Comic Review: Batman Eternal #21: Meet the men behind the curtain

August 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Batman Eternal #21 Jason Fabok
Everything seemed to be falling into place for Batman and crew, meaning it was about time someone pulled the rug out from under them.

That someone is James Tynion IV, who scripts an exciting Batman #21 with artwork from Jason Fabok.

Tynion and Fabok fill a pivotal point in the Batman Eternal saga, tearing apart what resolution we thought we were about to get, and opening up a whole new avenue of excitement ahead. That comes thanks to two revelations, one that’s kind of expected, and another that may truly gobsmack you.
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Comic Review: Multiversity is Grant Morrison’s trippiest ride yet

August 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Multiversity Grant Morrison Ivan Reis
Don’t let Captain Carrot on the cover scare you off: Multiversity #1 is many things, and goofy/wacky/weird are just a few of those things. Grant Morrison’s latest dimension-hopping, 52 universe-encompassing epic is all kinds of wild, and will leave you all kinds of lost, but the man knows where he’s going, and there’s no denying the mad genius behind it all.
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Batman: Assault on Arkham is a poor man’s Suicide Squad

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Batman Assault on Arkham
The new Arkham universe-set Batman: Assault on Arkham DC animated film feels like a high-performance sports car driving at the speed limit. GThe new standard DC animation is sexy and good to look at, but the other movie elements are full of squandered potential and lazy progression.

If you know the Suicide Squad, you know how this works: government hardass Amanda Waller attaches bombs to a handful of villains and forces them to go on suicide missions for her. If they don’t obey, they get their heads blown off.

Mainstays Harley Quinn and Deadshot are the anchors of the team, while obscure villains King Shark, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost and Black Spider round out the rest of the group for this particular caper. In Assault or Arkham, the Suicide Squad has to retrieve the Riddler from Arkham Asylum, and they’ll have to avoid Batman while doing it.

Much of the movie plays out like a bank heist, with the various characters sneaking their way into the max-security prison. However, the heist elements play out at a painfully slow pace, and seem to pause at every possible moment to give us a teasing glimpse of a girl with her shirt off. It gets to be gratuitous after a while, especially considering they can only tease it so much.

Harley Quinn gets the most screen (and skin) time, because let’s face it: she’s the big draw. Like in the comics, Harley is the best part of the film, and voice actress Hynden Walch does a bang-up job playing the role Arleen Sorkin defined. Walch’s Harley is goofy and gleeful, and you can’t help but smile when she shouts “Yahtzee!” at various points in the movie. She also has the only real character arc, as she’s forced to choose between “Mistah Jay” and her new squeeze, Deadshot, when things get messy.

There are some other great voice performances in here, too. Batman is back as the voice of Batman (read: Kevin Conroy returns), but he’s more a force of nature and a demon in the shadows than a full-fledged character this time around. Gustavo Fring Giancarlo Esposito is great as Black Spider, but he’s so ninja-like that he’s hardly in the film at all. Voice acting vet Jennifer Hale reprises one of her many animated roles with Killer Frost, and she’s delightful as always.

Troy Baker’s Mark Hammill Joker impression remains as close as you can come to being the real thing, and he gets some of the funniest, most enjoyable moments in the film. Alas, he and Bats eventually steal the show from our B-list baddies, especially the rather boring voices/characters of King Shark, Deadshot and Captain Australia Boomerang.

It only gets worse when Arkham goes nuts, because all the big name villains start to break out, and the Suicide Squad quickly looks boring by comparison. That’s also when it really starts to feel like it’s set in the Arkham-verse, as the character designs for Bane, Poison Ivy and Joker are identical to the games. Batman is also very Arkham-like, with his detective vision and his Batwing used to full effect.

Still, this is better than a video game cartoon, and there are enough interesting plot twists to make it more than a rote film. Assault on Arkham is a fairly mediocre outing for the otherwise fantastic DC animation team, but kudos to them for trying something different with a Suicide Squad story.

7 out of 10

Comic Review: Batman #33 gives the Dark Knight a glorious birthday present

Batman #33 Gordon Bat Signal
Batman #33 is so much more than a Riddler romp.

The purple-and-green puzzler may be the final baddie of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s brilliant Zero Year arc, but he’s really just the spark that lets the true stars – Bruce, Alfred, and most importantly, Gotham City – shine through.

