Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #33

"And you built it with our help; all of us contributing to it for a singular purpose we all know too well. And that is to keep you safe--because you were the only one without powers--the only one who was all flesh and bone in the line of fire" ~Wonder Woman on Bruce Wayne

Yes, my Batman comics diet may have ended but I'd like to add this issue to that finish line, if you all don't mind. After all, I did finish my BCD a day early so today still counts as the last day for me to wrap up all my Batman readings. And being a big Tomasi B&R fan, I can't think of a better way to spend my day than talk about ROBIN RISES.

First off, it feels so darn good to see ROBIN in the title again. Now I have enjoyed Tomasi's run in spite of Damian Wayne's demise; he made up for it through the Two-Face issues he wrote that were simply outstanding and were able to keep my heart at ease. However, The Hunt for Robin and the Omega issues have substantially built up the return of the Boy Wonder and so I was all kinds of nervous once this issue finally arrived. Historically, my complicated relationship with Tomasi as a writer can be a very masochistic endeavor. When he's at the top of his game, his stories soar and are resonant in all the right place. When he isn't, what we get are very poorly-conceived and vaguely resolved conflicts and plot holes. Happily so, this issue that marks the first stage of Damian Wayne coming back to comics falls on the former. 

The question I know that I have to ask is: should we get our hopes high about Damian coming back? That really depends. I want nothing more than to see my Robin again but I will not settle for less, narrative-wise. The tribute to his death has been stretched throughout multiple titles, all of which largely contributed to the hefty impact and poetic significance of his death. And for this issue, it looks like neither will Tomasi and co. settle for anything less than perfection. I believe that we're off to a great start here. Everything in this 20-paged comic felt graciously paced including the dialogues exchanged among Batman and the rest of the Justice League. Those are hands-down my favorite moments. The Wonder Woman I quoted at the beginning of this review is my favorite of the dialogue.

The heartfelt and sincere concern expressed by Arthur and Diana is notable. They don't condescend and passive-aggressively discourage Bruce for trying to go to Apokolips and face Darkseid to claim his son's corpse back. Their disapproval and words of caution are direct which only showed that they have respect towards their grieving comrade. They don't necessarily need to claim that they can understand what he's going through but they do caution him to be prepared--and let them aid him. Going back to that WW quote, it was a reference to the Hellbat armor that JLA made in order to protect Batman from extreme physical harm in their missions. Diana reminds Bruce that it was a team project. They built it together not because they want to impose control over Batman's actions. It was an earnest gesture shared by allies for a member of the team they know is the most human of them all.

I just enjoyed the characterizations about the relationship dynamics among JLA, specifically where Batman is concerned. Superman also makes an appearance later on which is another sweet moment. Again, like Diana and Arthur, they don't try to forcibly dissuade Bruce from his goal to resurrect his son but what they do desire is to fight alongside him. This is not to discredit Batman's strength in any way. To me, it felt like an acknowledgement of friendship and camaraderie among them. And I do hope that by the next issue, Bruce will accept. In the meantime, the Dark Knight is preparing for battle. He has enlisted Batgirl, Red Robin, Red Hood and Alfred. But how about Nightwing? That was a noticeable absence but knowing Dick Grayson, Bruce may have already given him a heads-up so I do have hopes he'll be in the next installment. I also want Frankenstein added in the mix again. His abrupt exit was suspicious. I felt like there's more to it than just that.

Overall, a promising key issue for hopefully yet another excellent B&R story courtesy of Tomasi and co. 


RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

[Best of Batman] Knightfall by Dixon, Moench & Grant volume 1

I was never a Bane fan, and I don't think I ever will be at all, which is why I hesitated to pick up the Knightfall series in the first place. The six-hundred-plus pages of the first volume weren't that appealing to spend a lot of time with but I do enjoy a challenge so I kept my hopes up and got started. I finished within a span of two weeks (though I just read it in a total of six days). In retrospect, it seemed quite fitting for me to end my first Batman comics diet with an omnibus edition such as this, considering the significance of this particular series to the old continuity. Can you believe it actually has two other volumes (which I will read next time)? It's safe to say this is a long-running series that I might need to pursue later on, for posterity's sake as oppose to ready enjoyment.

This is a heavyweight collected edition, comprised of the following contents: BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE SPECIAL #1, BATMAN #491-500, DETECTIVE COMICS #659-660, SHOWCASE '93 #7 and 8 and BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #17-18. I'll divide this review into significant parts worth noting, and therefore the content may be semi-spoiler-ish. Thread lightly in case you feel like reading this one yourself. If not because the length looks to be a handful, then I hope my summary and analyses would suffice your curiosity of what this omnibus entails.


ON BANE AND WHY THAT IS AN APPROPRIATE NAME


Admittedly, I didn't try to notice just how many issues and titles I was reading which isn't difficult to do (at first) because this is an an engrossing read right from the very start with that Bane special which told us his origins as a child who was born and raised inside a prison. I only remember Bane very briefly in Batman: The Animated Series and never cared much for him. When Nolan turned him into a chief villain in the last film of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, I remember being intrigued about his interpretation because it was a stark contrast to what I believed him to be growing up. Reading Knightfall solidified that prejudice, however. As much as I enjoyed his origin story (which included his transition to becoming Bane), I found myself starting to care less and less for this asshole as the issues progressed on. In fact, I will state from here on out that I think Nolan's version of the character is more honorable and more nuanced and interesting to see in action. Here in the comics he just comes off as a fool with the most vapid of reasons for 'breaking' Batman and conquering Gotham City. It's almost laughable. There was nothing formidable or intimidating about this big guy at all. 

I think because of the roster of artists and writers for this series (we have Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench and Alan Grant, to name a notable few), there was an unavoidable inconsistency in Bane's characterization. With his origin story, he was primed to be an excellent Bat-villain; but then other writers start having different interpretations of his personality and motives in the next stories that what I understood about him in entirety is that he's a character whose arrogance and bloated sense of worth outweigh his actions and accomplishments (a questionable estimate in itself too). You never root for this asshole no matter what happens (well, that's not completely true; there was that moment in the later issues that my money was on him. Let me expound on that later).

Knightfall is primarily known for the climactic events when Bane 'broke the Bat'. For the non-comic book-reading population, they also know about this because of Nolan's movie. And you know what? They're better off not knowing the details in the comics itself because I myself was absolutely livid and utterly furious with how that scenario played out. I really do prefer the movie's take on it, only because Bane was actually generally likable in the film (in spite of his role to play) and his breaking of Batman's spine made more sense and did not make me feel dirty at all. In the comics, it was completely a douchebag move. Like some creep, Bane merely waited until Batman is at the end of his physical limits (and even then Bats fought back like a champ). It was gross. I wanted to drown myself in a bathtub filled with scalding water just to cleanse myself with that demeaning discovery. It was such a shameful ordeal for everyone involved in writing that, and for anyone who read it. Batman was broken by a piece-of-shit buffoon who cannot even hold a fucking torch to the reputation and terror that the Joker and Ra's Al Ghul are known for. Batman was broken because he was already battling an illness (minor spoiler: he had pneumonia) and he also had to clean up after Arkham Asylum's inmates started roaming around the city. With the stress Batman is undergoing personally and the commotion he needs to deal with, it was shocking he could still walk, let alone fight. That's the Batman we all admire and root for!

