Review: Batman #14


It seems in this DCnU that small crossovers are going to be rather common place.  H’el on Earth, Rise of the Third Army, Throne of Atlantis, etc.  Heck, it wasn’t too long back that Court/Night of the Owls finished up.  For the Batfamily we currently are getting Death of the Family, with Batman #14 being the latest issue.  Be careful of spoilers…

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Batfamily #0s

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading.  Not all the Batfamily has had a zero issue so far, and I haven’t picked all the zero issues yet.  This will look at five titles though going in “order” of their crime fighting debut: Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood/Outlaws, Batman and Robin.  Expect spoilers.

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DCnU Timeline v1

So DC gave us a “relaunch” where bits are the same, others erased, and the general timeline crunched down due to de-aging many (but not all) of the characters.  Due to this I at least am very confused on how everything fits in.  So with the help of the other bloggers, I’ve decided to piece together a timeline.

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Top Ten Best Comics Of 2008

Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2008! Woo hoo! Now, before we get to all the fun of me voicing my opinions and you disagreeing with them, I have to get a few rules out of the way.

1. These are the top ten stories/arcs/whatever. Not comic in general, not trade, but best stories (What can I say, I’m trying to be somewhat unique).

2. These are stories that ended in 2008. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2008, they’re eligible.

3. I tried to keep the list as diverse and reader-friendly as possible. I love certain writers, but it would be boring if it was three Morrison books, two Fraction books, etc. So a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. Same thing goes for characters. I’m not going to have a list made up of a bunch of X-Men comics or in the case of 2008, Superman books. Lastly (Sorry, #3 is a long rule), I tried to spread the love even when it came to companies. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.

Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great list? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let us begin the fun!

The Crooked Man #1

10. Hellboy: The Crooked Man (Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1-3)

Written by Mike Mignola

Illustrated by Richard Corben

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

I sound like a broken record. I’ve written for this site for about seven months now. In that time I have reviewed nearly every Hellboy comic. And over and over again I have to point out how wonderful Mike Mignola really is. It’s not just his art. He’s a terrific artist. What fascinates me more are his words. Though Mignola’s obsessed with the past, his comics constantly evolve. 2008 was a fantastic year for Big Red. A new movie that not only didn’t disappoint, it was better than its predecessor. A new comic actually drawn by Mignola himself, the start of the longest Hellboy journey yet and of course this little gem that I’m here to talk about. The Crooked Man, like most Hellboy stories, is deceptively simple. It’s difficult to express one’s love for Hellboy comics because they all have similar beats. Hellboy goes to some marvelous landscape. He encounters a mystical problem. He then beats the crap out of everybody until they fall down. But unlike most Hellboy yarns, The Crooked Man doesn’t take place in some faraway land. It’s set in deep Deliverance hick hell. It’s not about old artifacts or odd Guillermo Del Torro creatures. This is about the classic struggle between man and the devil. It’s about facing your fears and temptations. Hellboy is almost a supporting character for God’s sake! And of course who better to bring this horrifying masterpiece to life than Richard Corben. He’s a perfect fit for this book. The man is 68 years old and he’s still pouring his soul into his projects. This Hellboy tale is not to be missed.

Joker HC

9. Joker (Original GN)

Written by Brian Azzarello

Illustrated by Lee Bermejo

Publisher: DC Comics

Available here. Do you want to see the bloodiest and most brutal Joker story ever? This is it. Joker is a gritty crime graphic novel that’s all about the titular character through the lens of sanity, Jonny Frost. Lee Bermejo spent two years working on this project. This book looks perfect. And in a Joker comic that means the book looks like hell. Bermejo and Mick Gray share the inking duties. Gray has a softer look while Bermejo has a terrifying painted effect. I began to dread Bermejo’s inks as it meant something gruesome was ahead. Azzarello throws us into a mad dark world with realistic versions of classic Batman rogues. The Dark Knight does appear but he only says three words. This is a fascinating yarn and the fact that Bermejo’s Joker mirrors Ledger’s makes it all the more creepy.

