BatWatch Review: Batman Black and White #2

Just doing a super short review to get caught up on comic reviews.  

Batman Black and White #2 is a significant step down from the previous issue. It's not bad as a whole, but it is a long way from the normal pedigree of this series.  

Man-Bat Out of Hell (7/10) is a well illustrated story, through the art does not really stand out from the crowd. As for the plot, it's fair, but it seems as if it's overly concerned with condoning something as really bad that everybody already acknowledges as really bad. The ending kind of comes as a slap in the face to anybody expecting this to be a Batman story featuring the normal values of Batman.

Into the Circle (9/10) is the only exceptional piece in this issue. The art is very distinct and very cool, and the story is something surprising that I've never seen done with Batman.  

A Place in Between (7/10) is beautifully illustrated with an intriguing premise where Batman is trapped between life and death, but this intriguing premise barely gets time to enjoy itself before the story wraps up in the most predictable way imaginable.

Winter's End (4/10) is the only truly bad story in the bunch. The illustrations make Batman look bizarre, but that's not the problem. The issue is that the illustrations make the action incomprehensible. The story is no better with the main plot coming to a conclusion that is silly even by comic book standards. The only  somewhat redeeming point is Bruce's tender memories of a moment with his father which doesn't really fit in with the rest of the issue.

Silent Knight, Unholy Night (7/10)

This is the story made up to look like an old silent film. It features drop dead gorgeous art, but the story is...stupid.  

Conclusion 7/10

If you want a few different takes on Batman and some good art, then this will do you, but it's not a particularly good issue.

BatWatch Review: Arkham War #1 - Batman Death March

I'm just doing a super short review since I'm so far behind.

Arkham War certainly moves faster than its big brother, Forever Evil. In the first issue, we already have the status quo established, a good bit of action and the first moves of the war taking place. Many have complained that this series is just a retread of stories we've seen already, and this is largely true. The idea of villains dividing up Gotham and controlling it as their own personal kingdoms was very well done in No Man's Land, and there certainly is a similar feel here. However, we have the absence of the Bat this time and more of an us vs. them structure. Most importantly, the series does not need to be completely original to be fun. 

So far, Arkham War has made absolutely no attempt to be anything more than a fun mash up of Batman villains going head to head, and that is both its triumph and its failing because it delivers fun action without anything deeper worth considering. If you just want to see Blackgate vs. Arkham, then this will satisfy, but it you want something more character based, you should probably pass unless future issues offer something more meaningful. 

Conclusion 8/10

 

BatWatch Review: Forever Evil #2

Since I'm so far behind, I'm just doing a super quick review for Forever Evil #2.

Forever Evil is a series infected with the same disease as a bunch of other huge crossovers. Specifically, it has too many irons in the fire. What is written here is great and the art is solid, but it doesn't feel like much is happening because it has to focus on too many different story lines at once. Two issues in to a seven issue arc and we're still trying to figure out who all the major players are in this piece. The only action throughout the whole story is a brief fight with the Teen Titans, but it's hard to even tell exactly what happens in this scene. Part of this could be Johnny Quick messing them up before they can lay a hand on him, but it doesn't make for the most engaging fight. Beyond this one fight, the issue is just a whole lot of prologue. Everything we learn iabout Lex and The Crime Syndicate is interesting, but now that we are a quarter of the way through this story, it's hard not to be disappointed that the series hasn't hit its stride.  

Conclusion 8/10

It's certainly worth reading if you are interested, but the series needs to focus in on Lex and show his story rather than give nods to all the various corners of the DC Universe. Let those who want to know the whole story pick up the spin off titles.

BatWatch Review: Son of Batman #1 - Next of Kin

Next of Kin

For months since this series was announced, I've been making the same warning. Sure, everybody wants to see Damian Wayne back in action, and sure, Andy Kubert is a tremendous artist, but he is a tremendous artist without any comic writing experience. Being able to make Damian look good does not mean you will be able to make a coherent plot or put the right words in characters' mouth. Now the moment of truth has arrived and we can finally pass judgment on Mr. Kubert's writing abilities.

Is Son of the Batman the triumphant return of Damian Wayne or is the Bat Brat best left buried? 

In this issue, Robin and Batman investigate a case that leads to an untimely end for Batman. 

Batman Is Dead! Long Live Batman!

We really haven't had a lot of information about this series, so I wasn't sure which direction Kubert would choose. I'm delighted to say the direction Kubert chose was both a smart choice and an unexpected one.

Let's just get the easy stuff out of the way by saying that the art looks amazing. It's possible Kubert's style might not be for everyone; I'll admit a few panels seemed a bit overly dramatic to me, but technically, it's excellent in level of detail, framing, pacing...it's all there, and I don't see anybody failing to enjoy the look of the book.  

Story wise, things were also very well done. Trying to decide how Damian Wayne would act half a decade into the future after having trained by Bruce's side for years and having gone through puberty must have been a challenge, but I buy this rendition of an older Damian.  

The story has some decisions that might rub some people the wrong way. Villains have a peculiar way of getting attention in this universe which might strike some as trivial, Ra's and Talia's scene in the comic seems mostly obligatory and designed only to give Damian's origin before taking a stand that could be argued as out of character for the duo and the last page of the issue is sure to throw everybody for a loop, but I think all of these choices are understandable. (Spoilers)  I think most of Batman's baddies would have blogs where they boast about their accomplishments if they could do so without giving away their location, and it's not hard to imagine that the villains have mastered a technique for thwarting tracking in the DCU especially a few years into the future. I do wish the scene with Ra's and Talia had done more than a simple origin retelling, but I understand the desire to make new readers comfortable. Ra's urging Damian to become the next Batman is a little odd, but you could either see him as a man who prizes legacy above rivalry or as simply hoping for a better foothold in the Batman empire. As far as Bruce Wayne's return at the end, I could speculate on that for quite some time, but I'm more than willing to see what the next issue reveals.

The most annoying aspect of this issue is the way things are partially obscured. At Bruce's funeral, we see several figures, yet we can't quite make out who is still alive and friendly with Bats at the time of his death. (beyond Barbara who is obvious because of the wheelchair) Damian gets into several battles over the course of the issue, but we only see about a panel per fight which makes me feel a little cheated. Perhaps most frustratingly, this issue that was supposed to show us how Damian became Batman 666 only moves the ball slightly down the field making me wonder if we will even get a chance to see the far flung future, but when I think about it, all my biggest complaints are not faults with the issue itself but a wish that Kubert were given more room to tell this story and expand the universe, and that's more of an endorsement than a complaint. 

Conclusion 9/10

This story surprised me with its high quality and teasing intrigue. It has a few  minor rough spots, but overall, it's an entertaining read, and I can't wait for next month.


BatWatch Review: Batman Black and White #1 - Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

I'm going to skip my typical introductions and long form review just because there are so many Bat titles I must review tonight. I'm just going to pick out some key points and run with them.

As a Whole

It's a fun collection if not quite as amazing as I had hoped from the preview. Still, you get a wide range of stories, and each one brings something worthwhile even if some deliver considerably more than others. The art is universally good though I did find Chris Samnee's (former artist of Daredevil and current artist of Batman Black and White and Daredevil) in the last story to be less engaging than the other artists, but Samnee's work was still solid and the others are excellent.  

Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

This is a total classic throwback to the original World's Finest volume featuring Batman, Robin (Grayson) and Superman working together in a dated but fun tale. It's not deep in any way, and you can probably nitpick it on a few plot details if you are really concerned. For instance, what the crap did Clark do when he told Dick to turn away? However, it's not really designed to be a literary masterpiece but rather a tribute to a bygone age, and as a tribute, it works quite well.

Batman Zombie

Easily the worst story of the issue, it's flat out blatant in its political messaging. I thought this was going to be a fun issue with a Batman zombie, but the zombie angle is nothing more than a prop for a message, and the issue is the opposite of fun throughout. At first, I thought I might be biased because I disagreed with some of the particular messages, (we don't provide enough welfare for people? Really? Shut up) but the story moved to other topics with which I agree with the writer's perspective, and yet I still wanted it to stop because it's so completely transparent and so not what I want from a superhero story.

However, I don't completely poop on the story because it took a turn at the end which delivered an inspiring message and justified the random Batman zombie, but it's still a story which was mostly unpleasant and was clearly written as an excuse to proselytize. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.   

Justice Is Served

Justice Is Served is a Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy story, and it's all you could want. It has the perfect chemistry between these two lovely ladies. This issue is a bit more cartoonish a world than what we see in the comics, but with a few tweaks, it could be something from Gotham City Sirens. It was a ton of fun.

Driven

Driven was the dark horse that stole my heart in this issue. I didn't really expect much from the setup, but as the story moved on, I began to see where the writer was taking Bruce, and the last page actually had me laughing more than Harley and Ivy even though I really enjoyed that story as well.  

Head Games

Probably the least original story in the bunch, Head Games is simply a classic case of Batman tracking down a bad guy. It solid throughout and it gets a little clever at the end with some mild surprises, but the scenario that plays out feels like something we've seen piecemeal in other places. Still, it's not bad.  

Conclusion 8/10

If you are interested in this series, I'd definitely suggest checking it out, but don't expect every story to be golden.  

