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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

Batman: The Man Who Laughs

Read “Batman: The Man Who Laughs” over the past few days. This is a comic intended to be a sequel to “Batman: Year One”, introducing the Joker, and was a good read. It wasn’t as awesome as Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” but is worth a read nevertheless.

The Joker artwork is a close second to “The Killing Joke”. It isn’t as smooth or stunning as the latter, but is good anyways. There’s more story in this comic too and I felt Gordon’s character was more fleshed out.

“The Killing Joke” included another comic called ” Made of Wood”. This was a pleasant surprise. It’s by the same writer (Ed Brubacker) but by a different artist and both the story and artwork were miles ahead. The story in this one is a detective mystery and Batman is accompanied by (surprise!) Green Lantern. I loved the artwork – the details, the colours – and also the plot. I liked the mystery investigation stuff. It was great and a must read for any Batman fan. In fact, the story and artwork reminded me of the Batman comics I used to read as a kid. The way they used to be simple and straightforward and less dark and broody (although I like dark and broody now). Good one!

The Long Halloween

Just finished reading “The Long Halloween”, another excellent Batman comic. This one’s by Jeph Loeb with artwork by Tim Sale.

It seems that every other Batman comic apart from “The Dark Knight Returns” is excellent! The artwork and story of this is miles ahead of the latter and yet every one seems to hold “The Dark Knight Returns” as some sort of gold standard. To me, “The Long Halloween” is way better. Yes it’s not as dark as “The Dark Knight Returns”, and there’s less inner monologue and doubts from Batman. There’s also no build up to a major even like a (unnecessary, in my opinion) Superman Batman clash to spice things up, but I still prefer “The Long Halloween”. The artwork too is much pleasing and fits the story. “The Dark Knight Returns” had a hugely muscular Superman and Batman and everything was presented very grotesque and exaggerated.

Hmm, I am conscious how every other comic review of mine mentions and contrasts with “The Dark Knight Returns”! Must stop doing that.

“The Long Halloween” continues from “Batman: Year One”, which is a good comic penned by Frank Miller (same author as “The Dark Knight Returns”, in fact “Batman: Year One was written after “The Dark Knight Returns”). “The Long Halloween” tells the story of a series of murders targeting members of the Carmine “The Roman” Falcone family. The murders happen on holidays, starting from one Halloween and ending on another. Batman, Gordon, and Dent try to uncover the killer. Side by side Dent tries to get Falcone behind bars legally, and that sub plot ultimately leads to the creation of Two Face.

Many Batman villains are present in this one, including the Joker. I didn’t find the artwork and colouring of the Joker as stunning as that in “The Killing Joke” though. For me the latter is the gold standard for Joker artwork. The Joker has the most presence, while villains like Scarecrow and Mad Hatter have a blink and miss presence. These latter villains are presented as working for Falcone in investigating the holiday murders and so their presence is incidental. The Catwoman continues her role from “Batman: Year One” and in this one her alter ego and Batman’s alter ego seem to be dating. That is a jump from “Batman: Year One”.

Apart from the story I loved the artwork, colouring, and text of this comic. Everything gelled together well and it was a pleasure reading it. As I mentioned, the story isn’t dark nor does it have any layers to it (at least none I could discern). So this puts it in the easy reading category. A cool thing about the “The Long Halloween” is also its gangster focus. You could say this is a Batman story set in a Godfather environment. Gotham City is in the control of the mafia and Batman, Gordon, and Dent are working to bring them down. The artwork depicting the mafia is super cool! Fits the mood perfectly and I wish the authors would create a Godfather series in comics. That would be awesome!

Overall, a great comic, and now I must check out its sequel.

Superman: Earth One

Today I read “Superman Earth One”. Another amazing comic! I am thankful for Amazon’s offer last month of comics for US$5.99 or less. I managed to buy many comics through that and am enjoying them.

“Superman Earth One” is what “Man of Steel” should have been. I didn’t enjoy “Man of Steel” much. At that time I attributed the dislike to maybe me having high expectations from it or wishing something along the lines of a “The Dark Knight” and so I kept my opinions to myself and decided to see how the story develops in the sequels. (Which I am doubtful about now, by the way, because if the studio is confident about the movie and story then why are they introducing characters like Batman and Wonder Woman? Sure these are rumored to be not central to the movie, but still they are a sure shot way of working up frenzy for the movie and I don’t see why a studio that’s confident about its product needs to do that).