Made To Suffer

8. The Walking Dead: Made to Suffer (The Walking Dead Forty-Three through Forty-Eight)

Written by Robert Kirkman

Illustrated by Charlie Adlard

Publisher: Image Comics

Collected here. The Walking Dead is a comic that suffers in this format. In fact, I even feel uneasy putting it here because it doesn’t really have arcs. Walking Dead is one giant story, but it deserves to be on this list. For several years it’s been one of my favorite comics for its character exploration in a brutal and harsh situation. Though this story does contain one of this series’ few blunders (The return of the character you see on that cover), it was undeniably excellent. Testing these poor characters once again, Kirkman created the most suspenseful story of the year. The amount of hell inflicted on these men, women, and children was unsettling and powerful. Clearly, this is a landmark in a fantastic monthly book.

Northlanders #5

7. Northlanders: Sven the Returned (Northlanders One through Eight)

Written by Brian Wood

Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice

Publisher: Vertigo

Collected here. On the back of the trade (That’s only ten dollars! Eight issues for ten bucks is so awesome) there are quotes comparing this tale to Conan and 300. If that’s what you need to hear then I’ll agree with that comparison and even throw Braveheart into the mix. But really, this is the classic tale of the man born in the wrong time. It’s more than the modern language (You like the F-word right?) and evil uncle (That brings Hamlet to mind). Sven is a modern man trapped in a society based on dying with honor. Would you charge an army of one thousand if you were alone? I don’t think so. Yes, on the surface this is an enthralling adventure with Vikings, boobs and blood by the barrel full. But beneath the flare is a classic tale with a fantastic and unexpected conclusion.

Scalped #17

6. Scalped: Dead Mothers (Scalped #13-17)

Written by Jason Aaron

Illustrated by R.M. Guera

Publisher: Vertigo

Collected here. Dash Bad Horse and Chief Red Crow are incredibly intriguing characters even though they don’t have a lot to say. That’s one of Aaron’s strengths as a writer, he knows when to shut up and let his artist shine. Guera provides the usual rough style of art you’re used to seeing in these types of comics, but with a twist. It’s hard to put into words. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. Scalped, like Walking Dead, is an ongoing epic that’s hard to judge from arc to arc. But Dead Mothers is particularly amazing. And by amazing I mean heartbreaking. It’s hard not to spoil things, but Dead Mothers is about well, what do you think? Two people have lost their mothers and their murderers need to be brought to justice. But it’s so much more than that. Scalped is a crime western history epic filled with shocking twists and turns.

Black Summer Litho Juan Jose Ryp San Diego Ed #1

5. Black Summer (Black Summer #0-7)

Written by Warren Ellis

Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp

Publisher: Avatar Press

Collected here. I dare everyone to read issue #0 (It’s one freaking dollar) of this series and not pick up the trade. It will pique your interest. Heck, you may have even seen this comic on the news if your town is small enough. Though it may be deemed by some to be liberal propaganda, you must remember this is written by Warren Ellis. It’s much more complex than that. This series is also enriched by the amazing and detailed visuals of Juan Jose Ryp. Though the story may devolve into a big action blockbuster (It does have summer in the title after all), I doubt you’ll find another blockbuster more thought provoking than this.

Criminal TPB Vol. 04 Bad Night

4. Criminal: Bad Night (Criminal Vol 2 #4-7)

Written by Ed Brubaker

Illustrated by Sean Phillips

Publisher: Icon

Collected here. I got into this book late, very late. I wouldn’t have believed it, but Criminal really is Brubaker and Phillips’ best work. I’m sure you’ve heard of this book’s general accomplishments, so that gives me the opportunity to talk about Bad Night specifically. The first volume (Coward and Lawless) offered crime stories that seemed familiar but were told well. Brubaker provided lovable baddies and established the mood and tone wonderfully. And as for Sean Phillips, there’s a difference between pretty art and art that belongs. One can be replaced and one can’t. Phillips belongs in the latter category. I can’t imagine anyone else on this book. Phillips’ quality continued in the second volume, but Brubaker stepped it up a notch. He began to tell more unconventional crime stories. Bad Night was his most experimental and his best to date. He demonstrated true noir. I’m not talking about the watered down crap you’ve seen in the last few decades. I’m talking about the gritty old-school, where every character is scummy. Bad Night is about lust, creativity, and obsession. Its finale packs quite a punch.

