Monday, November 23, 2015

Detective Comics by Peter J. Tomasi issues #45-46

I've been so tragically out-of-touch with my Batman because of other pressing reading materials that I have scheduled before this year ends, but that also means I can look forward to reading new issues together regarding one story arc, rather than just wait until the next monthly release. This is exactly what happened for the new roster for Detective Comics. I do miss the tandem of Buccaletto and Manapul, but there are promising horizons to be explored now that we have a new writer handling this series. And it's someone I dearly love and admire as a comics writer. In my last review for Detective Comics, I expressed elation upon receiving news that Peter J. Tomasi, writer for my all-time favorite Bat-title from New 52 line-up, Batman and Robin, will take over the writing duties for this title, and now he has with this simple but elegant two part story entitled Of Giants and Men and Blood on Blood, issues 45-46 respectively. Accompanied by artist Marcio Takara and colorist Chris Sotomayor, Tomasi's debut story is visually spectacular. It features the Justice League too and I definitely love how they look together as a unit especially Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Narrative-wise, the two issues had Tomasi's signature all over it which was great because like I said, I totes love the guy.

I believe this was a good start for his run for Detective Comics. At first glance, you thought he was going for something flashy with the Himalayan murder mystery and all, but since I'm familiar with Tomasi's work long enough to understand that he is in fact a writer who employs emotional resonance in his stories, this means I was more than content when the story eventually wrapped up because it was the kind of delivery and ending that I expected as a fan of his style. In Of Giants and Men, we see Alfred and Bruce who was, as we know, no longer the same man we all knew and loved. Bruce is essentially a new person without memories of his past and traumatic childhood to cling onto and therefore it was difficult for him to get back on the superhero-ing game because he just doesn't have the same drive and motivation anymore. That doesn't stop the Justice League from seeking his assistance though. Unfortunately, thanks for Wonder Woman's lasso of truth which she had bound him with as she and Bruce talked it out, JL found out in the deeply saddest way that their compatriot is simply not coming back to them. All of them looked so disheartened, especially Superman, who shook Bruce's hand as he had to pretend that this wasn't Batman, seeing as Bruce at this time has yet to figure out that he's not just helping JL by having Wayne Enterprises fund resources for their capecrusading activities and whatnot. 

Still, hardly discouraged, the League goes to Jim Gordon, the currently appointed man masquerading in his robo-bunny Batsuit, to assist them in their puzzling case since what they required right now was a detective to solve it. Gordon was understandably apprehensive yet honored that the League wanted his help so he joined them in the Himalayas where a chilling display awaited him; a months old corpse of a giant creature reduced into its skeletal remains as it lay in the snow for no one to see until now. In the follow-up issue Blood on Blood, we see more of artist Takara's talent as he quite brilliantly infused both a haunting atmosphere surrounding the investigation, and a very warm one as we reach the tale's end. I really enjoyed the panels where we see the League working together as they try to figure out what caused the giant corpse's demise, only to find out that it was blunt force trauma...which meant there's another giant involved and it's their perpetrator. Jimbo is also quite impressive with his deductive reasoning here, arriving to the right conclusion just in time as him and the League were attacked by an assailant whom they never would have suspected is only a mere child, and a very malnourished one at that. 

It turns out that the two giant corpses where that of his parents. The mother had killed the father for sustenance and then she gave birth to the baby inside the cave. To feed the baby and keep it alive, she also gave up her life, and said baby had to live via cannibalizing its mother. This wasn't enough at all especially when the umbilical cord was still attached to it, and so the baby had to fend for itself and feast on unsuspecting mountain hikers who get lost in the snowy wilderness. Once Jim figured this out, he knew how they can save the rest of the League who were captured by the baby out of self-defense. They simply had to restore the mother's corpse into something the baby would recognize. In doing so, the baby was so thankful to see its mother again that it let them go easily, more focused on laying on its mother's arms than doing them harm. Feeling rather sorry for it, the League was determined to see it to safety and out of that dank place, and Gordon stayed behind to sing it a lullaby. 

I honestly believe that if this was Bruce Wayne, he never would have done such a thing, mainly because Bruce--as much as he had grown as a father thanks to his relationship with Damian--is simply not that affectionate and emotionally expressive in general. But who knows? Maybe he could have had. But I'd like to think this was something Jim Gordon could do for a creature deprived of warmth and companionship for such a long time as it slowly starved to death but tried to stay alive anyway. This act of kindness of compassion was so moving, of course, and elevated Gordon yet again as human being. He was the one who solved this mystery. If it wasn't for him, this might have been a tragedy, with the League accidentally killing the baby without understanding what had happened firsthand. So it was a happy ending of a sort that tied these two issues together, and it's the kind of work that I can always expect from Peter J. Tomasi. I'm very excited for the rest of his run!


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #44

Happy #BatmanDay, everyone! If you have any kind of ritual in place that you do to celebrate our favorite avenging knight on his blessed day, then please feel free to share that information with me in the comments section of this post. Personally, I have a folder in my hard drive dedicated to all things Batman and I would re-watch documentaries or select BTAS episodes to commemorate him. After all, I'm only in my Bat-blog every now and then just to review the releases for three ongoing Bat-titles, and I've been on a steady diet of X-Men since the beginning of this year. I'm frankly relieved that there's a reason for me to come back to my Bat-blog each time I find myself in need for a break from the clusteruckness that is X-Men and it just so happened that I'm getting a little sick of Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men. So, reading new issues for Bat-titles has become a needed dose of sanity again. I'm more than happy to comply.

My very initial thought once I saw this graceful cover illustration was Snyder's previous work in pre-New 52, which was in Detective Comics with Dick Grayson as Batman in that memorable dark tale entitled The Black Mirror which has to be one of my favorite Batman stories collected in a trade paperback. I quickly glanced at the list of names in the credits and nodded appreciatively as I saw the artist Jock in it because that meant I was right to make that comparison. Jock (real name Mark Simpson) originally worked on The Black Mirror himself for several of its issues, giving that particular tale an eerie, haunted look that may not be as polished as most modern visuals in the roster of most comics title, but is nevertheless creates an atmosphere of dread when you turn the page. His depictions for issue #44 of Snyder's Batman is no exception. I can't get enough of those delicately drawn bats!

Co-written with Brian Azzarello, Snyder's installment for this month took us back from post-Zero Year timeline where Batman is adjusting to the stress of lone vigilantism as crooks and supervillains began coming out of the woodwork to make life even crazier for Gotham City. The story started with the murder of a fifteen-year-old boy from the Narrows named Peter Duggio who entered a life of crime because he wanted to take back the building where he and his father and brother used to live which was now used as a rendezvous base of operations by the Four Five gang operating in the Narrows. He sought the aid of Oswald Cobblepot who is a rising star in the criminal enterprise, but in a typical Penguin fashion, he backstabs the boy and instead gives away the place completely to the gang. Batman suspects him of murder but Penguin profusely denies it, claiming that he had never killed Peter and accusing him so meant that Batman knew little of the way things work in Gotham if he believed that. What follows after is a a very unexpected emotional story focusing on this boy Peter and his struggle to push back against the insurmountable evil surrounding his life. It was simply rendered in a very stark yet humble prose, emphasizing that there are certain battles of the human spirit that even Batman himself can't defeat. This was wonderfully explored in A Simple Case.

