‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ #23

‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ #23

‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ #23

‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ #23
‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ #23
  • Cover & Art by Alex Maleev
  • Written by Gregg Hurwitz

Purchase your copy @ Comixology now!

BEWARE OF SPOILERS

Ahead of ‘Villains Month’ ‘The Dark Knight’ needed to wrap-up its Clayface arc and this issues ties everything up neatly with an airtight bow.

When we left off last month Clayface was still on the lose and out for revenge and that’s still where we find him when this issue picks up. Essentially this issue as a story of catch me if you can with Batman trying to keep up with the elusive villain until he finally comes up with a plan to capture him.

I have to admit that I’ve gotten a little lost with this story but this is a good conclusion to this part arc. Previous arcs under ‘The Dark Knight’ title have spent large amounts of time dedicated to the backstories of their central villains and also exploring some of the psychology of their actions, much like ‘Villains Month’ is doing on a broader scale, but this arc has been more about the impact of Calyface’s actions of Batman, Gordon and the citizens of Gotham.

There’s some okay detective work in the middle of this issue with Batman hunting down the source of some personal information which Clayface has found himself in possession of.

My expectations are always higher for this title because the premise was to explore the darker side of Gotham so I expect a certain level of darkness that hasn’t quite come to pass as yet.

The biggest draw for me in this arc has been the artwork. Maleev continues to drawn some dark and shadowy scenes throughout this issue which really help to push the mood further downwards and create that atmosphere that should be synonymous with ‘The Dark Knight’ brand.

Sometimes faces get a little lost in the darkness but there’s no doubting which characters we’re seeing. There’s a look of tiredness to Gordon and Bruce which I think perfectly personifies their never ending war on crime, they’re fatigued but they continue to soldier on.

If you’re not already reading this title then I recommend you hold off picking it up until the villains issues which also feature a Clayface special. When we return with issue #24 we continue the Clayface story looking in to more of his origin so unless you’ve got a keen interest wait until issue #26 for a silent story which is sure to pack some heavy hitting artwork.

6/10

Detective Comics #23.1 Poison Ivy

COMIC REVIEW: Detective Comics #23.1 Poison Ivy

Detective Comics #23.1 Poison Ivy
Detective Comics #23.1 Poison Ivy
  • Cover by Jay Fabok
  • Written by Derek Fridolfs
  • Art by Javier Pina
  • Colours by John Kalisz

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BEWARE OF SPOILERS

Pamela Isley’s entry to the ‘Villains Month’ event is a neat little origin story wrapped up in present day tale of Gotham under siege. The absence of Batman has provided a great setting to allow the villains of Gotham to explore the streets and as we see here also to have a little time analyse themselves.

‘The Green Kingdom’ was the first villain issue I picked up after the slightly lacklustre Joker story told in ‘Batman’ #23.1 and I have to say I’m happier with this issue overall. Where the story in ‘Batman’ had some stunning visuals the story felt like a tie-in rather than the kind of standalone story that this event deserved.

This however is a fully contained story which explores Ivy’s own feelings about her childhood and her transformation in to the person she is today.

I was first introduced to Ivy via the 90s animated series which took a very grounded view of the character but I was also introduced to her via ‘Batman & Robin’ which was perhaps not the greatest place to learn about the history of the character.

With those in mind I was intrigued by the origin story here. The simple tale of an abusive father and a mothers garden. Considering that her father used plants as a way to gain forgiveness for her mother and that in the end it would be he who would murder her and bury her body in the garden it’s interesting that Ivy didn’t in fact turn completely away from plants.

The story by Fridolfs is so simplistic that you can’t fault that it almost comes across like a bedtime story being told you a child… just with a bit of murder and mayhem.

The sequences in the present day show off enough of the havoc that Ivy can cause whilst the flashback story takes on a storybook quality which ramps up the tragedy. The underlying tale of abuse is handled tactfully and the story has very little shock value which to me makes the issue all the more credible.

The contrasting moments between present and past also help legitimise the story and give it a linear and natural feeling. I was easily convinced that Ivy’s present day actions were causing her to travel down memory lane and look at her past.

Similarly the artwork is heavily stylised for the flashback sequences to make it appear like it’s printed on different paper. It’s a subtle change that works really well in completing the package. The artwork isn’t breaking any new ground overall but it’s perfectly adequate the story being told.

If like me you’re not fully versed in the history of the character this is a good issue to teach you some of her background.

7/10

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E09 ‘Control’

TV REVIEW: ‘Beware the Batman’ S01E09 ‘Control’

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E09 ‘Control’
‘Beware the Batman’ S01E09 ‘Control’
  • Directed by Curt Geda
  • Written by Michael Stern

Catch ‘Beware the Batman’ Saturdays @ 10am on Cartoon Network USA!