Punisher #54

3. Punisher: Long Cold Dark (Punisher #50-54)

Written by Garth Ennis

Illustrated by Goran Parlov, Howard Chaykin

Publisher: MAX Comics

Collected here. This is the year that made all Punisher fans (And anyone who appreciates great comics) cry. Garth Ennis left the big scary skull dude. But still, even in the winter of Ennis’ Punisher years, he managed to produce some damn fine comics. In fact, Long Cold Dark and Valley Forge, Valley Forge are two of his best. Now, Valley may be a better story for those who read the whole series, but Long Cold is for everyone (Except maybe children, old people and the squeamish). The first issue is drawn by the legendary Howard Chaykin and the rest of the arc is cinematically rendered by Goran Parlov. This is fun, twisted, and full of no holds barred action. And I really do mean that. Barracuda (The big black guy, not the Heart song) returns and has a piece of Frank’s past with him. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a hell of a plot device. Possibly the Punisher’s best villain finds a way to get under Frank’s skin. It’s a terrific and bloody ride. 

All Star Superman TPB Vol. 01

2. All Star Superman (All Star Superman #1-12)

Written by Grant Morrison

Illustrated by Frank Quitely

Publisher: DC Comics

Collected here and here. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are phenomenal. These two Scots collaborate again and again and every time they produce pure magic. All Star Superman is the best Superman story. Some would say that this is the only Superman comic one would ever need. To me, every Superman tale actually improves because of this. All Star Superman breathes new life into a seventy year old character. But this is more than nostalgia or a Silver Age throwback. It’s a unique and fascinating tale that’s extraordinarily memorable. Superman and Lois kissing on the moon. A man playing cosmic fetch with his dog. Superman saving that kid from suicide. Earth Q, the world without Superman. It’s all so beautiful. So if this is my #2, what the heck is my #1?

Casanova #14

1. Casanova: Gula (Casanova #8-14)

Written by Matt Fraction

Illustrated by Fabio Moon

Publisher: Image Comics

Casanova, that’s what. I do not put Casanova ahead of Morrison’s Superman lightly. I put much thought into this decision and in the end, Casanova’s (Or is it Zephyr’s?) charm won me over. This book is purely transcendent. From its cost of two dollars to the fact that every issue is packed with more information, emotion, etc. than most mainstream six-issue arcs (And I’m just talking about Gula. The first arc, Luxuria, was even denser). Casanova is genuinely groundbreaking.  It won’t be as easy to recreate as something like The Dark Knight Returns which is why it will probably never receive the credit it deserves. And speaking of the Dark Knight, what sets Casanova apart from its genre defining (Or redefining) counterparts is its undeniable sense of fun. Casanova, on top of everything else, is funny! So please, each issue is only two bucks if you want the floppies (Which you probably should since each issue is filled with wonderful back matter from Fraction himself) and the first trade is a little more than ten dollars. Casanova is worth your time.

Legacy of Vengeance (Marvel Must-Have)

Honorable Mentions

Incredible Hercules: Sacred Invasion (Incredible Hercules #117-120)

This was the best thing to come out of Secret Invasion. Well, it wasn’t a great new series, that was Captain Britain. But it was the best story with the words “Secret Invasion” on the cover. Incredible Hercules is a fun, humorous and refreshing comic. Sacred Invasion features the awesome God Squad! It also contains the most shocking Skrull reveal ever (That was ruined on the cover of the trade)!

Superman: Brainiac (Action Comics #866-870)

Superman had a fantastic year. Along with All Star Superman, Geoff Johns wrote three wonderful Superman tales. Superman: Brainiac was my favorite. Gary Frank’s art is worth the price alone. He captures all the sci-fi, horror, and emotion perfectly. Superman’s ensemble cast also shines here. And those last few pages are heartbreaking. It’s too bad I couldn’t get Geoff Johns on the list this year, but with Blackest Night coming up, it’s a safe bet he’ll make the list for 2009.