Now I had a complicated one-off relationship with Brian Azzarello as a writer, mostly because the first time I ever read him in comics was during his work for the Before Watchmen series where he handled the writing for the Comedian and Rorschach, two of my most favorite characters in the roster. And, personally, he handled both arcs poorly, more so with the Rorschach one (the Comedian's story eventually got a little better by the last two issues). Since then, I became very lukeward towards him as a writer based solely on that, but since I read BW almost four years ago now, I've completely forgotten about holding a petty grudge against this writer so I was perfectly fine reading this Snyder issue where I believe Azzarello took a more leading role in the narrative. The story he produced was both straightforward and opaque with deceptively bold strokes at first that slowly revealed an intimate portrait about the ordinary lives of Gotham citizens who live in terror and despair and what that desperation could push them into doing such as things that they will forever regret or, worse, even result in their demise. Batman coming to terms that he doesn't always have to function as the Dark Knight to make a difference in his city is a rather uplifting message once this tale ended. 

Reading Bruce Wayne as Batman has been nostalgic too because I do miss Bruce under that cowl and seeing him relating to other human beings such as those delinquents on the streets was so moving that I could only stare at that last page in disbelief. It was a nice touch. Much like everyone else, I suppose I was hoping we get the origin story of Mr. Bloom for this issue and though he made that really creepy appearance midway, I was glad we didn't focus on him on this story at all. It also adds a new layer of mystery to his identity after reading this. It would seem he has been around Gotham after Zero Year and has bid his time in the shadows, waiting for the moment to strike. The illustrations for this issue, especially the way Batman was drawn, were astounding and spectacular to peruse! There are so many angles and shapes in Batman here that were unique and fun to look at. He looked like a smudge on paper in some parts and an overpowering inky presence on others. It's visually distracting in the best way possible.

The composition of the colors (lots of black and grays with only select pages in color) was so delicately balanced and atmospheric that I could stare at some of drawings for minutes, lost and enthralled. I like the pages that had the newspaper clippings as interruptions in the flow of an otherwise linear narrative. That style really pulled me into the pages since I've always paid close attention to newspaper articles myself growing up and back when I would watch my father from across the table read his paper during breakfast and I would try to read along with him from the other side. Seeing that here in this issue reminded me of that childhood memory in such a pleasant yet uncomfortable way as well. I'm ending this review with my favorite pages:


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Robin: Son of Batman by Patrick Gleason issue #4

DC's Green Latern officially turned seventy-five years old this year, and my heartfelt kudos goes to him and the beautiful and dignified men who put on that hallowed ring and stood up for the principles and ideals it represented. I don't know why I've decided to squeeze in those words of congrats here in my review for Patrick Gleason's ongoing epic Robin: Son of Batman, but I did anyway because it felt right in the moment. I have no regrets.

The same thing cannot be said for Damian Wayne, however. Still marred by the misdeeds and atrocities he committed during his last Year of Blood, Damian is still on a spiritual and brutal journey to rectify his mistakes. Accompanying him in this mission is Goliath, a so-not-a-Man-Bat pet and sidekick, and Nobody's daughter Maya who started out seeking vengeance on her late father's behalf by trying to kill his murderer (read: Damian himself) but unexpectedly chose to let go of the grudge and help out said father-murderer. The situation is odd enough but Maya has shown loyalty and stubbornness, two qualities that binds her to Damian because he possesses the very same traits. 

Theirs is proving to be the start of a bizarre camaraderie that may yield more positive results than anticipated. I certainly enjoyed the way these three characters (yes, I'm including Goliath) seem to care about each other while trying to accomplish the mission they were set out to complete. Said mission was mostly about returning artifacts to their rightful places as a peace offering to atone for Damian's mindlessly and ferociously ransacking sacred places he left in ruins back when he was just a boy engineered to become a bloodthirsty ruler of an empire soaked in deaths and destruction. Not anymore, of course, because Damian demonstrates in this series that he wants to grow up differently from what his grandfather and mother wanted him to be back then; a far-cry from the sadistic and cold-blooded assassin he was trained to be. So, for this issue, we see Damian, Maya and Goliath taking a trip to Alexandria, one of the many places Damian originally had his Year of Blood trials. He stole three canopic jars after raiding tombs within the eerie underground halls and cellars of what used to be the intellectual central of the old world.

Damian actually takes the time to explain the significance of the place which made me wonder if there is more to Alexandria's secret corners than Damian is leading us on. He was surprisingly chatty about it and originally I thought Gleason was simply making a metaphorical comparison between Damian and Alexander the Great which wouldn't be an unlikely theory, seeing as both can be considered as bright and passionate pioneers who are on a quest to overcome the limitations imposed on their respective persons, but I feel like there's more to that comparison as well. I'm not completely sure but I did enjoy Damian opening up more to Maya even if the conversation mostly consisted of his insights regarding Alexandria. It felt like this was his way of attempting to communicate his private thoughts towards someone he wants to trust, so I appreciated the light banter in between as well because it reinforces the idea that perhaps Damian and Maya could be great partners as long as they're open and honest with each other's shortcomings and darkest inclinations. Goliath tagging along, being a supportive badass, is another treat.

The crowning moment of awesome for this issue arrived when Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) arrives to the party, incapacitating Maya and attacking Goliath quite unfairly just to hurt Maya's feelings because she has obviously learned to care for the adorable creature. In what can only be described as a phenomenal sequence, we get a really intense action-oriented pages featuring the fight between Damian and Slade. Here are my favorite panels. At this point I don't need to convince you that Gleason is amazing:

In a rather humorously anticlimactic moment, Damian deduced that Slade is not here to kill Maya or Damian himself. but rather to acquire financial assets to rebuild his murder enterprise, I guess, and to which Damian offered a hefty amount of contribution if Slade vows to stay away from Maya from this day forward. And, what do you know, Deathstroke took him up on that offer and he turned out to be such a fucking sellout! He got five million out of it while he offered some helpful advice to Maya, claiming that "A job is a job but blood is blood" in regards to her father's murder. Apparently, Slade doesn't know Damian killed Ducard which was...odd? I wonder how Maya will take Slade's words to heart though...would she later come to a realization that she shouldn't be helping Damian at all and once again revisit the idea of making him pay for her father's death? It's highly likely and it would be a tad heartbreaking for me, seeing as I'm enjoying the trinity of Damian, Maya and Goliath at last and I'd hate to see put an end to their wacky adventures. This issue ends with the three amigos stumbling upon a Lazarus pit during their escape, and the promise of a mother-son reunion which will make things more awkward indeed. And I can hardly wait to see how Damian will react upon discovering that mommy dearest is still alive and kicking.


