Tag Archives: Batman

New Fave of the Week…

Chris and I took a BBQ prep detour to the comic shop this weekend and he picked up Batwoman Detective Comics for me. He said it was excellent, and I wholeheartedly agree. I agree so much, I read the thing three times in a row.

Greg Rucka’s dialogue and story is just as engaging and sharp as his Gotham Central work, and J.H. Williams III brings a really beautiful, whimsical (but incredibly clean-lined) art-nouveau feeling to the whole thing. His work on this reminds me of a perfect middle ground between Tony Harris’s super-precise photographic work on Ex Machina and David Mack’s watercolors on Kabuki. And the panel work is INCREDIBLE.

I apologize profusely for my lack of a scanner, but I had to give some sort of example of the awesome:

IMG_8064IMG_8060

This comic is like candy for your eyes and brain. Pick it up. Read it. Do it now!

– Jenn

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We Can Only Hope That The Arkham Asylum Game Looks This Good

(Lifted from Paul Constant’s post over on The Stranger’s Slog)

Bleary-eyed 2008 Best-Of, Blurst-Of…

This list has no arbitrary number, and no real parameters other than I’m trying (dimly) to recall all that resonated with me the most, for better or worse, in the bygone year. Plot-related SPOILERS will be discussed, because it’s hard to be specific in praise/critique without acknowledging details. Here’s my not-so-thin-line between love and hate.

LOVED:

  • All-Star Superman was perfect in almost every way. Grant Morrison embraced everything Superman inspired, assembling cluttered continuity and archetypical resonances into a heroic ideal distilled to its essence. Frank Quitely continues to be my favorite of Morrison’s recurring collaborators. While there are other artists whom I might prefer in general, Quitely’s unique style and sense of pacing just seems to fit ineffably better.
  • The Death of Captain America managed to turn what could’ve been a cheap stunt, into one of the most compelling espionage stories I’ve ever read. As a lefty and contrarian, I’ve never been a fan of the unabashed patriotism and jingoism Captain America’s represented, but Ed Brubaker helped carve out a character I cared about– before shooting him dead and replacing him with his long-lost sidekick. And of course he made me like the resurrected sidekick too, taking the new Captain America into murkier and doubt-ridden places that a stalwart, Hitler-punching Steve Rogers may not have been able to go. Brubaker’s Criminal has consistently been one of the best reads in any given month and his new series Incognito is off to a great start for the best of 2009.
  • Fallout 3 destroyed my social life by being 2008’s most absorbing video game experience. GTA IV was good, and even great at times,  and Fable 2 was fun in its own right– but nothing beat the bombed-out post-apocalyptic wastes of Fallout’s immense world. Fallout‘s mix of humor, nostalgia, cold-war paranoia, and engaging game-play has kept me glued to my 360 for the last third of the year.
  • The Dark Knight was among the best movies I saw in 2008, regardless of genre and my own geekiness. Heath Ledger’s electric performance, the epic cinematography, overarching themes of dodgy morality, and complex plotting made TDK one of the year’s best (especially in IMAX intensity).  Iron Man was fun too, because hanging out with Robert Downey Jr. would be fun, but it just didn’t put all the pieces together the way TDK did.
  • let the right one inLet The Right One In was my favorite movie of the year, its frosty Swedish setting sealing the tension within its story of nascent desire and adolescent violence. The fact that it was a teen vampire movie of sorts, puts it into immediate comparison with Twilight and Anne Rice’s libidinous stories, but LTROI distinguishes itself by its emotional naturalism and the fact that in many ways it was a purer and more loyal exploration of the vampire myth.

