short background now. Basically, Bruce Wayne decided to expand or 'franchise' his mask and costume into a network that aims to recruit crime fighters across the globe who will work under his name, hence Batman Incorporated. One of the several projects is the man-bat army which you should keep in mind because that's awesome and you will see more of it pretty soon in other Batman titles. Now the villain who appears in the first issue is called 'Nobody' who seemed to be targeting and murdering Wayne-financed crusaders. Said villain confronts Bruce Wayne while they're both out of their costumes and it's pretty hilarious that he just laid out his plans to destroy everything Batman stands for during a sunny afternoon with children running around, playing. I wasn't entirely convinced that I'm supposed to take this guy seriously (especially since he reminds me of Morpheus from The Matrix) but hopefully my first impression will be just that.

Gleason's art for this issue looks great but the landscape details seem to be lacking. More often than not, I'm not even sure where we're supposed to be. That's not my only critique for this issue. The part that bugs me the most is the length it took for me to finish it without being completely engrossed (unless of course I focus all my attention on the father-son tension). It seems to me that Tomasi might be taking his time in a unremarkable pace that could lose a reader's interest. However, I do enjoy how contradictory Bruce Wayne's motivation and treatment when it comes to Damian. He considers it an obligation to repair him somehow, to which Alfred iterates that being a parent means so much more than doing that. But in spite of Bruce expressing such a sentiment, he is being realistic about it as well. He knows Damian will never have another life aside from a violence-ridden one, so his goal really is to at least curb the boy's impulses and turn it into something meaningful and noble, hence the crime-fighting. But is that enough?

And though his heart is in the right place, Bruce neglects the simplest of parent-child interactions which is to tell your son you're proud of him. Alfred pointed this out quickly which seemed to only baffle Bruce. To him, acknowledging his son's performance as 'commendable' is the best fatherly compliment he could give. There's this interesting set of panels in the middle where Damian kills a bat from the cave and throws the carcass away, all the while Alfred watches from the shadows with a worried look on his face. I interpreted that scene as an indication of the widening chasm between Bruce and Damian and how neither of them can entirely accept each other underneath the mask. Damian doesn't seem at all that dismissive towards his father as much as he likes to project; I believe he certainly wants to feel something more than fleeting admiration for a man who is the legendary Dark Knight and I think this creates the tension and complicates their interactions.

In that sense, this issue did a fantastic job adding another dimension to the dynamic (with Alfred as another way for readers to look at the relationship in a different perspective), but it wasn't one that I would consider a solid installment by itself in its entirety. It's too short and lacked the action and suspense which I felt the zero issue was able to emulate before. But I still have high hopes that Tomasi and Gleason will deliver in the next ones.


*I'm giving it some credit for the Bruce-Damian-Alfred angle

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #1

Picking up from where the zero issue ended, Born to Kill starts with an action sequence that would confuse readers who might not be familiar with Batman Inc. The most important thing to remember if you ever decide to pick up New 52's Batman and Robin line-up is that two writers are working different angles for Batman and the new Robin Damian Wayne in their respective titles: Tomasi with this title and Grant Morrison for the aforementioned series. New 52 relaunched Batman Inc alongside this project but they could be read separately even if there are certain events that tend to overlap.

The beginning sequence for Born to Kill isn't necessarily consequential or have any correlation with the events in New 52's Batman Inc just yet but I believe it will eventually go down that path once the gears have shifted focus. So for now let's talk about this issue. Here Bruce Wayne had just taken Damian from Talia's hands. The boy has been trained for a decade to become the best assassin the world has known so far--and he knows it. Self-efficient, highly intelligent and caustic, Damian does not give a damn every time Bruce tries to connect with him (first by telling about the significance of 10:58 which is the TOD of Bruce's parents; second by explaining to him the importance of honoring how the dead have lived). In both circumstances, Damian outright rejects his father's point of view. There is animosity and discomfort between them that is only natural because of the decade-long separation, but it looks as if Bruce is the only one who's making an effort to change things.

I don't mind Damian being this dismissive about his father because he really has no sort of affection for him at this moment, except perhaps share Bruce's need to punish evil-doers. Damian seems to be more interested in kicking bad-guy ass than hearing his father talk about 'sentimental nonsense'. Damian's heart is cold only because he never learned how to be human. Hopefully the presence of a strong father figure in his life will thaw out the ice. After all, I know Damian does want to have a relationship with his father but isn't consciously seeking it since he's too focused on making sure he stays invulnerable.

