Archive for the ‘Amateur Batfan’ Category

Batman – Zero Year

Hello and welcome to the seventeenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

On with the show.

This article will be about the recent Batman story Zero Year (and I’m condensing the two books into one single article here, because they don’t work separately – its a single story for sure, missing the start or the end would be a mess).

Having had a brilliantly sleepy day off work where I was too broken and tired to move much or leave the house at all, I decided it may be fun to write another one of these articles from the comfort of under my duvet – its absolutely freezing here at the moment so above it would be unrealistically, threateningly cold (shame I didn’t chose a Mr. Freeze related story, like ‘Snow.’) – and in order to do that I had to read some Batman, and I had been meaning to re-read this one because quite frankly I thought it majorly sucked when I first got it, and I was hoping I was wrong about it.

Long time readers may remember that when I first read the previous New 52 Batman by Snyder & Capullo story, A Death In The Family, I thought that it majorly sucked as well. I’ve since way mellowed on that story. Way mellowed to the point of thinking its actually pretty darn good. I like a lot about it and only the inconsequence of it after the hype was the main issue. Sure there are small faults, but there are small faults with every other Batman thing Snyder has done, like in the otherwise amazing Court Of Owls – the awful twist (luckily though that is one of those copout twists where you get to chose for yourself if its true or not, so at least you can half-live with its inclusion).

So yeah, usually I read a Snyder story, balk at some choice because I don’t like it, think the book is lame, then read it again knowing about the choice, and hey – it’s a good book!

Will this work for Zero Year?

Well… no not really. Because there is no such choice with this book. The choice is the book. The whole book. The pacing, the paneling, the tone. Everything.

No. Not everything. The artwork is first rate, phenomenal, exceptional – all the positive words you can think of. The book looks incredible and there are so many pages I love and want as a poster for the wall they’re that great. The red lightning? The colours when he’s making a Bat Symbol out of tied up villians? FUGGEDABOUTIT.

So yeah… the book, as a book for illiterate people is quite pleasant. But… the other aspects sink it.

This book is supposed to be a rollercoaster; an explosive action meets sci-fi adventure (it says so in the liner notes) with bold editing choices and all these sorts of things. How it works out in reality though is like Dillinger Escape Plan’s debut album as a comic book. Its jagged, abrasive, lacking in flow, removed from sensible structure and downright uncomfortable.

Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? I mean… here’s a guy who likes Prog saying “thing defies convention” – that must be good right? – Well, kinda no. There is a lot of good to be said for Zero Year… but the transgressive thing… that aint it. It’s a large detractor. This book would’ve been way better if it was three issues longer so they could fill in the darn blanks between scenes.

In comic books, I’ve come to expect that between two panels there is a certain minimum and maximum distance that can be crossed, a certain minium and maximum time that can pass… I’ve never thought about or quantified it until right now… all I can tell is that Zero Year disobeys the rules. Rule breaking is probably cool… I mean there’s a reason this blog is called King Crimson Blog and not AC/DC blog, right? But… y’know… “You Shook Me All Night Long” is one heck of a tune too, is it not?

This may just be a failing on my part, but struggling to know which panel follows which is not conducive to flow, as the time wasted searching interrupts the story. Also, in order to fit the word balloons, sentences are frequently reworded and end up feeling damn unnatural (assuming Snyder didn’t just write terrible dialogue – it feels more like medium-related compromise than a hack… and I know he’s not a hack because he writ’ Gates Of Gotham and The Black Mirror which are superb).

Also, the swearing bubbles should match the intended swear words otherwise you waste time guessing the swear and again the story stops flowing naturally.

But yeah… wah wah wah… I’m just a big baby who wants to be spoonfed mediocrity and never to feel uncomfortable. Or am I? Maybe this is just a poorly designed experiment that didn’t pan out. I don’t know… there’s one scene where the too-big gap ends with a vengeful foot on the riddler’s smug face… and in that instance the rule breaking leap actually caused me to laugh out loud… so… there’s that!

The first time I read it too I hated the idea that they are just doing another No Man’s Land and Dark Knight Rises movie idea… Gotham cut off, bridges uncrossable, civilization collapses. Its been done. Then I remembered a good story is a good story no matter what. Its not THAT similar to those other Gotham being cut off stories… and with one being a film and the other being pre-New 52, in this particular comic series it is an innovator.
All the machine gun robots and stuff felt weird and stupid for a set-in-the-past story, but when I thought deep there was advanced technology in all of the New 52 Snyder stories… so, ok I guess. And real life has Amazon drones flying mail across the country….so…

Oh. You know what else though… maybe I’m just stupid… but all the riddles sucked. Just my personal opinion but I wasn’t a fan of a single riddle in this book. Which is a shame for a Riddler story.

Also… Dr. Death’s motivation makes no sense. But… I’ve let Hush off with that..so… hmmm. Oh.. and throwing the “Red Hood One is clearly the Joker, oh wait, maybe he’s not” thing in was cheap. Of course he was… move on. No need to put in some half-baked mystery.

The thing I just hate about the book the most is just that it is too big for itself. The Red Hood Gang story starts halfway through… is plagued by cutaways and then ends with no consequence apart from weakly being tied to the next Dr Death story with a few lines of dialogue – which then that itself is all just a set up for the No Mans Land style bit which follows… so the first 2/3 of the story where a set up for a short-ass 1/3 that isn’t even all of it because its full of cutaways and has to have a resolution.

