Archive for Alfred Pennyworth

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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Wednesday Comics #5

Posted in Comics, DC, Wednesday Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 8th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Thank God it's Wednesday.

Thank God it's Wednesday.

Onto week five of Wednesday Comics, and there’s much to report.  I’ll go through it page by page as I did with the first issue:

Batman
Author: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso (with Robins & Mulvihill)

There’s a moody, green atmosphere back in the Batcave as Bruce Wayne pieces together the evidence surrounding Carlton Glass’ murder.  Alfred, as always, makes a pointed observation on the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic.  I love the layout on this page; the smaller panels on the outside give the feeling of “putting the pieces together”, while the central spread of the Batcave suggests an “openness” and scope.  I love Eduardo Risso’s facial expressions and close-up shots; they help establish an intimacy with the characters.

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!
Author: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Ryan Sook

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! is explosive action as always.  The unlikely pair of Kamandi and Prince Tuftan the anthropomorphic tiger take on an entire army of apes in an attempt to save the first human girl they’ve ever seen.  Dave Gibbons has handed Ryan Sook the reins, quite happy to observe from afar. Without a doubt, though, it is Gibbons’ visual storytelling sensibilities coupled with Sook’s beautifully detailed action drawings that have made this story such a treat to behold.

Superman
Author: John Arcudi
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colorist: Barbara Ciardo
Letterer: Ken Lopez

It didn’t take long for Arcudi’s Superman to go from intriguing sci-fi action to emo navel-gazing – one issue in fact – and it hasn’t been the same since.  I’d like to see it return to form, but clearly that was just the setup for this revisitation of Kal-El’s origins.  I suspect this was nothing more than an excuse to have Bermejo depict the destruction of Krypton in excruciatingly beautiful detail.  Maybe this would have been better as a straight re-telling rather than a flashback.  Superman’s banging on about “not belonging” even though he’s got the two greatest parents on Earth: Ma and Pa Kent.  What an ingrate.

Deadman
“The Dearly Departed Detective: Part V”
Authors: Dave Bullock & Vinton Heuck
Artist: Dave Bullock
Letterer: Jared Fletcher
Colorist: Dave Stewart

Deadman got a whole lot better when he stopped talking and started fighting.  Since the sharp drop in speech bubbles in issue 4, the panels have opened up to Boston Brand’s acrobatics and hard-boiled introspection.  Question, though, can Deadman really die?

Green Lantern
Author: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Joe Quiñones (with Pat Brosseau)

I know I bashed on Busiek last week (or yesterday) for flashing back, but this time it actually works.  Hal reminisces on his space college days as he races to save his mutating astronaut friend.  I suspect this is to emotionally ground the inevitable battle between the two.

Metamorpho
Author: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos

Gaiman really picks up his game this time, returning with the humour and aplomb he brought to the first issue.  Metamorpho’s billionaire boss Mr. Stagg decides to stop for lunch in a booby-trapped Antarctic temple and hilarity ensues!  Metamorpho finally gets to put his elemental powers to good use!

Teen Titans
Author: Eddie Berganza
Artist: Sean Galloway
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

Teen Titans is just so pale and boring.  The soft lines and washy colours don’t help matters much, but the paper-thin plot and ever-switching perspectives are the main culprit here.  I just don’t care about what’s happening here, and I feel as though I’m expected to.  In fact, I’m still not entirely sure just what is happening here…

Strange Adventures
Author & Artist: Paul Pope (and Jose Villarrubia)

Even the Rannian Wastes are beautifully exotic in the hands of master artist-writer Paul Pope.  This time Strange Adventures has a decidedly Arabian Nights-style feel to it.  With Adam Strange nowhere in sight, it strikes me that his wife Alanna may be this title’s protagonist.

Supergirl
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Palmiotti’s Supergirl is cute and charming and all, but I can’t help but wish there was more to this story than rounding up some rowdy super-pets…

Metal Men
Author: Dan DiDio
Artists: José Luis García-López & Kevin Nowlan
Letterer: Kenny Lopez
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill

A standard bank robbery has evolved into a hostage situation.  A very personal hostage situation for Doc Magnus.  DiDio creates a tense atmosphere throughout, but isn’t afraid to break it up with some classic Metal Men humour.

Wonder Woman
Author & Artist: Ben Caldwell

Reading Caldwell’s Wonder Woman is an exercise in frustration.  The claustrophobic panels make it near-impossible to follow or even read.  I’ve at least managed to figure out the basic story: Diana is accumulating all of the necessary accoutrements to become Wonder Woman in her fitful sleep, under the guise of collecting the “seven stars”.    It seems that most of these legendary items are in Ancient China, though, which I don’t quite understand.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.
Author: Adam Kubert
Artist: Joe Kubert

I said before that it’d be interesting to see where the Kuberts go from here, and the answer is nowhere.  Nowhere in five weeks is a lot of nowhere.  More visceral images of Rock being tortured.

Flash Comics/Iris West
Authors: Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Dave McCaig

This is a great story!  Barry Allen keeps revisiting the same moments with Gorilla Grodd and Iris West, but each time his nemesis and his lover throw him yet another curveball.  It just goes to show that turning back time won’t solve everything — in fact, it’ll do quite the opposite!

The Demon and Catwoman
Author: Walter Simonson
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze (with Steve Wands)

Walter Simonson’s Demon may not rhyme, but he’s still a damn fine poet.  Catwoman’s not really worthy of her double-billing at this stage, though, so hopefully she’ll shine next week.

Hawkman
Author & Artist: Kyle Baker

It’s disappointing that the sci-fi element of this story was dispensed with so handily this week – I was under the impression that the alien threat was still there – but hopefully we’ll see it return.  Hawkman’s only stopping a plane crash this week, but the final caption promises that next week “it gets worse!”

I’d have to say that this has been by far the strongest installment of Wednesday Comics.  The greats are still great, and some under-performers really hit it out of the park this week.  Certainly worth a read.

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.