Justice League is your typical superhero movie: heroes save the world from a seemingly impossible force.  However, it is a welcome break from dark and gritty films that are almost unpleasant for viewers to watch.  The primary source of conflict is Steppenwolf, played by Ciarán Hinds, who wants to destroy and subjugate the world- in that order, mind you- and the heroes must stop him.  It’s pretty cut and dry, yet entertaining.

The beginning of the film splits its time between each hero fairly equally.  The storytelling, in the beginning, is somewhat disjointed as a result, but it works because it brings all of the pieces together at the end while making each hero relatable.

Ben Affleck’s Batman is dealing with a crisis of conscience after the death of Superman when these mysterious bug-like monsters begin attacking people and places around Gotham and Metropolis.  He seeks out Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, portrayed by Gal Gadot.  Together, Diana and Batman seek out other potential heroes to help in the fight against Steppenwolf and to save the world.  They bring together three other people with “abilities,” or superpowers.  The people they find are Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg played by Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher respectively.

Things the movie did right:

  • Strong characterization

 Each hero is given a substantial amount of screentime.  We get the opportunity to see into their real, non-hero lives.  For example, The Flash’s father was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife.  This motivates Flash to seek out a degree in criminal justice, but he has been struggling to make ends meet on his own.  Aquaman’s mother abandoned him with his land-dwelling father, which led him to become a sort of recluse who comes out only to help the people of a remote community by the sea.  Cyborg struggles with his mechanical side and blames his father for his condition while still loving and caring about him.

Once the fighting is about to begin, the young adult Flash admits that he is terrified and he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to fight.  Batman offers him encouragement and takes on a mentoring role with Flash.  Flash grows more and more into his position as a member of the team as the film progresses.  The Flash is one of the most interesting characters because he is open and honest about his faults and flaws if a little- or a lot- awkward.

The relationships between the superheroes are excellently written.  They don’t immediately get along like magic but have to work together to learn to operate as a team.  Bruce Wayne is an absolute jerk to Wonder Woman, and she doesn’t take it.  They have a physical altercation, and the rest of the team is visibly uncomfortable during this exchange.  Aquaman thinks that Batman is sort of a joke with his dressing up as a bat to fight crime.  The Flash tries to interact with and make a strong first impression on each character, but he bumbles each attempt.

  • Storytelling Speed

The movie moves quickly once it’s going.  It starts out slow as it delves into each superhero’s personal lives- with the sole exceptions of Batman and Wonder Woman, who have already been introduced to the audience- and balances out the action with scenes developing relationships between the characters.  When the action near the end gets going, though, it really gets going and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat.

  • Action!

The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed. After each fight scene, the newly formed team learns more and more how to operate as a unit rather than just like a bunch of strangers punching bad guys until they die.

  • Connecting to the previous film, Batman vs. Superman

Everything that is happening in this film is a direct or indirect consequence of Superman’s death.  Everything.  The arrival of Steppenwolf, the activation of the “mother blocks,” the way that Lois Lane isn’t able to write serious newspaper articles, and Bruce Wayne’s guilt- it all connects back to Superman’s death.

 

Things the movie did wrong:

  • Failed the Bechdel Test

There aren’t many women in the movie with speaking lines, and there is almost never a scene where the women speak without making a reference to a man, such as Steve Trevor for Diana and Superman/Clark Kent for Lois Lane and his mother.  The above-mentioned altercation between Wonder Woman and Batman was because Batman said something insensitive to Diana about Steve Trevor.  There was one scene where an unnamed woman talks to her husband about the dangerous situation they are in, but her lines are brief and par for the course- irrelevant, really.

  • Wasted time on side characters

This one is sort of a mixed bag.  In some ways, spending time with Superman’s family and loved ones is helpful, as it shows the effects of the previous movie, Batman vs. Superman, in which Superman dies.  For fans of DC in general, it connects Justice League with previous movies.  However, Justice League spends a lot of time following random characters, some of whom the audience has no investment in, such as Aquaman’s fellow Atlanteans.  There was a small family of four, which had been shoehorned into the film presumably to bring home the severity of the threat against humanity, but really, they weren’t necessary.  They could have been left out until the very end when they are rescued, and the effect would have, more or less, been the same.

All in all, the film was enjoyable, and there were little moments of humor sprinkled in to lighten the mood.  The relationships between the characters visibly grew and developed over time, and they learned to work together by the end of the film.  My rating for this film, taking all of the above points in mind, is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.  If you enjoy fun, easy to watch films about superheroes with a happy ending, go and check this one out.  It won’t disappoint.

Today we examine the beauty of the single issue, but for DC comics. If you enjoyed my last article exploring some of Marvel’s best one shots, then I hope you stick around for this entry. DC has no shortage of excellent one shots as well.

Much like Marvel, I’m sure I forgot to add, or simply haven’t read many other great single issues that are out there, so don’t be mad if I miss a few of your favorites.

This list will be focusing on stories that do not require a vast amount of background to be ale to enjoy. That’s what makes the one shot so easy and accessible to read. Let’s proceed.

 

Sandman Mystery Theatre: by Matt Wagner, Stephen T. Seagle & various artists

Many fans, and perhaps non fans, are aware of Neil Gaiman’s critically  lauded series, Sandman. Too many people are not as aware of the other Sandman series that was going on for much of the same time, Sandman Mystery Theatre. It ran for 70 issues and had a small, but devoted fan base.

