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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”. 

A Bat for the Ages

4 May

Welcome one and all to another edition of the Wayfarer!

First off, I’d like to make a quick apology for missing last week’s deadline – being new to this venture I failed to account for the amazing distractive powers of life itself… I solemnly pledge to you all from hereon, I shall never miss a week here at Comic Addicts, one way or another, come hell or high water, you will get your fill of good reading!

NOW! In the words of Chris Rock, time to Roll With The New!
Its Batman Week here at Comic Addicts and we all wanted to bring you ol’ pointy ear’s in all his Dark-knight-y glory and so this week’s wayfarer will be following the theme and bringing you some Bat-action.

After giving it much though, I realised I didn’t want to do any of the ongoing Bat-stuff and the really well-known graphic novels and/or collected story arcs. There were others more inclined to touch on these and besides, there is such a rich history and mythology to be found in the archives that I decided to really look deep.
And fortunate wonders! In my digging I came across a collection I own called “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” with this wonderful cover by the inimitable Walter Simonson – who of course is best known for his legen-waitforit-Dary! run on Marvel’s Thor, but that is a whole other review (or several…).

Now my understanding is that this was meant to be a series of “Greatest Stories…” collections but I’ve never come across any of the others nor even heard about them – likely never would have had I not possessed this one which gives a volume number on the side.
I was very fortunate the day I received this, just a little tyke back then running around in my mini-Bat-suit complete with pants designed to look like I was wearing undie’s on the outside and a big black cape. Of course I never had the mask since it was meant to be a kid’s night-suit but I think at that point I couldn’t have cared less!

But on with the review. I thought about trying to review this book and all it’s stories but there are a great many of them (as you will see shortly) and I refuse to create a post so monstrous that even I wouldn’t read the whole thing.
With this in mind I’m going to simplify – first a brief about the book and why I selected this and then a listing of what the book contains and quicky reviews of the lot side by side!

As to the choice of book and reasoning behind it, well there were many I went over but the truth of it is that I wanted to review this because of what it represents and what it brings to the table as a compendium of story-telling!
It is in short an amazing collection of several stories spanning the first 50 years of stories about The Batman. I use that name simply because it applies. Today we have Batman, the fearless defender of Gotham who with enough prep time and because of his amazing skills can overcome any and all obstacles. This is a modern hero who has evolved into this mythical form. But there was a time back in his early day’s where he was not quite so larger-then-life and yet at the same time was – he was the thing to be feared, the hero, the man becoming the hero we all know so well today. Back then he was known by his first moniker, the one that struck fear into the hearts of the cowardly and superstitious criminals, he was The Batman.
Now of course the only one that uses that title is faithful Alfred. Great guy, no hero should be without one!
But this was simply it – here in these stories as you will see you get a length and breadth of all that the Caped Crusader evolved through: campy stories, dark tales, possible futures, gritty noir-ish tales, simple clever tales, human aspects and deeper ones. We get to see even how the look and feel of the hero changed and moved with time – the cape, the cowl, the logo, the car and all things Bat, and of course his ever in-flux romantic life and it’s impact on him. Except of course for the giant bloody coin, he seems to retain that pretty much across the board!
But more then anything else I think what I love about these stories is the way the creators could tell such great tales in a single issue. Today everything is multi-issue arc’s and events and cross-overs with a stand-alone story being a rarity in most comics, especially DC and Marvel’s comics. This book hearkens back to a kind of madcap creativity that we need to find again, one not strapped and held hostage by continuity and back-story! FREEDOM!!!

Anyhow, now on to the comics themselves:

