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Best Reads of 2018

It’s that time of year again! Here we’ve compiled our list of the ten best books we’ve read in 2018, and their consequent reviews, in no particular order. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Best Reads of 2018”

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Batman: White Knight

Been a while since we’ve done a Batman title, eh? I knew I had to read this as soon as it popped on my radar.

Once again, Batman confronts the Joker. Once again, Batman puts the Joker in Arkham. But this time… Joker is cured? Batman force-fed the Joker an unknown medication that seems to have driven him sane. The newly reformed Jack Napier, along with Harleen Quinzel, are now on a crusade to save Gotham from Batman. Not too many people take him seriously at first – come on, it’s gotta be another of Joker’s schemes, right? – but as time goes on, and Jack doesn’t let up, it becomes very clear that he is serious, and that he won’t stop until Gotham is delivered from her Dark Knight and corrupt police force. Will the public’s opinion of Jack change? Will Batman be revealed as the villain after all, or will the Joker come back out of the woodwork?

W o w. This is definitely a Batman comic worth reading. It challenges a lot of things that Batman has previously gotten away with, and then some, revealing no clear answers in the process. It makes you question if Batman is really doing good, or if he’s just another criminal in a mask and cape. His design in this one – with a Dracula-esque collar, more angry scowl lines on his cowl, and hints of fangs – definitely hint that Batman is more of a villain than he lets on, and we see it in the art. Obsessively detailed and cinematic, with many Gothic elements in the architecture and character designs, the art is a constant reminder of the seedy city we’re in. This stellar start to the DC Black Label series is provocative, thought-provoking, and will have you mulling it over long after you’re finished.

– Kathleen

Murphy, Sean, and Matt Hollingsworth. Batman: White Knight. 2018.

Forever Evil

The Justice League is no more! Instead the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 in the multiverse have managed to “kill” most of the heroes and round up all the villains, so as to take over the world. The Crime Syndicate consists of doppelgangers Ultraman (Superman), Super Woman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman), Power Ring (Green Lantern), Deathstorm (Firestorm), Johnny Quick (The Flash) and Atomica (Atom) with their Sea King (Aquaman) not surviving the trip over.

After busting dozens of villains out of jail, this group of seven demand obedience from the motley group in front of them. They explain that the strongest should survive, and the way the former heroes have been protecting the weak of the planet was wrong. Ultraman declares “Aeternus Malum”, which roughly translates to forever evil, to his new army. Thrilled to be allowed to act on their base instincts, this new secret society go out and create deadly chaos all over the world.

But not all is well within the crime syndicate. The seven argue endlessly among themselves, and fear that the creature that destroyed their previous world will find them here. We discover Super Woman is pregnant and secretly telling both Ultraman and Owlman that they are the father, so we know she is planning on playing them off one another in the future.

In the midst of the lawlessness and disorder, Lex Luthor takes stock of the situation and takes action. He has a powerful secret weapon that he had been working on for years, and puts it into play. We also discover that not everyone from the Justice League is gone. A certain someone, who often fights dark impulses (you have to know who I’m referring to!), joins forces with Lex and some other surprising villains to take down the syndicate.  The conclusion reveals who the mole in the Justice League was to allow the syndicate to take over, and Super Woman has another surprising disclosure.

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This was an extremely dense story, one that took me time to go through. While I have been reading more DC graphic novels recently, I still had to look up many characters to find out their backgrounds and how they connect into one another. There were some inconsistencies and some holes in the story that were distracting, but I felt as a whole, it was a very strong story. It made me think- can someone who has been evil for a long time, change? Does his/her new good actions erase all the bad they have done in the past? On the flip side, can someone who has been good but then makes a horrible choice, does that negate their past good deeds?

The artwork was fantastic. It took real skill to illustrate the 100 or so characters in the story. There was an amazing four page spread of the syndicate with the villains surrounding them, that I wish had been a pull out, so we could see the whole cast of characters at once. Despite this four page spread, there were hardly any other two page spreads, but there were occasionally one page panels. With black borders, the rich coloring stood out, and every panel was drawn with precision.

This New 52 crossover event was definitely successful. Not only was it a fun read, but the ending leaves some open story lines that can be built upon in the future.  I’m definitely interested in knowing what awaits the villains that survived and how that will affect the Justice League in the future.

-Nancy

Johns, Geoff, Davis Finch & Richard Friend. Forever Evil. 2014.

Batman: Earth One (Vol. 2)

A lot of people believe the Batman is responsible for the death of Mayor Oswald Cobblepot. There are some, though, who believe he is not, and that he might be a force for good instead. There have been a number of murders since the death of Mayor Cobblepot, though. Someone has been killing random groups of people after they have failed to solve riddles. He leaves a calling card: a green question mark. To stop him, Batman needs help. Bruce is sure he can trust Commissioner Gordon, but Alfred warns against trusting any of the police. When Mayor Jessica Dent, twin sister to District Attorney Harvey Dent and former flame of Bruce’s, asks him to become a public beacon of hope for Gotham, Bruce is conflicted. How does he help Gotham? In the shadows, or the light?