Detective Comics by Buccelatto issue #44

To answer the elephant smashing its way into the room: NO. Hell to Leslie Knope, I can honestly say that it also never crossed my mind that there was ever a need for Joker Robot to make any appearance at all but Detective Comics disagreed with me about this--and that ballsy and campy response in the face of logical storytelling simultaneously makes me hate what I just read and enjoy it all at once. I can't for the life of me believed that none of the characters in this issue just took a step back to re-asses the absurdity of their situation so they can recalibrate a better response; something akin along the lines of flat-out just asking a higher power, "Jesus fuck, are we in a comic book?" because that kind of biting self-awareness and breaking-the-fourth-wall snideness would be feel right at home next to whatever the goddamn shit just happened in Buccelatto's piece right now. The only saving grace from this is that it's thankfully over. I close this comic book issue and immediately forgot about it until I had to write a review and revisit the stupidity of it all over again.

Now, to be fair, when this arc first started, it felt like a promising premise for some gritty crime drama with lots of intrigue and deception as the story's meat and bones, but then it slowly devolved into this weird, theatrical farce that I think even the writer themselves know is utter shite but decided to go along with, possibly due to creative restrictions. However, I may just be theorizing blindly about that but it's only because I'd like to give more credit to the combined talents of Manapul and Buccelatto, so I simply chose to believe that this wasn't near their best effort. I've seen it firsthand in Icarus sans the concluding issue. Anarky was also strong follow-up, but whatever the fuck this was with the fucking robots and goddamn Joker's Daughter part of the plot--it's an awful mumbo jumbo that is so easy to criticize and dismiss as a prank all in itself.

Harvey Bullock's share of the story could have worked so much more riveting as a standalone piece; the man is proving to be a compelling character of his own right since Manapul and Buccelatto took the mantel for Detective Comics and started including him in more assertive and integral roles into the cases they were weaving. Since Anarky, Bullock has been engrossing to see on page especially his strained relationship with the previous Batman and now with the new Batman who happens to be his long-time friend and colleague, Gordon. I would've loved to have more of an intimate exploration to this relationship now that the dynamics between them have drastically changed. That could have been something worth my time.

But instead of that, we got Bullock's one-off romance with the newbie Nancy Yip whose questionable moral compass is pretty damn ridiculous that I don't buy her turncloaking and then regretting her actions later in just a span of two measly issues or so. Even more unbelievable enough is Bullock's insistence to see the good in her, justifying that she deserves a second chance so he helped her fake her death so she can start over. If there is any character who isn't worthy of forgiveness in this issue, it's Yip. She basically just explains to Stefan Falcone that the reason she became crooked was because it was the only option and her pure survival instinct kicked in. She sounded as if she didn't even bother to try fighting the corruption and the temptation; the girl simply rolled over and took the pile of shit that collapsed on her. It's so unrealistic and it made her character so heinous because her amoral stance was contradictory to the part of her character that claimed to be in love with Bullock. She was just so inconsistent! I was glad to be rid of her when this story ended. I feel like getting a shower just to scrub away her stink.

Speaking of grimy filth you can never wash off, my favorite part of this comic book had to be the confrontation between Jim Gordon, still clad in his BatRoboBunny armor, and Joker's Daughter who has been piloting the Joker Robot ever since the La Muerto dudes stole the nuclear power source last issue so rhat JD can have her very own cheesy and stupid machine in the game because she's a cunt and I swear to god, DC, if you incorporate her character into any Bat-story one more time, I will go commit my own murder spree--a hyperbole, sure, but I hope the gravitas of my sentiment were perfectly understood. This is why I was so relieved and a tad bit sadistically overjoyed when Jim smacks the bitch down and succinctly summarized everyone's thoughts about JD as a useless waste of space that doesn't even deserve to be deemed as a character. Gotham City is more of a character than this asshole. Isn't it just so damn cathartic to see Jim humiliate her this way. Stop being a hypocrite and agree with me!

Joker's Daughter can go ahead and eat a rotten dick and nobody will mourn her

It's sad to come to terms with this but I will always remember that artist-writer power duo Francis Manapul and Brian Bucelatto had a great run in Detective Comics while it lasted; it's just a little tragic that this was their last contribution to the title, though. I grieve them profusely but I was also elated to find out that Peter J. Tomasi (former writer for New 52 Batman and Robin) will replace them from here on, along with artist Marcio Takara whose illustrations I'm very excited to see. I've heard great stuff about him and now my expectations are set. Overall, this bizarre and ridiculously uneven storyline at least managed to have great moments in between, particularly the parts with Bullock and Stefano Falcone's plan to corrupt every GCPD officer so they can all be in his payroll and those who won't comply will be executed. I liked that part of the narrative enough; the rest with BatRoboBunny (RoboBatBunny? Goddammit, I could never get it right...) and Joker Robot is now forever suppressed in the depths of my memory and will hopefully never resurface in my waking life.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #43

At this point in time, writer Scott Snyder has been making quite a gamble with his stories for this title since Endgame started and reached a conclusion earlier this year. Fans among themselves could endlessly debate which ones are a hit, and which ones are a miss, and that's the beauty of Snyder's writing and creative decisions for a flagship title that is dear to the comic book fandom. Personally, I always put nothing but my faith forward whenever I read a Snyder-Batman story. I could only recall one or two instances that he had disappointed me, and even those weren't enough to steer me away from this title. 

After all, Batman is masterful in its overall narrative and visual composition, more so since Zero Year.

This third installment of Superheavy offered us a controversial truth about what happened to Bruce Wayne after his final battle with the Joker. He was supposed to be dead and, as Snyder revealed in this issue, he very much is; his physical body may be still intact but his mind, his heart, his soul were essentially...rewritten. I'm aware that this has been pretty hard to process for a lot of Bat-fans after reading. Some reviews of online Bat-fansites were opposed to this concept and they are rightfully justified. Personally, even as I give my own opinion about it, I am not entirely sure how I feel about this change either. I wouldn't say I hated it nor would I say I'm crazy about it. I suppose my neutrality is inevitable because I don't feel like judging something in a writing that hasn't completely played out yet. So, I'm waiting exactly for that. It is an unconventional direction but I'm eager to follow Snyder through it. I'm very excited about it, actually. So let's break down this issue before I start discussing the very big spoiler in the story, starting with the visuals.