HATED:

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was dumber than even I expected it to be. Steven Spielberg managed to crowbar in all his pet obsessions (daddy issues, alien life, and the irrepressibility of youth!) into one of the densest disappointments of the year. Even if the story wasn’t totally inane, the performances were uniformly horrible. Harrison Ford may as well have phoned it in from Spielberg’s favorite alien planet, Cate Blanchett’s horrendous Soviet accent and phallus-envy sword play were a constant irritation, and Karen Allen seemed to be reprising a role as a heretofore unknown and unhinged cat-lady. And of course, one can’t ignore that the story itself was inane. Indy 4 suffered from constant credulity-straining suspensions of disbelief (even the jungle monkeys hate Socialists!) to forehead-slapping thematic platitudes (“knowledge was their treasure!!”), resulting in a multi-million dollar turd that only Spielberg could’ve directed.
  • Detective Comics: Heart of Hush by Paul Dini was a story I can’t believe I even bothered to read. I’d generally been enjoying Dini’s run on Detective, but this storyline was a pathetic attempt to bring some gravitas to the character of Hush. Riddled with cliche’s and cheap flashbacks that attempted to give Hush some depth, this absolutely airless ugh-fest compared all the more unfavorably to Grant Morrison’s convoluted but inspired BATMAN R.I.P.
  • Mark Millar used to be a writer I enjoyed (The Ultimates, Ultimate Fantastic Four, etc.), but thanks to its big-screen adaptation, I finally read Wanted, and I truly wish I could unread the ugly, hateful, and ultimately pathetic power-fantasy in its pages. Everything of Millar’s I’ve read (or re-read) since has been colored by that story’s shallow characterizations, puerile attempts at humor, and general bigotry.
  • Guy Fieri‘s frosted douche-itude and ubiquity is quickly making the often unbearable Food Network, completely unwatchable. I can stomach Bobby Flay’s overwhelming smarminess, deal with Iron Chef America‘s tepid imitation of the Japanese original, and Alton Brown’s cornball moments in return for glimpses of culinary inspiration and opinion rendered smartly and pointedly by folks like Brown, Mario Batali, Masahiro Morimoto, and Jeffrey Steingarten. But Fieri and his chicken-fried personality represent what’s wrong with how our culture relates to food. I’m not saying we need to populate the TV with granola-fed back-to-the-landers, but I’d take anything over his constant shilling of fried mediocrity and quarter-pound diabetes burgers available at TGIFridays.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was yet another example of overblown cinematic stupidity. Probably the worst film I saw all year (even after I saw a stop-motion bat try to rape his college sweetheart). Worse because of its attempts to appear profound, shoe-horning Forrest Gump‘s treacly sentimentality onto a creepy, ultimately hollow love story. For something so incredibly overwrought The Curious Case… is amazingly careless. The film doesn’t even follow its own internal logic relating to Brad Pitt’s de-aging (starts normal sized baby that’s old, so it should end with man-sized geezer that’s a baby?), and Cate Blanchett gives another overwhelmingly obnoxious performance in a high-profile movie. Adding to its insipidness, the film fails to do anything meaningful with Hurricane Katrina in its backdrop, insulting the hurricane’s victims and its audience.

Review: The Joker by Brian Azzarello

everytime the Joker bores you, take another shot!

Drinking game: everytime the story gets predictable, take a shot!

The Joker
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo

While its prestige format and labored art attempt to elevate it beyond a simple cash-in on The Dark Knight, Brian Azzarello’s The Joker is a big disappointment. On the coattails of TDK’s box-office success, we get a Joker story that doesn’t really seem to be about the Joker, even if the slashed smile resembles his cinematic stand-in. The main problem with Azzarello’s story is that he makes the Joker and his criminal aspirations seem so… ordinary. Joker gets released from Arkham (with no explanation as to the how/why) and is obsessed with reestablishing his criminal empire and rebuilding his cash flow by strong-arming the various Gotham gangs headed by familiar super-villains.

And really, that’s it. Joker as hard-boiled crime boss is boh-ring, especially through the first person narrative lens of Jonny Frost, whose rise from Joker’s flunky to number 2, is supposed to engage the reader but fails because Jonny is such a cypher and charicature of criminal desires and background.

