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Batman – The Cult (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.

The Dark Knight Returns has a lot to answer for.

Although written “out of continuity” as the last Batman story, critically deconstructing and examining the Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight Returns remains a hugely influential piece of the Batman canon. It’s a story that was hugely influential in comics as a whole, but which understandably had a major influence on Batman. To pick an easy example, both of the recent “guiding” writers on the Batman franchise – Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison – can be seen to react to The Dark Knight Returns a variety of ways.

They are dead to him.

They are dead to him.

In a way, no author was more responsible for porting over concepts from The Dark Knight Returns as effectively as Jim Starlin. Although Starlin is perhaps most associated with Marvel’s cosmic saga, the author did write two massively iconic and distinctive Batman stories. Starlin was the author who wrote A Death in the Family, the story that killed off Jason Todd. He also wrote The Cult, a story about Gotham under siege from an evil religious leader who manages to “break” Batman.

The Cult itself was influential. Aspects of The Cult can be seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, a story about an urban uprising from the sewers and Batman’s attempts to rebuild himself to save Gotham. Unfortunately, as with Starlin’s other iconic Batman story, there’s a sense that The Cult works better in theory than in execution.

A Deacon of light...

A Deacon of light…

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A Stinger in the Tale: What’s the Point in a Teaser the Audience Don’t Get?

The Avengers was released on Friday in the UK and Ireland. It’s well worth a look, and it’s quite impressive how well director Joss Whedon managed to fuse these separate mythologies into one almost-cohesive film, even if it is a bit of a muddled mess at times. However, make sure that you remain in your seats as the credits role, as there’s a special surprise waiting for fans – just like at the end of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger before it. It is a pretty big deal for comic book fans such as myself, those of us with a passing knowledge of the Marvel Comics canon. Still, I can’t help but wonder what more regular and casual movie-goers might make of it.

Running the (infinity) gauntlet...

Note: The teaser is obviously spoiled below. Also, I saw an early cut of the film, and there was no second stinger attached, as rumours have suggested might have been added late in the day. Based on those rumours, and the actors involved in the shoot, it’s more likely that scene was more accessible, but I still wonder what regular fans will make of the sequence that appears at the end of the first set of credits.

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Batman: A Death in the Family

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. Later on today, I’ll be taking a look at the animated movie Batman: Under the Red Hood, so I thought I might take a look at one of the stories which inspired it.

A Death in the Family holds something of a sacred spot in the line-up of classic Batman stories. It was the moment that Batman failed – and he failed monumentally. The image of Batman cradling a bloody and bruised Robin in his arms is almost iconic, recognisable to any pop culture aficionado. However, the story itself really isn’t anything too spectacular – it’s as if writer Jim Starlin was trying to combine the adventurous take on Batman from the seventies with the more grim-and-gritty crusader of the late eighties, with a frankly inexplicable desire to dabble in global politics. Frankly, despite the power of the rich imagery provided by Jim Aparo, the story is more than just a little bit weak, and certainly not strong enough to support the label of “classic” that is applied so frequently to the story.

Batman will be carrying this with him for quite some time...

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