Saturday, November 29, 2014

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi volume 5

When Villains Month rolled around, Peter J. Tomasi had the wonderful opportunity to write a decent Two Face story. Harvey Dent is one of the A-listers in Batman's rogues gallery--and Tomasi has certainly delivered. It was remarkably written and paced, with enough gore and lechery that balanced the entire piece beautifully. This five-issued Two Face storyline is called The Big Burn, and I was admittedly nervous as all hell. Tomasi created one decent villain so far, and that was NoBody at the beginning of the first eight issues of Batman and Robin. Can he handle writing something for a well-established A-lister Bat-villain? I think I finally have a better understanding of how Tomasi writes Batman stories. He always builds up a good premise and then the next issues will either be decent follow-ups or shaky ones. But he always sticks the landing when it comes to the endings of his arcs (except perhaps with trash like Terminus and zombies).

For his writing for the new origin story for one of the Bat-villain A-listers Two Face, The Big Burn certainly ended as a phenomenal albeit an essentially incomplete story.

With the first installment of this Two Face story entitled First Strike, there is more potential here that one who is a stickler for the old continuity (srsly, better calm those balls) should not overlook or undermine. The introduction of the villainess Erin McKinell is astute in scope. I kindda like that we get an Irish mob presence in Gotham City and that it's a woman who is taking those reigns. One thing that's lacking in New 52 Batman is the mob families in Gotham City which is also an integral part of that mythos. Gotham is an infested nest of all kinds of vermin which is the reason Batman is badly needed by the average citizen. We don't only have the rogues gallery threatening the status quo, but also your organized crime. Here we finally get that mob presence, and, impressively enough, an actually competent series of actions from GCPD led by Commissioner Gordon. Honestly, this issue is such a promising premise as long as you're not hang-up on the origin story being changed.

By the second issue named Sparks, the story starts having a natural progression of events, as well as very compelling character exposition all throughout, particularly on Tomasi's villainness Erin McKinell who is starting to become a very fleshed-out character of her own right, not only because she was the one responsible for scarring Harvey Dent and thus unleashing Two-Face to the world; but also because she's also a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne (which would be too on-the-nose in theory but was something I actually think would enable Batman to have a more personal investment on this case like never before as well, seeing as he both had relationships with Dent, and now McKinell in a distant past). I quite liked that McKinell sought Bruce's help and yet antagonized him for his outright refusal like the bitch she truly is. There's a strong set of teeth on this woman and she is neither likable or sympathetic so far, but I'm quite curious and intrigued by her importance to the plot nevertheless.

No one likes to change something that's been established quite amazingly, and Jeph Loeb's writing on The Long Halloween pertaining to Harvey Dent's transformation into Two Face was greatly done. But DC launched New 52 for a reason and one of those reasons is to re-imagine many of their stories, and therefore improve their characters along the way based on the dynamic trends for today's comic book reader--and this may include the origin stories, more or less, since it probably helps the new blood to get to know these heroes and villains better by not having to dig up old issues (which is a tedious task), and instead focus on what is current on the comics line-up these days, and hopefully--if we are lucky--it would offer something smart and refreshing as well. Does that sound like I'm defending DC for their New 52 launching? Not necessarily, but as a fan of their comics especially Batman, I just find myself more inclined to give them a chance and see things in their perspective. So far, I've gotten extraordinary and beautiful stories out of my Batman for this new continuity, though I am still wary when some writers do not meet expectations. Hell, my relationship with Tomasi's work for Batman and Robin has been schizophrenic at best, but his five-issued Tw Face story arc is unquestionably one of his finest for me.

By the third installment of Peter J. Tomasi's entitled Ignition, a complete revamp of Two Face's origin story, I can honestly say that it is starting to shape itself into one of the best arcs Tomasi has to offer yet in his B&R run. We don't have a new Robin ready so it's a useful and excellent way of making most of his time writing a story that is villain-centered--though which villain is in focus is quite debatable at this point. Though the titular one, Two Face is hardly ever in an intimate focus here; it's Erin McKillen who really manages to steal the spotlight. Not that I have a problem with that because Tomasi is writing her quite entertainingly and with unexpected depth, but this is supposed to be Two-Face's origin story and yet Tomasi seems to pay more attention to his villainess and the effect of scarring Harvey Dent has on her instead of the other way around. But that complaint, a very miniscule nitpick, was the one I had in the first two issues of this arc, but Tomasi finally brings forth Two-Face into the fold by this point in the game.

The grand finale Inferno is so good in pacing, execution and artistic style that you simply lose yourself in the pages therein. Readers are provided with the right balance of action and dramatic elements, even if we are still haunted by Tomasi's failure to characterize Harvey Dent as a White Knight in the flashback sequences from the last issue which I discussed in detail here. I also talked about how I believed Tomasi did not want any comparisons with his work here and with that of Nolan's film The Dark Knight when it comes to how he interpreted the trinity relationship of Batman, Gordon and Dent. However, that line "You were the best of us" was unmistakably a callback to said movie. But as I've expressed in my review of the last issue, this was not the case, is it? Harvey Dent was not that of a stand-up guy to begin with, it may seem, seeing as he was a criminal defense lawyer for the Irish mob family McKillens, and that his run for the distruct attorney's office felt like a self-serving move because he had no other options left. So that line did not have the kind of impact Tomasi expect it might have because his Harvey Dent was a callous and pragmatic man of law as opposed to the idyllic and optimistic one we have seen in the Nolan film.

But this is not where my criticisms end, though I'm not sure if my next one should even be considered a critique, since it's the most wonderful highlight of this five-issued arc, to be honest, and that is no other than Tomasi's original creation of the villainess Erin McKillen who is the dark horse that certainly won a place as a formidable foe (that I have a feeling could appear in other issue of the B&R run soon enough). I really enjoyed her. I enjoyed her relationship with Bruce Wayne. I enjoyed her sadomasochistic tango with Harvey Dent/Two Face. And I enjoyed her personal backstory. She was the one who truly shone in this story--which defeats the purpose of the title. As great as the Irish rose was, The Big Burn shouldn't be more about her, but Two-Face. That growing unevenness between their character's appearances was the most confusing development for me because on one hand I like reading about Erin; but on the other I really wish we're focusing on Two Face because this is his damn comic book in the first place.

And when we do zero-in on him, it's by this last installment which are rife with great character interaction moments between him and Batman as well. The top-notch illustrations of Gleason, Gray and Kalisz should pique your interest since I personally think that they can rival those of Capullo, Miki and FCO from Synder's Batman: Zero Year. I'm constantly pleased by how much Gleason is surprising me as an artist. His artwork has come far since Born To Kill, first volume of B&R. He has finally learned to be more expressive in his details of character's faces and the action panels. So his artwork for this issue may earn the biggest share of my rating for it overall.

Peter J. Tomasi's The Big Burn was definitely one of his strongest arcs (which is saying something because we were served by his weakest before), and that fucking ending will thankfully be resolved soon enough. I'm also looking forward for whatever larger role Erin McKillen will take to what I assume will be the Gotham's mob rise to relevance in the New 52 Batman storylines.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Thursday, November 27, 2014

[Best of Batman] Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison vol.2

Amusingly disjointed, irresponsibly fun and outrageous, and atrociously silly--these are the foremost adjectives I would describe Grant Morrison's story arcs entitled Blackest Knight and Batman vs. Robin which this second volume was composed of.