Artist Greg Capullo, Inker Danny Miki, and colorist FCO Plascencia are the dream team and they always produce quality illustrations that are so unbelievably and inconceivably beautiful at times, and this issue featured some of the most fantastic artworks I have seen in superhero comics. The medium is a visual one after all and artists like these three are not afraid to challenge the conventional approach of illustrating scenes in a story, and that is why every time Batman comes out, I anticipate it because of the inarguable art pieces it produces on page, though that's not to say the content of the writing is not considered into my appreciation. With Snyder and Capullo, their talents are intrinsically woven together by now, like words and melody in a perfect musical composition. A great example of the visual dream team is this singular page many fans are talking about and it's certainly so captivating in a lot of levels:

Now let's move on to the story. The issue opens with Gordon approaching Bruce Wayne on his workplace. The idea seems to be that Gordon is even aware that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and that's not really a shocker to me even though it was never firmly established how he figured it out here in Snyder's series. Again, it's a development that I didn't mind happening because I can see it being very plausible, considering Gordon's instincts and relationships with Bruce and Batman respectively that Snyder had written. In any case, Gordon sought out Bruce because he wanted his help. He explained that there is a new player in town who has been supplying dangerous amounts of drugs to the people of Gotham. So far, the only thing we know about him is that he's called "Mr. Bloom" (the character creepily depicted in this issue's cover) who passes around these "seeds" with a sunflower symbol in them:

At this point, Bruce has a steady job at what seems to be an outreach for troubled teens, and he love working there so he told Gordon that he doesn't know how to help him, and that he has mistaken him for somebody else. And Gordon really did, but he had no idea just how wrong he was about this Bruce Wayne he is now speaking to. Outside, Clark Kent and Alfred are in a car and Kent was watching the conversation through his Superman vision. He agrees that the man he is seeing--who may look like Bruce Wayne--is not Bruce. After that, we get hefty explanations courtesy of Alfred about what happened after Batman's confrontation with the Joker. The panels had a fluid transition between the flashbacks and the present where Alfred and Kent are having a conversation. And it's so heartbreaking and beautiful to read Alfred's sentiments. If you are a Batman fan, it's undeniable that you will be moved by the words. They reveal so much about Alfred's wish for Bruce's happiness no matter the cost:

Kent refused to accept the idea of Bruce Wayne finally having a shot of getting a normal life. But Alfred was adamant this idyllic scenario stayed that way and he is not afraid to threaten Kent with a kryptonite and then he also revealed the impracticality of putting this new Bruce Wayne under the cowl. It's honestly a little disturbing how passionate Alfred is about this:

Finally, we get a great tie-in in reference to that anniversary story Snyder wrote in Detective Comics #27 which is a concept that has intrigued me to no end so I was only glad that Snyder is now placing that idea within the continuity of his Batman run. Entitled Twenty-Seven, we see a future a hundred years from now, where Bruce Wayne is long dead but, as Batman, he got cloned perfectly, so a clone of him aged twenty-seven (when he first started his crime-fighting and vigilante work) will emerge time and time again to ensure that Gotham will always have its Dark Knight for many generations to come. Alfred revealed the genius invention that has made this all possible, explaining to Kent and the readers that Batman is an un-killable idea after all, and even though the real Bruce Wayne is no longer who he was, there is a version of him that will live on and continue the mission:'s all been very difficult to swallow this information overload, isn't it? Most particularly if you're hang up on the idea of the present Bruce Wayne not just forgetting everything--but being rewritten as an entirely different man altogether. One would argue he is not the Bruce Wayne we loved and root for throughout the course of knowing him and supporting him in his noble crusade, and that meant him getting a small piece of compensation and happiness with a new identity should not matter to us BECAUSE WHO THE HELL IS HE IF NOT BRUCE WAYNE WHOM WE HAVE A GREAT EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT WITH? Perhaps that is the case because technically speaking, the young boy who lost his parents to a tragic murder and who grew up to be a man who forged his path to become Batman is truly and finally dead. The Bruce Wayne we see now in the present is not burdened with that rage and motivation, and he has also lost all his years of hard work in training to become the symbol of justice we have all admired. So, Snyder offered fans a compromise by ensuring that Batman in the futures to come will still be around...but it's a clone of the real Bruce Wayne so, again, we shouldn't care. But personally, I DO. I still care about all of this. I still love Bruce Wayne even if he is no longer the same person. I still believe Batman couldn't die and even when he did for that brief moment in the cave trapped with his arch-nemesis, Batman is unending because he is an idea that lives because our faith in him gives him power and everlasting life. Bruce Wayne is not the same person now and perhaps ever again, but BATMAN WILL ALWAYS BE BATMAN.

That's why I'm not bothered that Bruce Wayne came back as a different person because as a mortal man of flesh and bone, Bruce's calvary and tragedy has to end at some point. He can't be suffering forever and going through the cycle of violence, guilt and anger just because we want him to because that's mainly who he is. But we're the ones who defined him in that role, claiming that through his darkest moment turning him into the tortured hero we like seeing defeat the odds time and time again was an inspiring journey. WELL, MAYBE IT ISN'T. That's what Snyder wants us to think about by writing this, I believe. Don't we think it's time to let go of the oppressive notion that Bruce must always remain isolated and unloved just so he can be Batman, even if that also entails that we can't ever have the boy and the man who breathed life into Batman putting on that cowl and fighting yet again for another terrible night? Personally, I maintain the opinion that the idea that both Bruce and Batman have now been thankfully severed from their intimate and most grueling connection and purpose is not something to be upset about.

But if you still are, that's fine. I would hope it wouldn't discourage you to stop reading Synder's series because I think this is a meaningful turning-point in the seventy-five years of Batman's run as a superhero in the comics medium. Snyder has been de-constructing what we know about his tale and why we identify with it so much, and the idea of how that identification affects our appreciation for him as a character, as well as forms our opinions concerning moral relativism and values like strength of will and pursuit of justice. Batman is a story that is timeless and universal because it affirms the idea that even the darkest and coldest moments in a person's life can become the brightest and lead to the most inspiring journey to self-discovery and, yes, immortality. So, ask yourself now: why are you a Batman fan? Why are those your reasons to be a Batman fan? 

If you want to explore these feelings more and to really tap into the depths of this unique obsession and devotion of ours to a fictional character who might have touched something in us that we have yet to fully recognize and name, then let us keep reading Snyder's series. I know I would. I never started looking for answers when I read his stories but now they are certainly making me ask questions. And that I think is the beauty of a writing that challenges both mind and heart.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Robin: Son of Batman by Patrick Gleason issue #3

I have exhausted all the possible ways I can count how much I love Damian Wayne at this point so I think I need to cut back from my raging torpedo of affections for this character every time I write my reviews for Patrick Gleason's ongoing Robin: Son of Batman which is proving to be a very engrossing title of its own right even after only three issues in. That being said, this installment was slower than the action-filled fun ride that were the first two of the roster. But I'll fangirl a bit here and there because it's still my Robin after all. Before doing that, let me just address this elephant in the room.

I think it's become obvious by now that this title is disconnected from the continuity happening in Gotham City with Gordon as the new Batman. It might even be set during the grieving period of Bruce Wayne's 'death' before somebody else put the cowl. Gleason never really addressed the specific timeline his story arc is placed in and that works well enough. In my mind, this is set after Snyder's Endgame during a tender time when Damian is grieving his father; yet he is also doing it by honoring his memory in the best way possible: making amends for the cold-blooded killer that he was when he used to be the heir to the Al Ghul empire of assassins and cuthroats. This series then can be seen a redemption story. I certainly to choose to see it that way.