I generally like Azzarello’s writing okay, and a previous collaboration with 100 Bullets artist Eduardo Risso on Batman: Broken City worked when it attempted to recontextualized Batman’s rogues gallery into more contemporary criminal types. Killer Croc vainly dressed in pimp suits and rocking an iced-out grill?Awesome.

He's got a matching tattoo on the other side.

Riddler's got matching tattoos on his other side...

But in The Joker, similar revisions grate and fall flat. Croc is now just a huge black guy with eczema. Harley Quinn is a voiceless stripper with no agency of her own. And why does the Riddler gangster limp and have shitty tribal-ish tattoos on his exposed navel? No idea, I just know that I don’t like it.

Obviously, artist Lee Bermejo shares in the blame for the poorly executed visual reimaginings– and his art, while often glossily lush, is largely inconsistent. In word and picture, I never felt like the Joker ever got consistently rendered. It’s not like say, Grant Morrison’s Joker, where inconsistency and instability is built into the character and essential to understanding his chaotic nature. With Azzarello, I just got the sense that I was reading a paint-by-numbers crime story with nothing really Joker-y about it. It’s not like every Joker story needs poisonous clown fish or exploding cream pies or anything like that, but aside from a tendancy to pun there’s little to distinguish this character from any other psycho.

Part of what makes his character in The Dark Knight so striking, is that the Joker is less a criminal than a force majeur– an agent of entropy whose actions are inevitable, nearly unstoppable, and lacking reason. As others have pointed out, the Joker is insane, he’s artful at times and corny at others but more than anything he’s more than just a cheap hood or a scary guy with face paint. Overall it’s not a terrible story, but Azzarello’s fundamental mistake is to take what’s alien, provocative, and inventive about the Joker and replace it with something that’s ordinary, edgeless, and all too familiar.

Review Revue

All-Star Superman #12 concludes what’s been one of the most moving, inventive, and just plain fun comic reading experiences of my life. I want to devote a longer post to it later this weekend, but in the meantime here’s some talk about this past month of comics…

  • Batman Detective Comics #848
  • Guerillas #1
  • Criminal #5
  • Scalped #21
  • The Lone Ranger #13
  • Buffy: The Vampire Slayer #18
  • Ex Machina #38
  • Final Crisis: Revelations #2
  • Lucky #2

Reviews after the jump… Continue reading

“Why So Serious?”

The language of critical theory, the words that describe what art does to its audience is largely taken up with the idea of movement. Good and great art can move us, transports us, beyond ourselves and into the work. Not to exaggerate or get too high-minded here but after watching The Dark Knight on the IMAX-sized screen, it took me a while to collect myself and readjust to reality. During the car ride home I had a hard time describing how glad I was that such a profoundly bleak film was made at all. I’m sure that part of it was the sensory experience of having six stories of Gotham city projected into my consciousness (in 12k watts of surround sound no less,) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t genuinely transported out of my seat and into the movie drawn both from the Batman of my childhood and more recent comic storylines in spin-off series like Gotham Central* cast large.

Comics have had a spotty history of mostly mediocre film adaptations, despite the fact that on a more fundamental cognitive and interpretive level they actually have a lot in common compared to other mediums. Reading comics is based on the idea of interpreting the action both in and between panels, and movies are a trick of the light in which we read multiple independent frames into a moving cohesive whole. Suspension of disbelief in the static image, whether fooled by our synapses or imagination (and who’s to say the difference?) are fundamental to both, which perhaps makes it all the more disappointing when mediocre movies are made of what our imaginations made so vivid.

In watching The Dark Knight, I was taken with how American cinema, mainstream American cinema has rediscovered the bleak, nihilism, and a sense of the sublime–  an appreciation for a force that can destroy oneself separate of morality or rationality. A world without a God, or worse an indifferent one. I think about movies like No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, where despite the best efforts of its protagonists something fundamental and primal, some force natural and singular can’t be fought off, and it will ultimately overwhelm and consume the individuals in its path.

***More after the jump…. Continue reading