Archive for the Batman Category

Batman #689

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Winick's new Batman is a joy to read.

Winick's new Batman is a joy to read.

“Long Shadows Part Two: New Day, New Knight”
Author: Judd Winick
Artist: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Ian Rannin
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts

I’ll be the first to admit that I absolutely hated Judd Winick’s run on Batman prior to Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Son” arc, but I have to hand it to him this time – I love what he’s done with the place since Bruce has gone.

As the title suggests, “New Day, New Knight” takes on a much lighter tone than we’re used to in a post-Miller Batman story, thanks in no small part to Dick Grayson’s circus sensibilities and Mark Bagley’s joyous artwork.  There are plenty of moments that brought a smile to my face, and they should do yours as well.  Batman #689 opens with a smile, as the new Batman busts up a gambling racket.  Granted, this particular incarnation of Batman is a little too talkative for my liking, but it’s good to see Dick finally revel in his mentor’s shoes.

Behind the curtain, Two-Face and Penguin posture themselves for control of Gotham’s underworld.  Two-Face’s camp has been filtering out Penguin’s plans to Batman through the appropriate channels, while Penguin forges dark alliances with some very dangerous people.  His days as a “legitimate businessman” could well be numbered as their cold war is brought to the boil.  I’ll be following this development with keen interest.

Despite this issue’s lighter tone, there’s plenty of room for an emotionally poignant exchange between Dick and Alfred.  I think we all miss Bruce, so I never get sick of these scenes.  Judd – through Dick – really cuts to the core of Batman’s butler, bringing out the human element in him and the rest of the cast, from Dick to Damian, even to Bruce  posthumously.  Winick emotionally grounds the story with a very simple and clever device.

The closing scene is reminiscent of Watchmen, as Batman races to extinguish a burning high-rise in his hovering Batmobile, no less.  He puts on such a splendid show, I half expected him to make coffee for the rescued residents a la Owlman.  It’s not all fun and games, though, as a classic rogue returns to ruin all of that.

Winick’s new Batman is a welcome departure from his old Batman.  It may be light-hearted, but it’s certainly not light on heart.

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Batman and Robin #1

Posted in Batman, Batman and Robin, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Together again for the first time.

Together again for the first time.

“Batman Reborn – Part One: Domino Effect”
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover Artists: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones

For all intents and purposes, Batman and Robin #1 is the real All-Star Batman and the Boy Wonder. Anyone who’s read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (and Frank Miller’s woeful All-Star Batman) will know what I mean. This Dynamic Duo returns for this new limited series Batman and Robin, with an all-new Batman and Robin.

It’s at this point that I should issue a general spoiler warning for those who haven’t read and intend to read Battle for the Cowl. It’ll be impossible for me discuss future issues, or indeed any future Batman titles, without first disclosing the outcome of that battle. Henceforth, I will no longer tread around the identities of the new Batman and Robin.

Here it is: Dick Grayson is the new Batman, and Damian Wayne (al Ghul) is the new Robin. Tim Drake’s new role has not yet been addressed, but I assume he will be headlining the new Red Robin series. Now, onto the story!

Grant Morrison’s back with his trademark verve and kineticism. The style of this series is very much a throwback to the Adam West TV series and that good ol’ Silver Age magic, albeit with a mature, modern twist (as Morrison is in the habit of doing). The book opens with Batman and Robin bearing down on Mr. Toad and his band of miscreants in a flying Batmobile. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, that just happened. Now, the difference between what you’re probably imagining, and what ended up on the printed page, is that Morrison actually makes it work (as Morrison is in the habit of doing).

Frank Quitely’s flying Batmobile is beautifully retro, as are Alex Sinclair’s colours. Quitely’s pencilwork is crisp and clean, though his ruddy inks belie a fondness of wrinkles, for better or worse. I think it makes for expressive character work, though others may beg to differ. If you’ve seen his work before, you’ll know what to expect, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in my view. His incorporation of the onomaetopoeia into the actual artwork (water splashing forms the letters ‘SPLSH’, for instance) is quite clever, and not something that I’ve seen before. The sparseness of Morrison’s script has really allowed Quitely’s art to breathe, and it’s clear the team are comfortable in each other’s company here.