BEWARE THE BATMAN SPOILERS!

This week the story of ‘Control’ continues to push the ongoing story arc based around the League of Assassins and also Jason Burr/the Ion Cortex even further whilst focussing on a more emotional side of Tatsu/Katana.

NB: Alfred is MIA in this episode.

The League of Assassins are very much off screen in this episode but they continue to loom over the story as they have done in the past. There’s not a huge amount of exploration in to the origins of the villain – Cipher – but the story is packed enough that there isn’t really any space for it and the episode is not any worse off for it not being there.

A fair chunk of the episode is dedicated to the continuing training sessions between Bruce and Tatsu as they work on their partnership. This series has become great at relating some of the family issues between the core cast to the story as a whole here we’re delving deeper into Tatsu’s emotional control.

Bruce feels that Tatsu has a lack of control and puts it down to her lack of emotional control but of course at a crucial moment later in the story it is following her heart and not her head the saves the day.

What ‘Control’ does do is open up the landscape of Gotham to show more of the architectural design of the series. Much of the story, for example, takes place at Wayne Enterprises which is a massive space. There’s some swooping shots of the large atrium which is sparsely decorated and very cold to the eye but looks beautiful on screen. We’ve not had a chance to explore many of these spaces in this city as yet and I hope in future episodes we get to dive further in to the designs.

This episode has an emotional maturity that is reminiscent of an adult drama over a children’s cartoon. It feels like this series has hit its stride really early on where other shows spend their first seasons struggling to find what works within their format. Hopefully this means the creative team can focus on developing the story much further through the remaining episodes.

Pieces of the mainstream Batman universe are creeping in this show in quite a subtle manner which has been interesting to see. The bat signal is now making a regular appearance – notice the sound the bat computer plays when the signal shines in the sky – and the relationship between Batman and Gordon continues to grown. As this show advertised itself as different to the norm it’s interesting to see the writers mix-up this Batman elements with the lesser known villains.

There’s a cliffhanger ending which will hopefully take us through in to the next episode which looks like it will bring some pain to Tatsu and her new found relationship with Jason Burr.

7/10

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E08 ‘Allies’

TV REVIEW: ‘Beware the Batman’ S01E08 ‘Allies’

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E08 ‘Allies’
‘Beware the Batman’ S01E08 ‘Allies’

Directed by Rick Morales

Written by Erin Maher & Kathryn Reindl

Watch ‘Beware the Batman’ live on Cartoon Network USA, Saturdays @ 10:00!

BEWARE OF SPOILERS

After the roller coaster that was last week’s “Family’ episode this week we pick up almost right where the action left off but now we take a closer look at some of the lighter moments that this series can bring.

There’s a nice amount of humour to this episode that shows a lighter side to the show that we’ve not yet seen so far this season and it’s not necessarily the kind of humour that is directly aimed at children. Standing back from the fact I am a lifelong Batman fan this is a show for kids and it is airing on Cartoon Network so would have absolutely no right to abuse this show if it took a humorous look at Batman in the vein of say ‘Teen Titans Go’ but that is not necessary here. ‘Beware the Batman’ clearly understands that looking beyond its target audience and the network on which it airs there is a huge audience of Bat-fans out there who are tuning in just as much as the four to sixteen year olds who make up the Cartoon Network target demographic.

It’s not all a barrel of laughs in ‘Allies’ there is also the kind of story we’ve come to expect from the series to date which this week features the return of Tobias Whale and Stagg Industries and finally sees Tatsu take on the Katana name.

‘Family’ cemented the trio of Batman, Alfred and Katana together having had Bruce almost on the periphery for the opening episodes and ‘Allies’ then shows us some of the tried and tested hesitance that he has when working with a partner.

Here Tatsu/Katana takes on a similar role to that of Barbara Gordon when she first became Batgirl in ‘The Batman’ back in 2005. Unlike that character Katana is fully aware that Bruce is Batman and she has full access to the Batcave. It is good to see Batman’s trademark stoic edge hasn’t been dulled in order to make him more accessible to the younger audience.

The story this week doesn’t quite pack the punch of ‘Family’ but it does brilliantly flesh out the world of Gotham by taking us to ‘The Cauldron’ and teaching us all about how a financial crisis crippled parts of the city. The ‘ghosts’ who inhabit this district, referred to as a ‘No Mans Land’ for all you easter egg hunters, are a little generic but they were never meant to be the focus here.

The continuity of the show continues to be one of its strongest aspects with Stagg Industries continuing to loom over the plot seven episodes after the pilot.

