Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Batman by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV issues #51-52

Well, this was something. I didn't expect the two recent issues to be so...un-Batman. I've been gone for a really long time updating this blog, I know, because of other priorities, but rest assured I will still find time to review monthly releases of Batman-related comics in the current run. I have yet to get to issues 51-52 of Detective Comics, as well as the concluding issue for Robin: Son of Batman (that was still discontinued, right? I was really hoping it wasn't, and I prefer to live in this island of denial). Since I've been gone for a while, I'll try to talk more in this review which combines both issues in a single post because, hey come on, I'm lazy that way. But stick with me; I promise this one would still substantial enough to be worth reading.

ISSUE #51 by Scott Snyder

Right on the heels of the Superheavy arc's conclusion, which also marked Scott Snyder's official 50th issue since he took over writing duties for one of DC's flagship titles Batman, this issue entitled Gotham Is was a true testament as to what made me fall in love with Snyder's writings of the Dark Knight. Of course, there were some less than stellar moments in between, and some unfortunate snags as well, but Snyder's series continues to be a fine example of a superhero comic book, particularly with the narrative style of his voice, most notably when it is accompanied by sweeping visual landscapes and details courtesy of Capullo, Miki, Plascencia. These artists are the dream team that breathe life into Snyder's text. Issue #51 Gotham Is demonstrates this in its quietest moments, and this story is definitely leaning more on subtlety as oppose to anything else.

The whole shtick about "Gotham Is" was a nice callback to the very first Snyder issue. Put simply, there is a section in the newspaper that gathers answers from the "Gotham is..." question where citizens can mail their responses. Most of these answers are bleak and often macabre, underlining the terror, frustration and unease that Gothamites feel about their city. Issue #51 sets up that mood very nicely. Bruce Wayne is now Batman again, and James Gordon is in the police force again (although I can't be exactly sure since I have yet to read the recent issues for Detective Comics which may contain some details about what happened to Gordon after he quit being Batman). Everything about this issue was nostalgic and reminiscent of what you may come to expect from a Batman comic, and yet we eventually find out that Snyder was deconstructing his own tried and true tropes.

Reading this was comparable to Doctor Who Series 8's episode called Listen which is a parable about fear and loneliness, playing up to writer Steven Moffat's known tropes whenever he writes a DW episode. Much like that, Snyder lets readers anticipates what they have come to expect from a typical Bat-story; only to surprise them with something so meaningfully bittersweet in the end.

Another power outtage occurs in Gotham. Batman, of course, believes yet another criminal is responsible. He visits the usual spots; the Arkham Asylum, City of Owls underground place, Penguin's criminal lair...he even apprehended a former gangster who turned out to have started living a straight life is now writing for the Gotham newspaper. And he was the one narrating 'Gotham Is' for this issue after all. As it turns out, it was just a simple power outtage. There was no other shoe that's going to drop, and the citizens of Gotham for once have actually started to change for the better rather than for the worse. I suppose it was to be expected, after the incident with the Joker's toxin epidemic, and Mr. Bloom's hostile takeover from Superheavy. Finally, Gothamites have coped for the best, and they want Batman to know that it's all because he believed in them.

Those lines cited above, of course, made me weep. The gangster-turned-journalist encouraged Batman to 'take a break' for tonight and find that his city, for a moment, doesn't need saving. I cry about comics a lot especially when it's Batman and it's written by Tomasi or Snyder. It's great, actually, because I've been away from DC comics since my 2015 X-Men comics binge, so I was so relieved to come here to Batman and find myself in tears again. That's the best feeling in the world, and Issue #51 Gotham Is has absolutely became an instant favorite of mine. And you know what else makes this even more emotional? SCOTT SNYDER OFFICIALLY SAYS GOODBYE TO HIS RUN FOR BATMAN! After five years of writing this series for 2011, the team of Snyder and Capullo have finally performed their swan song for this issue, and what a farewell it is!

Thank you for the gift of Batman, Snyder, I will always cherish the shocking direct message you sent me on twitter two years ago which embarrassingly contained your view about my sorta ambivalent reception to the early issues of Batman Eternal. But you were so nice and graceful about expressing your views anyway so THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I will cherish this one-time message~


ISSUE #52 by James Tynion IV

Issue #52 was written by recurring guest writer James Tynion IV whom Snyder had collaborated in past projects before during his run, most notably Batman Eternal. He even wrote the sidestory to Synder's Endgame story about the Rashomon-esque Joker's true origins which I liked a lot. I thought he was going to be the new writer of the series, but apparently he is working on the re-branding for Detective Comics which will now become a Rebirth run. So who is handling the new Batman roster? A writer named Tom King with artists David Finch (whose artwork I'm familiar with from Dark Knight run) and Mikel Janin. Anyway, that's enough belated news announcement (if you follow Batman in comics, y'all already probably know). Let's talk about Tynion's The List.