I was a massive fan of the first volume Batman Reborn because those six issues are probably the most insanely crafted storylines I have ever read in a Batman series, and yet they were also able to impart something resonant when it comes to characterizations and thematic conflicts. I originally intended to only read the first volume this year but since I have a week to spare before I get started on my December list, I decided to just jump right into the next six issues and I was glad I did because it was the most fun I had, particularly when everything about the stories just clicks with me easily.

There wasn't anything of notable depth for this volume. In fact, most of the plot ideas are plain silly but it's the kind of silly that entertains. Morrison was not pretentious in delivering these action-packed tales which I quite appreciated because it kept everything light-hearted and exciting for me to follow. I don't even notice that it's not Bruce Wayne underneath that cowl but Dick Grayson.

This is set after the events of Final Crisis where Bruce Wayne was presumed dead. It's in this volume when it was revealed that he is very much alive and was merely transported by Darkseid to some alternate dimension, and it's up to Dick, Damian and Alfred to find and retrieve him, but not without complications and the other more important missions to face as the Dynamic Duo.

The inarguable bonus for me in picking up this series was the fact that I'm able to enjoy Damian Wayne as Robin again after the months of heartache I experienced when he was tragically killed by Morrison himself (something I'm slowly forgiving him for these days) in Batman Incorporated. Due to his year-long absence and death in the New 52 continuity, I tried my best to avoid any material that included him for a while. Choosing to read him again in the comic book pages is honestly an act of courage, and a step towards accepting him back in my life as a beloved favorite character. I know this all sounds laughable to you, but I love Damian Wayne in a way I never thought was possible (because it was unexpected!) so losing him was like losing my own family. That's not an exaggerated sentiment. That's how it felt like when I watched him die. I had to grieve him alongside Batman and the rest of his friends as I read and reviewed Tomasi issues as dutifully as I could six months ago. That wasn't an easy task to do. It was a very masochistic endeavor. I even cried a lot.

Now I was absolutely torn about him coming back in Tomasi's run but reading him here in Morrison's own version has made me realize how much I've missed him after all, and that I do look forward to reading him again in New 52. This volume's last issue (#12) provided a very insightful and brutally honest look at Damian's relationship wit his mother Talia al Ghul. I've talked about it in this review, so I won't repeat myself. You can just read it by clicking the link. Overall, if you are a Damian Wayne fan yourself, then I recommend Morrison's Batman and Robin. It's fun, comedic and surprisingly sweet in some ways. This one was illustrated by two artists, Cameron Stewart and Andy Clarke for the respective two story arcs. There is a lot of dynamic and tantalizing panels and action sequences in their artwork which I guarantee will keep you engrossed as you turn the pages.

I am ready for more Batman and Robin stories both from the old and new continuity!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison issue #12

In the previous two issues, shit went down in what can only be described as a spiral of what-the-fuckery.

It started when Dick, Alfred and Damian decided to look for clues that will help them find and retrieve Bruce who is currently trapped in some other dimension, no thanks to Darkseid. In doing so, they uncovered secret passageways in the Manor where they discover that one of the Wayne ancestors used to worship demon bats.

Later, Damian meets Oberon Sexton in the graveyard and they took turns beating up the random gangsters who turned up to ransack Wayne Manor. Damian then deduces that Sexton has a fake English accent--and that he could be Bruce Wayne all along.

Much earlier on, however, Talia al Ghul just so happens to have experimented on her son's damaged spine under false medical assistance so she could plant a chip that would control his motor functions via a Cerebro-looking helmet.

Much later on, Slade Wilson, a.k.a Death Stroke, was commissioned by Talia to put on the said helmet so he can use Damian's body to beat the crap out of Dick whom he has a personal vendetta with.

And here we are.

This is the exciting conclusion to the three-part story arc Batman vs. Robin and it was infused with lots of action and drama that once and for all proved that Grant Morrison can write the most convoluted plots and yet still somehow stick the landing as long as he can manage to incorporate some deeper reflection later on. That was exactly how Batman vs. Robin was like for me. It had tantalizing action and genuinely comedic moments which can also be said for his previous arcs in the first volume (Batman Reborn and Revenge of the Red Hood). I didn't really expect it to have some sort of emotional pay-off at the end like those two did, and yet it thankfully had one. I wouldn't exactly call it a pay-off either but it was definitely an insightful, personal plot thread that resonates with Damian Wayne's characterization so far in Morrison's series.

I've stated before that I much preferred Damian in Peter J. Tomas's New 52 Batman and Robin series, but Morrison is the credited creator for this Boy Wonder so I still accept his characterization as the original one. For this issue, we get a very honest (if not brutally so) conversation between Damian and his mother Talia. Back in the day, I never had any strong opinions about Talia but now I do. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS WOMAN? She literally controls her son and justifies that it's for his own good. She believes that being Robin is harmful for him but Damian definitely fights for it, asserting that becoming Robin is his best decision. In a last attempt to change his mind, Talia shows him a container where his clone brother is being nurtured, telling him that if he doesn't quit being Robin and accept the al Ghul legacy, then this clone baby will replace him instead.

She then claims to only want what was best for Damian and what was best for him is to abandon all notions of heroism--the things his father stood for as Batman--and join her in her conquests to rule the world under the supreme leadership of an al Ghul. It's his destiny, she keeps on saying. And, in the most poignant of moments, Damian's response to his mother's ridiculous proposal was:


Do you hear that sound? That was the sound of my heart breaking. The maternal instinct in me immediately wanted to wrap my arms around him and say: "Oh, yes, baby. Of course, I will! You're one of a kind. You can be whatever you want to be and I will support you because I trust and respect you enough to make your own choices. I am your mother and I'm proud of you because you will never do anything to make me love you less." But I'm not Damian's mother. It's Talia. And she replies. "NO. I am too much of a perfectionist." Seriously? You can't love your son because he wouldn't live up to the fantasy version you wanted for a child? WHAT THE HOLY LOKI FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, TALIA? That's not even the worst part. As soon as Damian finalizes his decision to stay as Robin and fight with Dick Grayson, Talia then makes an official announcement: if Damian won't be her perfect son then he is now AN ENEMY OF THE AL GHULS. Yes, that's right. Cunt Bitch Talia just declared her son to be a sworn enemy of the League of Assassins and he is no longer welcome at her home. That means no mother-son dinner holidays, I suppose. Oh, and if he gets in her way, Talia will not hesitate to have him killed. You know, just to sweeten the deal. Again, WHAT THE HOLY LOKI FUCK, WOMAN? Being a mother is a privilege in itself. Being the mother to an amazing boy like Damian Wayne SHOULD BE AN HONOR.

Bitch, you cray-cray, okay? YOU CRAY-CRAY!!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison issue #11

In my review for the previous issue of Batman vs. Robin, I was just talking about the fact that I barely miss Bruce Wayne as Batman when, out of fucking nowhere, Damian Wayne casually asked a character named Oberon Sexton if he's Bruce Wayne. HOLY SHIT.

There I was, flipping through yet another action-packed Morrison issue, gushing over Clarke's illustrations of the fight scenes and then Damian starts deducing Sexton's fake English accent and concludes that he must be Bruce Wayne in disguise. For some reason, this shocked me and tickled me. If that is indeed Bruce Wayne then I was happy that Damian was the first one to realize it which shows that he's either a brilliant detective on his own or that he misses his father very much and would readily believe he has come back somehow from whatever hellhole dimension Darkseid sent him to back in Final Crisis.

