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.
Leave it to Scott Snyder to build up a good tease, which he did quite well over the weekend on Twitter. As we wrap up the year-long Court of Owls storyline this month in the main Batman book, fan speculation started building up as to what Snyder and Greg Capullo have next under their sleeve for the next arc. That was revealed today in the DC blog and I think we have a good one coming:
One may think this may not be a big deal since Joker has been the mainstay villain of Batman’s for decades. But within the context of the New 52 continuity, it’s been almost an year since Batman took him to the slammer and Dollmaker cut his face off. We finally get to see what sadistic plans the Clown Prince of Crime has in store for the Batman family and for Gotham as a result of the incident. And if you know Snyder’s work very well, you know this will not be for the weak of heart.
“Joker is my favorite villain of all time,” Snyder told THE SOURCE. “Not just in comics. In everything – film, books, TV. He’s the greatest, hands down. So this story is something extremely important and personal to me – something I’ve been building in my head ever since I started working in Gotham. Basically, this is my big exploration of the Joker, my ARKHAM ASYLUM or THE KILLING JOKE, only bigger in scope. Bottom line: it’s the biggest, baddest, most shocking Joker story I could tell. This is Joker completely unleashed. He has been away for a full year planning this revenge, watching, plotting, setting things up. And now he’s back. He has his traps set, his knives sharpened… And wait ’til you see him. Greg’s sketches literally gave me chills. Point blank: This is Joker like you’ve never seen him before. He has a mission. He has a secret. And he has a serious axe to grind with Batman. It isn’t going to be pretty, but it’s going to be a wild ride. Thanks for taking it with us.”
October 10th is when the madness starts all over again…
After Justice League #1 set up the new status quo for the DCU, we finally get the first salvo of the new 52. And it was a doozy:
- Action Comics #1 gives us Grant Morrison’s new take on the Boy Scout in pants. Nothing spectacular, but good to see it taken back to basics with Superman fighting for the common man while dealing with authorities that want no part of him.
- Batgirl #1 sees Gail Simone take Barbara Gordon out of the chair and back into action. I already knew Simone would bring the great female characterization to Barbara based on her previous runs in Birds of Prey. I expected just as much here as well.
- You wouldn’t have expected much out of Tony Daniel in Detective Comics #1 until those last two pages knocked your socks off.
- Swamp Thing #1 took a newbie like me to the character and made me love it. Scott Snyder does horror right and this character fits his style just well. Yanick Paquette was no slouch either.
- Animal Man #1 also took a newbie like me to the character and made me love it. Jeff Lemire brings his off-the-wall creepiness to this character that sets the stage for great stories. All I have to say is I’m not burying dead pets any time soon.
There’s more of week 1 to come, but I only have so much voice to spare. Tune in soon for part 2 of what’s left of the new 52 in week 1!
Music provided by Jenny Dalton – Tuesday with Zooey
Character moments defined last week’s books and no writer brought it more than Rick Remender. Uncanny X-Force #12 and Venom #5 were top-notch showing from Remender. Whether you felt for Flash Thompson’s struggle to deal with his dying alcoholic father or Psylocke wondering if she should be sticking with her doomed lover in Archangel or a new flame in Fantomex, there was a lot to invest in here.
But of course, Scott Snyder and Jock were no slouches in Detective Comics #880. They take a brief detour into Joker territory issue, but it sets us up for what we’ve been waiting for – the Gordon family showdown. Creepy visuals galore, as dictated by this issue’s cover.
Music provided by 100EZ – One Last Look
San Diego is done. Long Live San Diego. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
5) Venom #5
Did I ever think I’d see the day that I would enjoy a Venom book led by Flash Thompson? That speaks of Rick Remender, Tony Moore, and Tim Fowler’s ability to make this a consistently great book. Tie-ins to the Spider-Island storyline highlight the next issue.
4) American Vampire #17
Stuff got real when Skinner and company broke out of prison in the Pacific battlefield of World War II. Now we hopefully get to see if Pearl is going to have some words with her creator.
3) Sixth Gun #13
Last issue, a mummy came to claim General Hume’s coffin. There’s your hook – now go buy it.
2) X-Men Schism #2
As I’ve said many times before, this is a great time to be an X-Men fan. Jason Aaron is building up the mutant/human tension again and this time, it may cost the relationship between Cyclops and Wolverine. Having Frank Cho on art this time sweetens the pot.
1) Detective Comics #880
Just look at the cover. If that’s not making you buy this, you are a troubled soul.
There was a Flashpoint buzz this week with the major DC event taking the spotlight. And while Flashpoint #3 certainly gave a strong showing with its big reveal of Project Superman, it was Batman Knight of Vengeance #2 that produced the shocks. The gritty vibe of Flashpoint’s portrayal of Gotham and the big reveal of the Joker made this the standout. It whets our appetites for what Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso has in store for their climax next month.
Jonah Hex should never have survived in today’s current comic climate. And yet here we are almost 6 years later and issue 69 is probably the strongest issue to date. This issue gives us two great things – Jeff Lemire’s fantastic art and Hex’s showdown with his father. We don’t know what’s to come when All-Star Western comes out in September, but the adventures here have been some of the best in the DC landscape.
Music from Age of Daze – Afflicted