I can only assume that the writers are either leading us on a wild goose chase to thinking that Barbara will eventually become Batgirl or we’re very slowly circling this story coming in a future episode, not necessarily this season. There’s certainly some serious effort being put in to her character and showing her fascination with the Bat.

If you’re still late to the party on this one then ‘Allies’ is a great episode to jump in to the series, teaching you a little of the mythology and a lot about the world it’s creating.

7/10

‘Batman ’66′ #11

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #11

‘Batman ’66′ #11
‘Batman ’66′ #11

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Colours by Jonathan Case

Purchase your copy @ Comixology now!

BEWARE OF SPOILERS

This week Batman ‘66 concludes the Mad Hatter arc with ‘A Chase in London Town’ which picks up right where last weeks chapter left off with the crown jewels stolen from the Tower of London and the Dynamic Duo making chase as Mad Hatter makes his escape.

What I’ve really enjoyed with this story is seeing this version of the Hatter getting to inhabit the kind of large scale story that other A-list villains were treated to as part of the series. The Hatter in the TV series doesn’t resemble the Hatter that many fans will know from the comics and cartoons that have come since but he still embodies some of the hypnotic talents of his source material equivalent.

I talked in my last review about how breaking out from Gotham had allowed the story the open itself up, granted in the TV series the writers would invent any form of locale that the story required but as this comic is bringing some continuity to the ‘66 universe the move to London (or is that Londinium?!) has proven incredibly successful for this story.

I have to touch on DC² just because it is put to work amazingly well in this issue, possibly even more so than last week. The transitions between panels are brilliant and well integrated in to the story, at times the comic almost becomes fully animated which takes Case’s artwork to a whole new level. After reading this issue I now want to see the team of Parker and Case working on a Batman ‘66 animated series.

I’d love to see this book getting the recognition it deserves in the mainstream comic media. The stories, dialogue and the artwork are all at a standard way above some comics currently in print and I hope that mainstream audiences aren’t put off by the pop art nature.

9/10

‘Batman’ ’66 #10

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman’ ’66 #10

‘Batman’ ’66 #10
‘Batman’ ’66 #10

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Colours by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now!

BEWARE OF BAT-SPOILERS!

Long live the team of Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case!

This week ‘The Hatter Takes the Crown’ introduces The Mad Hatter to the book, originally portrayed by David Wayne in the series. I don’t remember much about his appearances in the show but I do remember his crazy hat and the ‘special effects’ that went along with it.

This week Parker has taken a few cues from the reference laden opening chapter of The Joker arc and run with it to extremes. This time though the references aren’t to the wider Bat-universe but pop-culture in itself.

See if you can spot them all yourselves but definitely keep your eyes peeled for the TARDIS… okay so it’s a police phone box but still to me it is a TARDIS!

The references really drive home the decade in which the book is set and do a great job of opening up the world beyond Gotham. Up to now the stories have taken place in a small number of locales and although there aren’t many more on show here we’ve gone transatlantic and further pushed the boundaries of what to expect in this digital first series.

I love that the opening of the story follows a long running joke from the TV series that Bruce and Dick were going fishing. I wonder if one day they will finally actually get to go fishing. I think if they did then the series could happily come to an end – don’t do it Jeff!

This is yet another story that sits perfectly in the continuity of the TV series but shows how far the potential of the show can be stretched before it become a parody of itself.

Mad Hatter in the TV series is incredibly different to that of the comics but this issues shows that he doesn’t need to be altered to match his mainstream self in order to capitalise on the nature of his character.

What Parker continues to do in this issue is show how well he understands the characters of the series and how they have to be portrayed in order to keep this continuation of the series viable.

If you’ve read my reviews of previous issues then you know there’s something I’m going to have to discuss in regards to this issue: the return of DC². I had just gotten used to the fact that it was gone and now its back.

I hadn’t expected this new technology to show up again after the first arc but it is great to have it back. It perfectly accentuates the brilliant artwork in this issue and pushes the story to the max of its nostalgia trip. Keep your eyes peeled for the Union Jack Bat!

At this stage I actually feel a lot different about DC² than I did when it was first introduced. Certainly when it first disappeared during The Penguin arc it felt like the fortunes of this book were looking down but actually at this stage the stories and the art don’t need DC² in order to be successful. Now it feels much more like a fun gimmick which does enhance the book but isn’t required to provide a crutch for it.

It’s a testament to the hard work that Parker has put in to developing the series that what felt so important in the beginning is now no longer required.

This issue seems like the beginning of another great arc so if you haven’t already I suggest you check it out now!