Introduction by Dick Giordano
Foreword by Mike Gold
Both of these well written and give a nice beginning and warm-up as you settle into the world of the Dark Knigh Detective.
Detective Comics #31, 32 – “Batman versus the Vampire”
One of (if not the) the earliest supernatural adventures, this see’s our hero face off against the team of Dala and the mysterious Monk! Racing against time to save his fiancee Julie Madison (haven’t heard that name in a while have you? If at all?) from a fate worse then death, we meet a younger and in some ways darker Batman, one unafraid to use a gun if need arises! Also, this tale shows the birth of the Bat-rang and Bat-plane – a 2-parter and a great read!
Batman #1 – “Dr. Hugo Strange and the Mutant Monsters”
Arguably one of my favourites in this book for a few reasons, chief among them being Dr. Hugo Strange who I always felt was a most darkly compelling villain – the true mad scientist while being such was still a cool villain-ish qualification. 
A dark tale which was one of the one’s that changed how the character of Batman was written, we see him fighting monsters of evil-science and having to go to extreme lengths to save the day, lengths that Batman as a hero would never cross again! Read it if you dare!
Batman #25 – “Knights of Knavery”
Lovely little tale written during the more friendly and humorous day’s of Bat-adventures, this at first glance seemingly simple tale see’s out hero (and his new-found partner Robin) chasing the newly created criminal partner-ship of The Joker and The Penguin – yeah, quite a killer combo they are, literally! But even here we see how different attitudes then and now are, we have a moment where the Dynamic Duo are bound and at the villains mercy and we have debates over whether to shoot them outright or slowly torture them using methods like an infamous dripping water torture that as stated by the Joker, will drive them slowly more and more insane. Not something I wager one might find so easily in a kids comic anytime soon – at best a camp-ified version. Maybe.
Syndicated comic strip – “1001 Umbrellas of the Penguin”
A short and very amusing tale (another favourite) which see’s a team-up between Batman, Robin and … The Penguin? … as the Terrific Trio come together to take on Gotham’s criminal underworld! A short but fun-filled little saga.
Batman #47 – “The Origin of Batman”
I don’t imagine I need to go into detail on this one do I?
Batman #61 – “The Birth of Batplane II”
This was also another landmark in some ways – Batman has always been famous for his gadgetry and vehicles but it was not always so, as we see in the earlier tales. However here we see the birth of much as our heroes find their trusty Bat-plane hijacked by a bunch of crooks who hit a lucky jackpot and proceed to use the powerful plane to make a load o’ moolah!
Of course the Duo must now race against time to build a new plane that is superior to their old faithful and in the process we see all the little clever tricks and decoys and multi-mode stylings of Bat-vehicles being brought to life, I think for the first time ever. Give thanks Bat-fans!

Star-Spangled Comics #124 – “Operation: Escape”
A simple but effective tale showcasing the abilities for which the Boy Wonder was once famous (or infamous if you were of the criminal element), namely being a master escape artist a-la Harry Houdini.
Detective Comics #211 – “The Jungle Cat-Queen”
An early example of a Bat and Cat story that will show much of what makes their dynamic feel familiar to fans and to part-time followers alike – although being an early tale like all the others here this one has the basis for so much we take as gospel now but was not exactly the dynamic and characterisation we are so fond of today. 
Detective Comics #235 – “The First Batman”
A very moving and dark Batman story where Bruce Wayne (not his caped alter-ego) is on the trail of hi parent’s killer using the Bat identity only as needed. Like several older Bat-stories this use of the Thomas Wayne bat-costume has today been touched-on and paid homage to in many forms in modern Bat-tales including the most excellent “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” (I highly recommend the series to all genuine and un-pretentious superheroic comic fans!). One of the more human and serious stories in Bat-mythos in many ways.
World’s Finest Comics #94 – “The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team” 
Simple, entertaining and a perfect sampling of the basics that make up the Superman-Batman dynamic, this tale belongs here simply by that virtue alone.
Batman #156 – “Robin Dies at Dawn”
For many fans the recent saga’s of Batman and his Bat-family during Grant Morissons already legendary run going from before the resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul till Batman R.I.P and all the way till The Return – almost all of it can be traced back to this one story! Those who know what I’m talking about know about the Black Glove and Dr. Hurt, well this is the tale that gave birth to the idea in Grant’s head. An exceptional tale, really pushing the limit to story-telling in comics in some ways, it is an excellent story about how your own mind can be your worst enemy!
Detective Comics #345 – The Blockbuster Invasion of Gotham City”
One of the simpler tales in this collection, I will refrain from detail to prevent giving it away. Basically a tale of a Hulk-like uber-powerful monster that even the Dynamic Duo can’t stop and their efforts to make this happen. A tragic and heart-wrenching ending, a great example of how a simple and honest tale can strike a chord.
Detective Comics #404 – “Ghost of the Killer Skies”

Another excellent adventure, this time away from familiar ground as Bruce Wayne is at the set of a W.W.II movie he is financing in Europe and finds sabotage and danger which brings the Batman out in the dark of night to investigate as rumours of ghostly vengeance from the movies long dead German war-ace abound! 