But then again, look at that cover. It specifically says that Bruce Wayne is returning, and for some reason I didn't pay attention to it and just started reading the content inside. But I usually don't look at the words in the cover because yeah, there may be misnomer or intentional spoilers in it. It's a good thing I didn't because, as I've explained in the previous paragraph, I was so shocked to learn that Sexton may or may not be Bruce himself. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

This second installment of the story arc Batman vs. Robin has so much material in it that my attention is all over the place, trying to piece together scene after scene. Alfred, Dick and Damian have just returned to Wayne Manor and they are already under attack from three different sources. Two of them I don't give a fuck about (some Mexican gang, a cult leader? Who cares?) while the last one is Talia al Ghul who is still playing puppet-master with her son like the douche-cunt she is. This time, she employs the help of Slade Wilson (a.k.a Deathstroke, a.k.a Sexy Australian Accent in CW's Arrow) to put on the helmet controlling Damian's body so he can dance-revo the fuck out of it. BECAUSE WHY NOT, TALIA, YOU CRAZY BITCH?! So Damian hits Sexton with a shovel and proceed to attack Dick immediately.

At this point I'm just laughing inside. A part of me feels bad for Damian for being literally controlled by his overbearing mother, while another part of me is kind of hoping Sexton will take off his disguise and reveals himself to be Bruce Wayne all along and stops Damian through the sheer power of his love. And then they cry together in each other's arms. They pull Dick towards them and they cry together again. And then I realized that I'm projecting my disgusting sentiments and expectations for Tomasi's own B&R series where Robin Rises will supposedly bring back Damian again in DCU. This was all wishful thinking. I'm sure Sexton is just a red herring and Dick is more than capable to handle Damian by himself. I shouldn't expect too much.

That's how you always get your nerd-heart broken, Eka.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison issue #10

Grant Morrison graces us with yet another three-issued arc entitled Batman vs. Robin and the issues were illustrated by no other than Andy Clarke whose work I became a fan of from New 52's Detective Comics written by John Layman a while back. In the next three issues, Clarke demonstrates just how exciting his artwork truly is and I think my favorite parts include the panels that need more detail than usual, considering this was supposed to be a spooky mystery story as well where Dick and Damian with Alfred uncover hidden passages in Wayne Manor where a hallway consisting of ancestral portraits may lead to clues as to the real location of Bruce Wayne who is trapped in another dimension thanks to Darkseid.

Now there's something very accessible about Morrison's B&R issues these days that relaxes me especially when they are mostly composed of fun-filled, action-packed scenarios that are so dynamic to look at in the pages that any convoluted plot thread seemed excusable. It was definitely that for me. Sometimes a comic book doesn't have to be insightful or deconstructive or philosophical (though I consider myself to be one of those people who always wants comic books to intellectually stimulate me). But a healthy dose of your quintessential superhero comic fodder is essential too, and I am enjoying the fuck out of these B&R issues that all my ratings from #7-12 will be consistently a solid 8.

Morrison's Damian Wayne is not really the Boy Wonder I fell in love with (it's Tomasi who ultimately defined this character for me), but I like his rebellious streak a lot even if he comes off too bratty for his own damn good. Besides, I believe that he's beginning to trust and care for Dick in his own stubborn way. I can't say the same about his relationship with his mother Talia Al Ghul who continues to challenge norms on maternal love and care. Ergo, she believes that her son is the perfect heir for her father's perfect kingdom so he has to be the perfect killing machine who will perfectly murder anyone she considers unworthy of being closely associated with Damian. To showcase what an utterly horrible mother she is, Talia surgically implanted some device in Damian's spine that allows her to control him physically by putting on some Cerebro-looking helmet and basically turning her son into a puppet and making him attack people at random. I guess she doesn't want any flowers and greeting cards for any Mother's Day event ever. God, Talia needs a new hobby. Turning your son into a monster is not good color on her.

The most peculiar thing about reading Batman and Robin for Morrison's run is the fact that I don't mind if Bruce Wayne doesn't come back just yet to allow Dick, Damian and Alfred some more time to grow together as a well-powered team because I'm frankly happy with the way things are going among the three. Unfortunately, Talia's around to ensure that Damian won't form healthy attachments with good people who actually accept him unconditionally, so that puts Damian in a tough spot. I can really sense that he's trying to change, and not give in to his murderous instincts. He is still a Wayne, not just an al Ghul.

Anyway, this was another fine issue that kept me turning the pages. I laughed every now and then too because there is some goofiness that balanced the what-the-fuckery in between. Loving the set-up. Loving Clarke's art.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

[Gotham] Episode 10 Review



As a midseason finale, Lovecraft wasn't exactly the story we wanted Gotham to end with this year, considering this episode should also get us excited for next year's material and yet there is something anticlimactic and underwhelming about the way it presented supposedly crucial game-changers. If I simply look at this as a standalone episode, then I think it held up well because it has one major plotline and one subplot in the background which allowed the flow of the narrative to run smoothly enough. The ensemble of characters was utilized pretty well but the quality of the scenes is, at best, uneven which fortunately served to highlight the strongest performances and moments found in the episode. I don't feel the need to lengthen this review because my best guess is that you're reading this because you have watched the episode so I owe it to all of us to keep things simple.

MAJOR STORYLINE: Someone hires a group of professional killers to dispose of Selina Kyle since she's supposed to be a key witness who will testify for the Waynes' murder trial. Last episode, Gordon dropped her off to Alfred and Bruce's care while he struck a deal with the defense attorney Harvey Dent who was building a case against a businessman named Dick Lovecraft. Dent tries to pin the murders to Lovecraft by hinting that he has a witness to convict him with. The entire episode dangles the red herring that the titular character was the one who hired the killers who were after Selina, but we later find out that he was also being targeted. Once again, Gotham reinforces the puzzling habit of naming an episode after a character who barely has anything to contribute to the episode itself. After all, the great bulk of this story was devoted to the budding relationship of young Bruce and Selina. They had genuinely heartfelt moments together and a few awkward, clunky dialogues here and there. Personally, I think David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova have great on-screen chemistry and are given storyline material that I believe they performed in very well. There's a polarizing quality to Mazouz' character as Bruce Wayne in the show and I claimed in a few of my reviews that I belong to the positive faction. I actually look forward to him every episode though admittedly he serves no bigger purpose in the plots themselves and his scenes are usually there as a standalone appearance. IRONICALLY ENOUGH, he and Pertwee's Alfred have a more nuanced relationship and fleshed-out characterization than more major characters, and this midseason finale has once more touched upon that. Bicondova's Selina Kyle has never felt important to the show until this point but it's still arguable how she should or will eventually fit in whatever the writers plan for her next year.

MINOR STORYLINE: The continuing escalation of the mob wars. John Doman's Carmine Falcone is becoming one of my favorite performances of the show. He has this screen presence that keeps you on the edge of your seat and his interaction with Oswald Cobblepot allows Robin Lord Taylor to really step up his game (it should go without saying that fan-favorite Taylor is a solid actor in his role but he was not the focus of the episode this tea ). Meanwhile, the tension between Falcone and Mooney is highlighted in that delightful dinner scene where Falcone straight-up shoots one of his foot soldiers and passive-aggressively forces the rest of his family to eat without even getting rid of the dead body on the table. It's great to see Jada Pinkett-Smith's Mooney express fear and nervousness around the old don, but I think she's now ready to take him on out in the open which should happen next year.

