Batman 50

by Drew Kiess

batman-50-jim-lee-1119458-1280x0

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.

Advertisements

Batman Ninja: A Beautiful Frustration

By Drew Kiess

maxresdefault

Oh, boy… where to start with this one?

I suppose I will start by admitting that this is a review of the dubbed version of Batman Ninja. I am not an anime fan, so watching the movie with subtitles would have been a chore for me. For some, that may disqualify me altogether from reviewing this. That would be fair. I can only approach this from the standpoint of being a Batman fan, so that is the angle from which this review is written.

There. The qualifier is done.

Batman Ninja is the newest addition in the long line of DC Animated movies, this time from Warner Bros. proper and not from any of its subdivisions, such as Warner Premier. This movie will see a theatrical release in Japan, and I sincerely wish it all the success in the world there. The film was directed by Junpei Mizusaki, with Roger Craig Smith providing the dubbing for Batman, Tara Strong for Harley Quinn, Grey Griffin for Selina Kyle, and Tony Hale for the Joker.

When Gorilla Grodd’s time travelling experiment sends Batman, his allies—Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, Alfred, Red Hood, and Catwoman—and his greatest foes—Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Penguin, and Deathstroke—back in time to feudal Japan, Batman must learn the ways of the ninja in order to return everyone back to Gotham. As the movie opens, the CG animation is striking. The movements look fluid and the action is more captivating than anything DC animation has put out in some time.

This quality in the visuals is almost constant throughout and the eyes never get bored watching the movie. The one strike against this is a baffling change in style about midway through the film that seemingly serves no storytelling purpose, but this alone does not sink this movie.

What keeps this movie from being great in my eyes is its over reliance on its own medium. The film sets itself up in ”our Gotham”, and then transports the familiar back in time to feudal Japan, but the rules of feudal Japan are not the rules of “our Gotham”—it exists very much by the rules of anime.

And this would be fine, if the movie set itself up as an anime first, set in an anime world. By trying to its cake and eat it, too, the film loses its punch. If fighting mechanical castles were necessary to the overall arc of the film, perhaps it would have been better to simply establish that the world that this Batman lives in is that kind of world, and not bother with the whole time travel ruse (It’s hard not to feel like Randall from Clerks, here. “I don’t appreciate your ruse, ma’am. Your cunning attempt to trick me).

What saves this movie for me is the characterization of Batman, which never feels false to the character, and the aesthetic. It is also incredibly refreshing to see a DC animated movie that doesn’t feel reliant on sophomoric sexual overtones that have become tiresome in recent entries. The characterization of the other characters, however—save, perhaps, Selina Kyle—is all over the map and not really as true as I would prefer.

Overall, I am lukewarm on Batman Ninja. This very well may be a great movie that simply wasn’t made for me. What I can say is that the film is absolutely gorgeous, and the marketing on just how good this film looks was not overstated. If you are a Batman fan or an anime fan, I would say that Batman Ninja is worth checking out. But if you are not as into anime as you are into Batman, then this may not be for you, either.

 

Final Grade: B-

 

follow us at @ShanlianOnBat Twitter

 

FACEBOOK: Shanlian on Batman

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay

By Drew Kiess

suicidesqua1

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is the latest addition to the DC Animated Universe that began with Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox and is the first to feature the Suicide Squad. The film stars Christian Slater as Deadshot, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Billy Brown as the Bronze Tiger, Kristen Bauer van Straten as Killer Frost, Gideon Emery as Copperhead, Liam McIntyre as Captain Boomerang, and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. It was written by Alan Burnett (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and was directed by Sam Liu (Batman: The Killing Joke).

Can we be honest about these animated films for a moment? There has been a narrative about DC’s animated projects that has been all the rage that these are the DC movies that are knocking it out of the park. And at one time, that was honestly true. From Wonder Woman, New Frontier, The Dark Knight Returns, and Flashpoint Paradox, there was a strong string of good to great animated features in a short amount of time.

Since then, there has been less consistency. Killing Joke and Batman and Harley Quinn are far removed from the glory days of DC animated films. And for every Gotham by Gaslight, there is the unavoidable realization that the production quality is not what it once was. And I don’t think it’s a problem with the creative team, but there might just be too many projects for not enough people.

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay may be one of the better productions from this universe in a while, but the story as a whole feels somewhat lacking. The Squad is sent to retrieve a get out of hell card for Waller, but they have some competition from various baddies across the DC Universe, including Blockbuster, Vandal and Scandal Savage, and Professor Zoom. A grindhouse road trip ensues to find the card.

Where this movie thrives is with the villains—that is, the bad bad-guys. The connections to the greater universe that is weaved into this film may be the best use of this connected universe to date. If this were the focal point of the movie (you know, telling an interesting story within a larger comic book universe) it would have been one of my favorites. That’s not what we got.