And in all that time, you’d think the Bruce Wayne character development and the relationships with Gordon and Alfred would have time to mature but no… if anything they feel rushed and weird… there’s just huge blustering conflict and swift unsatisfying resolution. While paradoxically, the main things about Batman being the city’s heartbeat and Bruce wanting to be someone else (BATMAN) are kind of subtle and understated, which feels wrong in a strange way since everything else was so overstated and hammy. Batman says I’ve failed and feels shame for not anticipating a different bomb plot!

And does Gordon’s coat NEED a damn backstory? Come on… its a coat. People wear coats. That’s all anyone needs. Where there legions of fans for the past 75 years going “if they don’t explain the origin story of that coat soon, I’ll stop buying comics”?

I think there was some brilliant stuff here, but it should’ve been about twice as long, with more structure, more background detail, slower pacing and less silliness (Bruce would never give someone the finger, surely? and why would you censor the phrase goddamn but not bastards? – and what kind of a line is “Gothamites are tough bastards, go figure” anyway?). And – ah, never mind. It feels like somebody took a whole new 12 episode first season of a new TV series called “SciFi Batman in an alternative past” (Catchy title, I’d buy that!) and condensed everything into just three comic books. And you just feel like “Dude, all the good bits are missing, they cut this wrong.”

Or maybe its Pulp Fiction and that’s the whole point. Maybe creating moods and asking audiences to write their own background and make their own stories is the whole point and I’m just a lame duck who wants something this was never supposed to be.

The backups of “Bruce Wayne In” stories were cooler than the main book. I’d love to have a whole book of just that but with it all designed from start to finish and told in chronological order, with a few side plots and stuff to flesh it out.

Oh wait… they invented the TV Show Gotham, right? Hopefully that will do just that. (Except it probably wont since its called Gotham, not Bruce Wayne training around the world).

What… the first half of Batman Begins still exists? Ok. Good. Maybe I’ll just watch that then.

Comments?

***Abandoning my usual structure in favour of long diatribes and jumping off half-formed thoughts to unconnected ones – not an intentional parody of Zero Year, but a nice mirror nonetheless***

****UPDATE:*****
I went through the internet to get a sense of what other people were saying and if I was missing stuff. The professional reviewers certainly make it seem like a better story and act as if all the characther development was deep and important and not rushed and unsatisfying as I had called it.

The people however had often a few complaints, which were 1. It shouldn’t be so world-shattering for Batmans first adventure. Its his first outing and he has to overcome such a gigantic city destroying event?
2. It was too long.

I don’t get the whole “it was too long” thing.

I felt that it was about three or four issues too short and that there was too much missing information. It made you “assume what happened” between and before panels too much and never actually showed you, and while yes we’re all intelligent people and hooray for intelligence, it might’ve been nice to just have a complete story with more flow.

Zero Year to me felt like Snyder had written a really good entire tv show season and then only showed the highlights.

It ironically almost needs a prequel of its own.

Also, those backups of Bruce’s pre-Batman globetrotting training were a cool idea… how about someone writes a complete story of all that training from start to finish with a satisfying sense of development and the transitioning of Bruce from angry orphan to Batman. I’d buy that.

I also totally agree with the point that as a prequel it feels like the wrong story to tell. What… Gotham is that badly devastated right at the start? With no lasting impact? No Man’s Land lasted way longer and had a longer lasting impact and it was only the Government stopping people coming or going… not a resourceful supervillian controlling the weather and electronics for the whole city.

And how did they get rid of all the overgrown plants… agent orange? Its not as if the only thing that happened to Gotham was Riddler turned off electricity and turning it back on fixes things… he flooded it, used Poisen Ivy’s science to turn it feral and he knocked over multiple buildings with a bulldozer-crane. That shit aint fixed by turning on the power. (Sure Bruce says in a speach that there’s work to do… but essentially, y’know… New Orleans isn’t fixed six years later… so how is Gotham not still pretty screwed in Owls and DOTF?). I know I know, suspension of disbelief.

Oh… and another thing; was the Riddler really doing it all to find a solution to climate change, overpopulation and world hunger? I don’t buy that, doesn’t feel right. I like the Arkham videogames version of the Riddler as some twisted Saw style serial killer so utterly obsessed with proving his worth that it causes him to become violent. Maybe the climate change line was BS… like the way Bane told the people he was freeing them in the third Nolan movie… it was just something he said in public but wasn’t his actual motivation or plan. Maybe its that?

Actually… a climate change focused enemy might be cool. Maybe it should’ve been Poison Ivy instead?

Hello and welcome to the seventeenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

On with the show.

This entry is going to focus on Alan Moore’s sole contribution to the world of Batman; his one-shot graphic novel, The Killing Joke. There’s a lot of interesting opinions about this one. Some people consider it one of the top-four Batman stories of all time alongside The Dark Knight Returns, Year One and Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth. Some consider it to be overrated trash. Some people think it is bad for Alan Moore and not up to his usual standard. Some people think it’s the definitive Joker story, others think that its almost blasphemy to give the Joker an origin and also that Batman acts out of character here. Some people hate the way Barbara Gordon was treated and hate it for being too gratuitous.

Grant Morrison thinks it ends with either Batman killing the Joker or vice versa (my memory is foggy after doing too many twelve-hour night-shifts, and not having been to sleep since the last one).