Bat-Shark Repellent is well-known for its Morrison worship, and for the sake of journalistic integrity, I make a point of highlighting this fact on every occasion. But allow me to highlight this as well: there’s a reason for it. One being that he always gives the most satisfying pseudo-scientific explanations! He gives one for the flying Batmobile, and it fits perfectly within comic book sensibilities and the Batman mythos.

The other reason, in this case, is just how well he makes all the elements mesh together. The new Batman and Robin suit the colourful tone of this book in a way that Bruce Wayne never could – there was always a heaviness and a seriousness to the post-80s Bruce that doesn’t lend itself to these kind of stories. Dick Grayson is Batman, but he was also the first Robin, and it’s clear here that that personality hasn’t been swallowed whole by the Bat-symbol. He still pays his dues to his Father and Teacher, and he wears the cape and cowl with a certain pride and trepidation, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously either. Which is a good thing when you have a handful like Damian al Ghul for a sidekick! Robin’s witty retorts and sense of entitlement are a hilarious counterpoint to a more patient and casual Batman – and why not? This Batman’s been Robin before; he just shoots back an even wittier reply and smiles knowingly.

Morrison is quick to establish this character dynamic, and also to distinguish this duo from previous incarnations. Then again, when was the last time you saw Batman and Robin really work together? I thought so. Watching them interrogate Mr. Toad is particularly entertaining.

This issue sees a villain known as Pyg and his Circus of Strange announce themselves as disturbing additions to Batman’s rogues gallery. Pyg is as deliciously creepy as any of Arkham’s inmates, while his henchmen are ‘themed’ villains in the vein of Batman’s more obsessive foes. His torture methods are the frightening antithesis of the Dynamic Duo’s interrogation. I mean it, he’ll give you the chills. The Circus of Strange is another well-meshed concept given Dick Grayson’s circus background.

If none of this makes sense to you, fear not! This is by far the most accessible Batman story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. The storytelling is simple, the dialogue is sparse, and yet it’s packed with plenty of brilliant concepts and comic action. I can think of no better time or place to jump in than here and now.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 (of 3)

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 4th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Surprisingly smarter than your average bimbo.

Surprisingly smarter than your average bimbo.

Author & Artist: Tony Daniel

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t anticipating the outcome of this series from the moment Bruce Wayne went AWOL (AWOL, not dead – nobody believes in character deaths anymore, you should know that by now), I’d be lying. Who will be Batman in his absence? Ponder the question for a few seconds and run with it, because that’s probably what happens here. Still, if I said it wasn’t entertaining to watch it all unfold on the colour-printed page, I’d also be lying.

Tony Daniel is a surprisingly decent writer given his outstanding artistic abilities. It’s probably a misnomer, but comic book artists are generally regarded as the bimbos of the comic world – they’re hot, but they’re not very good at talking. So maybe Daniel gives us the “World Peace” answer we’re all expecting, but he does so in a very satisfying and entertaining way, like a good, solid magic trick with plenty of cleavage involved.

Can you tell I’m trying not to spoil the ending for you? If you read enough websites, it’s probably too late for you anyway – I don’t care, as long as I’m not the one who spoils it for you. What I will tell you is this: the final battle feels emotionally weighty, perhaps even epic, and finally someone has the guts to make a definitive statement on Jason Todd (the long-thought-dead-until-four-years-ago second Robin, for those not in the know). It’s about bloody time.

What was disappointing perhaps was the length of this mini-series. It is a mini-series, though, and I think Tony Daniel knew just how many issues it would take to explore what was essentially a one-note premise. Having said that, the teaser posters did promise more fan service than what was ultimately delivered. Who here didn’t want to see Two-Face dressed in a half-and-half Bat costume? Broken promises notwithstanding, restraint should probably be applauded in this case.

Daniel-as-writer had a pretty good handle on most of the characters, especially Damian Wayne – he’s one of the few Bat-writers who’s dared to even touch him aside from Grant Morrison – and you can tell that his time drawing him with Morrison has lent him a rare intimacy with the bratty trickster. Nightwing, on the other hand, was a little confusing to read at times, and his full-circle monologues will require some small degree of blind faith. It was good to see him assume a leadership role in this issue, though – Bruce would be proud.