Gleason on story and pencils, Gray on inks and Kalisz on colors once again worked together for the beautiful visual palette of this third installment of Year of Blood. What I love about this series is that it definitely feels like the proper spin-off for Peter J. Tomasi's recently concluded Batman and Robin if we're strictly looking at the illustrations and overall composition and texture of the panels and layout. The writing itself has taken a brave step forward to capture the same emotional resonance and dynamic quality that Tomasi utilized a lot for his issues in B&R. He's hitting the right notes every so often that is reminiscent of Tomasi's style but I think Gleason is also forming his own voice when it comes to the characterization of his Damian who is finally getting older at last. I'm so happy he's eleven now because when I was eleven, I had undergone some painful transitions myself so there are a few moments in between reading this issue (and the first two) that made me think about how I handled my own personal calvary back then, and if I truly did become a better person of my own making. Damian is struggling with this reality himself; his father saw his potential for goodness even when all he was ever programmed to be was to commit crimes and misdeeds--and he wants to keep proving Bruce right. 

Damian has come to terms throughout Tomasi's B&R that he is meant for something more and after he died and was reborn with Superman-esque abilities only to lose them after awhile, Damian is once again on the verge of going through something earth-shattering which is the entire point of cleaning up his heinous actions during his Year of Blood trials. I care about this character a lot and I'm so happy that writers like Tomasi and Gleason are taking the time to make Damian more knowable, relatable and utterly dynamic to readers. When I heard he was going to have his own title this year, I was overjoyed. I want Robin: Son of Batman to be good and to never forget what Damian Wayne means to fans like me who enjoyed seeing this kid grow up and be a hero on his own terms, through his own sheer will. (Uh-oh, so much for not fangirling the fuck out of Damian again. I guess I will never ever stop).

And that is what the third installment is all about. It's about Damian claiming independence by taking back his mistakes and doing something to atone for them. It's about him becoming more than just his father's son, his grandfather's heir, his mother's precious burden. It's about Damian moving on from whatever grand image all his parental figures have recognized in him, even Bruce. At the age of eleven, Damian had experienced so much grief, a lifetime of it even, that he is now prepared to become his own man. It's terrifying and exciting and overwhelming--but he has focus, strength and wisdom, now more than ever. This was why it was so touching to see him reach out to a person like Maya Ducard, Nobody's orphaned daughter. I originally thought myself that she was going to be some annoying, bitchy villainess who will be blinded by revenge and selfish goals, but she surprised me since last issue, including Damian himself. He knew what she is suffering because he had undergone it himself once with Talia.

She helped the people in South America when they were in danger. She showed compassion and concern over Goliath the giant bat and was even sweet enough to lull him to sleep when he was overcome by inexplicable rage. It seems that she was not her father's daughter after all. She was not equipped with his cruelty or single-minded mission to expel criminals through murderous means. She has a good heart of a girl who felt rejected and ignored by man who was never a father to her. As she and Damian exchange blows while crash-landing from the skies, she expressed all her rage and wanton desire to be worthy of her father's approval; she lashed out on Damian not really about avenging her late father but more because she was envious of the kind of relationship Damian had with Bruce, something she wished she had. Upon hearing this, Damian makes her an offer she was unable to refuse.

If she helped him atone for his Year of Blood crimes, he is also giving her a chance to become SOMEBODY as oppose to Nobody. Much like Bruce has given him a choice to become a better person by becoming his sidekick and partner Robin, Damian is doing the same thing for Maya, and don't we all want a second chance to prove we can be the best versions of ourselves? Of course, Maya accepts it. She started out with the vicious intent of killing Damian to avenge her father and ended up being saved by him when she accepted for herself that she can change as Damian is doing now. This isn't hypocrisy. This is evolution and change itself is always going to be gradual--it will take time--and it will be a hard battle to win.

After making amends, the two of them had a nice, quiet moment under the stars:

And then this immensely adorable moment:

I like Maya so far and I absolutely love Damian more for giving her a shot in claiming redemption for herself. It's possible that, considering they are close to the same age, she may become a love interest for him in the future...but for now I don't want any kind of hints and teases of romance between them because they're children and I would like them to focus more on their individual cavalries while developing trust and friendship along the way. Talia is also coming back so that guarantees that things will get messed up again later on in the series. Overall, this issue is a great build-up to what I hope will be a more rewarding installment next time around. Gleason continues to find his bearings as a writer while his visuals are stunning as always! 

I can't wait to read more of this!!


Detective Comics by Buccelatto issue #43

Even as I type this review, I'm presently balls-deep into the X-Men comics cavern (and yes, I used that expression correctly, if you can even believe it), which also meant spending less time with Batman. Still, there are three ongoing DC titles I keep track of and still find time to post reviews for, so my Bat-blog will have some surge of activity in a monthly basis at least. Let's start with Manapul and Buccelatto's Detective Comics run whose visual work for this story arc is illustrated by Fernando Blanco.

Manapul doesn't write this issue with Buccelatto at all which was puzzling to me and though I could give the latter some kudos for taking on the writing job solo for this issue, I can't wholeheartedly say that this installment was particularly engaging. There are small moments of greatness but overall, the narrative of this issue just didn't mesh well as one cohesive picture of events. It started out very excellently though; picking up right after the cliffhanger from issue 2 where Gordon stepped out of his robobatbunny suit to fight off three goons which I don't think was possible for him to survive through. Yet he did, frustratingly enough. The three goons in question were formidable fighters themselves and only someone of Bruce Wayne's training could have logically defeated them but not someone like Gordon who is not used to such brutal combats. That entire thing felt like a plot hole to me and, judging by how Bullock and Yip reacted when they found Gordon--beaten up yet still conscious with the two goons on the ground and one escapee--I think they share my utter amazement as well.

So the issue explained that these La Muerte mercenaries were hired by a Falcone (Stefano) and their goal is to steal the robobatbunny suit's nuclear power source. Oh yeah, apparently, Gordon has been running around with a FUCKING nuclear power source inside his combat gear, and that freaked him out upon learning about it but at this point, it's all a matter of hindsight and perspective. What should be done now is to look for said annoying could-kill-masses thing and stop whoever plans to use it to...kill the masses with bombs, I assume (only to be proven wrong later at the last page of this issue...well, sort of). To make matters worse, we also get another unwelcome appearance from FUCKING JOKER'S DAUGHTER (Goddammit all to hell and beyond, DC, stop making JD happen. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN).

