Posts Tagged ‘Arkham Origins’

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.

Batman

***SPOILERS AHOY AND MEANINGLESS CONTENT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT. ***

Ok. I’ve just finished reading Batman – Death Of The Family this morning. Instead of going through the usual format of these Amateur Batfan articles, I’m just going to launch straight into some gut reactions. Here goes:

I can’t actually articulate whether or not I enjoyed this book. I mean, I think each and every page was good, but somehow it seemed like a bad story.

For me, this was something where the whole was much less than the sum of its parts. It was like Resident Evil 5 for me; I had a lot of fun playing Resident Evil 5 and liked every single set-piece in it in isolation, but if I watched the actual plot as a movie, it wouldn’t live up to its own marketing hype.

I’ve read a few things online saying it was overly gory and horrific, but I didn’t actually notice that until afterwards, upon reflection. I think it had a great tone. I read some things saying that Joker’s face being cut off was too gross. I dunno, I just thought it was cool looking. It really is a striking image.

I didn’t even think that the plot or the dialogue were bad. Heck, the first few chapters really, really draw you in. Joker doesn’t like how Batman has evolved from a strong solo act into the leader of a big band (I, as a casual, barely-informed comics-outsider, fan felt like that too initially until I read Scott Synder’s Gates Of Gotham and Black Mirror… I liken it to Guns N’ Roses and their Use Your Illusions albums and tour. “Hey? Wasn’t this supposed to be a bad-ass rock band? What are all these trumpets and soul singers and country songs here for?”) and so wants to take away all the baggage and just leave it as Batman Vs. Crime. He also plays on the fact that Batman can barely keep up with him by recreating his old crimes but perverting them so Batman is playing catch-up instead of stopping him.

None of that is bad. In fact its all quite good. Yeah, Joker questioning the worth of the Bat-family and DC Comics proving why they are good is a great idea, and Batman struggling to predict Joker because Joker is the most difficult villain to predict is an entertaining read. It all sounds like the basis of a good, satisfying book.

Its this other thing that just got to me… this insistence on scale. This manufactured importance. They made ‘an important story.’ Not they made a story, and it was so good that people got on board and raised it to the level of important. They sat down and made an important story on purpose.

My question is, was it worth it? Wouldn’t it have been better to just have had a really good Joker-is-angry revenge story, than some thing that claims to be existential and revelatory, but then leaves you feeling a bit confused and sold-short.

Why does it have to be a ‘terrifying return,’ ‘a return of such importance’ or an ‘ultimate showdown.’ Why do writers have to bow down to the expectation that this has to be the most significant Joker story ever told? Why does everyone have to try one-up eachother by making the Joker more and more messed up? Why does everyone have to reveal some deeper truth to Batman and Joker’s relationship?

After a while its either just repetition or credibility-stretching ret-conting.

The thing about arms-race mentalities is that the artistic quality that comes from them is a bell curve. Sure, somebody does something, somebody else does it more gets us from Thin Lizzy to Iron Maiden, and from Iron Maiden to Metallica. It also gets us from Slayer to Sodom to Sarcofago to countless bland unlistenable bands that are such a wave of intensity that it loses all sense of meaning and significance.

Extremity is a dynamic. It only works in context. It only works by juxtaposition.

I get that Joker is a much-loved character. But like a comedian who’s audience loves him too much, the jokes are starting to suffer. What good is a character that has to have the best story ever?

That’s how Metallica ended up making Lulu.

You can’t just redefine a character every-single-time otherwise there is no character. Just an insert-character-here box, with a little quote on the bottom that says “best character ever, trust us!” I asked my friend about it, and he responded “Modern Writers are so in reverence of the Joker, they feel like they aren’t doing it properly if they don’t do it” …I think that’s a pretty good sum-up. Loving something too much can just get tiresome. I think that’s why I have such a problem liking Starwars.

Do you know what else though? This may seem a bit contradictory to my previous point, but where is the consequence? If this is the most important Joker story ever… why isn’t Alfred left blinded forever? Why aren’t the whole Bat-Family slaughtered and irreversibly killed forever? Either this is business as usual or it’s a world-shaking cataclysm that redefines everything. You can’t just say its world shaking but then let everyone get away unharmed. I guess you have the fact that the Bat-family didn’t come over to Bruce’s house at the end… but that’s hardly the same as Jason Todd’s actual murder or Barbara’s actual paralysis.

