Batman 50

by Drew Kiess

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A year ago, we saw Bruce Wayne propose to Selina Kyle on a rooftop. What followed was a long road of stories that have been rather controversial. Tom King’s writing style is divisive, as he opts for broad stroke narrations as opposed to small scale stories that focus on the adventures of the Caped Crusader.

I am a fan of Tom King. With the exception of Doomsday Clock, King’s Mister Miracle miniseries is my favorite book being published right now. His Batman run, however, has been more miss than hit for me.

Chief among my complaints is how little time King spends showing Bruce to be heroic. Instead, his time is devoted to watching the world around him as well as Bruce and Selina pontificate on the nature of happiness and marriage, and what motivates the characters to do what they do.

At this point, does anyone need a sermon on what motivates Wayne to be Batman? Particularly, does Wayne need this lesson? What has been attractive about the Batman-Catwoman relationship has been that she was the fly in the ointment, with Bruce having to reject his emotions in order to bring Catwoman to justice. After all, she is a thief– which for those of you playing along at home, means she is a villain. Has she done heroic things? Sure, but only when self-serving.

And so when it comes to the pivotal moment of Batman 50 (beware, for here there be spoilers), it simply rings false that it is Selina Kyle who walks away from Batman in order to protect his persona as the Bat. After hearing from both The Joker (yeah, that’s a conversation for another time) and her friend Holly that Bruce needs his anger to be Batman, and that happiness would rob him of this, Selina leaves Bruce at the alter, being, in her own words, the hero.

Batman 50 makes reference to Selina being a hero now. And her leaving Bruce is her crowning achievement of heroism. The problem is, because of King’s writing style, we never really get to see Catwoman be a hero. In fact, the “you’re a hero” moment comes while she is wearing a wedding dress that she stole and with a friend she broke out of prison. She is no hero, and the fact that Batman would look the other way is, frankly, insulting. If she is indeed a hero now, how about showing her doing heroic acts that aren’t directly about protecting herself (protecting Bruce doesn’t count, as even that is self-serving for this version of Selina).

As this half of King’s arc comes to a close, it is difficult to pull out highlights. Every issue feels like it is the centerpiece of a line-wide crossover that isn’t happening, and leaves me wondering if these 50 issues couldn’t have been condensed and told better in 15-20 issues instead.

While things appear to be heading toward a showdown with Batman and his rogues gallery, lead once again by Bane, one can only hope that we won’t spend the next 50 issues with long speeches about the nature of sadness and brokenness. You don’t have to point it out constantly for it to be a looming factor for the character.

A great example of this would be A Lonely Place of Dying, where we know Bruce is grieving following the death of Jason Todd. Marv Wolfman is able to show through Batman’s actions his mourning, while driving the conflict between Batman and Two-Face forward. And Wolfman tells a comprehensive story that deals with complicated issues in only five issues, and as a result, creates a story that has remained memorable for 29 years. Time will tell, but if I were a betting man, I would bet that this story is too spread out to have a lasting impact on the mythos.

If this version of the Batman mythos works for you, then I am happy for you. But I simply don’t see the heroism, the adventure, or intrigue that I associate with the character and the book. It is not that it is poorly written (it’s not, King knows how to spin words), but that it simply doesn’t push the character forward in anyway, and ignores what has made the relationship between Batman and Catwoman interesting for over 70 years. They can’t be together–and Batman knows it.

This Batman seems way too content with the flies in the ointment.

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The Reconstruction of the Superhero, Part Two: Doomsday Clock #3

By Andrew Kiess

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The following contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #3

Not Victory or Defeat 

A Comedian Died in New York, but he now lives in Metropolis. While it is revealed that Dr. Manhattan reversed the cornerstone death of Watchmen. The Comedian responds by attempting to reverse the situation on his killer, Ozymandias. Fortunately for Veidt, Lex Luthor has thicker windows in his office than Comedian had in his apartment.

This is not a story about reversing the past. This is a story about putting the pieces back together that the past broke.

Meanwhile, Rorschach II is in the Batcave giving Batman Kovacs’ journal. Batman does not believe a word of the story and locks Rorschach II in Mad Hatter’s vacant Arkham cell.

This is not a story of optimistic heroes becoming pessimists. This is a story about pessimistic heroes living in the shadow of a pessimistic world, who we hope find optimism in the end.

My Hands Are Dirty, Too

The Superman Theory looms large over the DC Universe of Doomsday Clock, which takes place one year ahead of present day continuity.  Rorschach II stands in an interesting position for audiences that his predecessor did not possess, he is both clearly detached from reality and yet he may be the only one capable of seeing reality.