What we got was a movie that promised a sexy, violent action movie that could not separate itself from past attempts by these animated movies to be more “adult”, succeeding only in fulfilling the most juvenile of expectations on both fronts. Fetishizing strippers and lesbians is not something I associate with “edgy” and it, unsurprisingly, falls incredibly short here.

I have said it before with these movies and apparently it needs repeating: not everything needs to push the boundaries. Cool stories that exploit what makes these characters interesting will forever be preferable than using these characters to prove some point that comic book stories can be “grown up”. It’s a trend that is in desperate need of ending and I seriously hope it finds its demise before Death of Superman.

Here’s hoping.

 

 

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

By Andrew Kiess

DoomsdayClock_Hub_Marquee_alt_59e142e49a5cd5.83051384

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.

 

follow us at @ShanlianOnBat Twitter

FACEBOOK: Shanlian on Batman

 

 

The Reconstruction of the Superhero: Doomsday Clock 1 & 2

By Andrew Kiess

DoomsdayClock_Hub_Marquee_alt_59e142e49a5cd5.83051384

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.

 

follow us at @ShanlianOnBat Twitter

FACEBOOK: Shanlian on Batman

Justice League Review

justice-league-header-1-1

by Drew Kiess

 

How to describe a movie like Justice League? Or, a better question, how to describe a movie like Justice League in a way that it has not already been described?

Let’s look over what we know: yes, we know that the post-production process on this movie was less than smooth for various reasons, chief among them a personal tragedy in the director’s family. Yes, we also know that the critical hill for this movie to climb was probably much too steep and the comparisons to the distinguished competition were unavoidable (how could anything measure up to what is already locked-in as a cultural phenomenon?). And yes, we also know that the tone of this film was shifted even further from the somberness of its predecessor due to critical feedback.

We know all that. What we don’t know is how things would have turned out otherwise. I can only review this movie for the movie I saw in the theaters and not the movie that I thought we were getting. Maybe someday we’ll get to see that movie (we’re just now getting to see the three hour version of 1978’s Superman The Movie, so there’s always hope), but this is the Justice League movie we got. And—honestly—I loved it.

To say a movie is imperfect seems like a critical cheat, but it is also important to say in this case. While I think most of the imperfections pointed out aren’t necessarily the same problems I have with the film (most of my complaints involve the ever-hated spoilers, so I will avoid talking too much about them), this is the first of the three Snyder DC Films entries that I’m comfortable with letting the critical onslaught hit without much argument. Perhaps that says more about me than the movie, but this is not quite the same kind of movie as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. If you hated those movies, you might take that as a relief. As someone who loved them, it is a bit of a dunk in cold water.

What exists instead, though, is just as reverent a love letter to DC Comics fans. Never did I dream of seeing pieces from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World on a big screen. Seeing Commissioner Gordon (played well by J.K. Simmons) speaking with Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash and Cyborg on a rooftop is a treat. And for anyone who has read the works of Kirby, Grant Morrison’s Rock of Ages, or Geoff John’s Justice League: Origins, there is plenty to keep you geeking out from the opening titles to the close of the credits. And yes, that end credits scene is as good as you’ve been told.

Of the major characters, most for me were given a fantastic show case as to what makes them amazing characters. There is one character that I felt may have been shortchanged, but that may be super spoilery (see what I did there?). Steppenwolf was fine. The great thing about using a character like Steppenwolf is that he does not come with a lot of baggage and is disposable without having his fan club become up-in-arms. Quick, name your favorite Steppenwolf comic book! He serves the purpose of providing a threat daunting enough to get the team together, but is not the kind of character who merits a long-winded motivation.

What the movie does well for me is not shying away from the comic book-ness of the whole thing. While the humor, thanks in part to screenwriter (and post-production supervisor) Joss Whedon, is cranked up in Justice League, it never feels aimed at the audience for enjoying these types of stories. It managed to have fun while still telling a cool story ripped almost perfectly from the pages of a comic book. And that may make it a movie that’s not for everyone. But if you’re someone who loves these characters, I highly recommend seeing Justice League with someone who loves these characters with you. There’ll be plenty for you to talk about.

Final score: Comic Code Approved

Make sure you follow Drew on Twitter @drew_kiess

Follow us on Twitter @ShanlianOnBat

Facebook Shanlian On Batman

“Batman Vs Two Face” Review

 

 

Batman-vs-Two-Face-1

By
Drew Kiess

I fell in love with Adam West’s Batman later in my fandom than many. While West’s portrayal was responsible for an entire generation becoming Batman fans for the first time, what West did for me was teach me how versatile the Caped Crusader could be. In 2016, seeing Adam West (along with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar) return to his classic role was an absolute joy, and the film itself was ridiculously entertaining, even if it was flawed in some ways.