But then here came some mediocre douche who was so cowardly and self-entitled; only dangerously powerful because of some venom he injects in his body, and he broke Batman's spine and acted as if it was a world record, never-been-that-before feat of strength and cunning. I cannot stress how much I was literally SCREAMING at the screen while I was reading this ("You don't own shit, Bane! You're a shit! FUCK YOU!" was what I shouted, I think). I was so disgusted with everything that I put off reading the next issues for at least another whole day. When I did come back to it, Bane was thankfully not the center of the stories anymore--but I can't be joyous about that yet because the asshole is replaced by another douchebag named Jean-Paul Valley.


SWEET VALLEY HIGH-STRUNG BATMAN PRETENDER!


UGH. Remember a while ago I said that there was a moment while reading Knightfall that I actually rooted for Bane, the bane of every sane human's existence? Well, that happened because someone I equally despise decided to challenge him to a death match and that douche in question was named Jean-Paul Valley who started out as a pretty cool secondary character when he was just his own hero (a.k.a Azrael), helping out the good guys. But things got sour pretty quickly when he was tasked to put on the Batman cowl in the meantime while Bruce recuperates. And the son of a bitch loved it and enjoyed beating up thugs and criminals way too much. It was like watching a substitute teacher take over a classroom with utmost aggression in spite of his inadequacies for the job. In Jean-Paul's case, it's his lack of discipline and moral resoluteness. I kept cringing in every fucking moment he would choose callous pragmatism and violent means which one time almost cost an innocent life. It was so horrible. While Bane made me scream in fury and frustration, Jean-Paul made me want to go to a corner and just...cry. 

It just goes to show that there is a certain level of nobility and greatness that you expect from Batman as an ideal. And Jean-Paul may wear the costume all he likes but he isn't upholding the values Bruce Wayne instilled. One time he even bragged about his focus being on the DARK as oppose to the KNIGHT job description of the title. What a piece of shit. One of my favorite small moments was during The Devil You Know issue, where Bane said it best when he claimed. "So I have brought ruin to Wayne. And his neophyte brings ruin to the Batman." Heck, I applauded that asshole's poetic observation, and y'all know by now I hate him.

The Robin for this series is Tim Drake who can be a buzzkill sometimes, yeah, but in this occasion, his trepidation and desire for caution around the Batman pretender are very valid and reasonable. But no one listens to Timothy, especially not Jean-Paul whose pages upon pages of monologue and action sequences were so unsettling to watch unfold. I think my enjoyment for the story also suffered. I have no kind of sympathy whatsoever for the supposed hero I'm reading, and the mediocre villain he had to defeat. Srsly, fuck them both. So it's been a really a tight competition between them regarding to which character I loathed the most for this volume (minor spoiler: no one wins that title once I finished the book. I pitied Bane in the end while I eventually and begrudgingly accepted that fucking Jean-Paul will have to do as Batman for now). 

Before I close this part of the review, I would also like to add that as much as I hated what I'm reading, it doesn't mean the writing and illustrations are lackluster or bland. I might be hating on the characters but that's because the writing for their characterizations are outstanding in the first place.The later four-hundred pages of the first volume for Knightfall are centered around the detestable Bane and jean-Paul as they struggle to define the world in their narrow-sighted terms and misguided actions. Bane failed in his shallow crusade to be a self-made champion of the weak because all he is was a flawed mechanism of his own ruin. Meanwhile, Jean-Paul chose to cross certain lines Bruce could never afford to do, and it therefore placed him in a position where he can very much become the villain himself if he ever forgets the values he's supposed to stand for. With that in mind, someone really needs to take away the costume from him before it gets worse. But then again, where's the fun in that for the second volume?

MISCELLANEOUS


Almost all Bat-villains make their appearances as well such as the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison-Ivy, Catwoman, Two-Face, Amygdala, Scarface and the Ventriloquist, and Anarky. There are some humorous Harvey Bullock scenes as well (he delivers a lot of great zingers). Different writers and artists collaborated for the issues and this could either be a pleasant experience or a confounding one if you're more into a consistent art styel and technique. Mine was on the former. I really didn't mind the visual variety because I was engrossed enough with the stories and plot lines to pay a closer attention. The one time I did start to notice the illustrations is during the Scarecrow-centered issues because the detail and panels layout in those were fantastic to browse through.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

* The first volume had enough action and substance to keep you going. The astonishing length will be intimidating at first but the reader will not find it hard to get into the meat and bones of the story after a while as long as he/she also learns to trust the writers with where they're headed; even during the moments they have to get inside the heads of extremely unlikable if not downright unremarkable main characters, such as with the case of Bane and Jean-Paul Valley.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #33, ZERO YEAR

I need to make a formal announcement so listen up. Since I started my Batman comics diet three months ago, I never thought I would have come this far and finish reviewing a hundred-plus individual comics issue and graphic novels, let alone realize that there are possibly a thousand of ways I could love my dark knight, the watchful caped crusader and protector of all things noble and true--my bold, beautiful and brilliant Bruce Wayne, the one and only Batman

But I am going to make it to my self-imposed deadline by the end of July, and I can honestly say that through this quest I have earned a more nuanced understanding, appreciation and respect for Batman after my consummate reading of his New 52 and some old continuity material. I sampled him in his very roots and though I'm satiated and brought to the best geekagasms imaginable, I know that I will relentlessly crave more of him. But I need to wait for two months before another Bat-feast. In the meantime, I'm finalizing all my last reviews for my Bat-diet. And what better way to close my epic adventures in Gotham's landscapes that than to review Scott Snyder's final issue for his Batman: Zero Year saga, an otherwise unexpectedly well-executed origin story that started out as a tribute to Frank Miller's Year One but had since then continued to branch out and re-define itself as its own self-made masterpiece and, to my mind, is undoubtedly one of the classics-in-the-making as far as Batman stories are concerned.

Granted I still have the Knightfall series volume 1 to follow up after this but I believe that Snyder's Zero Year is a more personal story to me that is emotionally resonant in a way that defied all my expectations. It's definitely the one thing I would like to mark my Batman diet's end of an era with. So let's get right to it. I suppose this will also include my overall insights on Zero Year as a series in retrospect, and not just for this issue alone.