This was yet another story about nostalgic sentiment, focusing on the first few years about Bruce Wayne trying to cope with his parents' murder. This would seem like an overly explored concept already and in many ways it was. What was fresh about Tynion's writing of it, however, was the careful splicing of the present and past which for me was superbly depicted by his penciller and colorist, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia with Jordan Boyd respectively. I cannot say this again but I will, but I go nuts for Plascencia's coloring. NUTS! It's obvious to me which panels he colored because I know his signature colors by now. I'm happy he was a part of this creative team just to ease me from the loss of the Snyder-Capullo dyad from their final issue aforementioned.

The art by Rossmo was peculiar but in a rather fun way because it seemed to highlight the flashback sequence as truly something from the past. As you could tell from that page I posted, the story centered around Alfred's struggle to help Bruce cope and Leslie Thompkins' having a hand at the recovery process by providing him a journal where he had to make a list of the things he needs to do to move on from his bereavement. The issue then shows us the many things Bruce was able to accomplish which included training to fight and eventually becoming a vigilante. Most of the narrative boxes depicting of what items he had listed may seem a little emo and wangst, but he is a boy who had just lost his parents so it was acceptable for him to write such things where he prioritized hardening his shell to cover up for the mushy, soft core underneath. My favorite panels included this splice:

Plascencia's colors are so beautiful in the upper panel. Meanwhile, Alfred trying to be there for Bruce at the most difficult time in his young life will always going to be heartbreaking no matter who writes it, and Tynion just nailed that emotionally-charged exchange very well. I think this issue, if not read after Snyder's goodbye piece from the previous installment, may come off as melodramatic, but since readers are still probably grieving Snyder-Capullo's farewell for this series, then this issue would definitely struck a chord too. Tynion, I believe, took advantage of that, so The List came off as a consolation tale, appeasing our fears and anxiety for what lies ahead for the new roster of DC's Batman. And it sort of worked. I loved that ending page!


Thursday, April 28, 2016

BATMAN: A Celebration of 75 Years Official Review

Batman has been officially 75 years old since 2014, and to commemorate this turning point in the history of the character's legacy, DC released an anthology of stories for most of their DC characters, most notable examples include Superman, Wonder Woman, Shazam, the Joker, etc. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is just the first part of the goodies DC has bequeathed long-time readers and avid fans. There is also the Visual History almanac of the character (and I own both hefty copies), which served as a chronological catalog to Batman's seventy-five reign, including a varied list of landmark issues, most coveted issues, and recent works in memory. This anthology, however, collects specific comics issues that readers can enjoy for themselves. The stories were divided into specific categories of era. We have the 40's, the 50's-60's, the 70's-80's, the 90's and the 2000's-present.

Originally, I was supposed to write a multi-part review for each Bat-era category, but I have other obligations in real life that cannot be put aside to make more time to do that, and now I opted instead to write one official review for the entire collection itself. I regret to say that this wouldn't be as nuanced and in-depth as I wanted it to be, or what readers of my Bat-blog has come to expect from a lot of my reviews, but nevertheless I'll discuss as much as I could about this collection in case some of you have yet to possess a copy of this, and therefore are curious to know what it has to offer or if it's even worth buying.

On a surface level, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is a must-have anthology. After all, it collects DC Comics' certifiable choice cuts of Batman comics throughout the seven and a half decades everybody's favorite caped crusader has graced us with. Batman has captured so many readers' imagination and sense of danger and intrigue, and this is supposed to highlight exactly why his fictional exploits have lasted for so long and are so heavily ingrained in his fanbase's hearts and minds. In my own personal opinion, however, this collection is a mixed bag of goods. If you're a first-time reader of anything comics, this anthology may not be my first choice for you to get to know Batman with. In both an objective and subjective sense, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is not an advisable route to start with because there are a few valuable graphic novels I think newbies have to experience first if this is truly going to be the first time they will encounter Batman in said medium. This anthology in question is far too varied with its sample stories that newbies who are only familiar with the recent Batman adaptations (read the dark, gritty approach to the character) and hence they may find most of these issues jarring and bizarre, particularly the earlier eras of Batman. 

For example, did you guys know about Batman Of Tomorrow? Here is a sample page:

To those who are more than familiar with the character's earlier years, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is a collection worthy of purchase, primarily for reasons that have something to do with nostalgia. I'm not saying that readers of my generation will be forever incapable of appreciating old-school Batman, but chances are these readers may already have fixed tastes of how they want their Batman to be served to them and so the categories dating back in the 40's, 50's, 60's and some material back in the 70's which this anthology touches upon may not resonate as meaningfully as more recent works have in the 80's to the present which portray Batman in a more serious manner that really focuses on the Dark Knight aspect of his lore. Everyone has a version of Batman they know and love well. Mine was Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series. To the oldest of fans, Adam West's TV series in 1966 was a childhood favorite, while others prefer the Tim Burton films a lot more, cinematically-speaking. A great number of fans now, however, subscribe to Christopher Nolan's trilogy whose tonality and themes might have influenced their reading choices. It's not to say that these same fans will not enjoy this anthology as much if they do purchase it, but a lot of its earlier material will go over their heads and shock them because it's a complete dissonance to what they know about Batman as a superhero. That being said, early-era Batman is a bottle of laughs and hijinks, IMHO! If you're my age (twenties) and was able to fall in love with Adam West's version of the character later on even if you also still prefer your Batsy dark and brooding, then being able to read these early issues will be an effortless thrill! 

In Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years, the earliest eras portrayed his character in less darker shades than the contemporaries. Batman is a lot more light-hearted in a way you would not believe unless you're over forty and have read the run of these fun titles back in the day. A lot of the material chosen for this anthology are first or memorable appearances of characters such as Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and a few of Bruce Wayne's girlfriends like Vicki Vale and Silver St. Cloud. Some issues also have the most ridiculous plot-lines imaginable that showcases Batman's penchant for over-the-top gadgets and often also involve the mind-boggling schemes of one-note villains who don't belong to the top-shelf Rogues' Gallery. The titles range from the titular Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, World's Finest, DC Special Series and so on. 

The breadth of this collection is satisfactory yet a little challenging in some places. The varied styles of narrative can be an acquired taste, particularly for those more accustomed to the way comics are drawn and written in these days. Early-era comics tends to tell more rather than show action sequences, relying on the writer's narrative boxes that have a tendency to be indulgent in both speech and character dialogues. Fortunately enough, the choice cuts in Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years have stories where such a narration style works well enough to keep readers interested. My favorite part of this entire anthology were the recent works, of course, starting with BTAS writer Paul Dini's contribution. And yes, this also includes the re-printing of the original first Batman issue of The Case of the Chemical Syndicate which include Batman's origin story at the end.

BEHOLD HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS! I may or may not have started kissing the pages repeatedly after reading them.

In a nutshell, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is generally a highly recommended work that long-time fans should have in their shelves, but I wouldn't consider it as something I would readily recommend to newbies and more contemporary-inclined fans of Batman who haven't read much about him in comics just yet. That being said, I can't really stop you if you still want to buy this, perhaps either because of posterity reasons or because you want to challenge yourself to get to know old-school Batman. If that is the case, then more power to you! I maintain that to love a fictional character means to explore everything there is to know about him or her, and Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is the best place to start that quest, if nothing else. If you're interested to know which Bat-titles and story arcs to start with as a newb, then check out my IF YOU WANT TO START READING BATMAN rec list.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Detective Comics by Peter J. Tomasi issue #50 & Batman Annual by James Tynion IV issue #4

In this combined review for Peter J. Tomasi's fiftieth issue for Detective Comics and James Tynion IV's piece for the 4th Batman Annual--I'm essentially grasping on straws here because I was supposed to review this a week before but certain writing duties in real life got in the way. But let's get to it since this will be the last issues I will review before I post my official review for the graphic novel Batman: A 75 Years Celebration before the month ends. Afterwards, I'm taking yet another long hiatus from my Bat-blog. It can't be helped, you know. For May, you will find me in Hellblazer blog, reviewing issues for John Constantine. But until April ends, you still have me, so let's discuss Tomasi and Tynion IV's works.

Issue #50 of Detective Comics is the concluding piece for Tomasi's short-lived serial-killer story arc entitled The Bronze Age. I've expressed how intrigued I was by this story in issues #48-49 because it's Tomasi and artist Pasarin's work also looks gorgeous especially the almost sweeping panel shots of Gotham including how he depicted the crime scenes where the serial killer in question left his victims. I also like the opening pages in #48 with the windows of the apartment complexes where ordinary people live their lives, and how often Gordon as Batman would watch them just to remind him what he is fighting for as a vigilante. Anyway, back to the serial killer. Basically, his modus operandi is inspired by historical heroic figures. He would dress up his victims in period clothes and display them around the city, much to the collective chagrin and hororr of the GCPD and Batman Regent Jim Gordon. The killer is a theatrical schmuck, I can give you that. When all is said and done, the creepiest aspect about him will always be those flesh masks, though. I mean, how did he acquire those? Why did he acquire those? Why is he doing this? Who is he? Why does he only speak in vague speeches about stuff that are far too intelligible to simply dismiss as crazy talk.

Unfortunately, even though this issue ran for fifty pages, Tomasi was still only granted 24-25 to efficiently wrap up the story. And I say it's unfortunate only because none of my questions were answered in a way that made me go, "Ahh...I get it. I understand." I would say I feel cheated on but not because of Tomasi. I really wished the DC editors decided to stretch this concluding piece at least five more pages since this issue is fifty-pages worth. Instead, we get a bonus story with amusing full-paged illustrations as drawn by several artists. Hey, I liked those. I thought they were splendidly drawn, but I was really looking forward to this ending piece for the serial-killer story arc but Madmen and Martyrs didn't deliver a punch at all. 

From what I can understand on a superficial level, The killer (who was left unnamed and I'm not that clever to come up with a name for a serial killer so let's just call him George--it'll make sense in context as soon as you get to the next sentences) continues to set up his stage for the main attraction which apparently is all about him donning a knight costume to fight a symbolic evil; much like the landmark statue of Saint George defeating the dragon. You know, this one, which looked exactly like one of Snyder's covers in one of the issues for his arc Endgame where Batman is St. George about to slay the Joker as the dragon:

It is a great callback. But I think the most horrific crime he had committed, however, was one that included a dog! What a jackass.