Recent Reviews

Forever Evil #1 - Nightfall

Batman Black and White #1 - Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

Batman #23.1 - Joker 

Detective Comics 23.1 - Poison Ivy  

Batman and Robin #23.1 - Two-Face 

The Dark Knight #23.1 - The Ventriloquist

 

 

BatWatch Review: Forever Evil #1 - Nightfall

Nightfall

Based on the fact that I have way more reviewing to do than I have time, I'm going to cut corners on these reviews and basically skip the intro. Suffice to say that Forever Evil is DC's big event where Lex Luthor leads villains in opposition to the regime of The Crime Syndicate, and this will presumably be shaping the DC Universe for the next year, so it's a big deal to put it lightly.

I'm going to try to hit this hard and quick because I simply do not have time to discuss everything worth discussing, so let me yank out a few highlights of importance.

The Fate of Nightwing (Spoilers)

I was really hoping that people would be talking about this openly in headlines, but it seems people are still keeping it in Spoiler mode, so I'll give people a fair chance to turn away. Everybody gone who is getting gone? 

Nightwing's identity is revealed by Superwoman. There was a rumor circulating that this would happen, but I'm not sure if I brought it to BatWatch since it was not terribly widespread and was backed up by the always trustworthy "Anonymous." However, Anon certainly got it right this time.  

The big question is how this will effect Nightwing, Batman and the rest of the Bat Clan, but truth be told, I'm finding it difficult to take seriously due to the handling of Spider-Man in Civil War. It's hard to give a crap about this revelation when we know there is always the chance that the conflict could be eliminated by any one of a thousand possible covers.

Still, it does mean a complete upset of Dick Grayson's life in the immediate future. Even if they find a way to cover it, the path is still sketchy unless they do a complete cop out and play a magic angle as they did with Spider-Man. I believe the most reasonable non-mystical recovery of a secret identity I ever saw was in Daredevil where Matt had to don a new costume and have other heroes operate in his costume so that there were multiple Daredevil sightings at times that it clearly could not be Matt Murdock, and even so, nobody was completely convinced that Matt and DD were not one in the same. The same might be done with Grayson, but it makes for a long hard road which would doubtlessly put a crimp in Dick's relaxed style. This also reminds me of the taunt from creators during Death of the Family which was something along the lines of "Dick Grayson doesn't have to be Nightwing, does he?" Could this be what they meant? 

As far as the rest of the Family, it's not as dire a revelation as it might at first appear. Yes, it should bring more attention to Bruce, but really, it's already clear that Bruce has been funding Batman for years due to Batman, Incorporated. Somebody should have already made those connections, but if they already failed to put it together, it's not hard to imagine that Bruce's helper, who in the DCNU was never actually Bruce's ward or son, would be one of the first recruits for Batman, Incorporated.

To put it succinctly, this revelation should be a huge deal for the Bat Family, but due to comics being nefarious in their ability to find loopholes and take back the most drastic of actions and due to the preexisting narrative hole that nobody has figured out the connection between the Wayne household and Batman despite ample evidence, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine this crisis being swept under the rug. The biggest impact I see will be on Nightwing's supporting cast in the immediate future.

The Story Itself

As for the story itself, it's entertaining but its not winning any prizes thus far. We do get a glimpse inside Lex's head which is fun, but this is just the first chapter. We also learn more about The Crime Syndicate who seem to be the opposite of the Justice League in more ways than just their character, but this still feels largely like a setup issue, and after all the hype and the two months of Trinity War, it seems like there should be a little more of a payoff.

I also felt David Finch's (former artist for Top Cow's Ascension and The Dark Knight and current artist for Forever Evil and Top Cow's Aphrodite IX) work, though amazing in parts, was inconsistent. It never looked bad, but there were some panels distinctly lacking detail especially on characters not in the forefront. I can't help but think that one particular two page spread which is awesome in the amount of detail it gives a group of villains must have taken a tremendous amount of time, and I wonder if it perhaps took time away from some of the less detailed pages.

The role of the Arkham escapees is still eluding me. (Spoilers) They all seem to have signed on to The Secret Society in this issue, so are they going to be warring against Bane's anti-Syndicate forces because it appeared that Bane was also going to work for the Society? I can't put it together.

Conclusion 7/10

I'm really, really, really torn on this one, and I hate to give a lackluster score to the issue because I enjoyed it, but I can't help but feel I just watched the first ten minutes of a movie, the title screen just came up, and now I'm supposed to review the whole movie. This issue is all setup, and it has neither blown me away nor disappointed me. It just...is at this point. They've built a solid foundation and I'm ready to be impressed by what DC's has designed, but I'm not yet sold. I expect I can get a better feel for the arc's direction and better gauge the arc's quality by the end of the next issue, but until then if you are interested, you may as well pick up Forever Evil because this series is clearly going to shake things up for many moons to come. 

Recent Reviews

Forever Evil #1 - Nightfall

Batman Black and White #1 - Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

Batman #23.1 - Joker 

Detective Comics 23.1 - Poison Ivy  

Batman and Robin #23.1 - Two-Face 

The Dark Knight #23.1 - The Ventriloquist

 

 

BatWatch Review: Man of Steel

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I watched Man of Steel last night, and I thought I would share my thoughts. I was busy spending time with my Dad and my girlfriend's Dad yesterday, so I didn't have a chance to do anything else on BatWatch, but since I have this on my mind and I'm guessing a lot of you still have not seen it, I thought this might be interesting to you.

I suspect this will be long, (unless I crash) so I'm going to give you the summary up front. If you just want a fun action movie and you are not too picky, then this is a must watch, but I've got some bad news if you are a stickler for plot points, tidy conflict resolution or the ideal of Superman. If you are willing to pay ticket price to see a pretty good Superman movie, then you will still want to see this in theaters because the visuals are worth it, but you might want to lower your expectations a bit.

My major complaints for the film all came in the last third of the movie, so I'll save that for the Spoiler section. First, I'll just dive into lots of little details worth discussion until I run out or I crash.

The Great Points

There is a lot here worthy of major praise. The action scenes are exactly what you would hope for from a Zack Snyder movie. I can't imagine the quality of the action really disappointing anyone.

There are no bad actors in the bunch though there is one performance that was not up to the level of the rest of the cast that I will rip later, but even then, it's not truly bad just not as good. Every other performance was very good and some of them were excellent.

The movie is dense. If it was not for the last act, I would say you definitely get your moneys wroth because this film is packed full of entertainment from the first scene to the last. If you are not watching an epic battle or heroic feat, then you're seeing some truly fascinating moments that simultaneously build characters and move the plot. The movie is about two and a half hours long, and though I do not agree with what happened in every scene, there was not a moment of filler.

Superman

Henry Cavill has given the best portrayal of Superman, bar none. I cannot think of anybody who has come close to giving the character as much depth in terms of acting especially with so little space to hone his craft. The dude from Superman Returns was laughably flat. The guy in Lois and Clark was lovable enough and had his charms, but he never gave much in the way of gripping emotional performances beyond making gooey eyes at Lois. Smallville Superman was...well, he was pretty much your standard TV level actor who just happened to land a role that lasted him a long time. He's not bad; he's just not overly good. Christopher Reeve did bring Superman to life, and he deserves major props for that, but though he did convey emotional weight at times, the script in his movies never gave opportunities for real depth. (except for when he gave up his powers for Lois, but again, mostly smoldering and woe. Nothing super powerful)

Cavill does an awful lot with not much. His dialogue is good. When he talks to authorities, or anyone for that matter, it has the perfect blend of respect, directness and control. When he speaks, you listen because you know what he means what he says and what he says is important. However, it's really the moments when he is not talking that you simply feel his deep longing to do good. He shows righteous anger when needed and he shows real heartbreak when appropriate. Cavill's Supes is a lonelier, darker character than previous installments, but that is a product of the script, not the actor, and the innate goodness that Cavill projects along with the humility and integrity more than redeems the darker portrayal.

Lois Lane

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Amy Adams does Lois a solid. It's not a performance that I believe will raise the bar for the character's portrayal, but what's there is good. Adams nails the spunk of the character especially in terms of her intelligence and risky behavior. She manages to make Lois intelligent and formidable without making her lose her femininity as I would argue was accomplished with whoever played opposite Christopher Reeves. (It's much too late for me to look all this up. I'm not going to spell check either) I would also say that the Lois from Returns, though not exactly masculine, did have that feel of being a bit jaded, and Lois does not need to be jaded in my view. However, Lois in the comics is much more confrontational and aggressive than Amy Adams version of the character, so that might annoy some.

General Zod

Opinions on Zod seem to be very strong in the praise department from the majority, but I wasn't overly impressed. He's not bad, but he does not have much in the way of depth. In the last fifteen minutes of the movie, you see a little bit of what makes him tick, but between his introduction as a character and a few lines at the end of the movie, he is nothing more than a bad guy. I mean, really, that's it. He's the typical, “I'm going to kill you if you don't do as I say,” bad guy with very few exceptions, and the actor does a fine job with that, but it's not really a standout performance. He's more Nolan's Scarecrow than he is Nolan's Joker. Fine, but with a very limited scope.

Perry White

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Lawrence Fishburn does a good job as Perry White. I know some are sticklers on character looking just like they do in the comics, but the pallet swap for Perry White does not bother me because it does not have anything to do with who the character actually is. Fishburn gave a good portrayal of Perry, and the heart of the character stayed true. At first, I thought he seemed  a bit to passive, but before the movie is over, we see his passion shine through. I was a little disappointed that he never yelled at anybody, but still, he had the right basic attitude. He's not really a big part of the movie though they did enough with him to establish him as a more important part of the mythos for the next movie.

