Archive for Batman

Bravo, Geoff Johns. Bravo. (Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 Reviewed!)

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by pbiris

(Note: crossposted from my Tumblr.)

I’ve blasted Geoff Johns in the past
, but what can I say? He deserves nothing but the highest praise for Flashpoint and the first issue of the new Justice League comic. They’ve made me giddy for the monthlies again.

Last night wasn’t quite like the good ol’ days, when I was some 40 pounds heavier, a couple of inches shorter, eight years younger, walking to Graham Crackers Comics on Clark Street. But when the clock struck 11:50, man, I was damn ready to head out to buy some comic books. (Also, I’d had some of this, some of that — excitement was in the air!)

So I practically ran downstairs and across two streets to St. Mark’s Comics, where owner Mitch Cutler was quietly placing Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 on the shelves.

“Are these ready to come down?” I asked.

“In 30 seconds,” he said.

It was like God damn nerd Christmas.

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Reading 2011’s Batman

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2010 by pbiris

Batman Incorporated J.H. Williams Cover

Interesting things are afoot in the realm of the Bat, dear reader.

(Side note: did you know that most of my blog’s traffic comes from Batman-related content and links from comic blogs? These things are important to me, insofar as that little counter in the right-hand column counting up to “30,000” is important to me, like some real-world Galaga score accrued in direct proportion to my writing output — sorry, I’ve been reading this.)

Yesterday, Comic Vine posted a rather good (though purposefully incomplete, as of right now) article that aims to “break down the secrets of Grant Morrison’s Batman.” It’s a worthy read, especially if you’re interested in Morrison’s veritable Batman epic, spanning (gulp) four years now, but not the sort of fanatical interested, yet, that has you literally foaming at the words “ZUR EN ARRH.” Also, the always-worth-listening-to David Brothers wrote a nice little guide on the new Batman books for Comics Alliance that should serve well as a sort of road map for comic book readers that want to jump in but are kind of intimidated by the fact that there are 10 monthly Batman-related books right now, not counting specials and upcoming books like David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight ongoing.


Anyway, I’ve had bats on the brain, and in the spirit of a now somewhat embarrassing post I made two and a half years ago (“Reading Today’s Batman“), I wanted to weigh in on some of the goings on in this massive corner of the DC Universe.

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Return of Bruce Wayne and a Comics Manifesto

Posted in Columns, Comic Books, reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2010 by pbiris

DC’s “Return of Bruce Wayne” was released yesterday. It exceeded my expectations, and expectations were high.

This is a difficult comic to write about. It’s something like the beginning of a new age for Grant Morrison’s Batman epic that began nearly four entire years ago with issue #655. (His run on that title went on for nearly 30 issues, then weaved into the “Final Crisis” mini-series, then onto the now 12-issue long “Batman & Robin.”) “Return of Bruce Wayne” is also kind of a pseudo-sequel to “Final Crisis,” which means it’s sort of a prequel to every story ever written (anywhere). It’s a story that takes place back in time, beginning with prehistory, that has its most immediate repercussions at exactly this point in time (being issues #10-12 of the ongoing “Batman & Robin”). It’s, you know, involved.

Here’s the problem with “involved”: comic books don’t really have a vanguard of critics like films do. Readers may look to niche figures like Douglas Wolk for intellectual input, but for every one of said figures, there are thousands of fanboys that post online and serve as a kind of governing body, excreting loud opinions en masse and muddying the discourse. Sometimes these fanboys find professional work and have their birdbrained critiques elevated on a major platform, but that never serves to develop their writing to anything more than kneejerk yammering.

To put this in a more direct perspective, one of the first things I came upon while Googling “Return of Bruce Wayne” was this review, posted on a blog I’ve never heard of but for all intents and purposes no different than those I know and respect as legitimate, smart institutions. The problem is this: the aforementioned review was genuinely stupid, in the most literal sense of the word. And sure, there’s a conflict of interest here, you might think (I liked the comic, Jay Galette didn’t), but that difference in taste is not what bothers me: it’s the utter inability for many who write about this medium to do much beyond taking a work at face value and panning it. (Or, by that token, taking a work at face value and blindly praising it; these are equally horrible and ubiquitous phenomena.) Though most of my ilk love to do things like write thousand-word blog essays about how “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Watchmen” legitimized the comic book to the American mainstream, we seem unable to advance our own thoughts to match the work on display. It’s why comics don’t really get a prominent place in our media, why seeing a story in The New York Times about “Seven Soldiers of Victory” is so wild; even when people do want to do journalistic work about the funny pages, the right people and the right stories are hard to find. Comic book fans cherish a medium that is niche to begin with, and we further bury it with our inanity.