And it would be remiss of me to conclude without highlighting Tony Daniel’s art, which is great as always. He began on Batman as a relative unknown, but those who’ve followed him on Morrison’s run have no doubt come to appreciate his penchant for fluid, detailed action scenes. This issue, along with the rest of Battle for the Cowl, is no exception to that rule.

I have to admit, I didn’t think Tony Daniel could pull this off on his own, but what he has delivered is not only eye candy, but a solid read as well. What could have been nothing more than a contrived superhero brawl actually turned out to be an entertaining intermission between Morrisons.

Secret Six #9

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Secret Six with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23rd May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
The funniest funeral I've ever been to.

The funniest funeral I've ever been to.

“A Debt of Significant Blood”
Author: Gail Simone
Artist: Nicola Scott
Inker: Doug Hazelwood
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Sean Ryan

It’s official.  Gail Simone’s Secret Six is now my favourite comic book.  Secret Six #9 is the best issue of the series thus far.

I’ve heard someone say that they would happily read these characters eating sandwiches and having a chat, and I’d have to say, I agree!  And that’s because – despite their grimeyness; despite their moral greyness – they’re so damn vibrant.  And so they should be – Simone herself nursed them to maturity.  Nobody writes these characters like Simone (and nobody draws them like Nicola Scott); even Bane – the man who broke the Batman’s back – has been enriched under her tenure.  The next part will come as a strange coincidence, then: Secret Six #9 is a Battle for the Cowl tie-in featuring only three of the Secret Six – Catman, Ragdoll, and Bane – returning to Gotham to pay their respects to Batman!  Talk about your strange situations.

And it pays off in spades, too.  This is easily the most hilarious single issue I’ve read this year, and definitely my favourite Secret Six story so far (and I’ve read them all).  Our three anti-heroes go from mansion to mansion to save the children of wealthy families from terrorists who seek to take them hostage.  This was a smart setup that very much parallels the Bruce Wayne’s own origins.  Bane in particular shines through, which is only appropriate for one of Batman’s greatest adversaries.  Of particular amusement was a scene in which Catman leaves Bane to take care of a little girl.  I’ll give you a taste:

CATMAN: Hang on, I count one missing.  Here.  Take this thing.

*Hands the toddler to Bane*.

BANE: What?  No.  I can’t.

I don’t…I don’t know how.

Blake.  BLAKE!

Hummm…

*Sings* Hush, little baby, don’t say a–

LITTLE GIRL: WAAAHH!!

BANE: Blake!  I MAY HAVE BROKEN IT!

To have such an imposing figure cradling a tiny child with a genuine look of terror on his face is priceless.

Ragdoll pays tribute to the Bat in his own twisted way, dressing as the Boy Wonder.  You can imagine this pleases Nightwing to no end when he arrives on the scene.  Ragdoll also realises his uncanny knack for making any word sound perverted.  Cheese-stuffed manicotti!

Most hilarious of all is Catman and Bane’s continuing debate over who is the biggest Batman wannabe – neither party wishes to admit it – both present strong cases; both raise many a chortle.  (Just quietly, I believe Catman loses that debate – read it and find out why!)

They may kill scores of terrorists in gruesome ways, but the Secret Six’s send-off to the Dark Knight achieves a level of poignancy comparable to Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”  When you step back and look at all the elements in play here, it’s easy to see just how much sense this Batman tie-in made.  Hand in a glove springs to mind.  So does “velvety throw pillows!”  Well done, Gail and team.

The Dark Knight Cram School: The Greatest Batbooks of All Time.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film, JLA, The Dark Knight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

To celebrate the birth of Bat-Shark Repellent, I thought I’d lend my expertise to you all by recommending the Greatest Batbooks of All Time. I’ve made no secret of the fact that my comic book collection threatens to swallow my entire bedroom, so rest assured – I’ve read a lot of Batman. So if you’re looking for a good jumping-on point for the Caped Crusader, you’ve come to the right place. Here goes…


16. Batman: Venom

This story marks the second time Batman is broken, this time by addiction to a performance enhancing drug known as Venom. Venom has an almost surreal quality, but the story takes a very Bond-like turn when the Batman hunts down his tormentors. And yes, Bat-shark-repellent is involved!

