Tag Archives: Arkham Asylum

A Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane Review – Jokerize Your Fries?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: David Finch, Mitch Gerads, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #1620#2324
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
Aug 30, 2017

***Need to catch up? Check out the first two volumes: I Am Gotham and I Am Suicide.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bane has never been the most sophisticated of characters. Created in the early ’90s, he was essentially the Bat-books’ answer to what Doomsday was in the Superman books. A big brute who could physically overpower the hero. A ‘roided up dude in a luchador mask, he certainly looks the part. But unlike Doomsday, who was basically a mindless killing machine, Bane was intended to have more depth. He had a tragic backstory and a cunning mind to match his physical dominance.

Oddly enough, I Am Bane explores the character’s more layered side, while at the same time making him look like a big dumb ape at certain points. It’s actually a fascinating balancing act.

After pulling the Psycho-Pirate from Bane’s clutches in Santa Prisca, Batman is now preparing for a full on assault from his old enemy. No one close to Bruce Wayne is safe. Adamant about taking Bane on alone, Batman places Alfred, Claire Clover (a.k.a. Gotham Girl), and the Psycho-Pirate in perhaps the unlikeliest of places to protect them: Arkham Asylum. Now Bane must make his way through a living hell to confront the Dark Knight. Once again, these two arch rivals will square off. In the end, one will be left broken.

I’ll credit author Tom King with giving Bane’s invasion of Gotham the weight it deserves. The first two issues have a grim tension in the air. In issue #16, Bruce insists that most of his surrogate family members flee the city, fearing for their lives. He hides Psycho-Pirate and the others inside Arkham, in a chamber designed by Mister Miracle. But Batman’s obsessive preparation isn’t enough, as Bane still manages to strike at those close to him, including Catwoman. The tone is terrific, the threat feels real, and we seem to have the makings of a hallmark Bane story…until the big man opens his mouth in issue #18.

King, David Finch, and their team are clearly going for classic early ’90s Bane. We get a big, bloody, brutal fight intercut with flashbacks as Bane taunts our hero. Think Batman #497, when the character broke Batman’s back. But King goes way too far over the top with Bane’s dialogue. In issue #18, as he rambles off comparisons between himself and Batman’s other enemies, he almost seems to be reciting a poem…

“I am not a joke! I am not a riddle! I am not a bird or a cat or a penguin! I’m not a scarecrow or a plant or a puppet! I am not your broken friend! I am not your regretful teacher! I am not a child’s fairy tale! I am not a circus act here to amuse and frighten you!”

Alright, dude. We get it…

Things get worse in issue #19, when he storms Arkham and starts running into various villains. He spouts off little one-liners. Thing that would be fine on their own, but clumped together in one issue almost make Bane a parody of himself.

Two-Face: “…what’re you offering?”
Bane: “Pain. I offer pain.”

Scarecrow: “What nightmares are you having?”
Bane: “I don’t have nightmares, I GIVE nightmares!”

Mr. Freeze: “Impossible…”
Bane: “Not impossible. Bane.”

The fight winds up ending on yet another stupid, overblown catchphrase. Not from Bane, but from Batman. The sad thing is that the action itself is pretty good, for the most part. If King had trimmed a lot of this excess verbiage and allowed the art to speak more for itself, this would have been much more effective. I understand wanting to show the animalistic side of Bane. But they overdid it.

I will say, however, that the contrasting flashbacks between Bruce’s childhood and Bane’s are very well done. There’s a school of thought that many of Batman’s villains double as examples of how Bruce could have turned out after his parents were killed, had circumstances been different. This is about as on-the-nose as you can get in that respect. But it works.

What doesn’t work as well for me is the Batman-themed fast food restaurant we see in issue #16. Dick, Jason, Damian, and Duke drag Bruce there for a family meeting of sorts. It’s decked out various paraphernalia from the various Batman heroes and villains. The scene opens with Bruce talking to a kid behind the counter, who’s wearing a cheap Batman mask. He asks Bruce if he wants to “Jokerize your fries?” I get what they were going for. There’s a fun meta aspect to having these characters see their own licensing and merchandising. “Jokerize your fries” is actually a pretty good line. But from an in-story perspective, using the most feared man in Gotham City’s likeness to sell fast food stretches the gag too far for me. I understand that’s part of the joke. But to me that would be the equivalent of selling Bin Laden burgers in the real world.