I could get behind the whole “this is Joker’s most gruesome assault ever” premise if it wasn’t so easily foiled, and devoid of any lasting impact. It would be cool to have Alfred just be blind from now on, and then struggle with being less helpful since he can’t read the computer screen any more. It could be like a disability-coming-to-terms story, or it could leave him as a bitter alcoholic… or something.

In the show House, when he gets locked up in a Mental Institution, it seemed like the ballsiest move ever. This show had been about a doctor on the brink and now he’s fallen over the edge. It would’ve been so cool to see the status quo shattered and the artistically bold move of just having him locked up, but they ditched that idea real fast and missed that opportunity. In Dexter there was a similar missed opportunity to have some genuine brave shake-up but it was wasted too.

This story feels like that. It screams ‘huge deal’ and then actually delivers the usual deal.

I’ve read some stuff online that people complained about, such as the acid that burned Batman’s mask didn’t injure his face, and the police not having Joker’s DNA being incredulous. I’ve also read some defense of the book saying it reveals alot of big deal things about the characthers, and the fact that everyone is huffing with Batman at the end is a big consequence and not just a little tiff to be brushed off.

In repsonse to those points, I wonder:

“I’m sorry if I’m being stupid… but what is this reason why Batman never kills the Joker?
I don’t see what it is.”

Otherwise, yeah, the DNA thing is fine because he wasn’t a criminal before being the Joker so shouldn’t be in a database anyway, the Joker Venom cure and acid-face thing I just file away under “reasonable suspension of disbelief within the context of the medium.”

The story feels a bit pointless to me, unless of course, from now on everybody does hate Bruce and no one associates with him anymore for years and years. Then yeah, the story will have some impact. Seems like a bit of a crap reason to huff with Batman though, he’s always giving out limited information. Its his thing. He’s that kind of guy. He’s never been a blabbermouth.

Furthermore, as to the character-defining stuff; As an audience, we’ve also known for years that Batman and Joker have a “special relationship” and “need each other” and all that, so it didn’t need retold as if it was new information. We’ve know for years Joker prefers trying to kill Batman than really killing him, so its not a big deal. We’ve known for years he doesn’t care who’s under the mask. So… again no big deal.

Oh Yeah. Another thing that has been touched on online is I that the New 52 continuity doesn’t make sense. With that one, I totally agree. If Batgirl isn’t Oracle then why/how did the Killing Joke story still happen? Maybe its explained somewhere, but its not explained enough in this book, where it needed explaining. Barbara and Jim can’t be so traumatized by the Killing Joke story but for it not to have happened (Which is what it feels like without that missing info).

So. There. A vent of all the annoyances of that first read. Blleeeeeurgh.

Ok. I’m done.

As I say though, every page was good. I don’t know how to feel. I just see a picture of Joker with his face hanging off and think “that is so cool looking,” and I read a chapter and am completely entertained until I’m finished reading. Its only afterwards, when you get a moment to think about it that you start wondering what’s went wrong.

Do I like this book or not? I can’t even tell.

Arkham Origins did the same old “lets go deeper on the Bat-Joker relationship” thing too, but I didn’t mind too much there, because at least it was a mechanically brilliant game. Is Death Of The Family a mechanically brilliant book?

Well, some of the set pieces are great and the art is superb, and it is entertaining and a page-turner, so sort’ve… but still, that salty aftertaste.

Maybe it’s a grower. I’ll get back to you on that.

If possible, I advocate healthy discussion in the comments, I want to know what y’all think…

Batman

Hello and welcome to 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. (At the minute that means Batman comics, but who knows what the future holds?). 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 that I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Magnum opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

Magnum is sort of like my comics fairy godmother, or y’know, something manlier sounding… mentor? Role model? Alfred? I don’t know. Anyway, he’s the go-to chap for bat-chat. Hopefully, he’ll just start writing a companion series to this, only with, you know, actually informed opinions.

This is the fifth edition of the series. I finally got around to getting myself a copy of Death Of The Family, the at-the-time-of-writing newest main-series Batman title, and that’s put me in the mood to write another one of these articles. Right now I’m listening to Dream Theater’s Awake album and leafing through my trade paperback of Batman – Venom. So I’m going to write about it. I could have picked any of these book off the shelf really. I guess I chose this one to write about this time because I’ve been playing Arkham Origins recently and some of the enemies are using venom. Venom always reminds me of the version of Bane in the 90s movie; a slavering mindless goon with comically large musculature and bright green ooze pumped around him in see-through tubes. Hey, Bane and the venom baddies in Arkham Origins do have the green tubes too. In fact the comically big thing even happens later, because of Titan. (Which you may remember from Arkham Asylum.)