The copy I own is the deluxe edition where its been recolored and printed on nice glossy paper. Some people hate that because it messes with a classic. Some people love it and think it helps it look modern.

Batman – The Killing Joke:
– Writers: Alan Moore
– Art: Brian Bollard
– Colours: (in this case, Brian Bollard)
– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Mid career, pre-Death In The Family, pre-Kinghtfall.
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne
– Villains: Joker, Some Freaks, Red Hood gang, Danny Weaver
– Cameos: Two Face, Penguin
– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Barbara Gordon,
– Bystanders: Jeannie Kerr

– Art: I think everything about this book looks excellent. Its definitely good for its time and held up well. In fact its good even for now.

– Tone: I love the tone here. Its very much like an episode of The Sopranos or any other guns-and-cops HBO show you could think of.

– My Thoughts: Let me address the above points one by one… I do think it deserves to be in that list. I personally don’t think its better than some stories like Long Halloween or Arkham Asylum, nor is it anywhere near as brilliant as Year One, but I think it feels like its supposed to be ‘up there’ and heck, I personally enjoy it more than The Dark Knight Returns.

I haven’t read any other Moore comics so I can’t comment on whether its poor for him, but let me say that if its poor for him, good for him must be astonishing.

I don’t think it ends with a death, not at all. Not subtly, not hinted at, not metaphorical. I think it just ends. It ends with Joker being about to be arrested once again and I reckon it’s a statement on the banality of the repetition of the endless arrest/crime Joker cycle rather than any secret murder.

I love how this book looks. I read the original coloured version too a about a year ago so its not that I haven’t seen both. I just like it. I like pretty glossy paper. I like big easy-to-read print and I like this colour palate a lot. It’s a bit more Arkham videogame series and a bit less Watchmen comic. I love The Watchmen’s story and art (oh wait, that was Moore wasn’t it? Damn… Yeah, this aint as good as that!) but not necessarily the colour scheme.

I also don’t mind the Barbara thing, and all the slightly sinister, uncomfortable rapey overtones that some people complain about. I think it works well and gives the story a lot of serious dramatic weight. Makes it feel a bit Mystic River.

It was good for a book to point out ‘hey, Batman is a bit of an insane idea’ and even though it started a thing that people can get sick of, it works well here in this book.

Basically, I think this is a nice, tight, enjoyable book, with a sensible length and good pacing. I enjoy it more than the bloated Knightfall, but wouldn’t call it a favourite.

Hello and welcome to the sixteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

Following my previous discussion of Kevin Smith’s Batman debut Cacophony; I will spend today writing about the second part of his Batman work, The Widening Gyre.

Cacophony was 3 issues long. ‘Gyre was double that length at six. With more space to play with, it is a lot wilder and more adventurous. Its a lot less enclosed and more sprawling. Its picked up on the most bombastic elements of its predecessor and used that as the default. Its also added a whole romance and couples-having-fun-and-being-silly-together angle, as well as taken a shining to highlighting the less realistic side of Batman comics.

The linear notes credit Walt Flannegan’s requests to draw numerous favourite characters as a reason for this as much as Smith’s initial story vision, and the fusing of these two goals creates something pretty memorable. If you are kind its a colourful (arguably gaudy), less-psychedelic and metaphore-filled version of what Grant Morrison was doing. If you are unkind, its an anachronistic mess and self-indulgent wish-fulfillment session by a duo with no taste.

Where do I sit, kind or unkind?

Batman

Batman – The Widening Gyre:

– Writers: Kevin Smith
– Art: Walt Flanagan
– Colours: Art Lyon

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career, but Pre-Morrison’s story.

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Baron Blitzkrieg, Atomic Skull, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Joker, Deadshot, Calendar Man, Crazy Quilt, Polka Dot Man, Cornelius Stirk, Black Manta, Funland, Mr Freeze,

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Baphomet, Dick Grayson as Robin & Nightwing, Tim Drake as Robin, Catwoman, Superman, Aquaman,

– Bystanders: Silver Saint Cloud, Gavin Adam, Mulligan, Arvin Flemming, May, June, Dirty Dan Yellpoon, Barry “Stiff” Saunders, The Spade of Clubs, Dr. Wolper,

– References: Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Mad Hatter, Onomotepeia, Riddler, Clayface, Connor Hawke as Green Arrow, Etrigan the Demon, Tweedledum, Two-Face, Evan Gregory, Toyman, Aqualad, Cyborg, Changeling, Kid Flash, Raven, Starfire , Wonder Girl, Black Spider , Doctor Phosphorus; Harley Quinn, Ocean Master, Planet Master; Captain Stingaree, Cavalier, Killer Moth, Kite-Man , Black Lightning, Geo-Force, Halo, Katana, Metamorpho, Baron Bedlam, Coldsnap, Heatstroke, New Wave, Shakedown, Windfall, Swamp Thing

– Story: [/Spoilers] Nightwing calls Batman to Bludhaven to view an old villain’s costume in a fit of sentimentality, as well as to inform him of a murder by Poison Ivy. Batman goes to meet Ivy in Arkham, where he finds out she is trying to hide from Etrigan the daemon. Etrigan turns on Batman, and Batman is overpowered, but saved at the last minute by new superhero Baphomet. Fearing Tim Drake will one day leave him just like Dick Grayson did, Batman starts toying with the idea of partnering-up with Baphomet, who is nervous and over-familiar, but likeable nonetheless. Bruce respects Baphomet’s lack of publicity-seeking or media interest, and Baphomet catches a villain that Bruce lets escape in order to save a hostage, making the two seem like a good team.

