Monday, November 9, 2009

Titanium Rain

Over the past year or so, I've tried to expand my comic reading to include genres other than superheroes as well as publishers beyond Marvel and DC. My discovery of Comic Geek Speak over a year ago has certainly worked to influence my choices some. And it was on their forums and podcast that I first heard about Titanium Rain.

The creators of the book, Josh Finney and Kat Rocha, are mainstays on the CGS forums, who also put in occasional appearances on the podcast as guests, or through voice-mails aired on the show. It was these experiences that prompted me to look into Titanium Rain when the double-sized issues were solicited from Archaia.

And I'm very glad that I did.

Titanium Rain is a war comic, set in the not-terribly-distant future. This is a nice change, since contemporary war comics seem to be nearly nonexistent. (Wildstorm is publishing a book based on the hit video game series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and that's the only other one I can think of.)

In Titanium Rain, the world's major geopolitical players are involved in a war in mainland China. In an effort to keep up with China's vastly superior population, other nations have begun working to enhance their soldiers. The story focuses on Phoenix Squadron, comprised of 'hacks' - so called because their genetics have been 'hacked' and enhanced. Nano-computers in their bodies help them process the vast amounts of information that a fighter pilot needs to - all in the blink of their cybernetic eyes.

The first issue, which comprises of half the book, works to give you the broad strokes of who's involved in the war while also giving you a taste of the characters in the squadron, and it does a perfectly serviceable job. But the second issue is where the book truly stands out. The second issue, in which two of the pilots from Phoenix Squadron see action, also delves into how these particular pilots came to be here. That was the point where I felt Titanium Rain solidly came into it's own with themes of evolution. This material, as well as the art, is what has me salivating over the next book.

And the art deserves special mention. As a rule, I'm more of a fan of story over art. I don't have the best eye, and others have a far better appreciation of the art of a comic than I do. But Josh and Kat have a style that feels bold and crisp to me. It certainly doesn't look like anything else I've ever read.

If you like 'near-future' science fiction stories, or war stories, you should run to your shop to pick a copy up. (Or at least see about ordering the forthcoming hardcover, which includes plenty of extra material.) Even if you don't love those genres, Titanium Rain is worth a look. It's one of the indie comics that has most strongly justified my exploration beyond Marvel and DC.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Proposed Comic Order for August

PREVIEWS #253 OCTOBER 2009 (Net) *Special Discount* Includes a FREE Marvel Previews * Limit 1 at 75% off.
AZRAEL #1 *Special Discount* Limit 2 at 75% off.
DETECTIVE COMICS #858 *Special Discount*
WORLDS FINEST #1 (OF 4) CVR A *Special Discount* Limit 2 at 75% off.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #38 *Special Discount*
REBELS #9 *Special Discount*
ASTRO CITY ASTRA SPECIAL #1 (OF 2) *Special Discount*
MIGHTY AVENGERS #30 *Special Discount*
NOVA #30
INCREDIBLES #3 (C: 1-0-1)
RASL #6 (MR)
STUMPTOWN #1 (MR) *Special Discount*

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

HeroesCon 2009 - Day The Third

The third day of the convention began late for us. Hil and I packed and checked out before heading over to the convention center, stashing most of our belongings in the car. We got to the convention center by noon, and faced a dilemma. There were four different panels starting, and I wanted to sit in on three of them. One panel boasted Brubaker and Epting. Another panel promised a panel-by-panel examination of Brave And The Bold #4 with Mark Waid and George Perez. The third panel was the premier of the Longbox Project, a digital comics initiative.

We opted for the Brave and the Bold panel. We settled into the room and waited for the discussion to begin. While the premise sounded very interesting, we were disappointed when the moderator dominated the discussion. In an hour, we scarcely covered four pages of the comic, with a total of four questions for two awesome creators that didn't come directly from the guy who was supposed to be moderating the panel.

On the show floor, I spent most of my remaining cash to get another sketch from Comfort Love and Adam Withers - this time for Hilary. We were both so impressed with my Hercules sketch, that I wanted to get one of Hilary. It came out beautifully, and I'll post it later - provided Hilary's okay with it.

We bounced around a bit, meeting Mark Waid and George Perez for signatures. Ironically, I got Perez to sign my copy of the Brave and the Bold #1 one year after Mark Waid signed it to the day. I finally managed to track down Zack Kruse, writer of The Contingent, and bought the third issue of his book from him. Returning to the PKD Media booth, I picked up a copy of PKD Media Presents, taking one last chance to meet Shawn Pryor.

We walked the con floor a last bit, collecting a few more signatures. Creators were already leaving, and I found I'd missed Ethan Van Sciver. I did wait in line, though, for Bill Sienkiewicz and got him to sign my copies of the issues for the Demon Bear saga. He seemed particularly happy that my issues were pretty clearly read. I did make a point, though, of stopping by Chris Giarusso's booth. He was giving away free head-sketches, so he drew me as a mini-Marvel Captain America.

But by about 4pm, it was time to leave. I'd made a donation to the HERO Initiative while George Perez was signing, and was down to my last dollar. Rather than try to dive into the markdowns to pick up a few last issues, I gave my last dollar to the CBLDF.

Returning to the car, we began the short trip back to Columbai. This was easily the best weekend I've spent at HeroesCon yet. I was thrilled to meet some folks from the forums, and to get to meet Bryan Deemer, Pants and Murd from CGS, and to get some sketches that were a little more personal. We kept in-budget, and I was within $10 on my rough estimation of the hotel bill.

We're planning to save money again for the show next year. Ideally, we'll be able to save up enough to make a trip North to SuperShow. My one regret is that I turned into a pumpkin after-hours. The shifts in my sleeping habits had a stronger effect on my than I thought. But I want to give thanks to everybody I did meet! I had an excellent time.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

HeroesCon 2009 - Day The Second

The first thing I did upon entering the convention hall today, was to go see Adam and Comfort about my sketch. I have to confess, I was particularly excited about leaving the book in their hands for it's inaugural sketch, and I'm thrilled with the result. I give you, thanks to Adam Withers and Comfort Love, Jason-as-Hercules! I'm completely in love with this sketch.

After meeting with them, My friend Phillip, who occasionally comments on my blog as 'p' and I decided to try Claremont's line. The line itself presented no difficulty, but the lack of Claremont made things a little trickier. We waited here for about forty minutes before giving up. It was disheartening, but Phillip had a limited amount of time. And I wasted a good bit of it, trying to navigate the convention. Booths I thought I new how to find eluded me. After a small amount of shopping, we retired for an early lunch, which allowed Hilary to rejoin us.

Returning to the convention, we first stopped in to see Matt Fraction. Matt's probably one of the nicest and wittiest folks you'll meet at a convention. And while HeroesCon recognized that, providing him a queue similar to those given to Brubaker, Epting and Bendis, he didn't have much of a line. He chatted with us as he signed our books, but we didn't want to monopolize his attention.