You can therefor kind of understand, that when I picked up Batman Venom, I expected it to be about Bane, and I expected to see green tubes. This was not actually a feature of the book Batman Venom.

Its actually a rather interesting story about how the invention of a drug destroys two-three human relationships. That and a bit of a sea-crossing adventure story. Its like injecting Batman into Uncharted Drakes Fortune with a focus on addiction instead of vampires. Or maybe its more like Gone Baby Gone meets Lost, on a small scale. OR… I guess its more like, Batman meets venom, on a graphic novel scale.

Batman – Venom:

– Writers: Dennis O’Neil
– Art: Trevor Von Eeden, Russel Braun, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Willie Schubert
– Colours: Steve Oliff

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Year One-ish
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Dr. Porter, General Tim Slaycroft

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

– Bystanders: Sissy Porter, Tim Slaycroft Jr.

– Story: [Spoilers, This is the entire plot:] The story begins with Batman failing to rescue a drowning child because he is physically unable to move the rubble obstructing his path to her. She drowns and Batman is haunted by her death, and moreso his failure. He starts obsessing over the issue of strength and when he is injured lifting weights and beaten up by a physically superior goon, he decides to start taking the Venom pills offered to him by the dead girl’s father, Doctor Porter, who is suspiciously emotionless about the death of his daughter.

At first the pills have steroid-like effects, allowing him to lift more weights and build more muscle, but eventually they start affecting his personality and judgement, turning him into a violent, aggressive, reckless goon, who beats the absolute crap out’ve people with less ethical consideration than he would without the drugs. They are also highly addictive and turn him into a stereotype junkie, desperate for another fix.

Doctor Porter is working alongside General Timmothy Slaycroft, a corrupt military official who wants to use Batman as a mindless henchman. He also has a son who seems to be a good person. Eventually Slaycroft and Porter ask Junkie-Batman to murder James Gordon in exchange for a fix, and this is enough to break the influence that the two have over him, and it causes him to go into seclusion and isolation until he has detoxed from the drug and beaten his addiction.

Slaycroft and Porter move to Cuba, taking Slaycroft’s son with them. Slaycroft’s son, Tim Jr., befriends a Cuban girl and seems to be developing a romantic relationship with her. Slaycroft then decides to use Venom on his son and turn him into a violent, mindless goon. It affects his relationship with the girl, who he eventually beats to death, despite previously having been a good person. Slaycroft then develops a whole squad of such monsters, and trains them in the South American jungle conditions, murdering peasants.

Porter himself is revealed to be using drugs similar to Venom, that enhance his mind instead of body, and has gone evil. He’s been evil since the book began basically, becuase the drugs stripped him of empathy (Remind you of James Gordon Jr’s empathy-stripping drugs plan?). Slaycroft and Porter have arguments. A power struggle ensues.

Batman, with the help of Gordon, tracks them down and flies to their headquarters and then heads there with Alfred to stop them. Their plane is shot down and Batman is separated from Alfred.

Slaycroft has captured Alfred and drags him around the island dangling from a helicopter to lure Batman out of hiding. Slaycroft and his posse of goons, along with Porter, tie Alfred to two stakes in the shark infested waters. Batman saves Alfred, fighting a shark in the process.

He is met on shore by Porter who offers him Venom pills, but when Batman refuses, Tim Jr. defeats Batman and Porter puts Batman in a trap that can only be escaped using the additional strength that Venom would provide, which Batman then escapes using his wits instead of the drug.

Meanwhile, while waiting for Batman to start using venom again, Porter and Slaycroft become enemies and try to kill each other, and Alfred escapes and radios Gordon for help. Batman bursts into Slaycroft and Porter’s conflict and despite trying to help save everyone’s life, Slaycroft gets killed at the hands of his own son. Batman takes Porter back to Gotham to be arrested by Gordon and reflects on the victims of the situation.

– Tone: The tone is completely serious (apart from Alfred’s traditional sarcasm) and balances realism with entertainment rather well. It’s the exact kind of tone I like the best. Bruce going out and cracking skulls without the Batman suit is a great way to display just how unhinged he has become.

– Art: Its kind of the highest quality of Art that you can get without being noteworthy as amazing art. Its very good looking compared to say, The Dark Knight Returns, although not as amazing as modern stuff like All Star Batman And Robin (art courtesy of Jim Lee).