Multiple flashbacks to various periods in Bruce’s past go on through the story to underscore points. Scenes are saw of Batman with a young Robin, with a teenage Robin, with Robin becoming Nightwing, with Batman joining The Outsiders.

The other part of the plot is that Batman’s former lover Silver St Cloud returns and the two start a relationship that builds and builds until Batman eventually proposes to her, and the two get engaged. Silver allows Bruce to feel less obsessed with crime-fighting than usual and he starts to question his future.

Batman spends more time with Silver and leaves Gotham to Tim Drake and Baphomet. He is mistrustful of the new people in his life but after investigating them both all fears are removed. Life is good. Bruce is becoming a little too happy… maybe he’ll give up the Batman career in a few years.

I won’t spoil the ending because it is really, really strong.

– Art: Much less inconsistent than Cacophony in terms of quality, but fittingly inconsistent in style to reflect all the different eras of Batman. Its well done. There are hidden View Askew references (Buy Me Toys, Nails Cigarettes etc). There is a lot of detail, a lot of effort is clearly vissible. I don’t really like the style myself on a personal-taste level, but a lot of effort has gone into it, and it is functionally good as well as a huge improvement over the previous installment.

– My Thoughts: This is a real multiplication of the first one. Everything that was wrong with the first one (inappropriate language and swearing, jokes that don’t fit, dialogue Bruce would never say by any other writer’s choice, open discussions of sex, rude jokes etc) are here, way less subtly, way more often. If you don’t like the sound of that, you won’t like this book.

If you think it’s a bad idea for Catwoman to say “Wait, I’m not wearing any panties” then you won’t like this book at all. Because she does indeed say that in this book. Poison Ivy also tries to get Batman high on cannabis. Its Batman as written by Kevin Smith… so if you don’t think Smith’s personal taste fits in with the tone you want from Batman, then avoid, avoid, avoid!

Even I had huge problems with some parts, and found it difficult to continue reading at points. (And there’s a lot of Jewish jokes that seem a bit dodgy to me).

Once you get past the taste issue, the story is a big, colourful, bombastic tour of Batman’s history, as I’ve stated its very much like Grant Morrison’s “it all happened” style with a lot of references to the past and obscure characters and things like Batman’s work in teams (Justice League/Outsiders) with Superhumans. If you only want Batman to be realistic and only deal with humans… this isn’t the book for you…

Then there’s the love story. The Bruce can retire because he found love story. The Bruce lightens up a bit story. Depending on your taste this can be interesting or really lame.

As for the controversial “Batman wet himself” thing that people obsess over in this book… it is really not a big deal, or sacrilegious or anything like that. That issue is blown way out of proportion, and out of all the non-Batman things in the book, that is probably actually the least important. Its arguably handled rather well in the book actually.

On the plus side, some of the comedy is good (Calendar Man’s attitude to being sick was funny), some of the story is interesting, some of the references are neat (a young Dr. Wolper in particular). Baphomet is a good character and really likeable. The ending is superb. The ending is worth reading the book for alone. I won’t discuss it further to avoid spoilers or hype-disappointment-syndrome.

Overall; a very hit and miss book. It really depends on your mood and your sensibilities. It is intended to be colourful and fun and show off the bits of the Batman universe that aren’t over-done all the time in the grim and gritty era. Just like everyone praises Grant Morrison for. Smith definitely has a unique voice too. The ending is great, the amount of effort is great and the new guy is great.

However… there is so much just, un-Batman stuff in there that even with the biggest leniency and fandom for Smith, and a “this is his take on it, not mainline continuity” attitude, all the dirty jokes and drugs-talk and madcap ideas work way better on a podcast as a hypothetical than in the actual comic. Its kind of Smith-has-gone-too-far almost.

Its hard to get over that, and recommend it for being the very good book that it is, because I know fine rightly how awful it might seem if you aren’t forgiving of the sheer un-Batmanness. Smiling-Batman-of-the-70s as a fun book yes! Recall that spirit, good idea. A Bruce Wayne that isn’t psychologically tortured or borderline insane, yes! Refreshing, good idea.

Calling people “bitches” “turds” “emo-boys” “goths” and being overtly sexual… not for me thanks. That aspect, while again, it would be great to hear on a podcast with excitement in Smith’s voice and his co-host laughing, just doesn’t sit right with me in a comic.

So; In answer to the question, “where do I sit?” I’m afraid my answer is “On The Fence.”

Hello and welcome to the fifteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

This week, I’ll be covering Cacophony; a brief three-issue story (but part of a wider trilogy with The Widening Gyre and Bellicosity) which was written by Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith is best known for his films and impressive podcasting empire, as well as his part on the TV show Comic Book Men, and has worked on numerous comics before including Green Arrow and Daredevil. I haven’t read those. I haven’t read his comics about other superheroes yet. I have read his comics about his own films though, in the Tales From The Clerks compilation, but that’s about it.

I’m a huge, huge fan of his podcasting though (amazing free entertainment by the bucket full), and still have a lot of fondness for most of his films which I loved as a teenager but have seen too much and heard too much criticism of, and overall learned too much about to be able to ever really “just watch” anymore.