Jenny Olsen

If you were upset to hear that Jimmy had a very specialized procedure and became Jenny, (a joke. Not actually what happened in the film) don't sweat about it because Jenny is barely present and serves as nothing more than a space holder and damsel in distress. In fact, we do not even discover whether or not there is a Jimmy or if Jenny is even a photographer. Honestly, she seemed like a waste.

Jor-El (Super-Daddy)

That guy whose name I should really know did a great job with Jor-El. Granted, I don't know enough about the comics to really compare, but he seemed like a real, intelligent and loving father. Also, (Spoilers) they manage to find a way for Jor-El to continue playing a role in the movie past the introduction, and I think this worked really well. It was great to see Clark interact with his father.

That Kryptonian Woman (Super-Mommy)

Kal-El's mother was the one performance that, though not truly bad, did not rise to the same level as the other actors and actresses. Specifically, she just didn't seem like she was nearly upset enough that she was going to die and she would never again see her son. She seemed more like she was upset to learn that one of her best friends that she knew in grade school but hadn't talked to for twenty years had died of cancer. It was about that level of being upset. I mean, I guess they were portraying her as being reserved and controlled, but...I just can't believe any mother in that situation would not be more emotional. I mean, there are a couple of tears, but that's it. Lame.

Pa Kent

That other guy whose name I should remember also did a pretty good job with Pa Kent, BUT, the script for Pa was...troublesome. Without giving too much away, Pa Kent was not the clear minded, salt of the earth guy he is in the comics who instilled unshakable moral values in his son. Rather, he taught his son to be selfish and paranoid. Also, as a salt of the Earth, Kansas farmer who has probably had to put down different farm animals, he should really be able to prioritize the life of a dog more appropriately. You will not understand this until you watch the movie, but I'm just going to let you know, that was pretty stupid. However, the performance itself was good, and though I definitely question some of the values Costner Kent taught Clark, it was clear it came from a place of love and concern for his son.

Ma Kent

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Ma Kent was portrayed appropriately, I believe. In my view, Ma Kent works best when bouncing off Pa, and we did not see as much of that as I would have liked, but she still did a good job. She felt like a good, salt of the Earth person like Clark's father should have been. I think she would have done a better job than Pa with helping Clark figure out the little things in life like when to save kids from drowning and what to do when a tornado comes.

The Military

I just mentioned the other day in my review of Batwing that it annoys me when military and law enforcement personnel are portrayed as morons when it comes to facing metahumans. They are almost always nothing more than cannon fodder. This is something that Man of Steel thankfully gets right. Don't get me wrong, the military in Man of Steel is going up against Kryptonians and Kryptonian tech, and they get their butts handed to them. However, they do act intelligently and use their forces appropriately. Whereas the standard military actions in most superhero comics and movies pretty much consists of nothing more than continuing the exact same thing over and over again until they finally get frustrated enough to drop the nukes, the military in Man of Steel recognizes the strengths of their enemies and makes smart decisions to counter them as much as possible. Honestly, I found this immensely refreshing.

Emil Hamilton

I don't know if Professor Hamilton was announced to be in this movie and I just missed it or if this was a surprise, but if it is a surprise, it is a surprise revealed early on, so I think this is fair game to discuss. Emil Hamilton is in this movie and plays the part of a scientific expert working with the military. In the comics, Hamilton is also a scientific expert, but he's something of a mad scientist often toying with things which cause him to become a super villain for one reason or another. He was actually given a very significant role in this story, (at least for a relative no name character in a Superman movie that nearly skipped Perry White and Jimmy Olsen) and I wonder if he might be made a villain in the next movie.

Clarifying the Mysterious

There are a lot of plot points which could have used some clarification, and I do mean a lot. I don't think it's fair to call these plot holes because I can come up with justifications for them quite easily in most cases, but the lack of clarity is annoying and left lingering issues in my mind. Here are a few examples.

Why is there one mid level military officer who seems to be heading up every operation across country involving the Kryptonians?

Why does an escape pod exist if it burns up on reentry to atmosphere?

Just how powerful were those Kryptonian suits? Were the Kryptonians getting all their powers from them or were they also getting power from Earth's environment?

Was it Earth's sun that gave Kal-El power or the environment or both?

Why do things shake around Superman and occasionally levitate when he gets ready to fly?

I could probably come up with three dozen examples like this if I put my mind to it. Again, I can come up with solutions to all of them, but why leave so many questions dangling?

Do We Want a Dark Superman?

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I hate to be typical and say that this is a new, darker Superman or to make the next logical leap and ask if this is the influence of Christopher Nolan, but I'm afraid both these criticisms are fair and deserved. I'm all about making things in superhero movies feel like they could fit in the real world, but that does not equate to making everything vaguely depressing. In a Superman movie, you want to be uplifted, right? The symbol means hope? Well, I can't say I felt inspired or hopeful at the end of this movie. I was moderately entertained, but the whole movie had a dampened mood (along with a dampened color pallet) and the conclusion will not give you that “Up, up and Away,” “Truth, Justice and the American Way!” thrill, I'm sorry to say. It just will not.

I can only hope that the next movie will try to explore the lighter side of Superman.

Will Somebody Be Clark's Friend?

Closely related to the last point, I do not like that Superman grows up an outcast because I feel it takes away something essential to his character. How can he be an adopted son of Earth if he's never really felt part of Earth? This goes against itself, doesn't it? Why would he stand up for others if all he has ever seen from his peer group is hostility? I suppose it's possible or someone to become a hero without seeing much of human kindness, but it seems unlikely. Clark is a social animal. How did he develop those social skills without a peer group? This is one way in which they try to make Superman like Batman, and they should not have let it alone.

The City of Tomorrow

Metropolis doesn't really exist in this movie, and that was a darn shame. You know how the Nolan movies made Gotham a real place and it's own character? That's not at all what we have here. Metropolis does not feel like it has any personality. I don't even remember it being named. Very little of the story takes place there. We never really see Clark as a reporter. We never see Clark interact with the staff or do any investigative work of the newspaper variety. I'm somewhat reluctant to condemn them for that because this movie did so much well and in many ways set the stage for that moment, but it feels like at the bare minimum, viewers should have had a feel for what Metropolis is, and in reality, it was nothing more than a backdrop for a fight with Zod and a treat to the Earth.

(Spoilers Until Conclusion)

The Suit

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Superman's suit has always had a complex reason for existing. Whether it's a reminder of Clark's home world that Ma Kent made for Clark from his baby blanket or a suit of Kryptonian battle armor representing the colors and crest of the house of El, it has meaning. Well, the crest might mean hope in Man of Steel, but the rest of the suit is pretty meaningless. Jor-El just shows it to him, and that's it. No, “This is the color of royalty on Krypton,” or, “This was the uniorm of Krypton's greatest warrior,” or “This will make you look cool as you fly cause of the cape and crap.” None of that. It was just, “I'm going to show you this suit as I talk about other things.” As far as we know, this was  museum to Krypton's greatest fashion disasters. I mean, what the heck? Couldn't we get some justification for the suit?

Any criticisms up until this point were mostly petty. These next three are the things that really damaged the movie in my eyes.

The Whatchamacallit Is Where?

Zod was trying to find this...thing. It's late, my brain if failing me, so I'll just call it the key until I remember it. The key had the genetic information of all the Kryptonians that were ever scheduled to be born. Since they were all genetically engineered, they were all scripted. Anyway, Zod can't find the codes until it is eventually discovered that Super-Daddy stored all these coes into Bruce's cells. Genius, right?

No. This makes no freaking sense.

Now I'm not a biological expert by any means, so prove me wrong if you actually know what you are talking about, but my analysis deems this 100% bullcrap.

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We know DNA holds the keys to everything our body is, right? It's a very complex code that makes us who we are. To alter cells in a long term way, wouldn't you have to mess with that DNA? I can actually buy into the idea that you might be able to add a little information into a DNA strand. I don't actually know what I'm talking about, but I could buy into the idea that you could put a little bit of extra information in the DNA which would send people that know how to analyze DNA a message yet somehow tell the DNA that this information was not to be used for running the actual body. That almost seems plausible to me. However, the DNA of every Kryptonian would logically have to be a lot of excess information. It would make the DNA, likely, millions or billions of times longer than it already is. Even you could program all this DNA as say dead information not be used for the body's programing, it seems like this massively long DNA would have to cause problems, right? However, all of this speculation is completely meaningless anyway because Clark was natural born and Daddy never had the chance to change his DNA unless you are saying this can be done after birth which just adds another layer of questions.

If you could somehow bypass the DNA and store information directly in the cells, I still do not know what this actually means. Did Jor-El scratch out the code on the individual cell walls? Is there some sort of computer style brain in cells capable of storing this information? Don't cells lack any sort of processing center? Wouldn't Clark's original cells have long since died to be replaced with new unaltered cells?

Also, if all the information is stored in any one of Clark's cells, wouldn't Zod just need to make Clark bleed or shed the tiniest amount of skin to win the day?

Stupid!

Blam! Pow! Crack! Roll Credits!

A lot of people claimed that the final fight scene was too long, and yeah, maybe a tad, but I did not mind. The problem I have is that after this twenty to thirty minute ending set of action sequences, things end surprisingly abruptly. It's over in a flash, and I'm not talking about Barry. One minute, everything is going horribly and the next second it's all over. I'm not sure I would be satisfied with a three minute fight ending that abruptly. A twenty minute fight that is the crescendo of the movie definitely needs more of a cool off period.

