Daredevil #168

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When 20th Century Fox lost the rights to Daredevil not many people cared. While the Daredevil movie wasn’t the worst comic book movie ever made, it was also one that didn’t have much in the way of passion. It was a by the colors movie that just had no soul. While the studio was able to push out a spin off based on Elektra, no one really cared. (Even though they wasted the talents of both Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in doing so.) While there were attempts by others to get another Daredevil film off the ground, including a sizzle reel by Joe Carnahan to attempt to generate interest from the studio…

…Fox chose to let the rights go back to Marvel.

Marvel announced that Daredevil, alone with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist would not only have their own individual shows on Netflix, they would also come together similar to The Avengers in a show called The Defenders. Again, not many people really cared. Sure, Marvel Studios had earned a lot of good will and people were definitely interested in seeing what the studio would be but speaking for myself, I didn’t expect much.

Then the show debuted and blew everyone’s expectations as to what made a comic book show great out of the water. Similar to Batman, it was a superhero story about a guy with no superpowers. His powers simply occurred due to exposure to radioactive material. It was a show that even my wife would end up enjoying. It had a love of the source material without solely relying upon that to give us a good story. Soon after the first season hit they announced there would be a second season. In that season we would be introduced to Frank Castle, The Punisher, and one Elektra Natchios.

As readers of the comics will know, much of the Daredevil show has been taken from Frank Miller’s run on the comic. One such issue involves the debut of one Elektra. She met Matt Murdock in college. She was the daughter of a Greek ambassador, he a bumbling law student. They start to date and fall in love. About a year into their romance, Elektra and her father are held hostage. During the crisis, Matt ends up saving her but in the melee, cops murder her father. She is understandably upset and chooses to break up with Matt. Years later, well after Matt has become Daredevil, he is tracking someone down only to be knocked unconscious by a woman. That woman? Elektra.

When he wakes, he gets info on where Elektra may be headed. He discovers that she was in over her head and about to be executed. He drives an airplane at the bad guys and ends up whipping ass, saving her in the process where she, after realizing he is Matt Murdock, breaks down in tears.

The story was understandably amazing. This is comic book storytelling 101. The character of Elektra, while we don’t get too much of a grasp of her history, is fully fleshed out in the pages that Mr. Miller puts together. We not only see why Matt would have such strong feelings for her, we see that even as an international bounty hunter and killer, she still has heart and loves Matt Murdock. Frank Miller, from every story I’ve ever read from him, has always beautifully written characters in wonderful shades of grey. Take Batman: Year One. Jim Gordon, the future Commissioner of Police that for years we as readers have held in high esteem, has an affair with his wife and ends up getting caught. While that is a disgusting act, we still see him as very much a hero in the story.

If you think about it, what hero doesn’t have moments where they could be considered scum by others? No one is perfect. Everyone I have ever held in high esteem has ended up doing something stupid that made me doubt everything they’ve done. But after reflection, I’ve been able to sort the bad from the good. Because in the end, good people by their actions will always end up redeeming themselves. Some make take longer than others but they will. Hell, if Anakin Skywalker could do it, anyone can.

With Elektra, we see in this story why she chose to end up in a life of crime. With her father being accidentally murdered by the police, who child wouldn’t have issues with authority after that? It’s understandable that she would take the actions that she does. It doesn’t make it right of course but you understand it which makes her arc in this issue a thing of beauty. Too often in comics even today, women don’t have much depth. They’re either really good people or evil bitches. There’s no grey to their characters. Frank Miller though finds a way to find the proverbial diamond in the rough. Like Nancy Callahan from Sin City. A stripper by trade, she’s still someone you would have no issue taking home to mother. (Maybe after a few drinks first but still.)

The art for this issue was good but I think it did suffer from one thing. The color. Maybe it’s because I’m used to his work on Sin City but to me Frank Miller’s best stories, including this one, work best in black and white. If Humphry Bogart were alive in the 1980’s, Frank Miller would have written a movie just for him. Each panel is like a caterpillar compared to the butterfly his later work visually becomes. You can see how the visuals in Sin City came about from issues like this but the color in the story ultimately is just not needed.

There’s a panel near the end that explains what I mean. It’s just one panel where Matt discovers the main bad guy has a gun to Elektra’s head. With color you see the emotion in his face but it almost takes you out of the mood. When I turned gray scale on my iPad, the emotions went from blunt by muted to almost exploding off the page. Again, maybe I’ve been exposed to too much late era Frank Miller but I really think this would have worked so much better in black and white, not that it is bad now.

