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Tag Archive: Batman Hush


Golden Age Superman Unchained 1   Superman Unchained 1 standard edition

The celebration of the 75th anniversary of Superman is in full swing this week as the new Superman movie Man of Steel opens in theaters across the country today.  DC Comics has coordinated with comic book stores with the release of a monthly Superman titles and a new monthly this week from some of DC Comics’ top creators.   Superman Unchained #1 is in comic book stores this week, bringing together writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing, The Wake) and artists Jim Lee (Justice League, Batman: Hush) and Scott Williams (Batman: The Dark Knight).  Snyder subtly and not so subtly ties in technologies and feats of our own world in his initial chapter of the exploits of the last son of Krypton.  Fans of Lee’s art will appreciate a two-sided, quad-fold pullout poster featuring key moments of the new story.

1930s Superman Unchained   Neal Adams Superman Unchained 1

Satellites circling Earth begin plummeting to the ground.  We encounter Superman as he plunges into a circling international space station, and he must quickly figure out a way to save the astronauts inside and the town below the station is barreling toward.  Superman references Guinness Book free-fall records once he drops off the astronauts.  If you track the actual International Space Station astronauts on Twitter or otherwise, you might find that what was once a passing destructive event in a quick read now carries a greater emotional impact.  Likewise, Snyder includes a prologue from Nagasaki in April of 1945 that reveals the creation of the new series’ ultimate villain–and what the “unchained” in Superman Unchained may be all about.

dc-comics-superman-unchained-issue-1d   Alt Superman Unchained

More than the standard monthly first issue, keep an eye out for a variety of alternate covers (see above and below), released by DC Comics as part of the 75th anniversary.  Look for a 1930s variant by Bruce Timm, a Golden Age variant by Dave Johnson, a Silver Age variant by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, a Bronze Age variant by Neal Adams, a Modern Age variant by Jerry Ordway, a Superman Reborn variant by Dan Jurgens, a Superman vs. Lex Luthor variant by Lee Bermejo a New 52 variant by Brett Booth.  The standard edition features a Lee/Williams cover, complete with DC Comics’ new 75 Years Superman logo.  Compare these re-creations of classic looks of Superman with our previous take on Superman with “The Many Faces of the Man of Steel.”

Superman Unchained alt cover Issue 1   Alt Bermejo Superman Unchained 1

If the glut of New 52 Superman titles since September 2011 left you walking away empty-handed from not knowing what to start with, and if All Star Superman isn’t your thing, Superman Unchained looks to be a Superman story with more classic elements and non-stop action.  The brief villain reveal indicates we may have an interesting new character and we get to revisit Superman’s relationship with Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and The Daily Planet.

Jim Lee alt Superman Unchained 1   Alt b Superman Unchained 1

Rounding out the month of June and the Summer of Superman, look for the new Batman/Superman series featuring writer Greg Pak and artist Jae Lee in comic book stores next week.  Look for a “Director’s Cut” of Superman Unchained to be released in July–it will have more original Jim Lee art as we found in the re-issue of his Batman: Hush called Batman: Hush Unwrapped, reviewed here at borg.com earlier, as well as Snyder’s script.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the climax of Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls, a battered Batman looks up and utters “…I am sick… to death… of owls!”  Me, too, I thought, after seven chapters of the first released hardcover of the New 52, written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Greg Capullo.  Hardly a page of the first seven issues of the rebooted Batman series does not include an owl, worked into the background or architecture or elsewhere.   There’s not a lot of subtlety to be found here.

Although I’d put David Peterson’s owl renderings in Mouse Guard up against Capullo’s any day, Capullo does a nice job of working owls into the story.  In fact his art and the overall look of this hardcover puts it in the camp of prior trade compilations like Batman: The Cult.  It certainly surpasses Grant Morrison and David McKean’s equally dark Arkham Asylum in both story and art.  That said, it fails to achieve the excitement, fun, and energy of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush or Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke, or the mythology of Batman found in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.  If you like your Batman not only dark but flawed, making as many bad decisions as good, and you’re tired of the recycled pantheon of Bat-villains, this book may be for you.  Unfortunately, the twists and excellent execution of story found in Issue #1 of this Batman series didn’t hold out, the owl-villainy doesn’t match the classic bat-villains, and so the series became monotonous and tired by Issue #7 for this reader.