STRONGEST PERFORMANCE goes to Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth. HE IS NOW MY OFFICIAL FAVORITE ON-SCREEN ADAPTATION OF THE LOYAL BUTLER! Not only does he kick ass in hand-to-hand combat and firearms, he also excels in interrogating suspects by sweetening the information deal through financial currency, and charming Fish Mooney to aid him in his search for his Master Bruce. Originally, when Sean Pertwee was casted for the role, a lot of people were negative because he doesn't seem to fit the mold of what we are used to when we picture Alfred, but I am happy that Sean Pertwee's character does seem to have a military background and so he also functions as a bodyguard to add in his posh job description. He was the show-stealer of this episode and rightfully so, especially after his arc wraps up beautifully with a tearful reunion with Bruce. You really get the palpable sense that he will kill and die for the boy if need be and that just makes me choke up because Bruce and Alfred's relationship has always been one of the greatest things I look forward to when I'm reading the comics. Also, HARVEY BULLOCK was totally enjoying Alfred as his temporary partner during the episode. Gordon is busy taking care of other things so Bullock and Alfred had a chance to work together which proves to be terribly entertaining. I would consider Bullock as one of my favorite characters of the show now, seeing as he's the first major character to get a backstory and Donal Logue continues to nail the character whom I don't really like much in the source material. Speaking of partnerships, it looks like this is the end of the road for Bullock and Gordon and it had been a spectacular ride, personally. I'm sure they'll run into each other next year but they won't be working cases together anymore which may be a fresh start for both of their characters.

The episode ends with Gordon's transfer to Arkham Asylum where he will now work as a security guard alongside the city's criminally insane. Whoopee-doo. He's surprisingly lax about this demotion. He was a homicide detective for Loki's sake! And the Mayor just decided to turn him into a scapegoat and we're supposed to just deal with that. It's far-fetched and I think contributed to the underwhelming factor of that closing scene for the episode. I'd like to be optimistic about this ordeal because that means we will be exploring a brand new location next year and Gordon will be working in the fringes, and not for official cop business anymore (no more formulaic case-of-the-week? That would fantastic). In line with that, I'm also excited to see who Bullock will partner with. I could use some time away from Bruce-Alfred storylines next year because I feel that Gotham should prioritize the mob wars because they got some pretty strong material for their players in that arc, and Taylor, Pinkett-Smith, Doman and Zayas are brilliant enough to actors who need to be given more screen-time and backstory. The show will really benefit if they spice things up with the conflicts and characters they already have instead of just throwing random easter-egg references from the comic books and hoping they will be enough to hold the interest of the nerd population of viewers which I don't think is that a lot, honestly, so best not alienate the casual viewer. I'll continue to expect things to get better for Gotham. I still hope it will.

FINAL VERDICT: 3.25 STARS
 
This installment excelled far better as a standalone chapter, considering it mostly focused on character work and development which were handled superbly. It nevertheless failed to deliver the crescendo a midseason finale deserves.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison issue #9

Last issue, we witnessed a crazed Bruce Wayne clone emerged from the Lazarus Pit located somewhere underground in London. He escaped and arrived back in Gotham to confront an injured Alfred and a wheelchair-bound Damian Wayne. Meanwhile, Dick and Batwoman get trapped underground and separated from fellow vigilantes Knight and Squire. Batwoman is dying and she suggests one last resort to revitalize her. Understandably, she meant the Lazarus pit. Dick agrees because he trusted her enough to make that call.

Back in Gotham, Alfred and Damian join forces to bring down the fake Bruce and it was just pure awesomeness, especially on Alfred's end. The old butler can hold himself in a brutal confrontation. Also, he's wearing striped pajamas as he pulls the fake Bruce's cape from behind him and shuts the doors of the elevator to get said clone stuck on its doors. Not to be outdone in badassery, Damian then throws the goddamn wheelchair across the room to hit fake Bruce. For an elderly and a child, they sure know how to be resourceful with their attacks which is just bloody brilliant. Afterwards, clone Bruce manages to escape and chases after a limping Damian who manages to get him to step on an oil-soaked floor as he lights the entire thing on fire.

In underground London, Dick lays Batwoman gently into the Lazarus Pit. She later on emerges, fully healed and sporting a shorter haircut that looks even more badass. We then jump back to Gotham where the fucking clone Bruce survives the fire and proceeds to try to choke the life out of Damian. Alfred tries to interfere but then clone Bruce throws Damian off the top of the building. Punctually enough, Dick managed to arrive 25 minutes to Gotham from London and catches Damian just in time. It was...sheer coincidental luck and I didn't mind that because I was so amused watching Alfred whack the shit out of clone Bruce next, all the while still addressing him as "sir". Later on, both Dick and Batwoman then take turns beating the crap out of clone Bruce who is at this point beginning to decay. Back in London, Knight and Squire arrest King Coal. In Gotham, Dick, Alfred and Damian started talking about the confirmation that Bruce Wayne is indeed alive after all and now all they need to do is find him. Dick looks very hopeful about this while Damian is feeling unsure which is probably because (1) he is beginning to feel attached with Dick as Batman even though he will never openly admit it; and (2) he's going to have to find a way to accept his father back into his life, and Damian is not exactly a well-adjusted kid to begin with.

I had so much fun reading this because everything happened so fast and loose that turning each page was a hoot! This is the Morrison and Stewart's concluding issue for the Blackest Night story arc and it was so entertaining and ludicrous all throughout that I can overlook some questionable technical stuff. As much as I enjoy intellectually stimulating and symbolic storytelling when I read my comic books, I still love it when a comic book is unapologetically simple and violent in execution; where heroes in capes and tights just punch the fuck out of the baddies and get away unscathed and victorious. Blackest Night offered me that material and it never once bored me. I'm so happy that I decided to pick up this run because it's so easy to read and appreciate. It has this unique ability to put a smile on my face because it's silly and crazy in a good, non-pretentious way.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison issue #8

There is a simplicity to Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin that's often deceptive on the surface because we are talking about Morrison after all, and he always guarantees convoluted and bizarre plots are on the way. The striking thing about his writing is that you will always find yourself unprepared for it but over time it will start growing on you, gaining an unstoppable momentum until you just decide unconsciously to sit back and enjoy the show, all silliness and shocking poignancy included. At least it was like that for me.

So here I go again, reading and reviewing his B&R issues as a way to get ready for Damian Wayne's homecoming in New 52 DCU which doesn't scare me as much anymore. Coincidentally, in this series, Bruce Wayne himself is coming back from the dead, or at least that is what Dick was hoping for when he asked Knight and Squire to find a Lazarus pit so he could submerge Bruce's corpse in it.

Because, yeah, Dick, that's going to end well. You beautiful idiot.