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Batman: Reborn and Fixing DC Comics (UPDATED 07/02)

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by pbiris

(Writer’s note 12/03/10: You may find this piece to be somewhat more relevant now that Grant Morrison has concluded his stint on Batman & Robin. Feel free to read both, and thanks for visiting!)

Batman comics are just about all I buy anymore. Marvel forfeited my business – completely, irrevocably – after the plodding mediocrity of Secret Invasion and unimpressive early entries to Dark Avengers (“pick up Invincible Iron Man,” they coo, vainly). DC, unable to unify its disparate brands after the brilliant psychedelia of Final Crisis (ultimately insignificant, save for DC’s predictable “Final Crisis Aftermath” schlock and Batman, but more on that later), pretty much has me in the bag for this summer’s “blockbuster event” Blackest Night, but has me less and less interested in some of my previously favorite books like Justice Society of America, Action Comics, Green Arrow/Black Canary, and The Outsiders; they’re just too all over the place. Will I pick them up on occasion? Sure. But can I really find it within myself to actually care about the supposed importance of, say, Deathstroke’s most recent dip into the bleeding rumps of the Teen Titans? Not really. Because half the time, these stories aren’t even fun anymore, and they almost never have any impact whatsoever on the rest of the “DC Universe,” which now seems a collection of galaxies with light year upon light year between them.

It’s cynical, but it’s also mostly true. DC understands how to provide excellent standalone stories, based on the preview material for Wednesday Comics – which looks stunning – and their major events like Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis (mentioned above) and Geoff Johns’ Sinestro Corps War (which, despite spanning several issues across a number of series, is collected in two very digestible trade paperbacks), yet its monthlies exist in some sort of horrible limbo between those and the admirable cohesion of the Marvel Universe. The monthlies share characters, vague references to “big ideas” (Martian Manhunter and Batman getting incinerated are about the only two things that DC’s writers seem to be getting out of Morrison’s sprawling opus), but generally fail miserably in attaining any sort of dramatic weight. The Spectre can suffer and rampage all he wants in the Revelations mini-series, but then a seemingly different character altogether is featured a few months later in Justice Society under the same name, which makes both exercises seem pretty insignificant. Similarly, Mary Marvel, forced to change her look and become an insane force of lust and violence after being possessed by an evil God in Final Crisis, should, presumably, be back to sorts after Darkseid is crushed and good prevails, but she’s strangely present in her S&M form in Johns’ recent JSA arc; is this supposed to take place during Final Crisis, when all of these characters were united against a force beyond all reckoning and the skies were raining fucking blood, or is it set afterwords in a DCU that is seemingly – bewilderingly – unaffected by the cataclysm, save for Mary Marvel’s ass-hideous haircut and exposed Shazam-boobies? Readers can’t enjoy these stories on their own, as they would be able to with the aforementioned events or Wednesday Comics, because the editors insist on pushing the concept that these threads are all connected when they just aren’t.

It’s difficult territory to navigate, I’m sure. Marvel’s Universe feels like a cohesive whole, but that can make it kind of boring and one-note from time to time. And we wouldn’t want DC to forget continuity completely, because then the comics would feel less essential and the science fiction tapestry would collapse altogether. So what should they do?

If the last month of Batman is any indication: reboot.

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“Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” And Us

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , on April 24, 2009 by pbiris

I’ve just finished Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? It is a Thursday in April. I am on a plane from New York to Chicago. I have checked a 59-pound bag stuffed with Jack Kirby, Grant Morrison, an ugly brown coat. I’ve listened to songs by the Pixies over 44 times in the past 4 hours. Any of this might be important, I suppose. The most important of anything. More likely, not.

In a couple hours, assuming this airplane stays its course, I’ll be typing this up on my computer and sending it into cyberspace, where an average of 14 faceless people might read it everyday. Maybe that matters, I guess, and maybe it doesn’t.

Here’s what I want to say: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, a two-part story spread across an issue of Batman and an issue of Detective Comics (not traditionally the most venerated or celebrated of literary tomes), is one of the most sobering, incredible things I’ve ever read, and I’m wondering if I might look back on this statement 10, 20 years from now and wonder what it was about a giant bat and a pearl necklace that meant so much to me, but this, I suppose, is not quite the point. Batman, super heroes, these myths, are eternal. Could I “grow out of it”? Perhaps. But Batman will always face the hellish night in Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum and come out the other side, prevail against the sadistic Azrael, fall to the lord of all evil while saving Earth, be Adam West and Christian Bale, leap from a bridge to save Commissioner Gordon’s baby, and, well, Batman will always be Batman.