Well written with excellent art and a brilliant ending, another great ‘serious’ Bat-adventure.
Batman #234 – “Half an Evil”
Of course what set of Bat-stories would be complete without at least one appearance by Harvey Dent as villain. Our story follows The Batman as he discovers that Two-Face is behind the theft, sinking, and raising of an old ship belonging to one Captain Bye. Quite simply, he is after a cache of gold doubloons Bye had hidden somewhere within the vessel. Clever scheme and well written – this is not a complex story but a quintessential Two-Face story.
Detective Comics #429 – “Man-Bat Over Vegas”
One of the early tales of Batman and Kirk Langstrom’s long-standing problems with one another as Man-Bat takes to the skies over Vegas and body-count starts to show – enough to attract the attention of the Gotham Knight himself. With a shocking twist ending it is a taut and enjoyable story.
Batman #250 – “The Batman Nobody Knows”
Another short tale where Bruce Wayne is out leading a camping troop for lesser priviliged kids and as they all sit around the campfire each child spins amazing yarns about what and who they think Batman is and we get to see a whole other aspect of the image that such a man carries to the mind of an innocent. Surprisingly neat and enjoyable story I must admit. (I also want to actually see some of those alternate Batmen in comics someday!)
Detective Comics #437 – “Deathmask”
Action packed murder mystery with a supernatural setup that see’s a deadly chase as an ancient curse seems to have awakened and is cutting a bloody swath in Gotham as it seeks out the cursed. As Batman races to stop this evil we get to see a fine example of the kind of simple and elegant detective work that built the reputation of the Dark Detective.
Detective Comics #442 – “Death Haunts the Skies”
A supernatural revenge tale with a deeply human soul somewhere in the narrative, this is another from the era of stories where one was hard pressed to decide whether the story is a supernatural one or a fraud a-la Scooby Doo, showing more of the fine talent that has worked on The Batman over the years to create such a story. 
Detective Comics #457 – “No Hope in Crime Alley”
Another short tale, this touches on Crime Alley – the place where Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed – and shows Batmans relationship to that place and to the character we know today as Leslie Tompkins, the woman who saw a young Bruce amidst the chaos after the murder and has been a source of strength and a friend in all his years as The Batman. A touching story. 
DC Special Series #15 – “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three”
A change of pace – a non-graphic Batman story. As with many of his tales, this follows The Batman running to save lives and find evidence to bring the bad guys to justice. Gritty in its narrative and dark and full of a noir feel that I love this story is one of the stand-outs in this collection and I LOVE the final lines though I will refrain from spoiling it for you all!
Detective Comics #474 – “The Deadshot Ricochet”
By itself this story is just a kind of middle-of-the-main-arc kind of story. But what makes it stand out is not the over-arching saga that we get inklings of here and there and at the sinister shadowy ending (something we’re all familiar with I presume) but we get caught up and drawn into this telling of the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Silver St. Cloud – one of the most unique female characters he has been involved with as many of the more knowledgeable fans will recall. She had a strong influence on him and here we see the early parts of their interaction and see how it grew and their personalities. 
Plus as a bonus we have action courtesy of Deadshot in his early days – his second outing ever in fact. We learn his origin story and in some respects see an alternate future for someone who shared a similar past ,i.e., Bruce Wayne (didn’t know that did you?) and he has been cooling his heels ever since, now in a cell next to the Penguin he manages to leave ol’Pengy behind and make his break – donning the now familiar body-suit and on to another confrontation with The Batman who took his life away!
Detective Comics #482 – “Bat-Mite’s New York Adventure”
A short and amusing Bat-Mite tale – not much to tell, terror, magic, silliness. Enjoy. 
Batman #312 – “A Caper a Day Keeps the Batman at Bay”
One of the overall weaker selections in this book but by virtue of its sheer fun factor this tale earns its place here. It finds out hero on the trail of one of The Batmans more colourful but not-so-highly-regarded villains – Calender Man. 
This is worth reading just for the sheer fun and creativity of this story, a simple joy that I sometimes miss in my comics.
Detective Comics #500 – “To Kill a Legend”
Arguably the most powerful and moving tale in this anthology, this is a story that follows Bruce and Dick as they are transported to another world or back in time (never clearly stated) where they have a chance to stop the Wayne’s from ever being killed. Touching on so many emotional chords through Batman and Robin and bringing questions of fate and destiny into the readers mind with a very nice finish to it all, this is a great Bat-story!
The Brave and the Bold #197 – “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne”

Set in an alternate reality a few years down the line when Batman is older and the world is changed, we read our tale as an entry in the journal of this world’s Bruce Wayne written during his older years – presumably post retiring his cowl. 
Emotional and charged, this is a lovely early version of stories like the DC Elseworld’s stories that became so common in the last decade or so. A very well put together rendering of a happily ever after for both The Batman and for Bruce Wayne, a must read for all open-minded Bat-fans.