15. Superman: Red Son

While not a Batbook per sé, Red Son features the coolest iteration of the Batman that you’ll ever see. It’s also one of the greatest Superman stories you’ll ever read. It’s an Elseworlds tale [i.e. outside of continuity] that poses the question: what if Kal-El landed in Russia instead of America? It further poses the question, how would a Russian Batman react to a superhuman Communist dictator?

14. Batman: The Man Who Laughs

A menacing Joker tale by veteran Ed Brubaker. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his interpretation of the villain informed Heath Ledger’s performance.

13. Batman & the Monster Men

A young and naive Batman faces off against the abominations of Dr Hugo Strange. Written and drawn by the legendary Grendel creator Matt Wagner.

12. Batman & the Mad Monk

Matt Wagner returns for a supernatural romp through Batman’s past. It’s pulp and spectacle with a modern touch.

11. Son of the Demon

Batman marries the daughter of his greatest foe, Ra’s Al Ghul. The Bat and the Demon must work together to stop a terrorist threat, for Talia’s sake and the world’s. A controversial tale that has recently come into play in a big way.

10. Batman: Black & White Volumes 1 & 2

A series of Batman vignettes by comic book greats and mainstays, all in black and white. It’s amazing how much story they can cram within a few pages. A great laugh and a great deconstruction of the character. Pick up Volume 3 if you’re keen, it’s just not quite as good as the first two volumes.

9. Batman: Blind Justice

A surprising amount of material has been mined from Blind Justice to bring you Batman Begins, and this is chiefly because it is the authority on Bruce Wayne. It’s funny considering the author is none other than Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm. Never has Batman’s alter-ego [or past] been shaped so definitively. Believe it or not, Henri Ducard and Ra’s Al Ghul are two separate people. It’s a pity about the kooky mind-control, though.

8. Batman: Gothic

It’s surprising just how well Batman goes with the supernatural. Trust Grant Morrison to pull it off [and he continues to do so now!]. Everything about this tale is gothic, especially the art of Klaus Janson.

7. Batman: Year 100

Year 100 takes place in a dystopian future Gotham, which is eerily similar to the old Gotham: a dark place full of crooked cops. Batman is once again a wanted outlaw, though the authorities prefer to deny his existence altogether. Paul Pope’s gritty and brutal future is believable, and reminiscent of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. A great read with no strings attached.

6. Batman: The Cult

One of the greatest bat-villains was a one-and-done character, Deacon Blackfire. Criminals are being brutally murdered, while the homeless disappear from the streets of Gotham. He defeats the Batman in the worst possible way: by breaking his spirit. Another supernatural Bat-story written to great effect by comics stalwart Jim Starlin. Jason Todd (the second Robin) has never been so likable than in this book, which is surprising.

5. Arkham Asylum

Once again Grant Morrison gives supernatural depth to the Batman mythos, this time to his rogues’ accidental lair: Arkham Asylum. Batman’s greatest foes have taken the house hostage, challenging him to a game of wits. The Batman accepts, but he soon finds that the building has a life of its own. Drenched in symbology, each page is hand-painted by the legendary Dave McKean.

4. The Killing Joke

The Greatest Joker Story Ever Told. If there was ever a book to read before seeing Dark Knight, this is it. Comics legend Alan Moore proposes a possible origin for Batman’s arch-nemesis. Short and sweet.

3. The Long Halloween/Dark Victory

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale team up for one of the greatest Bat-mysteries ever told. Batman must sift through his rogues gallery to solve the mystery of the Holiday killer. The fall of the Falcone crime family; the definitive Two-Face origin story; the origin of Robin – it’s all here and it’s all told beautifully in a true marriage of word and picture.

