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

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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.

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