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REVIEW!! Year One: Batman / Ra’s Al Ghul

8 Oct
Writer: Devin K Grayson
Art: Paul Gulacy
Collects: Year One: Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul issues 1 and 2

After so long, we return to the caped crusader in a series of one shots titled as Year One which detail the first meetings of Batman and his cohorts with Gotham city psychopaths (Year One: Two Face, Year One: Scarecrow) or just detail their experiences with handling the hero job (Batgirl Year One, Robin Year One, Nightwing Year One, Metamorpho Year One). Nowadays, any title which connects to Batman’s early days or preliminary experiences with crime fighting is automatically considered to be a Year One story (Batman and the Monster Men, Batman and the Mad Monk, Batman: The Long Halloween), all brought about by the phenomenal success of the original, one and only one Batman: Year One with story by Frank Miller and art by David Mazzuchelli (see review here).


Well, this isn’t one of them.

The story begins when Batman receives a hand delivered letter addressing him as “Detective”. That and the obvious title should give away who this letter is from. But Ra’s is dead. In his letter from beyond the grave, Ra’s describes his views on nature, its balances, and his quest to save the Earth from humanity. We see glimpses of his quest for immortality, beautifully laced with threads of oriental legend and eastern mysticism. While Batman goes around his ‘normal’ job and Alfred reads out the letter to him, one thing becomes obvious – Gotham’s dead are rising from their graves! It initially begins with no one dying for a period of twenty six hours, and for a moment, Batman even considers being pleased, as this is what he has been actually fighting for. But then, the dead people refuse to stay dead, and the decomposing bodies are regenerating… and all of this is because Batman has destroyed the last existing Lazarus pit. Now, Batman is on a quest to uncover Ra’s secret formula to create a Lazarus pit. And he isn’t alone – Ubu seeks to do the same, to restore life to his master; while Gotham burns and the dead turn on the living.


Chronologically, the story takes place a year after Ra’s Al Ghul has died at the hands of his daughter Nyssa Raatko in Batman: Death and the Maidens (hence the Year One) the original story behind the publication of this book is even stranger but not impractical. Warner decided to use Ra’s Al Ghul as Batman’s “Big Bad” in the movie Batman Begins….but then the hotshots realized Ra’s has been dead for the better part of a year – so what killer move can we make to make sure that we raise comic book sales, jumping on the movie bandwagon? Answer – put out a new reprint of an existing collection or reprint classic work. Like Batman: Tales of The Demon, reprinting classic Ra’s tales by Dennis O’Neil (see review here) and Batman: Blind Justice by Samm Hamm & Denys Cowan where Henri Ducard makes a brief appearance, and they’re doing the same with a Batman Vs Bane book for The Dark Knight Rises. And also, a new series with the same villain. Enter Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul Year One.


But the story by Devin Grayson is actually good. She writes a wonderful Ra’s, every bit as compelling as Dennis O’Neil or Greg Rucka. The eastern mysticism track was refreshing, and was much needed once we get enough of the Batman fighting the dead in present day Gotham. Hency my reason for reviewing this now….sometimes a really good story gets lost in the shuffle, and falls through the cracks. The art by Paul Gulacy is excellent – he hasn’t lost his touch after his classic work on Master of Kung Fu over at Marvel and face it, nobody draws oriental like Paul. The actual story is short; so is the trade. And that’s one of its strong points.

Check this one out. Amidst the Year Ones dominating the shelf, this has a tendency to get lost – and you won’t want to miss this classic.

My rating: 9 on 10
Contains full covers, 9.99 US$

Batman: The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition Hardcover

30 Jul



Writer: Alan Moore, Brian Bolland (2nd story)
Artist: Brian Bolland
Collects: Batman: The Killing joke, with a short story by Brian Bolland from Batman: Black and White Vol 1


Apologies to all for axing my previously planned post concerning Shade, The Changing Man, Vol 2. The single issues of Shade are too hard to read….psychologically. They are almost one & done stories, but take too much effort, I’m halfway through the trade, and hopefully you will see a review next week. In the interim, I read through one of my recent buys this week, and it was a doozy!


