Archive | October, 2011

The Problem with Batman

25 Oct

Batman is one of my all time favorite superheroes.  I grew up in the eighties and watched Adam West and Burt Ward beat the daylights out of the Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman every day.  I loved the first Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton.  Over the years, I have enjoyed Paul Dini’s series and every once in a while, I have enjoyed the occasional Bat comics.  And this year, I got Batman: Arkham Asylum and just bought Batman: Arkham City. And yet, for some reason, I have never been able to regularly buy the Bat titles and was disgusted to see that Batman’s family received 11 titles in the DCnU’s 52 books.  So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s difficult to pinpoint. My favorite bat stories of all time are the recent Nolan films.  For the first time in my thirty years, I feel someone finally “gets” the Batman I have always understood.  Batman is methodical.  Alfred is his major source of emotional and mental support.  The Bat villians should be twisted and dark.  And although Batman should be fighting a losing battle, he should be the one man holding back the darkness of Gotham. 

Similarly, my favorite Bat books are books highly regarded as his inspiration.  Long Halloween and Dark Vengence brought Two-Face to life in the perfect way.  The loss of Dent truly affected Batman and Gordon in the books.  And though I haven’t read Hush in a while, it was my favorite regular run in the Batman titles ever.  The Killing Joke was one of the inspirations of Dark Knight’s Joker and although I hated the loss of Batgirl, Alan Moore’s book was brilliant.  His Joker was truly evil and Jim Gordon overcame the emotional torture Joker brought. 

Meanwhile later, Hush was brought back and changed.  Jason Todd was brought back as…..something.  At points, he may be a hero and at other points he is definitely a villian.  Todd could have been an interesting addition to the bat mythos, but instead appears to be little more than a device to serve little more than the current writer’s whims.  The Robin program has become, quite literally, little more than a year’s study into sidekicking. 

And that brings me to the Bat-Son.  Years ago, Batman and Talia had a relationship and a child.  Ok.  Nothing lost there.  Then, suddenly, the Bat child pops up as a teenager (?) ninja-assassin who took the role of Robin.  But let’s look at the timeline.  Before the new DCU, Batman had been around, I guess for about thirteen years, before little Bat Boy showed up.  So if during his first year, he had the child, I guess he would be a twelve year old when he became Robin.  That could possibly make sense but I don’t assume it was meant to be in his first year.  But to make it worse, the new DCU has the heroic age lasting five years.  Now, yes, they have claimed Batman operated in secret for several years before but how many years?  When exactly did Batman meet Talia and have Bat Jr?  It doesn’t exactly make sense. 

A bigger problem comes from Grant Morrison’s “Batman can beat anything that moves” concept.  I understand a lot of people like it.  I understand other authors also had similar ideas, but Grant took it to a new level.  Batman is great, but he has limits.  Those limits help define Batman.  The best JLA stories feature Batman solving the mysteries of how to stop global or galactic stories and then the “super” heroes defeating the threats.  In some of my favorite Batman and Superman team-ups, the duo fought Darkseid.  In one particular story, Batman went rounds with Darkseid but was definitely losing.  In another, Superman was controlled by Darkseid, hit Batman once, and almost killed him.  Batman can’t “beat” these characters, but he can outsmart them. 

In his regular books, the authors rarely get what makes the villains tick.  The best Ra’s ah Ghul story I ever saw was in the JLA by Mark Waid.  The best Joker stories were in movies.  The Riddler?  All the way back to Adam West’s day.  The villians are classics, but apparently just a little difficult for most to get. 

So why am I writing this?  Well, I am very frustrated.  In seeing the new 52, I hear several authors are screwing things up.  I see the main Bat title getting rave reviews and I want to try it.  But then I see the same concept for Batman 1 appeared in another one of the books.  I know Grant Morrison is hiding in the background guiding things.  And if you like Grant’s Batman, I guess that is a good thing, but I just don’t get it.  I want my Batman to be “grounded.” I don’t see that from the drunken and high Scotsman.  So for now, I continue rereading Jeph’s stuff.