This issue features Batwoman who is not exactly a part of the Bat-family but is more like a distant relative you only see during specific gatherings, often bewildered or amused of the other family members and their quirks. In this case, she's definitely not pleased that Dick decided to resurrect Bruce and yet although she was wary, she's also still supportive. She's there on a different mission, however, which happens to tie with the Lazarus pit discovery. This is important because some asshole is after her, determined to dispose of her. But let's focus on Dick's own side of the story which opens with who we assumed is Bruce bursting out of the pit. As we all know, someone who emerges from said pit will have momentary madness so when this Bruce starts acting crazy, Dick and the rest just decided to wait patiently for him to snap out of it--but then he doesn't. Lazarus pit-Bruce Wayne starts going after Dick, Knight, Squire and Batwoman. While fighting the crazed maniac, Dick realizes that it couldn't be Bruce at all. He asserts that though the fighting style is familiar, it's more like a good song being sung by a bad singer. There is a part of me that feels bad for the Bruce clone since he really believes he is the real Batman. Well, not really. He's not Bruce Wayne so why should we give a fuck?

While the four of them are caught in trying to apprehend him, the asshole who has it for Batwoman, some sleazy villain called King Coal, planted explosives around the cave where they are inside and once those exploded, they were separated by the large debris with Knight and Squire on the other side, and Dick and Batwoman on the other, and the latter is seriously injured. Dick and Batwoman had a heartfelt moment where she recognized who he is under that cowl and then she asked him to do something for her so they can save her life together. It was pretty awesome. During the explosion earlier, clone Bruce managed to escape, fly a bat-plane and head back to Gotham. Dick mentions that there is a shortcut from England to Gotham...and I just assume that Morrison knows whatever the hell he's talking about because that should explain why clone Bruce managed to land in the hotel (I failed to mention this but the Bat-gang is not staying in the bat-cave/Manor for some reason), find Alfred, beat him up, and then confront Damian inside who is still wheelchair-bound from the last story arc after he fought the Flamingo.

I had so much fun with this issue because it was just urgent, dangerous and action-packed. It was nice to see Dick and Batwoman work together and have that personal moment. Meanwhile, I was just excited when that clone Bruce stepped in to confront Damian while poor Alfred was on the floor with a concussion. As soon as that clone punched Alfred, whatever sympathy or pity I had for him was just gone. I immediately started reading the next issue to see what happens. Once again, Cameron Stewart illustrates this issue, and his panels and action sequences keep everything fast-paced and thrilling!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Monday, November 24, 2014

Batman Eternal by Various Writers Volume #1

There is A HEFTY AMOUNT OF MULTIPLE STORYLINES for New 52's most ambitious collaborative project yet and I have spent six weeks reviewing all the thirty-two issues that were released so far and doing so was mildly panic-attack-inducing if not downright catalystic for a mental fatigue. In spite of a few of my criticisms in specific issues, I can still claim that this is one of the most exciting things I have ever read in New 52's Batman line-up. Written by a roster of talents such as Tim Seeley, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, James T Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder, with a great range of the industry's most sought-after artists (Mikel Janin, Ian Bertram, Riccardo Burchielli, Guillem March, Emanuel Simeoni, Trevor McCarthy, Andy Clarke, Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen, Jason Fabok), BATMAN ETERNAL was a weekly released series that examines the Forever Evil story arc's aftermath in Gotham City. I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that everywhere you go Gotham City right now is A COLOSSAL FUCKING MESS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS. Hey, I may even be downplaying it with that insufficient description.

Comprising the first twenty issues of the series, this volume is guaranteed to be bulky in width and twice the fun for anyone who wants to re-read everything that happened in one compact collection. I'm honestly not in the mood to do that at this point because I'm still recovering from what I just witnessed in its thirty-two installments, but I think I'll be up for it some time next year, preferably after this series wraps up for good. I read somewhere that this is intended to run for fifty issues so holy fuck, we're only halfway there. As I said, this was released weekly which probably meant there are two or three new ones since I finished #32 and I don't intend to read them yet because I am frankly trying to get away from this series. That's not to say that Batman Eternal is horrible--far from it! I just can't handle multiple servings every week, most especially when there are certain issues that are inferior than others. I can't specify which ones they are in this review but I will try to discuss the PROS and the CONS of this collected volume, starting from the latter so we can get over with the unpleasantness foremost.

CONS: My number one criticism for the series has always been the fact that there is just too much material to chew and digest easily. It's only accessible if you have immersed yourself well enough in the Bat-mythos, particularly the New 52 line-up of Bat-related titles. You also have to be at least aware of how the current DCU works since its re-launch. You don't really need to read Forever Evil first to get on track for Eternal which is a good thing. Now If you have been following this series weekly then there are enough days to mull over the story in between, but if you have read it as a pile which I have (I began reading by the time there are were twenty-six issues available for consumption) then you may have found yourself getting sick of some things which is what worried me mostly about Eternal once the issues were published in a volume such as this one. The reading experience will be exhausting and slightly grating, so I advise readers who will buy this collection to take your time reading it and not try to finish everything in one sitting because you are only hurting yourself if you do that. This volume is meant to be savored so take as much several breaks as you need if you ever find yourself needing a palette cleanse. I only wished I had the same privilege but I was on a tight self-imposed schedule to post reviews so I had no choice but to binge like a Roman noble.

PROS: The good stuff truly outweigh the bad for Batman Eternal. The roster of writers and artists can always offer something fresh and exciting to the buffet even if a few of the contents from this buffet can be taken or not, depending on the  matter of personal taste and preference. With multiple storylines to follow and watch unfold, the issues can have an unevenness in their foci and scopes. Nevertheless, each new issues promises something better than the last which does tend to happen for this series. One moment I'm nerd-raging the fuck out of some narrative/plot decision, the next I'm applauding the unfortunate yet engrossing series of events that were enough to restore my faith which then helped me to jump head to the next installments. My advise in reading this series is to hold on and keep true. Batman Eternal has tons of great action, drama, character interplay, and mystery; these are fantastic and intriguing tales whose writers and artists worked tirelessly over so that they can be conveyed on the pages of each issue. The collaborative effort of these amazing people, especially the range of various narrative and art styles alone, should be enough to make you want to buy this volume and display it in your bookshelf!

Now I recognize that this is a premature review, considering the copy will only be made available two days from now (November 26) but I surely hope that my review has convinced you to check out this one, if not encourage you to spend some money on it.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison issue #7

I have a week to go before I start on the December list for my Batman comics diet which will be composed of New 52 Batman Incorporated, two volumes of The Dark Knight, Batman-Superman issues and  Knightfall volume 2. For now, I'm getting back on the old continuity era, particularly with Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin run whose first volume Batman Reborn instantly became a favorite of mine. Now I'm going to try and finish at least issues #7-16 this week although, realistically speaking, I may only able to manage to reach until #12. I can't believe I only have a whole month to go before my Bat-diet ends. I plan to pick up on my third wave by April 2015 instead because I have a list of fiction novels I need to get back to since I've pushed them aside for Batman, and I miss reading science fiction and books from other genre. Anyway, enough about this sideline announcement and let's jump right ahead with the three-issued story arc entitled Blackest Night.

The thing about me reading comics from DC's previous continuity while essentially more attuned with New 52 is that it often takes me awhile to calibrate my state of mind and I often only gain the momentum by the second or third installment of a certain story. That's a natural thing, isn't it? Reading issues 7-9 was exactly that for me, and I didn't mind the slight confusion because Morrison writes well enough to get me excited for the events unfolding in the pages. Final Crisis pronounced Bruce Wayne dead, and Dick Grayson won the cowl and is now operating as the new Batman with Bruce's son Damian Wayne as his sidekick Robin. In the last volume, on the story arc Revenge of the Red Hood, Jason Todd challenges the authenticity of Bruce Wayne's demise, asserting that the corpse they found before may not be his.