The series is a period piece set mainly during the depression era . It follows the exploits of Wesley Dodds, the golden age Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman had nothing to do with this version. Gaiman touched on the golden age Sandman briefly, but that’s about it. Wesley Dodds was just a mild mannered detective with a costume and a gas gun, very pulpy. The stories were always praised for its historical accuracy, mature tone and compelling characters. It’s exploration of relationships was rather interesting and unique as well.

This annual is a perfect mix of everything that made this series so good, and it’s all done on one issue. It’s about a mysterious central park attacker that is on the loose and terrorizing the citizens of New York. The other problem is that this mugger bares a striking resemblance to Sandman. Sandman is forced to try and stop this attacker while evading capture from the police himself.

It’s a great mystery story that really knows how to keep the audience engaged. It’s also notable for having a few recognizable guest artists for this issue, like Alex Ross! If you want to sink your teeth into a really good noir styled mystery, check this out. You just might crave more and jump into the actual series.

 

 

Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special: by Geoff Johns, Brett Booth & Art Baltazar

If you want something that’s a little lighter in tone than try this out. It’s one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read. It centers mostly around the Orange Lantern, Larfleeze. ( Orange Lantern’s are powered by avarice.) Larfleeze is essentially a powerful alien hoarder. He wants anything and everything, so when Christmas comes rolling around, he’s intrigued. Naturally, Larfleeze attempts to take Christmas for himself no matter what. Green Lantern must intervene and hilarity ensues thereafter. The art is dynamic and matches the chaotic tone of the comic. Not only is it funny, but it’s also endearing at times. Geoff Johns makes you care about this selfish pain in the ass of an alien. You just want to see more of him and that’s a credit to the writing.

It even comes with a recipe to bake Larfleeze cookies! My girlfriend was kind enough to try the recipe out, which put a smile on my nerdy face. Yum yum, nothing like frosty orange colored cookies.

 

 

Gotham Knights # 32- by Devin Grayson & Roger Robinson

Honestly Batman could have his own one shots list but for now, here we are. Gotham Knights # 32 is a less well known issue that really deserves more attention. This issue happens to be Devin Grayson’s last issue on the series, and it’s quite a nice send off. It really encapsulates what makes Batman who he is. Not a flashy issue, the aptly titled ” 24/7″ is just a day in the life for Bruce Wayne and Batman. In the morning Bruce Wayne takes meetings, attends dedication ceremonies, visits a friend in the hospital and has dinner with the Foxes. Bruce manages to squeeze every minute of time from these endeavors to do some good, however small it may be.

When night falls, Batman takes part in a more direct approach. He stops crimes, saves lives, keeps an eye on Robin and visits Barbara. There’s more, but you get the idea.

For me, this issue shines a light on two very important aspects of Batman/Bruce Wayne, which are his obsessively dogged determination and his unyielding desire to help people. In many ways these are the things that make Batman so special. It’s that, coupled with the fact that he’s only a man, not Superman or Green Lantern or even Spider-man. He has to work twice as hard as them and still have enough juice left in the tank to get it all done and make it to the next day and do it all again. But the Batman will never quit or complain will he?

Look out for this wonderfully character driven issue of our favorite Dark Knight.

 

 

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year 4 Annual #1- by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo

Injustice takes place in an alternate reality where Superman has snapped and become a tyrant. Batman, and a small group of resistance fighters attempt to fight his tyranny and take back the world. During Superman’s quest for power he creates a super-max prison where he has imprisoned every super villain you can name. Superman has also imprisoned anybody who stands against him, like the Green Lantern Corps.

This annual marks the return of fan favorite writer, Tom Taylor’s to the series he started, and boy does he deliver. It’s a story about escaping the super-max prison, while also serving as an excellent character piece. The character on full display in this issue is Plastic Man. That’s right, Plastic Man. Usually considered the butt end of many jokes and mostly forgotten over the years, Plastic Man has not had many “great” or defining stories. He’s always been thrown in for laughs, not much else. That all changes in this thrilling tale about a father trying to save his son.  Plastic Man surfaces so that he can help bust his son out the super-max prison and start a new life away from the madness around him.

The story moves so fast, simply because you can’t wait to see what happens next. The emotional component proved to be the most surprising thing throughout this issue. I really felt for Plastic Man and actually rooted for him more than ever. How many times can you say that about Plastic Man?

it’s an awesome comic that is definitely the highlight of a rather mediocre for Injustice: Year 4 . Seek it out.

 

 

Action Comics # 775 – by Joe Kelly & various artists

 

This issue gives us the Superman we all know and love, for better or for worse. There was a DC animated movie that was based on this issue titled “Superman vs The Elite”, which I’ve always said is the perfect movie for any Superman hater to watch. The same goes for this issue. It’s won a few awards and has been loved by many fans over the years that it was first published.

One of the best things about the comic is that it touches on many of the things Superman haters gripe most about, Superman’s unwillingness to kill. In the issue, a new superhero team called The Elite show up to Metropolis very much willing to kill bad guys and clean up the world. At first they try to get Superman on board but eventually they give him an ultimatum. ” Do it our way or be destroyed.” The funny thing is that most of the public like The Elite and even agree with their harsher stance on criminals.

