Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s hard to beat a great crossover and we’ve seen many come and go this year. Take two superhero titles from the shadows of the big city and put them together and you have a pairing that will only have you ask why it hasn’t been done before.
The best Batman book you’ve likely read in years is waiting for you at your local comic book shop right now. Issue #1 of the new Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now on the shelves and it’s simply the best series opener to a Batman story I’ve read since Issue #1 of Jim Lee’s Hush mini-series. You can evaluate the first issue as either a strong Batman title or a loyal-to-its-roots TMNT book, and either way writer James T. Tynion IV, artist Freddie Williams II, and colorist Jeremy Colwell have a winner on their hands here.
You won’t need to worry about thumbing slowly through an issue featuring one part of the title’s crossover only to wait next month for the next, as Tynion has weaved together both Batman, the Turtles, as well as Killer Croc, the Foot Clan, Splinter, and Strider, all into one exciting introduction issue.
And the design layout and look of this view of Gotham is unique and intriguing. It’s about time that Freddie Williams II had his own Bat-book. He’s been drawing Batman for years and some of the best Batman renderings I have seen from any Batman artist can be found in his sketchbooks and other drawings. Always strong in his characterizations and environments, and with his signature ink wash style, each page could stand alone as a poster print, especially the giant splash pages of Batman.
Review by C.J. Bunce
I am truly hoping Frank Miller’s eight issue The Dark Knight III: The Master Race does what I hope J.J. Abrams will be successful at with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If the first issue is any indication, the series might be better than The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to the seminal work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Why the comparison to Abrams? Unlike DKI and DKII, which was written and illustrated by Miller with colors by Lynn Varley, DKIII is “co-written” by Brian Azzarello, and illustrated by Andy Kubert with inks by Klaus Janson (who also inked the original Miller pencils on DKI). It’s this concept of expanding an original story to new creators that may allow this Dark Knight Elseworlds story to regain some steam.
With Issue #1, Kubert has drawn the beginning of a continuation story that looks like it was drawn by Miller. Miller’s original four-issue series included many unique design concepts, including frenetically rendered heroes as well as psychedelic street thugs, TV screens delivering the backstory of the world view as the plotline moved forward, and plenty of grim, dystopian future-Gotham characterizations. All of these are back, yet in an updated style, including the attention to current technologies that weren’t around in the 1980s like texting to deliver the view of the state of Gotham as part of its world building.
Yes, San Diego Comic-Con is still first and foremost about comic books, and the biggest news released this weekend of the comic book sphere comes from IDW Publishing. The publisher revealed that writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II will be taking on the ultimate fan mash-up: Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The cover art to issues 1 and 2 of the crossover series were released at SDCC 2015.
Coming this November, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, already being called the “greatest crossover ever,” unites the Dark Knight Detective and the Heroes in a Half-Shell in a six-issue mini-series. Here’s the description from IDW:
In the ongoing power struggle between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, General Krang, and the Foot Clan, allegiances have shifted and the battle lines have been drawn. Krang concocts a plan to rid himself of both the Turtles and Shredder by transporting them to another dimension, where they land in the dark and dangerous streets of Gotham City. It isn’t long before they encounter Gotham’s most famous resident, Batman. The Caped Crusader may be their only hope of overcoming their enemies and getting back home. But not before they encounter a whole cast of Gotham’s most infamous rogues.
Review by C.J. Bunce
Creating a Gotham City derived from the dark and sleazy world of the 1989 Batman film, but with a “Gotham Confidential” film noir spin, Fox’s new series Gotham managed to hit all the right notes in its Monday night premiere episode. Like LA Confidential, it even stars a ringer for Russell Crowe, actor Ben McKenzie (Southland, The O.C.) as the rookie cop James Gordon. But it’s the supporting cast and some tight writing that sticks to key parts of the DC Universe backstory that will have us back again next week.
Some elements are modified for this TV adaptation, of course, like the presence of a young Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) at the murder of the parents of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). And Batwoman Kate Kane’s girlfriend and cop Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartegena) shows up far earlier in the DCU and, if we’re picking up the innuendo right, seems to have had a similar relationship with the would-be Barbara Gordon (now Gordon’s fiancée, not his daughter). Will this Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards, Being Human, Merlin) go on to be Batgirl and/or Oracle?
But the most riveting and engaging performances in the pilot come from Gordon’s senior partner Detective Harvey Bullock, played by the ubiquitous Donal Logue (Vikings, Sneakers, The X-Files, Ghost Rider), almost reprising his gritty cop roles from the short-lived crime drama Life and the film Zodiac, and the introduction of a new villain, mid-level mob moll Fish Mooney, played in a sultry Eartha Kitt-inspired performance by Jada Pinkett Smith (Hawthorne, The Matrix Reloaded). Logue proves again he could carry a TV series all by himself, and Smith also owns every scene she appears in.
WELCOME TO EARTH-4
A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain
There are combinations of nerddom or geekdom or awesomedom (however you’d like to describe persons with passionate interests in a given subject) that are simple. A love of chess and a love of The Lord of the Rings can lead to buying a Lord of the Rings-themed chess set. A love of Chuck, Alien Nation, and cosplay can lead to Tenctonese Buy More employees Alien and Predator can lead to Batman: Dead End. (AK47, gone, not forgotten.)
Then, there are combinations that have built on each other for hundreds of years, as a love of science fiction can lead to a love of sciences and exploring that interest through reading books on astronomy, physics or chemistry (or vice versa). I can’t remember why I came upon Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, but its combination of history, familiar names of the past and the ability to summon up the image of the corner of my high school chemistry class, made it enthralling to me every morning and evening during my subway commute. It may not be as obvious as a Star Wars Monopoly set, but in this book and contained in those stories are links to older wonders that we Knights of Wonderfulness, we Kings and Queens of Comic-Con explore.