So this issue opens with Dick seriously considering that possibility so he contacts the English vigilantes Knight and Squire. But we don't find out about this until the later pages near the end because Morrison immediately throws us into an action sequence between Batman and the posh villain the Pearly Prince. Aided by Squire, Batman apprehends the Pearly Prince and questions him about the location of a Lazarus Pit. At this point, I knew what Dick is planning to do, and I almost can't read what happens next. As someone who is reading more New 52 material than the old, I should be less excited of what I'm reading because I know for a fact already that Bruce Wayne is not really dead and that he eventually does come back and Dick goes back to being Nightwing again. However, I still believe that the journey leading towards that destination is more important, and that I should enjoy the ride which I presently am.

Artist Cameron Stewart's illustrations are pulpy, conveying the tension for the more action-oriented scenes using impressive panel choices that help readers get a cinematic feel while the heroes go about their heightened chase and confrontation with the baddie. Dick talking about bringing back Bruce Wayne was insightful to his psyche at that moment. As much as I think Dick has embraced his role as the new Batman, I know that there is a part of him that hopes his former mentor and long-time friend can come back. I don't think he's resurrecting Bruce because he doesn't want the responsibilities of being the Dark Knight anymore; I think it has more to do with the fact that he believes Gotham City deserves Bruce Wayne as Batman more than him. It's not to say he's belittling himself, let alone his dedication and contribution to the crusade against crime; it's just that he knows he is not fighting for the same things as Bruce, and often the things Bruce fights for is what helps save the city.

This has been a great opener for Blackest Night. I was also quite pleased to see Batwoman at the end. I remember that I decided to get back to reading this series last week because I claimed that I was now ready to accept Damian Wayne back into my life and reading about him here in Morrison's work definitely doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would. I think that's a good sign to continue with this series then. Let's go, Batman and Robin!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Friday, November 21, 2014

[Best of Batman] Strange Apparitions by Steve Englehart & Len Wein

First off, I would like to state that I'm very torn about my rating for this graphic novel. On one hand I can acknowledge the influence and impact it has on the Tim Burton movie adaptations and  the initial conceptual work for Batman: The Animated Series (which I am both a big fan of, most particularly of the latter). On another, I don't think the tonality and composition style of the Batman stories herein really appeal to my sensibilities, and that's mostly because I've been soaked with so much New 52 stuff this year that it's probably the only version of Batman that resonates with me at this point. I'm not saying it's a good thing, however, because there are a few major criticisms that I have for New 52 about some of its long-game decisions, especially when it comes to their treatment of Batman villains and tropes.

Still, if you'll make me choose, I'd still go for the most current material and continuity. I don't think that this 70's era Batman is also something I can recommend to everyone (even if a lot of quintessential Batman elements are present here), let alone to a novice whose primary recognition of Batman might come alone from the Christopher Nolan franchise. That being said, the eleven stories featured in this collaborative work of Steve Englehart and Len Wein for Strange Apparitions is a fun-filled adventure that makes use of a roster of villains such as Dr. Phosphorous, Hugo Strange, Penguin, the Joker and Clayface. This collection also gives us Bruce Wayne's girlfriend Silver St. Cloud who I consider to be a well-written female character even if she's still subjected to certain glaring gender stereotypes back when this comic book was published.

Upon reading the first two issues of this volume, I was immensely entertained even when the narrative boxes are self-aware and cheesy in a lot of ways. I just pretend that there is an old-timey voice speaking in my head as I read. But as I progressed on, this linguistic style started to irritate me that I have to consciously block it out in order to invest myself in the stories themselves. If you don't take the prose into consideration, the stories can be very riveting, especially the way Batman does his investigative work and deduces the motivations and process of the crimes that were committed. Too often we became used to Batsy using state-of-the-art gadgetry and beating up the bad guys to a pulp. It's nice to see Batman be a detective since this is after all issues taken from Detective Comics. Another thing I liked about these stories is the way the villains are written which is thankfully composed of the right amount of sass, theatrics and snarling attitude. I will always despise Hugo Strange but his appearances for this collection didn't bother me as much as I expected.

My favorite story of the volume has to be the Joker-centered ones. If any of you read my review of The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker last week, I made a startling confession there that I've been so sick to death with Jokermania. However, the story The Laughing Fish, which I first watched in Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series as an episode, was simply hilarious that I started to remember why the Joker is such an entertainingly diabolical villain in the first place. But my favorite aspect of Strange Apparitions has to be the character subplot concerning Silver St. Cloud and Bruce Wayne whose relationship problems were reflective and interesting enough for me to pay attention to. I like that Bruce back then can still have time for romantic relationships even if he has to put the woman he loves at arm length's. I also like that Silver is shrewd enough to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman; and that she's torn about telling him that she knows or keeping it all to herself and just wait for him to come around and tell her himself. Sadly, this was only a very small subplot and if an issue further tackling this plot thread was explored, it was never included for this volume. I should also mention that Dick Grayson is still Robin here although he's definitely a grown man now so seeing him in that Boy Wonder costume is pretty dorky (especially when he and Bruce started wrestling in the bat-cave like a couple of nerdy chums). You will NEVER SEE New 52, post-Nolan Bruce EVER DOING THAT so it's quite a gem to be provided by that here.

It's worth noting that 70's era Batman comics was still experiencing the aftershocks of the 60's era when the Adam West and Burt Ward show was a national phenomenon which explains the tendency for campiness in this volume. But there is depth and maturity in the stories themselves as well if you consider the content alone; yet I consider the structure and delivery to be the reason why they can be grating in some moments. However, I think I'm going to be less generous with my rating and base it on my own personal preferences. In general, if we consider its objective importance to the Bat-verse, Strange Apparitions will be a solid 8. But I will remove one star in my final verdict because it's my own prerogative to do so. This is also something I cannot recommend to novices right away but should be explored for posterity's sake no less.

RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #36

This issue lived up to its title (Chaos) and is definitely a Robin Rises installment that refuses to slow down page after page that I could feel myself slightly panting as I peruse through. Every scene happened with a tantalizing briskness that amplified the urgency and action of the fight scenes and even the conversations among characters. Batman is still sporting the Hellbat suit as he effortlessly and yet aggressively takes care of business (read: so much ass-kicking occurs) and the illustrations for the planet Apokolips still challenge the eyes of a reader, with colorist Kalisz not letting up with his choice of palate, ensuring each panel is bursting from its printed confines with red, yellow and black. The remarkable style of artist Patrick Gleason has evolved since the first issue of Batman and Robin. I used to complain about his too simplistic background detailing; but now I couldn't ask for a more visually-oriented story than what he has produced here with Tomasi who still writes this story arc with a careful yet deliberate pacing.

