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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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Mark Waid’s Run on Justice League of America – Tower of Babel (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.

Although actually published in 2000, Tower of Babel is the third definitive Batman story of the nineties. Running only four issues instead of a massive sprawling crossover across an entire line of comic books, Tower of Babel is certainly more condensed than either Knightfall or No Man’s Land, hitting on many of the same themes and concepts. It is very much constructed as a cautionary tale – a warning about taking a particularly cynical approach to Batman to its logical extreme.

Due to his stand-off-ish nature, the nineties iteration of Batman is sometimes affectionately (or not so affectionately) referred to a “Batjerk.” This version of the character has a wonderful knack of pushing his friends and allies away, making enemies, and escalating problems due to arrogance and ego. In many respects, Tower of Babel is a quintessential “Batjerk” story, where Batman’s anti-social tendencies lead to the humiliation and defeat of the entire Justice League using his own plans.

The last temptation of Batman...

The last temptation of Batman…

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Infinite Crisis: Villains United (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I have to admit that, as a rule, I have a great deal of respect for DC’s massive event-related tie-ins. Rather than typically offering expanded or deleted scenes from the main crossover, the tie-ins to their gigantic crossovers will frequently serve as prologues or epilogues to new concepts and relaunches. With Final Crisis, for example, Legion of Three Worlds served as prelude to a rebooted Legion of Superheroes and Rogues’ Revenge offered something of a hint of Geoff Johns’ return to The Flash. Infinite Crisis: Villains United is no different. While nominally the story of evil Alexander Luthor Jr.’s evil Secret Society, it’s actually something of a stealth pilot for Gail Simone’s Secret Six, introducing the characters and the concepts that would define the series.

Just an average day at the House of Secrets…

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Superman: The Animated Series – The Demon Reborn (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

I’m generally not a fan of excessive continuity in comic book storytelling. I find it insular and exclusive. One shouldn’t need to pick up a twenty-part crossover involving books they’ve never heard of in order to read a story featuring an iconic character, and one shouldn’t feel left out because they weren’t reading comics written twenty years ago receiving an obscure but vital reference in this month’s issue. That said, I do think there’s an element of fun that comes from the idea of all these pulp characters sharing the same fictional space. It allows for a curious mixing and matching of archetypes and ideas, turning old matches into something a bit more exotic. The Demon Reborn finds Superman facing off against Ra’s Al Ghul, and the result is quite fascinating.

The Demon you know…

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Batman: Birth of the Demon (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.

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises this week, today we’ll be reviewing the complete “Demon” trilogy, exploring the relationship between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Birth of the Demon is very much the odd one out of the Demon trilogy. Of the three stories, it is the only one not written by Mike W. Barr. It also is arguably the most reflective of the three stories in the series, focusing on the origin of Ra’s Al Ghul more than in any modern conflict with Bruce Wayne. Still, it all feels strangely appropriate that, more than a decade after his creation, Denny O’Neil should return to tell the back story of his most iconic addition to the Batman mythos.

Shadow of the bat…

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Batman: Son of the Demon (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.

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises this week, today we’ll be reviewing the complete “Demon” trilogy, exploring the relationship between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Son of the Demon is an interesting graphic novel. Written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Jerry Bingham, it occupies a strange place in the Batman canon. A story in which Bruce allies himself with his old enemy Ra’s Al Ghul and marries the villain’s daughter, Talia, the story was all but forgotten for years until Grant Morrison unearthed it for his Batman run, reuniting Batman with the child fathered in this story. Son of the Demon has an intriguing premise, even if Barr’s execution feels a little clumsy and overwrought, and it makes for an interesting exploration of some of Batman’s deeper facets.

He shall become a bat…

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A Bluffer’s Guide to the Dark Knight Rises Rumours…

This week has been a bit of an early Christmas for movie geeks such as myself, with Warner Brothers unveiling both the teaser poster and the teaser trailer to The Dark Knight Rises, the much-anticipated closing chapter to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. When we know a bit more later in the year, I’ll dig into the movie in a bit more depth, but it occurred to me that a lot of fans on-line are throwing out concepts and references that might seem a bit foreign to the uninitiated. I can’t imagine how strange it must be for a non-comic-book-fan to hear titles like Knightfall or “Lazarus Pits” thrown into casual conversation. So I’ve put together a bluffer’s guide to all the speculation and rumours, so that you can hopefully understand a bit more of what nerdy geeks like myself are talking about when we casually reference stuff like “I will break you!” It should be stressed that all these are 100% rumour, and not meant to reflect the film, but to help understand geeky references in discussions about the film. Sort of like a handy guide to the “offside rule”in soccer or such.

Welcome to underground comcis culture...

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