Comic Book Review – Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52 – 2014)

batman death of family

I’ve read some good Joker stories over the years, most notably ‘The Killing Joke’ one-shot by Alan Moore. This arc compares very favorably to that. After DC (and Marvel) rebooted most of their lines in 2011, Scott Snyder took over Batman. The first two volumes saw Batman battle a mysterious ancient cult for the control of Gotham.

This volume sees the return of the Joker. After an inexplicable absence of a year the Joker makes a dramatic return to a life of mayhem and chaos. He raids the GCPD to steal his face from an icebox and from there lures Batman into an elaborate trap by systematically and slowly reenacting his famous crimes from the past. Joker’s tactics and Batman’s response puts a severe strain on Batman’s relationship with his extended ‘family’, hence the title.

Snyder’s Batman series is dark, constrained and tense. He likes to put the Dark Knight in the most perilous situations to test his mettle and his morals. Capullo’s art is a good complement to this style. He keeps the panels crowded and cluttered and induces a real sense of claustrophobia and fear. Snyder has written the Joker just right, and in some parts he is incredibly creepy. The extent and scope of his crimes (which provides an unwanted glimpse into his twisted psyche) is downright terrifying. The conclusion is sort of bittersweet and a bit ambiguous. Readers will be left to wonder if the Joker really succeeded in his goals or not.

Years from now we will look back at this arc as one of the more memorable Batman stories. This deserves to be in the pantheon of great comic book arcs.

 

5 out of 5 stars

…………………………………….

 

 

Advertisements

Comic Book Review – Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls (The New 52 – 2013)

batman city of owls

It can be hard in monthly comics to come up with stories that truly feel original or that challenge a character as iconic as Batman in new ways, yet Snyder and Capullo manage to do just that. The story here which is a continuation from Volume One and examines not only Batman but also Bruce Wayne’s understanding of the city he though was his. Gotham and all its legends come to life in a way that is truly immersive. Despite being the best detective in the world, Batman is confronted with a secret that he never thought possible yet was always present. A truly exceptional piece of story telling for Batman fans and non-Batman fans to enjoy.

3 out of 5 stars

…………………………..

 

 

 

Comic Book Review – Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52 – 2013)

81tS8abE-cL

This story sets up the “Night of the Owls” storyline covering all the Batman books. In this story, Batman finds himself facing a sinister new villain (later named “Talon”) who knows much about his history. I’ve been an avid reader of comics for years and I can honestly say this was the second story I read where I was pretty sure Batman was toast in it (“Knightfall” was the first). Trapped in an obstacle course in some unknown place, Batman is stalked by the Talon and a sinister group of crazies who know all about him. As the story continues we find that Gotham and the Wayne family had a history even Bruce was unaware of. While this is a good story, I have to admit the “Night of the Owls” that I’ve seen so far is actually better simply because there isn’t one Talon after him, now it’s dozens of them. If one almost killed him, how can he defeat them all? Grab this one and enjoy this “reboot” from the new 52 that actually works.

 

5 out of 5 stars

……………….

Batman vs. Robin (2015) – Movie Review

batman vs robin

More a mash-up of two of the most highly regarded Batman stories in the last 20 years than its title implies, “Batman vs. Robin” stands alongside the better efforts of Warner Bros. / DC’s direct-to-video animated endeavors.

While I’d argue that Grant Morrison’s “Batman vs. Robin” and Scott Snyder’s “Court of Owls” comic stories warrant their own movies, screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis (one of the creators behind the brilliant ‘Justice League International’ comics during the late 80s) does a commendable job tying those stories into a cohesive story.

Bruce Wayne/Batman (Jason O’Mara) is still getting used to the newest addition to his Bat family — his recently discovered son Damian (Stuart Allan). Unlike his other young protégés (read: Robins), Damian was raised by The League of Assassins and his more violent tendencies frequently puts him at odd with Batman’s philosophy of ‘justice, not vengeance.’

The two also clash over Bruce’s reservations over introducing his newly found son, not even to his girlfriend Samantha (Grey Griffin). The combination of these factors gradually lead to Damian feeling trapped within the walls of Wayne Manor when not out on assignment. Batman and Robin’s bond is further tested by the arrival of Talon (Jeremy Sisto), a vigilante willing to go to greater extremes than Batman and wants Robin to be his new partner. As Robin considers the offer, Batman learns that a childhood legend of the clandestine Court of Owls and their assassins – the Talons – may be real and could be hatching a plot to eliminate him.

