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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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Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Run on Batman – Death of the Family (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.

In many respects, despite the massive hype that it received and the gigantic crossover that it spawned, Death of the Family is structured as an anti-epic. The triumphant return of the Joker to the world of Batman over a year into the “new 52” instead turns into a deconstruction and criticism (and arguably a rejection) of the character. Sandwiched between Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s much larger and more ambitious epic Batman stories, Death of the Family is a story about how small the Joker really is.

In many respects, Death of the Family reads best as the story of a collapsing relationship, where one partner refuses to deal with the fact that the other has outgrown them.

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

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Dan Slott, Ty Templeton and Rick Burchett’s Run on The Batman Adventures (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.

More than two decades after its original broadcast, Batman: The Animated Series remains one of the most insightful and most elegant distillations of the Batman mythos. While the show was on the air, DC published a variety of tie-in comic books featuring a variety of talent. Some of these count among the best Batman stories of the nineties, and it is a shame that DC has not done more work to keep these in print.

Indeed, it is a surprise that DC has never thought to produce a suitably deluxe or high-profile collected edition of the work that Mark Miller did on the tie-in to Superman: The Animated Series. However, it is worth noting that DC did make a nice gesture by offering the first issue of The Batman Adventures as their free comic book day issue in 2003. It is much more appealing free comic book day than a collection of promotions or previews.

Batman. In a nutshell.

Batman. In a nutshell.

The Batman Adventures was a tie-in comic published within the animated continuity while the animated Justice League was still on the air. However, it was written after the end of The New Batman Adventures. As a result, it had a lot more freedom than the comic books that had been published in tandem with the animated series. The Batman Adventures was no longer a supplement to a television show set in Gotham, it was the only continuing glimpse at this version of Gotham.

The Batman Adventures was a wonderful inclusive comic book – it was appropriate for children, it was accessible to people with only a casual familiarity with the world of Batman. In many respects, it was the perfect “free comic book day” comic. A light, fun read with a clever take on Batman and his world. The Batman Adventures is a fantastic little book that ended far too soon – a demonstration that comics don’t need to be “adult” or “mature” in order to be smart or fun.

Deadshot is dead to the world...

Deadshot is dead to the world…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Wire (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

The Wire might just be the best episode of the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In fact, it ranks with Duet and In the Hands of the Prophets as one of the best episodes of the show so far. Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and showcasing the dramatic talents of both Siddig El Fadil and Andrew Robinson, The Wire is a powerhouse of dramatic writing – an intimate character study capable of provoking tensions and ambiguities on par with the season’s universe-altering installments.

Garak has only appeared a handful of times so far. Indeed, considering how important he would become to the series, it’s interesting how rare his early appearances are. However, The Wire is really the episode that pins Garak down and tells us everything that we could possibly need to know about Garak, without ever actually telling us everything we might want to know. It’s a careful distinction, and Wolfe’s script walks that line skilfully while Andrew Robinson’s performance is perfectly modulated.

Bashir's bedside manner...

Bashir’s bedside manner…

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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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Doctor Who: The Sound of Drums (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Sound of Drums originally aired in 2007.



I like it when you use my name.

You chose it. Psychiatrist’s field day.

As you chose yours. The man who makes people better. How sanctimonious is that?

– the Doctor and the Master

The Sound of Drums is really more interesting than it is successful. Building off Utopia as the second part of a three-part finalé, building the longest single story in the revived Doctor Who, The Sound of Drums does an excellent job moving the characters along and getting everything where it needs to be for the requisite cliffhanger. Unfortunately, Davies’ weaknesses when it comes to plotting are at play here. While Utopia took advantage of a leisurely pace and conventional plot in order to do some nice set-up, The Sound of Drums doesn’t have that luxury. Utopia came out of left-field, with the last ten minutes taking the audience by surprise. Now the audience knows the game is afoot, so the rules have changed.

The Sound of Drums kicks off with everything in full swing, and Davies has to ratchet up the tension from there. The result is that Davies does solid character work, but that the plot points and set-ups occasionally feel a bit forced. That’s especially true when it comes to the ideas that will be important to the resolution of The Last of the Time Lords.

The End of the World... oh, wait, we already did that one...

The End of the World… oh, wait, we already did that one…

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Watch! ABC Family Batman Begins Trailer! Batman Fight For Family… But Live for Love!

I kinda love misleading trailers. Okay, there’s nothing worse than being duped into seeing a movie that you wouldn’t have wanted to watch, but it’s often quite impressive to watch how skilfully advertisers can twist something to make it look like what they want it to look like. For example, they make Batman Begins look like a feel-good romantic family drama. But credit where credit’s due, I didn’t even realise that Christian Bale smiled that much in the entire trilogy. And you gotta love that “whip” sound effect they add as Bruce hits the brakes on the Tumbler.

Watch out for the trailer to The Dark Knight pitching it as a hilarious laugh-off between Batman and the Joker while Rachel struggles to pick her one true love, or The Dark Knight Rises as the touching story of how hope can help a man triumph over adversity and recover from a damaging spinal injury to help those orphans facing an uncertain future in a city far away.