Review: Detective Comics Vol. 4 – The Wrath, by John Layman

Batman Detective Comics, Volume 4: The WrathBatman Detective Comics, Volume 4: The Wrath by John Layman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


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I’d give this 3 and a 1/4 stars.

It’s called the Wrath, but that character isn’t really featured for most of the book. This is a very patchy collection of numerous stories.

There’s more about the Man-Bat, Kirk Langstrom, which is confusing, since Vol. 4 of The Dark Knight has a story arc about Abraham Langstrom (Kirk’s father) also Man-Bat! Hmm…turns out even Langstrom’s wife gets in on the act, as She-Man-Bat…though they don’t actually call her that.

Wrath is actually a super rich industrialist who comes back to Gotham and wants to change things for the better…Alfred makes some sly observations about this. Of course he wants to buy Wayne Enterprises, and Bruce doesn’t like him at all…in about 5 seconds, anyone with half a brain knows who he is…yup. It ain’t a spoiler unless you’re legally brain-dead. There’s a showdown, and Batman saves the day, but also lets the GCPD do things, and it repairs some of the bad feelings between the two (AWWW!!! Meh.)

There’s a story about Jane Doe, a psycho who has no skin, and can become anyone (sorta looks like a less weird Red Skull if she were a DC Girl) anyhoo, she’s killing tons of people and there’s a storyline with her and Harvey Bullock (nice to see Harvey finally getting used again!)

We see that Dick and Barbara are still not speaking to Bruce after the events of Death of the Family (though, having read it all, I’m still not entirely sure why…maybe someone would like to walk me through it? I have ideas, but…) though Batwoman shows up, but only to help the Langstroms try and stop all the Man-Bats who have been unleashed in the 900 Block by some bad serum (900 block story coincides with issue 900 of Detective Comics, or what would have been – clever eh?) given to everyone by Zsasz, who was given it by another uber baddy…the Emperor Penguin of Vol. 3…

It’s all to set something else up, and Batman has a showdown with him, which is actually a lot more taxing than the one with Wrath. I feel like Emperor Penguin got ripped off here, with the title going to Wrath…Not cool dude.
Batman gets help in the unlikeliest of places.

There’s a lot of Evil here, mostly from the uber baddies like Emperor Penguin and Wrath, and to some extent with Man-Bat, but he’s like the Curt Connors/Lizard of Gotham…trying to cure something with animals and fucking shit up along the way…sad storyline, but a bit confusing after how things end earlier in the book, and also no mention at all of his father’s actions as Man-Bat in TDK Vol. 4…hmmm…

Anyhoo, John Layman does the best he can, and there’s a bit more explanation of things that need it, and it is in no way bad, but it’s just very herky jerky, all over, and doesn’t flow much at all, it’s just a patchwork of interconnected Bat-Drama.

A decent read, but non-essential. Then there’s a story at the end about Bane, but not by Layman, and I barely read that…There’s also some very cool artwork by the 1000 artist who drew this volume…no joke, like 1000.

It’s good, and I’ll keep reading it, but Scott Snyder is on a whole other plain than everyone else in terms of Batman.


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Review: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (re-read)

Batman: The Dark Knight ReturnsBatman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***NOTE: This was a re-reading in prep for reading DK2 (The Dark Knight Strikes Again)…I’ve already read it, and I’m going to stick with the 5 star rating, but more for what it means than if I just read it today and was born any time AFTER Michael Keaton’s Batman.***

1) There is no doubt in my mind, Frank Miller saved Batman. Between this and Year One, he’s got 2 of the Top 5, if not THE top 2 Batman books ever written, essential, and even essential for comics in general.

– Without Miller, there’s no Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman in 1989 (a movie, and event, which literally awed my 8-9yr old self in such a way that Batman will always be my #1, even more than 25 years later.)

– Without Miller, there’s no Christian Bale/Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy. (Year One)

Without Miller’s inspiration of Burton and later Nolan, does the Superhero Movie Franchise business take off like it does? I’m not sure, and if it does, is it the same? Does it carry the same gravitas? Or do these movies end up more like Superman? (No knock on the early Superman, but I can barely tell you a thing about Superman IV, which also came out when I was a kid, other than there was an Atomic Powered dude in a cape who looked like He-Man, and everyone else in the world thinks it might be the worst comic movie ever.

Without Miller, does Scott Snyder develop into the same writer he is? Maybe, still strong, but the same? No. Does he become one of the great Batman writers ever? No. Read Snyder’s current run on Batman (especially Zero Year) and tell me he’s not supremely indebted to Miller’s work (and this particular book).
I would then tell you that Miller plans to write DK3, which might be a great idea, or a horrible one, but then I’ll tell you that Scott Snyder is going to co-write it with him…and you’ll definitely check it out at some point.

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/12/0…

It’s hard for anyone under a certain age (and I think I just qualify as old enough, because I remember the Adam West Batman, and the comics being ho-hum until Jason Todd died and the Tim Burton movie) to realize just how useless Batman was before this. Miller also opened the door for everyone else to make him the DARK Knight, and to add their work to the canon.