8/10

Forever Evil #1

Forever Evil #1

Forever Evil #1
Forever Evil #1

Cover & Pencils by David Finch

Written by Geoff Johns

Inks by Richard Friend

Colours by Sonia Obak

Purchase your copy @ Comixology now.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Each September since the launch of ‘The New 52’ DC Comics have pulled something big out of their bag, last year it was ‘Zero Month’ which gave us glimpses of the world of the 52 prior to its launch and this year it’s ‘Villains Month’.

Many of the flagship titles in the DC catalogue are releasing up to four issues this month, chronicling some of the most prestigious villains to ever grace the pages of comics.

Alongside these special #23.1 issues DC is launching it’s first crossover event to cover all titles under the DC banner entitled ‘Forever Evil’.

What’s the concept of this huge event I hear you ask… well in the wake of the ‘Trinity War’ arc the three Justice League teams (original, America and Dark) are ‘dead’ leaving the Earth unprotected and at the mercy of an attack. That attack comes from the Crime Syndicate who hail from Earth-3.

As always with crossover events there’s a whole mess of special issues that tie in together to give the full story. But it all starts here in ‘Forever Evil’ #1 which acts as a brilliant setup to the event.

Written by Geoff Johns – so you know it’s going to be good – the story is instantly global. Starting out in Metropolis and moving through several of the major DC Universe cities it’s easy to tell that this is going to be the kind of epic story that we’ve been waiting for since the inception of ‘the New 52’.

Not only is there an epic scope to this story but pretty quickly there’s also a level of suspense and anticipation to this story which gives the feeling that all bets are off as to how this is going to play out.

With the Justice League’s out of action the only true heroes appearing this book are Nightwing, Batgirl and the Titans. Until the re-emergence of the Justice League I’m hoping that ‘Forever Evil’ will shine a spotlight on some of the lesser known characters with the various franchises.

It’s not just the A-game of Geoff Johns that is championing this book but also artwork by David Finch. You know when you’re getting a Finch story that it’s going to pack some serious punch. I was a fan of his work on the initial run of ‘The Dark Knight’ so it is good to see DC putting him to work on a title that’s going to get massive exposure.

There’s a lot of characters in play here (I mean A LOT!) and so it’s massively important that DC have an artist who can visually identify all the different villains from all the franchises and bring them together in a way that keeps them all looking at their best and this book does it in spades.

There’s a humongous scene featuring Nightwing in this issue which has to have massive implications on the story going forwards and I cannot wait to see how it is going to develop from here.

My only complaint? That Nightwing is back in Gotham for the flimsiest of reasons and Barbara doesn’t seem to be at all bothered about the events of ‘Batgirl: Wanted’ but then this is a world ending event so I can forgive a couple of tiny sins.

A complete must read!

9/10

Detective Comics #23

COMIC REVIEW: Batman Detective Comics #23

Detective Comics #23
Detective Comics #23

Cover by Jason Fabok

Written by John Layman

Art by Andy Clarke & Jason Fabok

Colours by Blond & Emilio Lopez

Purchase your copy @ Comixology now.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

‘Detective Comics’ is going through something of a creative surge right now which has brought us the Wrath arc. The Bat-verse has been plagued by massive story arcs featuring villains who have sprawled across various titles so following on from the Court of Owls, Leviathan and The Jokers return in ‘Death of the Family’ it’s an interesting change of pace to have Batman face of against a formidable but not all-encompassing villain.

Interestingly the cover art for ‘Detective Comics’ has really pulled itself up from the generic to the striking. Concerns have been noted about the design of Wrath with many comparing his look to that of the Talons. It’s true that there are likenesses between the costumes Wrath is growing into a unique villain.

Issue #23 focusses a little more on the origins of Wrath with the opening prologue before launching in to a Bruce Wayne fronted detective story. Actually it’s almost an Alfred and Bruce buddy movie.

Aside from the ‘Year Zero’ story that’s taking place in the ‘Batman’ series Bruce (and to a lesser degree Alfred) have been forced a little in to the background of late. Here we get a story that takes place mainly during the day and without a Bat-costume in sight.

Layman is writing a solid story month-by-month which is now pushing this title in to the kind of territory where readers are rushing to pick-up copies and anxiously awaiting the next chapter. There’s a difference between buying a comic each month and suffering through the time between release dates.

Often casual fans will complain about market saturation for heroes like Superman and Batman who headline not just their own titles but others which essentially tell the same kinds of stories but under a different banner. What I often tell my friends is to think about what kinds of Batman stories they want to read and then decide which title would be the one for them.

