Tag Archives: The Penguin

An All-Star Batman #2 Review – The Jerk Store Called…

All-Star Batman #2, 2016, John Romita Jr.TITLE: All-Star Batman #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t been as in love with All-Star Batman as some reviewers are. But credit where credit is due: This is good stuff.

 Harvey Dent says he can get rid of his alter-ego Two-Face if Batman can get him to a mysterious house 500 miles away from Gotham. Two-Face counters by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. Ergo, Batman’s enemies are coming out of the woodwork to kill and collect. But fittingly, Two-Face’s plan is double-headed. Jim Gordon and the GCPD are literally about to walk into the Batcave!

One of Snyder and Romita’s priorities with this book is to prominently feature Batman’s rogues gallery. Not just the A-listers, either. In this issue alone we get appearances from King Shark, Amygdala, Cheshire, Great White, and KGBeast (referred to as “the Beast”). As a Batman geek, one of the thrilling elements about All-Star is never knowing who will pop out from around the next corner. It could be anyone from Mr. Freeze to Kite-Man.

Snyder also does a lot of justice to Two-Face, diving deeper into the concept of duality than I expected. Not just the traditional Harvey Dent vs. Two-Face stuff, but the notion that everyone has a dark side. Everyone is secretly as twisted as he is, and by holding secrets over people’s heads, he’s going to show you how. We also get a nice scene between Alfred and Duke Thomas that spells out some of the rules for how Two-Face’s brain works. The two sides can keep secrets from one another, but also influence each other. That’s good information to have as we go forward.

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., the jerk store calledWhat I continue to dislike about Snyder’s writing in this book is the sarcastic dialogue he gives Batman during battle sequences. This book kicks off with an awesome fight against Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala on top of a moving train, with Two-Face looking on for good measure. But it’s promptly spoiled with the line: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Hey Batman. The jerk store called…

What makes that sequence all the more frustrating is that John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White absolutely nail it. It’s got a great energy, accentuated beautifully by the motion work and the gorgeous colors in the background. This is also the best Killer Croc has looked in awhile. For my money that’s a high compliment, as this book came out the same week as one of Jim Lee’s Suicide Squad issues. Romita’s take on the Penguin is also very reminiscent of Danny DeVito’s look in Batman Returns, which isn’t something we see very often.

I also adore the panels of Batman and Two-Face fighting in the water (shown below), if for nothing else because of the water itself. The way it’s colored, the way it moves, the way it drips off the characters. It’s almost cloud-like.

We’re also introduced to the notion that many suspect Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no one can prove it. This would be interesting as a throwaway line. But they’re obviously following up on it, what with Jim Gordon and the GCPD breaking into the Batcave…

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., Batman, Two-FaceKGBeast gets put over like a million bucks in this issue. He’s put on arguably the same level as a Deathstroke or Deadshot, and even has a decapitated Talon from the Court of Owls as a trophy. He’s treated with a reverence he’s rarely, if ever, gotten.

I’m still sour this “color wheel” idea Snyder is using in the back-up feature, though in all fairness there’s still much we don’t know about it. For now, we’ve got a mostly quiet scene between Batman and Duke as they track down Zsasz. Declan Shalvey’s work remains delightfully clean. His opening page is a striking mosaic of Duke’s family memories, which transitions into a scene between he and his mother. We’re not given any further insight into what exactly Batman has in mind for Duke. But things are unfolding nicely. We have yet to see a sarcastic quip from the Dark Knight in this story, so it almost has the advantage over what Snyder is doing with Romita.

There’s also a delightfully subtle detail to the one of Zsasz’s word balloons. It gets little gray scratches behind the letters to signify the various marks he puts in his own skin.

All-Star Batman is mostly quality work thus far, which is consistent with what Snyder has done with Batman previously. But as I see it, Snyder has a tendency to get in his own way, and take his own stories down a notch. Whether it’s with dialogue that’s out of character, big awful Batman robots, or something else entirely. It’s like he just can’t resist.