And so it’s fitting that Snyder gives us the ultimate Batman-Riddler showdown right off the top, delivering on the disco ball death trap we left off with at the end of Batman #32. Snyder writes some strong riddles (and/or borrows them), but he and Capullo take the scene beyond a simple Q&A. You can feel Batman’s impatience as he tries to beat Riddler and get the city on line before military jets destroy it. Above ground, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox confront the jet problem more directly, doing their best to divert the incoming fighters by creating a certain “signal” to keep them at bay.

But back to Bats. He wins, of course – this is comics – but Snyder’s got more to say than “Batman wins.” Batman has to shock himself to restart a heart monitor attached to the city power grid, and that fixes everything. But Snyder and Capullo slip some odd hospital scenes in between that shock sequence, and those seemingly insignificant flashes become what the story is really all about.

That does it for the traditional Bat-tale. The bad guy has been defeated, order is restored, and we can all go home, right?

Not quite, and that’s why this comic is great. Snyder saves a good chunk of the comic to reflect and bring all his character storylines to a close in a series of deft, heartrending scenes that could only work with Greg Capullo working the pencil.

First, Bruce buys Jim Gordon a new coat, delivering on one of the subtle symbols Snyder established just a few issues into Zero Year.

Then, Snyder pulls the rug out from under us, revealing that Bruce tried to use electroshock therapy to “reboot” his personality and become someone else. We see flashes of the scene all through the Riddler fight, but they don’t make sense until the end, when Bruce reveals it to Alfred.

But that deft turn doesn’t just mean something for Bruce, because Alfred – clinging to his paternal feelings for Bruce – has one of Bruce’s old girlfriends waiting in the wings. It’d almost be adorable if it wasn’t so sad, and Capullo makes it all the sadder. He draws a happy yet heartbreaking montage of Bruce’s life from this point forward – candlelight dinners, marriage, kids, a happy visit to the movies – only to yank it away. Because Bruce is set on his path now, and the last few pages of this comic are about Alfred coming to terms with that. He’s kissing that happy life for his pseudo-son goodbye, and learning to accept what must be.

“I’m so sorry, miss,” he tells the girl. “But I’m afraid he’s been spoken for.”

And Capullo ends it with a full-page shot of Batman swinging out into the city.

9.5 out of 10

Comic Review: Grayson #1 feels like Mission: Impossible 3

Grayson #1
From the perfect haircut to the face-changing to the spygames, Dick Grayson’s new world in Grayson #1 feels like somewhere Tom Cruise would be right at home.

This comic is all about espionage and double-blinds and undercover plots, with a big twist of pseudo-science thrown in. The art is good, the character rings true and there’s enough here to warrant sticking on board, though Grayson doesn’t quite leap out of the book and grab you as an issue #1 (though there’s plenty of leaping going on).

Mikel Janin handles art duties with some clean pencils, but there are a few points where you have to stop and re-read sections because he loses you in the visual logic – especially in the jumping scenes.

The comic opens with a train heist which DC readers will already know from seeing it printed in the backs of other comics all through June. Dick sneaks onto a train somewhere in Russia while wearing a blonde wig. After a run-in with a very Bond-esque femme fatale and some help from an equally Bond-esque female spy (more on her later), Dick kidnaps a fat Russian man and escapes the train using some form of chemical to make the man cooperate with him.

Dick is working for Spyral – apparently as a double-agent – helping the mysterious organization capture people to reclaim a bunch of powerful body implants that grant superpowers. His boss is swirly-faced Mister Minos, and he’s aided by a certain Helena Bertinelli, the alias of Earth-2’s Huntress. This Helena is blacker and less costumed than her alternate universe equivalent, as Nightwing readers saw at the end of that series’ last issue.

That’s not to say it’ll stay like that forever, though.

Writer Tim Seeley brings out Dick’s sense of fun in the writing and also creates a few sparks between him and Helena, but the most engaging part of the story comes in the middle, when Dick is holed up at a nuclear silo with his abductee.

As soon as Dick gets there he’s attacked by Midnighter, a cowled hero in black armour and a dark coat. Midnighter had a brief New 52 existence in Stormwatch, but that didn’t last long and had few readers. Instead, it appears the character will get some work in this title as a good guy-foe while Dick works undercover.

Grayson #1 is admirable if only because it takes DC’s most-developed character and develops him even more. It’s easy to tell DC has a lot plotted out for this character in the future, and while this first issue doesn’t wow, it does suggest plenty of layers that we’ll get to see peeled back in issues to come.

Oh, and the gun on the cover? Dick never uses one. We’ll see if that keeps up.

7.5 out of 10

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