I haven’t seen a lot of continuity of story presentation across the New 52 titles.  But of all the titles I’d hoped for more origin of Batman than is peppered in flashback through the first seven chapters of this compilation.  Had The Court of Owls been a story arc in a normal year of Batman stories, I may have actually appreciated it more.  But as part of a launch that was to allow new readers to enter and understand the series, I think this series doesn’t make any headway.  That said, what’s there really to understand?  It’s just Batman, right?  As the leading title of DC Comics, I think despite its great sales, the story doesn’t have broad appeal.  Why is everyone reading it then?  With all the Bat-titles in the reboot, this series started out as the best and is probably considered the best, but we’re all not just waiting for another good Batman story, we want another great Batman story and we’re willing to keep coming back until we get it.

The hook of the owl as a creature of night who eats bats as a visual or storytelling concept would have worked for me for an issue or two.  Today DC Comics have The Court of Owls – Night of the Owls story permeating throughout the DC New 52 titles as a crossover event.  What is the Court of Owls?  It’s a bit like an evil version of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, mixed with the Masons as revealed in the National Treasure series, and a chemical reaction that allows humans to be immortal.  Despite all the years of Bruce Wayne exploring and building out a batcave, and his long understanding of Gotham City as his city, suddenly we readers are introduced to a concept never before even hinted at, and a mention that… oh, yeah, Bruce Wayne tried to hunt down the Court of Owls as a kid and ultimately came to the realization they did not exist.  The problem is, unlike the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword’s noble cause, we are given no motivation for the Court’s evil doings.  They’re just bad guys.  If you had this much power, would you live like these masked ghouls under Gotham or would you live the high life?

That said, there is a lot to like in this series.  Snyder’s use of modern technology to assist Batman is well placed. Dick Grayson’s Nightwing has hardly been better as Batman’s sidekick, including a brilliant turn as Joker to fool the inmates of Arkham Asylum.  The entire supporting cast, although hardly used, have nice moments, including Tim Drake, Commissioner Gordon and even Alfred.   Capullo’s art is as good as any of Jim Lee’s best Batman work.  Capullo and Snyder both are obviously passionate about creating a complex Bat-tale, and for that, the book is worth a second read.  With that second read, more plotted foreshadowing can be found.  The Court of Owls was clearly not an easy tale to construct, both from a story concept or visually.  And as a starting point, Issue #1 is one of the best issues of Batman you’ll ever read.  If you like Batman in a chamber of horrors, Snyder and Capullo’s vision has the feel of the crazy masked club of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide ShutUnfortunately I just didn’t find the arc compelling enough to keep me hooked for all seven issues.

Batman: The Court of Owlsseems to borrow a bit from Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson’s Batman: The Cult in story and look.  Capullo’s depictions of a tortured Batman are equal to the horror and drama depicted in Bernie Wrightson’s panels in The Cult.  That’s high praise for Capullo as Wrightson’s work on The Cult was nicely done.  But I was never fond of Batman being duped and sucked into the villain’s world, or portrayed as less than genius, and even allowed to be beaten to a pulp.  All that happened in both Batman: The Cult and Batman: The Court of Owls This is why I found myself on the side of Nightwing in the sparring between the two–and I am not typically a fan of Nightwing.  I prefer my Bat-story to show Batman in the shadows more, as the detective who doesn’t become emotional or fall for the villains’ traps like the Batman of the camp 1960s TV series.  Finally, I was distracted by how much the Court’s henchman Talon looked like Watchmen’s cool hero Nite Owl.

Nite Owl from Watchmen.

A big plus of this hardcover edition can be found at the back of the book.  Snyder’s script for issues #1 and Capullo’s pencil roughs that accompany that story reveal some of their creative process, which I always love to see.  And along with Greg Capullo’s superb cover art (it’s great when a publisher allows the interior penciller to also create the cover art!), the appendix also includes full page color images of the alternate, incentive covers.

If you want to give Batman: The Court of Owls a try, it is now available at local comic book stores and online.  Editors Note:  Check out my review of the hardcover of Night of the Owls–all the crossover issues compiled–at this link.