We made another attempt to get Chris Claremont's signature on some of our books. Once again we were stymied. While Claremont was there at this point, we were forced to learn something very important about signing lines at comic book conventions. The length of these lines is not determined by the number of people in the line... it's determined by the number of books they're carrying. Another twenty minutes with no movement prompted us to abandon our place once again.

We'd separated from Hilary, so we largely bounced around. We found our way to PKD Media, where Phillip got his copy of Mercury And The Murd signed. We also made some more purchases from twenty-five and fifty cent bins, until Hilary finally caught up with us. I was growing a bit tired, so Hilary and I bid Phillip adieu and returned to our room for awhile to soak up some air conditioning and some water. Hilary had gone through her own odyssey after our separation, catching pictures of storm-troopers, super-heroes and ghostbusters.

After resting in our room, we decided to make one more pass at the convention floor to try and get a few more signatures. And we struck gold. We were in and out of Bendis' line in ten minutes... if that long. In relatively short order, we also hit Claremont's table, got my copies of Pax Romana signed by Jonathan Hickman, picked up my sketch book (where Thom Zahler of Love and Capes drew me as a Green Lantern) and returned to Jonathan Hickman's booth, where he sketched me as Nick Fury. For free. Have I mentioned that Jonathan Hickman is awesome? Next year I'll have to remember that the last hour of the con can be truly magical.

Unfortunately, that was about the point where I ran completely out of gas. Due to my vampire lifestyle, I had trouble getting to, and back to, sleep Saturday morning. Despite my wishes, I completely turned into a pumpkin Saturday night.

Now it's Sunday morning. Our hotel bill arrived in the wee hours of the morning, signalling the beginning of the end of our stay. We're not sure what our departure plans are, but I want to make at least one more run at the show. I've still got a few books I'd like to get signed, and I think I've got cash for one last sketch for the year.

It's 8:21 AM local time, and Hilary's still sleeping. When the alarm goes off, we'll start packing up and finalizing our plans. But for now, it's been my best HeroesCon yet. I've met a few of the CGS guys, I got to chat with most of my favorite creators. I've spent a fair bit of my con budget in support of independent creators , and these sketches are the best memento I could ask for.

Friday, June 19, 2009

HeroesCon 2009 - Day The First

Hil and I checked in over at the convention center, and took our place in line. This year, the convention actually had two lines: one for attendees who purchased advance tickets, and another for those who didn't. The trick is, that those of us who bought tickets before June 14th were allowed onto the floor half an hour early.

However, the advance-ticket line itself was formidable to say the least. Looping around the interior of the convention center, there were still a good number of people entering. With that in mind, we headed straight over to the table where Ed Brubaker would be signing. I was saddened when he had to cancel from last year's convention, and I had a heavy load including my Captain America Omnibus.

There was a bit of confusion as to whose line we first got in, since Brubaker was seated next to his collaborator on Captain America, Steve Epting. This year, a few of the most popular signers actually have a queue to direct the line. I had a few moments to speak to him as he signed mybooks, and he pointed out something in the script to Captain America #25 (re-printed in the Omnibus). At the end of the script, a block of text is blacked out, and labed as 'Censored', and Brubaker told us that this block of text ties back to the revelations in Captain America #600. A small line was also forming for Brian Michael Bendis, who hadn't yet arrived. And while I was tempted to try to get Bendis' autograph quickly as well, we decided an early lunch was called for.

I returned to the convention a short while later to do a bit of shopping while Hilary retired to take a short nap. I attended the Pint of C.B. panel, where Marvel made a few announcements. Afterwards, I headed down to the convention floor where I discovered not only quarter-bins... but dime bins as well, with some help by Adam Murdough of Comic GeekSpeak. While wandering the floor, I also met Thom Zahler of Love and Capes and Shawn Pryor of PKD Media (and writer of Mercury And The Murd) and bought some of their wares.

All told, in that stretch I bought nearly a hundred comics, and most of them for little more than a song. So after carrying my bounty back to the room, Hilary and I returned to the convention floor, hoping to get signatures from Jeff Smith and Matt Fraction. Unfortunately, the line at the Cartoon Books both was capped. My copies of RASL 1-4 remain unsigned. For now. We decided to wait on seeing Matt Fraction until tomorrow. Instead we found our way to the booth shared by Adam Withers and Comfort Loves, co-writers and co-artists of the independent comic The Uniques.

The Uniques
is truly worth mention for a few important reasons. For starters, there isn't a publisher. It's created and published by Adam Withers and Comfort Love, a couple from Michigan. The couple write and draw the book themselves, publishing it on the internet. If you want a physical copy, you can order one on their website via a print-by-order service. The art is gorgeous, and after two issues the story looks like it's got a lot of potential. I bought the first trade from them, as well as handing over my new sketchbook. Hilary provided a theme idea for my sketchbook that I love. It'll be a book of sketches of me... as different comic book characters. I think Adam and Comfort are starting it out with me as Hercules. I look forward to sharing the sketch.

The first day was fun, and I'm a little frightened at the diminishing stack of bills in my wallet, but there's plenty of con left. I'm off to bed to finish recovering for tomorrow.

HeroesCon 2009 - Day Zero

With all the excitement of Christmas Eve, June 18th finally came. After polishing off my last hours at work, I began the sporadic hurry of final preparations for the show. But eventually everything was packed, and the house shrank into the rear-view mirror.

I opted against a nap yesterday morning, hoping to get one after arriving at the hotel. Sadly, there wasn't really time for it, but we did check in with a little time to relax prior to the CGS meet up for dinner. Hil and I waited in the lobby looking for a gathering of folks we didn't know, which is always an interesting feeling, but before long we saw the group coming together. After a brief introduction period, we piled into vehicles for the trip to the Golden Corral for the Feast of Pants.

At this point, I want to thank Phillip Duncan (Owner/editor of Superheroes-R-Us and AllAboutDuncan online) for providing a ride to the restaurant. Dinner was great, with a lot of conversation and some decent food. This is my first trip to HeroesCon actually seeking to meet some of the folks from The Comic Forums and I wasn't disappointed. Everyone was friendly and open which helped keep me social. Hil may have a different opinion, but I think I was handling being so tired pretty well.

Afterwards, there was some more discussion in the parking lot, followed by some comics trading hands in the parking lot of the Golden Corral. What happened next was very interesting. We traveled to the restaurant in three separate vehicles, and each one found it's way to the Target across the street independently. Phillip needed to pick up a couple things, and at dinner I realized I needed to pick up a sketch book. My book from last year is (still) sitting next to my monitor at home. Phillip actually made a stop he didn't have to in order to help me replace it, for which I'm grateful. We also managed to pick up a new camera for Hil, so tomorrow's post (or whenever I get around to posting more about the con) should have pictures.

Returning to the hotel, I purchased a good chunk of James Robinson's Starman from Phillip which means the show doesn't open to the public for over seven more hours, but I've already purchased a big handful of books.

My plans and thoughts for the show are basically these:
  • I plan to pick up a few sketches, starting a themed sketchbook. I have no idea what this theme will be, but I'll try to figure something out before I hand it to anyone.
  • I plan to pick up something new. Two years ago, I started looking at Marvel's cosmic books. Last year it was the bronze age.
  • I plan to meet creators and get some nice signatures & sketches - these have been the best mementos.
  • And lastly, I plan to spend some time talking to folks. Not just creators, but other fans.