Unlike Adrian Veidt, Rorschach II witnessed and felt the loss caused by the creature in Watchmen. We learn that his parents were killed during Veidt’s lie. We see Rorschach II’s unknown alter-ego, driving a car and speaking in a more conventional speech pattern before disaster strikes.

The tragedy is seemingly the beginning of the end for our hero’s innocence. As he showers in the Wayne Manor bath, he scrubs his scalp so hard the he bleeds. What blood is on his hand? How did he come across Kovacs; journal, and what pushed him towards wearing Kovacs’ face?

The answer is right in front of us. Or, rather, right in front of Rorschach II. If Walter Kovacs is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s answer to Charles Victor Szasz, The Question, then this Rorschach is Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s answer to Bruce Wayne, The Batman.

In the face of tragedy, a man uses the tools at his disposal to seek out justice and to, in the words of Frank Miller, force the world to make sense again. It is interesting, then, that when faced with his (albeit, more extreme) mirror image, that he thought the solution was to lock him in Arkham. Had not Batman, just a few years prior, jumped universes with The Flash investigating the very thing Rorschach was claiming to have information on? Ever the cynic, Bruce cannot accept the bizarre unless he himself witnesses it. Instead, he views his reflection as the personification of madness. Rorschach’s worldview is not reality for Bruce, but who’s to say which reality is which?

But I Wore My Best Suit

We’ve known since Rebirth began that something is up with Johnny Thunder and the Justice Society of America. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this part of the book, but his presence is heartbreaking. It would appears that he is experiencing the effects of the time slippage, and is aware of the life he may never have fully lived. The Justice Society may yet play an important role in this story and I’m excited to learn more.

In The Darkness…I Can’t See Their Faces

The final layer of this story is reflective of The Black Freighter comic in Watchmen. The Adjournment, a black and white detective film starring Carver Coleman is sprinkled throughout the book. Coleman is an actor who made his claim to fame playing Nathaniel Dusk (named after an obscure detective featured in DC Comics), a hard-boiled detective in a fedora and trench coat, in six films before the actor’s untimely death. Coleman’s murder is the subject of the newspaper and tabloid clipping stingers in this issue. The Adjournment sees Dusk investigate the mysterious murder of two men playing chess. The movie is interrupted by news of a metahuman arms race.

This is the dual identity of Watchmen. A murder-mystery placed in the backdrop of impending nuclear destruction. The Superman theory is the element that was missing in Watchmen. When Manhattan was the lone metahuman, the arms race halted while tensions grew taut. The Superman Theory states that 97% of metahumans are American, and now other nations are trying to create their own metahumans in order to compete.

It’s no wonder Clark is having nightmares. What is hope personified to do in a world so consumed with despair? While we are waiting patiently for Manhattan and Superman to come face-to-face, we continue to look into the mirror with our heroes and examine both our world and theirs. Issue #3 is the most restrained of the books so far, but it is also the most interesting and the strongest. This series is on its way to becoming a modern classic.

 

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The Reconstruction of the Superhero: Doomsday Clock 1 & 2

By Andrew Kiess

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November 22nd, 1992… or maybe it’s the 23rd?

It’s been eight years since Adrian Veidt (A.K.A. Ozymandias, the smartest man on Earth) brought world peace in the guise of a staged alien invader, prompting Dr. Manhattan to leave earth. The ruse is up, and the world is converging on Veidt demanding justice for his lie.

The opening monologue from an unfamiliar Rorschach who is unreliable even in his own journal keeping (he is not entirely sure what day it is), sets the reader off with a bit of unease. This is our world, but it’s not our world. This is the world of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but it’s no longer that world, either. Things have changed. “God turned his back,” Rorschach laments, “Left paradise to us. Like handing a five-year-old a straight razor.” Rorschach sees the world barreling towards complete destruction, “unless we bring God back down. Kicking and screaming because maybe we don’t deserve it. Maybe the world should burn this time. We shattered the American dream. This is the American nightmare.”

We find our new Rorschach, a young black man named Reggie, playing the role of Rorschach to the best of his abilities, breaking two criminals by the names of Mime and Marionette out of prison. The trio make their way to what appears to an abandoned Owl’s Nest where Adrian Veidt, who is revealed to be suffering from a brain tumor, has concocted his latest plan to save the world: find Dr. Manhattan and bring him home. The only problem? No one is exactly sure where he is.

The first book ends with a glimpse of a small Kanas town: Smallville. A nightmare scene of a young boy losing his parents in a car accident unfolds, being revealed to be the nightmare of a sleeping Clark Kent, lying in his Metropolis apartment with Lois Lane. “I can’t remember the last time you had a nightmare,” Lois says. Clark tells her that he’s never had one.