When Adam West passed away, it struck a chord with me. This man had been responsible for bringing a character that has meant so much to me and has brought me a countless amount of joy to the mainstream. Before his passing, he was able to provide us with one final crusade: “Batman Vs Two-Face.”

In “Batman Vs Two-Face,” Adam West’s Batman is joined by Burt Ward’s Robin, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, and William Shatner as the villainous Two-Face. While most of what we now consider the heavy hitters in Batman’s rogues gallery found their way onto the screen during the 1960s TV series, one notable exception has always been Two-Face, who starred only in one unused script. Harvey Dent, Gotham’s District Attorney and best friend to billionaire Bruce Wayne, is scarred by pure evil in a laboratory accident gone terribly wrong. The explosion turns Dent into the criminal known as Two-Face, and despite what Bruce Wayne believes to be a successful recovery, Harvey Dent’s scars are deeper than just the surface. With a crime wave indicating the involvement of a duality obsessed fiend, only Two-Face could be behind it. But could Harvey Dent truly be evil? Can the Dynamic Duo stop this crime spree in Gotham? (Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!)

The DC Animated films have been hit and miss lately. This was definitely a hit. Not only was it incredibly funny, it also had a surprising weight that pulled me into the film’s story. The casting of another 60s TV star in William Shatner as Harvey Dent was a stroke of brilliance, and he delivers with a voice performance that rivals any in these films. (His performance was reminiscent of the better moments of Tommy Lee Jones’ version in “Batman Forever.” Surprisingly, this version was less cartoonish.) Shatner pulled off a menacing Two-Face, playing the tongue-in-cheek nature of this universe with ease, while providing a tragic weight to Harvey Dent that is unexpected in connection with the 60s TV show.

Adam West’s performance was everything you would expect it to be. This story gave him a terrific send-off, allowing him to play both the heroic and inspiring Batman in some of the film’s more heavy moments, to the more comedic tones that this version of the character requires. As always, this was what made Adam West and this character such a great marriage: he could play every tone with the same amount of sincerity and commitment. You are always sure about two things with Adam West’s Batman around. Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot that he’ll bring to justice, and that Batman is always there watching out for us when we need him most.

The cast of characters in “Batman Vs Two-Face” is deep. If a viewer can go in not knowing what villains cameo and have major roles outside of the titular character, they can find themselves enjoying the revolving door of references to episodes of the TV series. On top of the revolving door of villainy, be on the lookout for some hilarious shout-outs to various Batman pop-culture moments that add flavor to this bountiful Bat-feast.

If “Return of the Caped Crusaders” served as a sequel to “Batman-The Movie,” then “Batman Vs Two-Face” closes out Adam West’s Batman trilogy triumphantly, providing us with humor, action, and a big bucket of heart. Director Rick Morales’ obvious love for the TV show shines through with every scene. It is a miracle to take a world and a style and bring it back to us 50 years after it was popular and do it so well, and to provide us all with one last adventure with our Bright Knight.

I would recommend buying two copies (one for each face), and enjoying this conclusion to Adam West’s Batman trilogy. I watched this with a smile on my face from beginning to end and am looking forward to watching it again. And for those of you out there who have yet to discover Adam West for yourselves, please take it from me: when you learn to love the goofiness and the colors and the biffs, booms, and pows, you will also find the heart, love, and unwavering goodness that was Adam West and his Batman. I think we could all agree that the world needs a Bright Knight now more than ever.

 

3.5 Bats out of 4

 

 

 

Make sure you follow Drew on Twitter @drew_kiess

Follow us on Twitter @ShanlianOnBat

Facebook Shanlian On Batman

Batman and Harley Quinn Review

by Andrew Kiess

Many Batman fans are in agreement that Batman: The Animated Series is among the greatest comic book adaptations out there. For many of us, it has defined the character of Batman and his supporting cast. So, when co-creator Bruce Timm returns to the style and characters that first captured our imaginations, only greatness can happen, right?

image1-620x264

Batman and Harley Quinn is the latest DC animated feature film to get the one-night only theater treatment before being released on demand, following the success of The Killing Joke and Return of the Caped Crusaders. While I enjoyed Crusaders, neither of these one-night only showings featured what I considered to be the “best” of the recent animated films (I thought Judas Contract and Justice League Dark were fantastic), I was still excited to see what looked to be a long lost episode of The New Batman Adventures. What I got fell short of my expectations.

The opening few scenes of the films did not help my perception of the project overall. The animation looked cheap and the characters inconsistent. As the movie went on, the animation improved, but that’s when the story developed.

The plot of the film centers around Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) plotting to recreate the event that turned Alec Holland into Swamp Thing on a global scale, transforming all humanity into The Green. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist the help of a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to track down Ivy and save the world.