I'm excited for the morning to get here. Maybe that's why I'm awake.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Discovering Jack Kirby

Recently, I ordered a stack of reading copies of bronze-age Marvel books off eBay. The books were cheap, and I've discovered over the past year that I seem to really enjoy the sensibilities of that era of comics. I'm also (finally) discovering how awesome the work of Jack Kirby is.

I know, I'm late to the Kirby party. I started reading comics in 2000, and have read mostly current stuff, occasionally venturing as far back as the 1980's. But when DC began publishing Final Crisis, and so many elements of Kirby's Fourth World seemed important, I bought the first two volumes of the Fourth World Omnibus to take a look at the source. Those two volumes astonished me for how quickly and easily they read, especially for books that contained such massive cosmic sagas.

But this stack of books from eBay contained some big surprises. Several of the books offered re-printings of older Marvel stories. I found myself devouring an issue of Marvel Double Feature, or Marvel's Greatest Comics for the Captain America and Fantastic Four stories they contained. As a rule, I tend more towards writers than artists, but Kirby's work is very strong and very distinctive. The Fantastic Four story (one of the original Lee/Kirby... number 87 to be specific) took on a life of it's own. I couldn't stop turning the pages, and for the first time I think I began to understand why the title was as successful as it was.

But the book that surprised me the most was an issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where I expected a quick movie tie-in, I found instead a completely different take on a licensed book. Instead, Kirby (writing and drawing) painted a dystopian future where human-kind had destroyed their environment, and submerged themselves in fictions to escape the horror they had made of their home. And in this setting, a man from the year 2040 encounters the Monolith from the original story, which sends his life shooting off in a very different direction. This wasn't the story I was expecting to read when I opened the pages, but now it's something I want more of.

With HeroesCon drawing near, I don't imagine I'll have enough of a budget to purchase an early Fantastic Four issue, but something like 2001? Maybe. I plan to keep my eyes open, that's for sure.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In Search of Tony Bedard

Here on my blog, I've given Tony Bedard a lot of flack. A lot of this guff came from his run on Exiles. While I'm starting to suspect that a lot of that ire was misplaced, likely belonging to Chuck Austen who preceded him on the book, much of his mainstream work has been (in this writer's humble opinion) lackluster at best.

One issue on the Outsiders was enough to send me packing. His run on Birds of Prey had a similar result. Awhile back, I began polling my friends to see if they could suggest any good work by Bedard. The only answer I received, from Jim Shelley, was to look into the Negation series from now-defunct Crossgen. The series started off co-written by Mark Waid, so I wasn't positive if he was riding on Waid's coattails, or if the book was entertaining on it's own merits.

Then R.E.B.E.L.S. was announced. I considered picking up the first issue from DCBS, due to a hefty 75% discount... but saw that Tony Bedard was the writer and decided against it. It's not money, but why buy something you're not likely to enjoy, right? Imagine my surprise when several folks whose judgment I trust recommend that I look into the book. So when I found myself placing an order from an online comics retailer, I added the first and second issues.

I'm glad I did.

I'm glad I did for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the story is fun and unexpected. I don't know much about Vril Dox and L.E.G.I.O.N. but I picked up enough from the Rann/Thanagar war to get the gist. It's an early attempt to create something like the Legion of Super-Heroes in the present, headed by the ancestor of Brainiac 5. However, run by the pragmatic Vril Dox, it has set itself up as a police-force-for-hire. The gist of this book is that someone has managed to usurp Dox's organization and is using it to conquer the worlds it was hired to protect. And of course, Vril Dox is eagerly wanted by whoever's now in charge. Dox is contacted (in a rather amusing and in-character method) by his counterpart in the 31st century. Brainiac 5 is concerned with his own existence, and tries to help guide Dox through this crisis. However, the way Vril Dox interprets Brainiac 5's advice is amusing to say the least. The tone is generally light, and fun... which is something that is frequently missing from modern comics. And the two issues I've read thus-far have been genuinely amusing.

I'm also glad because, as much delight as I seem to take in poking at Tony Bedard, I really wanted to see a good example of his work. For all the complaining and grief, I credit Bedard with two of the laugh-out-loud funniest issues I've ever read, both from his Exiles run. (See "Mission Impossible" and "Rube Goldberg", two examples of hysterical super-hero comics.) But nobody wants to read bad comics. Well, with the possible exception of Chris Sims and his insane love of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose. (I'm still waiting to see his Tarot/Anita Blake fan-fiction.) I wanted to read something good by Tony Bedard in order to lay off of the guy. I have, and so I will.

The fact of the matter is that I'm now pre-ordering the rest of R.E.B.E.L.S. I look forward to getting the third issue.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - Batman R.I.P.

Now, gentle reader, we come to the climax of Grant Morrison’s run on the main Batman title. He’s been seeding elements of this story since the first issue of this run. Does it read any better after having re-read the entirety of his run? Let’s find out.

    Batman R.I.P. – Midnight In The House Of Hurt

  • And the opening line says volumes. “You’re WRONG! Batman And Robin will NEVER DIE!” The line has no context though, so I’m not really sure when it is, or who it’s responding to.

    A nice introduction to Doctor Hurt, and the Club of Villains. Doctor Hurt is the doctor responsible for the three ‘replacement’ Batmen who recently troubled Gotham. The third of which claimed that he’s the devil.

    A typical night in Gotham? Batman and Robin chasing down a wannabe psycho calling himself “The Green Vulture”.

    Now here’s something I missed before – Honor Jackson, the homeless person who finds Bruce Wayne, and gives him the ‘Bat Radia’ is there to witness the end of this pursuit. The face is reflected in the Batmobile’s window. Is he really there, or is that in Bruce’s head?

    In an interview, I think Morrison said he wanted more of a return to the 70’s/80's ‘love god’ Batman. Check.

    The exposition between Robin and Alfred lays out most of the salient points of the last couple of story arcs. A real nod for folks reading this in trade.
    An explanation that the Thogal ritual that Bruce underwent is a rehearsal, while living, of the experience of death. Thus allowing Batman to plan for death, and beyond it.

    This invitation to the Danse Macabre is what really starts the plot moving forward.
    Arkham, with all the doors open and a lot of blood. I’m not sure if that really dawned on me the first time I read this issue.

  • Reading this closer on the heels of the rest of the run has really helped me in noticing things. The first read through, I really had no idea who the Club of Villains was, and I’m not sure if I remembered who Doctor Hurt was. But now, I remember having caught reference to Caligula during the Club of Heroes arc, and I think someone mentioned Pierrot Lunaire as well. I can pick out most of the nemeses of the various members of the Club of Heroes now, I think.

  • Batman R.I.P. - Batman In The Underworld

    I guess the lull in crime has left Bruce with plenty of time to ponder the mystery of The Black Glove. It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s starting to run into the henchmen of the Club of Villains.