Life’s Not Black And White Like It Used To Be

Following an electron trail, Ozymandias, Rorschach, Mime, and Marionette find themselves in an unfamiliar city called Gotham. Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are locked in a legal battle over research into a metagene, research that could show why so many metahumans have appeared in the United States. While Lex Luthor is hailed as one of earth’s greatest minds, Bruce Wayne is being subjected to psychological exams while dealing with a Gotham protesting his existence.

This world baffles Veidt, who observes that many of the costumed heroes in this new world fictional characters in his own. Superman? The Question? Could this world be the creation of Dr. Manhattan? The book closes with Veidt interviewing Lex Luthor, and Rorschach going to the Batcave. Veidt finds an intellect greater than his, and Rorschach finds breakfast. But what becomes apparent quickly will have lasting effects on all these characters going forward.

Obsessed With Reliving Yesterday

1986 changed things for comic books. The combination of the release of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns shattered many preconceptions on the limits of the medium. Some have lamented these books as being the reason for the dark and gritty obsessed 90s for mainstream superheroes, while others have praised them for being the reason for leaving the campy 60s and 70s behind. They did both, in my opinion.

Since DC Rebirth launched in 2016, a theme of restoration has reverberated throughout the pages of DC Comics. Superman Reborn saw the rectification of timelines for Superman, an act that attracted the attention of Manhattan, according to Mxylplyx and Mr. Oz. A timeline long dead had been restored and was brought in marriage at long last to the timeline that replaced it.

Let’s See If I Understand You Correctly

It is no coincidence that the forgotten book of 1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths, appears to play such an important spot in the Rebirth saga. During this event, the Charlton Comic book characters, bought out from the defunct comic book company by DC, made their first appearance in DC continuity. These Charlton characters were the target of Alan Moore’s deconstructionism. For example, look at the similarities between Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan, or The Question and Rorschach. These characters were fictional in the Watchmen universe (along with Superman) according to Hollis Mason’s Under the Hood.

Within the narrative, it appears that Manhattan is drawing from what he knows to create a universe. From outside the narrative, writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank are saying that Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach changed the characters of Superman and Batman forever, and now it’s time for these characters to say something back.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons deconstructed the superhero. In 1986, this needed to happen.  The Superman movie franchise had its best days in the rearview mirror. The Batman TV show was ancient history. Comic continuity had grown stale, and a shakeup was needed.

We are now in a time where superhero media is everywhere, but comics have been suffering. Everyone is consuming cape stories on a surface level, and I believe Geoff Johns is saying with this book that superheroes are in need of reconstruction. Rebirth has been doing that, and Doomsday Clock appears to be the culmination of that effort.

And, for me, it’s working. In looking at Doomsday Clock, it’s undeniable that this is meant to contrast with Moore and Gibbon’s work. Gary Frank does a great job of twisting the imagery of Gibbons while not ripping them off, providing softer edges living in a more shadowed world. Geoff Johns’ writing is terrific, even if his monologues, albeit for story purposes, are not quite as catchy as Moore’s.

These first two issues set up the reconstruction of the Superhero. I am more than excited to see where this goes.

 

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“I Am Bane” Review

By Andrew Kiess

Tom King is a brave man. Yes, he’s served America as a counterterrorism CIA operative, but his most recent challenge in life has been filling the role once held by the great Scott Snyder writing Batman. Snyder’s run as the lead writer on Batman lasted the entire fiver year lifespan of DC Comics’ New 52 line, and was its bestseller, as well as one of the most critically acclaimed books of the line. But, Snyder left shortly after the Bloom arc, and when DC was looking to relaunch the line, Snyder was moved to All-Star Batman, and King was asked to step up to the plate.

Spoilers for Batman #1-15 to follow.

King’s run debuted with I Am Gotham. This story, found in issues 1-6, featured the mysterious appearance of two super-powered beings called Gotham and Gotham Girl, who were being manipulated by the Psycho Pirate. In the sequel arc, I Am Suicide (issues 9-14), Psycho Pirate is being protected in Bane’s fortress, and Batman recruits a Suicide Squad from Amanda Waller in order to extract the Pirate so that he can cure Gotham Girl. The plan is successful, which obviously does not sit well with Bane.

batman-11-coming-november-16-from-writer-tom-kingIf I’m being honest, I have struggled to get into this new run on Batman. David Finch’s art has been great, and Tom King is a great writer, but it has felt like Batman has taken a backseat to the characters around him throughout the entire Rebirth line. And as great as Rebirth has been for most of DC’s characters, I have felt like Batman has not benefitted from Rebirth. That was until I read I Am Bane.