Kevin has a sense of humour which includes frequent jokes about sex, sex organs, drugs and scat-humour, as well as a tendency to talk about and reference real life people he knows. These seem sort of incompatible with Batman. All the other Batman I’ve ever read has avoided joking about sex, or talking about Batman’s genitals, or involving all that much faeces.

Needless to say, people, as far as I’ve read online did not appreciate when Smith included some of his sense of humour in Batman. Its very un-Batman to use the words “I saw a bit of your Junk when you were getting changed.” It just is.

I would just say this however… what did you expect? Kevin Smith + Batman = Kevin Smith’s Batman, surely? Why would you get someone unique like Kevin Smith and then have him just lose his uniqueness and not seem like Kevin Smith? That would be like getting Quentin Tarinto to direct an episode of a TV show and then just expecting him to do what the previous director was doing… a bit of a waste.

If you really dislike Kevin Smith…why did you read it? Its not as if there is any shortage of alternative Batman books to read. Its not like Metallica, where they only make one album every five years. There are many, many Batman books released and re-released every year and if you really can’t stand Kevin Smith it would be quite easy to give Cacophony a miss.

I’ve been wanting to re-read this for quite a while (every time I listen to Fatman On Batman I get the urge to read it) but I’ve been saving it until I was ready to write one of these articles about it. I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot a little by starting this series, but oh well.. I got to re-read it now and that’s all that matters.

Batman

Batman – Cacophony:

– Writers: Kevin Smith
– Art: Walt Flanagan
– Colours: Sandra Hope

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Joker, Zsasz, Deadshot, Onomotepeia, Maxie Zeuss

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police)

– Bystanders: N/A

– References: Barbara Gordon, John Paul Valley, Jason Todd, Mad Hatter, Amygdala, Calendar Man, Scarface, Riddler, Clayface, Connor Hawke as Green Arrow,

– Story: [/Spoilers] A new villain called Onomotepia, comes from Star City to Gotham to kill Batman, via the means of distracting him by freeing the Joker from Arkham. He interrupts an unrelated assassination attempt by Deadshot during which Joker learns that Maxie Zeuss is selling Joker Venom as a designer drug. Joker is offended and starts a war with Zeuss including murdering his nephew and setting fire to his nightclub with a flamethrower while impersonating a celebrity DJ. Batman, fresh from stopping Zsasz kill random innocents tries to recapture joker, meets Onomotopia and they battle. Onomotopia betrays joker to save himself leaving Joker mortally wounded and Batman choses to save Joker’s life rather than pursue Onomotopia despite the arrival of Commissioner Gordon who tries to convince Batman to just let the Joker die from his wounds. After a lengthy coma, Joker awakes to find Batman, dressed as Matches Malone meet him in hospital to clear up this issue of whether the two want to kill eachother or not. Batman says no, Joker says yes. In an epilogue Batman jokes with Alfred and Onomopepia goes back to his life as a family man and his secret plans to kill Batman.

– Tone: I’ll discuss this at the end, because they kind of go hand in hand.

– Art: Inconsistent. Walt draws so many different faces for the same Joker. Gets better as it goes along though, just needs more consistency. Also, he draws humans better than either Batman or Joker. His Gordon and Maxie Zeus-as-businessman look perfect, I’m just not keen on the way Batman’s face and mask look. The book is beautifully coloured actually though, it looks gorgeous with glossy paper and vivid colours.

– My Thoughts: Not the worst Batman story I ever read. Not even close. I actively enjoy Cacophony. If you ignore the fact that the dialogue has a bit more Smith-esque humour than would usually be found, this is actually a pretty entertaining and enjoyable story with some neat, memorable moments. And you know what, some of the jokes actually made me smile too. Its not like its 100% liking it despite the jokes, sometimes its just liking it… on its own terms. I liken it to listening to Megadeth. At first you are like “Dave Mustaine has a weird voice” but then you are later like “Screw it, a good song is a good song.” Admittedly, nowadays I love Mustaine’s voice totally and completely… can’t say I’ll ever love penis jokes within a Batman story, but hey, I can’t make every analogy 100% critique-proof.

I really enjoy some moments such as Zsasz getting surprised and also getting kicked through the door in a presumable homage to Madlove. I really love Jokers’ “Now do you get the Joke?” moment with Maxie.

Also, I just really love Onomotepia. He is a really neat villain uniquely suited to the medium he was invented for. Good look, good gimmick. If I ever wrote a Batman story, I’d include or at least reference him. His coolness adds a good few points in the book’s favour.

Negatives-wise; I do question some of the Jewish humour, slightly wary that it’s a bit distasteful (“Unholy Bris” ? Hmmm…). …And admittedly some of the dialogue and choices are contradictory to a lot of other writers (Gordon encourages Batman to let Joker die when other books make Gordon stop situations like this.)

It’s a Batman book I don’t regret buying, and would have no problems reading again. Maybe I’m being unfairly lenient to balance out people who were unfairly critical, that is possible, I mean, I don’t think I’d forgive other writers for a Batmite-themed Deadmaus-style DJ or a letter in which Joker calls Batman emo-boy (does Joker keep abreast of music trends and internet-era humour and expressions? Maybe, maybe not…).