This leads to many more questions like, is Superman relevant? Does the world need heroes like this? It packs a punch and does not shy away from the hard truth. Superman is faced with the decision of succumbing to public pressure and opinion or doing the right thing and staying true to himself. I love this comic because it paints the picture as to why Superman exists and what he really represents, not only in the world of the DC universe, but what he represents to the society we live in today. A society that is maybe, a bit to eager for bloodshed. A bit too quick to anger and ultimately, too quick to hate.

Superman is meant to embody an ideal and NOT succumb to the anger and fear many of us could have. This is what this comic illustrates so eloquently. Superman fans and non-fans, I urge you to read this. Just trying out this one issue may give you a respect and understanding  of the character, and above all, the importance of having a Superman in a world full of antiheroes.

 

 

Nightwing (vol 2) # 25 – by Chuck Dixon & Scott McDaniel

This comic has the distinction of being ranked #67 in Wizard Magazine’s list of “100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born”. It’s a thoughtful and touching issue about legacy and brotherhood. The simple premise of this story finds Nightwing and Robin( Tim Drake) on a night out training. They go through this self made gauntlet evading obstacles, fighting crime and bonding together.

Sharing a few personal stories ends up leading to several nice moments and one big revelation. They are able to trust each other and open up in a way that they can’t with Batman. Nightwing certainly takes a big brother role in this story. He gives Robin advice and listens to Robin without needing to judge him. It’s really a treat to read these two characters just being human and dare I say, normal but without being boring, that’s the beauty of this issue. It marries text and visual well enough to really showcase what the comic medium can do when it’s at it’s best. It’s a bit of a search to find this issue but well worth it.

 

 

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 – by Peter Tomasi & Doug Mahnke

There’s two things here that are important to note. I love Martian Manhunter and he loves Oreo cookies. For those unaware, Martian Manhunter was killed off rather unceremoniously in the pages of the major event series,” Final Crisis”.

This comic book acts as a eulogy for one of the most beloved members of the Justice League. it’s really a heartfelt sendoff that really makes you feel the grief that all the characters feel for their fallen friend. Far too many times the superheroes of these stories never get to deal with death. Not really anyway. They don’t have time to mourn, reminisce or have a ceremonies for their fallen brothers and sisters in arms. Sometimes they don’t even have a body to bury at all. That’s why it’s so refreshing to read an entire issue of superheroes going through the grieving process because, let’s not forget that superheroes are ultimately people too. And we as people, will encounter death and we’ll need to deal with it too. I’m not saying that the magnitude of loss will be the same in the real world… No, not at all. I’m just saying that seeing these characters go through these complex emotions humanizes them and allows them to relate to us just a bit more. It may even help some readers cope with things, even just a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone deals with loss differently, which the comic touches on too. It’s a nice script with some solid and emotive art to boot.

The ending is my favorite part. Read it and you’ll find out why.

 

Batman Adventures ( vol 2) # 17 – by Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett

Batman Adventures #17 is a comic that has had plenty of accolades and awards thrown it’s way. It’s a fantastic issue that addresses something that hasn’t been explored too often in the Batman mythos. What happened to Joe Chill?

Joe Chill is responsible for the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the defining moment of Batman. This makes Joe Chill almost as important a villain as The Joker or Two Face, now just imagine a reunion between he and Batman? It’s an issue done by the creative team of Templeton & Burchett, who had been putting out quality work on Batman Adventures for a number of years already. Many fans and critics have said it’s one of the best Batman comic series of all time, and it’s hard to argue with that once you see the quality of this issue. It’s got a hell of a story and it doesn’t skimp out characterization either. It gives us a rare look at things from the view point of Joe Chill.

The story begins with Chill in the present day. He’s worn down and constantly lives in fear and regret. Fear of ever being discovered as the murderer of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s parents, and in regret of not having finished the job on Wayne himself. He can’t sleep, and it’s even gotten so bad that Chill sees Bruce Wayne’s face everywhere, on everyone. Things get worse when a detective from the GCPD, decides to reopen the Wayne’s unsolved murder case.  The story only gets better from there. If that’s not enough to hook you in I don’t know what is.

It’s a masterclass in storytelling, short form or otherwise. The story is tight tight tight. Every page has a purpose and every moment ties into the next moment. It’s truly a great issue with a great payoff. There are times where you might find yourself turning pages and gasping, and then smiling quickly afterwards. We all know how Bruce Wayne dealt with his parents murder, so it was intriguing to see what life has been like for the man who actually committed the crime. Complex themes of guilt, remorse and trauma are explored in a comic that was supposed to be dismissed as a kiddie comic. That’s perspective for you.

 

 

Nightwing ( vol 2.)  Annual #2 – by Marc Andreyko & Joe Bennett

Nightwing makes another appearance on my list, this time with Batgirl by his side. To be honest it’s a story about her as much as it is about him. This annual tells that tale of Nightwing and Batgirl’s rather complicated romantic relationship over the years.

The comic starts with Nightwing injured and lying in bed with Barbara Gordon at his bedside. She tends to his wounds and lets him know that he’s been in a coma for weeks. The comic then jumps from the past to the present.