Don't get me wrong, there is another five to ten minutes or so of resolution after this, but the resolution is all in different scenes and fails to deal with the physical or emotional cost of the battle. Can we see more than fifteen seconds of the aftermath of all that you have wrought especially when it is so weighty?

The Kill

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Let me be clear, I have no problem with lethal force. If you break into my house and say as you are breaking into my house, “I'm only hear to steal a feather pillow,” I am going to shoot you repeatedly until you never move again because I'm not taking the chance that you mean me no physical harm, and also, I have a right to protect my stuff. In fact if the law allowed and you stole my feather pillow I was carrying while walking down the street and ran away from me, I would still be okay with shooting you repeatedly because what's mine is mine and thieves are scum. Well, okay, that last part might be going a tad too far, but if the law allowed, I really would shoot you in the knee as you were running away with my pillow.

The reason I bring this up is to emphasize the point that I have no problem with killing when it comes to protecting innocent lives or the property of innocent people, but Superman does not kill. I repeat, Superman. Does. Not. Kill.

I was shocked when Superman broke General Zod's neck. I was so shocked that I felt sure that Zod would come back from the dead because maybe, I thought, sun charged Kryptonians cannot die in this universe. That makes more sense than making DC's paragon of the U.S. and turning him into a killer, but there is no resurrection chicanery; Zod really dies.

What?

Morally, I can think of few situations where a killing could be more justified. Zod would have destroyed the entire planet given the chance, but Superman is supposed to be about the American ideal and finding a way to uphold those ideals even in the worst of circumstances. He is the super man. Now in many ways, those ideals are universal, but there are some cultural differences from country to country, so I'm going to use the United States as a baseline because Superman is American and so am I, so I think I can speak somewhat for our nation's general values. As Americans, we generally do not have a problem with bad guys getting whats coming to them. I mean, just look at American action movies where guys live out their fantasy ideals. The bad guy always gets his due, and he often gets his due by taking a bullet to the face. The kind of hero who kills the bad guy usually pulls the trigger because he has no other choice. He or others will die unless the bad guy dies. If not that, then the hero is out for vengeance.

Superman is above vengeance. Yeah, we American might like toying with the idea, but I think the vast majority of us would say that, as tempting as it might be, vengeance is not the right way. If you have to kill to stop innocents from being hurt, we both understand and respect that, but most of us would probably say it would be best if criminals could face a court rather than die while committing their crimes. We have a justice system for a reason.

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Now it is true that Kal-El did not have any obvious way to keep innocents from being killed except for ending Zod, but the whole idea of Superman is that he can do things normal people can't do including finding solutions for what appears impossible. We've all seen this situation done time and time again in comics, and Superman will always find a way. Why not force Zod into a Kryptonian rebreather or throw him on to a different planet? See if the government can ind something solid enough to hold even a Kryptonian. Get him out the sunlight until he loses his powers and then imprison him some place without a window. Fix one of the spaceships and drop him off in the middle of nowhere. Gosh, all this is just coming to me as I write, and I'm sure I could go on, but the point is this, there were ways to stop Zod without killing him.

Instead of keeping true to the spirit of Clark Kent which would be an example for people, a model for people to aspire towards to be their highest selves, a hope for all of humanity, Superman becomes a dark and tragic figure who has to do what he despises to save humanity. Is it a bad story? No, but it is not Superman's story. Superman. Does. Not. Kill.

This really ticks me off. 

Conclusion 7/10

There's a lot great about this film, but man those last three things really knocked this down a lot. It would be a great movie if not for these last three issues, but at least for me, these hurt the experience in a major way.

Review: Li'l Gotham #7

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Saint Patrick's Day

I'm trying once more to get caught up on comic books. I think I've been behind on the digital comics for a month now to my shame. Well, it's time to fix that problem.

Li'l Gotham has been a fun ride, but it's been wearing a little thin. Mostly, it's just cutesy, feel good comic with a tiny bit of family friendly adventure, but it needs more than cuteness alone to stand up as a worthwhile product, and though the first couple of issues were balanced with clever comedy, it has occasionally slipped into relying on little more than its admittedly charming art style rather than telling a story that makes the heart glow. Last issue, for instance, told a story which could almost have fit into a serious comic book, and it did nothing to make me laugh. It almost seems like the book is having a bit of an identity crisis or that it shot its whole load in the first couple issues.

Does Li'l Gotham #7 prove that there is more to this series than chibi drawing of our most beloved characters, or is this one li'l series that needs to have a timeout.

In this issue, Batman has to deal with a series of bank robberies seemingly tied to Catwoman.

Bat Droppings

As is usual when I'm running behind, I'm going to do things Bat Dropping style to get caught up more quickly.

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1. The cover has a lot worth noting. This cover has been used for both St. Patrick's Day and Easter, and most of the villains whose mugshots are in the cover are dressed up with green of some sort. It's a very clever cover which also manages to fit well with the idea of this issue. Also, the cover has the cutest version of Mad Hatter I have ever seen (a million times cuter than that seen in The Dark Knight) in the lower right hand corner. Finally, we have a brief appearance of Lobo in the upper left hand corner holding a sign that says, “Not Poison Ivy.”

2. I actually quite enjoyed the fight scene between Bruce and Selina where Bruce basically ignores her attacks and just goes about his investigation.

3. As promised by the cover, Lobo does make a brief appearance. I guess Dustin Nguyen (former cover artist on Batgirl, artist on Detective Comics, penciler of Streets of Gotham and artist of Wildcats Version 3.0 and current writer and artist of Li'l Gotham and cover artist for Batman Beyond) is going to get around to introducing the entire DCNU to Li'l Gotham at some point.

4. I enjoyed Two-Face's, “Legit Biznez Licenz.”

5. I felt the voices of the characters were shining through quite clearly in this episode. Sometimes, writers bungle character by writing their dialogue slightly off, but I think the dialogue in this issue was just about perfect for the feel of Li'l Gotham.

Spoilers until Conclusion

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6. “No more pets, Damian.” If that line doesn't make you miss Damian, nothing will.

7. I miss Dick and Babs flirting with each other.

Conclusion 8/10

I have to admit, I have a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth from the last issue. It's not that last issue was that bad, but it was mediocre, and that has made me want to look at this issue with fresh eyes less willing to be blinded by the cuteness. Despite my cynicism, this is still a really good issue, and yes, it is really cute. Unlike last issue, there were actual jokes this time, and they actually landed. I do not see anybody busting a gut reading this issue, but if you can get through it without at least a couple of solid grins, you have a heart of stone. This issue does prove that Li'l Gotham has more to offer with a good story, great art, and a fanciful sense of humor.

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Review: Li'l Gotham #6

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Lunar New Year

I've let myself get badly behind on Dustin Nguyen's (former cover artist of Batman Beyond and Batgirl, artist on Detective Comics, penciler of Streets of Gotham and artist of Wildcats Version 3.0 and current writer and artist of Li'l Gotham) pet project, L'il Gotham. I think my hangup is that it is not announced in the regular DC solicits, and it does not come out every week, so I kind of forget about it, and then once I realize I missed one, its already old news, so I do not jump on it right way. Regardless, it's time to get caught up.

Li'l Gotham has been a joy so far. The cutesy style can get a bit tiresome at times. The original charm of the series has perhaps lost a little luster because it is no longer new or groundbreaking, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun. This issue apparently takes on...Lunar New Year? Who celebrates Lunar New Year? What the crap is Lunar New Year? I think they are just making up holidays now.

Despite the odd celebration, the question remains the same. Does Li'l Gotham #6 delight or disappoint?

In this issue, Damian prepares to train with Katana, and we learn some surprising tidbits from Alfred's past.

Alfred Is Awesome

We get to see a different side of Alfred is this issue as he essentially plays Kato to Batman's Green Hornet. The idea of Alfred going out on patrol with Bruce is an interesting one that I had never considered previously. I guess it is not completely far fetched depending on how old Alfred was at the time. I can see someone in their forties doing field work though it probably would not be recommended.

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Continuity Change

One of the more charming elements of Li'l Gotham is that it seems to be rooted in a chibi version of pre-Flashpoint DCU. After all, Cassandra is still there, Nightwing has his old blue costume, and I believe Babs was still in the wheelchair. However this issue, for the first time that I've noticed, definitively changes something by making Katana the same age as Damian. This...was an odd change. I guess it did serve the story, but it just made me feel like I am no longer looking at a cute version of the DCU, but rather a universe all its own. A minor concern to be sure, but still, it threw me.

Bat Droppings

1. The tone of Damian is odd in this issue. Many of his comments seem a bit too juvenile for him. Damian's humor comes from either snide remarks on in the innocence mingled with lethality. He is not a pun character, or at least he should not be.

2. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that the Lunar New Year is the New Year for all nations using a different time table based on lunar cycles.

Spoilers until End

3. Since this is a more serious issue, there really should be some justification for why Kobra is after the sword and why Ra's is protecting it, but none is given. Ra's seems completely unnecessary for the story. Rephrase, he is completely unnecessary.

4. If the older guys were so awesome, why did they let the kids handle the threat alone?

Conclusion 7/10

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I'm being a bit generous on this one. If you take away puns, there were almost no jokes in this issue, and the puns were not that good in the first place. On the serious side, this issue seems to try to tell a more serious tale, but it does not even seem to really flesh out the story it provides. To be completely honest, it's sloppy, but luckily, Nguyen's work is good enough to carry it to some degree, so if you have enjoyed the series so far, you should also get this one as long as you go in with moderate expectations. However, Li'l Gotham is going to get tired quickly if this is all it has to offer.