Either way, I don’t think I’d recommend it to you if the idea of toilet humour in Batman is appalling, but I enjoyed it more than all the negative internet vibes made me think I would. That’ll do…

Here’s a quick list, and series of thoughts, on all the blog-related purchases I’ve made in the last while. I haven’t had time to give them all their own articles yet, so I’m going to give them all a short round-up here:

(more…)

Hello and welcome to the fourteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

About two weeks ago I bought Prey on a whim online, without much knowledge about it save for that Hugo Strange was the villain. Afterwards, I sent my friend a txt asking if it was any good. The answer was a negative. Woops.

Well, then I looked it up online afterwards and found out that it came packaged with an extra story too, a sequel called Terror. Well, at least it would be value for money. Year Two: Fear The Reaper came packaged with a sequel (Full Circle) and A Death In The Family came packaged with a sequel… or at least packaged with another story (A Lonely Place Of Dying), and it always feels good as a consumer to get the extra equal length, equal quality story as a bonus. If it was bad, at least I wasn’t ripped off.

You know, Hugo Strange wasn’t a villain I’d ever heard of before playing Arkham City. I think I had to look him up on Wikipedia when I played that game to see if he was real or made up for the game. (Real as in “existed in the comics” and not real as in real in the real world). I watched The Animated Series as a kid, and I had Batman Cartoon Maker, but I don’t recall Hugo Strange being in either (he probably was, but I might have not noticed, seeing as how children’s minds are weirdly blurry, like a drunk adult’s).

Since getting into comics properly, I’ve only come across one, maximum two stories with Hugo in it. Those are Batman & The Monster Men and then possibly Knightfall (I don’t remember, he could’ve been one of the ones in the Arkham breakout). Monster Men is one of my favourite Batman books so far, but to be fair it wasn’t really because of Strange himself. I don’t really know how to feel about him as a villain. Certainly he’s not on my “I don’t like them” list, like The Mad Hatter, but neither is he on my “I have a special interest in them” list, like Hush and Mr. Freeze.

Batman

Batman – Prey:

– Writers: Doug Moench
– Art: Paul Gulacy
– Colours: Terry Austin (Prey), Jimmy Palmiotti (Terror)

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era (Prey), Early Career (Terror)

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains (Prey): Hugo Strange, Night-Scourge
– Villains (Terror): Hugo Strange, Scarecrow

– Allies (Prey): Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Catwoman
– Allies (Terror): Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Catwoman

– Cameos (Terror): The Joker

– Bystanders (Prey): Harvey Dent, Sarah Essen, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr.,

– Bystanders (Terror): Brad, Charleene

– Tone: In some ways its fairly wacky, in some ways its trying to be realistic. There’s plenty of street thuggery, but there’s also outlandish ideas in the mix as well. I feels cold. I’m not sure if that is because of the graffiti and the night-time stuff. (Hmmm… isn’t all Batman full of night-time and graffiti?).

– Art: I really like the art style here. After being given Year One and Man Who Laughs early one, this is sort of the general sort of style I expect from old Batman. Its sort of similar to Venom and the Vengeance Of Bane backstory that was packaged in with my edition of Knightfall. I guess that is sort of the baseline for late-80s to early-90s Batman. I like it.

One fairly major flaw with Prey is that some of the text-boxes are pretty illegible. Its really difficult to read what they say at times.

Terror is interesting, because in some, nay most, of the pages it looks even better than Prey… but then pictures of Dr. Crane and The Scarecrow look very silly and cartoony, and his dancing looks really odd and it throws the whole thing off. I could see people saying it was bad looking because of it.

This whole book is also printed on that old newspaper paper and not the modern glossy stuff. I’m not sure if I’m beginning to like it. Finding it charming. Like when as a Nu Metal fan, it took me a while to get used to the production on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin albums. I think I’m beginning to like the non-glossy look now.

– My Thoughts: Hugo Strange is quite different in this story than in Monster Men.
Not so much the mad psychiatrist as a straight up cartoon-madman who talks to a mannequin dressed in lingerie. Becuase Mad. I’m not sure which version I prefer. This or Monster Men?… I mean Mad Scientists are cliched too I guess. I think I may prefer the version in Arkham City, but maybe that’s just because it was what I seen first. Or maybe it is better. I don’t know. Maybe I should talk it over with a psychiatrist?

The little touches here and there are rather good, like the disgruntled lawyer, adding a little of that Year One style TV Cop-show depth.

The Night Scourge storyline reminds me quite a lot of The Reaper … y’know… more violent vigilante comes along, Batman disapproves, public look down on vigilante violence including Batman. I guess its also not unlike The Red Hood many years later too. Its a reasonable plot I guess. I really like it when ‘Todd is doing it, so why not here?

I like Jim Gordon in these stories. But then, when do you ever not like Jim Gordon. No Man’s Land is the only example I can ever think of. Heck; Even when he cheats on his wife in Year One he’s likeable.

Another thing that reminds me of the Reaper story is the fact that in Terror, Scarecrow says the word “bullies” way, way too often. Just like how Reaper says “Fear The Reaper” every other sentence.

In a lot of the reviews I’ve read, people who enjoyed Prey didn’t seem to like Terror. I liked both. Both are flawed, neither are awful. I found them both to be pretty entertaining in all honesty, although I’m not sure how much I’d recommend them either. I think a solid 6/10 score would be warranted in a review. It’s the kind of thing you don’t regret buying, but wouldn’t rave about.