But for his most ambitious project yet, George the killer abducted a couple and dressed them up as Lewis Caroll and Alice because...reasons. Ugh, nothing makes sense. I cannot keep up with this guy at all so I'm just going to post this page where there is a monologue which aimed to enlighten why he is committing this hideous yet quirky crimes:

I won't miss George the killer at all, because aside from being a creepy history buff/wannabe hero/quirky hipster, I barely understand his point of existence and his crimes. He has monologued his way throughout the entire arc and I DID NOT GET WHAT SHIT HE IS SPEWING OUT AT ALL. So it was only right that Gordon inevitably kicked his ass because at least he finally shut up. Fuck it, I don't know anymore. I just wished I knew more about him especially how he acquired those flesh masks. I know they could not be made of real flesh but they do look like real people. They were just so freaky. But, bleh. MOVING ON!

Meanwhile, James Tynion IV's contribution for Batman Annual issue #4 is entitled Madhouse illustrated and colored by Roge Antonio and Dave McCaig respectively. It's all about permanently not-Bruce Wayne who has forgotten everything about his identity (spoiler alert: it turned out to be not-so-permanent after all ) visiting Alfred in Wayne Manor to finalize some legal papers about. He was accompanied by his girlfriend Julia, and then Geri Powers, CEO of the corporation that produced the robobunnysuit that Gordon wears as the new Gotham crimefighter, was also there. And then a couple of unwanted guests show up.

Yeah, these assholes

As it turns out, the Riddler, Mr. Ice and Clayface all know that Bruce Wayne IS Batman all along, or, in this case, WAS Batman. I just love how everyone in DC comics seems to know that Bruce is Batman. Back in the old comics, keeping his identity a secret is a big deal, but now everyone could just either easily guesses out of luck, or deduce quickly that Bruce is Batman. And by "I just love how everyone knows", I actually mean, "Why is this being allowed now?" Ignoring that grating plothole aside, this issue was pretty fun to read. Sure, seeing a distressed Bruce being manipulated into trying to remember who he is was awful in itself, but hey, at least Riddler, Mr. Ice and Clayface's collective black hearts are in the right place. They need Batman to thrive as villains after all. So if that means having to reenact the terror and trauma that turned an orphan child into a symbol of justice, then so be it!

Can we honestly fault their logic? I sure can't. But Bruce is having none of this shit and he was able to overpower them long enough for rescue to come along and bring back these loonies to Arkham Asylum. Understandably enough, Julia vowed she will never set foot in Wayne Manor ever again. Bruce concurred, much to Alfred's dismay.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Batman by Scott Snyder issues #48-50

When writer Scott Snyder had Batman and the Joker face off each other in one epic final battle of everything in his ENDGAME arc (Volume 7, issues #34-40), they both eradicated one another not just in a physical sense but in a symbolic one, making this a rather meaningful moment since it was supposed to close the chapter of both characters' prolonged rivalry. Not only that, but it was also later revealed that Bruce Wayne himself had forgotten who he is and what made him Batman in the first place; including his childhood loss and trauma that motivated him to take up the cowl. To replace him was former GCPD commissioner James Gordon, who had to deal with a lot of cynical reception not just within the comic book pages itself but with the fanbase of loyal readers. 

But this is a superhero comic book, so it wasn't really the first time when Batman died before; or at least made believe to have died. Given the character's history and legacy, Batman is irreplaceable but there have been other characters who have taken up the mantle. The most recent example before Gordon was his former ward and first Robin, Dick Grayson. Now DC had gone down the same path with Gordon and for the last eight months starting with issue #41, Gordon was Batman. He was fantastic, dimensional and often fun to read about, even as he struggles to fill such mighty shoes. In the hands of more than competent writers who understand Gordon's psychology and personality, we get stories that represent why he was such a fan-favorite to begin with, and how deeply cares about his city and would do all in his power to protect it even when he feels like his shortcomings as a crime-fighter outweigh his passion. In the last eight months, we have to contend ourselves with this Batman and though the fanbase was divided in a lot of factions concerning Gordon's run at the cowl, one thing remains certain that we all can agree upon:

Only Bruce Wayne is Batman. He was, will always be, and should be Batman forever.

I expressed in my previous review of the combined issues #45-46 that I was unhappy that Snyder has to bring back Bruce as Batman because it came off as a cheap cop-out. I do think I was harsh to claim this, only because I was under the impression that Bruce Wayne was NEVER supposed to come back as Batman, and that Gordon will stay as Batman until...I don't know, when Damian Wayne finally takes the mantle once and for all? That would probably happen decades from now, who knows, but for now in this generation and as far as 75 years of history and legacy is concerned, Bruce Wayne IS Batman even when he wasn't. I suppose the two things that had me convinced that Bruce is permanently removed from the equation were because of (1) The Dionysium completely erased his memories and changed his identity; and (2) A glimpse at the future a century from now during a special story written by Snyder himself where a series of Batman clones take over protecting Gotham even after Bruce's death. Now that Bruce Wayne is once again Batman (after the really convoluted and drawn-out arc that included the sadly expendable Mister Bloom), does it mean that the Batman clones won't happen at all? Did Bruce's return change that future? Again, anything is fair game at this point and I'm sure that if the times demanded it, DC would just do yet another Crisis/convergence/divergence thing again that will make it plausible for a future with Bat-clones to come to pass. It's DC, so I won't put it past them.