Review: DC Universe Presents #18 (Starfire)

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Without Honor or Humanity

This is the second to last issue of DC Universe Presents, and it focuses on none other than Red Hood and the Outlaws' best naked heroine, Starfire. Starfire is a bit of a conundrum to me. She is gentle with her teammates yet a merciless warrior in many cases, and still, she is willing to forgive the deepest betrayals from her sister. Early on, she was said to have memory troubles, but now she seems more aware, so what is the deal with that? Out of the three main characters in RHATO, I would say Kori is the least fleshed out, (with the most flesh out) so it seems like it will be a challenge to give her a solo story which really stands up.

To meet this challenge, we have writer Joe Keatinge (current writer of Image's Glory, Image's H*** Yeah!, Morbius: The Living Vampire, The Amazing Spider-Man, and DC Universe Presents) who wrote the hilarious Arsenal issue in last month's DC Universe Presents, so that inspires some confidence. Handling the pencils, we have an artist I have never encountered, Federico Dallocchio. (former artist for Arkham Unhinged and penciler for Wildstorm's Starcraft and current penciler for DC Universe Presents and artist for Insurgent) Do these two manage to deliver a Starfire story which deserves to be lifted up to the heavens or will this issue fill you with a burning rage for revenge?

In this issue, Starfire allows herself to be recaptured by her former slavers in order to lead other slaves to freedom.

Bat Droppings

1. Starfire is wearing clothes and looking presentable. This is awesome.

2. This issue uses a convoluted time line starting in the middle of the story, then jumping back to the beginning before abruptly lurching forward in increments for a couple pages to get readers caught up. It then proceeds to, periodically, jump to the past. I think the story would have worked better if it were in chronological order and designed to build instead of designed to jerk.

3. There is a joke which is mildly amusing about how a word certain creatures are using is untranslatable, but it is killed to be altogether annoying by popping up a half dozen times through the issue.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

4. If this issue has a message, it's rather muddled, but one thing that is clear is that Kori's pride gets her in trouble. Dasimm says the village thinks Starfire should go, but Starfire says that is a lie. However, the end of the story would indicate that it was probably a true statement.

5. Unless it is some kind of dueling ritual, it makes no sense that Dasimm did not run Kori through before she could stand.

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6. The betrayal was surprising, but again, I find myself unsure of what to make of it. More so than anything else, I just see the arrogance of Starfire by coming into the situation and establishing herself as liberator without really asking the people if they wanted to be liberated.

7. In the end, a character is revealed as having sought out Starfire. The character is identified on ComicVine as Fangfeng, the Killer Croc wannabe Arsenal saved in the last issue. If that is the case, I have no idea what is happening.

Conclusion 5/10

I really hate to give this issue such a low score. The art looks nice, and the dialogue is good. The setting for the story and the basic story itself were both very interesting and ripe with potential. However, the story is structured a bit messily in a way that might be trying to go for quirky but feels more like slipshod. More importantly, the theme of the issue is rather unclear. I'm still trying to puzzle out what, if anything, the story was meant to convey. As for good old fashioned, “Is is fun?” factor, I have to say no because it ends on a down note. If I felt like I learned something about the world or Starfire through this negativity, then maybe it would be okay, but other than seeing Kori as a bit out of touch, I did not learn anything. I'm tempted to say that die hard Starfire fans or RHATO fans will want to pick this up, but given the bummer ending, I do not think I can even say that much.

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DC Universe Presents #17

Roy's Night Out

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Well, this is now a week overdue, sadly. I've been trying to get to it for some time, but I've been unsuccessful until now. Due to the late date, I'll probably be more brief than usual. Obviously, I'm covering this issue of DC Universe Presents because it focuses on Arsenal who is famous from Teen Titans and is currently a member of the Outlaws. I'm pretty interested in seeing what happens when Arsenal meets once more with Killer Croc. In case anybody is out of the loop, Arsenal became an alcoholic for a time and took on Killer Croc in an attempt to commit suicide via super villain, but once Croc figured this out, he actually refused to kill Roy and encouraged him to clean himself up. It's an odd dynamic, but somehow, it seems in line with at least some portrayals of Killer Croc. Now, presumably, there will be a reckoning between these two for Croc promised not to show the same mercy to Roy if they met again. This issue is written by Joe Keatinge (former writer of Image's Glory and current writer of Image's H*** Yeah, Morbius the Living Vampire, The Amazing Spider-Man and a new volume of Glory) and the art is handled by comic newbie Ricken. (current artist of H*** Yeah and Glory) Is Arsenal a sharply written story with a nice point, or does it miss the mark entirely? (Oh yeah! Those are puns! I roll like that)

In this issue, Arsenal is captured by the Chinese Triad, but he makes a daring escape so that he can rescue his enemy in need, Killer Croc.

Fun, Fun Nonsense

In the spirit of cutting to the chase, this was a blast. It's kind of like what I keep hoping Nocenti's Catwoman will evolve into, a story that is just a fun adventure with no delusions of being anything profound. Were there better comics ton the market in the past two weeks? Sure, but there were a lot more that were much worse.

Keatinge understands who the DCNU Roy Harper is, and he runs with it and makes the whole story a blast. Nearly the entire issue is filled with Roy's sarcastic and self-defacing inner monologue, and its great because Roy has no illusions about himself or the world around him. He does not take himself or the situation to seriously, and he is constantly making jokes though at the risk of practicing some dime store psychology, I would say his flippant and comedic attitude comes from the same places as most comedians get their material, a very dark place. Roy and the other Outlaws for that matter could not be so flippant if they did not have at least some part of them which did not care whether they live or die.

However, none of that is really brought to bear in this issue. Instead, its pretty much all good times with lots of blood flying this way and that. There is also a little plot twist I did not see coming, so its not like this is a totally straightforward tale, but again, its not trying to be anything profound.

The only real problem I have with the issue is Roy's escape from his shackles. Roy takes a quarter and spits it at his handcuffs repeatedly causing them to crack until he can work himself free. That is total and complete bull crap. It's scene like this that make me wonder if writers have been living in some parallel dimension where the rules of reality are vastly different, or have guys like Keatinge never taken two pieces of metal and beaten them together just to see what happens?

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Real quick, I'm going to explain why this is stupid, and then I'll wrap up. First, things of small mass can make great impacts if they are going fast enough. For instance, a bullet can do great damage. However, the only way that works is if the small object is traveling extremely fast, but bullets travel at about six thousand miles an hour. (varies from bullet to bullet obviously. That's an M16 bullet according to the internet which knows all) Unless Roy has some magical mouth abilities previously unexplained, I don't think he's getting it up to speed. Also, when two objects meet, the weaker one gets more damage. I'm guessing handcuffs are probably made of sterner stuff than a coin.

You can also say that Roy's following rampage armed with just a toolbox is ridiculous, but that is a regular comic book level of ridiculous which requires ridiculously good skills but no more, and I'll buy that for the sake of a comic book, but laws of physics blinking off for a convenient escape? I don't think so.

Also, the art looks very good though Ricken is not as detailed as some, so it might not be for everybody.

Conclusion 9/10

The spirit of this book does not really demand a very serious attitude, so I can roll with one stupid scene. If you like Roy Harper in the Outlaws, then you will love this issue, and you should definitely buy it. If you do not care for the new Arsenal, then pass.

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The Dark Knight Returns Movie

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The Dark Knight Returns Movie

Part 2 of The Dark Knight Returns came out two weeks ago, but that was in the midst of my sick week, and at that point, I still had not even watched Part 1. It took me awhile to find and watch the movies, and then find a convenient time to type up some thoughts, but I think that time has finally arrived.

Before we get into it, I just want to let you know that this will not be an extremely detailed review (by my standards) and that I have not read the classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns in nearly a decade, so I will not be doing much comparison between the movie and the graphic novel. If you are interested in a more detailed comparison, then Andrew Asberry with Batman-News has already done an extremely in depth article that you will probably find more helpful. However, I figured you guys would be interested in getting my opinion as well. I'm not going to be looking at how this movie stands up to the comic but just how it stands as a solo project. Also, I'm not going to try and keep anything secret; I figure everybody reading this review has probably already read Frank Miller's magnum opus.

I'm just going to throw out my thoughts as they come to me, so bear with me if this is not a neatly structured as usual.

The Voice Acting

Voice acting plays a crucial role in any animated movie, and because of Batman the Animated Series, pretty much every Batman fan already has a good idea of how many of the central Batman characters should sound. That being said, Peter Weller, the guy who did the voice acting for Batman in this video, is definitely not Kevin Conroy, the lead actor of Batman TAS. Weller's only real notable role is for playing Robocop, and I could not help but feel his Batman voice was just a bit campy. He has this very full, booming voice which expresses each word succinctly, and it felt off to me. Also, his voice didn't really change between his Bruce Wayne and Batman personas which was a nice trick that Conroy added to the character.

Despite my reservations though, Weller won me over by the end. I still would not rank him as high as Conroy or even really in the same league, but after fifteen minutes or so, Batman's voice sounded just fine to me. The same thing was pretty much repeated with every other voice actor who played a previously voiced role. Commissioner Gordon, in my mind, should sound like Gary Oldman from the Nolan series, and the guy who plays him in this movie sounds completely different, but after a few minutes of listening to his voice, I was fine with it. After my initial shock, I found everything about the voices to be fine.

Animation

The animation was second to none as far as I am concerned. Again, its been about ten years since I've read the graphic novel, but from what I could tell, they copied the penciling style of the series slavishly. It looked fantastic, and I cannot think of a single scene which did not look beautiful.