In line with the 75 years of celebration for Batman's existence as one of the most majestic gifts the human imagination has ever conceived, I thought it was quite poetic that Snyder and co. decided to explore and re-tell his origins for this generation, employing the elements that not only suited the mainstream and contemporary demands of the comics medium, but also to ensure that the quality of this new Batman mythology will still weave the precious quintessential facts and lore we have come to know about the Dark Knight. Year One is the inspiration though Snyder did not shy away from heavily incorporating the gritty ideas found from Christopher Nolan's movies (even Tim Burton's fairy-tale-like visual concepts, and a dash of noir from Paul Dini's The Animated Series, as well as a surprising Adam West's sixties show flair mixed in for good measure). The result is a rich tapestry of in-depth historical examination of what Batman stands for and why he will continue to live on close to a century or so.

This is the twelfth and last issue of the saga and unlike the two story arcs that Snyder graced us with (The City of Owls and Death of the Family), the resolution for Zero Year is unlike the former with its questionable intent and the latter which lent itself to ambiguities that almost diluted the pay-off itself. I'm pleased to say that this one stuck its landing quite fairly with an impressive balance of length and quality in between which was established right from the beginning issues (#21-23) and finally to this end. Sure, there have been complications and unevenness to some details and choices in the plot (notably issues #26 and #27 and some parts of #29) but when Zero Year is really good and at the top of its game, its excellence just shines through readily (issues #24, 25, 30 and 31 come to mind when I say this). 

There won't be any spoilers for this issue because I can't discuss any more of the details unless you have been in this journey for me (or about to start your own if my review/s convinced you which I sure hoped they did SO DO IT, READ ZERO YEAR!) Before I give you my main points on why I recommend this series for you, even if you are indeed a non-comics fan but at least enjoy Batman as a character, I will leave you with this exchange between Alfred and Bruce Wayne which I think summarizes the great burden that becoming and choosing Batman entails:



I recommend this series for three reasons:


  • You're a long-time Batman fan and you probably had this on your bookshelf for a while, waiting for the series to end and making sure the reviews are positive: Fear not, Bat-geek. You won't be disappointed when you get around to reading this, preferably by also dropping everything right now and just go for it!
  • You only knew and enjoyed Batman through television or the Nolan trilogy: This will definitely be a good side-by-side comparison with Batman Begins which is essentially a great origin story for Bats. However, Zero Year offers more nuanced characterizations, plot lines and callbacks to previous adaptations in all mediums that Batman had embodied throughout the years. There is a strong cinematic style in Capullo's illustrations that will be visually appealing as well.
  • You want to start reading comics and Batman is a superhero you hugely favor and you want to start from the beginning: Though this is the New 52 where DC comics in general have been rebooted, I think Zero Year is a great place to start with in correlation to the classic Bat origin story Year One. It makes little difference if you decide on that one or this one first as long as you BOTH read them.


RECOMMENDED AS A SERIES: 10/10

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Robin Rises: OMEGA by Peter J. Tomasi

I had two new-release issues I looked forward to the most for the end of this month. First is the last issue of Scott Snyder's Batman: Zero Year run (issue #33). The next is Peter J. Tomasi's follow-up to the events of The Hunt for Robin: the most anticipated possible comeback of the late Damian Wayne to the DC continuity, and it starts with Robin Rises: OMEGA. With forty-eight pages, this issue proved to be a promising venture that could indicate that the continuing run for Tomasi's Batman and Robin issues will once more include the second titular character--granted that he will indeed get resurrected (and hopefully it would be respectably and poignantly handled).

Now anyone who has been reading or following my reviews for the New 52 B&R run will be familiar with my eternal love and devotion for Damian Wayne, MY Robin. I was intrinsically and inconsolably devastated when Grant Morrison killed him in one of the issues for Batman Incorporated. Since then, I've watched as Tomasi tried to fill the holes that Damian left as he went about B&R issues with no Robin to support it. Consequently, said issues post-death were a mixed bag for me, but I continued to read religiously nevertheless, considering I also believe Tomasi is one of the best comics writers DC has to offer. For Robin Rises: OMEGA, his talent and craftsmanship are clearly at their top form. The first few pages were a recap of the events from B&R issue #0 to the present and they are definitely my favorite panels of the issue. They showed the progress and development of the relationship between father and son, and Damian's growth as an individual and young hero.

We then pick up after the last issue's events (Batman and Ra's Al Ghul I reviewed HERE) where Bats and Ra's are locked in a bloody fight, punching each other viciously one last time; where the victor would then claim Damian's corpse to bury or do whatever they want with it. A very timely interruption happens and Batman and Ra's agreed to set aside their wager and take care of these intruders who have darker intentions. We then get pages after pages of impressive action sequences which got even more badass once the Justice League appeared to help out their comrade. I personally got giddy over that illustration in the corner where Captain Marvel collected Batman in his arms and carried him to a safe place. It was comedic and the rest of Caps' panels were played for laughs. Batman, understandably distraught since the start of The Hunt for Robin, was not in a grateful mood. 

I won't give spoilers as to how the issue wrapped up but let's just say it was different parts of entertaining, suspenseful and shocking. For the last comment, I say that it is because even after the initial announcement from DC, I still can't believe it's really happening: Damian Wayne will be coming back sooner rather than later--as to the technicalities of it, we have yet to know, but the mixture of joy and dread are palpable for me right now. I know that it would probably be bittersweet. After all, resurrecting the dead have grave repercussions. I am so afraid to see Bruce get spiritually wounded again.

The one spoiler I will give is that the title for this issue is misleading but then again, you really didn't think Damian Wayne will already be appearing for this one-shot comic, did you? No way. It's going to be more complex and delayed than that, knowing Tomasi and co. who will no doubt tirelessly work for the next batch of Batman and Robin issues by August. I'm excited and fearful for everything that's about to happen for this run. Someone--anybody--hold me in the meantime and whisper sweet nothings to me. I'm going to need to prepare myself for another heartbreak and celebration that will come soon.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Saturday, July 26, 2014

[Batman Day Free Comic] Detective Comics #27

Celebrating the seventy-five reign of Batman has been a pleasant treat for me. I got to do the geekiest tributes ever for last week alone (I re-watched all Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan films, three documentaries and select ten fave episodes from Batman: The Animated Series). I've been a very busy Bat-fan indeed! In addition to this fun-filled geekathon, I was also able to purchase two graphic novels to add to my collection (the trade paperback for Batman: Death of the Family that I've been looking for, and Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader) and they have 20% discount too so I got to save some money. 

Next, I got Robin Rises Omega in print (and the last issue for Batman: Zero Year downloaded from torrent, unfortunately, but I will come back to the store next week and see if copies would be available). But before I review these two amazing issues, let's first talk about the content of the free giveaway, which is New 52's re-imagining of Detective Comics #27. 