We see Dick and Barbara’s rather embarrassing first encounter.( A rather awkward and hilarious way to meet) We see their first date, the reason they broke up and even the moment in time where Dick finds out that Barbara has been paralyzed. It’s equal parts sad, funny and charming. It’s even fairly romantic, but not in a sappy way. Marc Andreyko really writes the hell out of these two characters. He manages to give them a chemistry that practically leaps off the page. He also does such a masterful job of weaving the convoluted comics history of these two characters. Joe Bennett is no slouch. His artwork keeps right up with the quality of the writing.

I remember I picked this up on a whim and started reading it on the subway ride home. Before I knew it, I was completely focused in on the story and was hoping I wouldn’t get home before finishing it.

Everyone has either been, or knows someone who has been in a complicated relationship like Dick and Barbara’s. Again, moments and themes like these manage to humanize the characters and make us care and relate to them more. I found the ending surprisingly mature and realistic, for a comic especially. It’s certainly my favorite Nightwing issue of all time. Track it down.

 

 

Brave & The Bold ( vol 2.) #33 – by J. Michael Straczynski & Cliff Chiang

We end the list with, probably my favorite issue out of the bunch. It’s a story titled ” Ladies Night” and it tells the story of Wonder Woman and Zatanna deciding to take Batgirl out for one night of pure fun.

From the beginning of the story we see that doing this for Batgirl is important to both Wonder Woman and Zatanna, we find out why later. Batgirl takes some convincing, but ultimately gives in. The result is a carefree night on the town for 3 women that don’t often get that luxury. It’s really great to see these three iconic superheroes just kickback and have fun like regular women. On the surface it’s just a fun story but by the end it’s so much more than that. It’s a tale of sorrow, trauma, acceptance, consequences and most importantly friendship. Saying anything more about the story directly is a disservice to it. The art is just as good as the script. I’ve never seen Cliff Chiang eclipse the work he did on this issue. His run on Wonder Woman comes close, but this issue still reigns supreme for me.

Much like a suggestion I made on the Marvel list of one shots, if you read just one issue of all the issues on this list, make it this one. Tracking it down for a decent price will be a task, let me tell you, so I would suggest to pick up the trade.( Team-Ups of the Brave & the Bold) It’s totally worth it, plus you get a lot of other quality stories in there as well.

That does it for my DC one shot recommendations. Stay tuned for more in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Night:A True Batman Story: By Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso ( Vertigo/Dc comics)

true bat

Anyone who is a fan of Batman knows the name Paul Dini, and even if you’re a moderate fan, chances are that his work has come to your attention at some point. After all, he is the co creator of Harley Quinn, who’s popularity is at an all time high. Paul Dini was a principal figure in shaping the world of Batman: the animated series. He wrote arguably the best episodes, none the least being ” Heart Of Ice.” He went on to write more Batman while working on Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited.

His run on Detective Comics also ranks high on his Bat achievements and to top it off he wrote two of the most successful Batman video games of all time! ( Arkham Asylum & Arkham City.)

gammasquaddini

Clearly the man knows Batman. His latest effort ( Dark Night: A True Batman Story) dives back into the world of Batman… Sort of. It’s actually a real life account of a terrible time in Paul Dini’s own life. One night during the 90’s Paul Dini suffered a brutal attack at the hands of muggers in L.A. The attack was so bad that he was beaten to within an inch of his life.

This graphic novel tells that tale and the work it took to overcome his demons and move past his ordeal. It’s a surprisingly naked look at Paul Dini’s personal life and all the problems he had before AND after the attack. Where does Batman come in? Dini uses Batman and the world around him as a further exploration of his psyche. Sort of like the angel ( Batman) and the devil on his shoulder( Joker). Let’s dive in and dissect it a bit further.

Story:

It”s essentially a recounting of parts of his life. Right off the bat, the first panel is a full page spread of Dini lying in a hospital bed. His face and head are covered in bandages.  We start with a brief glimpse into Dini’s past when he was growing up as a child. We discover that Dini had confidence issues and because of this he developed a vivid imagination to make him feel happy and safe. Perhaps it’s thanks to this imagination that Dini is able to write his characters so truthfully.

We get quick flashes forward in time and see the progression of his career. Eventually we get to the time when he was at his peak in terms of success, but even throughout this time he lacked the complete fulfillment he desired. Finding true love and companionship being his biggest hurdle.

It’s a treat to see Dini working at the Warner Bros. office and interacting with his co-workers during the height of Batman T.A.S. These moments are fleeting as the focus is always on Dini more than anything else. Even at this time Dini’s imagination would run wild. Every now and then you would get a panel of Batman popping in or an animated bird etc. These cartoons were very real to Dini. He knew they existed in his mind but they felt real in some way. He loved these characters and perhaps was guilty of using them as a safety blanket from the outside world.

Once we get to the night of the mugging we’ve sat in his skin along with him to understand the full extant of the psychological ramifications of said mugging. The attack itself is a haunting ordeal, both for him and the reader. Every moment is captured with stark realism. It’s ugly and unnerving. The viciousness of the attack was one thing, but the evilness was what really shook me. I forget how truly despicable people can be sometimes.  You hear about this kind of stuff all the time but this time we saw and heard it, practically reliving it with Dini.