God, I know how scattered my review is beginning to read by now and I would like to apologize for that. Let's remedy that, shall we? Now I want to talk about the production of this series as a whole since ManaBuc took over and in the aftermath of Divergence/Convergence big-event that came to pass earlier this year. I still think Detective Comics is a title from the roster worth picking up and I certainly enjoyed immensely what Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelatto have done since they started collaborating as writer and artist together. So I guess I do miss ManaBuc's collaborative artistic styles because it's the reason I viscerally fell in love with their duo in the first place. There is this shockingly energizing fluidity in each panel of their scenes every time they draw action scenes, most especially the quiet moments with Batman performing detective work. I can't say the same about current artist Blanco's work, and yet after three issues in, I think his style has taken a more personal signature which makes it distinct from that of ManaBuc's own, and I'm pleased to see some evolution in his artwork then. Some of them are downright atmospheric, most likely because of the colors that really brought out that eerie quality in the scenes Blanco depicted. I like these panels below:

Much like before, I enjoy the back-and-forth police drama that the story arc so far has heavily emphasized and consistently followed through. I like crime procedurals especially when they're done right and so far the writing for this story has been balancing the right tone and mood with just enough believability to keep me engage in the conflict and revelations unfolding. One notable one was about Nancy Yip, Bullock's partner (whom he was also sleeping with) and she turned out to be a dirty cop (which we were already privy of since issue #41, honestly). The developments are happening for this arc in general, but they are coming slow and often underwhelming and I don't mind, really. I'm reading this series because I like how integral Bullock feels in this story, and his relationship with the new Batman is refreshing, considering he has a real, personal connection with Gordon and therefore has to support him in his law-sanctioned vigilantism. That's a big step for someone like Harvey who is adamant about bringing down masked superheroes from the get-go. His, er, deal with Gordon about killing Yip was unsettling though. I'm just going to assume he wants to save her because he has feelings for her and he's asking for Gordon to help him make her disappear and start over somewhere. I could be wrong and I don't mind if I am because the last page of this issue was really...bonkers.

When one steals a nuclear power source, we would assume it's for mayhem and explosives, and though some side-bombing in the middle of a highway did take place near the end (I assume this is Stefano Falcone's work?), the real clincher is what that stupid Joker's Daughter used her share of the power source (am I getting this all mixed up? I got the distinct impression that the La Muerte are serving two masters who may or may not be aware of each other). What did JD use the nuclear power source for, you ask? Don't be glad you did because this is the only answer we will ever going to get for now:

WHAT. THE. FUCK. IS. THAT? Look I know they are calling it a "Jokerbot" but, seriously....WHY???

At this point, I don't know what's going to happen to Detective Comics but I will keep reading and reviewing anyway.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Robin: Son of Batman by Patrick Gleason issue #2

Haunted by his atrocious misdeeds from Year of Blood and now willing to make up for them through Year of Atonement, Damian Wayne is one hero who never had it easy as the latest Robin and most especially as a former al Ghul. With the end of Peter J. Tomasi's Batman and Robin, former artist of said title, Patrick Gleason, takes up writing duties for Robin: Son of Batman, and based from two installments in, this series continues to impress and deliver unexpected thrills. Visually, it's superb and multi-layered. Writing-wise, it's edgy, daring and engrossing. This is the best Damian-centric literature for any hardcore fan who couldn't get enough of this magnetic youth. I know I can't so I continue to remain indebted to Gleason and co.

The issue opens with a flashback between mother and son, taking us back to the not-so-good old days when all that was promised to Damian, and what he has known his entire life, is an empire built on blood and death to which he is an heir. The ultimate test of his worthiness is the Year of Blood. At present, the very same boy has now chosen a different cause to fight for and is slowly yet surely making ammends for the crimes and injustice he brazenly committed back when all he thought he could ever be is a killer. Damian left Gotham City to travel certain spots in the world starting with South America, in a village where he had lain waste once and stole the townsfolk's most sacred treasure. As he restores it back to its rightful place, he awakens the dormant guardian that immediately attacks him. During this commotion, NoBody's daughter finally makes her appearance, aiding Damian not because she cared about him but rather because she'd rather not have innocents get hurt.

NoBody's daughter wishes to take vengeance on Damian who killed her father from the Born to Kill arc but seems to have nobler intentions outside that and I think that adds some dimension to her character. She also finds Damian's road to redemption laughable yet worth the entertainment so she struck a deal to accompany him, most probably with every wish to see him fail and revert back to his old self. This issue has done a great deal telling the story of Damian's fall and return from grace by seamlessly blending past and present in an explosion of colors, enchanted by John Kalisz. Gleason's art has never looked this alive and aggressive, giving everything a sense of urgency, as well as sharpening the dangers ahead. It's an overall superb sophomore issue that gives other Bat-titles a run for their money.

You have no idea how happy it makes me that this title has yet to disappoint me. The directions that it can go are limitless. Damian's characterization is consistent in his bullheadedness, spontaneity and resourcefulness, but he is also most definitely more mature and purposeful as a young man of eleven who had experienced enough anguish and death from the world to make hard choices and stand by them. So far, he's only been interacting with his pet griffin and NoBody's daughter. But I can't wait to see how it plays out when he realizes his mother is back in the future, and that she may have changed herself into something he may not readily recognize. This was simply a splendidly illustrated issue with a solid story to tell. If you're already a Damian Wayne fan yourself then it would feel only natural to fall into the rhythm of Gleason's narrative and visuals in no time. This is the title to pick up and learn more about this ever-strange and magnificent character's past, crises and the hopeful outcomes of his decisions.


Detective Comics by Manapul & Buccelatto issue #42

What is happening with the 42nd installments of the two major Bat-titles post-Convergence, eh? For some reason, none of this has been interesting and they had such promising openers at that. Both sophomore issues from this one and Snyder's Batman were less than impressive because everything has been a slow build-up to something readers don't even know yet and makes me wonder if the writers themselves have even figured out. Detective Comics's follow-up is dialogue-heavy with only a few notable conversations that were insightful to the story being told at hand.

Artist Fernando Blanco offers nothing exciting for the visuals which was a darn shame because I think it was mostly because of how expository this issue had been and I don't think Blanco had a dynamic style that could enliven the panels as two or three characters are just standing around in them, talking. Only two parallel action sequences at the beginning and end were featured here which I think were at least pretty cool to look at. As for the characters themselves, Bullock is consistently being portrayed in a positive light which I liked, and his varied relationships with his co-workers were also emphasized, particularly with Montoya and Gordon.

I do enjoy the fact that Bullock is learning to adjust his perspective about the new Batman since he knows who is operating the Robo-bat-bunny suit. I will never get used to typing that term properly, by the way. There is trust and camaraderie between Bullock and Gordon and this extends to every aspect of their interactions. Meanwhile, the villains for this issue are named La Muerte who have the misfortune of being associated with a villain whose initials are JD. That is no other than fucking Joker's Daughter. Therefore, I hate the La Muerte by instinct already. Dear gods of DC, why does it have to be that motherfucking waste of space? Why Joker's Daughter, of all vile things ever puked on a comic book page? I dread reading about her next time. I swear I might throw a hissy fit in my next review.