The colouring makes it a bit dated looking I guess, as in, you can kind of tell when it was made just by looking at it, but not in a bad way. Think of it like Van Halen’s production jobs on the first three albums. You can tell when they were made, but they sound fantastic and timeless. The drawings themselves are detailed and interesting, there’s extra mise-en-scene that you mightn’t get in other books from the same sort of time.

Basically, a very good looking book. Better than Batman Gothic, better than Gotham By Gaslight, almost as good as Mad Monk or at least within reaching distance.

– Overall: I really, really like this book. Sure, the title makes the modern fan expect to see Bane, who is not featured here, and sure, Batman does fight a shark (which sounds close to jump a shark), but other than that, it is a very down-to-earth story with some nice psychological aspects and you can be made to feel some real emotions. Its top-quality stuff.

Plus Doctor Porter is an interesting character. Not massively interesting, but interesting enough. I wonder if he gets used again?

I’d recommend picking it up if you already read Batman books. It deserves a place in the collection of anyone who has a collection.

Its day 52 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. There’s ten days left. Even though it got extended to be an extra month long, I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken it yet thanks to the Christmas gifts I discussed last time, which have taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while. I’ve been working through it. I’ve watched Sound City, I’ve read Joey Shithead’s autobiography, I’ve been heavily listening to Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing and Tesseract’s new album. I’ve been playing Arkham Origins. The entertainment part of my life is pretty well serviced.

I’ve also finished the comics that I got for Christmas from my friend Magnum, and am in the mood for more. Which leads us to the part of the article where I discuss what I would buy if I wasn’t on the challenge not to buy things:


I remember when I first planned to buy comics, I wanted to read three stories. Year One, Knightfall and No Man’s Land. This was due to reading the Wikipedia page for The Dark Knight Rises movie.

I got given a lend of Year One by my friend Magnum straight away. I have never gotten around to reading the other two. After having played the three Arkham games, and just recently finishing the campaign mode of Arkham Origins, I really want to get around to reading them now.

There’s two problems with that though… first off, postage and packaging. Second off, Knightfall is three books and No Man’s Land is five books. So; in order to read these two stories, I need to buy eight books, and eight sets of postage and packaging. You add them to your basket and then think…oooh that’s a bit too much for me right now, and then the postage comes on top and it’s like…hmmm, definitely not now.


The same thing happens in a value for money way. I have a weird notion that I want to buy the first three Poison albums, but for under £1 each. Which is possible on amazon at times, but then the postage for three albums is about six quid, and then suddenly its not worth it anymore. I worry that it’ll be completely terrible but I’m kind of fascinated. I think that people will feel the same way about Limp Bizkit in a few years (Nu Metal is very much the Hair Metal of my generation and Emo is the Nu Metal of the next generation after me, and I’m sure there’ll be some Dubstep-infused-Post Hardcore movement starting to take off soon that will be the one for today’s twelve year olds).


Y’know what else I’d like. More Son’s Of Anarchy. I watched the first four seasons which are available on Netflix over the Christmas break and now I want to see the next three seasons. At first I wasn’t actually keen on the show, but I really got into it and now I really want to see more. I can’t decide if I should buy a boxset or wait until its all finished and buy a complete set or wait until more goes up on Netflix. I don’t know if that’s a thing that happens. Is it? Tell me in the comments if that’s likely to occur.

But I’m trying not to buy those things; so instead, I’ll use the things I already have. Money for comics and campy Hair Metal songs would be much better spend on rent, electricity, food and other essentials, right?

With that in mind, here is the section where I discuss the things I listened to that I already owned:

So onto the aforementioned listening-for-distraction stakes; I’ve put on Fair To Midland’s proper debut album (or third album if you count independent releases), the lengthily titled Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True.

I got their follow-up to this, Arrows & Anchors because the internet buzz was that if you liked Rishloo or Coheed & Cambria, then you should check out Fair To Midland. I do like Rishloo and Coheed & Cambria. I like them a lot. So… I checked out Arrows & Anchors and really enjoyed it. It took me a while to get around to picking up this one.

Its less instant than Arrows & Anchors. Its less driving, less powerful. It takes a lot more time to soak in. Its an album you have to give a lot more time to, in order to get the same sort of return back from it. But the return is definitely there to be had.

It feels a lot longer than it is though, at forty-eight minutes it feels like its about an hour and a half in duration. Not because its bad or anything. I guess, in a way, its kind of dense. Not Neurosis dense. But still… there’s a lot to it.