Well thats it for me this week folks! I made this post a lot longer then originally intended but thanks to those that stuck around till here – I’ll try and do better next time around. Here’s wishing you all loads of Bat-memories and entertainment this week, go watch the old movies, pull out your old comics, find your comic junkie friends and just have a blast.

Cheers!

Nish’s Notepad: Batman #500

3 May

Happy Bat-Week Mates! Since this whole week is for Batman, so I though what would be better than going back in the past? So I digged up my shelf for something like that and found a perfect thing to write a review on: Batman Issue #500..

Script: Doug Moench
Pencils: Jim Aparo, Mike Manley
Inks: Terry Austin, Mike Manley
Colours: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Ken Bruzenak
Editor: Dennis O’Neil

Before I start with my actual review, let me tell you about the Knightfall series of Batman, to which #500 belongs. Before the Knightfall series, i.e. in Issue #491, Bane stages a giant break out of Arkham Asylum, due to which Batman’s fiercest foes like Joker, the Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Two face etc. start a rampage within the Asylum.


The actual Knightfall series start with Issue #492 when Film Freak, who portrayed villains in his movies but then thought that he’d be a good criminal in real life too, is controlled by Mad Hatter, following the Arkham Assylum breakout. At the end of this issue, Mad Hatter is defeated by Batman and Film Freak is killed by Bane… In the following issues, after facing people like Victor Zsasz , The Joker who teamed up with serial killer Cornelius Stirk, Scarecrow, and in Issue #495, it’s turn for Poison Ivy. The police is still chasing Joker and Scarecrow, and Bane is still out there- watching and waiting. In Issue #496, Batman first finishes off (not kills, defeats :p) Firefly, and then Scarecrow. But under the effect of Scarecrow’s fear gas, Batman seeks revenge on Joker for the death of Jason Todd, the second robin. But the villains flee again. The next part of Knightfall is in Detective Comics #663, where Batman finally rescues thaemayor, and faces Bane’s henchmen. On returning home, he discovers that Alfred is lying on the floor. In the next issue, there is a face off. Bane recklessly beats up Batman, where Alfred runs to get help from Tim. The beating continues even in the next issue, and Robin, Jean Paul (Azrael from the Azrael storyline) and Alfred try to save Batman. The next two parts of Knightfall are in Showcase ’93 #7 and #8 where Two Face beats up Batman.. the next issue (Knightfall 15), Batman #498 is a major issue as in this issue, Jean Paul is asked to fill in as Batman. In the next issue, Jean Paul, the new Batman DO stand for the great detective while he’s healing but the new Bat is kind of more brutal. Meanwhile, Tim’s father was missing. In Detective Comics #666, the new Batman confronts Bane, and is literally killed when Bane is about to drop him from a great height. Bane knows. Bane knows everything, that there is a different person under the hood this time.

And here, we arrive on our destination: Batman #500 (Knightfall 19) where first, Jean Paul has a narrow escape from falling from a building and then blames his costume for so. He designs a new costume, completely different from the current one (and a 14″x29″ poster was also free with the issue! :p).Then, the new Dark Knight heads out for a final confrontation with Bane. Bane is powerful, but his power was dependent on Venom. Batman came to knew this, and after ending all the poison, runs after Bane wherever he does. Bane gets caught, and is on the verge of getting killed. Robin’s still there, and he knows that the real Bat would never do that. Thanks to his prayers, Jen Paul doesn’t kill Bane and he is sent to Blackgate prison later. After this, Bat flies away….

This series is followed by another series: Knightquest: The Crusade featuring none other than the new Bat himself. Overall, Knightfall was, is and will remain a great concept but with great concepts, great application of the concept should come, Shouldn’t it?
The last few issues of Knightfall were great, which includes our main focus: Batman #500. But still the later issues of Knightfall were much better than the early issues. I’ve done with my verdict. Now it’s your time to judge Knightfall.
Batman (about to cross the street): “Remember Robin, always look both ways.” 😉

Till then
Ciao!

Aalok Deciphers DC: Batman Post Crisis : Year One

24 Feb
Through this column we plan to review and analyze every major event within DCU since COIE, in the hopes that this becomes a  road map of sorts to the continuity laden streets of DCU. 
If you are an old fan, come enjoy reminiscing with us through the good and the bad DC had to offer.
If you are an old fan getting back into comics , let us help you get upto date sequentially
If you are a new fan you will get our help in unraveling the mysteries of current DCU
If you are not reading DC comics, let us tell you why you should be.