Bottom Line:

Yet another Mighty Marvel story from the early 80’s golden age. It’s also a great read to get under your belt before the new season of Daredevil appears in February. The show has used so much from Frank Miller’s run with the character so far, it only goes to suspect they may use this story pretty much verbatim. Even if they pick and choose what they use, it will be great to see what they ultimately use and what they don’t. You will be doing yourself a favor to read this issue.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Volume 1

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Batman. The name says it all. While I was introduced to Batman via the Super Friends cartoon…

to me my love for the Dark Knight occurred in 1989 with the only Tim Burton movie that I like, Batman. Despite some flaws (like the fact that Gotham City is supposed to be a version of New York but apparently all of twenty people live there) the movie had everything going for it. Acting, writing, even the direction were all melded together to make one hell of a film. From there, the quality of the films went downhill until Christopher Nolan took over the franchise.

But that didn’t mean Batman went away. One of the greatest cartoons of all time, Batman: The Animated Series debuted in the early 90’s on Fox and changed the way cartoons were made. Previously, cartoons were drawn on the cheap. The reason of course was money. People thought that children could give two shits about the quality of cartoons so they made cartoons with as many primary colors they could jam onto the screen and with scripts that helped showcase the newest toys the companies were actually showcasing.

Batman: The Animated Series was different. While it could be argued that the animation has not exactly stood the test of time, the writing and acting on the show is the epitome of excellence. My favorite character was The Joker and it was all of five years after the show debuted that I found out that Mark Fucking Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, was The Joker. That was an insane revelation.

Then when I first moved out and became an adult I gravitated to the comics. I would occasionally pick up issues here and there growing up but growing up poor I didn’t get a chance to buy comics like I wanted to. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a comic book shop near my home that I could at least hang out in. One of the writers I enjoyed from childhood was Denny O’Neil, Batman writer from the late Silver and Bronze age of Batman stories.

Reading his work is kind of like a history lesson in the comic book industry. If you read his early stuff it is just as hokey and silly that other comics of the era are, where you have bad guys anticipating the actions of people they did not know could be there to stop their evil plans. From there, his work transitioned from the Adam West type of Batman to the Batman we know and love today. To me, the Batman cartoon most resembles the work of Denny O’Neil. Frank Miller definitely helped wipe the slate clean in the general public’s eyes of the goofy Batman that was in the 1960’s show but without Denny, Frank’s work would have been much more tough. Denny could show Batman being dark without making him so dark it borders on freakishness.

This story was the start of a group of comics called Legends of the Dark Knight. Made as a way to capitalize on the success of the Batman movie and works like The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, it goes about telling stories of Bruce Wayne before he is established as Batman.

This issue revolved around Bruce taking a bounty hunter with him to Alaska to find a criminal. They quickly find that criminal who shoots the bounty hunter dead. Bruce outwits him but the bounty hunter falls to his death. Bruce is left on a cold mountain without his gear alone.

He is eventually rescued by some local natives. He gets told an ancient story. He gets better and heads back to Gotham where he dons the cowl and becomes Batman. Than the story he was told comes back to haunt him when a woman he saved killed herself while referencing the story.

They did a good job of shoehorning in the story into the mythology of Batman without tying it directly into any other more well known work. It could easily be the Batman that Frank Miller created with his Dark Knight Returns or Year One story. It could also be an updated version of the Batman that Bob Kane and Bill Finger created. It’s ambiguous unlike Frank Miller’s work that we know is out of the existing Batman time line.

What I didn’t care for was how quick he was found on top of a snowy mountain in the middle of Nowhere, Alaska and brought back to health. The story sped along too quickly. The story that Bruce was told, the story that he should have kept his damn mouth shut on, was dealt with as if it were some delusion of his being unconscious and was dealt with and out of the way quite quickly. More should have been done to show how serious the story was and how Bruce would make a bad mistake if he didn’t head this man’s words.

In some ways this story is a lot like Gremlins. An arrogant white guy receives a gift from a minority, ignores the instructions he received upon getting the gift, and then wonders why everything is fucking up at the end. That is fine and all for a story but it was dealt with in such a rushed manner that you had no real idea of what was going on until the very end. From there I had to go back and read the beginning just to understand what the hell I read.

The artwork was typical late 80’s, early 90’s fare. These artists never met a background they could paint a single color onto. There’s no depth at all in the art. The character models are fine. I especially liked when Bruce tried on his uniform for the first time. I got the sense that this was the same Batman we saw flying across the cover of Detective Comics #27. But man, if only the backgrounds and other locations drawn in the story had a more realistic flair to them. Reading up on how comics are created, I’ve found that during this time comic artists had to use the four color palate in order to create their work. Now yeah, they could mix and match those colors to make different shades and colors but in the end it helps to have characters like Superman that have the one single, bold, iconic color and look about them that offering some shading or off color would not have helped. But sacrificing the look of the locations where the story took place takes me out of it as a modern reader. This may have been acceptable in 1989. This would not be published if presented for printing today.