Thor: Ages of Thunder (Thor: Ages of Thunder, Thor: Circle of Blood, Thor: Man of War)

The best Thor story in years, it explores the Thunder God’s early years. Fraction delivers some giant-slaying fun. If you’re looking for a good time with Gods, Monsters, and lascivious Odin, this book is for you!

Thunderbolts: Caged Angels (Thunderbolts #116-121)

I love this run so much. Why did I put Black Summer on my list instead of this? Black Summer isn’t well-known, Caged Angels is only half of the story, and Black Summer has complete creative freedom.

X-Force: Angels & Demons (X-Force #1-6)

This was on my list for so long. I do love it and isn’t that cover awesome? I figured I could only use one for the honorable mentions and that is by far the best. This is the dark and bloody version of the X-Men. X-Force also gives us a few continuity surprises. Clayton Crain renders some stunning images.

So there it is. That took a lot of time, so much so that we’re already in the second month of the new year (Time flies). I think it’s a pretty good list. I’m sorry Marvel fans. There aren’t any traditional Marvel comics on my main list (Though Punisher and Criminal kind of count), but at least you have my honorable mentions. Other than that, I think I spread the love, right? 2008 wasn’t that great for the real world (In fact, it was pretty horrible), but at least the comics were good.

Bruce Castle Presents: Halloween Comic Review Extravaganza!

The Long Halloween #1 of 13

Ah, Halloween. A time when comic fans reread Batman: The Long Halloween. Or maybe the entire trilogy! Read my reviews for those books here, here and here. No I’m not Jeph Loeb, but I am going as Jeph Loeb for Halloween. Hey, his writing is terrifying. Terrifyingly terrible! See, I praise them and then I make fun of them. That’s how I role. Anyway, instead of going out and being social at parties (Who wants to do that?), why don’t you kick back and get your scare on comics style!

Final Crisis Rage Of The Red Lanterns #1 (VARIANT COVER)

“EEEK! Red Lanterns!” Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns (*****)

So many awesome covers this week! But I don’t think this one is my favorite (More on that in another post. Stay Tuned!). Yes, the art is a big part of this issue. I was originally going to praise Shane Davis, but I don’t think he’s the artistic star. Sure his character designs for the RL’s (Including one of the funniest most awesome lanterns ever!) are amazing and he does help make this comic epic, but I think his inker (Sandra Hope, the sexiest inker in the biz) and his colorist (Nei Ruffing) save his ass. Davis’ art is just a bit too inconsistent. The awkward faces don’t help either. Still, due to the aforementioned ass savers, this book still looks fantastic. Johns brings the goods as expected, but I have to criticize (as I must in all of Johns’ Final Crisis tie-ins) him for this issues’ lack of relevance to Final Crisis. But besides that, this comic is creepy, funny, bloody (So much red!) and entertaining!

In the Chapel of Moloch (one-shot)

“What The Hell Is That!?” Hellboy: In The Chapel Of Moloch (****1/2)

Ah, the good old days. A Done-In-One Hellboy story written and drawn by Mike Mignola. Yeah, I said “drawn by Mike Mignola”. What’s it been? Three years since he’s done interiors? I’d pretty much love this just for that even if the writing was terrible, but it’s not. I’m talking 24 pages of advertisement-free Hellboy awesomeness. All the classic Hellboy elements are present. This means it’s not quite as unique as this years Hellboy: The Crooked Man, but it’s just as fun. Throw the Mignola art into the mix and you definitely have a winner.

Astounding Wolf-man #9

“AAAHHH! Wolf-Man!” Astounding Wolf-Man #9 (****)

This comic isn’t usually scary and…I guess this issue isn’t any different, but it’s definitely shocking! I’ve written about it a lot in my recent Invincible reviews, but I don’t think I’ve covered it in my Wolf-Man posts. FCO Plascencia is the man! Sure, Jason Howard does do a great job, but FCO makes it magic with his spectacular colors. I’ve noticed lately that Invincible has been more violent and FCO achieves that here as well. Kirkman is great at reveals, but never before have the reveals been so devastating or plentiful. There are like 4 times in here when I yelled “Whoa!” or “Jebus!” or whatever popped into my shocked brain. After the slow pace in last issue, things seem to be moving at lightning speed. This book is worth reading!