2. Batman: Year One

Frank Miller redefines the Batman for a new era. Make no mistake, the Batman of Year One is the Batman we know and love today. The definitive Batman origin story, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham to wage his personal war on crime. Gritty, dark, and grounded, Batfilm enthusiasts have this book to thank for its rich source material.

1. The Dark Knight Returns

Before Miller wrote his beginning, he wrote [and drew] the Batman’s end. A retired Bruce Wayne must don the cape and cowl once more to reclaim the streets of Gotham from Violence and Unreason. Without a doubt the Greatest Batman Story Ever Told, and one of the greatest graphic novels ever written.

Honourable Mentions
This is a list of other Batbooks that are still worth a read for Batfans, but have not been included in ‘The List’ for reasons I will state below:

Batman: Knightfall Part One – Broken Bat
Knightfall is like the Rocky movies: a great overall story arc, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. The chapters written by Chuck Dixon are pretty good (especially the moving finale), but most of the fill-in stories are abhorrent. Nonetheless, an important chapter of Batman’s life, though it suffers from the trappings of 90s event books and B-list villains. Bane puts the Batman through his paces, letting his entire rogues gallery loose upon Gotham. He breaks his spirit and then his back.

Batman: Nine Lives
A cinema-style noir murder mystery and a damn fine Elseworlds tale. It just feels a little dry, and the Batman takes a while to surface.

Batman: Thrillkiller
Again, this is a great Elseworlds tale, starring Batgirl and Robin, this time in the early 60s. Each panel is painted beautifully, but Batman’s glaring absence is once again noted for most of this tale.

JLA: Tower of Babel
A pretty good Justice League story with one tiny problem: Mark Waid’s Batman is a prick. This was the era of the know-it-all Batman – the House M.D. of comics, if you will – never explaining the methods behind his madness until the very end. Ra’s Al Ghul [you’ll hear his name a lot] procures Batman’s secret files to use them against his allies.

Tales of the Demon
If you can get past the West-ian campiness you’ll enjoy some of the greatest Ra’s Al Ghul stories ever written.

Strange Apparitions
Such an apt title for such a strange book. Following the death of Dr Hugo Strange, this story proves once again that the Bat mixes well with the supernatural. But if you can’t handle a little West-ness, you might want to steer clear.

A Death in the Family
An extremely imporant chapter in Batman’s life, but pretty poorly executed. The fact that the ending was voted for only cheapens the emotional impact.

Gotham by Gaslight
Another Elseworlds tale that suffers from not enough Batman. Batman must hunt down Jack the Ripper before it’s too late, but when Bruce Wayne is suspected, things go arye. The identity of the infamous serial killer is a little disappointing, especially when you compare the mystery as a whole to Alan Moore’s From Hell.

Hush
Hush amounts to nothing more than a gorgeous fangasm, really. Still a good read, up until the ‘big reveal’ at least. It’s still a pretty fun ride through Batman’s gallery of rogues and allies.

Batman & Dracula: Red Rain
The Batman must become a bat-man to protect Gotham from its bloodthirsty tormentor. It’s a pretty decent Elseworlds tale with a great idea behind it, Moench just doesn’t get as much mileage out of it as I had hoped.

Batman: Child Of Dreams
A Japanese take on the Batman, author Kia Asamiya actually deconstructs Japanese culture better than the character himself. This is essentially Batman for a new audience (the Japanese), so it’s understandable that many of the ideas presented are well-worn. It’s still well-executed and an intriguing read, nonetheless.

Death and the Maidens
Greg Rucka cooks up a storm within the Al Ghul family, building up a new heir and Bat-villain in Nyssa Al Ghul. But to kill a man who has resurrected himself time and again with such apparent finality – it’s a little hard to swallow – and with Ra’s’ recent resurrection last year, it all feels a little ineffectual. It is Greg Rucka and Klaus Janson, though, and you can’t blame them for trying.

So that does it for me – if want to dive headfirst into the Batman mythos, check out the books I’ve recommended above. If you want to go further, give the others a try – I’ve been a little harsh on them – they’re not the greatest, but they’re still enjoyable reads. I also highly recommend Grant Morrison’s current run on Batman, but be warned – it’s extremely zany, and requires a lot of background knowledge to follow.