I like this album a lot, but its more of an whole-album-in-one-sitting affair than the other one, it’s the kind of thing where you have to put on the whole record and pay attention to it, rather than knowing the song titles and having a favourite song. Its just as good, but its less fun, if that makes any sense.

I’ve also been re-listening to Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill album a lot recently. Its one of those albums that you always read is absolutely brilliant, but which I’ve sometimes had a bit of a grudge against.

I know that Kreator’s next three albums are brilliant, well-written catchy Thrash records with many parts that sound like Forbidden, Anthrax and Megadeth and not just grim, heavier versions of ‘Chemical Warfare’ by Slayer on repeat. For some reason though, that’s exactly how I find myself thinking about Pleasure To Kill. I think its just a constants stream of d-beats over one buzzy riff and some ’80s death-vocals, with no variety.

I think this may be because the kind of people who told me Sodom’s Obsessed By Cruelty or Sepultura’s Morbid Visions were good, were the same people who recommend this. (Two albums which I find incredibly dull, repetitive and not to my tastes, by the way). Naturally, I’m suspicious of it. It also doesn’t help that the first song (excluding the intro) is the sort of high tempo, frantic pounding sort of thing that confirms this suspicion. Also, its just one of those things were you made your mind up about it once, years ago, and it never occurred to you to challenge the notion until just now.

Recently though, I’ve been listening to it over and over, and noticing parts that don’t sound like Obsessed By Cruelty. Lots and lots of parts. Over half the damn record. It’s a really good, creative Thrash album with lots of tempo changes, breakdowns, Anthraxy parts and all that good stuff that the next three Kreator albums that I don’t write-off all have.

Woops.

Oh well; at least I know now. I paid for it, it’s a good job it turned out to be good. Even if I was late to realize it.

Maybe I’ll go back and listen to Obsessed By Cruelty and find out its just as fresh and fun as Among The Living and that this whole relentless pounding thing was all a bad dream.

You know what else I did? I listened to Dark Side Of The Moon again. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but I can’t actually remember the last time I listened to it. When I first got into Pink Floyd I listened to them so, so, so much, and watched their DVDs so, so much, that it kind of feels like, I don’t need to listen to them again sometimes. Like, I’ve listened to them so much its just imprinted in my brain forever and its redundant to listen to them any more.
Its kind of such an obvious thing to do, that I don’t even think of it anymore. Should I listen to Pink Floyd? – Well, are you alive? – Yes, I am alive – Then of course you should listen to Pink Floyd. In fact, you are probably already listening to Pink Floyd, just pay more attention.

Maybe all the Porcupine Tree and Riverside had been filling my Floydism receptors in my brain and I didn’t realize I was missing any. Anyway; I remembered to listen to them again.

What a good album. You don’t need me to tell you that. Nobody ever has to say it again. Yes; this and Led Zeppelin 4 are good albums. We know.

I enjoyed myself. I must remember to listen to Pink Floyd again. Sure, it may be for the thousandth time, but its always going to be good.

You know everything I just said about Pink Floyd? Well yeah, that again… only for Pantera. This album is so good, so fundamental to what I like about music, has so many of my favourite songs on it, that I absolutely forget to listen to it.

I’m not sure whether this, Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood would be considered the Dark Side’ of Metal by the public, but for me, its definitely up there. I was going to start listing the things I like about this record, but it ended up being every single one of the things about this record. The only thing at all wrong with this is that ‘By Demons Be Driven’ has one chorus too many. Otherwise this is a flawless, perfect album. Every riff, every solo, every vocal line. The charming production. The performances. The variety. Its all exactly what I want out of music.

How good is the And Justice For All-sounding clean bit at the start of Hollow? How good is the heavy bit of Hollow? How good are Phil’s clean vocals on This Love? How good are Phil’s grunts, growls and screams on Fucking Hostile and Regular People? How good are the drum fills? The guitar solos?

I guess the take home message is, remember to listen to your favourite albums. They are your favourite albums, remember?

Hello and welcome to the fourth 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 Magnum opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

In between revising for exams, I’ve spent a lot of today playing Arkham Origins and really, really enjoying it. I haven’t even been playing the story, just running around collecting Riddler packages, scanning Anarchy symbols and architect plaques and enjoying the freeflow combat. Just Batmaning about the place. All that Batmaning put me in the mood to write another one of these blogs.

