Category Archives: comic book

Comic Book Friday: Batman Volume 7: The Wedding

Batman, Volume 7: The WeddingAs Kevin Smith has often pointed out, comic books are mainly concerned with the middle part of the story. This explains why certain plot points are introduced in one issue only to see them nullified a few issues later. Such is the case with superhero relationships and potential romantic pairings.

So it is with Batman and this collection of issues leading up to the big marriage of Batman to Catwoman. Either the series was getting ready to have a major change to the status quo of Batman or else there would be a big reset button hit before Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle got to the altar.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s the reset button.

But even before we get to the altar, there are about a hundred pages of treading water to get us there. Putting aside the double sized issue that is the wedding issue with splash pages by some of the most influential names in Batman lore, there are two collected arcs here leading up to the wedding. One is Booster Gold trying to make Batman happy and failing miserably at doing so (which should be a warning as to where all this is going) and the other is Joker and Catwoman battling it out, becoming mortally wounded and then discussing their history together for what feels like an eon.

I was beginning to get frustrated with both stories without having to wait a month or so between issues. Whether I would have enjoyed them more in single installments spread out over time is up for debate, but I have a feeling I’d be left feeling frustrated.

I’ve heard some good things about Tom King’s run on the Dark Knight. And I suppose he had some big shoes to fill when Scott Snyder left. But from what I’ve read here, I’m not in a huge hurry to pick up more of his collected editions. I may at some point out of curiosity. But I am not exactly in a hurry.

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Comic Book Friday: Batman: White Knight

Batman: White KnightDC’s Black Label line of comics has caught a bit of flack lately for a recent installment that brought Batman’s genitalia to light (or in the case of said panel, in shadowy highlight that somehow slipped past the censors at DC and has ensured that issues with the panel in tact will go for a high dollar value on the collector’s market). This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I heard that DC was publishing a line of comics that were intended for adult audiences.

So, it was refreshing to find that the eight issues making up Batman: White Knight did what I wanted a comic book aimed at adult to do — namely, not just rely on flashes of nudity and swearing in order to be “adult.”

The premise is a fairly intriguing one. What if Batman and the Joker switched places in how the citizens of Gotham viewed them? Both are vigilantes who operate outside the law, but Batman has always done so with the tacit endorsement of Jim Gordon and the police while the Joker hasn’t. As this series so intriguingly points out, it’s Batman who causes just as much destruction in his wake taking down the various villains who show up to take on the Caped Crusader. Exactly where the millions of dollars needed each year to rebuild Gotham and how those funds are allocated is just one of the intriguing questions delved into over the course of these eight issues.

The early issue finds Batman and Joker’s battle of wills reaching a new height. After nearly beating the Joker to death with his fists, Gordon and some members of the police force begin to question their loyalty to and endorsement of Batman. When the Joker starts taking a medication that slowly reduces his more manic side and he decides to run for city government, public sentiment begins to turn from the Caped Crusader to the Crowned Prince of Crime. Seems all he needed was the love of a good woman in the first Harley Quinn (the series gives us two women who play Harley to the Joker, thus ticking off a few continuity boxes from how we saw Harley in the animated series and how she was in the big-screen Suicide Squad and the right medication.

But how effective is the medication really? And is the Joker playing some sort of long game to slowly undermine the Batman’s support mechanisms and destroy him once and for all? Could it be that the Joker would rather see his adversary in ruins rather than dead?

It makes for a fascinating story and one that it feels like Batman comics could or should have delved into before now.

If there’s one complaint I have about this collection, it’s that the final issue feels like it’s too quick to wrap things up. I understand there is a follow-up coming our way in the near future and I suppose they had to leave room for more stories to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel that the final installment didn’t stick the landing as effectively as it could or should have.