Bottom Line:

This is not a bad start for a comic. Yeah it’s flawed but much like JJ Abrams first Star Trek movie, the good far outweighs the bad in the story. So if you do come across the story I suggest you buy it and enjoy a good read. As far as the story goes it is pretty solid. While I can certainly nit pick about certain elements of the story, the fact that it fits so seamlessly well into whatever version of Batman you want it to says a lot about what this comic did right. The only drawback of the story is the art in this case. I feel bad commenting on it because that would be like comparing He-Man from the 80’s to a cartoon being made today. Even the worst drivel you would find on Cartoon Network is much better than what He-Man was simply due to the fact that cartoons are made differently today. He-Man was a cookie cutter cartoon made on the cheap to help sell toys. Cartoons today have a lot more freedom to express themselves all the while being made cheaper that what it could be. But this art just doesn’t stand the test of time well. When any artist, whether it be illustrator, author, inker, whatever, starts creating work that will fit the here and now, their work will surely be judged harshly the more time goes on. Go back into Marvel’s history and you’ll see that they made huge mistakes in regards to capitalizing on current events at that time. Dazzler anyone? When they do that, it prevents future readers to enjoy what is going on because they just won’t get it. While it could be argued that art could be more representative of the times and be a window into the past, please remember that I am not referring to hair styles or the music people listen to in the story. We’re talking about how the damn thing is drawn. It’s just not good and brings what could have been a more enjoyable experience down.

The Boys #1

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Garth Ennis is back with a comic called The Boys. The premise is the CIA has put together a team to essentially keep the superheroes of the world in check. In the story superheroes are more oblivious to the damage they cause, are vain, and love the spotlight. The purpose of the team is to be a check just in case the superheroes decide one day that they don’t want to protect people anymore, they want to rule the world.

The premise is fine. You would think any government worth their salt would have something in place. I mean, in the DC Universe, wouldn’t they want to have something in place just in case Superman decided to say fuck it, the world needs to bow down to lil’ ol’ Kal El? The problem I have with this first issue has more to do with the characters that are set up as the main cast we’re meant to care for.

The leader of the group is Billy Butcher and he is just not someone I like. Maybe that’s the point but I think it’s a bit counterproductive for the story when as the reader I think the leader of the group the story about is an asshole. He looks like a smug prick who’s intent on being manipulative than with any sort of passion to protect the public. Maybe he wants the fame and glory the superheroes have? Maybe he has a vendetta against superheroes for something they did to him?

The only character we come across with any sort of sympathy, someone who has any real motivation to keep superheroes in check, is a Scottish man named Wee Hughie. We see that during a day where he shares his first kiss with the woman he loves, a superhero battle kills his girlfriend, so suddenly of course that Wee is left holding his now dead lover’s arms. That is motivation. That is a reason why someone would want to protect people from the group of folks who want to protect the world. Billy though, I just don’t trust his intentions. Maybe that ends up being the point and the further I read into the story I will understand my initial distrust. For now, you don’t get why he’s doing what he’s doing. You just think he has some ulterior motive.

One other bit in the comic that kind of threw me off was when Billy Butcher and his contact Ms. Rayner end up having sex in her office. I am no prude (just check my browsing history). The suddenness of the seen, it’s blunt and in your face but lasts for one panel and is not mentioned again, just doesn’t really fit this issue. Maybe if they alluded to some sort of relationship before they commenced to attack each other’s genitals like pitbulls in a dogfight you would understand what the hell was going on. As it stands, Billy enters the office, they look at each other, they fuck for one panel of the comic, then they’re back to being fully clothed. No mention of animosity between the two that dissolves enough for them to enjoy each other carnally, nothing. Maybe future issues will explain it, I just wish there was more explanation about the relationship between the two.

The artwork is pretty solid but I don’t know, it just comes across as too silly for me to get into the story. It’s like the animation team that made Beavis and Butt-Head were making a superhero movie. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, not all art has to resemble Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko to be good. There was just something about the art in this issue that created a further disconnect for me that kept me from enjoying the story further.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting start. I don’t think it’s a smooth start by any means, the fact that I don’t really care for the people we’re introduced to and are expected to care about is a big issue so far. Sure, that may be addressed in further issues but I think there should have been more effort to explain the relationships of everyone before they got to the point of getting together as a team.

And believe me, I like the idea of exploring the dynamics of a team put in place to monitor the actions of superheros. It goes without saying that especially in today’s world climate, if a superhero or a group of them were to emerge the government would not be as accepting as they are perceived in the comics. No matter the good that someone like Superman would do in the world, the United States government would still view him as a threat and put a team into place to keep him in check or even take him down. Governments are paranoid beasts. They want to be the ultimate power. If someone or something comes around that has the slightest chance of eroding that power, the government will do whatever they can do in their power to put that something down before it has a chance of affecting the status quo. When after the first issue we as the reader are not only having doubts as to the integrity of the superheroes in the story but the intentions of the people who keep them in check, who are we supposed to be behind? Why should we care about any of them? I’m not getting any real sense so far of where Garth Ennis wants to bring the story. Maybe future issues will smooth out some of the concerns I have. As a first issue though, I have to say it’s pretty weak. I have to give it a 5.