There's really nothing else noteworthy for me to expound on and discuss here. As talky as this issue was, there was little moving forward and I just don't get the sense like ManaBuc themselves have anything credible and engrossing to tell as a story but only for this particular issue alone. I hope that changes next time. Third time might be the charm. I need these freaking Bat-titles to stop slacking off way too much because I maintain that Gordon as Batman is an enticing premise. Now it just needs to deliver.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #42

Was that really Jimbo? I did not recognize him with that new haircut and the canon-lack of kickass mustache. And the glasses too. I can't help but think about Ben McKenzie from Fox's GOTHAM while reading this issue which was weird considering he was written in a show that operates on a pre-Batman state of things while Snyder's Gordon for this arc is dealing with a post-Batman world. In fact, I can easily picture said actor himself playing out the scenes for this 42nd issue which personally for me is a good thing because I love McKenzie's youthful and often hot-headed take on the character for the show.

This version of Gordon as the deputized Batman in robo-suit is granted still a polarizing one but the arc Superheavy is laying down some more solid groundwork for this second installment. I remain trusting of Snyder even if his opening issue after Bruce Wayne's "death" and in some ways this follow-up delivered. In other ways, it left me just slightly unsatisfied and baffled mostly due to the fact that it's been such a slow burn and hopefully for now.

When I think about Scott Snyder writing Batman, I think about the man's amazing knack for treating Gotham not just as a setting or backdrop but rather as a character in itself. So far, I don't get this from him anymore. After all, both Batman and the Joker just had the face-off to end all face-offs and yet we never really got to see its impact on the city itself in the aftermath. Instead we had an issue concerning the search for a replacement, to have a law enforcement-sponsored Batman with a technology backed up by the still elusive Powers Industries. As much as I was on board with the idea of Jim Gordon putting on the cowl (a robobatbunny upgrade at that), I don't really see the purpose. In addition, there is a nagging question at the back of my head that needed to be addressed here before we go further in my reviews for the post-Convergence Bat-stories:

Does Gotham City still need Batman? Or a Batman?

I don't know. And, shockingly enough, I don't care. I am done with Gotham City. I only realized this now. Should I still give a shit if this crime-infested, hell-spawned and haunted city won't just tear itself apart into oblivion? Well, Gordon apparently still believes I should. We all should keep caring even citizens of Gotham which are incomprehensibly still sticking around for the bonfire and massacres. Because, reasons. You're only a Gothamite if you're a little bit insane and reckless yourself to stay in a place so rife with madness and discord. But is there really a point reading a Batman arc without Bruce Wayne as the Dark Knight? But, then again, Batman is an abstract, unkillable idea so should it matter who wears the cowl or the bat-bunny ears? As long as Gotham is a fucking mess, there will always be a Batman. That's all there is to it.

So how does Scott Snyder and co. approach this? Taking all the time in the world which isn't a bad thing. Everything about this arc is still finding its footing. Jimbo is struggling. Julia is supportive. Their interactions are agreeable enough and she definitely takes after her dad as she tries to appease and reassure Jim that he doesn't need to emulate his predecessor; he needs to be the Batman of his own choosing regardless of whatever outside politics involved. Visually, Capullo, Miki and Plascencia are superb together, enlivening the panels with the right mixtures of colors particularly on that action sequence between roboBats and some gangster who can turn himself into a granite-particled, dust-sucking monster thing.

I don't have any definitive thoughts for Snyder's arc post-Convergence and Wayne's death so far. I love Jim Gordon to pieces but it also feels like I'm getting to know him again and for that alone I will keep reading this title. To be honest, I'm losing a bit of steam for DC stories in general, even Batman. But that's just crazy talk…or, post-fever talk. I just got back from a three-day crippling illness which was why I got delayed writing reviews. I have Detective Comics and Gleason's Robin titles to review next.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

[Batman: The Animated Series] Episodes 11-15 Review

My Batreading list for July were four graphic novels (plus New 52's The Dark Knight volume 2) that were highly recommended by online lists but I was really only able to fully enjoy three of them (TDK, Gates of Gotham and Death in the Family). The other two which were written by Jeph Loeb were said to be classics. I'm referring of course to The Long Halloween and Dark Victory which did not resonate with me in any way at all and it baffles me why these two stories continue to be rated high in a lot of Top 10 to 20 Best of Batman. This was why I found it incredibly redemptive that I'm also watching and reviewing Batman: The Animated Series alongside my readings because the cartoons' take on the origin story of Harvey Dent was "streets ahead" of the convoluted and needlessly complicated one provided by Loeb in his two works. Hell, Peter J. Tomasi's own take of this origin in his five-issued Batman and Two Face title was more unique and compelling than Loeb's. I bring this up here in my review of the show because, aside from sore disappointment and some lingering biter aftertaste, it turns out that the Two Face storyline in BTAS happened to be a two-parter (and quite inevitably so). The seventh episode tackles what happened next after Harvey Dent's transformation to Two Face, and it was a concise and moving twenty-two-minute episode about a man torn apart by two separate identities--one light and one dark--and the one which becomes victorious is the one he feeds. So let's get right to it.

Two Face Part II throws the viewers into the middle of the action. From what we can tell from the first scene, it seems that Two Face has been busy hitting up banks and other establishments that serve us fronts for mob boss Rupert Thorne's illegal activities for his criminal enterprise. Driven by vendetta, Two Face hired two thugs to work for him. All these preparations happened off-screen which was acceptable enough; the show has done well in the past when it came to burying its lead and not wasting too much time on laying every minuscule detail. This installment was absolutely enjoyable. The great moments of character build-up and conflict are earnestly well-made. Like I said, I cared little about Jeph Loeb's own characterization for Dent/Two Face while the BTAS writers have done a more than competent service in delivering a believable character arc for the titular "villain" for this episode. Bruce's friendship with Harvey Dent, though we only managed to see in two episodes, was still present and consistent in the way he interacts with Two Face; there is recognition there as well as guilt and this was further illustrated with that short dream sequence where Bruce fails to save Harvey as he falls from the bridge right after his face was disfigured. And then it cuts to a shot of Bruce's late parents asking him why he couldn't they save them. This small yet significant scene illuminated Bruce's own fear and insecurity about losing his friend; it once again called back to his childhood trauma where he feels the most powerless. So, as Batman, he tries really hard to make sure that Dent can recover from his dissociative disorder, the malevolent personality known as Two Face who makes all his decisions based on luck through flipping a coin. I'm also glad that the episode highlighted Two Face's obsession with the number two, or rather, the duality of everything. This further reflects the moral dilemma of his psyche; being unable to free himself from the crippling dichotomy of things. In his mind, there are only two sides of a single coin and he is doomed to always choose one option of the other instead of opening himself up from a world with multiple options, such as the reality humans are presented. Because of his refusal to come to terms with this, Dent's personality as Two Face only worsens. His vendetta against Rupert Thorne is based on the fact that his evil impulses were awakened because of this man, and Dent is determined to destroy Thorne. The episode ended with an optimistic note, though: Dent's fiancée Grace was able to reach out and sustain a connection with the part of Dent that remains very much human and intact. Thanks to that, he allows himself to be taken to a psychiatric ward and hopefully to get better. Bruce certainly hopes so himself. Personally, I like this version better than Loeb's because it's more earnest and consistent and there are potential scenarios in the future seasons of BTAS where Dent's ongoing battle with his schizophrenia can be utilized to tell more compelling stories. 