The film is steered by the assured hands of direct-to-video master helmer, Jay Olivia (“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1”, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2”, “Justice League: War”, “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox”) – who along with another crackerjack direct-to-video creator, Ethan Spaulding, is keeping the flag flying at full mast in the DC animated universe. As anyone who’s familiar with Olivia’s prior action/animated classics would expect, “Batman vs. Robin” skews a bit violent — get used to a lot of gratuitous blood sprays — but the man also knows how to stage fluid, easy-to-follow, and extremely realistic action scenes even with multiple combatants. Like the comics, the Talons prove an actual threat to Batman. Olivia even works in a newer Bat accessory in a pivotal fan-pleasing scene.

There are just a few minor problems that hold the movie back from being in the top tier of Warner Bros. / DC’s Home Entertainment productions. My biggest gripe is the shoddy treatment of Nightwing (Sean Maher), who is constantly made to look inferior to both Damian and the Owls in combat. Granted the film isn’t called Nightwing vs. Robin, but making the original Robin more competent would make everyone else look like elite fighters as opposed to Nightwing being the weak link. As a nice nod to Morrison’s storyline where Nightwing assumes the role of Batman and teams with Damian, DeMatties and Oliva give them a few scenes to play up on their relationship.

Additionally, DeMatties and Oliva initially set up a good mystery about the Court’s leader, but the payoff is a bit too Scooby Doo- esque as the evil top dog is the only other major character introduced. Talon’s character model is also too fashion-savvy to be in sync with Sisto’s outstanding voice work.

“Batman vs. Robin” is sure to entertain you regardless of whether you’re an old-school Batman follower, an ardent fan who’s up-to-date with all the latest development in the caped crusader’s comic arcs, a causal follower of a few highly interesting comic issues (more of the graphic novel kind), just someone who’s kept abreast with Batman’s celluloid renditions, or just a thrill-seeking fan of action movies.

 

7 out of 10 stars

…………………………………

Son of Batman (2014) – Movie Review

son of batman

Even though I generally like the work from writer Grant Morrison, I have to admit I wasn’t left very satisfied by the graphic novel Son of Batman, and that’s why I started watching the eponymous animated film with low expectations. However, to my surprise, Joe R. Lansdales’s screenplay tuned the narrative, softened the characters a bit (for example, Damian isn’t an insufferable brat in here) and made the family dynamic between Batman, Damian and Alfred realistic and likable, without losing the dysfunction. The plot is simplified a bit in the movie, but, let’s accept it: the point of the film is seeing Batman facing the difficult paternal role for the first time. And in that aspect, Son of Batman works perfectly. Batman assumes the responsibility of having a son who was trained from the cradle to inherit the criminal empire from his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul. That’s a complicated situation, because the kid has a killer instinct which goes against Batman’s strict code, and his impulsive decisions constantly put his mother Talia (not to mention Batman himself) in danger. Alfred participates in funny moments when he’s trying to grapple with the new resident of the Wayne Mansion; and Nightwing (alias Dick Grayson, the first Robin) fulfills the function of an older brother, tolerant but disposed to give the capricious child a good lesson when it must be done. And well, in order not to reveal every small detail, I will say that the film keeps an excellent balance between the action and the mentioned family dynamic, without losing the suspense and danger sensation brought by the unpredictable Damian. As for the voice work, Jason O’Mara and Stuart Allan make a perfect work as Batman and Damian, respectively, but the rest of the cast feels rigid and artificial. It’s strange the fact that a solid actor, such as Xander Berkeley (for example), sounds incredibly false, ca-re-fu-lly e-nun-cia-ting every syllable, like a rookie broadcaster. Nevertheless, O’Mara’s and Allan’s voice work, the solid screenplay and Ethan Spaulding’s agile direction made me enjoy this film very much despite that complaint. And I found the animation of a better quality than the one from other DC Comics movies; the choreography of the action scenes is clear and fluid, and the design of the characters keeps a good equilibrium between realism and stylization. So, Son of Batman ended up being a very pleasant surprise, taking into consideration the fact that I didn’t like the original comic very much; it doesn’t have the epic scale from Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths or Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, but in this case, I think it was a good decision to keep everything on a more real level, because that puts the emphasis on the chemistry between the characters and the transformation of roles which implies Damian’s arrival. Speaking of which, Son of Batman isn’t part of “The New 52” continuity, like the previous film of the animated universe (Justice League: War) was. Apparently, Warner Animation is altering continuities, something which might confuse the casual spectators who were expecting more consistency between movie and movie. But, considering the fact that the main audience are comic readers, I suppose that that won’t be a major problem. And besides, it means that there’s still the chance of adapting some of the best Batman stories which don’t fit into the current continuity, such as The Long Halloween and Knightfall.

 

8 out of 10 stars

……………………………………..