Enough with the speculations, and let's talk about the journey towards this inevitable destination.

To make this review as succinct while still substantial, I just want to talk about the highlights. Snyder's Superheavy issues during its second cycle were A LOT to digest because of Snyder's verbosity which you don't notice (or would easily overlook) because of his artistic team's way of balancing the text with the visuals. Capullo, Miki and Plascencia once again bring the most dynamic and creative illustrations that defined Snyder's run of Batman as one of the more visually captivating comics out there. Most of its pages don't even strike you as something you would normally see in superhero comics. In fact, while I was reading this inside my parents' bedroom and my father walked by and glanced at what I was reading, he asked me if it was Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. My dad has good eyesight, by the way, so I know he was paying attention to what he was looking at, and so when I told him that it was Batman, he looked a little unconvinced about it. It led me to the conclusion that he was deceived by the colors and presentation that made him believe it couldn't possibly be a superhero comic book. 

FIRST HIGHLIGHT: In the previous issue #47, we ended with a cliffhanger between Bruce Wayne and the Joker--or the normalized version of him post-death at least. The Dionysium seemed to have cured the crazy out of him which would be disappointing indeed if not for the ominous tone the entire dialogue exchange between him and Bruce was written in. As far as I'm concerned, if Bruce Wayne comes back as Batman then this guy will become the Joker again. They're intrinsically inseparable characters after all. Snyder seemed to be gearing towards that reality as well, but it was quite interesting to see that this normal Joker (how should I call him? Joe?) was essentially though subtly begging Bruce to move on and not fall back to the Batman role. If he does, then Joe has no choice but to become the Joker again--for symbolism and old times' sake, you know. There is actually a part of me that feels sad for Joe because based from his dialogue here, he seems happy that for the first time in forever, he is free from playing the chaotic evil to Batman's lawful good. He would even rather die than go back:

SECOND HIGHLIGHT: Joe's climactic suicide attempt was interrupted by this bullshit: Mister Bloom's hostile takeover of Gotham City. The city has been under attack SO MANY TIMES already than whenever a villain starts doing it again, I just--I don't know, I feel like rolling my eyes and just skimming through the panels, waiting for the good guys to clean up the mess. To be fair to Snyder, each city-wide attack that he made Gotham undergo (whether perpetuated by the Owls, Riddler, or the Joker) have been transformative in spirit. These acts of terrorism didn't just happen for the sake of action fodder; there was always a metaphor he manages to put in that neatly and poignantly makes sense of the tragedies that Gothamites keep on facing and ultimately enduring for the better. So what makes Mister Bloom's act of terror different from his predecessor? Not much; most of it is a little overdone and for shock value--but what it does establish in the end is become a representation of cynicism and hopeless for Gothamites who have probably given up and allowed for sorrow and despair to take root and bloom into something dark and deadly. 

I wouldn't say Mister Bloom is a formidable new villain, but I appreciated what he was supposed to stand for at this point in Snyder's run for Batman. This is a villain borne out of the citizens themselves when they lost their hero and have to face the facts that no one is possibly going to save them. Even Jim Gordon's Batman was casually brushed aside as an undeserving pretender who didn't make a damn difference. THAT PART OF THE STORY MADE ME A LITTLE ANGRY. Snyder somewhat attempts to diminish Gordon's contribution and hard work as Batman Regent, only to have Bruce himself affirm it again by driving home the point that Gordon has done a spectacular job holding it all together for the sake of Gotham; for stepping up and embracing the challenge of it. Phew, for a while there I thought Snyder was dissing Gordon. And so we get this marvelous speech Gordon made during the climax:

THIRD HIGHLIGHT: As I've mentioned many times here, Bruce Wayne coming back as Batman was inevitable. It's downright predictable. Snyder handled his comeback in a dignified manner that his character more than deserved. Sure, there were some annoying details such as the fact that yet another one of Dionysium's erasure side effects was the removal of Bruce's mental and physical scars. I take offense to that because has undone all the pain and suffering that Bruce has undergone to become Batman in favor of him truly becoming 'reborn' in the most literal way possible. Ergo, acquiring perfect, unblemished skin and top physical condition. So the entire emotional journey of his baptism of fire, as well as those lifelong battle scars he had worn with pride, were all for naught becomes here comes the fix-all Dionysium cure? UGH. I was not a big fan of that. What I did approve of was Bruce's last gift to his now ex-fiancée Julie. He donated the dinosaur statue from his Bat-cave to the children's recreation center. I thought that was a nice gesture. It didn't automatically make the abrupt break-up and ending of that relationship any less tacky and unfair--but Julie and I are just going to have to contend with it now, won't we? It's such a shitty thing, you know. It was as if Bruce's relationship with Julie has been a placeholder for him becoming Batman again all this time. How else am I supposed to see it but just that? The only thing that softened the blow was the fact that I barely knew Julie to care too much about how she was badly treated as the love interest when all is said and done. But whatever, right? 