Surprisingly enough, the only new thing that was included in it for me was the original 1939 story The Case of the Chemical Syndicate where actual pages from said old comic were used and printed in glossier paper. I was quite giddy about that. The other two stories included were also in the mega-sized anniversary issue I reviewed months ago. They were the newer version for said Chemical Syndicate case, and Scott Snyder's science fiction take on Batman entitled Twenty-seven which was one of the best pieces offered for that anniv issue from before. I suppose if you were unable to buy the nine-dollar Detective Comics issue #27, this free giveaway would be a treat but for someone like me who already owns the original anniversary release and paid for it, I wasn't entirely happy about the free comic that just included what I already read previously.

Aside from that, we get preview pages for Chip Kidd's version of how the events in the Chemical Syndicate case would have gone down using the same outdated art style from golden age comics but perhaps with a contemporary twist. In a nutshell, this free comic is still great thing to posses for posterity's sake. Since it's free, there's no reason not to get a copy anyway. But that said, I would recommend you purchase the double-sized issue #27 from New 52's Detective Comics even if it is costly.

RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Celebrating 75 years of epically awesome cape-crusading!


I'm thrilled that DC decided to declare that July 23 is officially a Batman Day! I hope you are all having a good one! I know I am! I have only one graphic novel (Knightfall volume 1) and series (Batman Black and White) to go before I wrap up my Batman Comics Diet that started since May. In the meantime I will alternate between reviewing the upcoming Fox series GOTHAM by September and Batman: The Animated Series this August. It's definitely an exciting year to be a Bat-fan right now. There are so many good things in comics and TV to look forward to these days. I'll be getting my free copy of the re-imagining of Detective Comics #27 by Saturday in my favorite comic book store Comics Odyssey as well as the last issue of Batman: Zero Year, and the debut release of Robin Rises: OMEGA! I don't think I ever had this much fun and anticipation about Bats in a long time! 

Batman/Bruce Wayne will always remain my childhood hero, one I grew up with and cherished for a decade. He is a universally celebrated symbol of justice and hope; the watchful protector and guardian of Gotham City whose citizens had always needed a great man of strength and integrity to stand up and fight for them. I believe that Batman's creation has significantly improved everything in the world. Next to Superman, he gave ordinary people something to aspire to; something larger that they could believe in when the going gets tough. Sure, his stories (and the villains he faces) may have some of the darkest, depressing and macabre elements in comics, but they always have a startlingly optimistic message and undertones no matter what. Batman is meaningful to me in a way that heals my soul; my passions for this hero runs deep. He touched my life in so many unspeakable and liberating ways that inspired me to be more compassionate and progressive in the way I choose to live.

So here's to my champion! And see you all next month! It's going to get massively amazing for BCG!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Best of Batman] Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison

I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I finally decided to read and review each issue for Batman Incorporated (2010-2011) series last week. I've been hearing great things about it for quite some time so I picked it up right after its New 52 relaunch which meant that I missed the first arc of the series so I happily decided to come back to it once my self-imposed Batman Comics Diet happened by May this year. And I was pleasantly intrigued (and sometimes even perplexed).

Comprised of eight issues and a bonus story, you're going to get your money's worth when you purchase the deluxe edition, and it's something you can even be proud of for having in your collection. The artwork and visual appeal for this graphic novel are well-received by a lot of fans. Paquette and Burnham alternated in illustrating the issues and each of these artists have a signature style that you will enjoy perusing through. The coloring is astounding as well. Everything is vibrant. Everything looks and feels like a visual adventure for every issue. This is certainly one of the things that really got me going while I was reading Batman Incorporated. I simply adored every setting structure and details that the artists have put into the stories. You get a great sense of atmospheric tension and danger as we travel alongside Batman to Japan, Argentina, Africa, etc.

As for the writing, Morrison also took some time to craft some authenticity when it comes to the cultural backgrounds and small nuances for each country we visit. His characterizations pertaining to the recruits of Batman Incorporated have bold brush strokes to them that may make them seem more larger than life which could potentially bother a reader such as myself who prefer to get intimate with characters especially when it's a superhero story. Nevertheless, my enjoyment was not spoiled, considering I do get that missing ingredient in the seventh issue entitled Medicine Soldiers which is probably my most favorite of them all because of it's character-driven with a poignant narrative. As for the rest of the issues, every action sequence produced is well-balanced with an even pacing and sensible build-up. The plot may seem convoluted and, at times, even outright ridiculous, but a handful of memorable badass moments can keep things going right after you turn the last page of an issue and head to the next one.

The only thing I will complain about were the two issues I had the most problem with (or the Scorpion Tango storyline in general, honestly). But it could just be a matter of taste. Personally, those were the only issues that almost made me want to stop reading. The best bunch it could offer are issues 5-8, the later ones where most of the meat and bones of the story are present. However, I will say that the bonus story, a two-parter called Leviathan Strikes is the most polarizing issue of the collection. There are genuinely amazing moments in it--but there are also some terribly confusing panels as well. Still, the climactic events led to that shocking revelation at the end which made almost everything worth the trouble. That cliffhanger was a wise decision. It gives the first arc a meaningful standstill where you realize that all that you have read is just a warm-up--and the real story is just about to begin by New 52. If I remember correctly, I'm right about this.

Batman Incorporated is insanely entertaining, massively imaginative and truly engrossing. Morrison's writing is clever, confounding and absurd in the best ways possible. The artwork is lavish with sheer clarity in color that you could just stare at all day long. There are admittedly trying moments in the reading experience where you might need to take a break or re-read again every once in a while but that would be worth it. In addition to that, the deluxe edition also provides character sketches for the heroes and villains that Morrison either originally created or were directly inspired then re-imagined from old comics. So those last pages will no doubt be your handy references to get to know the concept of the characters he utilized. 

Overall, highly recommended. It has flaws that were hopefully improved by the second arc in New 52.

Do read this! A HAPPY BATMAN DAY TO YOU ALL! :D


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Monday, July 21, 2014

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison [Leviathan Strikes!]

In this rather tantalizing two-part issue, we finally get the cliffhanger conclusion of the first Batman Incorporated story arc. As I've mentioned when I started reading this 2010-2011 series, DC relaunched New 52 around the time this was still going on and because it was well-received by the public, they decided to pick this up for another continuing saga (otherwise known as the second arc, but back to issue #1 for its debut in the new continuity).

This is a double-issue release which should always guarantee that you're getting your money's worth when you purchase this. Divided into two parts, Leviathan Strikes starts with a slow burn which enabled its build-up to sneak up on you once you get to the second act. I personally enjoyed that Stephanie Brown was the focal point for the first part. She's always been such a delightful Batgirl even if she wasn't my favorite. For her mission as a Bat Inc. soldier, she had to infiltrate a feminazi all-girls private school that is in fact a facility to train select teenage girls to become highly-skilled and efficient killers in service and allegiance to the Leviathan. First, we have brainwashed and murderous African children in the mix; next, we get hormonal privileged teenage girls with a collective bloodlust against males. It's utterly ridiculous in theory but Morrison's delivery has an underlying creepy seriousness to all of this that makes me very uncomfortable. There's not much to say about the first part except that it's a fun-filled and action-packed showcase of girl power and aggression in both positive and critical portrayals. I'm just glad we get to see Brown one last time as Batgirl before we give that mantle back to Barbara Gordon once New 52 happens.