I loved that cover at first sight; just look at it! Batgirl, Red Hood and Red Robin are wearing a uniform in honor of the fallen Damian Wayne and they have never looked and felt like a family than they do now here in this issue. Damian's pet dog Titus was also there to the rescue, as well as Cyborg. This is one determined team that will support Batman all the way! Bruce himself is livid and I could tell tha he will (AND CAN) tear Apokolips into tiny pieces if need be, and I still can't believe that there is yet another trial ahead before any of them gets Damian's cadaver back. The suspense and build-up WILL KILL ME like never before; and I already suffered from Scott Snyder's own issue #36 for his Endgame arc in Batman. Here I feel as if I just sustained second-degree injuries. I say 'second-degree' because I feel like there is more in store for me, a readily teary-eyed Bat-geek who is so heavily invested on this arc therefore I am already just too damn highly sensitive for any of this goddamn shit! Not since George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords did I ever feel like a fictional story/characters can actually BE THE DEATH OF ME. But enough about abrupt sentiments--we need to talk about something very important now; something I have put off for months because admitting it will begin a new cycle of joy and anguish for me:

I AM READY FOR DAMIAN WAYNE TO COME BACK.

For the longest time I thought Dick Grayson was the only Robin I will ever like. I don't know Tim Drake enough and it's only this year that I'm beginning to soften up with Jason Todd. And then Damian Wayne came along in Peter J. Tomasi's New 52 title and I still uphold Born To Kill volume 1 of this series to be my most favorite comic book for New 52. Damian Wayne is MY ROBIN, and his demise had been an agonizing torture. I had to re-live the loss over and over for every fucking Requiem issue released. I feel the widening chasm of his absence every time I flip a Batman story where Bruce is fighting crime solo. I buried him away and dreaded every release of this title, knowing I am getting closer to having him back into my life again. AND IT TERRIFIED THE LOKI OUT OF ME. But after months of ignoring how badly I feel about his death and how his potential resurrection makes me nervous, I realized now as soon as I read this installment that I AM READY FOR HIM TO COME BACK TO ME. I said I wanted to be cynical, that I don't want to get my hopes up. I said that I don't believe that Tomasi and DC will resurrect him. With hope comes despair after all. But that was then. NOW I JUST WANT BRUCE TO HOLD HIS SON IN HIS ARMS AGAIN, ALIVE AND WILL SOON BE READY TO FIGHT BY HIS SIDE ONCE MORE. This is honestly all I want for Christmas.

All I want for Christmas is for father and son to be reunited.

"Some things are worth getting your heart broken for," as Doctor Who once said. This is why I've also decided to spend the last week of November reading the next issues for Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin run from the old continuity. I'm no longer afraid to accept Damian Wayne back into my life. I'm going to be preparing for it for the rest of this month.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

[Gotham] Episode 9 review



This was probably the most underwhelming episode for the show since Arkham back in the fourth episode. It manages to be both comfortable and chaotic in scope and pacing which was why I can't decide before whether I liked it or hated it. After some reflection, I realized that there are some parts that I liked but Harvey Dent as a standalone itself was the weakest of the nine episodes of the series and I won't say "so far" because I really want the show to step up its game already because it can do just that with episodes like Spirit of the Goat and Penguin's Umbrella. This is why this episode came as an unpleasant shock for me, particularly when the titular character wasn't even the focus of this piece. Hell, the only character-centered episode so far was the one with Harvey Bullock and it still remains as the most nuanced examination of a character for this show and I wish that we get more like than in the next installments. If anything, Harvey Dent should be a hard lesson learned for the critical things that the show should stop permeating. Here is a rundown of those common mistakes that have been committed by Gotham: 
  • When it comes to introducing future villains from the Batverse, the show hammers it up in a way that's uncomfortably pandering to comic book fans. Gotham doesn't exactly employ subtlety in this arena and it's to their own detriment. It's as if the writers always want to make sure that everyone knows who these characters are going to be so they keep dropping a lot of hints in the dialogue during their interactions with other characters. It's distracting, to say the least. Three episodes ago, I was excited when Harvey Dent was casted, but now that I've actually seen the actor on screen, I wasn't given enough of an opportunity to warm up to him, not when the writing for his character was somewhat purposefully tongue-in-cheek. I don't even think it's the actor's fault; there wasn't just enough material for him to work with so his scenes for an episode named after him were the most forgettable of all (I would even argue that this is way more unacceptable compared to Barbara Kean's scene at the end, mostly because Dent is supposed to be a more important character and therefore his storyline should be treated with more skill and finesse than that).
  • This is yet another example of multiple subplots crammed into a single episode which is why the scenes jump back and forth among six stories with very abrupt transitions in between. Let's examine each of them briefly:
  • (1) the case-of-the-week was surprisingly more grounded than the ones we had in the past; a mentally unstable bomber was abducted by the Russian mob to do their bidding which actually ties back into (2) Fish and Butch's scheme to hurt Falcone by targeting his money. These two stories go hand-in-hand together but the one about Fish and Butch did not serve a greater purpose while the case concerning Ian Hangrove was able to tie into the Mayor's decision to transfer 'criminally insane' prisoners from Blackgate Penitentiary to the newly renovated Arkham Asylum which I think should be a storyline rife with potentials and hopefully the writers will peel layers from it in another episode. It can be a challenging commentary on how Gotham as a society and political body operates where people like Hangrove do not get the right rehabilitation they need all because the people in the position to decide this are negligible and would rather choose to lock away these perceived inconveniences in a loony bin.
  • (3) Next we have the Harvey Dent scenes which, as I discussed in the previous paragraph, are the weakest parts of the episode which is ironic because this whole thing should have been about him. Man, Gotham really needs to stop naming their episodes after a character if it's only going to be a misnomer. I don't have anything to say about his scenes because I cannot muster enough concern to even attempt a discussion, sorry. So let's move on to (4) the clumsy Penguin-Liza-Fish scenes which felt to me like mere samplers that never should have been in the episode if that is the only coverage we are getting. Robin Lord Taylor's performance will always be pristine but they are just wasting his talent away if they put him in scenes like this. Jada Pinkett-Smith as Mooney was more contained in her acting and delivery which actually helped her in the minimal material of her scenes. Again, this episode has crammed six subplots that should have been divided fairly for two episodes not one, which was why this part felt disconnected from the rest.
  • Speaking of something else disconnected, we have (5) the Bruce Wayne-Selina-Alfred scenes which are actually my favorite moments of this episode even though they are basically fodder for Batman-Catwoman shippers like myself. I much preferred the Bruce-Alfred scenes from the last episode because they felt more meaningful and intriguing, particularly that moment when Bruce knocked out his bully. Lastly and most certainly the fucking least, we have (6) Barbara hooking up with Montoya while Gordon leaves her a message, asking her to come back to him because she's all he's got. Look, I'm actually very neutral with Barbara as a character but I admit that the role she's been given since the seventh episode has started to get under my nerves. I don't share the hatred from most viewers but I can understand it.








I think the reason why this episode will be getting a low rating for me is because of how much material was put into it and yet the substance for each subplot is lacking. Each one of them was unable to breathe fully let alone stand by itself. Harvey Dent as a character should have been prioritized alongside the case-of-the-week where Fish and Butch only have small roles to play. In my honest opinion, those three subplots would have been enough to carry this episode as a whole. Meanwhile, the other three 'distractions' with Bruce/Selina, Penguin/Liza and Barbara/Montoya can appear in the next episode even if only in the sidelines; though I would argue that I want more Penguin-Liza-Fish scenes because you have two incredible actors (Taylor and Pinkett-Smith namely) who can deliver some great on-screen chemistry and tension together every time their characters would interact. I'm fairly disappointed for this week's installment. On the bright side, Edward Nygma is coming to his own as a character you only get to experience in small doses which actually helps me as a viewer to enjoy his appearances, even if the process for his development is painfully gradual. I'd like to think he's a slow burn since he's starting to sneak up to me in a very pleasant way now. Also, Bullock doesn't do his usual one-liners shtick (which I thoroughly miss) but it's nice to see him continue to bond with Gordon with his partner's lady troubles. I don't know how else to end this review so let me just drop the rating below.