The artwork is just not good. Granted, there is far worse out there. I just don’t think the art as drawn really helped the story at all. It seemed too goofy more than anything. Garth Ennis stories do walk a tightrope between gritty and silly. For as much as he gets right for the grittiness of his stories, he does have the tendency to make the silly parts too silly which can take you out of the game. (I know he didn’t draw the piece but obviously he has say in how things are drawn. Darick Robertson is the artist of the piece and co-creator as well.) I think of the Jennifer Blood comics. Fun stuff mind you but once it gets too ridiculous in a story it goes from having a suspension of disbelief to laughing at how silly everything is.

I think of the Machete movies. The first movie was silly as hell but Robert Rodriguez was able to walk the tightrope of grittiness and silliness without falling off. You were able to suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy the story at hand. Machete Kills however is a different beast altogether. Like the Grayson family in Batman fame, Robert Rodriguez fell to his death with the first step he took. That doesn’t mean the end result was a bad film. I rather enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it for its silliness more than anything. It was a 21st Century version of a Charles Bronson Cannon film from the 80’s. (If you don’t know what I mean, watch Death Wish 3. Not only do you see Marina Sirtis, Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation gratuitously show her boobs during an unneeded sex scene, you get one of the most silly, stupid, and entertaining films you will ever see. It’s a crime they made it but the end result is still entertaining.)

This comic at least out of the gate took the proverbial fall off the tightrope. They have a chance to land on the net and try again but there is just too much going on that takes you out of the story for you to really get into the work. The art is a big detractor in this. Plus, the artist must think all Scottish men look like Simon Pegg. Come on. Do better than that. I give the art a 4.

Amazing Fantasy #15

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Time to sit back and read a classic today. Amazing Fantasy #15 gives birth to the most well known character not only in Marvel Comics history but in the history of comics period. Spider-Man. No matter the complaints I have about the story, and there are some, this comic helped changed the landscape for how comic stories were told.

To start with I absolutely loved that the story was pretty dark, especially for a story told in the early 1960’s. Apart from Uncle Ben and Aunt May, he really has no one that cares for him. Now as most older folks know, that is pretty much life right there. Don’t want to be too depressing here but it’s true. The people that really, truly care about you are a small group of people at best. The high school mentality that you need to be popular with everyone in order to be happy is about as much of a fictional tale as my love life when I was single.

Peter’s reactions when he gets his power is realistic as well. When you’re pushed around and treated like nothing, the moment you get your first taste of power it is quite easy to let it overtake you to the point of arrogance. Peter decides that he’s going to use his new power to benefit himself. That’s also a different take on the genre when most origin stories involve the hero making a vow from the start to use their powers for good. Peter Parker is all about the Benjamin’s and the bitches! It’s only when confronted with the results of his arrogance, the murderer of his Uncle Ben being a man who Peter had a chance to stop from robbing a television studio but didn’t, does he realize the error of his ways and use his powers for good in honor of his Uncle Ben.

People may say that Batman starts out just as dark. While it is pretty damn dark, Batman doesn’t become Batman through his own actions. He was not responsible for the death of his parents. He was a bystander who ended up vowing vengeance. If Peter Parker had stopped that thief, Uncle Ben would still be alive. That makes Peter’s decision at the end to fight crime all the more poignant.

When you look at origin stories for major characters I would have to say Spider-Man’s origin would have to be my favorite. Some origin stories are simply unreadable. I tried reading Captain America’s origin and had to put it down. Same for Superman and Batman. Granted they were written for a different time and an audience that asked for something different from their comic stories but man are they a horrible read. I compare it to the first single from major rock bands. If you took the first hits for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, you’d wonder how they ever got famous. The only group that had a decent first single was The Who. Batman and Superman were like the original singles from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Spider-Man would be like The Who’s first single, more well formed and strangely consistent with their current output of music.

Now the downside. Being that the story was written in the 1960’s, we have the annoying little trait of having characters when they’re alone speaking their thoughts out loud. Peter spends almost a full page talking to himself about his new powers when you just want to scream at him to actually shut the hell up and do something. Don’t get me wrong, I like that comics allow writers to visually show what characters are thinking. When said thoughts are expressed on a comic in a traditional word bubble, the way spoken speech is expressed in comics, it makes you wonder about the sanity of the characters.

I also wished the comic spent a little more time exploring his relationship with his Aunt and Uncle. Especially Uncle Ben. We know he loves them but don’t know why they are so important. Now obviously future issues more than establish why Aunt May and Uncle Ben were important. This issue made the mistake of telling the audience why they were important and not show the audience why they were important. Comics are a visual AND verbal medium. You can get away with telling some parts of the story. Others, you have to show.

Bottom Line:

Any judgement I have on this comic will be meaningless. Sure, it has flaws. ANY story has them if you look for them. But the freedom Stan Lee and Steve Ditko opened up for writers and artists alike should never be forgotten. Heroes in other stories chose to be come heroes. Some by choice, some in honor of loved ones, but it was still their choice. Peter Parker is different. If he had stopped that thief, he would not see the importance of one of the greatest lines in comic history. With great power there must also come great responsibility. This is how you create a character that lasts the test of time.