So it's not going to be an easy ride. During an altercation, Damian leaves Batman to pursue the criminals who escaped which earned him a much deserved lecture on the importance of restraint and cooperation. Damian didn't think he needed to be told what to do, emphasizing that he is far more gifted than the past Robins. He even pointed out that Dick Grayson (former first Robin and now Nightwing) trusted him, and turned the tables on Batman by asking him why he couldn't trust him in the same manner. Ar this point, Bruce seems both eager and reluctant to open up, wanting to feel some sort of familial connection to his estranged son and yet also determined to keep him in line. I'm liking this conflict so far!

The first issue did well to establish the strained relationship between the two and I have a feeling that Tomasi will continue to explore the progress and development of their partnership in the next issues while putting them in the context of dangerous scenarios and questionable dilemmas. I'm really looking forward to that because I have read ahead in Snyder's Batman stories like Death of the Family and by then Damian's sense of loyalty to his father is heartfelt, and I'm curious to see just how much their relationship strengthened before that.


*Just the right amount of tension, drama and action

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #0

Damian Wayne first appeared in the Batman universe as an unnamed infant in Batman: Son of the Demon back in 1987, but he wasn't really considered as part of the canon just yet. That was until Grant Morrison re-imagined his character for the 2006 series Batman Inc. and was inserted into the continuity since then. Characterized as self-important and bloodthirsty yet brilliant, Damian was trained by the League of Assassins as a child, and raised by his mother Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra's al Ghul) away from the outside world.

This New 52's zero issue marks the occasion where we first see Damian again from the time of his 'baptism' and right to the very heart of action where he faced an ongoing process of brutal training for the next ten years in the hands of his own mother and the rest of the assassins. Written by Tomasi and drawn by Patrick Gleason, Batman and Robin #0 was an electrifying prelude to the actual series.

Damian is definitely calculating, self-assured and unapologetic. The boy is clearly made of tougher steel than the other Robins before him. But being trained as the perfect vessel of destruction is not a primary component of becoming a hero--and despite of Damian's violent tendencies, he is inherently curious of his father, most especially when he finds out that his father is also Batman. But if he is supposed to be an al Ghul first and a Wayne second, heir to the Demon's empire, could he really be the best fit to take over the mask of Robin?

Tomasi will surely keep me in my toes as we explore the difficult transition Damian must undergo from killer to hero and how Bruce Wayne himself will handle dealing with this impressionable boy; to not only train him extensively as the new Robin but to also develop a relationship with him as his father.


* A promising beginning

[Best of Batman] Under the Red Hood by Judd Winick

The first time I encountered this story was through its animation film “Under the Hood” and I absolutely loved it, mostly because Jensen Ackles voiced Jason Todd while Neil Patrick Harris was Nightwing. It was pleasant to finally read the original source material and I thoroughly consumed it because it has a richer backstory than the film. 

The story follows the aftermath of the events in the harrowing comic book A Death in the Family where the second Robin, Jason Todd, wasn’t saved by Batman when the Joker abducted and murdered him. It turns out he wasn’t dead and is determined to make Batman regret losing. He cleans up after the Gotham streets by killing every mobster he could get his hands on, all the while challenging Batman’s moral code, urging him to cross that line because he claims it’s freeing and that the true definition of justice is passing judgment onto criminals through execution.

I believe that the best Batman stories are those that deal with his relationships with people and this one examined Batman as the father figure to the Robins, Dick and Jason. It also showed the readers that Batman needs his Robins a lot more than he thought. There were many moving moments in this book, particularly the confrontations between Batman and Red Hood (Jason Todd). I like the action sequences a lot and they are enhanced by the gripping narrative and the emotionally volatile dialogue. There was plenty of humor too among the characters since the Black Mask and the Joker are present, and Alfred’s insights on Bruce’s relationships with his Robins in the context of death and grief made me want to hug little Bruce in the flashbacks. Green Arrow and Superman had cameos as well and the strained way Batman talks to them was telling of how he usually relates to fellow crusaders. You can really feel the uneasiness on his part.

Overall, there is a lot to love about this comic book. You can appreciate the action scenes and how they were drawn, and you can get lost on the heartaches of Jason Todd as he tries to shake Batman from realizing his mistake for not killing the Joker as a way to avenge him. Under the Hood is really good stuff.