What about you? Do you fancy yourself a fellow Bat-fan? Have I left out your favourite Batbook? If so, gimme some hell!

The Darkest Knight Ever: A Dark Knight Review.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film, The Dark Knight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

The Gotham underworld is in ruins as it struggles to rebuild itself. Criminals stray from the shadows, and hide in the daylight, for the shadow is the Batman’s domain. Clawing desperately like rodents from flame, the mafia turns to a man they do not understand. An agent of Chaos, they call him the Joker.

The shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight looms large over every Bat-film, nay, every superhero film before it. By the film’s conclusion, it struck me just how apt the title was: its darkness surpasses even Burton’s Gothic interpretation of the franchise. Nolan’s real-world Gotham makes the presence of a Joker all the more frightening. I’ve never thought about the Joker as a terrorist or even an anarchist before, but Nolan and Ledger gave me a real sense of, this is what the world would be like with the Joker in it, and this is what he’d do. It all seems so obvious now, but the truth is, there’s never been a Joker quite like this before. As Nolan has stated in various interviews, Heath Ledger’s Joker truly is a force of nature. He’s a hurricane that sweeps through each scene, stealing it and then destroying it for no other reason than that’s what he is. There is a tangible tension in the air; a siren sound builds in the background (courtesy of Zimmer and Howard), and neither the audience nor the Batman knows how to deal with him, because we honestly don’t know what he’ll do next.

Ledger's iconic Joker. There's no telling what he might do.

Ledger's iconic Joker. There's no telling what he might do.

It’s this unpredictability that propels the entire film for two and a half hours – no mean feat if you’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings. There are plot twists a-plenty here, and each one of them is a bold move on the part of Goyer and the brothers Nolan.

Like all good comic books, The Dark Knight is first and foremost a character drama. Christian Bale plays a brooding Batman, and a conflicted Bruce Wayne once again. But it’s clear this time that Wayne has moved beyond revenge, and is far more concerned with the repercussions of Batman’s actions, not only for his loved ones, but for Gotham City as a whole. One of the film’s major themes is sacrifice, and you’ll see plenty of moments where all of Wayne’s friends and allies pay high prices for the love of their city. I could really feel Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent’s love for both Gotham and Rachel, and Jim Gordon’s love for his family as well. It is Harvey Dent’s inextricable importance to Gotham and all of its major players that makes his destiny all the more tragic. That Aaron Eckhart’s Dent won me (and Batman) over within the first few minutes only amplified the tragedy. Again, I knew what to expect, but I was continually surprised by the journey.

Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is a comic fan’s dream come true. His resemblance to the character in the classic Year One is uncanny, both in personality and visage. Maggie Gyllenhaal was the perfect choice to replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes – not only does she look similar; she plays a stronger character with more substance than a pretty face. Take this from someone whose pet hate is changing casts between sequels – that the first four Bat-films featured the same Alfred Pennyworth, yet three different Bruce Waynes irked me to no end! Speaking of Alfred, Michael Caine shines through as Bruce’s mentor and friend. I was initially wary of his casting in Begins, mostly due to his rustic speech, but he has captured the essence of a butler who oversteps his role, and cuts straight to the heart of the matter. Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Lucius Fox, Batman’s ‘Q’ and now-CEO of Wayne Enterprises.

The movie’s other major theme is Chaos. Chaos is the Joker’s modus operandi, and he sees himself as the necessary Yin to Batman’s Yang. Bale underscores this notion in playing the thinking-man’s Batman. While there is little emphasis on Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective, he is certainly portrayed as an inventive and rational force. Joker, on the other hand, is all kinds of insane. He simply doesn’t care what happens, as long as something happens; his life an amoral dance of cause and effect. It’s almost refreshing to see the Joker’s sheer abandonment and wanton destruction, as it represents a way of life so different from our own.