FINAL VERDICT: 3 STARS
Uneven in characterization with a barely straightforward cohesiveness in its scope and choice of subplots, Harvey Dent is the show's weakest installment yet with more misses than a hit.

Batman Eternal by Kyle Higgins issue #32

I couldn't ask for a better way to end my Batman Eternal experience than this issue illustrated by the ever-spectacular Jason Fabok who I maintain draws the best Batman poses and design ever! If I had my way, Fabok should be illustrating everything for Eternal because his illustrations have so much life and detail to them especially whenever his visuals alone can tell a story.
 
Before we get right to it, I just want to say that this will be the last time I'm reading and posting reviews for Eternal for now. I want to wait for ten new issues before I jump back into this since I have other titles (namely The Dark Knight and Batman Incorporated) to focus on as well as two graphic novels that are on my shelf and I have to finish before December ends. Not to mention I'm still reviewing the ongoing updates for Snyder and Tomasi's titles. I don't think I can stretch myself too thin for this series alone so you gotta believe me when I say that typing this very last review for Eternal is like crossing a finish line and winning gold. Look, I enjoyed what this title had offered me in the last five weeks but it's also challenging for me to go on because of the multiple story arcs I had to keep tabs of for this series alone, and a few of them are stuff I couldn't care much about. Still, it has been a wonderful experience that is still going to wait for me next year.

Now I read somewhere that Batman Eternal is contractually going to be composed of FIFTY ISSUES though I can't be certain whether I just misread the source I got that from or if this is really true. If it is then holy fucking Loki, I need to prepare myself for that mental anguish when it comes to writing reviews. It's extra challenging because this comic book is released on a weekly basis so I would accumulate lots of it before I even start reviewing again. Let's cross that bridge next year.

This issue was written by Kyle Higgins (though Sndyer and Tynion are still credited as the constant authors for the entire series) and he massively pulled it off! The trouble with a series with so many multiple arcs is that things have the tendency to get piled up on top of each other that resolutions become impossible to achieve because of so many loose ends to wrap up together neatly. In this issue, we get the opening confrontation between Spoiler and Hush which played out realistically. Steph is not a trained fighter but she can improvise and handle herself well which thankfully lasted until Batman came along to even things out. What follows is one of most engaging fight scenes in Eternal, if not ever, considering it's Hush and Batsy finally getting it all out in the open. I don't even need a dialogue to get into this sequence because Fabok knows how to deliver some action-oriented panels that are cinematic in scope. The next scenes are a nice touch of humanity, with Batwing getting rescued and Alfred having a tearful reunion with his daughter Julia. These were resonant pay-offs for me. I'm sad that I didn't get to see what happened to Corrigan after he was separated from Batwing but I'm just happy that the later is okay after that tremendous shitty ordeal in Arkham he had to put up with for a good six issues or so. Meanwhile, Julia finally realizing that her father is one the bravest and most remarkable men in the world for being Batman's most loyal right-hand is very moving especially after all the flack she gave him back when she didn't know better. I don't mind having Julia around. It'd be nice for Alfred to have his family close by.

And then we head to a new plot threat that was properly introduced unlike a few arcs in the past Eternal issues that simply happened without any acceptable backstory whatsoever, which is what helped this issue to end on a high note. I don't want to spoil any of that here but let me just say that it makes it perfect for me to take a break from this series with this issue as my closer. It holds a lot of promise for a new chapter in Hush's evil scheme to take over Gotham and push Bruce Wayne/Batman out of the way. We get some Jason Bard scenes in here too and I have come to accept that there is always going to be a part of me that hopes he's not an absolute, horrendous villain; that he can be redeemed in the course of the next issues. So there you have it, my last Batman Eternal post for this year. I'm almost regretful that this is where I have to end my Eternal readings. ALMOST.

Next on the shelf for me to review are the revamped Batman Incorporated for New 52 and the first volume of The Dark Knight.

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Batman Eternal by Ray Fawkes issue #31

Last issue ended in a phenomenal cliffhanger and here was where we tie up the Arkham arc (for good, I hope). Speaking of the previous issue: the minute I saw Bane pounding on that glass door across Alfred as Arkham Asylum was collapsing all around them, there was a part of me that knew he was going to be appearing again in the next issue and voila, the cover says it all! I think the most enjoyable part of this one has to be their bizarre pairing. It's really the only interesting part of the story. However, there are still other great moments in the pages. Like the confrontations between Batman and the inmates who survived the destruction. It was great because he easily disposes of them all the while talking to Julia. That was badass. Unfortunately, their conversation was about the fact that it's only now that they're discovering that Alfred was transferred to Arkham and is therefore caught under the rubble. I started feeling bad for Julia at this point.

As much as the Alfred-Bane team-up was tons of fun, the trouble about this issue was the fact that every situation faced by the characters (especially Batman) seem to be resolved by a matter of convenience or coincidence. Trust me, it's quite grating if you read this issue again for the second time (which I tend to do with Eternal before I compose a review, just to make sure I don't miss out or misinterpret anything). It's okay if we have one or two of these conveniences but this issue has a lot of it that it's impossible to ignore when you do read it the second time. I don't want to detail every one of them but I would cite Batman's set here because they are the ones that really annoyed me. First, while he was fighting the inmates, he just randomly thought, "Oh, I wonder how Alfred is doing.." which was just swell because it enabled him and Julia to check the hospital and see for themselves that he had been abducted. Still, this was something I can overlook.

And then we get this fucking satellite gadget that can scan the entire city and find people for Batman. I have never read about this before and now it's just there, ready to be utilized. Now they're going to use it to locate Hush. Again, maybe I can forgive this timely coincidence. I really don't like that Batman's body of detective work is being ignored for this issue. It's like he can solve everything with muscle and the necessary machine/gadget. I don't like it because it dilutes his skills on deductive reasoning and investigative work. But then again you might not notice or care because it moves the plot along. If that's the case then whatever, let's get to the good parts of the issue then. That's mainly Alfred and Bane working together to get out underground which was pleasantly brisk with a great twist at the end. Julia is also becoming a better, more sympathetic character. She's competent enough to handle all the grunt work for Batman even if she was under a lot of emotional pressure after finding out that what happened to her dad. I like her now which is surprising to me when I look back at how much I loathed her in the earlier issues.

The Spoiler-Hush scene at the end was expected though the journey leading to that destination is questionable at best, seeing as it's yet another matter of convenience. But since I read the next issue right after this one, I was happy to see that it was handled well enough so I'm in a pretty good mood as I'm writing this which is probably why I'm rating this more generously than I would have if its follow-up was shitty. I only have one issue to review for Batman Eternal and I think I'll stop reviewing this series for now, and just wait for another five to ten new ones next month before I jump back to it.

RECOMMENDED: 7/10