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Remembering Stan Lee

Much to the chagrin of my AP English teacher, I’d have to say that Stan Lee is one of the writers I’ve read the most. Part of that is due to my obsession with Spider-Man comic books at a young age and into my early teens with Marvel reprinted the entire Lee/Steve Ditko run of Amazing Spider-Man in Marvel Tales. And part of that is because Stan Lee wrote a LOT of comic books.

So, I was saddened to hear that Lee passed away yesterday at the age of 95. For some reason, like many of the Marvel characters he created, I just felt like Stan would live forever. And maybe through his creations like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and so many other iconic characters he will. And his impact on pop culture is undeniable — and it’s only grown over the last decade as the Marvel Studios movies have become the biggest pop culture events on the planet.

Lee was the face and voice of Marvel for such a long time. And while he hasn’t been actively involved in that role in a long time, it’s still hard to imagine that we won’t get a new story by Stan for one of his iconic creations the next time he or she celebrates a milestone issue count or anniversary. Lee had a fertile imagination and while not every comic he wrote was a classic, he had more hits than misses. Listening to his distinctive voice in interviews, I know he wanted to write the “great American novel.” But maybe with the creation of a pantheon of heroes and villains that will continue on for decades to come, he wrote something greater.

I hope that Avengers 4 was able to film a cameo by Lee before his passing. Even so, it will be sad to know that Marvel Studios movies after a certain point will no longer see Lee making his trademark cameo any longer.

But for all the wonderful stories and memories he gave me, I say thank you to Stan Lee. And may you rest in peace.

As Stan would say, Excelsior!

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Comic Book Friday: Man of Steel by John Byrne

Superman: The Man of SteelYears ago, a friend shoved a copy of the collector’s edition first issue of this Superman reboot into my hands and said I should make it part of my comic book collection. And while I can clearly recall having the collector’s cover issue in my collection for years, I can’t recall much about reading it at the time. (In fact, I may not have read it on the off chance that I’d bend the spine and decrease the collect-ability value of the comic in question).

Reading this six-issue reboot of Superman thirty plus years later, I’m impressed by how big an influence it had on just about every version of Superman that’s appeared in pop culture since that time. The six issues reflect a lot of the high points of one of my favorite shows of the ’90s, Lois and Clark. Whether it’s Clark’s parents still being around to serve as sounding boards to Lex Luthor being a billionaire industrialist with his own mischievous agenda that he’s upset gets hijacked by Superman’s appearance on the scene, John Bryne’s take still echoes through comics and pop culture today.

In many ways, I kept feeling like what Bryne was doing with Superman was what Brian Michael Bendis did with Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man line — it was giving a character relevance to a new generation of fans. And certainly, the Man of Steel needed that refresh in the 80’s. This reboot opened the door to many of the other Super storylines to come, including the infamous Death of Superman storyline in the 90’s.

With an introduction by sci-fi great Ray Bradbury, this collection of six issues is a refreshing reboot of one of the iconic comic characters. It’s worth looking at if you haven’t read it before or visiting again if you haven’t read it in a while.

 

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Comic Book Friday: Shazam!, Volume 1

Shazam!Until the rumblings of a potential Shazam movie, my only real point of reference with the character was a Saturday morning cartoon that I vaguely recall from my youth. And beyond the fact that someone shouted, “Shazam!” to turn into the super hero version of themselves, I couldn’t have been more clueless when it comes to a comic book character.

Then, I saw the preview out of San Diego Comic Con for next year’s Shazam! movie and I was intrigued. Part of it could be the casting of Zachary Levi, who I loved on Chuck. And part of it could be that the trailer actually made it look like someone was having fun being a superhero in the DCEU.

So, I decided to check out the new take on Shazam’s origin in this collected edition. And man, if the movie is half as much fun as this comic is, I think the DCEU could finally be on to something. Reading this take on the origin of Shazam, I can’t help but think that Levi is perfect casting for this role as he really got the whole “boy trapped in the body of a grown-up” on Chuck.