    John Mayhew is clearly connected to the Black Glove through the movie he made. I’m not sure how Bruce knows that Doctor Hurt figures in though.

    Another deduction on Bruce’s part that I can’t quite follow. He suspects that the Black Glove may go back and involve people his parents knew. Mayhew’s movie was about a group of ultra-rich gamblers who corrupted and split up two lovers. Is that supposed to be about Thomas & Martha Wayne?

    The opening panel of this page shows a roulette wheel, alternating black and red. I’m not sure if there’s further meaning besides Jezebel Jet (a black woman with red hair) of the colors, but they were also mentioned in “The Clown at Midnight” where the black ad red petals of flowers would combine to form a deadly toxin. Red and black was also an important theme in DC Universe #0, which replaced the final issue of Countdown.

    Doctor Hurt reveals that he implanted a trigger phrase into Batman at some point while he was in his care. The whole point of the fight with Le Bossu’s henchman earlier was to expose Bruce to a drug that will make him more vulnerable to the trigger.

    The big confrontation between the tabloid publisher and Gordon helps establish the possibility that Doctor Hurt might be Thomas Wayne, and that Bruce’s childhood might have screwed him up more than his parents’ death. It even alleges that Martha’s family suspect Thomas Wayne faked his death to kill Martha.

    I can’t help but wonder if Bruce suspects that Jezebel is involved with The Black Glove. He even specifically says that he thinks this is the way this currently-hypothetical nemesis would work, undermining his belief in his mission and his faith in his cause.And Batman’s computer finally picks up what I noticed immediately when I started re-reading this run, all the ‘Zur-En-Arrh’ graffiti throughout Gotham. That’s the phrase that triggers his breakdown, moving us on to the next issue.

Batman R.I.P. - Zur-En-Arrh

  • In the last issue, Batman commented that one of the black casebooks was missing.
    Right off, we find out where it’s gone. Tim is paging through it, reading of
    Bruce’s quest to understand the madness that he faces.

    Bruce Wayne awakens in a pile of garbage belonging on the homeless Honor Jackson. But
    Jackson claims he knows Bruce from somewhere, probably meaning his brief
    appearance in the first issue of R.I.P.

    As he comes to, Bruce begins to remember some of his encounter with Doctor Hurt. Of course, Hurt knowing the cave’s location and Bruce’s secret identity could just as easily be the result
    of the experiment he as part of, or it could be that Hurt really is Thomas Wayne.

    With Batman neutralized for the moment, the Club of Villains is targeting his associates. Caligula’s goons ran into Nightwing, while Pierrot Lunaire and Swagman tried to take out Robin. And then there’s the chick, but I don’t know if I ever saw a name for her.

    Bruce joins Honor Jackson on an ‘odyssey’ across town, little knowing that the goal is to beg for money to buy liquor. Before leaving him, Jackson imparts him a gift, and some instruction.
    Following Honor’s words, Bruce (still amnesiac) finds his way to Crime Alley, and a smack-dealer named Lone-Eye Lincoln.

    Nightwing is apprehended by Le Bossu, and incarcerated at Arkham as Pierrot Lunaire.

    Triumphant in the ruin of the Batcave, Doctor Hurt dons the Bat-man costume Thomas Wayne once wore to a costume party, furthering the notion that the two are the same.

    Muttering to himself, Bruce sews a new Batman costume from brightly colored scraps of cloth. He declares himself to be the Batman of Zur-En Arrh, and the busted radio given to him by Honor Jackson (who could be a ghost or a hallucination) to be the Bat-Radia.

    This was a crazy one, but it starts to make sense as the story progresses.

  • Batman RIP - Miracle On Crime Alley

    Batman’s been transformed. Now wearing a motley of brightly colored rags, Batman’s searching out the members of the Club of Villains.

    This new incarnation of Batman is either brilliant, insane, or both. He hears Gotham City itself speaking to him through its gargoyles. He sees how Gotham, and Crime Alley in particular are in reality a machine designed to create the Batman.

    Now we get some exposition to let us know exactly where the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh came from. It’s an emergency backup personality Bruce created in case he fell victim to psychic attack.

    Good to know that Robin’s still loose, and able to call in the cavalry.

    I think we’re supposed to know that Bill-the-Cop is doomed as soon as he mentions having a little boy at home, and loving it. We need a red-shirt to illustrate how El Sombrero has booby-trapped Wayne Manor.

    There are a lot of interpretations of this interplay between Doctor Hurt and Alfred. Is Hurt really Thomas Wayne? Is he just tormenting Alfred? Is he actually the Devil? If so, then the third Batman was his agent.

    I love Batman’s speech to Caligula. He sees clear through him to the washed-up-never-was that he is.

    I also think it’s brilliant that the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is “what you get when you take Bruce out of the equation”.

    Poor Jeremiah Arkham. He just can’t catch a break, can he? Or more to the point he catches too many… broken ribs, broken legs, etc.

    The red and black roses return Just don’t let them mingle.And who else would be the one to deliver the coup de grace to Batman but the Joker?

    Batman R.I.P. – The Thin White Duke of Death

    Doctor Hurt sets the scene, not just for the arriving members of the Black Glove, but also recapping for the reader. The Black Glove is a society of the ultra-rich who gather once a year to wager on games of life or death.

    Arkham Asylum is resplendent in shades of black and red.

    Le Bossu provides his own backstory, as he begins the process of costuming that transforms him from Guy Dax into his hunchbacked alter-ego.

    Batman chose the crazy colors for the Zur-En-Arrh costume with a purpose. The bright colors demonstrate confidence, presumably yielding a mental advantage. But Bat-Mite reveals that the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was a short-term solution to the problem of psychological attack. Running at this intensity means that Bruce has limited time to overcome the Black Glove before he passes out from exhaustion.

    I like Batman’s last moments with Bat-Mite. He asks if the Mite is a figment of his imagination, or a super-imp from the fifth dimension. Bat-Mite’s answer is that imagination IS the fifth dimension.

    I love how the Joker scars Le Bossu. He’s had to listen to Dax drone on about how his ugliness was on the inside, so he gave it an outlet. And Le Bossu seems puzzled by it.

    What’s meant to be a final confrontation between Batman and the Joker plays out pretty well. The titular ‘thin white duke of death’ is only going along with this to prove to Batman the depth of his madness. Bruce thought that a controlled experiment would give him the key to understanding the Joker’s mind. But there’s no reason behind his actions, and no experiment will make his actions make sense.

    At this point, there’s still one thing that I don’t really grasp, and that’s the meaning behind the constant reference to black and red. The one explanation I’ve heard that makes any sense is that they point to Jezebel Jet, a black woman with red hair, as an indication that she’s part of the Black Glove. But that’s not satisfying to me, for some reason.

  • Batman R.I.P. – Hearts In Darkness

    Coming to after his fight with the Joker, Batman finds himself back in his traditional costume, strapped into a straightjacket and buried alive in a coffin.