Alan Moore made his DC debut long before this story, scripting the adventures of Swamp Thing. He did do fill in stuff from time to time, also doing pivotal stories like a Clayface story from Batman Annual 11 (1987) , and also scripted the last story of the Golden Age Superman in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”. However, it was not until Watchmen that he earned the reputation of the thinking man’s writer. Soon after, he blew all socks on a prestige format book titled Batman: The Killing Joke, which shook up status quo a lot. In a recent interview, editor Dennis O’Neil, erstwhile writer on Batman, and responsible for the 70s version of the character, having created Ra’s Al Ghul, said after reading the script, to his editor, “Either we run it as it is, or we give him a kill fee.” In other words, we won’t edit the content; it either goes to print, or we pay the writer for his time. Dennis says that he thought the high price point would keep it out of the hands of children, but admittedly, he was wrong.


The Killing Joke begins with the Batman trying to work out his relation with the Joker, in a cell in Arkham; when he discovers that the clown has made his escape. Meanwhile, the Joker makes an exciting purchase – a carnival fairground. Soon, the Joker makes his way to Commissioner Gordon’s house, shoots his daughter Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), rapes her, and makes her father watch.


Batman visits Barbara in the hospital, while a kidnapped Commissioner Gordon is forced to watch the pictures, via a roller coaster ride on the said fairground, after which Batman intervenes.

In the final confrontation, Batman stops himself from killing the Joker, and still proposes a truce, to which the Joker, of all things tells him a joke at the end, and it all begins to make sense. Between panels, we see what appears to be the origin of the Joker.


Whew! That was an exhausting read, but worthwhile. It’s not the story per se, but the implications therein, which make it the definitive Joker story (open to debate). Consider this: Batman is making the Joker an offer in the beginning, of a truce, and even after all the events of the story, he still makes the offer. after raping his daughter, Commissioner Gordon still shouts to Batman, “We have to do this by the book. We have to show him that our way works.” Joker maintains that it took one bad day to make him what he is today, and tries to drive Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Barbara to the edge, subjecting them to events unimaginable. But he loses. Gordon & Batman decide to bring in the Joker, and Barbara metamorphoses into something the Joker could never have imagined. The Joke in the end is the kicker. And I’m not spoiling that….I would like to share one of the last images of the book though, the green one with the Batman, and Joker, that is embossed on the cover.


The Joker’s origin is a bit stereotyped, but works well – an ordinary guy needs money, enters a gang, is shattered by a family tragedy, still goes along with the plans, and turns into a freak. The second story, included only for Bolland’s art is standard. It features a guy who is otherwise simple, but just wants to kill the Batman. Meant more to showcase Bolland’s art than anything else.

Alan Moore’s writing is layered, and works here, while Bolland’s art is , as his covers are, spectacular. One thing to note though – this edition features a recolouring of the original work by Brian Bolland. The original colouring by Tom Higgins can be found in a version of this story included in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore. As good as the classic version is, I prefer this edition which features muted tones, rather than the garish colouring of the 80s.


This story was subject to angry fans when it released. then, Ostrander wrote Barbara Gordon as Oracle, and people are cool with that, to that extent that they hate the DCnU reboot purporting to bring back Barbara as Batgirl. Shows two things: 1- People hate change (also proven by the cancellation of the 25 paise coin in India) and 2 – You can’t win ’em all!

My rating: 9 on 10
17.99 US$

In Memory – Gene Colan

25 Jun



I was saddened to hear of the passing of longtime artist for DC & Marvel, Gene Colan (23-6-11). According to me, he was one of the most under rated artists in the industry.
Let me elaborate about what made the man so different from other artists of the time period – his style due to which even his roughest pencils had that finished look. Check out his pencils illustrating Dracula, Lord of the Vampires for Tomb of Dracula. He also co-created Blade, with writer Marv Wolfman.



The image directly above is from 2009, shows Mr. Colan hadn’t lost his touch.