If you are a fan of Doctor Who or Batman or Star Trek or The Lord of the Rings, there is really only one series that should top your TV viewing list right now.  And that series is Sherlock, airing Sundays on Public Television.  This week’s episode charged past even the original three episodes produced by the BBC that first aired more than two years ago.  We’ve waited a long time for the series’ return and we couldn’t have been happier with the result.  A stunningly good plot based on a classic Holmes story, introducing an enchanting new character, and as much Holmes and Watson verbal sparring as you could pack in one week’s time slot.

Why watch Sherlock?  Let’s count down some reasons.

1.  Sharp writing.  The show is smartly written by the best current TV writer anywhere—Steven Moffat.  Moffat has been dazzling us with the best stories on TV including 20 episodes of Doctor Who, and his stories are always interesting, even exciting, and always full of twists and turns.  Moffat has written episodes of Sherlock, including this Sunday’s episode “A Scandal in Belgravia” and next week’s episode “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”  With all the drama are equal doses of laugh-out-loud humor.  You will laugh at Sherlock’s oddities and Watson’s dumbfounded expressions.  I can’t think of a better written series since the original Life on Mars, and this week’s episode is one of the best stand alone TV episodes you’ll ever see.  If you think I am exaggerating, I just dare you to watch this week’s show and tell me I am wrong.

2.  A modernized classicSherlock?  The British show on Masterpiece Theater?  Make no mistake: This isn’t Masterpiece Theater of the past.  This is no stodgy series re-hashing old plots.  Yes, the stories are rooted in the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but the updating to today is brilliant and artfully done.  This Sherlock and Watson get to excite a new generation of fans to the sleuthing and detective mind of Holmes, only using the modern technologies and investigative methods—some methods even ahead of their time as only a guy named Sherlock Holmes could do.

3.  The acting.  What other TV series has the soon-to-be biggest performers in the blockbusters of tomorrow?  Usually once an actor makes it big he leaves TV and doesn’t turn back.  But for right now Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Watson’s Martin Freeman are still doing TV and it will be among their best works no matter what they do from here on.  Freeman and Cumberbatch also make for great old fashioned buddy cops.  Like the masterful ensemble cast of the A&E series Nero Wolfe and the TNT series The Closer, the supporting cast of Sherlock is fun to come back to visit each week in their own right.

4.  You like Batman.  Who doesn’t?  How many writers of some of the all-time best Batman stories were inspired by Doyle’s classic detective?  If you’ve read Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush, the 19th century Holmes permeates every inquisitive angle of the Dark Knight Detective’s sleuthing.  And it’s not just Batman.  The New 52’s Batgirl series includes an updated Barbara Gordon who is in many ways yet another Holmes in training.  If you like the Mystery in Masterpiece Mystery, you will find yourself sucked into the plot and trying to beat the master detective as he follows the clues of each week’s quandary.

5.  You like comic book style.  The “special effect” of printing words on the screen as Sherlock moves from location to location, indicating the speed and scope of Sherlock’s genius mind should be familiar to comic book readers’ world of thought balloons and sprawling visual effects using words.

6.  You like The Lord of the Rings.  If you like The Lord of the Rings like me, you’ve probably continued to follow the cast members who played the characters in the trilogy in their projects after the movie.  Why not start early with the new star of The Hobbit, Martin Freeman, Sherlock’s Dr. John Watson?  And Benedict Cumberbatch, who will be the voice of Smaug in part 2 of The Hobbit?

7.  You like Star Trek.  Khhaaaannnn!  One day it’s “official” the next day it isn’t and the studio’s PR machine isn’t helping quell rumors, but whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch will reprise Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, he is some type of villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, next year’s 12th film in the Star Trek franchise.  No matter how loyal you are to the late great Montalban, no matter how much of a traditional Trekker or Trekkie you consider yourself, you, too, will be convinced by Cumberbatch’s ability to take on any role by watching his performance as Holmes.

8.  You like Doctor Who.  I’ve already mentioned Steven Moffat writing the series above, but if you want to get a glimpse at the only actress rumored to be among the first considered to replace Matt Smith as the first female Doctor, you need look  no further than the stunning performance  by Lara Pulver as Irene Adler in Sunday’s first episode of the second season.  And heck, True Blood and Robin Hood fans will like seeing Pulver here, too!