It's not like superhero comics have female readers too who might expect women who play as romantic foils to the heroes to be written at least with more active roles--even if they are just secondary characters. WHATEVER.

My favorite part of this entire arc had to be issue #49 which was illustrated by Yanick Paquette (of Batman Incorporated!) as opposed to Capullo. The visuals for that issue were still pretty awesome especially the gorgeous full-paged spreads depicting the kooky, inventive ways Bruce tried to remember being Batman by using a machine that was originally supposed to conceive Batman clones. His DNA imprint was stored there so in order to remember his identity, he had to subject himself to agonizing simulations. I really didn't need to see him die over and over again, or choose a life of fighting crime over having a stable, happy life, mind you. But it was a necessary evil. Besides, I think the one thing that has made me tear up was Alfred's role in all of this, as well as his reactions to what is happening and about to happen yet again to the man he deeply cared for and would want to be set free from his lifelong burden. He was the character who broke my heart the most.

So Bruce Wayne as Batman is back. It has finally happened, fanboys, so shut the fuck up and enjoy it. Your have been appeased. That costume below had me in a state of giddy nostalgia, if I may add, because the gray tights were reminiscent of the BTAS costume. I don't really have anything else to say anymore that I didn't say in the introduction of this post, so I'm afraid I will end this review in a rather anticlimactic note. All I could say is that I am...relieved though a little peeved that Bruce Wayne is back. I can't really complain now, can I? It's all we wanted. Gordon had been great but Bruce is forever and always will be Batman. As painful as it was for Bruce, he simply needs to keep being the hero Gotham wanted because the alternative is accepting that Gothamites have to save themselves and they can't do that. And neither can us fans.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Detective Comics by Peter J. Tomasi issues #48-49

Once again, I skipped issue #47 because it's an installment for the Robin Wars crossover arc that I am not reading. I did read this title's feature of it, though since it was the third in its chronological order of issues, but nothing made sense to me at all. So fuck that, and let's talk about Peter J. Tomasi's second arc for his run in Detective Comics entitled The Bronze Age. I decided to do a combined review for its first two issues because they were quite amazing to read back-to-back, mostly because it's a serial-killer story, and everyone loves a good serial-killer story. Before I get to that intriguing plot, I just want to say that Tomasi's characterization of Jim Gordon as Batman Regent (that's how I've nicknamed him, by the way) is my most favorite which shouldn't come as a surprise. Tomasi knows how to humanize his heroes very well. Much like with Bruce Wayne, Tomasi never fails to drive home that Jimbo is a parent (his last arc even had him singing a lullaby to an ancient baby creature AND IT MADE ME TEAR UP). 

The opening pages for issue #48 featured Jimbo hanging around the apartment complexes, looking at normal people having normal lives just to remind himself what he is fighting for. He does this again by #49 as he observes his daughter Barbara making dinner for herself. This was after news of a serial killer was put out there. It doesn't matter that Barbara is a crime-fighting vigilante herself because she is still Jim's little girl, and so his first instinct is to always see to it that she's safe no matter what. These small moments in the issues so far has solidified Tomasi's human characterization, and I for one am glad that he doesn't hesitate to portray that to readers. If any DC writer knows how to expose the tender insides of superheroes, it's Tomasi!

For The Bronze Age arc, Tomasi worked with artist Fernando Pasarin with Matt Ryan and Chris Sotomayor as inker and colorist respectively. The ambiance and visual intrigue of their illustrations are as sinister and captivating as Tomasi's narrative for the serial killer whose profile from what I gather is that of a pathological (mask-adorning) history buff recreating popular heroes (via posing people he murdered in costumes) not just from American history but from other countries as well. While on patrol, Batman Regent stumbles upon a corpse posed as George Washington. Later, he would fetch a corpse dressed as Neil Armstrong hanging from a tall skyscraper, and save a woman from being burned alive on a stake resembling the death of canonized saint and martyr Jeanne D'Arc.

As Gordon tries to piece together the clues and catch an attention-seeking whore of a killer, issue #49 ends with this:

Most of the pages of both issues feature investigative work with Jimbo and Harvey Bullock as they track down possible victims and try to find a reliable pattern of the murders being committed by this relentless psychopath. Some pages, on the other hand, allow readers to see for themselves how twisted said killer was by having him recite weird-ass lines since he was basically performing monologues whether or not someone is listening to him. When there are people listening to him, their collective expressions definitely reflect my own because I don't know what the fuck this guy was babbling about and what motivates him to pose his victims like heroes from the past. All I know is that he targets victims who seemed to be upstanding citizens who have no criminal record (one of the two known victims was even a firefighter). His methods of killing are precise too; a history buff at heart, this unnamed serial killer even use guns with bullets that belong to colonial times. You know, so he can capture the essence of warfare back then or something. But the real kicker is those plethora of facial masks he owns and puts on:

I only have one issue to read and review tomorrow. I have to wait for next month's release alongside Fawkes' issues #11-12 for Robin: Son of Batman. I don't know if this serial-killer story wraps up by #50 and if it does, I certainly hope its resolution doesn't feel rushed. The premise of the story has been fascinating so far, and I could only trust in Tomasi to deliver a splendid pay-off and a riveting revelation of who the killer is and why he does what he does. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Batman by Scott Snyder issues #45-47