Perhaps what he will be remembered the most for is his defining run on Daredevil.


Check out this solid finished interior page from Daredevil.


I was particularly exposed to him due to his classic run on Batman & Detective Comics. Around that time, my favourite writer Doug Moench had begun to write both magazines, and I gleefully bought them all….around twenty years later.


Once I noticed who the artist was, I started picking up more stuff based solely on his talent as an artist.



Also another favourite. In this case the interior art is by Colan for the adult portion, while the gang as teens were done by the original Archie art team (DeCarlo & others) while the cover was by John Byrne.


What you can buy to get more of the man:

Tales of the Batman by Gene Colan Vol 1 (might be a bit spotty as they might have excluded other artist’s work while the writer being the same continues his work, but go for it, to me it’s the best of his work)

Night Force

Tomb of Dracula

Click here to find more of his work

You might note, many items above haven’t been released yet. It’s such a shame that Gene met an untimely end, just around the time his work was gaining wider recognition.

Rest in Peace, Sir. We will miss you.

Bat Week Roundup!

8 May

The Bat Week just ended and we aren’t ready to leave batty. We bat-ified both the FB Page and the blog for it. Now it’s time for a quick overview of what we did the whole week. Below is the blog archive for the week.


May 1, Sunday: Batman vs. Superman: The Battle for Ideals by Amanda White
May 2, Monday: From Bruce Wayne to Batman! by Vinay Pawaskar
May 3, Tuesday: Nish’s Notepad: Batman #500 by Nishkarsh Chugh
May 4, Wednesay: A Bat for Ages by Akshay Dhar
May 5, Thursday: M views: Why do we read Superhero comic books by Mayank Khurana
May 6, Friday: Stewart (and Lee)’s Slate: Batman and Robin Vol.1-2, Batman/ Punisher and Batman/ Judge Dredd Books by Stewart Loud and Lee Roberts
May 7, Saturday: Aalok deciphers DC – The Demon’s Head by Aalok Joshi

Next big thing is the MAIN EVENT QUIZ. 3 questions, many answers, no winner. Yes, nobody was able to answer all the questions correctly.. Here are the questions:

Q. Under which title and issue, Batman gained a mature appearance, according to his creator Bob Kane?
A. Detective Comics #33
W. Shashank Avvaru

Q. Gotham : Robin: Jason Todd :=: England : ? : ?
A. Squire : Beryl Hutchinson
W. Lee Roberts

Q. Why is May 1-7 celebrated as Batman Week?
A. The anniversary of Bat’s first appearance.
W. Lee Roberts

Another thing is that some freelance artists also drew for the Bat-Week.. Here are the artworks.


by Avishek Sarkar


by Anshul Chaurasia

Leaving you with all the fun we had on FB with bat here.. and an exciting news here! (via Akshay Dhar)

Aalok deciphers DC – The Demon’s Head

7 May

Welcome to another edition of Deciphering DC. /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends. – Joseph Conrad

That said, I thought for Bat Week, let’s take a look at Batman’s “adversary” Ra’s Al Ghul. While many people use the term adversary, I prefer the term “reluctant ally”.

The Joker is the Batman’s opposite number; where the Batman stands for order, the Joker represents the forces of chaos. But Ra’s isn’t Batman’s enemy; if anything, he’s a like minded soul. Batman agrees with Ra’s motives, but not with his methods, and nurses a romantic relationship with his daughter Talia.

BATMAN: TALES OF THE DEMON

Writer: Dennis O’Neil

Artists: Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Ed Hannigan and others

This book collects almost all of Ra’s Al Ghul pre-Crisis adventures written by his creator, Dennis O’Neil.

The introductory story features Talia in conflict with the League of Assassins. Ra’s Al Ghul makes his appearance in the next story when apparently; Robin & Talia are kidnapped by the same unknown enemy. Ra’s deduces Batman’s identity in the first few pages itself, as if it were as simple as adding 2 and 2. They then go around the world on an adventurous romp, to find Robin in the Himalayas, revealing this was all a trick by Ra’s to gauge Batman as his future son in law.