    This flashback sequence helps to show you just how great Batman is. While undergoing the Thogal ritual, he found Dr. Hurt’s work on his consciousness and began preparing for the attack. This issue even says it first thing. “That’s the thing about Batman. Batman thinks of everything.”

    I love how the narrative points out that there are, ultimately, a finite number of eventualities that a body can be threatened by and that Bruce has planned and practiced for all of them over the years. It lends plausibility to the notion that Batman has actually planned for this eventuality.

    The Joker’s big speech to the Black Glove basically amounts to “I told you so”. When
    money’s on he table, even the Joker knows better than to bet against Batman.

    Talia and the League of Assassins are going to avenge Batman? That’s an interesting twist.

    Here, at the end of things, we get the counterpoint to the story’s opening page. With a policeman his captive, Le Bossu prepares to go about his bloody work, declaring that even Batman and Robin are dead, and unable to help him.

    This issue really is the pinnacle of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman. The remaining issues are more of a Final Crisis tie-in than anything else. But it brings in almost everything else he used in his run… Damian, Man-Bat Ninjas, and the Club of Heroes all play their parts in this final issue.

    There’s one mystery left to ponder… the identity of Simon Hurt. The book itself puts forward a few ideas. Was he really Thomas Wayne? He certainly acted the part with Alfred. Was he Mangrove Pierce, the actor who starred in John Mayhew’s film “The Black Glove”? Or was he the devil, as others have said. I like the possibility that he’s Thomas Wayne, simply because it flies in the face of assumptions we make, that Bruce’s parents were good people.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cheapo Comics - A Shout-Out

Recently, I stumbled across a comic service that I've found to be surprisingly enjoyable. Wayne Cordova's Cheapo Comics is like an online 50-cent bin grab-bag service that Wayne started to help thin his collection of issues he has no desire to keep. For $5.00 (which includes shipping) you receive 8-10 comics from his collection.

I've made two purchases from him to date, resulting in most of "Wolverine - The End", a few Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes, and a handful of other stuff, some of which I'd never even heard of before.

If the concept of a grab-bag, not quite knowing what you're going to get, is appealing, give Wayne's site a look. It's very basic. You click on a Paypal link, and ultimately receive comics. Even better, he's now implented a Spidey grab-bag, yielding a handful of Spidey-themed comics for the same price. Give it a look!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen?

I do.

Now, I know I'm hardly the only one on the internet making that joke, but really... how often am I going to get the chance?

So I screwed with my sleep patterns yesterday to go see Watchmen during it's opening weekend. While I was very impressed by Zack Snyder's faithful adaptation to the source material, I felt it ultimately proved the superiority of the comic format for this particular story. What do I mean? Allow me to explain.

When I first heard that Watchmen was going to be adapted into a movie, I was dismayed. Arguably one of the best comic book stories written was going to be mangled beyond recognition for the silver screen. Hearing that Snyder was heading the movie didn't improve my mood, despite his success with Frank Miller's 300. After all, the original work for 300 was splash page after splash page, largely storyboarding the movie out. In fact, material had to be added to make up for a short run-time... and the additions to the story were all pretty bad. I like 300, but all the scenes taking place in Sparta after Leonidas has lead the 300 out were pretty bad. So I had little confidence in the director, and hadn't ever heard of anyone cast in the principal roles. I felt like my disappointment was imminent.

I was very wrong in that regard.

The movie is faithful to the source material... to a fault. What do I mean by that? My understanding is that Zack Snyder fought to keep much of the characterization from the comic in the movie, resulting in an epic running time of two hours 43 minutes. As a fan of the story, I applaud this decision because I care about these characters and I want to see justice done by them. I want them to be sufficiently deep and realized. But this becomes a problem at the point that characterization interferes with the story. This is where the question of format becomes crucial.

Like much of Alan Moore's work, Watchmen is an extremely dense story. I believe that a large part of that density is due to the serial nature of the story. A lot of people refer to Watchmen as a graphic novel because that's the way that we were introduced to it. Just Bill, an acquaintance of mine online, recently mentioned in his podcast that many of us fail to consider what it must have been like to receive Watchmen as a monthly comic book, issue by issue. I think that's a vital point to remember. When you only receive one issue a month over the course of a year, that issue has to be dense. It ideally should bring to mind the events of the last issue, while trying to tell it's own story and still building on a greater story. Reading individual issues presented the reader with places where the story ended... for awhile. Those breaks were important to let the reader digest the material, re-read it if they chose, and perhaps even discuss it while waiting eagerly for the next issue.

The movie, however, places the whole of the story in front of you in one sitting. And while it's remarkably faithful to the source material, I think that it's nature as a movie is a detriment to the story. It expects you to absorb the whole of the experience in one sitting. All the characterization that makes the comic brilliant drags down the movie. The story is lumbering and slow because of the way it's presented. And a story about imminent nuclear annihilation, where the doomsday clock is poised at four minutes until midnight, should never feel slow.

Alan Moore, the writer of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell, among other stories, has a policy of removing himself and his name from any film adaptations of his work. Until seeing Watchmen on the big screen, part of me assumed it was because filmmakers hadn't shown the proper respect to his stories. Now I think I understand why he's said his stories are written specifically as comics, and can't be successfully adapted as movies. If you sacrifice the enormous depth of his writing, you lose the spark that makes the stories special. But if you refuse to sacrifice the depth, the story doesn't work as something to absorb in one sitting.

When the movie was announced, I clearly remember sitting at a meeting of the Comic Club here in Columbia. Jim Shelley (of Flashback Universe fame) suggested that the story would be better served as an HBO mini-series, a sentiment I agreed with. But I agreed for the wrong reasons. I felt that too much would have to be removed from the story to make it into a movie. Instead, I see that the gaps between new installments are an important part of enjoying material of such depth.

I'm curious as to what others think about my comments. Shoot me an e-mail at and let me know.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - Space Medicine

Well, folks, another DCBS box arrival and some slightly busier nights have put off my progress on re-reading Grant Morrison's Batman run. But I'm putting my foot down, and reading the issues leading up to Batman: RIP tonight. As stated, I'm skipping past the Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul issues, and getting back to the good stuff.

My recollection is that this story arc is where Batman became difficult to follow, but that this story arc made more sense as the arc drew to a close. Let's see if hindsight helps.

Batman #672 - Space Medicine

  • The third Batman from the black casebook has arrived. We saw him in issue #666, fighting Damian, but now it's time for Bruce's trial. We know these guys were cops, and he's asking for Commissioner Vane, I guess this was before Gordon's time?
  • One thing I recall Grant saying is that he wanted to bring Batman back from being so grim and obsessed. Jezebel Jet certainly seemed to have that affect. "We make one another laugh".
  • Here we go. The third man has shot Batman in the chest, and Bruce is hurt. If I recall correctly, the shot has triggered a heart attack. And as we near the end of the book and go into Bruce's head, we see Batman's glove tracing glowing letters against a black background. "ZUR EN ARRH". And this heralds the first appearance of 'Bat-Mite' in Morrison's run right at the end of the issue.

Of this story, the first issue was pretty straightforward since it's a setup for the chaos to follow.