Hello and welcome to the thirteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

In previous recent entries, I mentioned how I’ll now try and cover some of the more famous Batman books like Dark Knight Returns, Arkham Asylum, The Long Halloween etc. and so this time I’ll be covering Year One, which is perpetually featured in list of best Batman books ever, which helped inspire parts of Nolan trilogy movie and which is always mentioned as a brilliant book for beginners. Other writers seem to always reference it, or work off of it, or find ways to link their story with it (flashbacks etc.). They even made a straight-up cartoon movie adaptation of it, with Bryan “Walter White” Cranston in it. (Which was actually really good!).

Apparently, this was a reboot. You know the way that there were was a Batman movie in the 60s with Adam West? Then in the 80s/90s there were four more films without Adam West, and the events in the Adam West movie didn’t “count” in the newer films? Yeah? …and then recently there’s been three even newer films directed by Christopher Nolan that ignored the events of the previous four (make that five) Batman movies? Yeah? Well, that’s like the comics industry (Read about it, by someone more qualified, here).

Here’s the quick version: There were stories before Year One. That’s apparently called “Pre-Crisis” nowadays (With “Crisis” referring to a landmark story called “Crisis on Infinite Earths” where they wrapped up their decades long storylines so they could started over). Also you’ll see the terms “Golden Age” and “Silver Age” for even more specific time periods.

Then all of the stuff from 1987-2011 was another thing. When I write “Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint” in the continuity sections in these articles, that’s what I mean. That’s where the biggest Bulk of Batman stories I care about take place. I think that’s what most people care about to be honest. When that first 80s Batman movie landed and got people interested in Batman, when that brilliant 90s Batman cartoon was going and got people interested in Batman, When the movie Batman Begins came out and got people interested in Batman again, when the first Arkam videogame came out… yeah, you get it. When all of those big jumping on points of the last 30 years happened, the “continuity” that was relevant was this one. And for that whole period, Year One was considered to be the definitive comics version origin story of Batman.

Then as of 2011 there’s been another reboot. That’s Post-Flashpoint. Or “The New 52.” There’s a story being put out at the moment called Zero Year which is the modern equivalent of a story set in the Year One era.

Yeah… Comic Books are annoying in that way. Can’t help that, since they’ve been going for 75 years. Just think of it like the movies. Every so often, they’ll start over again to keep things modern and fresh and get new people interested.

It got me interested. Now look what’s happened, I’ve been reading them for a year and now even write a bloody Blog about them. The idea of Reboots and retconts and stuff like that was one of the things that originally stopped me from reading comics in the first place. Weird isn’t it?

Anyway; Last week, I wrote about enjoying the “Year One” era, or setting, for Batman stories. This is the first year (or couple of years, depending on the writer) that Batman actually works as Batman, with no Robin or Batgirl or any of those guys in it yet… and he’s not yet become the world’s greatest detective, or perfected his fighting and stealth and acrobatic skills yet and is therefore more prone to mistakes and defeat.

Part of the reason for that may be the streamlined “Just let me see Batman and don’t worry about that other stuff” attitude. The biggest part of it though is probably because of the book Year One itself…

I’ll save you having to skim down to the conclusion… I love this book. This is an excellent book. One of the best. Possibly the best. Its not just important, its not just famous, its actually good too.

So… Game changer. Reboot for the line. Considered a classic. Actually good. (Oft imitated rarely bettered). I guess the musical equivalent might be The Black Album.

Batman

Batman – Year One:

– Writers: Frank Miller
– Art: David Mazzucchelli
– Colours: Richard Lewis

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era (Duh!)

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Arnold Flass (Police), Branden (S.W.A.T), Commissioner Loeb (Police), Carmine Falcone, Carla Viti, Catwoman

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police),

– Bystanders: Harvey Dent, Sarah Essen, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr.,

– Story: [/Spoilers] It starts with James Gordon moving to Gotham, meeting his new Police Co-Workers who are less than ethical. There’s also scenes of Bruce Wayne clearly training to fight crime, but not yet Batman. Gordon’s co-workers start to dislike Jim’s incorruptibility. Bruce goes out dressed as a crazy veteran looking for a fight, but his plan backfires – when he is fighting a Pimp; a Prostitue, despite being a victim themselves, defends the Pimp and stabs Bruce in the leg. Gordon’s colleagues don balaclava’s and beat up Gordon with baseball bats in a car park, threatening him to be more corrupt like the rest of them. Bruce makes it home, bloody and defeated, he knows if he doesn’t get medical help he’ll bleed out and die, he doesn’t want to live in such a horrible world, a world where a criminal could murder his parents (which we see in flashbacks), but then a bat crashes through his window, which gives him the idea for Batman. He then rings a little bell, signaling Alfred to come and give him medical attention. Jim Gordon follows a drink driving co-worker called Flass runs him off the road, and beats him up in the woods as payback for what happened in the parking lot and so they know not to mess with his family.

A mentally ill man creates a hostage situation and Jim solves it with people skills. Batman makes his first outing, he tries to beat up some teenage thugs but its really clumsy. A Batman myth starts brewing. Flass was beat up by Batman while he was taking bribes off criminals. Flass acts as if Batman is a monster not a man, and becomes a laughing stock. A new cop called Sarah Essen is appointed to the anti-Batman case. Jim starts cheating on his wife with her. Batman leaves mafia boss Carmine Falcone handcuffed naked in bed.