Okay, this is going to be embarrassing, but I want to disclose first that, last year, I planned on writing a review for the combined Snyder issues of #45-46 and was unable to do so. Instead, I ended up writing only Tomasi's Detective Comics #45-46 review before I took months-long hiatus from Bat-blogging. So now here I am, stuck on reviewing three issues together in one post because I'm simply too tired to discuss each of these issues in detail, mainly because--and I could not believe I am even saying this--I don't find Scott Snyder's writing nearly as compelling enough as before; and it has little to do with former GCPD commissioner Jim Gordon becoming the new Batman. Or maybe it does. Or maybe I've just been away for so long that picking up this title again has worn me down somehow and turned me into a cynic. Either way, what was that saying again? In for a penny, in for a pound, amirite? What a really disheartening way to write reviews! I'm very sorry in advance. Oh gods, please bear with me as I stumble through this review, hoping I can accomplish it as cohesively as I could. I won't make this torturous to endure, I promise!

The ongoing arc Superheavy deals with the supposedly weighty repercussions when Bruce Wayne finally retired for good (via absolute memory mind wipe) as Gotham City now now has to contend being protected by DC Comics' lovable good guy Jim Gordon who has officially become the titular hero of this series: the new and improved (?) Batman--a police-cooperating, corporate-ensured and government-sponsored 'vigilante' in name only, who alternates between powering up inside a tank suit known as a Robobatbunny, or costumed in sleek tights that make me a tad sexually confused because dah-yum, Gordon looks young and hot whenever he puts that on. Without the Batsuits, Gordon also looks pretty ripped and shaved in all the right places (WUT?), and I pretty much wasted two sentences describing my unresolved attraction with a character who had always been a strong father-figure archetype for me and never a sex symbol UNTIL NOW. What have you done to me, Scott Snyder?

It also doesn't help when you make him wear those white wife-beaters and is a ginger with impressive muscle tone for his age. Srsly, he resembles Walter Kovacs (a.k.a Rorschach from Watchmen) AND I SHOULD NOT LET YOU GET AWAY WITH THIS, Snyder!

So much spotlight has been put on Jim Gordon ever since he became Batman and all this center-stage treatment suspiciously corresponds to the fact that his character is the main protagonist of the ongoing Fox show Gotham. I have no complaints whatsoever because I've always been fond of Jimbo. It's worth saying, however, that as much as I still enjoy him being the focal point of Snyder's series, I'm also growing lukewarm about his TV show counterpart. The only thing that keeps me invested in him emotionally is Ben McKenzie's pretty strong portrayal of him. I don't agree with the decisions they have made about his character on-screen but I'm going to have to talk about it in my official season 2 Gotham review someday. Now back to Snyder's Batman.

Issue #45 was nice compartmentalization of things readers could still care about. I'm just going to refer to Jim Gordon as Batman as Batman Regent from now on, okay? I'm okay with this change much like I was okay when Dick Grayson put on the cowl for a while too, but Batman will always be Bruce Wayne even in spirit so I can't call Jimbo as Batman at all. So, Batman Regent got attacked by a bunch of thugs and it was an uneven fight. I was glad it was realistic in a sense that BR did get his ass kicked because the odds were against him. He recovered quickly enough a week later, though, which was less realistic and diminished a reader's tense expectation that he would have died after he lost consciousness during said  brutal confrontation. Another thing readers cared about while reading this issue was when Bruce literally destroyed anything that ties him to Batman and that...I'm not going to lie; that SUCKED BIG TIME. I didn't like that scene at all but I understood its purpose and relevance, including its inevitability. To soften that blow, we have another cutesy Bruce/Julie scene, which was nice. Mind-wiped Bruce Wayne trying to make a difference for Gotham's neglected children was a good enough subplot for me. I don't mind keeping tabs on the new Bruce.

The issue ended with Batman Regent trying to save some snobby rich people when somebody crashes into their party. 


Issue #46 has Mister Bloom murdering Gotham's elite in one fell swoop, often doing it to establish a point or just for shit and giggles. It was gruesome enough to make me care a little even though some of these people he was torturing are entitled snobs. They may be awful people in their own way but I don't think they deserve to have their deaths paraded in front of their friends like that either. In the middle of this clusterfuck is Bloom's overdue bad-guy speech where he bemoans and explains why he is doing the terrible things he does while just vaguely explaining what these terrible things are in the first place. He would take momentary pauses every now and then by murdering someone, either because they tried to run away and escape, or because he felt like their presence offended him so they must be disposed of. It's all fair game at this point. 

Meanwhile, somewhere less murder-y, Bruce proposes to Julie while they were doing mundane couple stuff in the bathroom. Then a shower sex scene happens off-page. Believe it or not, this scene was an acceptable break from Mister Bloom soliloquizing and inserting his disgustingly horrific long finger into a person's eye socket if he or she refuses to listen. On another location where nothing made sense to me because it was such a jarring change of setting, Duke Thomas (a side character featured back in #44) breaks into Penguin's Iceberg Lounge because of REASONS. I couldn't really focus at all with why he was there, and why he's wearing a knock-off Robin costume. I'm far more concerned with whatever the hell was happening with Bloom and the rich people and Batman Regent failing to capture Bloom afterwards than comprehend exactly why this confused and frustrated young man would try to play hero in the worst time and place possible for reasons I could hardly discern. Come on, dude, just let the grown-ups do their thing and be a kid, for god's sakes! I like you enough that I don't want to see you get killed!