That is huge, and for that alone, this book deserves 5 stars. When it came out, I think if I were old enough to have read it then, I would have given it 10 stars. So that’s that. It’s untouchable….in THAT way.

However…there is a lot of stuff about it that just doesn’t do it for me, and for others as well. I can see younger readers just thinking, who cares? Why bother, this isn’t original. I can see why too.

– The art…is 50% terrible…there’s some great stuff, but there’s also stuff so bad it wouldn’t be published today.

– It’s extremely verbose and wordy. If a comic is nothing but reading text and long winded internal monologues, at some point it becomes extremely tedious; Show me, don’t tell me! Otherwise I’d read a book. I want to see some wow splash pages too, not just words. Does that make me sound like a troglodyte? No I don’t think so. I understand some degree is allowed, and in many ways, at the time less speech bubbles was a new(ish) idea.

– The Politics of the Cold War and Reagan-era USA aren’t relevant to the readers of today…well…Russia does have a powerful military and single leader…and the US doesn’t like ’em much…but…no.
It can be dated at times, but that’s not a huge complaint for me (I like history and contextualizing oneself in the period) but I see why others won’t like/care/understand.

– TOO MANY TV screen talking heads. But again I think that’s just a commentary on the new-ish 24 hour news channels on cable that sprang up in the 80s (yes kids, there was a time when CNN and MSNBC weren’t a thing, and before the interwebs and cellular telluphones. We played with sticks and rocks and rode dinosaurs in black and white…). I think they’re meant to annoy the shit out of you.

What I do like, is that not only is Batman examined, but this gets into some of the stuff that would pop up later on in Marvel’s Civil War and other books: Superman is a government agent in exchange for freedom, Wonder Woman has left for home, Green Lantern is in space, and Green Arrow is some kinda survivalist nutjob (who hates the big blue boyscout). There’s examination of the legality/criminality of heroes within society and if they help fight evil, or encourage it’s growth. Even if Miller didn’t devote the whole book to the idea, the idea itself was latched onto by many readers who grew into the writers of today, and we see those concepts debated all over the Marvel and DC Universes.

It also gets to the core of Batman himself. Bruce Wayne is the disguise, Batman is the reality. Even if he deluded himself otherwise in retirement for a decade, the hunger, the drive, the spirit of the bat, it is inside of him, and finally comes out, just pushing everything and everyone else to the side. I love the way Miller gets that across, that he cannot escape it; he knows it in his soul, because the Bat IS his soul. The very essence of what Batman is is what keeps Bruce Wayne alive, and without it, there’s no point. The 55 year old man is able to do things a man 20 years younger would have trouble with, and it’s all thanks to, and because of the Bat. Bruce Wayne is irrelevant, Batman and the power of what he represents is key. And surprisingly, what Miller thinks Batman represents, or at least how I see it, is that Batman, for everything that he is, represents HOPE. If not hope, Batman is Gotham. The 2 are tied together, one cannot rise without the other, and both suffer in the absence of the other.

OK now it feels like I’m writing an English essay on a book report…That’s another thing, Miller’s work here was a huge help to the entire industry of comics, and graphic novels. There’s no Sin City without TDKR; I don’t think DC and Marvel become powerhouses, I think the comic industry takes an even bigger hit; Comicon, does that still thrive? I honestly don’t know, but interestingly enough, much like Gotham without Batman, Batman without Miller and this book, could not/would not have thrived or even survived. It would have been a shell of itself.

So there’s my 200 cents on the matter.

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Review: Batman – Zero Year: Dark City (Vol. 5) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman, Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark CityBatman, Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, so time to actually review this…

A lot of my Shallow Reader friends have already covered most of what I would say about this, but I’ll briefly expand on what I thought…

1)Like Anne I loved seeing the giant penny do something! I also agree that Snyder’s 25yr old Bruce Wayne has more in common with Dick Grayson than the Bruce Wayne we’re used to. Good point as well that Batman has years to grow bitter and into the badass who has every angle covered that we’ll ever know.

2)This Batman is not perfect…he gets beat by Riddler, and people suffer for it. This is just like Anne says above, a perfect explanation for how the paranoia of over-preparation came to Bruce/Bats…by this early defeat and un-preparedness.

3)Much like Sam, I loved that Snyder made Edward Nigma/Riddler back into a force to be reckoned with. The exellent Arkham series of video games has done a magnificent job showing just how proficient, ruthless, deadly and prepared Riddler can be (much like his Dark Knight counterpart…) In many ways, Bruce learned as much about preparation from Riddler himself, as he did from his being defeated by Nigma. Just like we learn how Red Hood shaped Batman, we also see here that Riddler is no slouch, and even more dangerous than anyone else. Bruce learns a lot from his matchup with Riddler, and without it, wouldn’t be the same Batman we know and worship.

Hurrah for the Rejuvenational Rehabilitation of the Riddler!

