Review: Batman #29 & #30

Batman #29

  • Written by Tom King
  • Pencils by Mikel Janin
  • Inks by Mikel Janin & Hugo Petrus
  • Colored by June Chung
  • Cover by Mikel Janin

Here’s the pitch: Aldred serves the warring Gotham City villains a 9 course traditional French dinner while Bruce Wayne attempts to broker a peace deal. We see the beginning of Batman’s big mistake. The issue is as much fun as the pitch sounds.

End review.

On to #30!

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Batman #30

  • Written by Tom King
  • Pencils by David Gianfelice & Clay Mann & Danny Miki
  • Inks by David Gianfelice & Seth Mann & Danny Miki
  • Colored by June Chung
  • Cover by Mikel Janin

It is another Kite-Man interlude and it is heart breaking and fun, giving the reader an inside look at the War of Jokes and Riddles from a foot soldier’s point of view. The scenes are set to dialogue boxes of a conversation between Kite-Man and his son while we see him get punched by Batman, fly with Man-Bat and deal with the up frightening villains on both sides of this gang war. The juxtaposition of the very human moment of a father talking to his son and a C-list Batman villain trying to survive fighting for the Joker is well done.

The Kite-Man Interludes have done for Kite-Man what Heart of Ice did for Mr. Freeze.

It is worth mentioning that page 11 has my favorite Two-Face moment ever.

There War of Jokes and Riddles continues to be a classic that is en route be shelved next to Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween among my favorite Batman arcs ever as I read with baited breath to see it stick the landing.

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Batman #28 Review

It is another fine issue in the War of Jokes and Riddles. The issue has 3 main parts: Gordon trying to end the war by talking to both sides, Battle of the Snipers – Deathstroke vs Deadshot and a bit with Catwoman during this mess. The Kite-Man interlude  is over though he clearly has a role to play. We’re back to Bruce telling Selina the war story as the narrative device.

  • Written by Tom King
  • Pencils by Mikel Janin
  • Inks by Mikel Janin
  • Colored by June Chung
  • Cover by Mikel Janin

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Not an issue goes by without a reminder that this arc is building on top of Frank Miller. This issue was a line referencing a memorable panel from Batman: Year One:

But these were the best mercenaries in the world.

And I was a year away from kicking a tree.

Batman is vulnerable. His costume is different in the flashbacks, more simple year one style different from than the modern DC look with the lines and the yellow outline around the chest bat icon. In stopping Deathstroke and Deadshot he gives Deadshot a concussion that nearly kills him (NOTE: that touch made me smile because I was just talking to friends at a party about how brutal someone of Batman’s size, strength and training dealing out head trauma would be).

I love that Batman’s inexperience is shown by having to use too much force to stop the violence. Once again, the textual spotlight isn’t on the cool Deathstroke vs. Deadshot matchup but the bystanders killed in the crossfire and the excess of violence deployed to end it. That said, these mercs facing off was still cool and got some amazing panels.

Janin’s clean lines really shine here, both in showing off the action scenes and the innocent bystanders trying to get away from the war. His one and two-page spreads are amazing every issue, especially the scenes where we get to see the Joker and Riddler’s gangs all together.

I’m curious to see what mistakes Batman will make and what lessons will we see him take into future arcs. Will this arc take us into the present with Batman and Selina fighting crime together while the story is finished? I’m intrigued and I’m in, feeling like I’m reading the best Batman arc that I can remember.

Batman #26 Review

  • Written by Tom King
  • Pencils by Mikel Janin
  • Inks by Mikel Janin
  • Colored by June Chung
  • Cover by Mikel Janin

This is the first time in memory that I’m enjoying a monthly Batman comic.

Gang war between The Riddler and the Joker continues with the narrative gaming device of Batman telling this story of his early days in the cowl to Catwoman in bed. Every person killed in the war is named with personal details Batman knew of them. Even dead gangsters have details like, “Played Santa every year at his church festival.”