Joker HC

“Oh My God! It’s The…” Joker (*****)

To hell with Scarecrow! The Joker is Batman’s scariest villain. This is the highly anticipated graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. Most people are excited about this because of the new Batman movie and because this Joker looks so similar to Heath Ledger’s version. Take a look.

Just in case you haven’t heard it elsewhere, THIS IS NOT A SEQUEL TO THE DARK KNIGHT! Azzarello and Bermejo have been working on this for years. Bermejo talks about it here. Apparently, Bermejo has been working on this for two years (Wow!) which was before Ledger was even cast. The similarities are purely coincidental which is perfect for this book. Everyone will be thinking of Ledger and hear his voice when they read this. It sort of adds an element of madness, eh?

Madness is the name of the game here. This is a character study of the Joker and a new henchman, Johnny Frost. This graphic novel is heavily influenced by noir and everything is more realistic, or is it? What is reality when you deal with the Joker? But what I meant was there are very few costumes in here. Sure Harley, Croc, Penguin and Two-Face are included, but they have a different look. This isn’t what’s most unique about the comic though. I’ll get to that later.

I haven’t seen much of Bermejo’s art, but it’s very impressive in these pages. Especially considering the two years he put into this, if you’re a Bermejo fan, you need to pick this up because of the art alone. Besides looking pretty, the book’s look serves another purpose. There are two different styles in here. One is when Bermejo inks himself that adds a painted look in addition to being featured in the “important” scenes. The second look is when Mike Gray inks. This has a much more traditional feel to it. The original reason was to speed up the artistic process (Two years wasn’t enough) and to supposedly control the speed of the reader’s eyes. The idea was to have people slow down and look at the glorious Bermejo inked pages. Whatever the reason, this worked in favor of Joker. It adds another level of insanity and obscurity.

My main criticism of Bermejo’s art and probably of the entire book is the inability or choice to censor certain things while pushing almost too far in other areas. I’m sure you can guess what I’m referring too. The violence is very hard core and the language, nudity and even a damn middle finger is played down. Bermejo, in that aforementioned interview, takes the blame for it, but it could have very easily been DC’s decision. Though this “decision” isn’t too off-putting, nor does it detract from the overall quality of the book, it’s still annoying. If I didn’t see it all the time in comics (I just brought this up in a recent Daredevil review) I probably wouldn’t be as bothered.

Anyway, what impressed me the most about this book was its tone and dialogue. It’s so incredibly intriguing. This is one of those stories you can read over and over again. You’ll notice new things or react differently making each read something special. I hate to make assumptions, but I think the people who will dislike this story will be those who don’t absorb the subtleties. This isn’t a straightforward book. It’s bizarre, it’s realistic, it’s disturbingly humorous and disturbingly violent. I knew there was a reason why this book was called Joker.

Whew! That was exhausting! Oh well, it only comes once a year. I hope you all enjoyed reading this stuff and I’m sure you’re all scared now. I’m off to continue my horror movie marathon, up next? The Shinning!

Yeah it’s not comic related, so what? You enjoy your Blade while I enjoy my favorite horror film. Happy Halloween!

Review: The Dark Knight

The following started out as a simple re-review of the film that I was going to post on my Live Journal, but then I just kept typing and typing. It’s kind of random at times, but I’m not trying to write the end-all-be-all essay on why The Dark Knight is the best movie ever. I’m just tossing out some shit, just to get it out of my head. I guess this is mostly for my own educational purposes, but if you enjoy it as well, cool. Or you know, if you want to tell me how full of shit I am, or how bleeding obvious everything I just said is, that’s fine too.