On the surface, this still feels like a new episode of Batman. But as has been the case with many of the latest DC animated film, there seemed to be an imperative to “adult it up.” In theory, I don’t think this is necessarily a good or bad thing. It worked extraordinarily well in both The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, but failed miserably with movies like The Killing Joke and Assault on Arkham. Harley Quinn is no stranger to being sexualized, and when done right it can create empathy for the character as someone who has overcome objectification. When done wrong, it just feeds into the objectification that the character (and, let’s face it, the comic book industry as a whole) has been fighting against.

We meet Harley working as a risqué waitress, where she beats up a customer for attempting to grope her. When Nightwing later questions her about it, she explains that it’s the only job she can get due to her past with The Joker being on her record. Instead of this being a moment to create empathy, it is followed up by a ridiculous scene where it is not-so-subtly implied that her an Nightwing, to quote Marv from Sin City, “do the nasty.” From the way the scene is drawn to the absolute lack of any reason for this to be in the film completely disservice the character, and is, in one man’s opinion, the opposite of “adult”. It is pure adolescent fantasy, with no real appreciation for storytelling.

To make matters worse, the rest of the humor in the film is bizarrely sophomoric. There is not much I can write that would fully explain just how off-putting a fart joke is in a movie that is trying to convince me that it is an “adult comedy.” A ten minute scene in a karaoke bar with ridiculous dancing and singing did nothing but add to the ever-changing tone. The story progresses to an inevitable appearance by Alec Holland himself, which was simply the final disappointment in a long line of disappointments.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I have seen several positive reactions and some middle of the road reactions from many outlets online. But for me, Batman and Harley Quinn was a failure on every level and never engaged me for a single moment. As always, I would recommend you judge for yourself if you are interested in seeing it, but I think this will join The Killing Joke as the second of the DC animated films to not have a home on my shelf.

 

Twitter
@ShanlianOnBat
@BatmanShanlian
@BatmanBassSlap
@LootingKyle

Facebook
ShanlianOnBatman

 

Batman: The Enemy Within Episode One Review

By Andrew Kiess

”The Enigma”

ae8ebf29af5bb341-600x400

Telltale introduced me to my second-favorite (behind comics) form for telling Batman stories. Put me inside of a comic book and let me define the type of character my hero will be. Season One of Batman: The Telltale Series was a spectacular display of just that. The game creators present you with a story that is not afraid to go off script in order to make you feel uneasy in your judgments, forcing you to question who you should allow as allies and who you should treat as potential enemies. Season One’s five episode arc did not disappoint me and kept me fully engaged to the end, and so I have been waiting impatiently for Season Two to get underway, and this month, it did just that.

“The Enigma” opens with the reappearance of a figure from Gotham’s past. Edward Nygma, also known as The Riddler, who we learn once terrorized Gotham long before Bruce Wayne took up the cowl. Bruce, while investigating a casino owner for potential illegal arms deal, witnesses the return of The Riddler and immediately steps into “Batman mode”. With the assistance of the newly-appointed Commissioner James Gordon, Riddler is stopped from killing his target, but escapes before he can be brought in. As it turns out, ARGUS is critical of GCPD’s supposed failure as Amanda Waller has taken a special interest in Nygma’s case.

This conflict is the central decision of “The Enigma”. Do you stick up for Gordon or do you side with Waller? And when you do choose a side, just how much information do you share with them? Unlike the first season, where your decisions were simply noted as “remembered” or “noticed”, your decisions in this game can change the relationship you have with other characters, as opposed to simply triggering different conversations later in the game. This nuance adds a little more weight to subtle differences in responses.

These relationships are on full display with both Gordon and Waller, but we get hints that it will play a large role in the development of “John Doe”, who we all know will eventually become The Joker. But, in the meantime, he’s John Doe, a character who seems eager to help, and can prove quite useful as an ally. It becomes interesting as we push our knowledge of the inevitable because of our familiarity with the lore in order to further our agendas as Batman within this alternate canon. What will cause the least amount of problems for Bruce, trusting John Doe or brushing him off? I guess only time will tell.

If it’s not obvious by now, I love this game. From Troy Baker’s performance as Bruce Wayne, to the comic book-like design of the world, this is one of my favorite non-comic Batman stories ever told. It is bold and unafraid to challenge our assumptions as fans to keep us on our toes, and it works for me on every level. If the pattern holds from last season, we should expect season two sometime in late September, so if you haven’t had a chance to play through this series, you have plenty of time to catch up, and I could not recommend it highly enough.

 

Twitter
@ShanlianOnBat
@BatmanShanlian
@BatmanBassSlap
@LootingKyle

Facebook
ShanlianOnBatman

 

“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