Batman gets trapped in an abandoned building by a swat team and is shot. He escapes using a sci-fi style device which summons bats, but not before saving a cat’s life. Catwoman gets inspired to dress like a cat. Also during his escape he breaks into a clothes shop, but actually leaves money for the clothes he disguises himself with.

Gordon arrests a druglord named Skeevers, who flips on the corrupt Flass and Loeb. The police think Batman might be Bruce Wayne. Jim goes to visit Wayne but his wife Barbara Gordon tags along too. Bruce acts like a chauvinist pig. It fools Barbara but not Jim, but at that moment, Jim admits to his wife that he’s cheating on her. Essen moves away. Barbara (who was pregnant this whole time) has a baby.

Catwoman goes out on a few crimes. She steals from Mafia guys. She and Batman fight and flirt, they haven’t quite figured eachother out yet. The media think she’s Batman’s assistant and that upsets her sensibilities. The mafia are plotting to target Gordon’s family.

Bruce figures out about the mafia plan and goes to Gordon’s building (out of costume), just as Gordon is dragged out to work by a phonecall. When Gordon sees Bruce speeding to his house on a motorbike he figures something’s not right and turns around. Back at his building, mafia men are trying to kidnap his wife and son. Gordon saves his wife but not son, and knocks Bruce off his motorcycle in order to chase after the escaping kidnappers. Bruce follows by stealing a bicycle. Gordon confronts the kidnappers on a bridge but his son falls over the side, Bruce saves him in the nick of time. Gordon thanks him, saying he can’t see who it is without his glasses.

There’s an epilogue that sort of shows what’s going on in Gotham after all this shake-up, which sets up The Man Who Laughs and The Long Halloween.

– Tone: The level of realism is higher than any other Batman book I own. Aside from Catwoman’s athletic skills and costume, there’s nothing in this story that’s all that implausible for The Wire. Apart from one scene with a cloud of Bats attracted by a Sci-Fi device. But that’s it. Its otherwise pretty much a cop show. Its more realistic than The Long Halloween, and much more realistic than Dark Moon Rising.

To be fair, this tone is very impressive and I love it. However people trying to copy this tone usually fail to capture it, and usually the stories aren’t as good.

A turning point for me, as a new reader of comic books was when I came to feel that there’s nothing wrong with being a riot of fun (Note – that’s not a riot of violence, but a riot of FUN!) like Morrison’s three Batman & Robin books. There’s nothing wring with being colourful and interesting if you do it right. Sometimes realism is very good, like here, if its done well, but just being in love with Frank Miller and stealing his ideas isn’t always as successful. Much like learning to ignore all the rebooting nonsense and terrible, terrible lack of curatorship the medium seems to have, learning that I can like multiple types of Batman and not just Nolan-esque stuff was interesting. I guess the musical equivalent is going from hating clean singing to enjoying it.

– Art: The art is superb. The colours make it feel kind of old-fashioned, but I hear that they made a recoloured version and people didn’t like that. Anyway, the actual drawing and shading are excellent. Character design too. It looks better than Long Halloween, Knightfall and Death In The Family which are the three nearest comparisons I have read. (Oh yeah, and than Fear The Reaper). Obviously it doesn’t match up to modern, glossy, super impressive stuff but it is brilliant. Its kind of like Megadeth’s Rust In Peace or Countdown To Extinction albums in that even though you can tell they weren’t released recently, they sound faultless. Age is apparent due to comparison with newer releases, but age is not a detriment. Its one of my favourite looking books ever, even if its not technically the absolute best (I am shallow and love Jim Lee and Greg Capullo).

– My Thoughts: I really, really enjoy this book. Its interesting, its succinct, and the Jim Gordon infidelity plus bad co-workers story is more interesting than even the Batman story. Its more interesting than most Batman book side plots. I care more about this than Jason Todd’s search for his biological mother, or Tim Drake’s Dad being kidnapped. They’re equally interesting human stories on paper… but this one just has a lot more depth and heart.

I also like that there was a memorial named after Bill Finger. It could have been the Kane memorial, but no. Nice touch.

One interesting point, which I didn’t know until this week when reading about this book online. When I read this book, its quite clear that Catwoman is a prostitute. It is so obvious I would never question it. I’ve saw people fighting about it online though “She’s not a prostitute, it in no way says that” etc. Then a second bunch of people who are like “She is a prostitute, but I wish she wasn’t” and an even more mysterious third party “She’s not a prostitute, she’s a dominatrix – learn the difference!”

Now I don’t think that if she was a child prostitute’s roommate that she’d just be dressed as a dominatrix for fun, so I’m not even going to give that one the benefit of the doubt. But come on; in what way is she not a prostitute? Does it have to have a drawing of her performing a sex act with a fist full of cash and a speech bubble saying “I’m only doing this for the money” ?

I don’t know why you’d wish she wasn’t either. Personal taste I guess, I can accept that. Just has a bit of a whiff of victim blaming about it… but then, I dunno, maybe you just wish she was an actual cat too (like those cat dudes in Skyrim who’s name escapes me right no…”Kajiit?”) and it has nothing to do with anti prostitute sentiment and I’m just making assumptions. What do you think?

I guess the musical equivalent is… um. No. I don’t have one for this section. You?