9.  You’re an anglophile.  Doesn’t the mere sight of the London Eye ferris wheel at the beginning of each Sherlock episode want you to go buy plane tickets?  And this week’s story took place in part in Buckingham Palace.  What more could you want?  And if you like James Bond, who ever was a better ringer for Ms. Moneypenny, fawning over the great 007 spy, than Sherlock’s poor coroner Molly Hooper, and her unrequited love for Holmes?

10.  You believe that “brainy is the new sexy.”  Hey, it’s not my quote.  Just watch this week’s episode.

It’s one of the lamest marketing messages I’ve ever read, and many shows have used it before, but basically I’ll use it here because it applies: “there is simply no reason not to watch” Sherlock.   And every reason to watch it.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

An unprecedented volume was released this month: Batman: Hush Unwrapped, an exclusive and rare original art look at an entire comic book mega-hit series.  Kudos to DC Comics for not only releasing a complete compilation of a pencils-only view of the comic book process, but for releasing the one and only Batman: Hush mini-series by the current premier Batman artist, Jim Lee.  For the diehard Jim Lee fan, or the hundreds of thousands of fans that bought Batman: Hush in its original single issue form or trade paperback compilation formats, it will be hard not to rip the shrink wrap off the book standing right there in the bookstore.

Batman: Hush was originally printed in the ongoing Batman series as Issues #608-619, written by Jeph Loeb.  It is the story of Batman sleuthing out a criminal called Hush.  Everyone who is anyone in the Batman storyline makes an appearance in the series.  The art is top notch and is what propelled Jim Lee forward as the key go-to guy for Batman work.  Not since Neal Adams re-imagined Batman in 1969 has anyone had this kind of impact on the character.  After Hush came out I stood in line for an hour at a Midwest convention to get Jim to scrawl his signature across the covers of my own stack of the series.  He was so busy he hardly looked up the entire day.  Jim has been the featured talent at each comic show he has appeared at since.  Hush is a series that was well hyped before I read it, but it is the rare occurrence in the past several years where the hype was warranted.

From a story standpoint, the inner-thought narration of Batman as he progresses through the first page will have anyone hooked immediately.  There is a great surprise, a big reveal, and a pay-off that although not perfect, is still worth the voyage.  Beyond Jeph Loeb’s solid writing, however, is the consistently brilliant panels rendered by Jim Lee.  You will not look at a boot tread the same way again.

But if you haven’t read Batman: Hush yet, don’t read this new edition.  This edition is for the diehard fan that darned-near knows the original series by heart.  It includes every page of art before it was inked, before color was added.  It does keep the lettering, so you can still read and follow the entire storyline as with the original published edition.  For the first time reader, check out either Batman: Hush in paperback, or in the two volume hardcover edition (Batman: Hush Vol. 1 or Batman: Hush, Vol. 2), or the oversized Absolute Batman: Hush, which is coming out in December, but available for pre-order now.  Again, there is a good reason why this book has been reprinted so many times.  It’s that good.

If you are an artist or art enthusiast, you can’t do much better than study the style and strokes of a master at his best.  As a study piece, I can see art classes assigning this book as required reference material.  Mark my words, this will be in a college bookstore next semester (post here if you see it happen first!).  If so, it would be in good company, as Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was regularly found as an economic text book in colleges back in the 1990s.

Stepping back from looking at this work in this seemingly stark form as a study piece or target of critique and analysis, the black and white treatment of the Hush story is a new view of the story in its own right.  The pencil work, along with some periodic pages in shades of gray watercolor, has a certain film noir aspect to it that is quite appropriate.  The Dark Knight Detective in his own film noir thriller itself is a great concept.

I for one hope the Unwrapped series concept catches on.  Even non-hero original art pages from Jim Lee easily fetch a minimum of $1,000 per page today.  Other than catching an artist at a convention who happens to have kept his entire series (good luck finding that!), you’re not going to get access to something like this any other way.  A series that reproduces other great storylines and great artists would be an entry point for most of us into the world behind the scenes of comic book creation.  The hundreds of hours of exhaustive efforts to create such a work are evident in every stroke, in every panel.  At $39.99 retail this type of book won’t appeal to the masses, but if enough uber-fans pick this one up maybe DC Comics, and other publishers, will issue more compendiums in this format in the future.  To quote the other famous comic book Lee, “Excelsior!”

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