Orphaned Billy Batson has moved from foster home to foster home, seemingly never finding a place he fits in. When a new set of foster parents adopts him as part of their family, Billy starts looking for a way out. While running away, he encounters a mystical wizard looking to bestow ancient power on someone who is truly worthy and pure of heart. Alas, Billy Batson ain’t exactly first choice, but he’s the only choice available (and he does have some history of at least trying to be better) and suddenly he can transform into an adult with super powers.

So, like most teens who can suddenly pass for adults, Billy and his foster brother decide not to save the world or stem the tide of evil, but instead go for beer. Eventually, Billy will have to face off against Black Adam, the yin to his Captain Marvel yang.

Seriously, if they just wanted to adapt the story that Geoff Johns has crafted here as the movie, they’d be doing well. I’d be one of the first in line to see it (assuming that there isn’t something animated opening that Shortcake might want to see more, mind you). Reading this and watching the preview, I find myself looking forward to a DC superhero movie for the first time since The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises I also find myself wanting to pick up more installments of Shazam in the future to see where this character may go next.

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Comic Book Friday: The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Volumes 0, 1 & 2

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Vol. 2: The Venom ExperimentA decade ago, the controversial “One Day More” storyline saw the Spider-universe hit a ginormous reset button and remove the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson from the continuity. Years later, another huge crossover event would, the second (or is it the third) Secret Wars storyline saw the creation of a parallel universe where Peter and MJ are still married and raising a daughter.

Their daughter, May, has similar powers to those of her father. In the wake of an evil overlord named Monarch who seems intent on collecting all the super powers he can get his mitts on, Peter is hopping to stay one step ahead of the latest detection devices for himself and his daughter. But when they get noticed and rumors of the Spider-Man’s return begin to surface, Peter finds himself fighting to defend his family — and now the family wants to join the fight.

The resolution of that storyline encompasses volume 0 of this series and then things really get going on volumes 1 and 2. Written by long-time Spider-writer Gerry Conway, these collection of arcs is a lot more fun than they have any right to be. Having recently revisited Conway’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I should expect from these issues. But after trying to read much of the current storylines taking place in the Spider-Man universe, I found these refreshingly easy to digest, straight-forward and welcoming to readers who haven’t memorized every detail of comic book continuity for the past decade. Seeing Peter try to juggle his secret identity along with the demands of the two women in his life to be part of the crime-fighting team gives the story some much needed depth. The second collection even raises the stakes a bit by having MJ become motivated to contribute to the team (tech left over from Monarch lets her share Peter’s powers) and turning to Liz Allen for a new version of the Venom symbiote.

These three collections are some of the best recent Spider-Man stories I’ve read and they reminded me of what it was that I initially loved so much about my favorite wallcrawler.

 

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Comic Book Friday: The Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity GauntletWhile I still haven’t seen Avenger: Infinity War yet, I’m still curious about the source material that led to what I’ll (eventually) see on-screen. (It hits home theater on physical disc in August and I plan to pick it up then)

So, I checked out a copy of The Infinity Gauntlet from my library’s digital collection and started reading.

The first thing I noticed was this six-issue mini-series was written by Jim Starlin, whose work I previously encountered in the much-hyped Batman mini-series A Death in the Family. You may recall I wasn’t a huge fan of that work, so I will admit I approached this one with a bit of caution.

I need not have worried too much. The Infinity Gauntlet feels like the next big crossover event after they were put on the map with Secret War in the 80’s. All of Earth’s heroes are brought together to take on Thanos, who is trying to impress Mistress Death and win her heart. To do this, he’s assembled the Infinity Gauntlet and trying to show her why he’s the baddest guy in all of the cosmos.

And while Thanos takes on a lot of the Marvel cast and crew, he still never quite wins her heart. An epic story, I can see why Marvel Studios chose this as the culmination of ten years of cinematic storytelling. At times, the story feels cinematic and like one that would work well as a movie. I’m going to assume there are some big differences between what I’ll see on-screen and what’s on the page. But that it’s interesting to see how this will be the jumping off point for an epic film.

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