It also made me think of the recent failure of The Amazing Spider-Man movie. I read this comic and see that Peter Parker had a wonderful relationship with his Aunt and Uncle. In that movie, he is constantly arguing with Uncle Ben. Now I was able to see in that movie that they loved each other but there was still a disconnect to the source material that should not have been ignored. Do I need the sappiness this issue presented? No. I think Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie had the perfect balance of honoring the source material while also accepting the fact that people who love each other can argue at times.

Movies are their own unique beasts. Alan Moore had gone on record for his Watchmen comic as stating that it never should have been made into a movie. He wrote it specifically to be a comic. Too often you see movies that are based on comics that do nothing more than take on the spirit of the comic. Sometimes they get away with that such as Tim Burton’s Batman. Sometimes there are massive failures like every time the Fantastic Four was put on film. Ignoring the basics of the source material can spell disaster if you don’t have love for the material to begin with. While Andrew Garfield was pretty good as Peter Parker, I don’t think he was given the best material to work with. Too much of the story had changed. They wanted to make a Spider-Man film without the basic elements that made Spider-Man great. Well, at least Marvel Studios has Spidey back where he belongs.

Batman: Endgame Special Edition

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The Good:

You can never go wrong with Batman. Unless it’s a Joel Shumacher film but I digress. I decided to check out the Batman Day comic that was given out for free in the iBook store which carried issue 1 of the Endgame story line. It starts off with a strange smoke covering Gotham City. From there, all hell breaks loose as various heroes, under the influence of someone or something attack Batman.

The story does a decent job of ratcheting up the tension, bringing obstacle after obstacle Batman’s way. Just when you think he’s about to overcome a particular person, something else comes along keeping him from getting the heroes in question to actually think about what is going on.

The art work is pretty solid this issue. The characters are drawn in the traditional fashion which makes the characters quite crisp and realistic. It gives the characters a chance to emote emotions otherwise not shown if it were drawn in the latest sloppy style that seems to be all the rage. I also liked the scope of the locations. It really felt like the characters were in actual locations, you got a real sense of space. Too often in comics the scenes appear to be located in what appears to be movie sets, unrealistically small settings that don’t fit the action that is happening on the page. This felt like a movie which I think accomplishes its goal.

The Bad:

Yet again we have a story that is the first part of a much longer story. I get that comics today do not really start and end with one issue. They don’t need to either if they are told right. Comics must be told in a way that acknowledges the fact that the person buying a particular issue needs to be convinced to buy the next issue. There needs to be more desperation on the creators part to want to get readers interested not only in how the story turns out but in the entire back story as well. And you have one comic book which is approximately around the 20 page mark to do so. There are some masters at doing this, Brian Bendis being one that comes to mind from the current batch of comic writers. Scott Snyder, the writer of this issue, is pretty good as well but to use a baseball analogy, he struck out big time with this issue.

I had no real sense of what was going on. We start off at the tail end of a previous story which as a reader I was given no real encouragement to want to read because they didn’t give me a reason to do so. From there he starts fighting Wonder Woman, Aqua-Man, and Superman while under the illusion that that are being affected by gas from The Scarecrow. It turns out he is wrong. The heroes in question were drugged by The Joker.

My question is….HOW THE FUCK COULD THE JOKER DO THAT? I get that The Joker is a master criminal for someone of Batman’s caliber. But taking on a god like Wonder Woman or getting close enough to Superman to infect him? I just don’t buy it. My opinion could easily be changed with other issues in this particular story but I still find that to be a failure.

Now admittedly I have not read much current DC material apart from the Court of Owls and Death of the Family stories from Batman comics. I would like to know how Superman has become so damn ineffective against criminals. Too many stories from the current generation of DC stories that I have read have involved Superman being manipulated by criminals and I have to wonder why. It’s great and all that they want to take a character with pretty much unlimited powers and find ways to show that he has weaknesses so he can be somewhat relate able but making him so easy to be manipulated just makes him dangerous. He has good intentions but when someone with his power can be made to do evil things so easy why should we be anything but terrified of him?

Bottom Line:

I would have been upset if I had paid for this comic. This is not good. Maybe the other issues in this story would change my opinion somewhat but still, the first issue needs to entice readers to want to know more of what is going on. I felt lost and confused from page one on. For that I have to give the story a 3.

The art work is what redeems this. The artwork for all the Batman series from the New 52 line has been pretty damn good. It has great scope, appears to be situated in real locations, and is not sloppy, allowing the characters to show real emotion. I give the artwork an 8.

Batman: Death of the Family Issue 17

Death of the Family

It happened a lot sooner than I anticipated. The story didn’t get off to a good start and apart from some decent issues, the Secret Invasion story line has just burned me out. On top of that I think the opportunity to fully dig deep into my comic collection and find some gems I may have over looked was too appealing a thought than sticking with a story that I was fast losing interest in. Fact is, I am doing this for fun. Why make this a chore?