The soundtrack for this writing session has been Ozzy Osbourne’s Scream album. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with comics. I just haven’t listened to it enough and I want to get my money’s worth. I bought it at the same time as Black Rain and never really listened to either one enough. I heard a song off of Black Rain earlier this week and it reminded me to check them out again. I would say based on the first two songs (I’ve only gotten that far in so far) that this is a much more interesting album than the new Black Sabbath one. Make of that what you will.

Black Rain. Black Sabbath. My theme for this entry is Black.

For the fourth installment of the series, I’ll be covering The Black Mirror. I wanted to write “a modern classic.” To be honest I don’t know for certain if that’s true, but regardless of whether or not its definitively true, it deserves to be true, and its true in my mind.

This book is just straight up excellent. Its everything I want from a comic book. Its intriguing, visceral, adult, great to look at. If you asked me “I want to start reading comic books, recommend one to me” then this is the one I’d give you. (Well, this or ‘Owls). Last time, I said that the book on discussion (Batman Gothic) was good, but that I wouldn’t rhapsodize about it. That is not the case this time. I’d very much like to scream my affection for this book from the rooftops. I full on recommend you swap money for a copy of this book whether you were already planning to or not.

Batman

Batman: The Black Mirror:

– Writers: Scott Snyder

– Art: Jock & Francesco Francavilla

– Colours: Jared K. Fletcher & Sal Cipriano

– Continuity: Post Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career, Post R.I.P,

– Batman is: Dick Grayson

– Villains: James Gordon Jr., Mr. Guiborg, Sonia Branch, Roadrunner, Tiger Shark, The Joker,
– Allies: Tim Drake as Red Robin, Barbara Gordon as Oracle, Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Barbara Gordon Sr, Harvey Bullock (Police),

– References: Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Jason Todd, Dr. Langstrom, The Flying Graysons,

– Story: [Spoilers as fuck!] The overarching plot revolves around Dick Grayson, who is now Batman since the death of Bruce Wayne, investigating a series of murders in Gotham. The murders are taking place using old versions of Gotham Villain’s signature tricks (eg. prototype Joker Venom, old Fear Gas etc.). He tracks down a crime-loving secret society of asshole socialites, infiltrates one of their auctions (in which they auction off memorabilia from famous crimes) whereupon he is discovered and has to fight them off. Eventually it turns out that Commissioner Gordon’s son James Jr was messed up after the events in Year One, and is a creepy-ass serial killer. This is told through flashbacks and Batman and Red Robin discover it through investigations and adventures that see them fight Roadrunner, Tigershark and The Joker. Commissioner Gordon doesn’t want to believe his son is such a sick fuck, and is convinced that James Jr. can handle his mental health problems with a new experimental medicine, but Barbara knows what James Jr. really is.

James Jr.’s medicine is revealed to have actually been causing psychopathy rather than curing it, and he reveals that it has been mass produced and introduced into the Gotham baby-food supply. He believes that psychopathy and a lack of human empathy is the liberating next stage in human evolution and wants the next generation of Gothamites to be as sick as he is.

James Jr. later tries to kill Barbara (after already poisoning Barbara Sr. and framing the Joker for it to lure Batman into a trap) but fails. Commissioner Gordon finally turns on his son after the attempt on his daughter and ex-wife’s lives, and shoots James Jr. in the leg, knocking him of a bridge in a scene mirroring [Black Mirror, innit] Year One, but the Commissioner saves his life. It is his son after all. Arkham bound, is that sick creepy prick. [Its a sign of great writing when a writer can make you feel genuine contempt for a villain]

In the epilogue Dick and Commissioner Gordon discuss their “long haul” future in the endless fight against crime while looking out the window, and there is a close up of a baby on the street looking a bit disturbed, indicating James Jr’s plan succeeded. Maybe Batman will have to fight that baby when it grows up to be a serial killer.

It’s a lot, lot, lot better than I’ve just made it sound though.

– Tone: The tone of this story is fantastic. Its dark as hell. Its flat out creepy at points, its got a Seven/Zodiac feel a lot of the time, and a Resident Evil 4 feel at other times. Its one of the darkest, most evocative and interesting Batman stories I’ve read to date and it really, really draws you in. It’s the sort of thing that you’ll have to read in one sitting because you just can’t put it down. There’s this great sense of dread and impending doom, as you just know that creepy little prick is evil and is going to start causing havock and break his old man’s heart, and you just sit there waiting for the axe to fall the whole time.

Its absolutely bleak and uncompromising. People have limbs amputated, jaws cut off, its just downright grim.