We also get a possible origin story/motivator as to why Bloom blossomed and has targeted the rich. It's an ominous flashback in the most Snyder-esque way possible:

On the plus side, artist Capullo has outdone himself by illustrating yet again how he can turn any normal-looking thing repulsive and creepy. Before it was Joker's peeled-off skin as a mask. Now it's Mister Bloom's flower-face. It looked particularly sinister in this issue because it's alive and moving. It's much like Rorschach's ink-blots in his mask which change designs due to thermal response to heat. Mister Bloom's flower-face is as creepy to look at while it talks as that alien plant from the film Little Shop of Horrors. The issue ends with a confrontation between Bloom and BR who is out of his Robotbunnybat suit--which Bloom managed to control via electronic magnetic waves (?) and successfully turned against its wearer. That's the cliffhanger right there. 


Issue #47 opens directly to a fight sequence that packs enough punch and fabulous gadgets to make me overlook the fact that there was a small moment that hilariously defied the laws of physics and believability. But whatever. Batman Regent (good ol' Jimbo) is amazing because he doesn't give up and he's able to think on his feet. His courage and resourcefulness are resolute in the face of death. That's what Batman is all about and I think we should give him his due credit for that. Before I tackle about my opinion and feelings so far in Jimbo's run as the new Batman, let's get this bullshit below out of the way first: Geri Powers finally revealed her plans to expand the Batman brand in a most predicable maneuver that stems from her expression of corporate greed which aims to profit from the mass panic that Mister Bloom has just heightened since that awful party-crash last issue.

Meanwhile, Scott Snyder contradicts himself in the final scenes using the most frustratingly left-field revelation that made me a little angry as opposed to feeling relieved and celebratory. This reaction is tied closely to how I feel about Jimbo as the new Batman as well. Bruce Wayne tried to confront Duke Thomas with his extracurricular activities by trying to be a vigilante, but fails in a grand way because it was Dye who tried to school him. Apparently, the kid knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. HOW? SINCE WHEN? AND WHY? Um, is it because of Dick Grayson? I do recall Duke found out who Grayson is and as Bruce's former ward, I suppose he made that connection fast, eh? Secondly, he believes Bruce is simply choosing to not remember it and repressing all his memories and connection to his past life. But we already know that Snyder ensured that it wasn't just simple, temporary and plot-convenient memory loss--Bruce Wayne also lost his identity as that orphaned rich boy who became a caped crusader due to survivor's guilt and a dream to save his city. He is a new, different person now. I was okay with this. I was fine that he was getting a second shot at a normal, happy life with his recently revealed fiancée Julie. And as nervous and unconvinced as I usually am ever since Jim took the reigns, I'm still confident that he could be the Batman Gotham needs, and his progress through that greatness has been interesting to see unfold. So what in the damn hell is this cop-out, Snyder?!

I'm aware that there have been criticisms regarding Synder and co.'s decision about erasing Bruce Wayne's identity as Batman and Jim Gordon becoming the new Batman in his place. I was never a part of those bandwagon of nay-sayers and cynical fanboys. I was open to the idea of this kind of change and creative direction because why not? I trust in Snyder's skills as a writer and I have faith in his team because they have yet to deliver me a story that wasn't engrossing, emotionally nuanced and meaningful. But all of that hard work and sticking-it to the illogical fanboys and doubting Thomases seemed to have been undone by the revelation that deep, deep, deep inside Bruce's subconscious is the real Bruce Wayne just waiting to remember who he is--that he is the one and only Batman. I felt as if I was simply strung along with the false premise that things are going to a different and refreshing direction in storytelling only to face the reality that the writer himself is heading back on the familiar and safe route because he must have caved in from fanbase demand to bring back Bruce as Batman. I don't understand. I was on-board with almost everything about Synder's arc for Superheavy (even in spite of some plot inconsistencies) but now? 

Now I feel so deceived and betrayed with this sudden and sharp 'twist'.

I suppose it was inevitable. For impatient fans who just want Bruce back as Batman, his absence for eight months is already too much to take. I don't know. I don't want to talk about this anymore. Just let me freak out in a small, dark corner of my mind, okay?

And I ain't even touching that great reveal in the last page! I don't even want to acknowledge it yet until I get to the next issues. As far as first impressions go, I don't have any strong emotion about it except for this indescribable numbness that resembles both dread and elation. If you have read this issue then you know the reveal I'm talking about. I won't talk about it for now but it is a GAME-CHANGER in a way. Again, I know I'm reviewing for a few months late since there are already 50 issues released, which meant that this will probably not be considered a major spoiler at this point if you're reading. BUT IT IS FOR ME. So let me have this moment in the dark before my next review for Snyder's Batman.