The Dark Knight wasn’t necessarily better the second time around, although I did tell Mandy it was (kind of the knee-jerk cliché response) but nothing can match the first time you see it, but on the second viewing, I did notice a whole bunch of shit I didn’t the first time. Seeing it twice allowed me to focus on the craft and the structure, since the WOW-ness of the story had worked its way (mostly) out of my system. It was also cool watching it in IMAX with all the pretty shots of Hong Kong and Chicago, but the giant screen and the super close seats combined to create one monster of a migraine. I saw it with almost the exact same people as last time, which was less fun than I thought it would be, cus, you know, we already made all those same jokes. It would have been nice to see it again for the first time with other people, like Mandy or Lorealle or the brother. That way, there’d be new jokes after exiting the theatre, right? Ya’ feel me? That’s part of the fun of going to movies for me, to get everyone’s reaction to what we just saw, and…

Anyway, the new stuff to talk about: the first time you watch it, sure, you notice all the familiar genre conventions: action, western, super hero. And you see all the character metaphors and whatnot. But the second time, you start to notice the details. Like, Heath Ledger telegraphing, with the movement of his eyes, the lie he tells about Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent’s locations. Or the fact that the location for the final showdown between the Joker and Batman takes place in an unfinished high-rise, an obvious nod to the first Die Hard film. And, like in that film, it is used in The Dark Knight as a substitute for “The Frontier”, a convention of the Western genre. The more I think about it, the more I see that The Dark Knight isn’t really a Super Hero movie at all, and maybe Nolan’s Batman never was. It’s a Western. And I think that’s why it works.

Sure, the Action movie is the bastard son of the Western, and the Super Hero flick the adopted stepson of the latter, but when you’re doing a pure, full-on Western, the conventions you use are wholly different. The film is littered with Western symbolism and ideas. Outcast, outlaw and vigilante to name a few, are all words used in the film to describe Batman. Gotham is the town that needs protecting from the Indians. It’s civilization. And Batman, the hero or the protector, Batman is the outcast, outlaw of the plains. He doesn’t even live in the city proper. Nolan, in his infinite cleverness, points this out in the film when Dent implies that Bruce Wayne isn’t really a citizen of Gotham since he lives way out in “The Palisades”. This is not a throwaway line of dialogue. Neither is Wayne’s retort when he instructs Dent to discover the limitations of his jurisdiction. The film is about the law. It’s about natural law or the laws of morality versus the laws made by a civilized people or a governing body of civilized people. These are Western conventions at their core, borrowed and adapted to Super Hero films. But, you say, Batman doesn’t kill and Western heroes do. Well, in the early days of the Western, the hero or sheriff or drifter wouldn’t kill at all, or if he did kill, he wouldn’t pull the trigger unless he was absolutely forced to, and even then it was only in the act of self-defense. And when the Western hero did have to kill the bad guy, it was usually proclaimed by the meager townsfolk as the pinnacle of justice. Now, in the Nolan films, has Batman not been portrayed in a similar way? In the first film, Batman sacrificed Ra’s al Ghul in order to save Gotham city. Sure, you could say that allowing someone to die is different than outright murdering them, and therefore Batman isn’t a murderer… but that’s entirely the point. Batman is justice. We, as the audience and as the townspeople, need to be able to forgive him. We need the storyteller to provide us with enough reasonable doubt to make excuses for him, because we need him. We need him to enact our revenge in a safe and tolerable way in the story just as we need men and women in our armed forces in real life, because in times of war, killing the enemy is not considered a crime. Now, is it any wonder Batman calls it his “War on Crime”? In the second film, in the process of saving Gordon’s son, didn’t Batman also cause the death of Harvey Dent? When he chose to save Rachel over Dent, was he not making the decision (implied by the Joker) to kill Dent? Of course, the Joker was lying and Rachel paid the price. Isn’t her death on Batman’s hands? Isn’t the death of the old commissioner and the judge and the Batman copycat on his hands too?

Moving on for now, let’s talk about the most obvious indicator to the film’s true genre, the “riding off into the sunset” sequence at the end. Let’s list the conventions of that scene: The boy and his father watching the hero leave; the boy calling out to the hero; the hero riding off into the unknown, the untamed frontier, because he’s too damn uncivilized to be accepted by society. Of course, here, we have Batman riding into the night, since you know, he’s the fucking “Dark Knight” and all.