The Endof the New DCU

5 Oct

Last week wrapped up the DCnU.  For the most part, I thought it was a successful start to a new era of DC Comics.  Of course, there were some hiccups along the way, but for the most part, the books I read and the decisions made were good.  The major storylines that are no longer in effect  seems to imply someone forgot to think everything through before starting the new 52.  And several books’ creative teams are already shuffling, but I think for the most part, this is a good idea. So what about the books I got last week? 

Green Lanterns: The New Guardians

This book had potential.  Still, it didn’t live up to the potential.  The notion that one of each of the seven corps joining forces for some reason could be good.  Unfortunately, we don’t get that.  Instead, we got Kyle getting a ring from each corps and several random characters showing up to fight Kyle. Even this, could have worked.  But the entire issue builds up to the different characters showing up and then it ended.  And we have the promise of a fight next issue.  I have to admit, this was entirely underwhelming.  The art was also not worth it.  If this book doesn’t improve soon, I may drop a Green Lantern book.  This would surprise me.  That said, Kyle has always been my least favorite Earth based Green Lantern. 

 Aquaman

I never really cared for Peter David’s Aquaman, which I know is abnormal for Aquaman fans.  I have always thought the character had potential, but never quite lived up to it.  That said, since his role in Blackest Night, I have waited for this book.  I was disappointed overall with Brightest Day but issue 1 of Aquaman was a resounding success.  Yes, in the book, he is almost treated as a joke, but the entire point is to prove he is not a joke, regardless of what people think of him.  And the jokes at his expense were actually funny.  Meanwhile, like many others have said, Ivan Reis could draw the phone book, and I would want a copy.  I hope this book continues like this. 

Flash

I had not planned on liking this book because Geoff, my current favorite author, had left.  And yet, this book was just as good as if he hadn’t.  There were a couple of clunky moments, and from what I understand Manupel hasn’t written a comic before, so this is to be expected.  For example, Patty, a scientist, is originally for building more highways to decrease congestion in Central.  But when random new science guy says that it wouldn’t help, her opinion suddenly changes and argues that they should destroy all the highways and go for light rail.  If the science gal is that easily swayed in her beliefs, I have to wonder what she is doing in the first place.  Still, overall, the book was awesome.  The characters shine and Barry is coming back into his role as the Flash of today.  Like most people of my generation, I wonder what happened to Wally, but I am willing to give Barry a shot. 

Superman

I have no desire to read Grant Morrison on Action Comics, but I was looking forward to George Perez’s take on Superman.  The book was a lot more meaty than most books currently.  I felt like I actually got my twenty pages worth of this title.  Still, it seemed very eighties, which was mildly disappointing.  Yes, the tech was better and the characters outfits were modernized, but the story was standard fare for thirty years ago.  I hate to say it, but I am glad George is moving on.  Because he is being replaced by my all time favorite comics author, Keith Giffen.  The sky is the limit and I can’t wait! 

Hawkman

Hawkman is a character I love but is almost never done right.  I thought Geoff and David got him right in the JSA and I felt the first bit of his last series was good, but almost everywhere else, he is wasted potential.  This new book looks more like that mold, than what I hoped for.  The villain was one note, the supporting cast was generic cannon fodder.  I had no problems with Carter Hall wanting to give up on the suit and little problems with the nth metal absorbing in his skin.  Potentially, this could be very interesting.  But I am really disappointed Kendra wasn’t mentioned at all.  The one thing that bothers me even more is the reincarnation angle seems completely dropped.  That completely set him apart from anyone else in comics and allows history nerds like myself to feel like a superhero.  I hope it comes back soon.

Fury of Firestorm

Finally, the one book most likely to be cut soon by me was one I hoped to love the most.  I love Ethan Van Scivier and I love Gail Simone, but this was a mess.  Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond can work together great.  Just check out Batman: Brave and the Bold.  But it is never done right in the comics.  Jason is the typical angry black youth and Ronnie is the typical closet racist apparently.  Instead of becoming one superhero, which was a weird and unique part to the story, both become Firestorms and can merge into Super-Firestorm.  Why?  Unless this improves next issue, I will experience the Fury at Firestorm.  Which would be a waste.