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Robin: Year One (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.

Chuck Dixon is one of the definitive Batman writers, particularly in the context of the nineties. Dixon enjoyed a long and well-regarded run on Detective Comics in the nineties, serving as one of the three writers driving the Batman franchise – along with Doug Moench and Kelley Jones on Batman and Alan Grant on Shadow of the Bat. Dixon even got to stay involved with the Bat titles for a little while after No Man’s Land in 1999, when the entire line had a massive turnover in talent.

However, while Dixon is an incredibly influential writer on Batman, he had as much of an influence on Dick Grayson. Dixon was the writer who handled Dick Grayson’s first on-going Nightwing series, building off a miniseries written by Denny O’Neil. Dixon worked on Nightwing for seventy issues between 1996 and 2002. He even returned to the title with collaborator Scotty Beatty after its one hundredth issue to write Nightwing: Year One, an origin story covering the former Robin’s transition into his new superhero persona.

Swinging into action...

Swinging into action…

As such, it makes a great deal of sense for Dixon to collaborate with writer Scott Beatty on Robin: Year One, a prestigious miniseries spanning four extended issues and featuring wonderful artwork from Javier Pulido. Pulido’s distinctive artwork lends itself to vibrant colours and dynamic expression, as demonstrated during his wonderful stint as part of the rotating art team on The Amazing Spider-Man. If ever a comic book lent itself to Pulido’s style, Robin: Year One is it.

Dixon does some nice work trying to explain the dynamic between Batman and Robin, and even to argue why Robin is an essential part of the mythos. Most interestingly, he, Beatty and Pulido try to integrate the arrival of Robin with the atmosphere and mood established by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One.

Suit up!

Suit up!

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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Returns, Part II

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

The Dark Knight Returns is pretty much the classic Batman story, even more than Year One from the same author. It’s the story which – for better or worse – defined a lot of what we take for granted about Batman as a character today. So it makes sense that there would be an animated adaptation. And I respect the decision to split the story across two seventy-odd minute instalments, creating a two-part movie which still runs significantly shorter than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Adapting Miller’s story from print was always going to be a tough proposition. After all, Miller’s comic isn’t just one of the defining Batman stories, it’s a turning point in mainstream comics. Transferring it from its home medium was always going to be tough. Still, the production team working on The Dark Knight Returns, Part II acquit themselves well in offering a satisfying take on a classic tale.

It's the Batman!

It’s the Batman!

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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Returns, Part I

Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns might just be the most influential Batman comic ever written. It offers a glimpse an alternate future where Batman has retired as Gotham’s protector, and where a new wave of violence brings him back out of that retirement. It is also, and perhaps more notably, a study of the character’s psychology. It’s notable for suggesting that Bruce Wayne’s obsessions might be ultimately self-destructive and that there’s a primal conflict between the “Batman” part of his persona and Bruce Wayne. Like Watchmen, it’s generally recognised as one of the comics that represented a maturity in the medium.

Warner Brothers have produced an animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s classic, and I can’t help but admire it a great deal. While Alan Moore’s Watchmen was a novel that never really lent itself to film, Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns always had a cinematic quality that I think director Jay Oliva captures remarkably well.

A dark and stormy knight…

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The Batman Archives, 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.

This is where it all began. The Batman Archives collect the stories originally published in the Detective Comics anthology series that introduced the Caped Crusader to the world. It’s interesting to look back at these initial adventures featuring the character, as you see artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger really figuring out how the character and his world should work. Although there’s quite a lot of generic plotting, and some bizarre Golden Age craziness, it’s fun to watch the creators establish the elements that would define the character and the world he inhabits. From the sleazy corruption of Gotham City to the supervillains to the Boy Wonder himself, these stories provide an interesting template for the evolution of the Dark Knight.

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…

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Batman: Prey (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 actually have  a bit of a soft spot for Doug Moench’s Batman work. That is, of course, before he and Kelley Jones got shunted off to work on whatever insane Elseworlds concept they could concoct, like Batman: Haunted Gotham or Dark Joker the Wild. (Although I think Batman: Vampire wasn’t half bad.) I would really like a nice collection of the work that Jones and Moench did during the nineties – similar to the collections we’ve been seeing for artists like Jim Aparo or Marshall Rogers. I think the pair did a good enough job that they deserve one. (Although I’d rather Breyfogle and Grant first, please.) Still, I think there’s an argument to be made that Prey is perhaps the best of Moench’s Batman work, a story arc the writer did for Legends of the Dark Knight set in the early days of Batman’s career. It’s fascinating, because it’s a wonderful criticism of Frank Miller’s style of Batman writing, long before that school of thought became popular.

Bloody murder…

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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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