– Art: The art is absolutely top notch. Its very stylized, but its absolutely fantastic and suits the dark-ass tone of the story so well. It adds to the storytelling in a really powerful way. Its not just good as a storytelling device though, its excellent in and of itself. So many of the covers and individual panels would makes excellent posters. Its definitely in my top-five favourites that I’ve ever seen so far.

– Overall: I think this is hands down one of the best Batman books on the market. I said the art is in my top-five, but y’know what, the whole thing is. Its got a real mean, uncompromising tone, an intriguing and emotionally strong story, brilliant visuals, satisfying fights, no stupid or out of place dialogue, and a heck of a lot of strong scenes.

I said it before, if you want to start reading comic books and you ask me for suggestions, my number one choice is this. Pick it up. Get absorbed. It’s a brilliant serial-killer movie mixed with gadgets and outlandish locations (battle in a plane, in an underwater base etc.). I think this is a good book to check out if you like the Nolan movies. I think its an even better book if you liked the Sin City movie. I think it’s a good book period though. One of the best. Just read the damn thing already.

[Ps. Don’t I say on the market too much? As if I’m some sort of distribution house? I don’t know where I picked that phrase up from.]

‘Till next time!

Batman

Hello and welcome to the second 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 Magnum opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

Magnum is sort of like my comics fairy godmother, or y’know, something manlier sounding… mentor? Role model? Alfred? I don’t know. Anyway, he’s the go-to chap for explanations, clarifications, recommendations and anything else ending in “ations.” [Musturb… oh wait, never mind.] Not content even to have just started off the whole thing, he’s even gone sent me some Batman novels for Christmas, helping me to read more Batman without breaking my Get (Into) What You Paid For no-buying-things challenge. These included Year Two Fear The Reaper, Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman & Robin and The Ultimate Evil (the story of Batman versus the Peadophiles…no, seriously!).

Pretty great Christmas gift if you ask me, which you did by continuing to read this article up to this sentence. You can expect a blog post about each of those bat-gifts. I have spent the better part of this year reading a lot of Batman Graphic Novels and now I’m going to blog about each and every one of them. I’m going to tell you who made them, which characters are in them and what I think about them. I’ll chip in with an opinion about whether or not I’d recommend that you buy them too, why not? Maybe I can be of some financial help to you too while I’m at it.

The soundtrack for this writing session has been Anthrax. That’s sort of comics-related, right? What with “I Am The Law” existing and all that, right? Maybe not then. But it felt worth mentioning.

For this second installment of the series, I’ll be covering two books in one. This is more or less because my theme for the post was going to be “my favourite art in a Batman book yet” [Last time’s theme was “the first Batman book I ever bought for myself”]. When trying to chose which one I thought was the best, there was a bit of stiff competition. Anything by Jim Lee could have been in there for example, the man has a very impressive style. I could also have chosen The Black Mirror, which looks absolutely gorgeous, but I have to say, of all the Batman books that I’ve seen so far, nothing has been quite as striking or perfect as the art of Matt Wagner, who handled these two interlinked books. The guy is a spectacular artist. Y’know what else though, its not just that these two books are pretty, they’re also hands down two of my favourite Batman stories (or collectively a singular story, hence the double-article). I figured that since they’re both as good as eachother, and because you shouldn’t really get just one without the other, I’d count them as a single entry. Anyway, here we go:

Batman

Batman And The Monster Men & Batman And The Mad Monk:

– Writers: Matt Wagner
– Art: Matt Wagner
– Colours: Dave Stewart

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Year One

– Villains: The Monster Men, Hugo Strange, Sanjay, Carmine Falconi, Sal Maroni, The Mad Monk, Dala,

– Cameos: Edward Grogan,

– References: Vikki Vale (Reporter), Flass (Police), The Joker, The Flying Graysons, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr.

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, Catwoman, James Gordon (Police), Harvey Dent (District Attorney), Muray Fineman (Coroner), Julie Madison, Norman Madison

– Story: The overarching plot revolves around Bruce becoming romantically involved with Julie Madison. Her father Norman gets in trouble with the mafia, Batman deals with the Mafia, and Norman mistakenly becomes incredibly paranoid about reprisals from the Batman.

In the first book, Hugo Strange and his sidekick Sanjay do some Breaking Bad-reminiscent chemistry experiments trying to create super soldier serum. They experiment on human subjects and create monsterous, hulking, animalistic henchmen. Its all a bit Resident Evil. They pay for these experiments with money borrowed from the mafia, and this leads to fighting between the two factions when debts begin mounting.