So thanks to Batman day coming up tomorrow, I took advantage of a sale on Comixology and purchased the Death of the Family story. One of the greatest villains created in the 20th century was The Joker. There’s so much you can do with that character, from the silliness of Caesar Romero’s version on the 1960’s Batman to Jack Nicholson’s demented glee in Tim Burton’s only good movie Batman. I had heard some good reviews of this story and thought I would give it a quick read.

The Good:

The Death of the Family story is best read as a whole. Think of it like a puzzle. Take a piece away and the puzzle is not complete. This piece of the puzzle is the grand finale of a story that will go down as a Joker classic. The various men (and boy) where were Robin as well as Batgirl and Alfred have been kidnapped by The Joker. Batman is tied up at a table and wakes up seeing them tied to chairs with bandages on their faces. The Joker makes Batman believe that he has removed their faces, going so far as to show Batman fake faces in serving platters.

To say The Joker is demented in this story is putting it lightly. What the writer Scott Snyder did so well was still inject humor in what he did. In an earlier issue The Joker was forcing guards at Arkham Asylum to carry a horse to a room in the asylum. They drop the horse and it traps one of the guards. Like a child, The Joker says that the horsie is ruined and shoots the horse. Then he said the trapped guard is ruined too and shoots him in the face. The way the art and the words compliment each other makes a scene that, in someone else’s hands may come off as scary, come across as disturbingly funny.

This issue is, in a weird way, a love letter from The Joker to Batman. The Joker sees the times he shares with Batman as fun. He loves their tangles. Everything about their time together just keeps the never ending smile on his face. The over all story was a great way to touch upon previous Joker adventures but with a twist which was nice to see. The nostalgia was used to great effect as well as being used as an actual way to move the story forward and not just a cheap trick in order to falsely keep your interest. One thing that I could see being a problem for a writer of established characters like this is the fact that after 75 years, what could you possibly do different that hasn’t already been done to death yet? Especially with a story like a comic, unless you come to a point where one of the characters dies and dies for good, you will find yourself repeating what others have done before. It’s inevitable. So for the writers here to turn the table a bit and rehash some older Joker stories all the while turning the story on its ear is great.

The art is some of the best artwork I have seen. Very well done. The Joker at this point had his face voluntarily removed and it is pretty much stapled to his face at this point yet thanks to a perfect marriage of words and art, you still get the idea that The Joker absolutely loves everything he is doing. He is batshit insane, no question about it. He gets pissed at times and like a child will throw a tantrum, albeit a deadly one. But The Joker is pure ID. He does what he wants when he wants. Through his mannerisms and facial expressions you can almost see him do his best to try and get Batman to join him in his insanity. This is work that you will not soon forget.

The Bad:

Not really much to say bad about the story apart from the ending. Now the obviously bad thing is the fact that the story ended. You want it to go on. But some may not see that as a bad thing.

One thing I didn’t care for was the way the ending just sort of happened. It’s like you’re traveling in a car at 90 miles an hour than suddenly you hit the breaks and your trip is at an end. Especially with some of the supporting characters going through something that I would think would be traumatic as fuck but it just ends where everyone goes their separate ways, la la la. I would have liked a little more explanation into how they dealt with the experience.

Bottom Line:

If you are a fan of The Joker, you need to read Death of the Family. This is just required reading folks, no two ways about it. While it does have some very minor flaws, overall the story is an instant classic. I give it a 10 overall. The art and words compliment each other in such a way that you don’t see too often.

Batman: The Killing Joke

killing joke

I have surprised myself by getting to day 30 of this little adventure of reviewing a comic a day. As a writer I’ve let writer’s block stop me from writing on any sort of a regular basis. While I would love to say that it was due to some grand artistic gesture on my part, I have to be honest and say it wasn’t. I, like so many others before me, felt that I needed inspiration or a muse to get me to write when in the end, practice, practice, practice is the only thing that will make me a better writer.

Admittedly this site is not my main focus as a writer. What I like to think of this site for me is what playing scales is for a musician. It focuses my brain on the task of writing and just getting words on the page. Too often in the past I found that I would get to a certain point in something I was writing and then decide that I must make the words I’ve already written be as could as they could be before I took the time to actually finish the damn story. In fact, the sequel to my first novel is around the halfway mark but I’ve found myself stuck. Words just wouldn’t come out. So I stopped writing. A damn foolish thing to do.

So I challenged myself to write reviews of comic books. I felt that doing so would help me in a couple of ways. As writers, the first rule that is given to any writer is to read. You’re only going to know what works and what doesn’t by reading other work. I mean, would a musician know if they were any good on the guitar for example if they never heard anyone else play the instrument? While it’s certainly possible someone could theoretically teach themselves how to play without having ever heard anyone else playing the guitar the fact is that most guitar players of note had an influence or two, artists who they emulated and were able to actually add to in order to make themselves better musicians. By reading daily I would see what worked for other writers and frankly what doesn’t work. I can then use that knowledge and apply it to my fiction when I write.