I suppose I felt as if I almost knew the person this happened to. Sure, I’ve never met Paul Dini but I’ve known of him for years. Not to mention the fact that he’s one of my favorite writers of all time. I respect him. To know someone I respect and admire so much got the living hell beat out of them like that saddened me, let alone seeing it. I couldn’t help be overwhelmed with anger and sadness. Imagine how Paul Dini himself felt? In actuality, we didn’t have to imagine thanks to his gut wrenching writing. The story takes you down every dark turn in his scarred psyche. Batman and Joker remain at his side throughout the whole ordeal. Batman, more of a stern father figure than a consoling shoulder to cry on. He insists that he get back up and move forward. Face the outside world and don’t let the bad guys win, that kind of thing. Joker tries to be his friend telling him to stay in the confines of his safe home. There rest of the time he simply laughs at Dini, telling him to give up.

There are times when Batman berates Dini for not being smart or strong enough to handle the situation better. There’s a poignant moment where after Batman berates him Dini tells him ” You weren’t there to save me. I don’t believe in you anymore.” How could he? And how could he be expected to write a character he doesn’t believe in? It’s important to mention that this happened in the middle of writing the animated movie, ” Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm.” The journey to take back his life is a long and painful one but it’s execution is excellent.

It’s a truly engaging story that i couldn’t put down while I was reading it.

The Art:

Full marks have to go to Eduardo Risso for this project. I believe he may have put out the finest work of his career, it’s certainly the most varied art I’ve ever seen from him. We get many different flavors from almost, panel to panel. He brings his unique gritty style, made famous while working on 100 Bullets. He also delves into a stripped down cartoon style for some of the lighter moments. During the narration scenes of past and present we get a painted water colorish style. Risso manages to pull all these styles of convincingly, as if he’s always done them.

He really nails it in the attack scene. It’s chilling but tasteful. You see just enough without going into gory detail. The words tell the rest. Even Paul Dini, stated that Risso captured the attack scene so well  he couldn’t look at it for a week after. The colors also play a big part. Without a masterful use of colors, many of the surreal moments could come across wrong. Thanks to the creative effort here, everything fits very well and is easy to follow. It’s a stunning piece of work that should not be overshadowed by the rich story.

Conclusion:

Dark Night: A True Batman story is really a Paul Dini story that uses Batman in a way that has never been done before. In many ways he’s more real than ever and in other ways the opposite. As the story progresses you come to realize, as Dini did, that Batman is more about what he represents and what that means to people. At the end of the day, characters like him mean a great deal to many. They help to get people through pain, and in some instances inspire them to become greater than what they are. Paul Dini once received a letter from a Police Officer who told him that Batman T.A.S inspired him to become a cop. No, Batman isn’t real, but he can inspire real emotions and actions. It’s not just one story either. It’s the culmination of all the special ones that do that, and Paul Dini played and part in making that happen.

As we discover from the book, it took a great deal of soul searching to discover that, let alone believe it but he got there.

In it’s simplest form, this story is about trauma and how to get through it and come out okay. It’s a cathartic experience for the writer but it can also give hope to anyone going through a tough time. It can only work and seem genuine if it’s honest, and it is. In fact it’s honesty is it’s greatest strength. Dini puts it all out there for thousands of people to judge him or not. That’s an incredibly brave thing to do.

The book is a dark read but it does provide moments of levity from time to time. Even the ending is of a brighter tone. It’s not for kids but I don’t think it was intended to be.

I can’t recommend this book enough to fans and non fans alike. Survival, redemption and self worth are just some of the many themes explored in Dark Night. Does it have people in funny masks and capes? Yes. Can they be silly? Yes, but never have they felt more important. Perhaps one person’s drivel is another persons salvation. I think Paul Dini would argue the latter for himself.

As for Paul Dini, one question he asks himself is does he matter? My answer is yes, you do. Thank you for writing this and many other stories that continue to entertain and enrich lives. leave it to Paul Dini to write one of the most important stories I’ve ever had a chance to review.

 

 

 

 

Right – let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first shall we?  Was this the best movie in the world?  No, I guess not, it had some flaws which I’ll detail below.  However, it definitely was not the horrible pile of steaming tripe that other reviewers are painting it as.  To be clear, I’d in fact normally agree with the opinions expressed on some of these sites & by some of these reviewers – one of them is our very own Valentin & his post: Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice: Review.  Their thoughts and opinions generally echo my own, however, I think this time they were perhaps being a bit too harsh and critical and I think that might be a function of their own choice of fandom – DC or Marvel – vs. the quality of the film itself.  As an avowed Marvel fanboy, I have only a passing familiarity with the DC Universe so if I get anything blatantly wrong, please don’t hesitate to (politely) correct me!