Ah, what else? How about the strength of character needed to do what’s morally just and what may not necessarily be what’s legally just? This is one of the major ways in which in the Western differs from the Super Hero genre. In a Western, the hero has only his wits and his gun to rely on, just as the bad guys have theirs. Everyone is pretty much equal on the surface. What makes the hero stand out is his strength of character. He knows what must be done. In a Super Hero film, the hero has his wits and his super power. The bad guy of choice usually has one as well, but not always, and the civilians have nothing. The Super Hero is literally a god in these movies. He’s a god that gets to impose his sense of law and order onto to a sometimes unwilling populace. He is “might makes right” in the truest sense of the word. Hmm, no wonder American super hero comics dominate the medium, yet when you go overseas, you see that the super hero genre has been marginalized. Anyway, he utilizes strength of superpower and not strength of character to overcome his problems. Sure, the lines get blurred a little with characters like Spider-Man, but c’mon, in the end the guy can bench press a car. Watch his movies again and you’ll see that he always solves his problems with his fists, as most Super Heroes do. Or, if you’re Superman, you lift stuff. Doesn’t Batman solve it all with his fists? Sure, he employs violence like everyone else, like any Western/Action/Super Hero hero, but unlike the Arnolds and the Spider-Mans, his violence doesn’t actually solve the problem. It makes it worse. How does Batman beat Joker? He doesn’t. Joker beats himself, or you could easily say that Batman’s faith in humanity beats Joker the first time (people on the boats) and his strength of character, his willingness to bear the burden of being the villain beats Joker the second time (preserving Dent’s image). This is a major theme of the film.

Who can do what Batman does? Who can protect the city of Gotham, and by extension, the world or us? Throughout the film, we are presented with numerous examples of “the hero” and all of these characters are tested in some way, and all of them fail. All save for Batman… and Tiny Lister! Of course, this is again, on purpose. Nolan uses the incident in the boat, where Tiny’s nameless character throws the detonator into the water, to illustrate the point that although we view Tiny as a criminal and a villain, he’s still the type of guy we can rely on to do the right thing in times of great moral need… just like Batman!!!

These are all Western conventions and it’s exactly because of these conventions do we find The Dark Knight infinitely more relatable and enjoyable than other Super Hero movies, like Superman or Spider-Man. Look at those films, how often do the regular people in those movies take issue with their self-proclaimed hero’s vigilantism? In Superman, I’m not sure, I’d need to watch them again, but I don’t think it ever comes up. In Spider-Man, when it does, it’s always as the butt of a joke, usually involving J. Jonah Jameson. In neither of those movies, is this issue taken very seriously. Instead the filmmaker’s usually concentrate on the “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” theme. And big CGI backed set pieces. I mean, shit. That’s all Spider-Man really is. It’s action scenes. At least a couple of the Superman films include a compelling love story B-plot. But, back to the action scenes thing… this is what defines the Super Hero genre. In a regular action movie, a dude decides to take the law into his own hands and fight corruption or evil. He uses guns or his martial arts expertise and wins the day. In the Super Hero version of the Action movie, a dude decides to take the law into his own irradiated super strong flame generating hands and fight corruption or evil. He uses his special superpowers and wins the day. In an action movie, it’s about the guns and the body count. In a Super Hero movie, it’s about ridiculous super powers and stunning visual effects. In both, it’s about glorifying or magnifying the violence; elevating death and destruction to an artistic level. Take for example, the trailer to the new Punisher: Warzone movie. Seems like the perfect blend of both of these bastard genres.