David Finch handles most of the art in I Am Bane. I’ve been pretty critical of his work. But I’ve also said that if you have to have him, you want him on dark or gritty stories like this. I Am Bane is one of his better recent outings. In issue #16, he has the extremely unenviable task of drawing Bruce, Dick, and Jason, all unmasked in the fast food scene. They’re all handsome, dark haired, clean shaven dudes. Finch has to make them all distinct and recognizable. The job he does isn’t amazing. But it’s serviceable. Thankfully, they’re not all wearing the same clothes, as they were in that creepy splash page in The Court of Owls.

Like many artists, Finch draws most of his superhero characters like competition bodybuilders. Thankfully, that’s right in Bane’s wheelhouse. The character looks every bit as gigantic and chiseled as he should without going overboard, which we saw from Finch’s work on the New 52 Dark Knight series. This version of Bane also has a great ferocity you don’t always see. That obviously works well during the big fight. One complaint: I’ve never liked it when artists put giant green tubes on Bane, as we see Finch do here. It brings back bad memories of Batman & Robin.

Inker Danny Miki (later joined by Trevor Scott) and colorist Jordie Bellaire compliment Finch very well. He’s got a team here that accentuates his strengths. Bellaire in particular is an absolute rock star.

After the main story, Mitch Gerads takes the pencil for issue #23, a standalone story featuring Swamp Thing. Despite being brutally titled “The Brave and the Mold,” it manages to be a fun issue. Gerads’ contributions to this series have been tremendous, going back to issues #15 and #16. He and King give us some fun visuals contrasting the vast difference in stature between Batman and Swamp Thing. A two-page spread with Bruce and the monster in Wayne Manor, shots of them in the Batcave and Batmobile, etc. The issue is broken into chapters that are separated via panels with text designed like silent movie intertitles, which is a cool tone device.

I’ve already talked at length about Batman #24, which contains a pretty big moment between Batman and Catwoman. A few months after its release, what has stuck with me is the exchange between Batman and Gotham Girl about happiness. We learn that Batman is Bruce Wayne’s attempt at finding happiness. As a longtime Batman fan, that notion fascinates me. We’re so used to Batman being dour, moody, and broody. So the idea that he’s doing all this to be happy is a little off-putting. But it makes a certain sense when you boil it down. In the end, that’s what we’re all trying to do, right? Find happiness. In that sense, Bruce is no different than anyone else.

By and large, the Bane portion of this book is a step down from I Am Suicide. But King, Finch, and the team really stick the landing with issue #23, and especially #24. There’s a lot of strictly okay stuff you’ve got to swim through. But when this book hits a homer, it really hits a homer. As far as issue #24 is concerned, that ball is still sailing.

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A Batman #51 Review – A Quiet Conclusion

Batman #51, 2016TITLE: Batman #51
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEAED: April 27, 2016

***Need to catch up? Check out issues #48, #49, and #50.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

While I haven’t been shy in my criticisms of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman run, I’ve always given them credit for thinking big. So it’s interesting that they took a quieter approach for their final issue. On the plus side, no giant robots!

When a mass blackout hits Gotham City, the Caped Crusader is tasked with not only keeping order, but finding out who it is that’s left his city in darkness. His quest will take him across the city, including Arkham Asylum, and the doorstep of the Court of Owls. But in the end, the circumstances aren’t at all what he expected.

Snyder opened Batman #1 with talk of a column in the Gotham Gazette called “Gotham is…” Readers are asked to complete that sentence, and various different answers come in. Snyder bookends this run by titling this issue “Gotham Is.” We even meet the column’s author. This approach is very fitting, as Snyder has been praised for making Gotham City itself a character in his work. This was true even in his run on Detective Comics. In a sense, Snyder’s best character work on this series has been with the city itself. He’s not the only modern Batman writer to do so, but no one has done it better than he has.