In further issues we see Ra’s plans for Batman, who almost ends up marrying Talia. We also have a look at how Ra’s stays young – using the Lazarus pits, in which periodic immersion lengthens one’s life span, at the cost of his sanity. We also meet the Sensei, who is the leader of the League of assassins and also witness the first use of Matches Malone as Batman’s cover identity within the mob. These stories were pretty elementary, but they work due to the mystery surrounding the character, also due to Adams & Giordano’s moody art.

Rating: 8 on 10

BATMAN DEMON TRILOGY

Ra’s later appeared in three standalone graphic novels, of which the first is titled BATMAN: SON OF THE DEMON, by Mike W Barr & Jerry Bingham.

It deals with Batman & Ra’s as allies against a mutual enemy, Qayin, who was instrumental in killing Ra’s wife and also responsible for the murder of an eminent scientist, for which he was being pursued by the Batman. During the course of this story, Batman marries Talia & has a son with her. However, realizing that Batman could never give up his grim life, Talia claimed that she has miscarried & leaves the child for adoption. These was previously considered as an imaginary story, but recently have the events become canon, with Grant Morrison introducing Damien as Bruce & Talia’s son.

The next part of the trilogy was a lackluster BATMAN: BRIDE OF THE DEMON, wherein Ra’s falls in love with an aging actress. The most lackluster of them all, though by the same writer, with art by Tom Grindberg.

Now we get to the meat of the story with BATMAN: BIRTH OF THE DEMON by Dennis O’Neil & Norm Breyfogle. Here, we learn in detail about Ra’s past. He was a medicine man of asian descent, who was requested by the local king to save the life of his mortally wounded son. Ra’s saves the prince by immersing him in a Lazarus pit, but the prince driven insane by the pit, strangles Sora, Ra’s wife, who the prince had been eyeing for some time. The king blames Ra’s for the murder of his wife, and sends him to be killed. Ra’s is saved by the son of an old lady he has saved earlier, and locates his tribe from the desert, finally rallying them to attack and destroy the kingdom. Thus was born the Demon’s head.

Rating:

BATMAN: SON OF THE DEMON – 7 on 10

BATMAN: BRIDE OF THE DEMON – 4 on 10

BATMAN: BIRTH OF THE DEMON – 9 on 10

The demon never dies….whenever we think he’s gone, he always manages to re emerge, but the same can be said for any character in modern superhero comics nowadays.

STEWART (AND LEE’S) SLATE: REVIEWS: BATMAN AND ROBIN VOLS 1-2, BATMAN/PUNISHER BOOKS, BATMAN/JUDGE DREDD BOOKS

6 May

This week guest writer Lee Roberts reviews Batman and Robin vols 1-2 by Grant Morrison and I’ve done some quick reviews of Batman’s cross-overs with Punisher and Judge Dredd.

That’s right I’ve still managed to write something Punisher related even though it’s Batman week! What are you gonna do about it?

BATMAN & ROBIN Vol 1: BATMAN REBORN (the deluxe edition)

grant morrison,frank quitely,philip tan

Review by Lee Roberts




The dark knight has fallen.Bruce wayne is dead and the Batman & Robin you know are no more instead Bruce waynes oldest allie Dick Grayson has taken on the mantle and chosen bruces assasin born wayward son as a new kind of deadlier Robin.a new evil has risen in Gotham more dangerous than before and it will take all the skills of our dynamic duo to stop them,but can they do it without killing each other? The 1st thing you notice when opening this book is how fresh it all seems,whether its the new,nastier villans,the story or the banter between our new protaganists.Also the art is outstanding with quitely outdoing himself on several splash pages my favorite being one of B&R dropping on to the roof of G.C.P.D from their FLYING BATMOBILE (Oh yeah they have 1 of those now too!) All in all this is a remarkably brave book which is brillantly done.i wasnt sure about a new batman but by the end i cant wait for volume 2. I would recommend to any comic fan not just fans of the bat