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The fight scenes were quite the spectacle especially the final fight scene between Bruce and Clark. We've seen variations of this battle many times, but this the first time we have ever had the chance to see it outside comics, and I found myself wondering as the scene approached if it could possibly live up to expectation. Rest assured, the scene delivered in spades. I didn't time it, but just judging by gut, it felt like the fight between Batman and Superman lasted a good fifteen minutes, and every second of the battle was filled with tension. Even knowing that Bruce lives through the battle, it is hard not to feel some panic when Clark notices his heart arrhythmia, and as for the fight itself, it succeeds in making it appear plausible for Bruce to beat the Man of Steel.

The more small scale battles do not fare quite as well though they are still very good. However, I found myself running into some of the same problems with this movie as I do many times in comics and the TV show Arrow. I'm fine with somebody using stealthy ninja skills to take out gunmen, but when somebody is firing a fully auto submachine gun at a hero out in the open for five seconds or more, and the hero is managing to avoid all the bullets just by running quickly, my bullcrap meter goes off, and that happens several times in this movie with the worst example probably coming during Bruce's rooftop confrontation with the GCPD. At times in the movie, Bruce uses shadow and smoke to hide his movements, and these are among some of the coolest looking scenes in the movie. Despite some much grander moments in terms of scale, the image of Bruce being silhouetted by gunfire in a cloud of smoke sticks with me.

There are other hiccups in the action choreography. For instance, Bruce drives a Bat Tank into a conflict and fires explosive round after explosive round into a crowd of mutants, yet we are told later this version of Batman still refuses to kill? I don't think so. In the same conflict with the Mutant Leader, Batman throws some sort of sealing gel over the Leader's mouth which suffocates him to the point of passing out, yet despite the fact that Batman and Robin walk away without providing any kind of solvent for the sticky gel, the Leader is still alive later. There are a few other little issues like this which might not be an obvious problem in the comics where you can excuse apparent problems by filling in the details in a sensible manner, (perhaps Batman applied a solvent between panels. Maybe those explosions are not as close to the mutants as they appear) but when you look at them in animated form, it's difficult to find wiggle room in these apparent errors.

Still, as a whole, The Dark Knight Returns looked amazing, and the fight scenes will definitely scratch your itch for action.

Story

To oversimplify things a bit, Bruce Wayne retired from being Batman, but after seeing that the city truly needed him, he returned to wearing the cowl.

One of the things that impressed me with the story's presentation is that it did not smooth over Bruce's elderly body. In one of his first conflicts after taking back the cowl, Bruce is nearly killed several times due to his weakened state. He is still a devastating force, but he is old. He cannot move as quickly as he once did. As a viewer, you can certainly forget for brief periods that Bruce is not his former self, but the movie will always end up reminding you right up until the end that this is not our regular old, “healthy” Bruce Wayne. This Bruce has seen better days.

The threats Batman faces slowly scale up after he spreads his shadow over Gotham. At first, Bruce deals with street level thugs. Then, he faces Two-Face. Following this conflict, Batman faces the Mutant Leader, the GCPD, Joker, and finally Superman. It certainly gives the story an epic feeling, and it keeps thing action packed throughout.

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It did feel like the story broke a tad though when we reached the final level of the story. Don't get me wrong, it was amazing to see Bruce take on Superman, but the justification for the battle seemed a little thin. I think the back story is what is missing here. There was a forced cessation of superheroes ten years prior to this story, but I can't help but wonder why. Also, why did Superman decide to walk in lockstep with the government to the point of being willing to maim Bruce and Oliver? The insertion of President Reagan into the story was also odd in that he seemed like more of a smiling caricature of President Bush than anything I've ever seen of Reagan. I guess this was taken from the comics, but that also was odd since this is supposed to be twenty years in the future, and the graphic novel was written in eighty-six, so is the idea that Reagan has basically made himself king? It just felt like this whole section really needed some fleshing out.

Discussing the End

Ten years of experience have definitely changed my understanding of the end of The Dark Knight Returns. When I first read it, I don't recall thinking anything other than, “That was cool!” Bruce plays a switcheroo on Superman, saves the day, hurts the Man of Steel, and builds his secret army of avengers. Yay, Batman!

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Now, the ending feels much more ambiguous to me in terms of victory. Batman wins...yes, I suppose, but what has he won? He beat down Superman, yet he also faked his own death, so what did that prove? The only way this can really be seen as a victory is if it is a symbolic victory over an oppressive government regime, but if that is the case, then that still leaves Gotham and the rest of the United States in a pretty sorry state. Furthermore, Batman may have given Superman a beating, but Batman died in the public eye. Granted, Bruce is training an army of warriors so the legacy of Batman will live on in a Nolan-esque sort of way, but the message to the people is rather mixed.

Also, Alfred dies which is a bit of a bummer, and it is not even really recognized in the story. I suppose this is symbolic of Bruce's old life passing away, but...poor Alfred!

Finally, Bruce has this army of gangland idiots which he intends to turn into his army, but these are still essentially thugs. If I had to make a guess about how this would turn out, I would imagine that these people will probably self destruct possibly taking Bruce with them. If he does manage to turn them into a force, I can only imagine them being a force for oppression for they are mostly weak minded fools who were bound together out a desire for community, security, and easy profit. What is more likely: that Batman will be able to turn an army of thugs into noble freedom fighters, or that someone else will use them as tools for less upright purposes?

I know all of this was explored in The Dark Knight Strikes Back, but I'm looking at this as a standalone story, and I find its final moments to leave a less than uplifting impression.

Conclusion 9/10

The Dark Knight Returns is a classic Batman tale for a reason. It is excellent, and this adaption does it justice. I have a few little nitpicks, but they are just nitpicks. If you love the graphic novel or you are a big fan of Batman in general, you will absolutely get your money's worth with this purchase. However, these straight to DVD movies come down in price pretty quickly, so I would suggest waiting half a year and buying some used copies for cheap.

Batman: Death by Design

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Last week, a new Batman graphic novel was released straight to trades written by Chip Kidd (previously worked on Fantagraphics' Maakies and previous artist for the cover of Batman: Year One) with art by Dave Taylor. (former artist for Rebellion's Judge Dredd Megazine and Shadow of the Bat) It never had an issued release. Since I was busy wishing I were dead (I had a bug of some sort) around that time last week, I was not able to get a review out on it, but I have read it now, and I do have some thoughts. Does Death by Design's story of architecture gone wrong represent an outstanding triumph of modern man that all Batman fans should proudly place on their mantle, or is it a crumbling mess falling apart under the weight of its own overly ambitious structure?

In Death by Design, a couple of architectural disasters alert Batman that something is wrong in his city, a new cape is in town who is out for vengeance, a young reporter gets a shot at a big story he never wanted, and Joker has some insidious plans.

The first thing you will notice upon picking up Death by Design is that this book oozes style from every pore. Anything more than a casual glance at the cover will show you that this is not your typical graphic novel. The book's cover is made out of a thick cover reminiscent of an old story book, and Batman hangs upside down on the cover looking at you blankly with the city scape behind him. In that same vein, the opening two pages has a striking image of the Bat symbol which my memory now sadly fails to supply adequate details to describe. Regardless, the book makes an impression from page one.

The meat of the story is no less striking in terms of visual design. The entire thing is done, if I understand it correctly, with pencil which is really impressive both in terms of the amount of talent it takes and in the mood it creates. It somehow made the story feel more complicated and quaint simultaneously, and it gives a very distinct visual feel to the book. At first, there appears to be almost no colors in the entire story, but after more careful examination, you can actually tell that there are subtle highlighting hues, also done with pencils, on nearly every page, but they are usually so subtle as to not really catch the eye. Sadly, there were a few occasions where the slight coloring becomes a bit too pronounced, and I found myself wondering why a certain section of a man's shirt and face were blue hued. Still, the art is by far the best part of the book, and there are many two page spreads which are absolutely jaw dropping. Death by Design features a truly unique visual flair which is second to none.

The Setting

Going hand in hand with the art is the setting which is definitely not mainstream Gotham. The issue is never given a specific time line or universe, but just by eyeballing it, I would say it is probably set in a forties or fifties era America. The clothing styles, the buildings, and the hairstyles all seem to back this up. It is fine to have this alternate reality setting for the story, but I found myself annoyed at the setting for the way it interfered occasionally with the main narrative. Despite the retro feel, Bruce has at least one toy which far surpasses anything in his modern arsenal, and this felt jarring to me and took me out of the story.

The Usual Suspects

A good part of this story is a mystery. There is some force behind these attacks, and a character keeps popping up who seems like he could be on either side of the law. What balances this nicely is that the story gives us plenty of potential characters, each with their own subplots, that could be filling the shoes of this new costumed character, and it was fun to try to keep guessing. Also, these little subplots that involved the reporter, the lover, the architect, the union boss, and the architect's son were all pretty entertaining in and of themselves.

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The Meat and Potatoes

Sadly, though the subplots and art department are strong, the main narrative of this story is a bit of a flop. As I said, the story keeps you guessing as to the motivation on the main characters and their allegiance, but when everything is sorted out and the chips have all fallen, the answer the story provides only makes partial sense. You can kind of see the characters' motivations, but at the same time, you find yourself thinking, “Why didn't you just take this to the police?” or “You were willing to kill someone about that?” or even “Seriously? Get over yourself.” A couple of the main characters were simply not well realized, and that hurt the story at the end of the day.

