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Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Run on Batman – Zero Year: Secret City & Dark City (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.

It takes considerable bravery to craft an origin story for Batman in the wake of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Year One.

Superhero origins are constantly being tweaked and re-written and re-worked. Superman has had a half-dozen comic book origins (in- and out-of-continuity) since Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the DC universe. There’s John Byrne’s Man of Steel, Kurt Busiek’s Secret Identity, Mark Waid’s Birthright, Geoff Johns’ Secret Origin, J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One and even Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.

It's only a pale moon...

It’s only a pale moon…

In contrast, Batman has been relatively undisturbed, with only Geoff Johns’ Batman: Earth One positing an alternate origin story for the Caped Crusader. A large part of that is down to how sacred Year One is. Written by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Year One is considered to be one of the best Batman comics ever published. It recently topped Comic Book Resources’ high-profile fan poll for the character’s seventy-fifth anniversary.

In many cases, an “if it ain’t broke…” mentality applies. Having a universally-beloved comic book story that is easily accessible as the origin story for a particular character is not a bad thing at all. You can hand Year One to anybody and they can read and enjoy it. Although undoubtedly a product of the late eighties, the comic remains relevant and compelling to this day. Indeed, we have not moved so far from the eighties that it’s hard to reconcile a Batman origin grounded in that social context.

Talk about falling so far...

Talk about falling so far…

However, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are the creative team working on the Batman book for the character’s seventy-fifth anniversary. The duo have enjoyed a tremendous run – managing that rare intersection of critical and commercial success in mainstream comics. There are legitimate criticisms to be made, but Snyder and Capullo’s Batman work does hold up as some of the best Batman comics produced in quite some time, and one of true success stories of DC’s “new 52.”

So, if there was ever a time to go back to Batman’s origin, this was it. A well-loved creative team, a significant anniversary, a clear distance between this time and Year One. The risk associated with Zero Year is phenomenal. It is an incredible gambit. Even though the story is not in competition with Year One, comparisons are inevitable. The result is a very satisfying and exciting tribute to an iconic comic book character that doesn’t quite surpass Year One, but is clever enough to be clear that it isn’t trying to.

Getting into the swing of things...

Getting into the swing of things…

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Grant Morrison’s Run on Batman & Robin – Batman Reborn, Batman vs. Robin & Batman Must Die! (Review/Retrospective)

December is “Grant Morrison month” here at the m0vie blog, as we take the month to consider and reflect on one of the most critically acclaimed (and polarising) authors working in the medium. Every Wednesday this month, we’ll have a Grant Morrison related review or retrospective.

I am going to be honest. I didn’t love Grant Morrison’s tenure on Batman. It felt a bit awkward and continuity-heavy – don’t get me wrong, I appreciated his attempt to tie together just about every aspect and iteration of Batman ever, but it just felt a bit too much. Yes, Batman can be the grim avenger or the charming ladies’ man or the camp crusader or the superhero or the urban vigilante or the world’s greatest detective or a swinging icon, but – in reading Morrison’s run – it felt too awkward to make Batman all of these at the same time. Perhaps, then, it’s because Batman & Robin sets itself a more modest goal (in that it doesn’t attempt to reconcile every aspect of the character’s seventy-year history) or just because Morrison appears to be enjoying himself far more, but this second act in Grant Morrison’s epic Batman saga is a much more engaging read.

The run gets off to an explosive start…

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Non-Review Review: Batman – Under the Red Hood

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. This is one of the “stand-alone” animated movies produced by the creative team that gave us the television shows. 

You did it! You found a way to win and everybody still loses!

– The Joker

The story of Batman, boiled down to its most essential elements, is a tragedy. He’s a character defined by hurt and loss – the suffering and failures he has endured while fighting simply to stay alive in an uncertain world. The reason that the animated Batman: Under the Red Hood works so well is because it manages to capture that observation perfectly in its relatively tight runtime. Over the course of the movie, Batman has several of his rather glaring failures touted out in front of him and – what’s more – faces the possibility that he may himself end up obsolete.

The joke’s on Batman…

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