… Wow. Just wow. Volume 2 was so much better than Volume 1! Again, no one is quite who you think they are, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat trying to figure it out. My favorite part of this volume was actually Killer Croc. They really humanized him, and you feel sorry for him instead of fearing him. It’s also refreshing to see Batman asking for help instead of being an insufferable know-it-all. Again, the art is nothing to sneeze at, but you keep coming back for the story anyway. I am very much looking forward to Volume 3!

– Kathleen

Johns, Geoff, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, and Brad Anderson. Batman: Earth One (Vol. 2). 2015.

Batwoman: The Many Arms of Death

Typically not a DC fan, and definitely not a Batman fan, I decided to give the rebooted Batwoman a try. Kathleen has recently enjoyed previous recent titles about her such as Hydrology and Elegy and had great things to say about both, so I gave it a go.

I went in totally unfamiliar with Batwoman, so I appreciated her origin story in the beginning to get know what shaped her into who she is now. As a child her twin sister and mother are killed in a failed kidnapping (although you just know her twin will reapppear again- if not in this volume, a future one). We then see Kate as a cadet at West Point and when her sexuality is discovered, she won’t deny it, thus she is kicked out. Next the heiress is seen partying it up, but it’s obviously a mask to hide her pain.

Then the timeline really starts to dart around. Kate has a “lost” year between leaving West Point and becoming Batwoman. She is stranded on the island of Coryana with a head injury and falls in love with her beautiful benefactor Safiyah, who is the leader of this lawless nation. Safiyah’s previous lover Tahani is pushed aside for Kate, which fills Tahani with rage. Years later Tahani is back for revenge and the storyline becomes James Bondish, with an actual Moneypenny character. Kate is very unlikable at this stage, and Tahani speaks some truth to her, which Kate just ignores. As soon as I finally was becoming comfortable in this one stage of her life, there is another timeline jump into the future.  No mater what timeline she is in, Kate jumps from one lover to another, and is condescending to all. I’ve never been a fan of “bad boys who need redemption” character types, so I wasn’t a fan even with the gender switch. No matter who you are, or love, be nice. I guess she’s similar to Batman- whose brooding nature I have never liked.

Three artists are listed, and as such sometimes the art style shifts from one issue to the next. All illustrate well, with a dark color palette and varied panel structure. It’s certainly not the art I have a problem with. What I don’t get is her supposed secret identity. Hello- her flaming red hair is a huge clue! Is everyone supposed to think that Batwoman can’t be Kate because Kate has short red hair while Batwoman has long? Its a wig people, attached to her cowl!  And does she she wear it under her clothes? There was one scene in which she is dressed as Kate and one second later she is in her costume. I actually looked to see if there was a page, or at least a panel, that would explain it.

I received this digital copy through NetGalley for a fair and unbiased review. I let the excitement of being approved for the volume to override my usual avoidance of Batman stories. Truth be told, Kathleen would have been a better reviewer for the story. I’m not sure if me not liking it had to do with my distaste for Kate or if the time jumping made it too choppy for me to enjoy. While I welcomed the needed LGTBQ superhero storyline, Kate wasn’t the right person to carry it off.

-Nancy

Bennett, Marguerite & James Tynion IV. Batwoman: The Many Arms of Death. 2017.

Batman: Earth One (Vol. 1)

During his mayoral campaign, Thomas and his wife Martha are murdered. Their young son, Bruce, is left with no one in the world – save his father’s friend Alfred. The ex-Marine has been granted sole guardianship of the boy, and he reluctantly accepts. Bruce grows up hell-bent on revenge, eventually donning a black cowl and cape to take down the animal who killed his parents. Trouble is, that animal is currently mayor of Gotham City… and he’s currently paid off just about everyone, especially the police. With no one to turn to, no one to trust, he strikes out on his crusade alone.

Kinda the same Batman you know, kinda a different one. Geoff Johns is a fantastic writer, and there are twists and turns abound. No one is who you’ll expect they’ll be in this arc, and half the fun is finding out who fits where. The villains are genuinely disturbing, and we get a hint or two that Bruce himself may be more than a little mad. The art is – typical Batman art, for lack of a better word: dark, a muted palette, and plenty of blood and gore. I look forward to the next volume!

– Kathleen

Johns, Geoff, and Gary Frank. Batman: Earth One (Vol. 1). 2012.

Last JL Trailer!

YEEEEEEEE

Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince are rounding up more metahumans – superheroes – to save the world. Someone’s got to, now that Superman is gone, right? The world needs a hero like him… but why have one, when you can have five? =P

The thing I liked most was we finally got to see some more Cyborg. Most of his costume was likely done in post-production, so we haven’t seen much of him until this trailer. I like what I see!!! I do hope he plays a bigger role in the movie than has been shown in the trailers so far =D

Speaking of liking what I see… Jason Momoa as Aquaman… perfect casting, in my humble opinion ;D

Bruce’s face at 2:48 tho… being so done with Ezra Miller Barry… I feel you, Bruce. I feel you.

