It’s not every day that I get nice things. That changed when my friend won VIP tickets to an advanced screening at the Paley Center in NYC last Thursday. Warner Animation and DC have been doing this lately with their animated showings to get the hype going. And for me to see the 16th in DC’s collection of great animated movies and the most anticipated of the batch is the greatest honor.
For us Batfans, we all know how this goes. This is re-telling the Frank Miller story that not only changed the direction of a famed character to a more darker setting, but helped set that same mood and tone for future stories and characters to come. You can say that DC is still trying to relive that aura with all of their books in the New 52 (almost to a fault perhaps), but the industry itself has been greatly affected by what Dark Knights Returns was able to achieve.
Part 1 gave us the first two books in the saga with Bruce Wayne making his way back to the cowl to face the threat of Two-Face and the Mutants. He picked up a new Robin along the way. Saw the Commissioner hang it up. And Joker woke up.
No question that this was the one long-time fans wanted to see. Joker returning to his sadistic roots and the government lackey Superman will do that for you. What really set this adaptation going was that same mood and tone we got from the comic. This just went to darker places that even I didn’t think DC and Warner would have the guts to do even given the material they were working with. You felt it particularly with Joker’s appearances, which should be no surprise to anybody especially if you’re been reading Scott Snyder’s recent take on the character. I’m surprised the R rating wasn’t considered – guess I’ll see when my Blu-Ray copy arrives.
Speaking of the Clown Prince, give it up for Michael Emerson for giving me terrible nightmares. Something about the character just makes the actor playing him – to borrow a line from the flick – “lose control”. Anybody who’s seen Emerson play Ben on “Lost” can see that manipulative and sadistic side that works well with this character. It’s basically “Dark Knight” Joker times 11 – if that is even possible.
And then we have Mark Valley, fresh off a shortened stint on Human Target, taking on the Lackey of Steel. A fine performance where you didn’t expect much of the character to do much other than be the foil for Bruce that represents what he isn’t. He’s not likable here but yet wants to be because of the choices he made. Even though we know the outcome, it makes the final battle between these long-time friends/adversaries all the more sweeter.
Let’s not forget our regulars from the first showing – Peter Weller keeps the gritty going with a man who knows he’s coming to his end soon. I felt he brought a lot more to this than what was complained about in part 1 regarding his monotone interpretation of his lines. I could have used more “oomph” from his rally speech midway through the film, but it gets the job done. Ariel Winter kept providing some spunk to her Robin character, which was a nice contrast to the grim and gritty mentor she followed.
Sixteen movies done with these adaptations and DC and Warner seem to keep getting better when it comes to animation and fight sequences. They somehow have managed to master the pacing of the 75-minute movie and made it feel like it was more. Say what you will about a Batman in his 50s moving as fast as he does, but it sure makes for some well-choreographed battles.
I’m still conflicted on this and Under the Red Hood as my favorites of the batch. The latter still stays close to me because of how it unhinged itself from the source material (Infinite Crisis was prominent during the comic’s run) and made the story arc even better. But this is the granddaddy that the tone of all Bat books is based off for the last 25 years. It’d be hard not to celebrate it as one of the best. I’ll leave it open and say kudos to DC for once again reminding us for why we became fans.
It’s that time once again. I quickly take a look back at 2012 and look forward to 2013, but otherwise – we’re narrowing it down to the top 5 books of CBF for the year and picking the one that stood out. A strong list, but only one can prevail. What are your thoughts on the top picks for 2012?
Best to the new year!
One would think I’d be tired of the Rotworld arc going into Animal Man #13, but I like the new direction it’s taking. Just when you thought Buddy Baker and Swamp Thing had it all figured out, the Rot plays its wild card and takes us into the future where the Rot has won. Jeff Lemire continues to bring the goods with this story while still keeping Buddy and family in mind.
And if you’re looking to get out of the New 52 and get good old-fashioned Batman storytelling going, look no further than Legends of the Dark Knight #1. This was well-missed when it was cancelled back in 2007 and it makes a great comeback with an impressive array of talent in Damen Lindelof, Jeff Lemire, JG Jones, and Nicola Scott for starters.
And lastly, there’s that giant elephant again with the final issue of Avengers vs. X-Men #12. I’ve said my piece already about the previous issue and it unfortunately continues to hurt it here. Jason Aaron does what he can to wrap things up (and it was fine enough), but not enough to get over the inconsistent pacing, unexplained appearances of characters, and lack of meat to a story that had 12 issues to tell it. That being said, art continues to win with this event and Adam Kubert delivered it in spades.
Scott Snyder’s penultimate issue of this mini-series keeps delivering the goods with great action and more great history of Carpathian vampire lore. He does what great monster movies tend to do, which is build up the presence of a great evil without actually showing him. And having Dustin Nguyen on hand to create this aura/presence is what makes this mini-series just as fantastic as the main one.
Snyder, along with Greg Capullo, also gets to play with New 52 origins with Batman #0. Bruce Wayne’s origin story is not anything we haven’t seen before, but is still solid enough of a build as we get into next month’s Death of the Family arc. James Tynion IV’s back-up story though was great, as we see the impact of Batman on his eventual partners’ lives.
And then there’s Avengers vs. X-Men #11. If you didn’t catch my rant on Twitter or Facebook last week after reading this issue, then you’ll want to listen to this.
It was a small week for comics, so I kicked things off with some trade talk. I get into some Gotham Central talk with volume 3 of the acclaimed Ed Brubaker/Greg Rucka run. One of the many great books I missed during my interim period that I was out of comics. This is something TV networks would be wise to pick up (*cough* CW *cough*) any time soon. Brubaker’s Catwoman is next on my list.
Then we get into Batman #12 and another well-written issue from Scott Snyder. The Court of Owls epilogue focuses solely on Harper Row and her interactions with the Dark Knight as she struggles in a not-so-great neighborhood. What really surprised is how much I loved the Becky Cloonan art and its Scott Pilgrim similarities. I need more of that in a Batman arc in the near future.
September 25th is going to be an awesome day. At last, MTV Geek reveals the trailer for DC’s next animated DVD/Blu-Ray offering with the first part of Frank Miller’s revered comic, The Dark Knight Returns:
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Holy freaking cow…
The animation is spot on, with some scenes completely taken out of the book, and Peter Weller seems to bring a great grizzled representation of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Ariel Winter looks like she’s going to bring a lot of spunk to Robin as well.
The cover image for the movie, while it doesn’t evoke Frank Miller imagery, still looks fantastic:
This is the holy grail of Batman comics come to life, people. Look for it on September 25th with part 2 coming out in early 2013.