Batman #673 - Joe Chill In Hell

This issue gets a bit chaotic. It cuts back and forth from Bruce's time in Nanda Parbat enduring the Thogal Ritual, and other memories as he suffers the cardiac arrest from his wound in the last issue.

  • The Thogal Ritual is important to RIP. "During a seven-week retreat known as Yangti, the practicioner undergoes an experience designed to simulate death and after-death." It's what helped him prepare to face his own death, and allowed him to plan beyond it.
  • Flashbacks to his beginnings as a masked crimefighter, hunting Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents. Is this the way it actually happened, or a hallucination? It's confusing but I think that as he's suffering cardiac arrest, Bruce is flashing back to the Thogal Ritual, and what he saw there.
  • I definitely didn't catch this before. A young Bruce Wayne (five years old according to the narrative) has a vision of a coffin carried by Dick Grayson, Ollie Queen, Clark Kent and someone I can't identify, followed by Alfred and Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. It's clearly meant to be his funeral procession, as he's realized his own mortality. Foreshadowing the death of Batman.
  • Here's our first glimps of Doctor Hurt. He's the scientist who Batman aided by spending ten days in an isolation chamber. The premise was to advance an understanding of what humans would experience on space missions, isolated from contact. Batman confesses to Robin (presumably Dick) that he really did it to experience madness in an attempt to better-understand the Joker. At this point, Batman begins to lose track of where and when he is. He's not sure if he's in the isolation chamber, being studied by Dr. Hurt, or undergoing the Thogal Ritual. In reality, he's still suffering cardiac arrest from the previous issue.
  • At the end of the issue, the third Batman revives Bruce... once he's been restrained.

I think the thing that threw me on my original reading of this issue was the fact that even Bruce didn't know when he was. It made it hard to keep a point-of-view. But having some familiarity with the story, I caught a lot more on this reading than I did originally.

Batman #674 - Batman Dies At Dawn

  • First page, and Doctor Hurt claims he's a Batman Specialist. Foreshadowing his claim that he's Thomas Wayne?
  • This is big. The third man has a copy of Doctor Hurt's files. "And it's all here. Everything that happened here in this room. To you. To me. To Muller and Branca. The whole story. The post-hypnotic keywords he planted in all of us." Since it's one of those keywords that shut Batman down in RIP.
  • And as he chases down the third man, Batman begins to suspect the existence of the Black Glove, an enemy who's calculated his every weakness and who has prepared as dilligently as he himself has.

This issue had phenomenal velocity. I couldn't put it down, and I don't think that I could last time either. The third Batman lays out for Batman what he thought was a hallucination - that years ago, the Gotham police in conjunction with the military had tried to build a contingency plan for Batman's death. They sought to prepare three additional men as replacements, should Batman die. And Doctor Hurt was the one responsible. The three Batmen have all been 'reactivated'.

Batman #675 - The Fiend With Nine Eyes

This issue was pretty much devoid of any foreshadowing or hinting about Batman RIP. Dick and Tim suspected that Bruce is losing it again. Bruce believes that the Ten-Eyed Man's attack was orchestrated by the Black Glove, and Talia and Damian sense something suspicious behind the attack on Bruce and Jezebel.

The main thrust of this issue is to introduce Jezebel to the nocturnal side of Bruce's life. It succeeds on that level, but considering the past two story arcs, this issue is a bit weak and not just due to the guest artist.

Next up, Batman RIP.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - batman in bethlehem and The Club of Heroes

Well, after a lengthy break, I've semi-digested Final Crisis and read a box full of new comics. now, it's back to Morrison's Batman. Lined up tonight, I've got Batman #666, which serves as a kind of endcap to the Black Casebook story, and the truly awesome Club of Heroes story that officially introduced the Black Glove to readers of Batman.

Batman #666 - batman in bethlehem

What we get here is a story of Bruce's son Damian as Batman, defending Gotham against the third 'evil' Batman from the Black Casebook - the one who sold his soul to the Devil, and destroyed Gotham.

The book opens with a two-page recap of Damian's origin, which is pretty old-school. But of course, this origin takes us beyond the story we know, as Damian takes the role of Batman following his father's death. I also like the visual look of Damian as Batman. The trenchcoat look is distinct from Bruce's costume, but in action it's still reminiscent.

Damian-as-Batman seems to be a little rougher on his opponents. There's a bit of blood flowing.

Commissioner Barbara Gordon... I really wish that we had more time to explore that dynamic. I mean, it's one thing for Jim Gordon to perhaps suspect that Bruce Wayne is Batman, but it's something else entirely for Barbara Gordon to have been Batgirl/Oracle, and as Commissioner to have her know that Damian is Batman.

There's a lot of biblical and occult imagery here. The mysterious 'third Batman' is claiming to be the antichrist. Professor Pyg has been crucified upside down in a church, and the murders of Gotham's other crime bosses form an inverse pentacle on the face of Gotham. All this, and the Yeats quotation:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

There's a lot of blood, again. It's not entirely clear if Damian kills any of the Madmen of Gotham, but he's pretty clearly injured them badly.

"The victory is in the preparation" - I think that phrase sums up Morrison's Batman. He wins because he's always prepared. It's his greatest strength. And while Damian may be different than his father, that much is the same. By booby-trapping all of Gotham, Damian's taken that adage to an extreme. I think the thing I really like here, is that he acknowledges that he'll never be as good as Bruce or Dick, so he went outside the box.

More biblical language, as the Third-Batman refers to the Devil as the Dragon, with wings and black skin. More reference to Revelations.

"The Apocalypse is cancelled... until I say so". Great line. The notion of a Batman who's sold his soul to safeguard Gotham is interesting. Damian also states that his father died at age 14. Do we know how old he is at the time of Final Crisis?

On the whole, I'd kindof like to see a little more of this Batman, but only if written by Morrison.

Batman #667 - The Island of Mr. Mayhew

Wow... right here on the first page, there's a lot more to take in, now that I've got a better idea of what to look for. An unseen figure wearing a black glove addresses a captive. One thing tha is telling, is that the Black Glove speaks in the plural. This can be ambiguous, using the 'royal we', but in hindsight I know that the Black Glove is an association, not an individual. There's also the black and red of the rhoulette wheel.

Something else I hadn't thought of until now... Batman's costume is primarily black, while Robin's current outfit is primarily red.

A room full of has-been Batman wannabes. What a series of images. Especially the Legionary, as he sits and eats. And then we've got Wingman, the closest Batman analogue in the room, and the one who's most vocal about being better than, or earlier than Batman.

And here's the classic setup. It's the locked-house murder. A number of detectives are invited to a secluded estate for a mysterious purpose. They're locked in and challenged to solve a murder. It's been an archetype of enough mysteries that it's been parodied well. It's a great image though, this two page spread of the Black Glove closing over the exploding vehicles of the Club of Heroes. Beautifully styled.

The closing pages of this issue are amazing. The spread covering the death of The Legionary is great, but the last page, with the image of Batman surrounded by flames along the silhouette of the Black Glove's arm is stunning.