  • The Dream/Fore-shadowing Sequences – OK I’ll agree here with the commentary that these were somewhat unnecessary.  I’d be the first to admit that I almost groaned out loud when the movie started with Batman’s backstory once again.  I really didn’t feel that it was at all necessary to watch his parents – once again – get gunned down in the street.  While I understand the juxtaposition of the names (now) it was annoying to see it as we’d already seen it so many times before and it just felt painful to go through it all once again.  Batman-V-Superman-Trailer-Flying-ParademonsMoving on from this is more visceral fight sequence in a destroyed world that sees Superman & his acolytes carving up Batman and his group of resistance fighters.  Now I’m not sure if the flying bug things are meant to be in actuality the minions of Darkseid?  I think they are & they are obviously presaging his eventual arrival as DC’s answer to Thanos in the Justice League Movie.  While we are led to believe that Batman’s dream is all about Superman, in reality based on the appearance of the Parademons – it’s really about Darkseid.  As the foot soldiers of Darkseid their participation in the battle clearly tells fans one things: Darkseid is coming. Now were they (the dream sequences) necessary for THIS movie?  No, probably not … they did however serve as a good tie-in to the larger DC Universe though which is I think the overall intent and purpose.
  • Lois & Clark – While this show from the 90s had our TV screens almost melting with the chemistry between the characters, the love story between our modern day iteration of Lois & Clark is nothing more than tepid.  Here too I’d have to agree with the sentiments voiced by others as surprisingly the most wooden elements of this film were the portrayals by Adams and Cavill.  Considering how vivacious Amy Adams is as a character and how she can literally bring the screen to life, it’s a real pity that she wasn’t given that opportunity here.  Henry Cavill definitely LOOKS the part of Superman … it’s just somewhat disappointing that in this movie he was not given an opportunity to portray a normal human being also.  In all honesty – DC could have gone the route of Marvel here quite easily when they removed Thor’s love interest in between movies instead of having her act as just a bit player.  While Lois’ role had some importance in villanizing Superman, the task could have been accomplished just as simply through another plot device, reducing the number of characters on the screen and also tightening the movie as a whole.

Parademons are the foot soldiers of the space tyrant Darkseid – think of them as the orcs in Lord of the Rings, a marginally intelligent, fiercely loyal to their overlord troop that’s bred only for war.  Either way, this is clearly saying one thing to fans: Darkseid is coming. 

  • Conflict but not enough  This was perhaps my own personal hate point and the one that I really think needs the most focus.  The whole movie was a set piece about how much Batman doesn’t trust Superman and fears that he is going to become a despot.  Despite Alfred’s continued insistence that he’s not actually done anything wrong, Batman states that his legacy will be the destruction of Superman.  When the actual conflict happens though … its stupid!  Not the fight itself – that seemed to take some elements from the classic Frank Miller book, but rather how and why the fight happens.  Superman travels to Gotham (by the way, did you know that the two cities are on opposite sides of the Bay?) to persuade Batman to help him search for his mother and after initially stating that he needs Batmans’ help, the instant that they are actually face-to-face, he proceeds to shove Batman across the roof?    They hadn’t actually even started talking yet and he’d already jumped into fisticuffs??  Proceeding further in the fight, Batman has Superman on the ropes and the instant Superman mentions his mom’s name (another aside here … I’d not really put the two Mom’s names together before … nice juxtaposition), all hatred against Superman is forgotten and they are instantly on the same team?
  • Wonder WomanLaughter is the best medicine! – Not really mentioned by too many reviewers, but something that I thought worth speaking to was the lack of humor in this film.  While the films in the DC Universe seem to (generally) be darker in tone vs. the Marvel films, I think a smattering of jokes sprinkled throughout the movie help keep the audience engaged.  They need to be the right ones of course and unfortunately the only one that I recall (“Superman asks Batman if he brought Wonderwoman and he replies that he thought Superman did”) just didn’t work for me.  It was forced and considering the threat they are facing, it didn’t make sense at the time.  I guess you could also include the introduction of Clark and Bruce by Lex but I feel that this was ruined by the trailers more than anything else.  By contrast the interaction between Iron Man and Captain America in both Avengers movies was flawless.  Guardians of the Galaxy had a ton of jokes and don’t even get me started on Deadpool!

Now to the positive!  While I think I’ve spoken to some of the complaints mentioned by others, I think the key here is to realize that DC really had no choice.  Marvel has created a Universe of films and is able to call upon all of their characters from decades of comics for stories.  If DC wants to remain relevant, they NEED to somehow bridge the gap between stand-alone features to a more cohesive and larger story arc.  Could they have done this slower over the course of many years?  Yes they could have, but in some ways they alluded to it by Batman witnessing the destruction caused by Superman in his most recent incarnation/debut in the 2013 feature Man of Steel.  I think that particularly, was well done as there have been many movies – Marvel included – where you’re left to wonder where all the other superhero’s are during the course of a massive slug fest.  When this movie had Bruce witness the destruction that Superman caused and in fact, be personally impacted by it – well that for me was one of the high points of the movie.

The other high point of course was Wonder Woman!  Portrayed amazingly well by Gal Gadot the scenes that contained her were excellent.  Her fight sequences with Doomsday were particularly well done as she attacked not just with strength but also with intelligence.  I loved the fact that she didn’t try to stab with her sword but rather sliced through tendons and muscles to weaken her foe.  I also loved the fact that when she got knocked down – she seemed to relish the challenge.  She almost had me grinning with her when she jumped back into the fray and her enthusiasm for the battle was infectious!  I could only wish that Lois had the same joie de vivre!

As an (already stated) Marvel Fan, I don’t know the DC Universe as well, however I think there are elements to this movie that could let DC have something special when they eventually build out their own creation. Affleck actually made a decent Batman and a particularly imposing (elder) Bruce Wayne.  While he doesn’t have the same brooding nature as Christian Bale, I think he’ll do well in the future as the leader of the Justice league and while we’ve so far only seen him as a fighter, perhaps we’ll eventually get to see him as the intelligent Detective he is also.  It’s a pity for DC that the Green Lantern didn’t do as well as it should have – although I guess in some ways I’m glad as if it had, we’d never have had the Deadpool we’ve all fallen in love with!  It does make me wonder though how the Justice League is going to fight Darkseid and all of his minions with only 5 members (6 when Superman returns)?  I mean from what I know he’s not HYDRA but rather more akin to a God!  It should be an interesting little tussle is what I say!