Secondly I would find myself writing every day. I’ll be the first to admit that the reviews on my site are all first draft, stream of conscious reviews. While I could certainly take the time to tighten up the reviews that’s not really why I do what I am doing. The point is simply…write. The more I write, even something as straight forward as a review of something I read, I will be writing. And when I get back to my fiction work, the fact that writing is now a habit for me, something I have to do every day, I will find myself getting what I need to out on paper.

Writing can be the most fulfilling and the most challenging work anyone can do. When you’re in the zone, words can’t get on the page fast enough. When you’re not in the zone, the empty space on the page will taunt you like a grade school bully. This site is dedicated to writing. It’s not pretty but to me, it’s work like this that writers have to go through on a daily basis that will get them to do their greatest work.

Now on to our show…

For day 30, I thought I would tackle another graphic novel. It’s a short one this time but quite monumental in how it not only affected the comic industry but movies we see today as well. It’s The Killing Joke from Alan Moore.

I have a love/hate relationship with Alan Moore. Some of his work I can’t stand. I HATE Watchmen. Now don’t get me wrong. I understand Watchmen’s place in comic history and respect the fact that Watchmen brought a new respect for comics. It deserves the respect people have for it. As a story though it just didn’t do it for me. I hated it and was glad when it was over. On the flip side I really enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He did an amazing job in taking already established characters and through sheer ingenuity, bring a group of people together who have no reason to be together and make them a coherent team. For as much as I don’t like his work, for me to deny Mr. Moore’s writing skills would be foolish.

The Killing Joke I have to say is not really a story in the traditional sense. It’s more of an exploration piece about madness and how life can really just fuck with you at times. The biggest event in this comic is the shooting of Barbara Gordon. It came out of nowhere and just makes no sense. Yet The Joker is a character who does things for shits and giggles at times. It seems that he wanted to see if he could break Commissioner Gordon’s mind and he thought that by shooting and raping his daughter he could do that. The story also intersperses an origin story for The Joker, exploring how he became The Red Hood. (Or one way he imagines he became The Red Hood.)

Without the struggle of good verses evil, why have comics? But that basic premise alone can get tired if you don’t take the time to think about what can make a person evil. About what makes a person be good. To The Joker, life itself is what is crazy. The freedom he has being insane is the true happiness in life. It takes more effort to stay sane so fuck it, why go through all that work when you can be cuckoo bananas and have the time of your life?

Batman and Commissioner Gordon are there to show him that his way of thought is ultimately destructive. These two ways of thought on how to live life are not compatible. While life will kick you in the teeth at times, you grow more as a human if you’re able to dust yourself off and move on. In a lot of ways the comic does a great job of showing that apart from a choice or two, Batman and The Joker could have easily reversed their roles. Anyone could be The Joker if you just kick them down one too many times. But what makes a person who has life kick them in the face stand up and keep moving forward? What makes them any different than the person who says enough is enough and decides that life can just go suck a big one?

This is a must read comic. This is a book you show someone who has never read a comic before and is quick to dismiss it as juvenile nonsense. From what I have read this comic was not necessarily an act of love by Mr. Moore. If that is the case, the fact that a classic of comic books came from someone that was there essentially earning a paycheck and nothing else is amazing in and of itself. Do yourself a favor and get this book. The artwork alone is worth the price. Hell, if a movie coming out next year is cribbing from this comic that came out close to thirty years ago they must be doing something right.

joker1

Superman: Last Son of Krypton

Last Son of Krypton

After an almost full week of Marvel reviews, thanks to coming across some comics at a local second hand store I will review my first comic from DC. The only reason I’ve been reviewing so much Marvel Comics is due to my subscription of Marvel Unlimited. (http://marvel.com/comics/unlimited) With so many comics at my disposal from one company, logic states that I will gravitate towards them so I can actually have something to do with this blog. But my love for other companies is certainly there. In fact one of my first exposures to comics was Saturday Morning cartoons.

And of course growing up how could I not miss these?

While I have a certain affinity for Marvel Comics, let’s be honest here. Competition makes everyone better. If DC were the only game in town they’d get lazy because they would know they wouldn’t have to compete with anybody. Where else would an audience go? A person would have to be a complete moron if they stuck with simply one company for their comic entertainment. So with that, let’s get to our story.

Summary:

http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Superman:_Last_Son_of_Krypton_-_FCBD_Special_Edition_Vol_1_1

The Good:

From the start I was happy to see Richard Donner was involved in the creation of this comic. I don’t see why anyone reading a review of a comic book but if you happen to not know, let me tell you. Richard Donner directed the first Superman with Christopher Reeve. He also directed a large portion of Superman 2 but due to differences with producers did not finish that product (despite the fact that some of the footage he shot where he made a cameo stayed in the movie.) Richard has filmed some of the greatest stories in Hollywood going all the way back to the original Twilight Zone and the classic episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner. His wife helped produce the X-Men films. Her assistant at the time, Kevin Feige, ended up running Marvel Studios. So to say Richard Donner has had a tremendous impact on comics is putting it quite mildly.