Batman #668 - Now We Are Dead!

I love the old-school look of this opening flashback.

These guys all have major baggage. None of the Club of Heroes seem to be able to get along.

Ahh... The Legionary let his city fall into the hands of Charlie Caligula, who later shows up in R.I.P.

Bruce asks Tim what was wrong with the library, where the video of Mayhew's killer was filmed. That's a nice touch, showing that Batman's still testing and teaching Robin.

These page layouts are stunning. A two-page spread on black. The panels make up the shape of Batman's emblem. Overlapping, a panel in the shape of the Black Glove's arm. I'm not normally as big a fan of art as I am of writing, but this is really striking.

And now the Musketeer mentions his own enemy, Pierrot Lunaire who also appears as part of the Club of Villains in R.I.P. I sense a trend. Especially since El Gaucho just mentioned El Sombrero.

This really is a top-notch issue. Absolutely superb in both art and story.

Batman #669 - The Dark Knight Must Die!

The pace of the action's really picking up in the last third of the story. I'm a good way in and it's light on clues, but heavy on activity.

And as the issue draws to a close El Sombrero, revealed to be John Mayhew, reveals the nature of the Black Glove. "People like me live lives beyond the law, beyond morality. The Black Glove is closing around you, Batman".

I think that the three issues that make up the Club of Heroes story are the best issues of Grant Morrison's run on the book. The pacing starts slow, and builds to a frenzy by #669. It reminds us that Batman wins because he's prepared and observant. And it lays a lot of groundwork for the appearance of the Club of Villains in Batman: R.I.P.

Following this, we have two issues of The Resurrection of R'as al Ghul. I think I'll be skipping those, because I don't want to re-read the whole crossover. Next post, I plan to start on the arc that began with Space Medicine. This is where the book started to feel extremely trippy and harder to follow to me, so I'm looking forward to seeing what a re-read is like.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The DCBS Box Cometh

Well, I've been receiving the majority of my books via DCBS for about six months, maybe a little more. I figured a little examination of the changes in my habits might be in order.

I've had no complaints with my local comic shop. It's been a good place, all told. They have a pretty good selection of back issues, in the time I've had a sub-form with them, there have been very few problems, and they employ one of the internets most notorious comics bloggers, which certainly makes for some fun shop-talk. But as gas prices rose last year, I found that I needed to stretch my dollar, and the discounts provided by online servies like DCBS became too tempting to resist.

My strategy was probably a bit more complicated than most. I continue to purchase Trinity at the shop every week. I've had good experiences there, and I want a reason to stop by every week. I also purchased my big event books (Secret Invasion and Final Crisis) there, so I didn't feel I had to dodge spoilers for weeks. I experimented with subscribing to a few books directly from Marvel. I chose Amazing Spider-Man (at $1.39 per issue), Captain America, X-Factor, The Invincible Iron-Man and Daredevil (all at $1.67 per issue) since I figured those were titles I'd likely want to keep for 12 issues. The rest comes in a box shipped at the end of the month.

The plan has held up pretty well. I've been satisfied enough with my subscriptions from Marvel that I'm expanding my books from their service to include New Avengers and Thor. (This is also in response to the price increase, as the price I was able to subscribe to the books was around $0.70 cheaper per issue than DCBS' standard discount.) I plan to renew my subscriptions to Invincible Iron-Man and Captain America. I will probably renew Daredevil, and I'm debating whether to keep up with X-Factor.

I finished purchasing my major events from the local comic shop of choice, and I plan to do the same with The Battle For The Cowl. (Though I may discontinue if I don't care for it.) I'm still purchasing Trinity every week, and I like stopping by every Wednesday. I've also used them to check out new series that I contemplate ordering via DCBS, or to try to fill in the issues prior to my first pre-ordered issue. As an example, I recenly discovered Terry Moore's Echo. I managed to track down the first eight issues, but the first issue I had pre-ordered was #10. I asked the local comic shop to pull a copy of issue #9 for me. And when the issue released, they made sure I walked out with a copy. I plan to order DC's next weekly series from the local comic shop to continue this trend. I may stick with it, even if it's a turkey, just to have a reason to stop by once a week.

The gap between boxes took some getting used to for someone who was used to getting all of his new comics each week. New Comic Day was like a holiday that came every week. But now the arrival of a new box of comics really does feel more like a holiday. I get excited that when I wake up in the evening, I'll have a big box of comics to page through, and a new issue of Previews to browse. Filling the gap between boxes is helped by the books I get by mail from Marvel. I've been re-reading parts of my collection, and purchasing back-issues either on-line or from the local comic shop. Lately here at work, a friend has given me access to his wireless network, so the internet has also been a big help. It's also slowed down my reading habits, allowing me to stretch the new reads from that box out over a couple weeks. And then there's the zen experience of cataloging and filing away. So much of my life is a storm of chaos, it still strikes me dumb with the realization that I like keeping this one facet of my life organized.

Well, I have five more hours to work, and then I need to go to sleep. If I stay up, the UPS fairy might not leave my box!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Support Captain Britain and MI:13

Friends, Captain Britain protects us from Skrull Magic, the Mindless Ones, and Vampire Lords from the Moon. Do your part to support him by purchasing Captain Britain and MI:13. Seriously, if you don't want Dracula to come down from the moon to bite you, buy a copy.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - The Black Casebook

Well, since I'm not procrastinating anything by returning to Morrison's Batman run (and the fact that I'm kindof eager to undertake a similar exploration of Final Crisis) I return to Batman with issues 664 and 665.

Batman #664 - Three Ghosts of Batman

  • Ah, Man-Bat Ninjas. Grant Morrison, you so crazy.
  • "He says you're cool, like James Bond" - I'd never thought about it, but it's a remarkably accurate comparison. Both are, essentially, highly trained people, but not superhuman. Both use high-tech gadgets to accomplish their goals. But where Bond does his work in a tuxedo, Bruce puts on the cape and cowl. Of course, Bruce's entrance in this scene is very Bond as well.
  • It's interesting to watch Jezebel Jet trying to work her way under Bruce's skin. What's supposed to look like a romantic dinner where the pair bond over shared pain almost looks like she's probing him. Maybe I'm reading too much into it?
  • More Zur-En-Arrh graffiti in the background as we transition back to Gotham.
  • Massive guy in a luchadore mask - I wonder just how much I'm supposed to think of Bane.
  • The comments about this big lug being steroid fueled continue the 'Bane' thoughts, but the massive stomp right on Batman's back makes it pretty clear.

Batman #665 - The Black Casebook

  • It's good to see that no matter how rough a town Gotham is, when a Bane/Batman mashup tries to smash your spine, a hooker will drive you home.
  • Ahh, Bruce Wayne's penthouse. I mention this, because in interviews I believe Grant Morrison referred to loving the Batman of this era, where he lived in the city to be more centrally located. Again, with the posh living and secret passages, James Bond similarities aren't far off.
  • Even Bruce draws the connection between Magilla the Gorilla from the last issue and Bane.
  • Another hint of the Black Glove. After defeating Bane-Bat, not only does the criminal up and vanish, but the Mayor is leaning on Gordon to stay away from this. The implication being that someone else is leaning on the Mayor... somebody rich and influential.
  • As Talia returns following the Batman and Son story arc, she's interested in Bruce having been seen with Jezebel Jet recently. I wonder if she's aware back here that Bruce is being targeted by the Black Glove.
  • As Bruce and Jezebel kiss, we see a shot of a pair of hands holding binoculars, spying on them. Hands wearing black gloves.