The third, and final installment of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight saga finally arrived yesterday. The news of even having a third sequel to The Dark Knight Returns may have had you a little worried. You may even still be worried. I know when I heard the announcement, my immediate reaction was ” Why? Just let The Dark Knight Returns live on it’s own! Stop ruining your legacy Frank!” The reason for such  a contemptuous response is due to Frank Miller’s awful sequel ” The Dark Knight Strikes Again”. A story that was, pretty much universally panned. Not to mention the lazy and uninspired art to go with it.  Ths third time around things are a bit different.

DARK-KNIGHT-III-MASTER-RACE-main-cover

Frank Miller hasn’t been left to his own devices. He is mainly overseeing the project and plotting it. On art we have Andy Kubert and original inker to the Dark Knight Returns, Klaus Janson. Writing it, we have Brian Azzarello. Kubert and Janson are still in fine form and consistently preform. Azzarello made a name for himself working on projects like 100 bullets, JOKER, and most recently, the new 52’s run on Wonder Woman. Therefore, I went in to Dark Knight III with a more open mind. I even got excited for it. How did it turn out? Let’s see…

STORY

There is a lot of setup and mystery in this first issue. The time line seems to be about 3 years after “Dark Knight Strikes Again. After not being sighted for said years, Batman is spotted, which sparks a media frenzy. Everyone has an opinion on what to do or think about Batman’s return.”Much like, ” The Dark Knight Returns”, it seems that the media will be playing a key factor in regards to the storytelling.

This comic is clearly trying to establish itself in our current time. The media characterizations reflect that. They are all parodies, mind you, but if you look closely you’ll find versions of Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly & Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan to name a few. It was sort of refreshing when I read it to say…” Hey! I know those people.” Azzarello’s strength for believable dialogue is on full display here. Much of the first half of the comic employs cell phone texts that may be difficult to read at times, but are, nevertheless, still effective.

It’s a fast paced first issue that spends a bit more time on action rather than characterization. It gives you just enough information to advance to the climax. And what a climax it is. A major game changing moment occurs at the very end of issue one. It’s a great cliffhanger that leaves some burning questions.

Important note:  

Issue #1 includes a mini comic featuring The Atom, written and drawn by Frank Miller. in the print version, it’s square in the middle of the book. READ AFTER COMPLETING THE MAIN STORY. Major spoilers if this advice is not heeded.

 

ART  

Andy Kubert does a good job on pencils. They are slick and dynamic. He pays a heavy tribute to Frank Miller’s style. He’s clearly emulating the look but not in a gratuitous way. Kubert’s art style still shines through.

Klaus Janson is as clinical as ever. He always manages to improve upon any artist that comes his way. He did with Frank Miller in 80’s and this time is no different. One of my favorite inkers of all time for good reason.

The action sequences are the highlight of the art. They are exciting and eye catching. You want to study every panel to see if you catch a glimpse of anything extra. One particular fight scene comes to mind. Batman’s shadowy look is used to full effect.

 

OVERALL CONCLUSION:  

The first issue manages to meet my expectations. A solid start that delivers some cool action and some great art. The story seeds have been planted, and they seem interesting enough. After the cliffhanger in issue #1, I expect the story to get even more interesting. The Atom mini comic also manages to add depth and merit the extra price tag on the book overall.

3.5 out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween is just upon us and what better way to celebrate than by honoring Batman’s frightful rouge’s gallery. One could certainly make the case that Batman has the best villains of any superhero. Think of how many you could name off the top of your head if you’re an average fan. Now think of how many you could name if you were slightly more hardcore.

Now try to name as many Daredevil villains… Not to bash or diminish Daredevil in any way. Just an example of how deep Batman’s rouge gallery goes.  Here’s a quick peek at some of my favorite stories for some of The Dark Knight’s most formidable adversaries.

Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot

 

He’s come a long way from his campy beginnings. Often dismissed in the past as one of Batman’s more ” nonthreatening” foes by many. That’s not really the case anymore. At a certain point Penguin took a turn as a more sinister and brutal villain. Sometimes portrayed as an intellectual mobster and other times as a misunderstood monster. All of which work well with the character. Like many of Batman’s villain’s, he’s almost sympathetic. Perhaps a victim of cruelty in a cruel world. An obvious parallel to Batman himself. Did Penguin turn out this way because he is inherently evil or did society make him so? Currently, Penguin plays one of the central antagonists on “Gotham”. For some great Penguin stories check out these recommendations.

Joker’s Asylum: Penguin ( one shot) By: Jason Arron & Jason Pearson

 

 

This is my personal favorite Penguin story of all time and it’s only a single issue! Written by fan FAvorite Jason Aaron during a time when he was still a relative newbie to the comic scene. To me, it perfectly encapsulates everything he’s about. He’s portrayed as a respected man who holds a great deal of power, and yet he still remains insecure about his appearance. This leads to a very important lesson for a few in this story… Don’t embarrass the Penguin. Both parts chilling and heartbreaking. Sort of like Tony Soprano without the imposing physical stature.