Justice League hits theaters November 17th! My fiance and I have the whole weekend blocked off for it and making Bob’s Burgers >:D

Yes, you read that right… my boyfriend is now my fiance! He proposed while we were in Amsterdam, after the concert. I was waiting to post to all social media until we were able to tell and celebrate with our families in person. We are so happy and excited to be entering a new chapter of our lives together ❤

– Kathleen

JLA/ Avengers

When Universes Collide!

The DC  and Marvel Heroes go head to head when their two realities combine, putting both their universes in danger.  Kurt Busiek writes and George Pérez illustrates this fun crossover tale in which all your favorites have to work together to save the cosmos!

Evil super scientist Krona (from the DC universe) is desperate to understand how it all began- what came before the Big Bang? In his millennia of searching, he has destroyed planets and civilizations without a second thought, but comes up against his equal when he meets the Grandmaster (from the Marvel universe). The two of them devise a plan to pit the two teams of superheroes against one another, in a game within a game.

The two teams are initially unaware of one another, and are confused when they are tasked to retrieve twelve magical items, found in both universes. Once they move into each other’s universes, they meet, and the competition is on. Initially rivals, their retrieval of the icons is kept track of by Krona and Grandmaster in a competition of which team can find them first. Not surprisingly, the teams eventually forge an allegiance, but not before Galactus gets in on the action and several betrayals and twists and turns occur. This is a hard story to describe, you have to experience it yourself to truly appreciate it.

Look at Scarlet Witch’s hair! She is a permed 80’s goddess!

As a practical person who often struggles with a “suspension of disbelief”, I loved how Busiek explained the two different worlds and their contradictions to one another. The DC heroes are revered on their world, while the Avengers (and definitely the mutants) are met with hostility on theirs. Because of this differing opinion of the masses, they each accuse the other team of being out of touch with what their citizens need. How their powers work on each world is also explained in a plausible way. Plus, the way they touched on the possible future that they had a chance to witness, was handled better in a few pages than Civil War II did in a whole book.

Although released in 2004, this story has a Golden Age/retro feel to it, as Pérez expertly recreates the heroes. He absolutely captures their essence, and without giving away too many spoilers, he also has a chance to show the heroes in different costume eras. That was a hoot, as some of the heroes have had extreme makeovers over the years, or have had different people representing them.  The layout of the narrative had an easy flow, with impressive title pages and two page spreads. In fact, I am on a George Pérez kick right now, because of Kathleen’s recommendations. I bought some of his Wonder Woman books for my library, and have The Infinity Gauntlet on my TBR list.

This was a fun book to read, and I was extremely impressed with the Busiek/Pérez team up and how they wonderfully melded together two rich histories into one outstanding story.

Asides:

I HATE PLASTIC MAN! Not just dislike- I hate him! As a child he creeped me out, and I found his slap stick humor distasteful. Every time I saw him in a panel in this story (which was a lot) I cringed.

Why is Hawkeye such a ladies man? I found him ugly with his purple costume and ridiculous boots.

I enjoyed the rivalry between similarly powered heroes: Hawkeye/Green Arrow, Flash/Quicksilver, Superman/Thor, Batman/Captain America.

Aquaman is a buff, bearded blonde here, as he is in most recent incarnations, so I am anxious to see how the dark haired DC movie actor Jason Momoa handles the role. JM is mighty fine, so I am looking forward to seeing his interpretation of the role.

Avengers Assemble! has a much better ring to it than Justice League Lambaste!  Man, that was funny when Superman tried to come up with his own catch phrase.

-Nancy

Batman (Rebirth) Vol. 1: I Am Gotham

A plane is going down in Gotham. Batman launches himself from the Batmobile onto literally the top of the plane to steer it into the river. He knows the impact may very well kill him. But at the last second, just before the point of impact, the plane is lifted and set gently on the water, and he is saved. By a boy and a girl in blue masks, introducing themselves as Gotham and Gotham Girl. Who are they? Why do they have Superman-like powers? Are they really out to save Gotham, or are they its’ destroyers in disguise?

I didn’t read the back before reading it, so by the time I got to the inevitable downfall of Gotham and Gotham Girl, I rolled my eyes super hard. Like we haven’t seen Batman go up against Superman or Supergirl or someone ELSE with Kryptonian powers who’s gone SUUUUPER BAAAD a million times before. Just because they’re new kids doesn’t make the trope any less tired or annoying. They even LOOK like Clark and Kara, and the costumes are very similar. How they got their powers and turned bad was very creepy, so points for that. There are a few moments of true compassion between Bruce and others, but my favorite part turned out to be Alfred. Snark was on point. Can we get an Alfred comic already???

– Kathleen

King, Tom and David Finch. Batman (Rebirth) Vol. 1: I Am Gotham. 2017.

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