It is this very idea that’s most obviously explored in the keenly self-aware Whatever Happened, which details a Batman brought to the brink of death and/or sanity (presumably as a result of R.I.P. and Final Crisis, but it doesn’t really matter in this story, all things considered), who must accept his ultimate fate however it may come. This is a story about icons. And it’s not the first of such – Morrison seems devoted to this concept in almost all of his super hero stories but very obviously works it in throughout the aforementioned R.I.P. and Final Crisis, especially the Superman Beyond 3D tie-in – but this could be the best.

Because ultimately, it doesn’t have to be about comic books or mythology or Bruce Wayne. My girlfriend and I recently had one of those stereotypical college kid discussions about “time,” and I’m not quite sure I really understand what she was getting at (her GPA is better than mine), but the idea is that she doesn’t buy into time as a linear concept. “But tomorrow is tomorrow and today is today,” I would argue; there are such things as “past,” “present,” and “future.” But not for comic book heroes, as writer Neil Gaiman so beautifully conveys here. And I realize, maybe not quite for us, either.

I mean, yes, I am on a plane now and an asteriod might lodge itself in my face a week from now. But that’s missing the point. What does time mean when I remember countless winter nights on a telephone or a smile in a Gold Creek Court hallway? A night on my best friend’s patio or next to my father when his remaining breaths could be counted on one hand? Or the feeling I get remembering “Airbag” first blaring into my life, or Black Francis’ banshee screams? These aren’t things you quantify. Maybe for you, in your mind or memory, they aren’t there forever (brain tumors happen), but to recall anything, to hold a memory close to your heart is projecting it into eternity. These things aren’t just the past, because in some way, they will always be happening, their reach ever pushing into your heart or tickling your brain. And that’s why something like “Batman,” a drawing of some man wailing on a criminally insane clown, can be just as real as this plane ride; blasted into the ether and played upon our hearts, what’s the difference between the two, really?

So I guess, basically, you should read some Batman comics.

(And I should get a life?)

“Battle for the Cowl” graciously ruined

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2009 by pbiris

It’s perfect; DC Comics takes a great leap forward and simultaneously ejects ill-timed feces into its own drawers.

Tomorrow, the “Battle for the Cowl” event will finally launch, a culmination years in the making across the Batman books, beginning with Grant Morrison’s 2006 – 2008 run on the flagship title. The concept is simple; blasted into oblivion by archvillain Darkseid in Final Crisis, Batman needs someone new to take up his mantle. For the next three months, DC Comics’ “Cowl”, which extends beyond the primary event book and into mini-series like “Azrael,” “Oracle,” and “Gotham Gazette,” planed to show readers the birthing pangs of a new Dark Knight. Will it be Dick Grayson, former Nightwing and reluctant heir to Bruce Wayne’s solemn avenger? Tim Drake, young gun and recent Robin? Jason Todd, dickbag? The suspense is, for all intents and purposes, the primary reason to pick up this event which seems little more than a drawn out cash-in.

It’s all moot now, as IGN just revealed that the new dynamic duo, making its first appearance in June’s new “Batman and Robin” series, will be Grayson as Batman and Damien Wayne as Robin. Fans expected it, but hey, this is from the company that saw fit to rape and kill Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis, so an ill-conceived curve ball was always a possibility. 

It’d be a little disappointing, frankly, if not for the fact that the team behind the new series was revealed in tandem: Grant Morrison as writer and Frank Quitely as artist. Take a look at these images for the first taste:

Batman and Robin, Morrison Quitely


It’s a fantastic team; they’ve been responsible for some of the best and most influential comics of the past several years (We3, All-Star Superman, Flex Mentallo, New X-Men), and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with the fresh start to the Caped Crusader. (Especially if it’s not delayed to the point of no return, which it will be, undoubtedly.)

Still, shoot yourself in the foot much, DC? What’s going on with the leadership over there, exactly?

Death is a bummer.

Posted in Comic Books, Quickies with tags , , , , on January 15, 2009 by pbiris

When I wake up tomorrow, Batman is still going to be one dead ass motha, and that is actually kind of depressing.

Batman Death Final Crisis

At least he, like, totally wasted Darkseid before he went out, though. That’s the Batman I know and love.

Or should I say