Batman #51, two-page spread, Greg Capullo

Snyder and Capullo have done a lot of justice to the Alfred character. He was fantastic in issue #49 (though Yanick Paquette was the artist on that one) because of the sheer raw emotion he showed. But in this issue we see the return of snarky, jokey Alfred. I think most would agree Batman shouldn’t be a jokey character, per se. But he’s known Alfred his whole life, so it makes sense that he’d be able to show his faithful butler/surrogate father another side of him. In this issue they joke a bit about Bruce’s “justice flavored” nutrient beverage, as well as the origin of Alfred’s new right hand. Throw in that awesome shot of the Batcave by Capullo, and you’ve got a hell of a kick off to your final issue.

Much like Batman’s connected contacts from issue #1 (which I hated), we get another new piece of technology in this issue: A holographic camouflage device for the Batmobile. This allows the car to patrol the streets looking like a civilian vehicle. I buy this a hell of a lot more than the damn contacts, and it makes a hell of a lot of sense for the Batmobile to have something like that. So I’m game.

In issue #1, we saw a big breakout inside Arkham Asylum that was ultimately foiled by Batman. Capullo drew a two-page spread of a group of Gotham rogues facing off against The Dark Knight. In this issue, the power outage causes a similar incident, and we get a similar two-page spread. The new one is superior if for no other reason than he fixed the damn Riddler. In 2011, Capullo drew a ridiculous Riddler with question marks shaved into his head. This new one looks like the Zero Year version, and looks suitably reluctant to fight Batman (see thumbnails below).

Batman #1, 2011, villains
Batman #51, villainsWe also get a quick appearance from The Joker in this issue. That was a nice nod to one of the better issues in the Snyder/Capullo run, as well as a reminder that he will be back sooner or later…

It was very fitting to see an appearance by the Court of Owls in this issue. Given time, and what other writers end up doing with them, I’d wager the Court of Owls will turn out to be a major part of Snyder and Capullo’s legacy on Batman and his world. Between the backstory, the look, and the creep factor, the Court of Owls have the potential to stand the test of time and be part of the DC Universe for years to come.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I thought the look of Flappy Face Joker was stupid, I hated most of Zero Hour, and I can’t stand this team’s weird fixation on giant robots. But Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and everyone who worked on this Batman run were part of something special. Not perfect, but special in its own way. This team carved out its own era on one of the longest-running comic books in the history of the medium. And they sold a lot of books in the process. That’s something they can be proud of and take with them for the rest of their lives. Comic book fans are in debt to them for taking such good care of one of our greatest heroes.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from ifanboy.com. Image 3 from weirdsciencedccomics.com. 

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A Batman: Earth One Review – A Bumbling Batman

Batman: Earth One coverTITLE: Batman: Earth One
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Gary Frank
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: July 4, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There are some interesting ideas in the pages of Batman: Earth One. But the book’s mishandling of the Batman character makes it something not worth sitting through just to experience those new ideas.

Though they have the noble purpose of exposing iconic characters to a broader audience, DC Comics’ Earth One line of graphic novels has never sat right with me. Why? I’m glad you asked…

1.It’s yet another attempt by DC to replicate the success of Marvel’s Ultimate line after the disintegration of the All Star line a few years ago.

2. It gives creators an excuse to keep needlessly rehashing origin stories, particularly but not limited to Superman’s.

Batman Earth One, Gary Frank, Garbage3. Given the recent relaunch and continuity reshuffle that took place at DC via the New 52 initiative, introducing revamped alternate versions of these characters is somewhat redundant.

4. As I understand it, the All Star line didn’t work because the creators involved couldn’t adhere to a monthly schedule. That’s why the Earth One line consists of original graphic novels as opposed to monthly comic books. But given that these Earth One books are apparently only coming out on an annual basis per character, that leaves a pretty big window for these new readers DC is hoping to draw in to either lose interest or lose track of the second book.

All this being said, Superman: Earth One had it’s high points. Shane Davis’ art was especially impressive, we saw a new villain introduced into the Superman mythos, and the image of the hoodie-wearing, moody and broody Clark Kent is a memorable one. The book wasn’t at all necessary, nor worth all the hype it got. But it had its moments. Batman: Earth One has similar high points and moments, but in the end isn’t as successful as its predecessor.

In Earth One, we see a less experienced Batman take to the streets to find the man who murdered his parents. At his side is Alfred Pennyworth, a hardened war veteran who served alongside Thomas Wayne, and apparently handled a large portion (if not all) of Bruce’s training. As Batman takes on the criminal element in Gotham City, he’s plagued by inexperience and malfunctioning gadgets. All the while Mayor Oswald Cobblepot (who most fans know as the Penguin) is elbow deep in corruption, including a particular disturbing partnership with a child killer.