– Article by Aalok joshi 
-Edited by Manks

Previous editions of this column can be found at our Archive page

BATMAN: YEAR ONE

Writer: FRANK MILLER
Artist: DAVID MAZZUCHELLI
(Collects issues: BATMAN 404-407)


DC certainly put the Batman franchise in good hands. Frank Miller had earlier done  RONIN & THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS! for DC and a sprawling run on Daredevil for Marvel, writing & illustrating the most part, with David Mazzuchelli fresh off an epic Daredevil run with Miller.

It’s a very basic story but it works. The story represents two points of view, and Gotham as seen through the eyes of James Gordon & Bruce Wayne. We begin at Bruce returning to Gotham after his training and Gordon getting transferred from Chicago to Gotham. Gordon learns the hard way that he can’t change the city alone as he meets Detective Flass & Commissioner Loeb. Bruce, meanwhile has the training but doesn’t know how & where to start. Detective Flass with others beats up Gordon who then retaliates, finally having learnt what it takes to survive in Gotham. While walking the seedy streets of old Gotham, Bruce runs into trouble with a bunch of goons, Holly Robinson & Selina Kyle. The police takes in a wounded Bruce Wayne, who to protect his identity swerves the patrolcar into the river and escapes. A wounded Bruce Wayne is looking for a sign when a bat flies in through the window.







Batman begins the crackdown on Gotham city crime in earnest, stopping a group of thieves and also takes down Flass taking a bribe. when he interrupts a dinner party attended by ganglords and politicians, Carmine Falcone, top crime lord brings the heat to the police department. Loeb orders Gordon to bring Batman in. Police authorities corner Batman whilst he is saving an old lady from a mugger and consign the neighbourhood to blazes. Batman escapes by outwitting the authorities, using his ultrasonic whistle to summon bats from the cave for the first time.

Gordon begins his romantic fling with Lt. Sarah Essen. Authorities suspect that Harvey Dent, District Attorney is the Batman, who is the Batman’s ally much before Gordon. Batman brings in a drug dealer who agrees to testify against Flass. Loeb blackmails Gordon saying that he will press charges against him for his affair with Essen. Finally Gordon himself confesses to his wife Barbara.

 Inspired by the Batman, Selina Kyle takes on the identity of Catwoman and makes her first heist from Carmine Falcone, giving him the characteristic scar and interrupting Batman who overhears something about a plot against Gordon at Falcone’s Mansion. The ganglords arrange to have Gordon’s son kidnapped. Bruce Wayne stops the attempt and saves the child. Flass finally testifies against Loeb and Gordon is promoted to Captain. Essen gets transferred and Barbara divorces James Gordon. In the end, Gordon meets Batman on the rooptop discussing a character called the Joker who has threatened to poison the reservoir.




Notes:
-Bruce’s parent’s murder is shown only in flashback. No murder, no vow.


-The series is more about James Gordon & Bruce Wayne. It presents the beginning of the long evolving relationship between Gordon & Batman

-We see the beginnings of Selina Kyle, Holly Robinson, Sarah Essen, Carmine Falcone & Harvey Dent.

-The Crisis didn’t change much about the Batman. We never see fresh takes on all the villains.  Only the parts that have been changed have been touched upon in subsequent issues. Year One isn’t a new, completely different story, just a fresh take on the Dark Knight in the “grim n gritty” fashion.

-Since this storyline was so popular, there have been a number of series attempting to “fill in” the blank spots as most people dislike the idea of going back to the Pre Crisis stories.

-Though two titles were launched which would predominantly feature early storylines, LEGENDS OF THE DARK NIGHT & now BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL, many of these are called year one stories. The notable one shots, mini series and arcs from LOTDK & BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL are:

-THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1st JOKER)
-THE LONG HALLOWEEN (1ST TWO FACE)
-DARK VICTORY
-CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME
-SHAMAN
-GOTHIC
-PREY (1ST HUGO STRANGE)
-VENOM (1ST VENOM)
-THE MONSTER MEN (another variant on HUGO STRANGE)
-THE MAD MONK (1ST MONK)
-RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (1ST LUTHOR)
-LOVERS & MADMEN 

SNOW (1ST FREEZE)
-CLAY (1ST CLAYFACE) (collected in BATMAN: MONSTERS)

Rating: 9.0 on 10. It was a near perfect story in what it started to do and accomplished doing.

Contains full covers, 14.95$