Batman stops Strange’s monsters from murdering all of the mafia men in a final confrontation, but strongarms the Mafia into leaving Norman alone while he’s at it.

Norman, now a complete paranoid wreck tries to pay off a mafia debt that Batman intimidated them into clearing. Norman spirals down into greater and greater paranoia, straining his relationship with his daughter, and eventually decides to try and murder Sal Maroni.

In the second book, a vampire-like new villain called The Mad Monk and his sidekick Dala show up, recruit young women for Blood Sacrifice rituals for their cult, The Brotherhood. Julie Madison becomes recruited while emotionally vulnerable over her issues with her dad, and Batman has to save her.

The story ends with a set up for The Man Who Laughs.

There’s a lot more to it than that, but I don’t want to throw out too many spoilers.

– Tone: The tone is really good. Its adult and entertaining. There’s plenty of action and that sort of thing, plenty of punches to the neck and daring escapes, but there’s also an interesting psychological aspect to it, and what’s more, there’s plenty of Batman’s intimidation, detective work and exploring. It has a real good balance between these and doesn’t rely too heavily on any one. The titular villains in each book are what you might call a little cartoony, which adds to the fun, but they are handled in a tasteful way, so it’s a nice segue between the more realistic and the more fantasy elements of Batman (think of it like how the Arkham games handled Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy).

In fact, in general, I think this has that sort of Arkham style to it. They don’t apologize for the fantasy, but they deliver it in a satisfying and tasteful way. Its something I can get behind. I have to admit that in general I’d rather stories have no magic, deamons or superpowers in them. For some reason I’m one of those people who want Batman to exist in the real world. Stuff like this, it’s a great gateway drug for the likes of me. Sure, there are Monster Men and Giant Wolves, but really it’s the story of proud Norman Madison’s principals being compromised and the damaging effects that dealing with criminals can have on just men. It’s the story of Julie Madison not being able to cope with her father’s declining mental health.

Its also the story of Batman punching a vampire in the fucking face!

Good balance. Vampires and Monsters on one hand, emotional conflict and Mafia usery on the other.

I always seem to enjoy stories that have the Mafia in them. Maroni and Falconi are good characters, or at least, are good tools for quality story writing. I don’t remember ever hearing about them when I was a kid. They just flew right over my head if they were in the Burton/Shumaker films or the cartoon. When I first saw Batman Begins I thought it was really weird that they used the Mafia in the story instead of a Batman villain like the Penguin (little did I know). Now; having read things like Year One and The Long Halloween, I think the Mafia characters are really entertaining. I’d like to read more with them in it. Its pretty cool seeing how Gotham was more or less realistic, before Batman showed up being all weird, and weird criminals started coming out in response.

– Art: I’ve said it before, but I think this is the best looking Batman story (if you think of the two books as one big story) that I’ve seen so far. It looks as if its been painted rather than drawn. It has a very distinct and enjoyable art style. Everything from character design, to the little background details, to the painting-look is top notch and it really is very enjoyable just to look at. It makes me want to pick up everything Matt Wagner has ever done (Trinity and Faces are very high on my wishlist as you can imagine! Hell, I even want to try his Grendel crossover and I’ve never even heard of Grendel the comic book character. All I know is the Marillion song with the brilliant guitar solo).

– Overall: I think this is one of the better, if not one of the best, Batman stories that I’ve gotten my hands on to date, and I’d highly recommend that you pick up a copy (get both, it really is worth it). If you like the sound of something that is set in Year One, that is intelligently and tastefully written – but that still feels like a comic book, that references other books but which works completely as a standalone tale, that looks great, is paced well and that tells a fresh story you haven’t read a million times already, this is absolutely worth checking out.

The bottom line is, its just plain interesting. Its an interesting story… and its good. Very, very good. There’s not one thing I could fault it on. Definitely one of my favourites.

Its so good, just writing this has made me want to sit down and read them both all over again, preferably in one sitting. I think I might do that if I have the time. A dangerous side-effect of having thought too much about these books again though, is now I’m really dying to pick up the other Wagner Batman titles and am now at risk of breaking my no-purchases challenge. Woops. Extra unwanted temptation. Oh well; I guess I’ll just have to take the edge off by finally starting into Arkham Origins now that I’ in a position to do so. That, and y’know, Blog s’more about Batman.

Until next time, old chum.