4)I entirely agree with, and love that Sesana points to the aspects of Bruce and Alfred. Alfred’s little coda at the end with Julie Madison (kudos again to Snyder for being that aware of the history of Batman to throw her in here, in a small, but pivotal scene) shows just how deep the Gentleman’s Gentleman feels responsible for ‘Master Bruce’ and what sort of hope he holds out. In many ways, I don’t think Batman would be nearly the force he is without Alfred. Father figure, wise sage, battlefield surgeon (who I just realize now, might have picked things up from the Army as well as being Butler to Doctor Thomas Wayne…) and more patriarch of the Wayne’s than any actual Wayne since Thomas.

This is like getting to go back in time and see just how gut-wrenching it must be for Alfred day in and day out for years, decades, to see what young little Bruce turns into. The heartfelt moments between Bruce and Alfred really get to me, because it’s something we always know is there, but luckily, hasn’t been overdone by writers yet.

As for my own thoughts, I love the Riddler being relevant, I love the nods to Batman past, and I love that this just feels fresh, even though I’m sure most of us have read similar things in Batman many times before. I also liked the Gordon/Bats relationship development, even if it did feel a little convenient at points (Gordon/Bats relationship develops just like it did in Year One, with mistrust at first giving way to cautious trust.). Also nice to see Lucius Fox get some screen time (as well as a bit of explanation about his son, who some might know became Batwing #2). There’s just not a wasted note, everything seems to be planned out well, just like Batman would, years in advance so that every detail has been thought of.

I’m not sure the chronology, but I’m guessing this came out before Forever Evil…? If so, I’m not sure if I should just call out Papa Johns on the blatant ripoff of the ‘electronic item wired to heart of said Gotham superhero’ we see here, and the same one we see wired up to Dick Grayson in Forever Evil…but it’s the end of the year, and I’m almost out of negativity, so here’s what I’ll be charitable and do instead…Johns, as the cheese at DC, knew this was happening early in Batman’s career, so fast forward to Dick Grayson having his heart wired up to a device the same way Bruce had his wired up, and boom…Bruce realizes the Alfred role, and all of a sudden, has the humanity to realize that if he cannot value Dick as much as Alfred valued him, then he’s not prepared for that life. This would be a great explanation as to why Batman doesn’t just go practical here…sorry, it’s a bit off topic, but I wanted to address it, and I would love to know if anyone else noticed that before I mentioned it…

I just re-read The Dark Knight Returns (I took out The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and I wanted to be on the same page before I got into that), and it seems in many ways Snyder’s work ties in closely to Miller’s. That being said, I prefer Snyder’s, and Capullo is a WAY better artist than Lynn Varley. However, it’s interesting to see that this young Batman here (and in Secret City) could very easily have become the Dark Knight of Miller’s work (the comparisons between Year One and Secret City abound, and for good reason). I particularly enjoyed the page that was a clear shout out of respect and acknowledgement of Miller’s monumental work, leaving no doubt to anyone reading that Snyder and Capullo know and respect the history.

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Pretty Damn Cool.


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Review: Batman and Robin Vol. 4 Reqiuem for Damian, by Peter J. Tomasi

Batman and Robin, Vol. 4: Requiem for DamianBatman and Robin, Vol. 4: Requiem for Damian by Peter J. Tomasi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first issue is entirely wordless, all done with artwork, and a stand-out job by Patrick Gleason. It’s true, picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures say it all. There’s no way you could write what needs to be communicated…The use of the art form is at some of it’s best work here…the last page, where you see Bruce find a note Damian left for him…utterly heartbreaking; his reaction is spot on. I was also glad to see they focused on Alfred as well.

The rest of the book is Robin and (well the other Robins actually) Red Robin goes to stop Batman from making a terrible mistake and perverting the memory of his son (and features an appearance by a certain monster).
Batgirl tries to stop Batman from being overly violent with criminals, and it’s kind of odd what transpires…(view spoiler)
The next features Batman and Red Hood teaming up to stop assassins, but it actually ends up being for an entirely different reason, which rightfully angers Jason, and though understandable, it is sad to see.
There’s also a few appearances by Carrie Kelley (who was Robin in Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS) who was actually tutoring Damian in theatre and other cultural forms. It’s an interesting development, as she may be playing a larger role in the future…

Of course, the final issue of the collection features the other Batman to Damian’s Robin: Nightwing. Dick is written perfectly here. He doesn’t try to stop Bruce or change his mind, or get in his way, he simply lets him do what he has to, and instead of telling him not to, he goes along for the ride. I’m not ashamed to admit, the way Dick handles the situation left me a little misty eyed. I love how he’s turned out here, and I think maybe we’re meant to realize that, and balance it against Bruce never getting to see Damian get to grow the same way.

This is probably Tomasi’s best work on the title so far. I was more than impressed, and while some of the things didn’t ring entirely true, the motivation/emotion behind them made perfect sense.

I’m considering buying #18 as a single issue just to have the textless masterpiece by Gleason.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED for people who liked Damian and miss him, and for people who like to see an emotionally damaged Dark Knight in his darkest days.

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