Some thoughts after reading these two issues.

This story begins to re-introduce some of the elements of Batman that have been missing since Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the DC Universe, and Frank Miller's Batman: Year One redefined the Caped Crusader for the modern era. Morrison seems to want to bring back Batman's encounters with aliens and with the supernatural. This is an important aspect that carries over into 'Zur-En-Arrh' and the R.I.P. storyline.

These two issues are pretty straightforward. It could be argued that the next issue, #666 belongs with these two. The stories reference three 'alternate' Batmen that Bruce encountered... one who killed criminals with a gun, another who was a steroid-fueled mass of rage, and a third who sold his soul to the devil and destroyed Gotham. Issue #666 is a clear reference to the final of those three, but because that is a story of Damian Wayne, not Bruce, I'm going to reference it separately.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Well, That Took Longer Than Expected

Well, overcoming the forces of work, and procrastination, I've finally managed to finish the first draft of the script I've been working on. And now that this is done, I'll return to Grant Morrison's Batman run on my next work-night.

My job may suck, but it's something of a perk to be able to get away with reading comics on the clock, much less do that while blogging about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Lie

Ordinarily I'd gripe about comics arriving late. It's something that nobody likes. And the past few months, either Marvel or the Postal Service has had a few issues with my subscription. As a rule, I'm not griping because I still get the issues before I get the DCBS box they WOULD be in, if I bought them that way.

But today, I got my copy of Captain America #5. That's today, January 20th, 2009... the day of the inauguration of the newest President of the United States, Barack Obama. This one, I'll let slide.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I've been trying to blog a bit more regularly lately, but I'm going to have to put the brakes on for a wee bit. I really need to focus on finishing up the script I'm working on for Jim Shelley's Flashback Universe. So I'm going to need to keep my focus on getting that wrapped up, before I continue my reading of Morrison's run on Batman, or speculating that Azrael is on the comeback.

I'll get back to the rest of that stuff when I've got it wrapped up.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Azrael Mini-Series Announced!

It's right here, folks. Can it be a coincidence that, once again as Bruce Wayne is removed as Batman that Azrael once more takes the scene?

But admittedly, this doesn't sound like Jean-Paul Valley... no matter how much I really want it to be. The solicitation mentions the Suit of Sorrows, so maybe something noteworthy will come out of the truly mediocre resurrection of Ra's al Ghul. (Seriously, DC... if you're going to make such a big deal out of bringing a character back, you should maybe, I dunno, do something with them.)

The fact that this is running in parallel to The Battle for the Cowl means that it's less likely that we'll have a full-on Az-Bats revival, but a guy can hope... right?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - The Clown At Midnight

Now I come to it... the infamous prose issue. Posing as a regular comic book, this verbal bomb nestled amongst my regular week's comics, waiting to ambush me with text. my recollection was that I had trouble reading this issue, but that's probably because I wasn't expecting it. This is from a time not long ago that I didn't follow solicitations months in advance. And as a prose piece, it's a bit more dense than typical comic fare. So now, as we approach the second anniversary of it's release, here are my thoughts as I read the issue.
  • I like the quote it starts with - "There's something about clowns at a funeral and it's hard to say if it's sad or if it's funny." I wonder if Grant wrote that, or if it came from something else. If so, major props to Grant. I have to think that quotes about clowns and funerals would generally be in short supply.
  • Two pages in, and here's a reference to black and red flowers. More foreshadowing for Batman R.I.P.
  • Are the doctors in Arkham ever going to realize that the Joker is just too bugnuts crazy to write off? Oh, we know he's the Joker... but he's too frail to be any threat to anybody this time. Pff.
  • I'm not quite half-way through, and there's a third reference to red and black. I just didn't catch on that these color references were going to be at all important. And once again, it's red and black flower petals mixing to form a toxin.
  • And there's a reference to the Killing Joke, during the Joker's 'Circus Ringmaster' phase, when all of his henchman seemed to be carnival sideshow performers.
  • I like the mosquito poisoned by the Joker's blood, that the very essence of the Joker is toxic.
  • There've been constant references to checkerboards, which alternate red and black. The 'reborn' Joker views Harley as a checkerboard, but this 'new' Joker loathes 'board games'. Morrison's intention here seems to be to split Harley from the Joker. She's fine for the animated series, but not for the Joker he wants to write. Heck, imagine the Joker from The Dark Knight with Harley. She doesn't work there.

That's a meaty read for something that looks like a comic book. But it's a good one. Morrison waxes a bit prosaic early on in his descriptions, but it's a good story. It ties together all of the various changes in the Joker from camp to psychopath. But make no mistake, this is definitely more of a Joker story than a Batman story.

I can't help but wonder if Morrison has specific plans for the Joker. Through most of the rest of his run thus far, the Joker stays locked up in Arkham as Batman begins to wrestle with the Black Glove. But he foreshadows the doom coming to Gotham if the Joker does escape... and he walked out of Batman R.I.P. with his freedom.

I have to confess, I'd been a little nervous about reading this one, specifically because I remember it as such a weighty, heavy read. I'm not saying that it wasn't, but it's definitely a good read as well. And it continues to foreshadow elements that Grant Morrison would use over the course of his run on the book. There's all the red and black, of course, and a mention of Nanda Parbat. It's neat to pick up on these things now, even if I didn't realize their significance initially.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - Grotesk (Ostrander Fill-In Story)

So, here are the thoughts that go through my head as I read the Grotesk arc by Ostrander and Mandrake, published between Batman & Son and The Clown at Midnight:

  • Wow... this isn't very good.
  • So these guys want this other guy's sister? Ten gets you twenty he's the villain.
  • This is so bad it's giving me a headache.
  • Johnny Karaoke? SERIOUSLY? And his Geisha Grrls?
  • Headache... getting worse!
  • Once again, a Gotham vigilante thinks Batman should understand his mission of vengeance.
  • I think this headache is actually my brain trying to escape from my skull so that it can poke my eyes out. I don't blame it. In fact, it might be for the best if it succeeds.
  • Well, at least we won't have to worry about seeing Johnny Karaoke again.
  • And the sister dies too, so we have no loose ends that might bring ANY of this back around. Outstanding.

Well, in the final analysis, the best thing I can say about John Ostrander's four issue cliche is that I'm done reading it. Now I feel like I need a shower. And some steel wool. I'd have rather gone a couple months without an issue of Batman than read this. I'm normally the first one in line to scream when a book I like has delays. "Why not give us a filler story" I might say "while the regular team tries to get their book back on track?"

If you hear me say this, remind me that his line of thinking got us "Grotesk".