‘Detective Comics’ is for the big action fans, the fans who enjoy the movies for the stories that they tell and not necessarily for the pure character moments and the arc is providing all of the action in spades whilst containing the small character moments that more hardcore fans thrive on.

Jason Fabok’s artwork is brilliant as always. The characters facial expressions are some of the most detailed we’ve seen in a long time. His characters are able to express a deeper level of emotion than some of the more cartoon style comics currently out there. At the same time he is also able to bring a level of scope to the comics that reminds the reader about the world these characters inhabit. In this issue keep your eyes peeled for the moment Alfred makes a startling discovery.

The back-up story ‘Marital Abyss’ is less of a Man-Bat story and more of a She-Bat story. Although it ends with a ‘to be continued’ moment it’s actually a well round story that does come to a complete ending.

Often I find myself skipping over back-up stories in comics because they’re simply a different angle of the main story or almost act as a prologue. This is (currently) not related to the main story and so it’s a great addition to the comic that I think adds more value for money.

8/10

Batman ’66 #9

COMIC REVIEW: Batman ’66 #9

Batman ’66 #9
Batman ’66 #9

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art by Sandy Jarrell

Coloured by Rico Renzi

Purchase your digital copy @ comixology now!

Beware of spoilers!

We’re on to our next back-up story this week in ‘Batman ‘66’ and for this little gem Jeff Parker has called on the villainous Egghead – played by Vincent Price in the original series – to cause mayhem in Gotham.

I would have liked to see The Joker’s arc stretch to a full three issues but this format of a major villain for the main story and a lesser villain for the back-up story does seem to work well. I doubt that Egghead could have filled a full two issues without pairing with another villain so to bring him out of retirement for this short story is genius.

More and more we’re seeing Parker take the stories to territory that is far beyond that of the TV series but not in the kind of departure that makes it unrecognisable.

This is a neat little story which requires very little setup and as we’ve come to expect from this series packs in a lot of story in to a short space of time.

Sandy Jarrell is a new to the series and brings some cool artwork to the table. There’s a feel of the art we’ve previously seen from Jonathan Case but with a load of individual flair from Jarrell.

Egghead is clearly Egghead and there are some subtle hints of Price whilst Batman and Robin at par for the course in their reflections of West and Ward.

Jarrell also gets a massive thumbs up for getting to draw the Bat-copter!

A fun, simple story to follow-up the complex Joker arc. For 69p it’s well worth a read!

8/10

‘Nightwing’ #22

‘Nightwing’ #22

‘Nightwing’ #22
‘Nightwing’ #22

Cover by Brett Booth

Written by Kyle Higgins

Art by Will Conrad

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now!

Beware of spoilers!

‘Nightwing’ has become a stand out title amongst the various Bat-titles in the DC Comics catalogue. Dick Grayson has long lived in the shadow of Bruce Wayne but in the wake of his mentors death back in late 2008 Grayson took over the mantle of the Bat from a short battle for the cowl.

Launching in to The New 52 Grayson was back in the guise of Nightwing, albeit in a red and black costume rather than blue and black. Initial fears that the costume was recoloured to match the costume worn by Chris O’Donnell in the critical disaster that was ‘Batman & Robin’ were quickly allayed.

Two years later and Dick has been through a lot. Coming out from the ‘Death of the Family’ arc the family were already at odds with Bruce only to be further broken apart by the death of Bruce’s son Damian – the most recent Robin.

The effect of Damian’s death on Dick hasn’t been fully explored in this or any related title as yet which seems like a lost opportunity considering the relationship the two  built up whilst working as together as the Bat and Bird.

Currently we find Nightwing in Chicago, a town not fond of costumed heroes, searching for his parents murderer Tony Zucco.

The move outside of Gotham has allowed both Dick and Nightwing to spread their figurative wings and allowed the story to open up beyond the confines of the usual locales.

As a villain Prankster is an omnipresence in this current arc, he doesn’t always appear but he’s never far from our thoughts. There’s almost an air of The Joker from ‘The Dark Knight’ movie in that his actions are escalating as the story progresses but also he can appear from nowhere to cause anarchy.

The stories in the ‘Nightwing’ title have been incredible over recent months. Higgins is captaining this title to massive success with monthly circulations now topping ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Green Arrow’ and reviewers lauding over its every issue.

Much like other critically successful titles of recent months ‘Nightwing’ is juggling more of an ensemble cast of characters and intertwining their respective stories. It adds a layer of complexity to the overall arc which I really welcome in modern comics.

This is almost a reboot beyond that of the initial New 52 issue #1 and what we’re seeing are the initial stages of the creation of a new cast of characters to surround Nightwing. It’s an exciting time to be reading this title.

9/10