Now onto the second part. Boy, I don't even know where to begin with this one. I was even slightly hating on Morrison while reading this because it was convoluted, verbose and just goddamn confounding all throughout. First off, we get smacked in the middle of the story with a confused and drugged out Batman which was later revealed once we progress onto the next panels (with Dick, Damian and Tim alongside him) as he tries to figure out which of the five doors to open (he would then proceed to open each one, all leading to a dead end and a slowly deteriorating place where we don't know whose delusion we are looking at). We also have to read and sift through the irritating villain monologues from the semi-senile criminal mastermind Doctor Dedalus taunting them in the background, speaking in near gibberish yet surprisingly eloquent...bullshit about world domination and Batman's inevitable defeat. This story has become a long-winding confusing drivel of clever ploys and half-baked truths which I think is the entire point. We are supposed to be trudging along the dark pathways with Batman. We're supposed to feel the hyper surrealism and frustration bearing down on Batman as he struggles to keep his sanity intact. I don't think I even enjoyed reading this. I was so baffled and mystified the whole time that I think I may have been hypnotized by Doctor Dedalus himself--and I'm telling you right now, it's the worst feeling I have ever encountered. I felt helpless. I felt like I want to smack this asshole so he'll stop saying things about shit I don't even understand anymore. I am honestly afraid for your own comprehension, future readers of this comic. I must warn you now that this isn't going to be any fun at all.

Thankfully yet quite regrettably, Damian Wayne steps in and kills the motherfucker before he gets to eliminate Batman for good. Damian does apologize afterwards, considering the first rule Batman has taught him is to never kill the villains because that's the line that separates the heroes from the assholes. But I applaud Damian for taking the reigns. I don't want to listen to Doctor Dedalus any longer so it was such an immense relief that he stopped drowning me with his monologues. So well done, Damian. I know there's a reason you're my favorite Robin. We both don't take kindly to bullshit.

However, here comes the massive SPOILER ALERT!

The big brains of the operation known as Leviathan is someone we are already more than acquainted with, someone who has been neglected all this time and so proceeded to lick her wounds from the shadows for a long time, waiting for the opportune moment she could strike back. It's no other than Talia Al Ghul herself who orchestrated this elaborate death trap for her former lover and son. We know what they say about a woman scorned, don't we? She is not pleased that Damian chose to stand and fight with his father. She felt that this rejection speaks depths not only to her capability as a mother but also as a warrior and last living descendant of the Al Ghul dynasty. The bitch was hurt and she's about to get nasty. 

"Your move, my beloved," she declares. This is the kind of enemy that's prepared to watch an empire fall as she pulls the strings.


RECOMMENDED: 9/10

* What a perfect way to end the first arc! I'm excited to read the New 52 re-launch of this title.

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #8

This issue is illustrated by Scott Clark and Chris Burnham as a collaboration, with inks from David Beatty. I feel that I should mention them foremost in this review because this issue is a visually complex production that made me stop reading once in a while just so I could look at the artwork and the details in each panel. Basically, this is a story set in a virtual reality, otherwise known as Wayne Corporations' projects, Internet 3.0. 

Bruce Wayne is having a meeting with executives and investors via online simulation when a virus invades the premises and proceeds to try and kill them. Oracle and Batman team up to fight these parasites which meant we get some very awesome-looking and cool action sequences in the next pages or so.

As for how this issue progresses the overall plot about the Leviathan, it does provide us some additional information about what exactly they are up against which apparently is more destructive, cunning and prevalent than they originally believed. By the end of the issue, Batman and Oracle have a serious talk regarding the grave circumstances they found themselves in. You get the sense of underlying fear and dread in this conversation even if it is between two of the toughest superheroes in DCverse--they're still mere mortals who are about to go to war with an unknown force that they have never encountered before. 

It's worth noting that since this is old continuity, Barbara Gordon is still paralyzed at this point (hence becoming Oracle for the rest of the storylines before New 52) and it's pretty badass to see her fight in a virtual reality. Her contribution to Batman Incorporated is hefty, given that she handles its communications globally. I'm glad that Batman confined in her in those last pages. It shows that he can trust Barbara to handle the truth better than anyone since she experienced terror firsthand in the hands of the clown prince of crime--and it's only about to get worse with this new flagship of villains rising to power.

Not much is still established about the Leviathan; only that Bruce Wayne acknowledges that their threat is real, considering he saw what the future would become during the events of the Final Crisis storyline. It is in my understanding that Morrison had laid out pieces to this multi-layered story with great care and a clear objective which made every issue for Batman Incorporated relevant, even the ones I did enjoy as much (Scorpion Tango issues #3 to #5). This issue is an indication that things are not what they seem anymore and that the world for Bruce Wayne/Batman has gotten bigger in an impressive scale. Gotham City is not the only place that requires a watchful protector such as he. In fact, it's even selfish to believe that Batman is not needed anywhere else.

And though I don't think Bruce ever expected for things to escalate in such a horrifying way, he's certainly learning to adapt and arm the rest of the world to the teeth, recruiting promising, brilliant and dedicated men and women to fight this war with him. He has built himself an army and like a good soldier he knows that the battlefield will cost him the lives of these upstanding people but that is the ultimate price that must be paid in order to prevent the apocalyptic future he had seen during Final Crisis. I'm very afraid for everyone in this story by now. It only just occurred to me how massive the consequences are and how high the stakes have become to get to the last stage of the game.

There's a ring around the world...and everyone is caught right in the center.


RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #7

In most of my Batman reviews of New 52, I would often stress more than once that I would enjoy a comic book a lot more if I'm also able to connect with characters in a deeper level. This is more vital to me than making sense of the plot. Still, the latter is something I can be very critical of (which is why I could still rate some stories low even if there are redeeming character interactions therein (see a few of my reviews for Peter J Tomasi's Batman and Robin line-up for reference). For Morrison's Batman Incorporated, I understood that connecting with characters may not be necessary to enjoy the overall narrative itself, especially the very promising plot about Batman recruiting vigilantes across the world to fight an incoming global war against the mysterious Leviathans. But it'd be nice to like the characters as well while all these crazy things are happening.

For the first two issues set in Japan, I immediately warmed up to the hero-to-recruit Jiro Osamu, otherwise known as the younger half of the Mr. Unknown persona. It was an instant connection that just happened only because I liked how his character was set up. I can't say the same for El Gaucho for the Scorpion Tango storyline later on (and though I did enjoy the Hood character, I'm not sure I should even trust him).