Boy, I wish he could resist…

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A Batman #40 Review – Dead Again

Batman #40, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #40
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 29, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #40 and the Endgame storyline.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not as big a fan of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman run as a lot of comic book readers. But no one can deny they’ve got big, ballsy ideas. The Court of Owls, Flappy Face Joker, Zero Year, etc. For better or worse, they’re willing to take risks.

Hell, the finale to their Endgame story was so big and ballsy neither Batman or The Joker survived it.

When we open Batman #40, The Dark Knight and his surrogate family have teamed up with the likes of The Penguin, Killer Croc, Bane, and other foes to fight back against The Joker and his deadly virus that has turned most of Gotham into sadistic laughing zombies. But in the end, it all comes down to Batman and The Joker, in a fight that will irrevocably change Gotham City forever…Or not. Maybe they’ll be back in three months. This is a mainstream superhero comic, right?

Batman #40, Batman vs. Joker, Greg CapulloWhile I am fairly critical of the run Snyder and Capullo have had since the New 52 reboot, it’s tough to deny the quality of Capullo’s work. His art has a visceral quality that often sticks with you for awhile. That’s very much on display in the brutal and bloody fight we see hero and villain engage in here. It’s very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s work in The Dark Knight Returns, to which Snyder and Capullo have paid tribute time and time again during their run. Interestingly enough, the Returns fight ended with the Joker having a Batarang in his eye, and the Endgame fight it’s Batman with a playing card in the eye.

The sheer ugliness of the fight was unexpected. But it does fit the idea of The Joker finally taking the gloves off and coming after his “former friend” with everything he’s got. In terms of Mr. J, Capullo does a fantastic job bringing him across the emotional spectrum. From sheer joy, to rage, to desperation. The character is rendered with such bulbous yellow eyes and these shark-like rows of gigantic teeth. This is why Capullo is one of the defining Batman artists of the last decade.

Batman #40, Greg Capullo, JokerThe issue revolves around Batman trying to extract a chemical called dionesium from The Joker’s spine. Dionesium is among the substances that has allowed characters like Vandal Savage and Ra’s al Ghul to live as long as they have. The idea is that after Death of the Family, Joker found a large pool of it in the caves under Gotham, which healed him and restored his face. As a plot point, this is fine. The man cut his own face off. There was obviously going to be some kind of magic comic book cure for him. What I don’t like is the way Endgame makes a mystery out of whether The Joker is this mysterious mythical figure called “The Pale Man,” who’s been around for centuries. In earlier issues we see Joker pop up in old photos, which is never entirely explained. And even at the very end, when the idea has been disproven, Batman mocks him for it.

I understand what Snyder is going for here in terms of The Joker’s cause, and the idea that a mere mortal like Batman can’t control the endless, eternal chaos and randomness of our world. But I dislike the notion that Batman and The Joker aren’t equals on the mortal playing field. These two characters both stand for something very powerful, and very human. The fact that they’re both mere men is important, because it plays into the relatability of their ideals. In theory, anyone could be Batman or The Joker, not because they don’t have super powers, but because they’ve both made very real, very human choices about their lives. Making The Joker an immortal character tarnishes a portion of that human element.

Batman #40, two-page spreadPlus, we all knew he wasn’t “The Pale Man” anyway. So why waste time on it in an otherwise intriguing and compelling story?

There’s also a nitpick I can’t resist here: Why is The Penguin involved in street fight (shown left)? If he’s firing off a bunch of trick umbrella gimmicks, that’s one thing. But he appears to just be fighting like everybody else. That’s a little out of his element, isn’t it? Just sayin’…

Flaws notwithstanding, Batman #40 is a nice finale to the Endgame story, which of course takes us into the whole “Robot Suit Batman” thing they’re starting soon (We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.) We can all make whatever arguments we want about whether it’s a quality issue or not. But for obvious reasons, it’s got historic value.

Image 1 from blastr.com. Images 2 and 3 from newsarama.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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