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It is the second issue in this arc and the war is ramping up with Gotham’s police and vigilante still reacting and cleaning up the mess left in it’s wake. Batman is in this odd role, using his skills as the World’s Greatest Detective to record the dead and remembering their names and who they were. Most of the narrative oomph of the issue is given to those who are killed.

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It is pretty clear that this arc is about a mistake Batman made during the course of the conflict, maybe not a big mistake but something he should have done differently. I’m curious to hear what he wants to to learn and how it will effect the next arc of the series.

Star Wars, Aftermath by Chuck Wendig @ChuckWendig – a review

Pew-pew-pew!

I have vivd childhood memories of always traveling with my Star Wars figures, always being eager to get on the floor and start playing pretend with them. I can still close my eyes and smell what the plastic smelled like when the figures were brand new. I’d tell my parents over dinner what stories I’d created while we all ate dinner.

Star Wars AFtermath

Chuck Wendig’s book evokes that for me. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Writing books set in established intellectual properties, especially one as vivid and important to my generation as Star Wars will always be playing with toys to some degree or another.

The author pours some toys onto the floor: a bounty hunter on the job, a crackerjack pilot recovering from the battle over Endor, a rebel soldier caught behind enemy lines, an admiral of the Imperial Navy desperate to put the pieces of the Empire back together, a desperate Grand Moff, a kid with a protective, violent droid and gangsters, lots of space gangsters. He stirs them in a pot and pours it all out into a story that takes place in the months after Return of the Jedi. For those who want Timothy Zhan’s books to be what you remember from that period, I don’t think this book will over-write that. If anything, they compliment each other and if my hunch is right, there’s a big easter-egg in there for you Zhan-novel fans.

He does it all without any Jedi, which might be my only criticism of the book and it isn’t much of one. Luke is a mythical figure mentioned by characters throughout the book in awed tones and he lets the Force be something mysterious. I can’t fault him for not playing with the prettiest toy in the Star Wars set for the sake of continuity.

The interludes are where Wendig shines. We see Han and Chewie setting a course for Kashyyyk and we hear about the criminal underworld of Cloud City. Sith cultists are paying any price to recover Vader’s lightsaber (or was it?). But we see things more important than that. We see people recovering from war. There are plenty of blasters, bounty hunters, gangsters and a truly bad-ass sheriff on Tattooine deserving of his own book. Wendig invokes westerns, Grosse Point Blank and of course, lots of Star Wars. He puts the Wars in Star Wars. We see Wookie slaves set free from the Empire’s shackles by the New Republic’s soldiers but not given anywhere to go. Kids on their way to become Stormtroopers right as the rebels destroy the training center are given a new path.

He puts a very human face (even when the face isn’t human but you get the idea) on the Fall of the Empire and makes it feel more substantial without sacrificing an ounce of fun. He makes war something worth hating but lets us still love space opera without any reservations. Wendig picks the plastic action figures up off of the floor where the 8 year old left them when the battles were over and he wonders what became of them. We wonder with him.

I’ve heard that there was some kind of kerfluffle about his inclusion of gay characters. There are in fact three gay characters – one main character and two minor characters who only spoke in one chapter. If this bothers you, if you think the little gay kids playing with their Star Wars figures shouldn’t see themselves represented when the toys are poured out onto the floor – I only hope that your fear doesn’t become anger and your anger doesn’t lead to anything that might dominate your destiny.

May the Force be with you.

Magneto was Right: Days of Future Past movie review *spoilers abound*

The good parts of Days of Future Past:

 

  • The pacing was amazing. They really made the movie fast-paced and fun to watch. The two hours flew on by.
  • Quicksilver was astounding and his scene stole the show.
  • Blink’s teleportation was super-cool.

 

Spoilers ahead!


The problems:

Professor X is all about love and understanding but he doesn’t go after it in any way. He doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t have a way to educate people. He just wants to trust people’s best nature and if they fall down, well, they’ll get back up again, right? That isn’t how activism and understanding and change fucking work. He isn’t doing anything proactive, so of course he looks like a dweeb next to Magneto, who is dropping shit on D.C. and menacing Nixon.

