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Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis’ Run on Detective Comics (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

When DC comics published Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was a brave new world. Everything was new again. Nothing could be taken for granted. The company had the opportunity to start again with its characters and properties, offering a new beginning to iconic heroes that would hopefully welcome new readers while learning from prior successes and past failures. It was an exciting time in the industry, one bristling with potential.

In many respects, the defining Batman story in the immediate aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths was Batman: Year One. Even today, Year One remains a foundational text for Batman, one of the best (and most influential) stories ever told using the character. It defined Batman for the eighties and nineties, and beyond. Frank Miller offered readers a new and updated origin for the Caped Crusader that teased a new way of looking at Gotham City and its inhabitants.

"It's a trap!"

“It’s a trap!”

Meanwhile, a more quiet revolution was in progress over on Detective Comics. Writer Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis began their run on Detective Comics in the immediate aftermath of the now-all-but-forgotten Legends crossover. Although the duo were lucky enough to work on the book over the fiftieth anniversary of Detective Comics, their work was somewhat overshadowed by the publication of Year One in their sister publication – to the point that their run culminates in Year Two, a sequel to Year One.

Still, while it never got the attention that it deserved, Barr and Davis did a lot to offer an alternative to Miller’s gritty and grounded reimagining. Featuring death traps and puns and brainwashing and dodgy jokes, Barr and Davis seem almost subversive. It is as if the duo are working hard to import all the stuff that might otherwise be washed away by Crisis on Infinite Earths, reminding readers that with world of Batman has always been absurd, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Talk about making an entrance...

Talk about making an entrance…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

Join us the December as we take a dive into the weird and wonderful Will Eisner Spirit Archives, the DC collections of the comic strip that helped define the medium.

With this second collection of six months worth of strips, we can see Eisner’s vision of The Spirit really cement itself, as well as the true beginnings of the more experimental work that the writer and artist would do with the newspaper strip. While a lot of people would argue that Eisner truly hit his stride in the postwar era of The Spirit, I think we can see him beginning to truly hone his craft here, and can get a sense of an artist slowly testing the horizons of an eight-page newspaper comic strip. It might not be his best work on the title, but it’s still fascinating stuff.

Accept no substitutes…

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Infinite Crisis: Justice League – Crisis of Conscience (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

Crisis of Conscience exists of something of a bridge between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. Of course, other tie-ins (like Villains United) have already explored that fertile ground, but Crisis of Conscience is very much about exploring the implications of that earlier crisis crossover. After all, how can the heroes trust one another, or themselves, when they’ve been tampering and playing with memory and personality. Ultimately, Crisis of Conscience doesn’t necessarily resolve anything. It really just lines up all the final pieces before we jump into Infinite Crisis proper. However, it’s an interesting exploration of just how far these characters have come since the innocence of the Silver Age.

Holding out for a hero…

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Catwoman: When in Rome (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.

Catwoman: When in Rome technically exists to fill in the gaps in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, particularly in accounting for Catwoman’s absence during the early part of Dark Victory. However, it also exists as something of a “bridge”, connecting Loeb’s earlier Batman trilogy with Sale and his later work on Hush with Jim Lee. It’s an interesting exploration of an early phase of Catwoman’s costumed career, building off her origin in Batman: Year One and seeing the character attempt to move out of Batman’s shadow. While it’s hardly going to be remembered for developing a truly independent version of the character, it does make for an interesting read, and a fascinating companion piece to the rest of Jeph Loeb’s Batman work.

Go fish…

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Batman: Bride of the Demon (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.

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises this week, today we’ll be reviewing the complete “Demon” trilogy, exploring the relationship between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Bride of the Demon is generally agreed to be the weakest of the Demon trilogy. Written by Mike W. Barr, with artwork from Tom and Eva Grindberg, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t the most conventional story in the set. While Son of the Demon and Birth of the Demon both justified their one-shot graphic novel status by telling fairly unique Batman stories, Bride of the Demon feels like an adventure that could have been written during Barr’s run on Detective Comics. That’s not to say that it isn’t an entertaining story, or that it doesn’t fit within the context of the trilogy, just that it feels relatively straight-forward and a tiny bit mundane.

Things are heating up…

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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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The Dark Knight Rises Trailer…

It’s officially on-line. The trailer of The Dark Knight Rises has, after a weekend of bootlegging, been officially released. It looks impressive, and gives us our first sense of anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. If the theme is to reflect the recession (as much as The Dark Knight could have been said to reflect the war on terror), I imagine Selina will be quite important to the story. We’ve seen a lot of Bane, and there’s relatively little of him here. And, is that a bearded younger Bruce (back in his League of Shadows days) being told that the chant means “rise?” But enough crazy theories for now. I’ll have more of them later in the week.

In the mean time, enjoy. For more analysis, click here.