The story was well written. While it left off with a To Be Continued, it was written so well you wanted to read more. Because of Donner’s involvement I think it’s no coincidence that the story feels like it is a part of the Superman movie world. Little things like Clark pushing up his glasses with one finger and Perry White screaming for Jimmy Olsen to get him some coffee were a great nod to the movie.

I also liked the element of the new arrival from outer space that scientists determine if from Krypton. Superman’s motivation throughout is that of someone who’s lonely who would do absolutely anything to be with someone of his own kind. You could easily imagine someone who was adopted for example traveling the globe at the chance of finally meeting a member of their actual birth family.

I also liked when Superman got pissed. When the government got involved and took the new arrival away to do god knows what, he finds them in Washington and damn near threatens a man with his heat vision to tell him where the kid in question is. That clearly set up that while Superman is accepted for the most part by the government, deep down there is a mistrust between the both of them. Superman knows that the only reason he’s not being experimented on or being used as a weapon of mass destruction is because he can burn their damn faces off where they stand. Who would stop him?

The art in the piece seemed a little rushed. Having said that I dug how it evoked the feel of the movie. This could have easily been Superman 7 if Richard Donner had stayed director of the series.

The Bad:

This is just quibbling but the art could have been better. While it had it’s good points like I mentioned above it just felt too sloppy at the end. Too many comics today have that rushed look when it comes to their art that just distracts me from the overall experience.

Bottom Line:

There really isn’t much to dislike with this issue. While the cover above was the issue I picked up, keep in mind this story actually appeared in Action Comics #844. It is part of a bigger story that I wanted to finish up so after I am done writing this, I will head to Amazon and buy the other issues. The story I give a 10. The art I give a 7. If you come across this story it will be well worth your time.

And there came a day, unlike any other…

Avengers

I’ve had a blog of some sort for close to a decade now. The great thing about the internet is that the average joe has a vessel to discuss anything that comes to their mind. Absolutely anything.

Now sometimes that can produce hilarious results, whether intentional or not. What it can also do is present results that make people angry. Take politics, one passion of mine. This subject has the ability to make someone angry over any issue under the political realm. What may be no big deal to me is passion point number one for someone else. For a while I had tried to write about my thoughts on politics, sometimes with decent results, sometimes not so much. The more I would write however the more I became disillusioned about how politics is treated in general. Not that political topics should not be discussed but too often, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t done this, people base their opinions on emotion and if you challenge them, too often than not you’d find yourself being barraged with links to websites that are the furthest from reputable that support their opinion.

We have a wonderful tool with the internet that allows us access to more actual knowledge than at any other time in history. More and more though people are getting the facts from sites that are not so focused on giving actual facts but manufactured facts that supported one side or anything. Facts have become this nebulous piece of goo that can be shaped into whatever the people manufacturing them want. To get to the bottom of what is fact or fiction takes a lot of work but even then people won’t listen. You have this atmosphere, whether on the left or the right, where facts are not believed because we have been conditioned to believe that some sources of facts support one side and some sources support the other. Us verses them. You have sites like The Huffington Post which go out of their way to demonize conservative news organizations and accuse them of indoctrinating their audience into believing nonsense…all the while doing the same with their audience.

I frankly have had enough. That’s not to say I have suddenly become neutral or anything because if you check out my Twitter page (@timjousma) you will see that is not the case. What I am done with is beating my head against the wall writing about topics that one, people may just dismiss out of hand simply because it disagrees with the “facts” they believe and two, writing topics for people who already believe what I believe and just simply go “Meh”.

So why I am I writing this? Well I do love to write. To be good at writing you have to do it everyday which, thanks to trying to focus on a topic that was depressing me I was simply not doing. So I have decided to change my focus to something that I think more people may enjoy.

Comic Books!

I have been a fan of comics since I was a kid watching the Super-Friends and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends on Saturday Morning Television. Then of course Batman came in 1989 and despite loathing Tim Burton movies, I fell in love even more. Technology caught up with comics and since the late 1990’s we’ve had more amazing comic book movies than I ever thought we would see on screen.

My main focus is going to be Marvel Comics. Not that I dislike other companies and characters or anything but simply because I am a subscriber to the amazing service that Marvel offers called Marvel Unlimited where for a monthly or yearly subscription price you get access to over 13,000 comics, including everything Star Wars related.

I will read a comic a day. If I read a graphic novel I will make that a focus of a monthly piece. I will judge the comic not only on the story but the art of the piece. Ultimately I hope to either recommend or keep you away from stories that will keep you entertained.

There is more to life than politics. Politics will not go anywhere. People with far more patience than myself will pontificate about it. In the mean time I will be enjoying my time with heroes like Spider-man, Iron Man, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and others.

Excelsior!