The Bat Plot Device

It is sad that this story which does so many things well manages to do exactly the wrong thing at the worst possible moments. On two separate occasions in this story, Batman was faced with a death trap, and he used the exact same piece of magical technology to escape both inescapable traps. It is horribly disappointing to see a writer use the easiest possible route to write themselves outof a bind. Once was stupid. Twice is an insult to both the writer and readers intelligences.

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Beetle Joker

Finishing off the list of poor decisions on this book, Joker was inserted awkwardly into this story. He played no greater role in the story other than to add conflict to the book. Furthermore, this is a rather bizarre portrayal of Joker in terms of his physical appearance. He reminded me very much of Beetle Juice from the old comedy movie.

There was a cool scene where the Joker released some laughing gas at a party, and this was truly disturbing because of quality of the artwork and the precarious nature of the architectural structure, but the Joker gas angle has been done time and time again, and even in this scene, the most important details of the scene are not well thought out as Joker apparently falls to his death only to be found alive later in the story without any attempt to explain his survival.

Conclusion 6/10

Death By Design is a very cool concept with amazing artistic talent, but the writing does not do it justice. If you are a huge fan of Batman in pencils, you have a strong hankering for a retro styled Batman, or you enjoy a good lead up to a mystery without a good reveal, then this book will probably please you, but anybody who wants a story with a strong central narrative will need to pass. However, I do strongly suggest that everybody take the time to flip through this in stores because the art work is beautiful.


Li'l Gotham #5

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Valentine's Day

Li'l Gotham was a delightful series when it first debuted, and it is still delightful until this day, but it seems to be on a gradual decline as the novelty of cutesy series wears off. The previous issue was New Year's Eve, and as usual, it was a lot of fun, but last issue seemed to have a rather one note joke consisting of Ivy and Harley Quinn getting Catwoman into trouble. This month is a new perspective with a Valentine's Day tale starring the Clown Prince of Crime. Does this issue fill my heart with love, or does it break my heart?

In this issue, Joker plays with forces beyond his control and inadvertently makes himself irresistible to all women.

The Magic Remains

I was afraid that this series might have merely been charming for its novelty because my enjoyment has been decreasing slowly with every issue, but Valentine's Day proves that there is a lot more to this series than merely a cute art style.

The humor in this issue comes from a couple of different angles. Obviously, the scenario of Joker trying to escape the affections of Harley Quinn only to fall into a much more gushy situation is funny on a surface level. Beyond that, it is fun to see the different femme fatales unique responses to their sudden obsession with Joker. Seeing Talia running down the street screaming “Beeeloooooveeed!” with ninja secret service men at her beck and call is an image that will probably stick with me for quite some time. Another layer of comedy is the subconscious desire to enjoy Joker's suffering. Maybe I am alone in this, but after seeing all the crap Mr. J just put the Bat Family through in Death of the Family, it is rather gratifying to see him smothered underneath a cloudburst of love which he so clearly disdains in an Oscar the Grouch type manner.

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There is a larger cast of characters than I have yet mentions who make some guest appearances in this issue, but I will keep away from specifics in order to preserve pleasant surprise of their brief appearances. (Spoiler) Speaking of guest appearances, you've got to respect the creative team's gumption to insert obscure characters into the story. Roxy Rocket was in this issue, and she has a total of a mere three appearances in the regular old DCU.

Conclusion 9/10

It's another great issue of Li'l Gotham, and the series is still fresh. Any Batman fan will get their dollar's worth on this one.


Team 7 #4

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The Possession of Slade Wilson

Due to the....interesting run in Catwoman, I felt I was obligated to read some more of the crossover “The Black Diamond Probability.” Without any central narrative to follow, I figured it would be most advantageous to read the issue that happened most recently chronologically. As with last month, that means I picked up Team 7. Seeing as this is not a Bat Family title, I will probably make this review brief.

I really enjoyed this title last month. The art was excellent and the team had good chemistry. Does this issue also fulfill my darkest desires, or is it just a black hole of despair?

In this issue, the rest of Team 7 tries to escape from an Eclipso possessed Slade Wilson while Grifter stays behind and makes a stand.

Turning, Corrupting, Abusing

Overall, the art is nearly as good in this issue as it was in the last, but I cannot say there were any panels which left me in awe. I think the reason the last issue impressed me more artistically was that there were beautiful panels which highlighted the island setting whereas this issue was much more action focused, but still, there was plenty of artistic eye candy (of the non-sexual variety) with beautifully rendered characters and actions.

The story, however, did not satisfy me quite as well. There appears to still be some good chemistry between characters, but there is not near as much interaction this go around beyond the necessities of the battle. Grifter is still funny, and there are some lines from other characters which may hold some emotional weight or character significance to those who have been following the series closely, but for a newcomer like me, it was pretty bland from a character perspective.

The battle was a mixed bag as well. We basically have a huge, mega powerful villain versus a bunch of people with basically human level skills, and that somewhat limits the kind of fight the creative team could deliver. For the most part, I enjoyed the way Team 7 responded to the crisis, but the wrap up seemed a bit rushed to me. It felt very much like, “Oh well, we are out of time. Everything is okay, and let's get ready for the next arch.” Perhaps there was subtext to the story I missed, but it all felt very surface to me.

On the positive side, it did answer one of the questions I had about Catwoman's crossover issues.

Conclusion 7/10

This is an okay issue. If you've been following and enjoying the arch, then there is no reason not to finish it, but if you are looking for a jumping on point, I'd try next issue.

Review: Batman: Li'l Gotham #4

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New Year’s Eve

DC’s release schedule for Li’l Gotham has me a bit stumped. They release their Christmas issue nearly a week before Christmas which makes a sort of sense. After all, people enjoy Christmas stories before the big day itself. However, they also chose to release their New Year’s issue on Christmas day. Does that make sense to anyone?

Well, I guess I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Li’l Gotham has been a whole lot of fun, and I’ve enjoyed all the previous episodes immensely. This issue's cover makes it look as if the Gotham City Sirens are taking center stage. Is this a rousing tale of crime and mayhem or does Li’l Gotham fail to work apart from the Bat?

In this issue, Catwoman fails to live up to her New Year’s Resolution of living crime free when the Sirens convince her to throw a New Year’s Revolution.

One Note

Sad to say it, but this issue just didn’t live up the quality of the previous three.

Let’s get the praise out of the way. First, the visuals are beautiful as always, and the personalities are great playing up the most fanciful and playful aspects of the characters. There were definitely some scenes which made me laugh especially Ivy’s line, “We water all the plants.” On that note, Ivy stole the show for me being a sort of pixie like creature. I wouldn’t mind seeing her in her own featured Li’l Gotham tale.

Despite the issue's inarguable charm, there are some problems. The main drawback of this issue is that by page eight, you’ve already seen all the comic has to offer in terms of plot. After that, it just rehashes the same idea in slightly different scenarios. It kind of reminded me of those extremely simplistic books for toddlers such as, “Where is Jacob’s ball? Is it in the closet? No. It is not in the closet. Where is Jacob’s ball? Is it in the bathroom? No, it is not in the bathroom.” It’s the same thing over and over again, and though it is more deep than Jacob’s ball, it was still a bit too repetitive for my taste.

The conclusion was also a disappointment. For one thing, a character appears at the end of the issue with no explanation. I consider myself pretty well versed with Batman, but I had to look her up. I know this is a series made for fans with a lot of inside knowledge, but if the comic can throw me off, then it is relying on rather obscure knowledge. Apparently, you more or less had to have read Gotham City Sirens to know this character. A panel introducing her at the beginning would have been enough to eliminate her surprise appearance at the end. (Spoiler) Furthermore, the conclusion showed no consequence for the Sirens crime spree which would make me hesitate to show this story to my children which is a shame since the series has otherwise been so kid friendly.

Conclusion 7/10

If you have enjoyed this series so far, you should still pick this up, but go in with moderate expectations.

Review: Batman Li'l Gotham #3

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Christmas 

Li’l Gotham has been a delightful blast of fresh air. It’s practically the polar opposite of the regular Batman titles taking all that is dark and twisted in Gotham and making it airy and light. The first issue was excellent, and the second issue was nearly as good. It’s now time for Li’l Gotham’s third installment, and I am happy to note that Nightwing features prominently on the cover. As much as I love that little brat, Damian, I’m glad to see that another member of the Bat Family gets to share that spotlight with Bruce. It’s time to read and behold what delights Dustin Nguyen has in store for us. Will this issue warm your heart like a cup of eggnog, or blister your soul like the harsh winds of winter?

In this issue, the mayor lights the Christmas tree, Commissioner Gordon almost makes an important discovery, and Batman and Nightwing find a group of missing orphans.

Delightful Once More

This issue was actually a tiny bit more serious than the last. It is still light hearted and sweet, but it could actually pass for a regular issue of Batman with a minimal amount of alterations. Characters and plot elements are slightly exaggerated, but for the most part, this stays true to the regular nature of Gotham and its citizens.

At first, I was a little disappointed by this because I like Li’l Gotham because it is different. I don’t want it to be a regular Batman story. However, the last act took a turn for the sentimental which more than made up for my earlier fears. In fact, the whole issue is all very warmhearted and light, but the final scene really sealed the deal for me.

The only thing really worth mentioning about this issue is that Nguyen continues to place his stories in the DCU rather than the DCNU. Though I greatly prefer the old universe, it kind of hurts to be reminded of all the things I loved so much about it. Certainly, it would not significantly alter the story to make Dick’s Nightwing costume red instead of blue, so why do the DC editors allow this to continue? I think perhaps that they are trying to capture a nostalgic feel with these issues, and thus they allow the dated costumes.