So that brings us to this issue entitled Medicine Solidiers and it has to be the first character-driven story from the series so far, and one that completely captured my fancy for utterly relatable characters with great personalities and a fleshed-out relationship between them. It's a story about a father and son dynamic duo in South Dakota. They're called Man-of-Bats and Little Raven. Every once in a while, I would read Morrison's notes for each character just to get a sense of the idea behind that creation, and I must say that Morrison based these characters on a less politically-correct Western-style interpretation from old comics about cowboys and Indians. However, Morrison himself understood the racial insensitivity of those old comics and so proceeded with caution and a more nuanced understanding of the kind of mindset and cultural tension present in that city.

I personally found Man-of-Bats and Little Raven surprisingly intriguing. Morrison's idea of them is based on the re-imagining of what it would be like to portray a rustic Batman and Robin partnership in a countryside setting where they don't have the money or resources at all. The result, as expected, is a saddening condition. Their batcave is a garage whose contents makes it more like what a nerd would keep around as opposed to what a professional vigilante would have. Their batmobile is a beat-up car that sometimes breaks down in the middle of missions. And the people whom they serve and protect are just citizens whose problems are as common as they come. This father-and-son would go door to door to help with housing facilities, food donations, etc. Their brand of vigilantism is a community-approved necessity.

Man-of-Bats is a doctor in real life and whose nocturnal activities are known and frowned upon by his colleagues. Meanwhile, his son finds their less than illustrious cases to be a nightmare routine; he believes there is more to being a hero than merely cleaning up and taking care of the people in their community. He dreams of fighting big bad villains like the real Batman and Robin in Gotham City. I don't blame him for such high hopes and ambitions. After all, why else would you ever become a tights and capes hero if not for the thrill and glamor of that lifestyle? 

His father knows that true service goes unnoticed so he doesn't mind the quiet life they live together, preventing petty crimes and solving day-to-day struggles of their neighbors. His son desires more than those humdrum scenarios, however, so he abandoned his father in the middle of an arrest. While reading this issue, I know that it lacked the great pacing and action-oriented tone of the previous issue and yet this is something that I had a great time reading because it felt personal. I cared about the characters in focus. I sympathized with their plight and rooted for them to get what they want the most. For Man-of-Bats it's the reassurance that he is fighting for something that's worth his blood and sweat--that he is not alone. For Little Raven, it's the acknowledgement that what he does with his father matters, that somehow, someday, someone will take notice and revitalize his passion.

Thankfully, Batman eventually comes along and makes all their dreams come true. It sounds cheesy to say but that's exactly what happens and it's so poignant. I was relieved that both father and son didn't have to face things alone anymore; that their greatest inspiration has noticed the good deeds they have done for their community and respects them for their tenacity and devotion. I especially loved that panel where their neighbors tried to help out as well when Man-of-Bats was being attacked by a group of hooligans. It's always touching when ordinary citizens rise up to defend their heroes. It warms my heart to see that here.


RECOMMENDED: 10/10

* I've rated this a perfect score because this is the missing element of emotional resonance that I've been hoping for.

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #6

AND WE'RE BACK WITH A VENGEANCE!

After the slightly dragging and confounding three-issued storyline Scorpion Tango set in Argentina, I can finally go back to enjoying the Batman Incorporated series as the dynamic and thrilling visual adventure that it is. This issue was definitely the most action-packed and cinematic yet, and was once again magnificently illustrated by Chris Burnham. There are also more vital information and backstory revealed in this issue which has finally helped me in finding a more stable emotional investment with the scope of its story which is getting more complicated (yet more fascinating as well) by each issue.

First of all, the cinematic style of the panels and sequences present in this story managed to capture my attention readily and there was not a moment that I ever disengaged from what was before me from the very beginning to the last. That is an impressive feat that needs to be acknowledged. In the last three months, I reviewed a great deal of issues for three New 52 Batman titles and all of them have been amazing, but Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated has an unmatched tonality when it comes to the delivery of its plot and action scenes. I don't think a Batman story could be written with such spirited narrative while still being lighthearted and insightful in all the right places. This isn't one of those dark and brooding stories that I've come to expect from my Batman material. This one is something that could even become a summer blockbuster superhero film with heart and guts. Sure, I was slightly disheartened when I arrived at a standstill in previous issues #3 and #4, but that seemed like a distant memory now, given the adrenaline and excitement that this issue had brought out from me.

There are so many things going on here but none of them will confuse you for long. The trick is to stay focused (which, if you'r me, will prove to be the easiest task in the world, seeing as how completely engrossed I was the entire time) and fully aware of the new characters who will make their appearance here and there (both heroes and villains). The pacing is just superb, enabling readers to gasp for breath with the suspense but also take a huge gulp of it in between. As for the story, I wouldn't say this has any kind of emotional resonance that I latched into (that belonged to the issue that came after this) but the thrill of the chase and the discovery page after page definitely deserved the high rating that I'm giving this issue with.

I wouldn't discuss the story in detail anymore but I will say this: I think Grant Morrison knows how to utilize his premise (what if Batman decides to recruit vigilantes globally) and turn it over in its own hemisphere faster and more energized than any of us would expect. You can certainly feel that Morrison is playing the long game; his Bruce Wayne has a crusade that doesn't exclusively belong to Gotham City anymore. After the events in the Final Crisis where he witnessed a bleak future, Bruce is determined to do whatever it takes to stop that from taking shape while it's still early, and the first sign of a formidable threat known only as a collective mysterious organization known as the Leviathan has surely shown that the world needs Batman more than ever--and he's going to require an army behind him to take the fight to the evil monstrosity spreading across countries.


RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #5

The previous two issues were hard for me to read because I just couldn't get into the story and that alone disrupted my enjoyment. I did eventually connect to the present storyline on some level, all thanks to the surprisingly pleasant appearances of Kathy Kane, the previous Batwoman from the past, and the current Batwoman who just kicks ass and takes name like no other.

For this issue, we get to meet yet another hero for Bat Inc. recruitment, an Englishman who goes by the name of the Hood, a spy whom Batwoman meets as she tries to intercept Dr. Dedalus' location. I don't think I even mentioned Dr. Dedalus before, but basically he's the bad-guy at the heart of it all (the boss whom Scorpiana and El Sombrero work for). He has several aliases as well, one of which was Agent Zero who hired Kathy Kane to uncover Batman's identity and whom I assumed also had her murdered years ago. I think the idea behind Dr. Dedalus' character is imaginative. Morrison mentioned in the conception of his characters that he wanted a senile criminal mastermind who refuses to retire and so his schemes are getting more erratic and illogical due to his deteriorating mind. I think that makes this particular villain both pitiful and dangerous.