Of course I want to side with Magneto; he isn’t a straw man like Charles is.

Also, this relationship between Xavier and Mystique is just creepy. “I’ve been trying to control you since you were a little girl,” he says and from that moment, I’m hoping she caps the guy whose death will bring about the apocalyptic future, just so she can get out from Xavier’s bullshit neediness. “Come back home…please.” No, you go, woman. Kill some motherfuckers. But make no mistake, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was wooden as hell. She had some cool action sequences but I’m wondering if Bryan Singer can direct women. Because Storm…oh, Storm…

The post apocalyptic future has a team with people of color! Blink, Warpath, Bishop are all there rocking shit left and right with Iceman, Kitty Pryde and some magma dude.

And then we watch them die.

But they’re not really dead!

Okay.

Then we watch them die again and this time we watch Storm and Bishop die first because…ya know…

And then the future is fixed and we watch a de-hydrated Hugh Jackman walk around the Xavier’s School and there’s Cyclops. There is Jean and Rogue and Iceman and Kitty Pryde and Storm but the other people of color are gone because in the happy future, we only need our token.

Fuck all this nonsense; I’m joining Magneto.

Hobbit 2: Draconic Bugaloo: Bleary-eyed morning-after review of The Desolation of Smaug

I liked it more than the first film. The dwarves felt like more of a team and it was nice to see Bilbo be a part of the team and become the burglar they need (and the burglar they deserve).

The spiders were terrifying and because of tabletop endeavors, were very gratifying to see on the big screen. That was always my favorite part of the book, so I was thrilled to see them crawl around so big and clear.

Martin Freeman really holds the film together with his performance. His performance is amazing and kept me grounded and caring during the grand fantasy spectacle of it all. They seeded some cool One Ring stuff throughout the film.

Rhadaghast bothered me less in this film, though I still think the bird-poop on his head was one of the few serious costume/production missteps in Jackson’s Middle-Earth. Seeing Gandalf get his wizard on worked and set up the bad-ass posse that will gather to take down the necromancer in the next film.

Orlando Bloom has improved with his weapons work. Three pirates films have definitely left their mark and it showed. This didn’t necessarily translate to better film fighting. In some ways, they felt more comfortable showing Legolas, so we saw even more of him surfing on this and surfing on that while being a bad-ass. The first critique that occurred to me was that they should have cut some Legolas from the film and given some of his bad-ass-i-tude to Tauriel.

I liked Tauriel and Mirkwood was a nice counter-balance to the other elven realms, Rivendell and Loth Lorien. The barrel sequence was fun, though, like many action sequences, I could feel as it struggled to not to feel like a video game without any controls.

Just before the movie started we were talking about ways the first film fell short for us and my buddy pointed out a solid one. The main orcs, the big ones who get big fights with named characters, should be guys in make-up. I want some big New Zealand stuntman in a rubber mask; it gives the action scenes more oomf and gives the performance something tangible for the pale orcs.

Smaug is amazing. He is the dragon we have been waiting for since Dragonslayer came out in 1981. His movement and voice worked for me and I loved the way the fire started in his belly and erupted out of his mouth. There was one scene in particular where they highlight the coins on his belly that I won’t spoil but might’ve been my favorite moment in the movie.

Laketown looked good and it had people of color has background extras. I wanted to yell, “I see you Laketown people of color!” The look and production of the place was well done but the conflict between Bard and the Master of Laketown felt tacked on. I couldn’t care.

When the movie ended, the audience groaned audibly. “Really?” “Well, its only a year, right?” I think we need to look ahead and think about this movie as a piece, playing in our homes on winter holidays in years to come as we play through our deluxe DVD/Blu-Ray sets. When we look back on this 161 minutes of film, I’ll say, “Cool, this is where the Hobbit starts to get pretty damned good.” But looking at it now, as a night out of the movies, the ending was a rough choice. It left us wanting more but I wonder if it left us with enough for the cold ride home from the movies.