Conclusion 9/10

I could analyze this issue until I am as blue in the face as Mr. Freeze, but it would not increase your enjoyment. This story is not meant to be analyzed but simply appreciated it its simplicity. If you have not already, you should pick this issue up. 

Review: Team 7 #3

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Darkness Rising

Since this month’s Catwoman was a crossover with the mysteriously named The Black Diamond Probability story arc, I thought I should read tie in which had occurred most recently leading up the Catwoman story. In addition to giving me a chance to broaden my horizons, I figure this will help me understand the nature of Eclipso in the New 52, and maybe it will shed light on the bizarre flesh map that Selina possessed.

I know very little about Team 7. My understanding is that this series was adapted from the Wildstorm universe, and in the DCNU, Team 7 is set five years in the past and consists of a group dedicated to fighting supernatural threats. I’m familiar with most of the characters, but I had to look up some info on Alex Fairchild, Grifter and Gamorra, but enough background. All I really care is whether this is a good story and whether it sheds any light on the DCNU Eclipso. Does this create a dark and moody tale, or is it just a black hole of putrid despair?

In this issue, Team 7 travels to Sentinel Island to stop a group of mercenaries from taking the Heart of Hell.

Let’s Hear It for the Colorist!

Ah, comic fans follow the writers and often rave about the pencilers, but the colorists get no love! Well, I object to that because the colors are stunning!

This issue is extremely vibrant and the colors change from page to page which is much nicer than what sometimes happens in the Bat books where things are simply different shades of black and grey on every page. It’s nice to see colors that are rich and schemes that shift frequently. The other elements of the art also solid, but it is the colors that push it into the realm of excellence.

For example, the first page features a cool scene where the members of Team 7 are rafting through a canyon, and the panel is positioned so that the reader is looking up past the canyon and into the sky in the background. Rather than insert one basic blue color for the sky, the artist takes the time to put different shades of blue across the sky in relation to the proximity to the sun, and I’m guessing the colorist was also responsible for the cloud bank which adds more depth and tone to the scene.

There are many other scenes which are equally striking such as the attack of the islands guardians, the lair of the Eclipso diamond, and the final panel. All of it looks wonderful, so kudos to the colorist, Nathan Eyring.

Team Dynamics

I think this team has real potential. Since I am not extremely familiar with this lineup and this is my only Team 7 issue, it is a hard call to make, but I felt like I was beginning to get a feel for the different characters. Even with his fairly small role in this issue, it is easy to see how Grifter’s attitude makes him a fan favorite. Seeing Slade as the loyal soldier rather than the cruel mercenary was more difficult to swallow, but I am willing to see what the writer is trying to do with the character. Dinah stands out as the only female voice in the crowd, but her lines were too brief to really get to know her, and the same can basically be said for the rest of the cast, but I get the impression that the writer does have a distinct voice for all the members of the team, and that is essential for a good group book.

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The Writer

In general, I thought the book was pretty good from a scripting viewpoint, but I did see several slight flaws. First, there is nothing that tells you the point of this team. You kind of get a general idea from bits and pieces picked up through the issue, but there is no reason not to include a little description of the team on the title page. It’s simple, effective, and it has worked in comics for years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Next up, Essence plays no important role in this issue, and she feels almost shoehorned in. Will she play an important part later, or was some editor just pushing for more crossovers. Regardless, Team 7 has no idea why she is helping and that makes her motivations suspect.

Finally, Gamorra shows up in only one page of this issue, but there is no explanation of who he is. Would it have been too hard to insert a caption that said, “Evil seeker of the Heart of Hell” or something like that? I don’t think so.

Conclusion 8/10

This issue was actually a lot of fun, and I can see myself coming to highly enjoy Team 7. 

Review: Ame-Comi Girls #3

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Duela Dent

Despite high recommendation of Ame-Comi Girls, I found last month’s issue staring Batgirl to be quite yawn inducing. It seemed juvenile and regressive without any of the charm I had been led to expect. With this in mind, I go into this issue of Ame-Comi Girls which features Duela Dent with very low expectations, yet hope blooms eternal. Does this issue surprise me or confirm my suspicion that this series is highly overrated?

In this issue, we get a glimpse of Duela Dent’s origin. We are then snapped back to the present where we witness Duela takes down Batgirl before dealing with trouble among her own ranks.

The Identity of a Dent

The last issue was extremely disappointing for many reasons, but one of those reasons was that it failed to provide a guiding framework for this version of Batgirl or the universe in general. I am delighted to say that this issue does much, much better in explaining its characters and universe.

For those of you who do not know, Duela Dent is a character who has appeared mostly in Teen Titans comics throughout the comic generations claiming to be the daughter of either Joker or Two-Face, and she has usually had some sort of connection to alternate timelines. I was curious how she would be portrayed in this issue, and it turns out, they give her a pretty thrilling origin.

At the danger of oversimplifying the tale, Duela is essentially the daughter of a mobster nicknamed Joker who was mortally wounded by Commissioner Gordon, but she was left with a great inheritance and the paternal advice to be an agent of chaos to the world. Duela took that advice, and dressed in a girly version of typical Joker fashion along with Dark Knight style mouth scars and became a super villain.

The first third of the story deals with this origin, and it is actually quite invigorating. I would not accuse it of excellence, but Dent’s origin works well in the context of this series, and placing it in a creepy and perhaps supernatural mansion really sold the delivery.

The Other Two-Thirds

Somewhat disappointingly, the story does not end with the origin tale. Rather, the story picks up where the last left off with Batgirl trapped on a spaceship with Duela Dent and her thugs. The story soon progresses to a battle between Duela and Catwoman, and then the heroes on Earth check in to move the story along.

The villains in this piece are fairly interesting, but the heroes are not cutting it for me. Batgirl and Steel seem overly serious and flat, and Robin seems like the token young, impatient character. Jessie Quick shows up as The Flash, and at least she seems to have a little personality.

Visuals

The visuals look good up close, but the penciler simply does not bother to give characters detailed facial expressions when they are not featured prominently in the panel. That leads to some awkward sketches wherein if you pay attention to characters in the background, you will notice they have no noses. That is some sloppy work.

On the flipside, the costumes and locales look amazing, but the artist does not really deserve much credit for the costumes since the costumes were designed for the figurines.

Conclusion 8/10

I’m torn on this one because I actually greatly enjoyed the first chapter, but the latter section was just typical. However, I think this was a pretty entertaining read overall, and it did make me curious to see what else this universe has to offer. Sadly, I think this is the last issue focused on the Bat Clan, so it will probably be the last I review. 

Review: Suicide Squad #15

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Running with the Devil

Last week was my first taste of Suicide Squad, and with a taste like that, I was eager to come back. Suicide Squad 14 might not have been the most substantive issue of all time, but it had atmosphere to spare and did a great job of making Joker the menacing ex-boyfriend. By the end of the last issue, Joker was ready to strangle the life out of Harley Quinn. Do the couple manage to reconcile their differences, or will the life finally go out of this romance?

In this issue, Joker and Harley come to blows as Waller watches the horror unfold through lenses implanted in Harley.

The Balance of Power

In an interview, Adam Glass, the writer of this series, said he was going to redress the balance of power between Joker and Harley in this issue, and for me, that has been the big draw of this comic. Though Joker and Harley have always made the perfect couple in the minds of many fans, their relationship has not really changed much throughout her inception except for a brief run of Harley Quinn’s ongoing series, but any character development that took place there seems to have been erased in more recent interpretations, so it would be nice to see Harley take back some power.

I do not want to give too much away, but talk about it in general terms, Harley does take back some power, but it lacks much of a punch on Harley’s end. In the end, Joker seems to still end up on top, but it does seem that Harley at least gave Joker something to consider. Joker hints that there is more to the role of Harley Quinn than Harleen Quinzel, and that is a concept rife with potential exploration.

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Perplexed

There were some odd choices in this issue. Though it is clear that the Suicide Squad would take a back seat for this issue, they could have been a little more active. There were only about three pages that dealt with Waller’s Squad instead rather than Harley, and even in those few pages, the focus was still on Miss Quinzel. It is not as if there were no room for more story. There are several panels that take up entire pages which could have been condensed to a quarter of the space. It was just a waste of real estate as far as I am concerned.

If you are a fan of Suicide Squad but do not care about Death of the Family, you may as well sit this issue out.

Bat Droppings

It was nice to see Lou and Bud in the comics. I am not sure I have seen them since Batman: TAS.

Perhaps it worked for some, but the fight scene was somewhat undermined for me by the exchange of puns between Joker and Harley Quinn. I can see exchanging barbs if they were just beating each other, but I would think both of them would need to focus a little more in a life or death confrontation…at least on Harley’s end.

(Spoiler) The final panel raises some eyebrows as Deadshot takes a page from Poison Ivy’s playbook to have one of the shortest and least comprehendible resurrections of recent years.

Conclusion 7/10

This was an okay issue, but it did not live up to my hopes from the previous issue. Harley’s physical battle with Joker was just okay, but the emotional battle did land some blows. Still, it feels like they missed the opportunity to include a lot more in this issue, and I am not sure why there was so much space left unused. Regardless, this is worth your money if you are a Harley Quinn fan. If you are considering buying this for the Death of the Family, you should probably buy it, but you might want to flip through it in the store first.