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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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Flashpoint

After spending the tail end of last year looking at the tangled inter-continuity crossovers at Marvel, I thought I’d spend January looking at some of the looser “out of continuity” tales at the major companies.

Flashpoint is the first big event of Geoff Johns’ relaunched run on The Flash. If Flash: Rebirth was intended to echo Green Lantern: Rebirth, fan anticipation and speculation suggest that his Flashpoint – a five-part miniseries – will serve as a counterpart to Sinestro Corps War on his Green Lantern run. However, the title Flashpoint has connotations for the character – it was the title of a relatively recent story featuring the character, one of DC Comic’s Elseworlds. I figured, with the big event coming it up, it might be worth a bit of a retroactive review of the title which perhaps inspired the event.

He moves like lightening...

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A Tale of the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (& Master of the Future)

After spending the tail end of last year looking at the tangled inter-continuity crossovers at Marvel, I thought I’d spend January looking at some of the looser “out of continuity” tales at the major companies.

Gotham By Gaslight is an out-of-continuity tale which imagines Batman as the protector of a Victorian-era Gotham City, pitting the detective against none other than Jack the Ripper. It’s an entertaining little story which has a bit of fun with its premise, while managing to concisely boil the Dark Knight’s characteristics down to their core components. It’s an efficient tale which works quite well on its own merits, but has subsequently been overtaken by the hype surrounding it.

Making headlines...

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Absolute Kingdom Come

The nineties were a tough decade for the comic book medium. Violence sold. “Grim and gritty” represented the direction for most major comic books. Superman died. Batman was crippled. Green Lantern became a genocidal maniac. The Flash had long since abandoned the comic book universe. This was the era back-to-back Venom miniseries, the rise of Rob Liefeld and the lethal vigilante. A lot of people trace back this trend to the success of groundbreaking series like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, which demonstrated that darker imaginings of conventional superhero comics could sell. Of course, that wasn’t the point of the comics at all, but such complexity is not the speciality of managers and executives. However, if the birth of that so-called “Dark Age” of comic books could be traced back to those roots, then perhaps Kingdom Come can be identified as the birth of a counter-movement against such trends.

Superman brings a lot to the table...

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Superman: Red Son

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman! Superman: Strange visitor from another world! Who can change the course of might rivers, bend steel in his bare hands and who, as the champion of the common worker, fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.

Let out enemies beware: the is only one super-power now.

– Russian propaganda broadcast

I’ve remarked before, and many others have remarked as well, that Superman is a very tough character to write for, particularly after seventy years of publication. This is a fact reflected by the difficulty even comic book aficionados have in picking the iconic Superman stories – the essential collections, as it were. Undoubtedly Alan Moore’s work on the character would be collected (handily in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?), as would Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman. I’m fairly sure that this collection would also make the shortlist. As far as interesting and insightful takes on the character go, Mark Millar has what might be termed a “doozie” here: what if Superman had landed in Russia? What if instead of fighting for “truth, justice and the American Way”, he fought for Mother Russia? It’s certainly an intriguing idea, and Mark Millar’s execution is near-flawless as well.

Well, of course the balloon is red...

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Grant Morrison’s Run on Justice League of America: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1-2 (Review/Retrospective)

“Never underestimate the sentimentality of a Scotsman, Clark.”

– Batman knows how much Morrison likes comics

‘Tis the season for ever-so-slightly oversized hardback editions, what with DC reissuing the entire run of Starman and this re-release of the relaunch of the original superteam. The fact that they can put creator extraordinaire Grant Morrison’s name on the cover surely isn’t a problem either. Nor is the fact that the book (under his stewardship) was one of the best selling comic books of the nineties. So, what aren’t I getting here? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly adequate book (that isn’t necessarily as smart as it thinks it is), but it’s not gold. It moves at the speed of the Flash and seems intent to throw ideas at the reader at headache-inducing speed. It’s solid, reliable and it manages to recreate the zany madness that defined the group, but it never seems to completely transcend it. And it just keeps trying.

Rocking your world...

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