In addition to this clever characterization, Morrison also made use of the Ouroboros which is an ancient Greek symbol depicting a serpent eating its own tail. It also ties up to the mysterious phrase, "A ring around the world" (which will play a significant role in the next issues so keep that in mind). Dr. Dedalus is obsessed with this symbol for some reason and once they managed to apprehend the bad guys (Batwoman kicks Scorpiana around which was awesome, especially when she commented on Scorpiana's costume: "You seriously wear a swimsuit?") and Batman was able to stop a bomb from obliterating the island (nothing like trying to disarm a deranged criminal mastermind's bomb to keep the suspense going), they eventually discover that this mission in Argentina has connections with the global threat Batman had been preparing for: THE LEVIATHAN.

We then get a flashback sequence labeled "Prologue" where we are taken to a small village in North Africa. David, also known as Bat-Wing, stumbles upon a disturbing practice where African children are being lulled and brainwashed into giving their loyalties to an ominous organization that call themselves the Leviathan. The issue ends with that which actually improves the quality of the storytelling for me. I think this issue has answered some questions from the previous two, as well as offer more puzzles to solve. But at least now I can make sense of the story in general which has something to do with this mysterious Leviathan who seems to be Batman's number-one priority in his hit-list. In fact, we will later discover later that they are one of the reasons why Bruce Wayne decided to franchise the Batman ideal across the world ever since he came back from the dead (post-Final Crisis storyline where he was trapped in the future and saw something that he is now determined to stop from happening).

This issue ties up the Argentina storyline well and I'm very relieved that we can move on to another plot especially now that the game is afoot and the stakes are taking a darker turn and it's getting risky for everyone involved.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Friday, July 18, 2014

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #4

I received the previous issue with a lukewarm response, mostly likely due to the fact that I was far too confounded about most of the details in that story that I was unable to properly enjoy it as a whole. Luckily, this issue did not suffer the same kind of problems I had with the last one--but it wasn't a solid issue in itself either. My favorite aspect of this issue is definitely the appearance of the first Batwoman, Kathy Kane, in a series of flashbacks; and the fact that we also get the current Batwoman, Kate, in the mix. This is also the issue where artist Chris Burnham makes his debut for the series. His illustrations perfectly matched the era where Kathy Kane belongs in during the flashbacks so I was quite happy about that.

This directly follows the events after the cliffhanger in the previous issue where Batman and El Gaucho have to fight each other to the death in order to save the three abducted children from drowning. Scorpiana baits them by revealing that El Gaucho had something to do with Kathy Kane's death in the past which naturally set Batman's nerves on edge because we find out later on that she was the first woman he ever thought of marrying--and the one who broke his heart which apparently no one has done before. Batman then proceeds to beat up El Gaucho while the other man tries to explain to him his role in Kane's death. But as I stated before, I couldn't care about what's going on in that plot point. What I focused my attention on is with the Batwomen of the past and present.

Of the past, Kathy Kane is an extraordinary and scintillating character of her own right. She was ambitious, determined and ready to take on a man's world which is what motivated her to put on a female Bat costume to begin with. Batman was absolutely smitten which didn't sit well with prepubescent Dick as Robin. But things are not as idyllic as it seems because Kathy Kane had a terrible secret and it's one that would cost her loyalty and relationship with the Dark Knight. I won't reveal what it is since it ties to the overall plot revelation of this issue but let's just say they ended in bad terms and then that follows her death later. Of the present, Batwoman tracks down the same organization that Batman and El Gaucho are caught up in. She meets a Kathy Kane impostor and apprehends her. She realizes that there is something more going on with her late family relative's murder case than meets the eye so she decided to find out more about it. I hope it's a good one.

The ending was quite anti-climactic. Somehow Batman and El Gaucho stop fighting. And then Scorpiana escapes, leaving the wheel-chaired El Sombrero behind. The enigmatic last lines are "Kathy Kane made it personal" and it was a nice touch. I certainly want to know what happened after she broke up with Batman because I feel like her death afterwards has some importance in the bigger picture. I also want to see more of her descendant Kate, the current Batwoman, investigate that piece of the puzzle and hopefully she joins Batman and El Gaucho in the next issue before I completely lose interest in this convoluted storyline.

RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #3

This issue was hard to get into at first especially because of the language barrier. There are narration boxes in Spanish in some pages which made me embarrassed because it reminded me how much I needed to brush up on that language (I used to be able to speak it very well but now I've forgotten a lot of it as I grew up and we no longer speak it at home). But that's not the only aspect of the story that proved difficult to maintain a momentum with.

I actually don't know what to say in this review because I can't bring myself to care enough ABOUT ANYTHING. So I'll just copy-paste the wiki summary below and just go from there, okay?

"Batman travels to Argentina in an attempt to recruit El Gaucho into Batman Incorporated. Gaucho refuses, wanting to be his own man. Gaucho informs Batman of a case involving three missing children and a link to a mysterious manipulative figure called Doctor Dedalus. On the trail of the three children Batman and El Gaucho are led into a death trap by El Sombrero and Scorpiana in which they must fight to the death to save the missing children."


I try to think back to the first two issues of Bat Inc which were focused on Japan and with Mr. Unknown as the hero-to-recruit; and how I instantly connected with everything in those pages. It was a complete opposite-reaction for this issue, however. There wasn't anything here that I wanted to know more about. In fact, I'm getting impatient and annoyed with the events as well, eager to move forward to the next page, hoping something attention-grabbing happens. And it eventually did by the last pages although by that point I was only going through the motions. I think it also has something to do with the fact that El Gaucho did not have any effect on me whatsoever because I seriously do not know who he is other than his nationality and the mission he's pursuing. I can't get a better read of him which was unfortunate since Morrison did so well with Jiro (Mr. Unknown) where you already get a sense of his personality and motivations in just a short span of time. There's something missing here (in the overall story structure and characterizations) and I still can't put my finger in it. Even Batman is...bland. How awful is that? He doesn't have any kind of good rapport or interplay with El Gaucho so far (I'm really starting to miss Catwoman because of that).

I don't know if I can even talk about the villains in the plot and their secret organization/goals because I'm still confused as to what that would be exactly. I feel like I'm irresponsibly posting an incoherent review here. So before I completely drop the ball on this, I will quote something that I really liked (which was said by the main villain, El Sombrero): "Men who fight and risk their lives for the weak and vulnerable can so easily be destroyed by that same spirit of self-reliance."

That line made me pause and contemplate. It made me look back at Batman's history in general as well as the rest of his Bat-family, particularly Dick Grayson when he took the mantle of Batman during the last series of issues for the old continuity of Detective Comics. It is an arrogant assessment, to call heroism a form of weakness, but there is a grain of truth in those words. Batman is duty-bound to be Gotham's watchful protector and now he is motivated by the same ideals to find other heroes globally who share those core values he had as a crime-fighter. But there is a question to ask here, and that is whether or not they are enslaved by such ideals, and what effects that may have. As much as our superheroes can find strength in their convictions and beliefs, it also makes them too exposed from the evils and ills of the world in a larger scale than that of the average individual. So perhaps El Sombrero was simply making the best informed observation in the history of superheroes EVER. It's an irony that just gets you.