Batman: Earth One, Gary Frank, Jim GordonThis book seems to want to put some of the “man” back in Batman by having him be less experienced, more prone to mistakes, and thus more vulnerable in the field. This would theoretically add more drama to all the action sequences. Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli pulled this effect off to perfection with the fire escape sequence in Batman: Year One. Like the entirety of Earth One, that scene is about Bruce’s inexperience and naivety when he first puts the costume on. It illustrates how even with expert fighting skills and years of training, it’s still extremely easy to mess up and get killed when you’re dressing up like Dracula and running around punching people. They did a similar scene with Bruce, Jim Gordon and the cops in Batman Begins. In both those sequences Bruce looked entirely competent. He was just inexperienced.

In Batman Earth One, Bruce does not look competent. He looks like an idiot who’s had some karate training and now thinks he’s qualified to single-handedly take on the underworld and solve the mystery of who killed his parents. The mistakes he makes in this book don’t endear him to us as someone who’s human and fallible. They make him look like an arrogant fool who constantly needs to be bailed out by his butler (who by the way, looks a lot like Jeremy Irons).

Batman: Earth One, eyes, Gary FrankOn one of the first pages in this book there’s a scene where Batman, who at this point has looked as grim and scary as always, aims out his grappling gun and fires it, only to have the ropes become a tangled mess (shown above). Given Batman’s wide-eyed look and his subsequent tumble from a rooftop into a pile of trash, I’m not sure if Johns and Frank were going for laughter here, but from a tonal standpoint it just doesn’t work. There’s a similar scene where Batman tries to swing from a building, but his body contorts and he ends up crashing through a window. He lands on a table covered in assorted food, and in one shot we seem him covered in a mix of blood and misguided dinner. Is this funny? Is this dramatic? What are we thinking here?

Oddly enough, the most interesting character we see in this book is Harvey Bullock, who regular Batman fans know as a portly, unshaven cop with bad habits. In Earth One, Bullock is a cop show host who comes to Gotham for the sake of publicity and fame, but deep down he also has good intentions. He’s partnered with Jim Gordon, who’s had his hope sucked dry by this brutal and corrupt city. Frankly, I’d much rather have read a book about Bullock and Gordon than a bumbling Batman and his grumpy butler. Harvey’s naive game show host demeanor is a fun contrast to Gordon’s worn down state of being. Both also characters go through distinct transformations, and end the book at very different places than they started.

Batman: Earth One, Gary Frank, Birthday BoyThe book also makes Martha Wayne a member of the Arkham family, as in Arkham Asylum. We see that she grew up in the house that will presumably become the asylum later, and there’s a history of mental instability in her family. This opens the door for a more literal take on the question of whether Batman is as crazy as his villains. It doesn’t go anywhere in this book, but it’s interesting.

We also meet a frightening serial killer called “the Birthday Boy.” I can’t say much about him without spoiling things. But he’s another character I’d rather have spent time with than our arrogant, bratty title character. I never thought I’d be saying that about Batman…

Regardless, Gary Frank’s art is as strong as it’s ever been. The most notable aspect of the Batman costume he creates here is that he shows us Bruce’s eyes through the cowl, instead of drawing the white slits that have been one of the character’s trademarks since he was created. It’s a nice change, as Bruce’s eyes obviously give us a better illustration of whatever emotion he happens to be feeling in the scene. Similarly, Jim Gordon’s eyes sometimes have that far away look, which is a nice unspoken look at his mental state.

Batman: Earth One, Gary Frank, AlfredIn a way, that shot of the grappling gun is exactly like what happened to Batman: Earth One. At first glance it looks pretty cool, but things get fowled up pretty quickly. In that moment we’re not sure what to think, except that what we’re seeing is yet another rehash nobody asked for. I’m hopeful that the writing of these Earth One books will pick up in quality once they get around to characters like Wonder Woman, the Flash, and others whose origins haven’t been trampled on quite as much as Superman and Batman.

RATING: 4/10

Image 1 from multiversitycomics.com. Image 2 from ifanboy.com. Images 3 and 4 from comicvine.com. Image 5 from pixshark.com.

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