Now, in a pure Western, the themes are never over-shadowed by the violence. Sure, in recent years, or as the genre began to show it’s age in the 70’s, the violence in those films was cranked up to eleven. The emphasis was placed more and more on the “Final Showdown” and not the ideas of morality that the film hoped to wrestle with. This is another conversation entirely, but it’s for this reason (or one of the reasons) that the Action genre was birthed into existence. But, that’s not really what I want to talk about, or bore you with…

It’s for all these reasons that we shouldn’t view this film as just another Super Hero movie that made a ton of money. It really isn’t. It’s classic storytelling, people, and it’s something we haven’t seen in almost a decade. That’s why so many people have seen this movie twice already and plan to see it again, with some having already made the third trip. In my eyes, the Nolan brothers are true masters of Western cinema. There are just too many examples of it in the film to chalk it up to chance, coincidence or accident. Everything in this film is on purpose. Just like The Prestige and just like Memento. This movie deserves all the accolades it has been receiving and will no doubt receive. I find it hard to believe that this won’t be at least nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor next year. And yes, I think it does deserve to be IMDB’s #1 movie right now. Godfather had its day and so did The Shawshank Redemption (which, I’m not sure why it ever did, but…). Godfather was a movie about “us” when it came out all those years ago, but we are not that “us” anymore. We are The Dark Knight “us”.

I was talking to my cousin the other day about whether or not The Dark Knight could possibly overtake Titanic. He said, “No doubt!” and I said, “Not a chance.” This was before I saw it for the second time. Now, I’d be very surprised if it didn’t.

The Archives: Batman: The Killing Joke

First off, it should be noted that this is the Deluxe HC Edition that I’m reviewing. This is still the twentieth anniversary of the book but it is a slightly different cover than the one above my words. I couldn’t find a good picture of the book I own and this is all I could find. To my knowledge, there isn’t a book with this cover but anyway I digress.

This book is phenomenal. I don’t think you needed me to say that. Anyone who is reading these words and hasn’t read this story should go out today and buy it. But before you do, there are a few things to consider. This story was originally published in 1988. It was written by Alan Moore, drawn by Brian Bolland, colored by John Higgins, and lettered by Richard Starkings. However, that book that was released twenty years ago is not the book collected here. As I mentioned earlier this is a hardcover edition which is always a plus in my eyes, it also seems to be oversized which is again a plus. But the huge difference with this version is the absence of John Higgins.

Brian Bolland has completely recolored this story and in some cases he has changed some of the art as well. I know there is a lot of screaming about that last sentence. But this is supposedly Bolland’s true vision. He wanted to do the coloring himself originally but because of time he couldn’t. There is also an introduction by Tim Sale, an afterword by Brian Bolland, Bolland’s Batman Black and White story is also included in color for the first time, and a few sketches from Bolland and the big reveal that yes he did use photographic reference for the cover. This was supposedly a “closely guarded professional secret”.

Now, I have to talk a moment about the new color. It is intriguing that even though this is regarded by most to be a fantastic story that is probably the best Joker story ever (and I’m in that group as well), that apparently both the writer and artist have problems with it. Moore has called it “clumsy, misjudged and devoid of real human importance.” And Bolland has always had a problem with the color saying “that John’s choice of colors turned out to be startlingly at odds with what I had in mind”. Well, Bolland decided to do something about that and so as I said earlier he recolored the whole thing and even redrew some of it. I haven’t had a chance to look at the old version yet, but I do know a few things. I do know that the coloring is much more subtle here and not as wild and flashy as the original. Also, the flashback sequences have had the color washed out except for a few objects that are still colored. I think I’m more in the club that likes the new colors, but in the end that doesn’t matter, it’s what you guys like. So if you’re thinking of picking this up, you may want to look inside first and see if you’re ok with it.

Still, whether you approve of the new colors or not, there are a few important things. This is a phenomenal story that shouldn’t be missed. There are also a few extras in here that are great to see and in a way, we are getting a new version of a monumental story. It is interesting to see the new look of the art and it’s done by the original artist! This is also a great way to get this story on your shelf and in hardcover to boot. My main quibble with this book, is that I would have really liked to have seen the original version printed in here as well. Then everyone could love it. Even if you hated the new color, you’d still have the original in hardcover. I’m sure what I’m asking for will come at a later date to get more of our money, still it’s a bit of a shame. DC in a way is pulling a George Lucas!

By the way, in this version Han shot first.