There you have it. It's pretty sad that I'm only at the third issue and my favorite part of it is that quote and everything else just didn't make sense to me so I considered them white noise. Hopefully, Morrison picks up the pace and wrap up this storyline in Argentina better than he started it. And then we can move on to another country.


RECOMMENDED: 6/10

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #2

This is what a typical adventure-oriented Batman story should always be like: fun, exciting and dramatic page after page. The overall tonality so far of Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated is superb. It's fast-paced and edgy. It has great dialogue which doesn't waste itself for longevity's sake. And the panel sequences for this issue alone are absurd yet very thrilling to look at. When I say absurd, I, of course, meant the goddamn fucking octopus tentacles (wrapped around Catwoman and drawn in a decisively disgusting yet hilariously sexy sort of way) which I think must be a meta-placement in tribute to the Japanese art medium's, er, penchant for sea creatures as seen in most of their pop culture imagery.

It's amazing, that's all I'm saying. It makes sense but then again, it also doesn't--which is what made it so awesome to look at in the first place. I think my favorite part of the story so far has to be the illustrations themselves. They are very cinematographic in style and scope. The sequences' composition could easily translate on screen in case anyone feels like adapting this in a movie (or at least in animation, *wink wink*). Every panel sings in perfect tune with the other, showcasing the most riveting fight scenes and chases that kept me at the edge of my seat with each page turned. The villain in focus, Lord Death, is the most irritating piece of shit ever conceived in comic book pages (but I might be too harsh, because that title rightfully belongs to Dr. Hugo Strange from his appearance on Batman: PREY. I hated that asshole). I didn't hate Lord Death because, thankfully, this is the last time he appears (but in the story as a whole, I'm not sure of that yet). 

And can I also say that Jiro is now my favorite recruit as of yet? I just adore him and it's a visceral reaction too. I really have no logical explanation as to why I love him. All I know is that when he got shot and I thought he died (he merely faked his death, thank fuck, so he can join Batman Inc), I SCREAMED like it wounded me in the chest. So that's gotta mean I'm into this guy a lot, right? Yeah.

Issue #2 Ressurector was just a most compelling adventure that utilized its setting in Japan quite well. I didn't think there were any racial slurs to be found. In fact, I pretty much felt like Morrison has an appreciation for the culture and artistic styles of the Japanese. He didn't go over-the-top and when he did with that octopus, it was well-placed and played for comedic effect without any hint of condescension. It was just impressive writing, that's all it is. I want to see Jiro as Mr. Unknown soon. Loving his costume! He looks like a modern Zorro with that hat and cape. 

I also hope this wouldn't be the last time I see Catwoman. I love how she complements Batman in their fight scenes. I need more of her soon. Batman Incorporated is easily becoming a favorite of mine even on this early stage of the game.


RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #1

The very first Batman comic book I ever read was penned by Grant Morrison. I don't remember the title or the story itself anymore (I was eight years old and it was by chance that I picked up the comic, and forgot about it since). However, I carried his name with me when I reached that age where I started taking comic books seriously. Using him as the origin for my Bat-exploration, I picked up an issue of Batman Incorporated in high school. But since it was in the middle of the story, I put it down because I couldn't honestly understand what was going on. So here I am now, years later, more knowledgeable and devoted to the Dark Knight, so I am damn well ready to take this one on at long last!

But some of you novices may need some backstory before getting into this so here's a brief summary of what this series will entail. You need to remember that Morrison's Batman Incorporated belongs to both the old continuity and the new. When New 52 was launched, this title was still pushed through with minimal adjustments to suit the new continuity of the DCverse. What I'll be reading and reviewing are the first eight issues of the 2010-2011 run. I'll be picking up the New 52 run within this year as well, but for now let's focus on this freshman batch. 

Another thing you need to remember is that there was a time in the old continuity after major events in the timeline (in one of DC's famed Crisis stories, that is) where, basically, Bruce Wayne/Batman was trapped somewhere and was presumed dead in his actual world. He did eventually return but something drastic has changed in him. He didn't readily come back as Batman to Gotham City just yet (which was why his apprentice, former first Robin Dick Grayson, took the mantle in his absence hence he became the new Batman in the last few runs of Detective Comics before New 52. To find out what that was like, do check out The Black Mirror series which is one of the best Batman graphic novels out there). Instead, Bruce decided that he needed to be something bigger than Gotham's watchful guardian. Hence, he invested on the establishment of Batman Incorporated where "he is prepared to take his war on crime to the next level, by essentially "franchising" it and drafting, training and commanding a global team of heroes who will answer to Batman himself called Batman Incorporated (Boucher, Los Angeles Times, 2010)".

That already sounds pretty badass, right? If you need more character and narrative background before getting into this series, you can also read the comics that came before it (such as Batman and Son, The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul, The Black Glove, R.I.P., Final Crisis, Batman and Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne). But, to be honest, you can just jump right into this as long as you're familiar with the timeline and concept that drives this series. So let's do just that for this review. 

What I enjoy about this series foremost is that we get to see Batman traveling around the world to recruit vigilantes who are interested to join his global crusade. In this story, the setting is Japan where a villain who fancies himself as Lord Death murders a Japanese superhero named "Mr. Unknown". The title of the issue is a spoiler alert already (Mr. Unknown is Dead). Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman team up for a mission where it conveniently places them in said country which enables Batman to hit two birds with one stone since he's also there to recruit Mr. Unknown himself. Unfortunately, Lord Death beats him to it--but there's a twist. As it turns out, the Mr. Unknown persona is actually composed of two people; one is an old man in his fifties who does all the deductive side of the job while the other is an athletic young man who handles the physical stuff. Batman is of course now in pursuit of the latter who is still on Lord Death's hit list.

I think that's all I should discuss lest I spoil everything. So far, the series is so enjoyable in all the right places. Paquette's artwork and illustrations are gorgeous! They're dynamic, detailed and full of life and vigor. The background looks amazing for every panel, and the coloring is quite top-notch too with both soft and hard edges depending on what the action and sequence would dictate. It's already a great sign when the debut issue is this magnificently paced, storytelling-wise. It makes you look forward for more. Batman and Catwoman working together is always a pleasure. I definitely enjoy their interplay for this series since Bats and Cat have always been chemical around each other and this story is no exception. The younger Mr. Unknown Jiro is instantly likable for me. I'm actually rooting for him already which was weird because I just met him. Perhaps it's because he reminded me of a young Dick (with his characterization and role as the apprentice to the old-man Mr. Unknown), and I definitely look forward to seeing him become a part of the Bat Inc. soon. His story still continues on for the next issue so we'll see about that.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Poised to become one of the great Batman series out there, this first issue establishes the many promises the series will fulfill in the continuing run later on.