The artwork in “Superman Earth One” is excellent. The coloring eye catching, and the story sufficiently dark and broody and grounded. I loved it! “Man of Steel” had a lot of things I didn’t like. Amy Adams as Lois Lane didn’t feel right, the way she uncovered Superman was contrived as was her being used as a hostage, the subplot of Jor-El being in the space ship and also his suit being provided from there just didn’t feel natural, Clark’s father not wanting him to expose his identity made sense but it was obviously harming the boys’ self confidence and that wasn’t addressed satisfactorily, and so on. But “Superman Earth One” takesĀ  sensible route with all this. Sure, his father tells Clark not to expose his identity, but he isn’t so morose or harmful to the boy’s confidence with it. The spaceship is present, but no Jor-El. The Superman suit was made by his mother and she went on to explain why the colors are thus (apart from her not having a choice) and also why Superman doesn’t need a mask. Tyrell discovers during his search for Superman that other suns gave them both power and that Kryptonian sunlight (real or artificial) is a weakness for them. Tyrell is also smart enough to build his spaceship using material from his home planet, making it unbreakable for Superman. I could go on and on… heck, even Perry White is so much better in the comic and has depth to it!

Apart from the comic the interview piece at the end added more depth to the story. That was Superman’s chance to speak to the readers and public and he uses it to clarify how he didn’t know of the intruders and more importantly how he works for humanity and NOT any Government. That was brilliant! That was one aspect of Superman I used to hate – how he was reduced to be an agent of the US (something which Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns” too points out) and it was good to see the writers address it head on here.

A great re-imagining of an iconic character! Simply superb and one which will appeal to all geeks and comic fans.

The Killing Joke

Today I read “Batman: The Killing Joke”, a 46 page short comic on Batman and the Joker. I love the visuals in this! They are absolutely stunning and it’s such a refreshing change from those in “The Dark Knight Rises”. Brighter, better colors, yet dark so not to be too colorful or light, and with amazing detail and good quality. The characters have more life and detail too. The Joker looks so life like and the Batman has a Sean Connery look to him!

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The story is short but filled with punch. Makes you think. Batman and the Joker are a match with a special relationship, and that’s explored here. And so is a question of what makes one a villain? Is it just “one bad day” – a series of ill timed events that unhinge your mind and morality and you turn into someone else? If so, can any rational person be subjected to such pressure and forced to change? That’s what the Joker explores here. Neat idea, I must say!

The Joker’s dialogs are just like one would expect from, along with his typical sense of humor. Batman looks just like he used to in the comics of my childhood. And the focus is on the story for the story’s sake, no unnecessary melodrama here.

I read the deluxe version and that included an afterword by the artist Brian Bolland, as well as a short piece by him called “Innocent Guy”. That too was a fun read with the same stunning visuals and detail – I just love the visuals!

A must read for any Batman fan!

The Dark Knight Returns

I have been reading “The Dark Knight Returns” (comic) past few days. It’s a good read but I wasn’t as blown away by it as I expected. Maybe it’s just me – the comic has a high rating and huge fan following after all.

I liked the idea of the story. And I liked the old Batman narrative. That was some great story telling. His fears, his reasons, the challenges he has to face and overcome. That was great and dark! What I didn’t like much though was the overall plot. There didn’t really seem to be much to it except setup for this fight between Superman and Batman and Batman’s eventual fake death. The story seemed to involve unnecessarily releasing Batman’s old villains and then blaming Batman for whatever wrong they did. I enjoy the twist there – that the villains were bad because of Batman and so he is to blame here, and I can see the influence of this in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (especially the second one) – yet the way it was told in the comics didn’t resonate much with me. It felt superficial and fast. Too many villains, too many blames, no time to convince me that perhaps Batman could be at fault here or that the Doctors and public point if view is worth thinking about.

The fight sequences were beautifully drawn. And I liked Commissioner Gordon a lot more in this compared to “Batman: Year One” – there was more depth to his character. In fact I liked the Joker too here. The way he escapes and then incriminates Batman by killing himself – typical Joker stuff! Which is why I am confused about my feelings for this comic because I seemed to have enjoyed the individual elements but just didn’t like the overall pointless story.

The culmination of this story – the grand fight between Superman was well done too, and I enjoyed the dialogues as well as the fake death idea. That was a good resolution.