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Justice League Unlimited – Epilogue (Review)

At the time Epilogue was written, the creators didn’t know that Justice League Unlimited would get another season. The show ultimately got another year on television, but Dwayne McDuffie and Bruce Timm constructed Epilogue so that it would serve as something of a coda to the entire animated DC universe, stemming as far back as On Leather Wings. It actually works almost perfectly, bringing everything a full circle. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited consciously pushed Batman to the periphery, which made a bit of sense. After all, the character had anchored two shows already. However, Epilogue moves Batman back to the centre, re-establishing Bruce as the core of the animated DC universe and giving him a (mostly) happy ending a few years before The Dark Knight Rises would do the same thing.

One final spotlight on Batman…

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Batman: Vampire Trilogy – Red Rain, Bloodstorm & Crimson Mist (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I’m going to be entirely honest. I’m not completely sure what to make of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ Batman: Vampire trilogy. A collection of three Elseworlds stories, all following a Batman who confronted Dracula early in his career, they initially seem like grim and dark comics from the nihilistic nineties. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of cynicism, and a lot of gore. As with a lot of Batman written around that time (and arguably beyond), The Dark Knight Returns seems like a major influence, presenting a progressively darker and unhinged Dark Knight and an increasingly brutal war on Gotham’s crime. However, there were times, reading the trilogy, that I couldn’t help but read it as a sort of an implicit criticism of these sorts of excessively dark and edgy comics.

Streets run red…

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Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams’ Batman – Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, Vol. 2 & 3 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

It’s really quite difficult to overstate just how influential the team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams were in redefining Batman during the seventies. Editor Julius Schwartz had made some steps in the right direction with his “new look” relaunch in the sixties, but his attempt to revitalise Batman wouldn’t truly bear fruit until the seventies. While the other definitive Batman partnership of the decade – Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers – had a clear run of issues with an over-arching story, O’Neil and Adams worked together on a number of issues scattered across a period of time when the entire Batman line was showing signs of improvement. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that we wouldn’t have Batman today without O’Neil and Adams, but I would argue that he would look pretty different.

Sharp pencil work…

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Bob Haney & Neal Adams on The Brave & The Bold – Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

In his introduction to this volume, Adams suggests that Bob Haney is one of the most “overlooked” writers in comic book history. “Though they have not gotten the recognition they deserve,” Adams argues, “Bob Haney’s stories are classics of good old comic-book drama, and dense in plot, incident, and twists.” I actually really agree with that summary of Haney’s work, and I think it’s a shame that he’s not included among Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart as one of the writers who shaped Batman as comics entered the Bronze Age. His stories were ridiculous, but they had a sense of pulpy energy and dynamism to them. Idle folly like reason and logic are subdued to rapid-fire high-concepts, a no-nonsense Batman and a sense that literally anything could happen.

So this collaboration should be epic. Bob Haney is – to me, at least – a definitive Batman writer; Neal Adams is – widely accepted, I hope – as a (if not the) definitive Batman artist. However, combining the two doesn’t work quite as fluidly as one might hope. The stories here are solid, highly entertaining and beautifully rendered, but they’re nowhere near as effective as either creator would be working with a later collaborator. Still, even if not quite at the peak of their powers, Haney and Adams make for a powerful creative team, and there’s a lot to enjoy on their collaboration on The Brave and the Bold.

Wall-to-wall excitement…

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Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

The game was old and alluring… but when the Batman and his beautiful ally, Wonder Woman, buy into a sweep stakes of danger and double-cross, they learn too late that their tickets are punched…

– introduction to Play Now… Die Later!

I’ll freely concede that older comics are a mixed bag, and that they’re certainly an acquired taste. As much as I might recognise the importance of certain classic runs on iconic character, reading comics even a decade or two old is a strange experience for me. I can appreciate the care and craftsmanship going into them, but I’m frequently distracted by the redundant thought balloons, the bizarre logic and quaint characterisation. I know that’s my problem, and I freely concede that. Sometimes, however, I come across a piece of pure old-fashioned awesomeness that almost makes my feel that nostalgia many comic book readers recognise.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, Volume 1 is such a book, collecting a portion of the iconic Brave and Bold run featuring art by Jim Aparo and scripts by Bob Haney. It is insane. It is awesome. It is fun. It is incredible. I was reluctant to put down these delightful unrestrained Batman stories, and I frequently found myself pumping my fist in the air with excitement and… well, awe. It’s never going to be considered high literature, but Jim Aparo and Bob Haney may have mastered the old-school “comic book” artform.

This isn’t even the craziest thing that happens this run…

Some of the more wonderful “comic book moments” captured here include:

  • the Joker forcing Batman and a friend to fight to the death… or he’ll shoot a puppy!
  • Batman accidentally selling his soul… to Hitler!
  • the Atom climbing inside Batman’s skull… and operating his body like a JCB!
  • Batman saving the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence… while tied to the cowcatcher on a train!
  • Batman teaming up with Kamandi… in a future dominated by talking animals and modelled on Planet of the Apes!

If none of these produce even a hint of childish glee, I don’t know what to say to you.

Even this image cannot capture the awesomeness of this comic… They left out the bit where the Joker is coercing them to do this by threatening to shoot a puppy… that has life-saving anti-virals in its blood for a plague the Joker started… to kill off a henchman who might testify against him…

Note: the ever-wonderful Bat-guru Chris Sims has done a whole slew of posts about the awesomeness of this comic. Here, here and here are some highlights.

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Acts of Vengeance: The Punisher vs. Doctor Doom (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

I tend to like my Punisher stories with a hint of the ridiculous about them. I seem to be the only person who thought that Garth Ennis did his best work on the character as part of Marvel Knights rather than Punisher MAX, because I tend to think the character works best as a sort of an absurd straight man in mainstream comics. He is, after all, a character who uses superhero iconography (a giant skull on his chest, no matter how stripped-down the iteration) while being a guy with a gun who likes to kill criminals. I’ve always felt that the character required a suspension of disbelief that that only really worked if he was played just slightly ridiculous. Of course, that’s my opinion, and I seem to be in the minority on this, but it probably explains why I found Mike Baron’s tie-in to Acts of Vengeance – pitting the Punisher against Doctor Doom – to be so much damn fun.

Closing in to seal his doom…

Note: The always wonderful Chris Simms took a more indepth look at this unlikely crossover on Comics Alliance, perfectly capturing the wonderful insanity of it all.

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