Nolan and company cottoned on to the character’s greatest strength: his mysterious origin. Nolan makes no attempt to explain the Joker’s origins definitively; a wise choice that not only saves valuable screen-time, but enriches the character as well. A wry smile crept across my face every time Ledger licked his lips to recount a different origin story to his victims. Indeed, there is a certain black comedy that permeates his dialogue and the film at large. Heath Ledger’s mannerisms are clever and understated, simultaneously manic and aloof. His performance chilled me to the bone, and yet I couldn’t wait to see him return for the next scene. It represents a fitting swan song to his career, and I would love nothing more than to see him win that posthumous Oscar.

The Dark Knight definitely comes off as a self-contained film, and no expense was spared to give it all the dramatic weight possible, with almost complete disregard for sequel potential. As lofty as they are, comparisons with the likes of The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather: Part II are apt. With such a take-no-prisoners approach, where do we go from here? Disheartening, though it may be, it’s a beautiful problem to have.

There are so many more things I could say about The Dark Knight, but nothing that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by someone else. To give you a detailed account of every happening would only diminish its profound impact. Needless to say, it distills some of the greatest elements in Batman’s rich history and combines them to create a thrilling, multi-layered narrative. With Iron Man and now The Dark Knight, its refreshing to see the medium of the comic book movie treated with such maturity and respect for the source material. More than that, The Dark Knight actually transcends the genre of the superhero movie. It’s not for the faint of heart (or for children), but anyone can and probably will enjoy this movie on its own merits. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest video store and catch The Dark Knight.

Riddle Me This: Batman Three.

Posted in Batman, Batman Three, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 9th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

This one seems to have flown beneath the buzz radar. But I’m chomping at the bit at the prospect of having Johnny Depp take on The Riddler. Problem is, these early casting rumours rarely ever come to fruition. My other problem is: has the story treatment for Batman Three even been written yet? I don’t like the idea of The Riddler and Penguin being shoe-horned into a Batman story [though I surmise this is what happens with most comics, we’ve already established that ‘The Dark Knight’ has transcended its source material].

All misgivings aside, if anyone has a decent chance of one-upping Ledger’s Joker, it’s Depp. Not necessarily because he’s a better actor – and he is – but because he’s a great character actor, equally adept in Hollywood blockbusters as he is in obscure thrillers. That he’s worked with Tim Burton on more occasions than anyone else [with the possible exception of Danny Elfman?] damn-near infuses Mr. Depp with a biological connection to the Batman mythos. Whether or not you appreciate Burton’s Bat-films is entirely beside the point, one thing is clear: Burton has an innate sense of the Gothic, and the Comic.

Can the Joker be beaten?

Can the Joker be beaten?

I could care less that Philip Seymour Hoffman was approached to be the next Penguin. He looks like he could be a Penguin, but that’s merely an aesthetic consideration at this point. Without a doubt, he’s a fine actor, but a fine Penguin? Not so sure. I suppose that’s because conceptually, I hold Burton and DeVito’s Penguin on a pedestal nearly as tall as Ledger’s Joker [that and it marked the first and last occasion that DeVito played a character other than himself]. In a real-world context – that is, Nolan’s context – the Penguin simply bores me as nothing more than a mobster with a disfigurement. The Penguin of the comics has never been compelling. Ever. And I’ve read a lot of Batman comics.

But I can see The Riddler working, particularly in the hands of Depp. My story treatment goes something like this: Edward Nygma [surely they will need to change his name, who wouldn’t guess that this guy is secretly The Riddler?!] is the detective charged by the GCPD to track down the Batman and incarcerate him. When he clocks off, though, he becomes the terrorist known only as The Riddler, putting the Dark Knight through his paces with a series of life-or-death riddles, designed to trap and expose him. Here is a pragmatic force, determined to unravel the mystery of the Batman at all costs, even at the cost of civilian lives. This effectively fuses two of the most popular [and tenable] interpretations of the character: a villain obsessed with the mystery of Batman’s identity vs. a rival detective and GCPD informant, as he has appeared most recently within the pages of Paul Dini’s Detective Comics. It’s also a scenario that fits well with the Batman-as-Enemy-of-the-State theme alluded to in The Dark Knight’s final act.

So, The Riddler and the Penguin in Batman Three?  Certainly a possibility.

So, The Riddler and the Penguin to feature in Batman Three? Certainly a possibility.