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Non-Review Review: Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is a delight from beginning to end.

The go-to description of Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is “a G-rated Deadpool”, which is both accurate in general and interesting in specifics. Although the two Deadpool films have become cultural shorthand for “self-aware superhero parodies”, that is not what they really are; at their best, they are affectionate eighties action movie homages with a superhero veneer and a sheen of ironic self-awareness. Ironically, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is a much better example of an affectionate and a committed parody of superhero cinema.

Cycles of violence.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is nonsense, but it is gleeful and self-aware nonsense, dedicated to both celebrating and gently mocking both the conventions and the specifics of superhero blockbuster filmmaking. It is too much to describe Teen Titans Go! to the Movies as a deconstruction of either superheroics or the modern cinema based around these characters, but the film cleverly plays on the tropes, conventions and history of these characters to do something that is highly amusing and occasionally gut-busting.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is cheeky fun, and it would be hard for anybody with any affection for either animation or superheroes to watch it without a grin on their face.

Teen work, people.

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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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Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Run on Batman Incorporated – Demon Star & Gotham’s Most Wanted (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.

Between September 2006 and July 2013, Grant Morrison crafted his epic Batman saga from the ashes of Infinite Crisis. Over the course of seven years, the Scottish author re-worked and re-imagined the Caped Crusader, boldly trying to condense the character’s convoluted and sprawling history into a single narrative. Morrison pulled elements from across the character’s continuity – including stories believed wiped out by continuity reboots and existing as alternatives or “what-ifs.”

To describe Grant Morrison’s Batman epic as ambitious doesn’t begin to do it justice. It is a story that pushed the character out of what had been his comfort zone since the eighties and nineties. He made Bruce Wayne a father; he killed Bruce Wayne off; he banished Batman to the dawn of time and forced him to fight his way back to the present; he made Dick Grayson into Batman; he turned Batman into a franchise so that it might fight twenty-first century crime.

Beware the Batman...

Beware the Batman…

These are all seismic shifts to the status quo, and don’t necessarily conform to what people think about when they imagine a typical Batman story. The character of Bruce Wayne and his world changed dramatically. The very first issue of Morrison’s Batman run featured Batman capturing the last of his classic villains, allowing the Caped Crusader a change to face larger and more existential threats.

It is quite telling that Morrison’s storytelling became the driving force of Batman continuity, with DC spinning books and stories off from his central premise. Scott Snyder’s first Batman epic was The Black Mirror, a story featuring Dick Grayson as Batman, as part of Morrison’s status quo. When the company relaunched Batman & Robin as part of the “new 52”, it featured Damian Wayne as Robin, another innovation introduced by Morrison.

It's all connected...

It’s all connected…

Despite this sense that everything was changing, it seemed inevitable that everything would inevitably be reset. You can only change an iconic character like Batman so much, after all. If you bend Batman too far out of shape, he must inevitably snap back into his classic mould. It’s not inherently a bad thing – “Batman and Robin will never die!” to quote Batman R.I.P., and the characters endure because they revert to archetypes – but it does lend a sense of tragedy to everything.

Coming in the wake of the “new 52” reboot that represented an attempt to reset DC continuity back to its most archetypal configuration, it makes sense that Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham would write the second volume of Batman Incorporated as a tragedy. Morrison would announce his intention to step away from mainstream brand-name superhero stories in the wake of Batman Incorporated, and you can sense some of that fatigue in this story about how everything eventually gets set back to zero.

Everything falls apart...

Everything falls apart…

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Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason’s Run on Batman & Robin – Pearl & Death of the Family (Review)

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.

Peter Tomasi is one of the best supporting writers in comics. Writing a supporting title in a shared superhero universe is a very daunting task. It requires a unique ability to weave into (and out of) events and storylines dictated by more high-profile writers on more popular books. Due to the structuring of superhero publishing, the direction for an entirely line is typically dictated by one (or maybe two) books, with the rest of the line alternating between supporting those books and trying not to make waves.

Tomasi is very good at this. His Green Lantern Corps book provided a suitably solid support for Geoff Johns’ more high-profile Green Lantern comic. He was the logical choice to take over Batman & Robin after Grant Morrison departed, even if the book did cycle through a variety of creators including Paul Cornell and Judd Winick. Tomasi is a writer with a lot of experience as an editor, and – as such – has a knack for picking up on themes and core values of particular writers.

He shall become a bat...

He shall become a bat…

Following the “new 52” relaunch, Batman & Robin was very much a satellite book in DC’s Batman line. It was a holding pattern, a book designed to feature Damian Wayne while Grant Morrison prepared to launch into Batman Incorporated. It was part of a line that was largely being driven by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s work on Batman. There was no sense writer Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason would be doing anything particularly bold or daunting with the book at this moment in time.

Dutifully, following an eight-issue introductory arc, Born to Kill, Batman & Robin found itself bouncing around between various high-profile crossovers in the Batman line and in the wider context of DC’s publishing schedule. In the spate of issues between Born to Kill and the end of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated run, Tomasi and Gleason find themselves navigating a veritable minefield of DC continuity and crossovers.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

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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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Superman: The Animated Series – Knight Time (Review)

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

It’s always fun to compare and contrast Superman and Batman, partially because they are two of the oldest and most iconic superheroes in popular culture, but also because the lend themselves to contrast. Superman is all smiles and primary colours, while Batman is shades of grey and shadows. It’s fun to see the worlds of the two superheroes overlap, if only because they are so radically different in tone, atmosphere, mood and content.

While World’s Finest brought Batman and the Joker to Metropolis to play with Superman and Lex Luthor, Knight Time sees the Man of Steel substituting in for an absentee Batman in Gotham.

I gotta get me one of those...

I gotta get me one of those…

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Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Battle of the Superheroes (Review)

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

Batman and Superman. It’s a great combination, like cookies and cream or spaghetti and meatballs or… feel free to insert your own analogy here. The two characters are two of the oldest and most enduring superheroes, both owned by the same company. They also both embody two very different ideals. Batman is a pulp action hero in a silly outfit with gothic trappings, while Superman is an alien from another world dressed in primary colours. Pairing the two up to compare and contrast is great fun.

Battle of the Superheroes focuses on Batman and Superman as friends and colleagues, a portrayal which seems somewhat dated. After all, ever since Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns, the tendency has been to treat the pair as grudging allies rather than bosom buddies. Still, the Silver Age aesthetic of The Brave and the Bold suits this approach well, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the wry enthusiasm of it all.

Superhero team-up time...

Superhero team-up time…

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