SCORE 9/10

BATMAN & ROBIN VOL 2: BATMAN vs ROBIN

Review by Lee Roberts

With the introductions and villans dealt with in vol 1 this book concentrates on our heroes and their english allies knight and squire taking Bruce Waynes corpse to an existing lazarus pit in the hope of ressurecting him and the mystery of wayne manor and the clues left inside. but who left them and why? morrisons writting really starts to click in this book with loose ends tying up and new dangers being hinted at. The patnership of Dick grayson and Damien wayne continues to get better and better,a real highlight being the exchanges between the two. I must admit to actually liking the new robin and the new dynamic he brings to the dynamic duo. the book finishes with batman discovering the real identity of the domino killer and i cant wait to read how its all resolved. Its sure to be a laugh riot!!!

SCORE 8/10


BATMAN PUNISHER: LAKE OF FIRE
Writer: Denis Oneil
Art: Barry Kitson/James Pascoe
Review by Stewart Loud
Punisher travels to Gotham in pursuit of his arch nemesis, Jigsaw and bumps into Batman.
A fairly disappointing book unfortunately. Uninspiring artwork, not Bruce Wayne as Batman (some, Azriel dude whoever he is) and Frank is written pretty poorly. Comes across as some sort of halfwit, murderous thug who thinks too much of himself. If this was the only Punisher comic I’d ever read, then I wouldn’t like him. Not much here for fans of either character.
Waste of a brilliant pairing.

SCORE 4/10



PUNISHER BATMAN: DEADLY KNIGHTS
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: John Romita Jr/Klaus Janson
Review by Stewart Loud
One of my all-time favourite comics. Carrying straight on from Lake Of Fire, Punisher is still in Gotham chasing Jigsaw, who has now teamed up with the Joker. Proper Batman, Bruce Wayne returns to briefly butt heads with Castle before they form an uneasy alliance to take down the bad guys. A fairly formulaic team-up plot but expertly scripted by Punisher veteran of the time Chuck Dixon with fantastic visuals from John Romita Jr. Short and sweet at less than 50 pages, I struggle to think of any way they could have made this brief story better.
This is a dazzling example that Marvel/DC crossovers don’t have to be printed for the sake of making money, bullshit. Great fun whichever character you read it for.
SCORE 10/10

THE BATMAN/JUDGE DREDD FILES
Writers: Alan Grant/John Wagner
Art: Simon Bisley/Carl Critchlow/Dermot Power/Glen Fabry/Jim Murray/Jason Brashill
Review by Stewart Loud
Collects vol 1-3 of the Batman/Judge Dredd books. You won’t find too many other books as beautifully illustrated as this one. Neither character has looked much better than they do in this trilogy of stories that take place in both Gotham and Mega City One (courtesy of a trans-dimensional device) that all tie in together as Batman and Dredd join forces to fight criminals, monsters and cyborgs with a few inevitable clashes of personality along the way.
Features the villains Scarecrow, Mean Machine, Riddler, Judge Death and The Joker.
Well written, gothic, violent, action packed and a decent sized read at over 200 pages this is definitely one book no fans of either character should be without.
SCORE 9/10

BATMAN JUDGE DREDD: VENDETTA IN GOTHAM
Writers: Alan Grant/John Wagner
Art:Cam Kennedy
Review by Stewart Loud
Batman and Dredd have a decent old fashioned punch up in a children’s playground as well as having to deal with the criminal ventriloquist dummy, Scarface in this short story set between vols 2 and 3 from the Batman/Judge Dredd graphic novel mentioned above.
Nice art and a good comedy brawl between the two characters. Not essential to the plot of the other book but certainly worth a look if you enjoy seeing the characters together.
Lastly, I don’t normally like to give things away in my reviews but Dredd beats the tights off of Bats! Seriously, he hits him in the balls with a kids see-saw at one point!

SCORE 6/10

M views: Why do we read Superhero comic books

5 May
– By Manks

I have been a superhero comic book reader since I can remember, and I have often been asked what draws me into their highly stylised and unrealistic world?