The 75th anniversary of the creation of Batman is approaching. Continuing the theme of superhero television series revolving around crusaders defending their city, DC Comics and Fox released the first trailer for their new series Gotham. Shifting from Arrow’s Starling City to the more famous Gotham City, DC Comics also is continuing its focus on a cast of supervillains, this time as a prequel starring Ben McKenzie (Southland, The OC), who previously was the voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne in the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.
But if the new series is able to latch onto some of the success seen by CW Network’s Arrow, it may be because of supporting cast, like the always great Donal Logue (Vikings, Life, The X-Files, Ghost Rider, Sneakers). Gotham is also taking a cue from AMC’s Bates Motel, revealing the creepy pasts of Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), Poison Ivy (Clare Foley), the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), and the Penguin (Robin Taylor) in their early days in Gotham City. On the downside, DC Comics is now taking a cue from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by leaving the key superhero–Batman– out of the story, other than the Bruce Wayne origin story from Miller’s Batman: Year One.
Check out this first preview for Gotham:
With so many on-going monthly series in the DC Comics New 52 universe, it’s sometimes difficult to find an entry point into the DC Comics titles because of continuing story arcs. If you’ve dumped one or more titles and want to get back in, where do you start?
One entry point for you may be Detective Comics, Issue #30, the beginning of a new story arc titled “Icarus.” In this first chapter we don’t learn what Icarus is, but we do meet up with an interesting Batman, moving on past the death of son Damian. We also meet Elena Aguila and her daughter Annie, a motorbike daredevil who looks like she’s cut out to be the next Robin. Similar to one of the main story threads in the Arrow TV series, Elena and Bruce Wayne are forging an alliance to restore the welfare of the citizens in the community of Gotham’s East End Waterfront District.
Replacing Wayne’s plans to commercially develop that area of town, and the likely deals with businessmen in Gotham City that he is going to need to cancel to do it, will no doubt create some enemies for Wayne in the process.
By Art Schmidt
I was having lunch with a friend the other day and we were talking about comic book movies and the slow transition of the formulas for the ones which have succeeded to television format. My friend was grumbling about the lack of costumed heroes on popular shows such as Arrow or the new Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I have to admit, I hadn’t really noticed the lack of costumes in those shows, loving the first season of Arrow despite very few folks with traditional comic book costumes, and enjoying the first couple of episodes of A.O.S. (can you acronym an acronym?).
But the more I thought about it, the more puzzled I was. Why weren’t there more costumes in Arrow? Certainly Deathstroke’s mask was a pivotal prop in the series, and the Dark Archer had a cool getup, but they weren’t costumes so much as work attire fitting the villain’s nature. And of course A.O.S. is a show about normal people, super spies and highly-skilled to be sure, but not superheroes. And certainly without costumes outside of May’s black leather suit, akin to Fury’s normal wardrobe and the attire seen by many personnel aboard the Heli-carrier in The Avengers.
Speaking of which, The Avengers is a perfect case in point. The evolution of the superhero sans costume. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
By C.J. Bunce
American Graffiti. Just two weeks ago the George Lucas classic coming of age film about high school graduates in 1962 came back for the first national release in movie theaters in decades (we discussed it here at borg.com). In a series of interconnected vignettes Lucas gave us a snapshot of kids and cars and cruising culture, popular then and now. American Graffiti wasn’t the original title, and, as the story goes, the film’s backers had no idea what the title meant, but it was better than Another Quiet Night in Modesto or other proposals so they just went with it. No graffiti actually plays into the plot, and the viewer can conceive his or her own meaning to this now classic movie title.
Graffiti as pop art? Actual graffiti in America, in many ways hasn’t changed a lot, and it doesn’t share the same feelings of nostalgia as the eponymous film. A form of vandalism, its very nature is something covert, rebellious and illegal. Spray paint is the medium and the canvas is anything and everything from highway overpasses to train cars to building walls. The stealth required gives the creator a challenge–maybe even the adrenaline rush that fuels some that are behind it. Over the years the costs to city governments to wash or sand or scrub off graffiti prompted many cities to work with local graffiti artists–designating projects and mural locations where local creators could show off their creativity. It’s a constructive bridging of law and order and a radical form of expression.
A freshly cleaned up butter cow at the 2013 Iowa State Fair.
If you find typical animated series on Cartoon Network visually boring, this new series is for you. DC Comics’ DC Nation on Cartoon Network has finally achieved a satisfying blend of eye-grabbing visuals and smart storytelling in its newest animated series, Beware the Batman. A follow-on to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman is a fresh take on Batman that opens up possibilities for a long-term animated series with interesting villains of the week similar to those we enjoyed with the 1960s live action Batman series, but skip the camp and humor for some gritty situations and snappy dialogue.
What first will draw viewers to Beware the Batman is the high-resolution, three-dimensional effect of the cutting edge CGI animation itself, similar to the realism we’ve seen in Tron: Uprising, but even more so like the stylish visuals in The Incredibles. Although the Batman himself may be the least eye-catching of the hundreds of Batman incarnations out there, he has his own style here that may grow on viewers. But Alfred, the villains, Tatsu Yamashiro, all look incredible. Wayne Manor is a beautiful mansion on the edge of a cliff, something you’d expect to see from Richard Branson. Gotham looks like the moody covers to The Dark Knight Returns. The action sequences are full of explosions and chases offered up in ways you haven’t seen before, too, with realistic and futuristic 3D technology effects like those in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.