Bane is on his way to Gotham to exact revenge for Batman infiltrating his sovereign territory, and Bruce Wayne is preparing for war in a way that only Bruce could—by sending all of his soldiers away from the battlefield. Bruce warns Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Duke Thomas/Lark, Damian Wayne/Robin, and Jason Todd/Red Hood to stay out of Gotham until Bane is dealt with. But, his warnings fall on deaf ears for the Robins, and Bruce finds them hanging, barely alive, in the Batcave with the words “I Am Bane” spray painted across their chests. Bruce and Alfred must get Gotham Girl and the Psycho Pirate out of Bane’s path of destruction, and so they barricade themselves deep within Arkham while Bane’s warpath leads him through all of the inmates Batman has put there over the years.

Three issues into this run, I finally understood what King was doing. It’s no coincidence that the main three arcs of King’s run so far have been titled with the words “I Am…”. He was re-forging Batman’s identity as Bruce. Or Bruce’s identity as Batman. Either way, the end of the New 52 saw many changes for Bruce Wayne, not the least of which included being raised from the dead (kind of) and becoming the god of knowledge (really.) Despite all the good that happened for the character during the New 52, it didn’t leave the character with very many directions to go. Is Batman Gotham, or are there other heroes better suited for that task? Is Batman suicide, willing to sacrifice himself for the cause? Or is Batman like Bane, steeped in tragedy and loss? In the last half of I Am Bane, something beautiful happens with the character that I think that if you haven’t been paying attention, you might miss.

Batman is taken out of the tragedy that inspired him, while Bane is haunted by his own tragic past that holds him back. While the death of Bruce’s parents may have started his quest to rid Gotham of crime, it is now his own heroic nature that keeps him going. He is pulled out of the muck of being a crusader for justice, fighting an unwinnable war—he’s a man, who sees that being Batman and doing Batman things, saving Gotham Girl, stopping Bane, and doing these things with every drop of sweat and blood he can give, as the right thing to do. And because being Batman is the right thing to do, he is going to do it. This is Tom King’s Batman. And, even though I’m late to the party, I’m a fan

 

Shanlian On Batman Episode 72 Wsg Hope Larson

On this weeks episode the guys and Rheanna sit down with the writer of Batgirl, Hope Larson. Hope tells us a little about her childhood and what it was like growing up over seas. We talk about her day to day as a writer and her creative process. She tells the story of how she became writer of Batgirl and how it has changed her life. Hope was a great guest and very fun to talk to, so put those ear-buds in and listen to Episode 72 of Shanlian on Batman with Hope Larson!

Shanlian on Batman Episode 54 wsg Jay Oliva

We got Jay Oliva on the show to discuss his insanely impressive career in the DC world. Everyone is familiar with Jay’s work from Batman the Dark Knight Returns pts 1 & 2, Batman Assault on Arkham, Justice League Wars, Batman vs Robin, pretty much all your favorite animated DC films! Dont miss this one, we even talk about the newly released Batman Bad Blood, So strap in with Shanlian on Batman and enjoy this fine interview with Jay Oliva!

Shanlian On Batman Episode 52

This week the guys are back in the podcast cave and they are talking anything and everything that is going on in the movie/tv/comic world! Also a ton of your questions from twitter and our website get answered. Strap in and get ready for this blabber fest action packed episode of Shanlian on Batman.

Shanlian On Batman Episode 48 wsg Greg Rucka

This week’s SoB features comic book writer Greg Rucka! He has written many novels and comic books including the series Gotham Central, Batman: No Man’s Land and the ongoing Lazarus. Sit back and enjoy listening to what the man has to say about all sorts of different topics ranging from his early career, the TV show Gotham, and much more!

Shanlian on Batman Episode 46 wsg Athena Finger

This week the guys talk some Batman and DC news that has been going on in the past few weeks. Jared Leto talking about the joker, Batman V Superman trailers during Super Girl, and Batman Beyond news. Then SoB gets an interview with the Granddaughter of Bill Finger, the co-creator of Batman. Athena’s story of what she did for the credibility of her grandfather’s name is quite an amazing one.

Shanlian On Batman episode 45 wsg Jorge Corona

This week the guys from SoB, joined by their comics correspondent Kim Gaines, had a nice chat with the Current penciller for We Are Robin, Jorge Corona. Everything gets brought up on this episode, from drawing We are Robin and working with Lee Bermejo, to deadlines and even thoughts on new and upcoming DC adventures to be. Get ready for this great SoB interview with co host Kim Gaines and our amazingly down to earth guest, Mr. Jorge Corona. enjoy!
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