The next episode marked the first time the show has actually followed a continuity since the Two Face two-parter. This time, we focus on another mob-centered story tied to Rupert Thorne and his counterpart, Arnold Stromwell, head of a prominent drug trafficking operation. I find it curious that the show didn't just use the known mobsters in the comics (Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni) but I think this decision worked to their advantage. Initially, I didn't care much about Rupert Thorne although his role in the previous two episodes was important enough. Here we see him make yet another appearance, this time concerning his rivalry with Stromwell. The latter is actually the real focus of this episode which is a ballsy move for the writers, considering he's a bad guy and viewers automatically wouldn't respond to bad guys being the main highlight of a story especially if he's not rogues gallery material like the Joker or Scarecrow. Still, this episode's writing was concise and straightforward enough to hold my attention. Stromwell is a crook through and through but there might still be hope for reform and that is exactly what happened in the last scene of this episode. It's a message about positive change and I think this is one of those stories that remind adult viewers like me that though BTAS can deliver complex and intelligent hits, it's still primarily kid-friendly. This redemption story is simplistic to the point of being slightly cheesy. Though the tone of the narrative is more hopeful than cynical, for someone of my age and experience the resolution at the end was a bit contrived and silly. I can't actually believe that a long-time career criminal like Stromwell can change even if he's genuine about it. But then again, this is still a child's program so I think it's more important for the young viewers of this show to see an episode where goodwill triumphs that even a bad person can be saved if he just decided he wants to be good from now on. I can understand why we should promote this message in a kids' show.

Speaking of children: this episode is definitely catered to them. This was a cutesy standalone installment about a group of kids getting to interact with Batman. Sherman is a ten-year old boy who wants to become a detective. Aided by his friend Roberta, they found themselves finding a trail of clues leading to a compound where the Penguin and his goons were planning their next scheme. This is the Penguin's very first debut but he wasn't at all the star of this episode but rather Sherman himself and his friends. It's like the Scooby-Doo gang tagged along with the Dark Knight and was actually useful. Some scenes in this episode were downright ridiculous like that opening scene with Batman apprehending thieves and getting attacked by a giant South American vulture. A goddamn vulture! It was just like in the sixth episode The Under Dwellers where Batman had to wrestle motherfucking crocodiles. I think scenes like this is when BTAS allows itself to get campy and it's just enough of it that adult viewers can accept every now and then so it still works fine. Overall, this episode was plain fun; nothing deep or insightful, just written to entertain th children in the audience since it put Batman in a situation where he had to interact with kids in the first place. The kids themselves were engaging enough. Sherman is clever and even got to drive the Batmobile and embarrass Penguin and his goons in one fell swoop. I liked it enough. I think this may be considered a filler episode and that's fine, considering the story that follows after it which is inarguably one of the classics of BTAS. Written by Paul Dini, it's easily one of its finest installments in the entire series.

Heart of Ice was a singularly well-crafted and marvelous tale about Mr. Freeze whose only interpretation of the character I immediately go to is the pitiful one from Joel Schumacher's epic-fail Batman and Robin. I don't know much about Mr. Freeze in the comics either unless you count Snyder's Batman Annual issue #1 which I think contradicted what Paul Dini wrote for this episode. I liked Heart of Ice for its humanizing characterization of Victor Fries. I believe it was Dini himself who defined the character's backstory, retelling his origin altogether and making it officially canon (that was until New 52). In Heart of Ice, we learn about Victor Fries, a scientist who suffered an industrial accident while attempting to cure his terminally ill wife Nora via cryogenically freezing her. The accident turned his body extremely cold which mean that he can only live in subzero temperature at all times, hence his special suit. One can say that it also rendered him truly a cold-blooded monster, no pun intended, if it weren't for the fact that his heart may not be completely made of ice since he grieves and pines for his wife. This motivated him to hunt down the greedy businessman who was his former boss and was the reason of his accident in the first place. Batman apprehended him and he was placed in Arkham Asylum. That last shot of him still reminiscing his wife was poignant. There is something to be said about the way Mr. Freeze was introduced in this show in comparison with the earlier rogues gallery contenders. The Joker was just dropped in without rhyme or reason, like the chaotic representation he embodies; the Man-Bat and the Scarecrow were both manically enthusiastic scientists who took the experiments to the extreme; and Two Face was a personality disorder that eventually took over. In the case of Mr. Freeze, this was simply a man who lost too much and could not cope and was driven to commit crimes just to feel a semblance of warmth and wholeness again. There are layers to the episode's writing that I quite liked. Fundamentally speaking, Fries' motivation was about love; or at least the salvaging of a lost one. With this villain, Dini fleshed him out as someone so tragic and easy to sympathize with, almost at par with Harvey Dent when he became Two Face a few episodes ago. No pompous ego, anger issues or deranged impulses for Mr. Freeze--this was just a suffering man who wanted to feel he was human again. This was one of the most outstanding episodes of the first season and must have set an example for future installments. I can only hope that it did.

The last one for this review's batch is the first part of another two-parter. The Cat and the Claw was the very first time we see the Bat and the Cat interact with each other. Personally, I've always loved this relationship and their dynamics in a lot of the comics and adaptations. The first five-minute sequence of this episode showed a pretty fun chase between Batman and Catwoman on the rooftops, each one just as relentless and in top form; seeing Batman in-pursuit and Catwoman on-the-run magnificently captures just what it was that draws this two together almost as naturally as gravity and breathing. It occurred to me that perhaps Batman finally had someone who can keep up with him, who shared his penchant for the nocturnal dangers even if hers is more of committing crimes and he's the one who has to stop her. The attraction was inevitable. As a shipper, watching this episode was already a pleasant experience. I remember being just as enticed back when I was just a kid and I watched Batman Returns with Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer for the roles. The vibe shared between Bruce and Selina once they were out of their costumes was very reminiscent of that. Selina Kyle is an environmentalist socialite passionate on defending the mountain lion reserve in Gotham while Bruce was completely infatuated with her at first sight and the more he saw the fire in her commitment. Seeing him acting like a nervous boy with a crush was great. However, this episode is a twofold story, one with the Catwoman and the terrorist leader of infamy known only as the Red Claw--who turns out to be a woman. I could commend these episodes for giving more active roles for females and doing them so in the most riveting way possible. The last scene was amazing! Catwoman kisses Batman and he actually kissed back in spite of himself. The dialogue exchange between them too was shippage-inducing for me: "You can't deny there's something between us"; to which Batman responds, "You're right. And I'm afraid it's the law."  Overall, this had been a fantastic opener. There were enough of great character details for the players, the establishment of the key elements of the plot, as well as the tension and action that dominated the entire episode had been strong. I very much look forward to the next installment and the continuation of this story soon.