Each person has their own answer to this question, and no single answer is correct.

One of the reasons why we come back to the Superhero comics are because they inspire us. These larger than life creations struggling daily through the worst the world has to offer them, and coming out on top. Their never say die attitude.. ….even after they are literally dead ( there’a  joke here somewhere on the state on Superhero comics – Blackest Night I am looking at you!)

Lets look at some of the tragedies that have befallen the Bat-Characters for example

Batman
The most poignant tragedy is perhaps the murder of Bruce Wayne parents, which drove him to haunt the criminals as Batman. This in itself is a commendable feat. But then



When Bane Broke Batman



 Bane conspired and used many of Batman’s enemies to tire him out and when Bruce was at his limts, struck and broke Batman’s back, paralysing Bruce ( Storyline – Knightfall)

Bruce fought through the depression of being beaten , the pain of paralysis and re-learned how to operate as a Bat from scratch (Knightsend).. He did not give up! 

I still remember the scene where after every new fight he would go to Gotham’s tower and attempt to jump, giving up each time. He just didnt have the strenghth of will left anymore. For the first time in his life he was scared. He thought he was invincible and Bane had shattered his illusion.

Richard Grayson ( Robin / Nightwing) : The original robin, after the tragedy of his parents death willingly followed Batman’s directions to become one of the most respected superhero amongst DC community. He IS the next generation leader of DCU heroes. He possesses all the skills of batman without the angst. In his career he has faced deaths of friends and family, yet he trudges on.



Death of Tim Drake’s (Robin) father



 Timothy Drake ( also known as Robin III) suffered a horrible fate when he couldnt save his dad (Jake Drake) from getting killed by the boomerang.
It is incredibly difficult for me to imagine anyone continue to operate under such immense grief and regret. Yet he still does.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle) is the epitome of courage in the Bat family. She was shot by the Joker in The Killing joke, paraylsing her forver. For a long time she was depressed about losing her legs and not being able to operate as Batgirl.

But then one day she decided not to mourn anymore, but use whatever she has to help in whichever way she can. She took the guise of Oracle and started using her techinical know-how to help all vigilantes. She even formed an all female Superteam called Birds of Prey to go where she couldnt and do what she couldnt.
She is now far more successful as Oracle in fighting crime than she ever was as Batgirl. She has become the information hub for all superheroes and a crucial member of the Justice League.
She took an awful incident and converted it into an oppurtunity. Inspirational stories doesnt get better than this!

Commisioner James Gordon has been suffering since he has come to Gotham. He lost his wife and son to a divorce. He was tortured by the joker and made to see enlarged pictures of his wounded adopted daughter Barbara Gordon in an effort to drive him insane. His second wife, Sarah was murdered by the Joker, which even let Batman to allow Gordon to have a free shot at joker if he wanetd to.Through all of this, his sense of duty and ethical compass has been unwavering. He is an inspiration to Batman himself .


This panel says a lot of things about the Bat-world, Two of most tragic personalities in Batman’s life : Jason Todd ( Robin II) and Hush ( Dr. Elliot) ..
We all know Jason’s story: He was killed by the joker , revived  by the vagaries of fate. Even though he is on the wrong side of the law, in his mind he is still fighting for the innocents. Even death couldn’t stop this now anti-hero
Catwoman
She’s been a villian, She’s been a hero, and then she realised someone tampered with her mind to subdue her criminal mentalities. So whatever she’s doing isn’t of her own accord. She also had to give away her child as it was too dangerous for the child to be associated with her. Is there a greater pain than being forced to split from your child? But she endures. 

And these characters are just the tip of the Superhero comics.. They get knocked down but they get up again, no one’s gonna keep them down..
If you aren’t reading superhero comics, you are missing out on inspirational tales that would shame many a “book” reader.
Remember: Nicolas cage , Jerry seinfeld and  Barack Obama all have one thing in common.. They all love superhero comics.. Don’t deprive yourself of these tales because they are just “superhero tales”.