 

Other recommended readings include…

  • Batman Annual # 11  by Max Allan Collins & Norm Breyfogle

  • Penguin: Pain & Prejudice 1 – 5  by Gregg Hurwitz & Szymon Kudranski

  • Secret Origins Special # 1 by Alan Grant, penciled and inked by Sam Kieth

Two-Face/ Harvey Dent

 

If you like your villains with pathos, look no further than Two-Face. Harvey Dent is another classic Batman villain that succumbed to the evil and temptation of the outside world. Gotham’s favorite son that lost everything and crossed a line he never thought he would. The character has had a number of interesting portrayal’s. The Dark Knight film treated him more as a good man pushed to insanity. The accident that scars his face is simply the last straw. Some comics, and even Batman T.A.S. play on the fact that Harvey had always had a violent multiple personality and that the accident simply brought it out permanently. There have been a number of tweaks here or there in Two-Face’s history. One such case happens to be my favorite Two-Face story of all time.

Batman Annual# 14 – Eye Of The Beholder by Andrew Helfer & Chris Sprouse

 

An excellent story that delves deep into Harvey Dent’s tortured past. It manages to bring a different idea to what made Harvey Dent become Two-Face. The multiple personality angle is there, but this time we learn the reason when and why it began. Parts of this story inspired the famous Long Halloween comic series. We find out that Harvey’s father was quite abusive to him in his childhood. The psychological ramifications of that abuse come out in full force throughout this story. The edgy and dark artwork by veteran Chris Sprouse really adds to the already fantastic script. A risky story for DC to put out back then but a keeper for sure.

Other recommended readings include…

  • Batman: Faces by Matt Wagner

  • Gotham Central #6- #10 : Half A Life by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

  • Batman: Black & White – Two Of A Kind by Bruce Timm

  • Two-Face ( One Shot) Crime & Punishment by J.M. DeMatteis & Scott McDaniel

 

Ra’s Al Ghul

 

 

Translated to English, his name means the demon’s head. One of Batman’s most powerful enemies by a long shot. His reach extends throughout the globe with an army of assassins behind him. It doesn’t help that, thanks to his Lazarus pits, he is immortal.  A complex villain that seeks to help humanity by destroying it first. An idealist of an extreme sort. Throw in a romance between Talia( Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter) & Batman and you get just how complex Ra’s Al Ghul can get. Ra’s has always been a fan favorite for Bat fans but his stock rose to new levels thanks to The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. He’s even manged to transcend the Bat-world to make it on the TV show Arrow.  Here are some of my picks for his best stories.

 

Batman: Death & The Maidens 1 – 9 by Greg Rucka & Klaus Janson

 

 

A fantastic story written by one of my favorites: Greg Rucka. It shows just how far Ra’s Al Ghul has gone and is willing to go for his mission. The story also speaks to the importance family. Particularly for Batman. In a rather interesting twist of fate, Ra’s asks Batman for help against a mysterious woman, hellbent on killing him. What would Batman get in return for his assistance? How about a chance for Batman to speak one more time with his dead parents? An offer that may well tempt the dark knight. It’s a delight to read an to look at. Penciled and inked by the underrated Klaus Janson.

 

Other recommended readings include…

  • Batman: Birth Of The Demon by Dennis O’Neil & Norm Breyfogle

  • Batman: The Saga OF Ra’s Al Ghul 1- 4 by Dennis O’Neil & Neil Adams

  • Son Of The Demon by Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham

  • Trinity by Matt Wagner

 

Riddler/ Edward Nigma

 

 

Easily one of Batman’s most recognizable villains, from a pop culture standpoint. He has a great look to him and an intriguing shtick. Of course, said shtick can and did get tiresome by the late seventies. Batman Forver didn’t exactly help his cause either. Since then, he’s now been reinvented and reinvigorated, thanks to the New 52 reboot in 2012.  Personally my favorite portrayal would have to be ” Batman T.A.S.  Edward Nigma was portrayed as a man who was smarter than everyone who should be at the top. His quest to prove that at all costs led to some, criminal dealings of sorts. These dealings eventually always lead him to Batman. Time and again, Riddler is defeated by the only man smarter than him. Of course , The Riddler refuses to accept this and therefore, does his best to outwit the DArk Knight. That’s the general take on him that I loved on the Animated TV show. Nevertheless, there are some great reads out there.

Batman; Zero Year # 21- 27 & #29-33 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

 

 

Scott Snyder has been making his mark on Batman and his world. no character more than the Riddler. Jeph Loeb’s Hush did a good job at showing why never to underestimate The Riddleer. Snyder went a step further and made him extremely formidable. The Zero year story was a remarkably fresh take on Batman’s origin. It boldly gave Riddler real relevance by making him one of his first major villains. The whole story unfolds in epic fashion and Riddler is deservingly at the forefront of it.  He’s written mucher colder than I can ever remember. Just different enough to be interesting but also familiar enough not to offend.

 

Other Recommended stories include…

  • Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee

  • Batman: Dark Knight Dark City by Peter Milligan & Kieron Dwyer

  • Riddler ( One Shot) The Riddle Factory by Matt Wagner & Dave Taylor

  • Batman: Run Riddler Run by Gerard Jones & Mark Badger

Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!

We come to the end of the Best of Comic Book Battles. Arguably, I saved the best for last. The Dark Knight himself, Batman. I’ve read countless Batman comics and I can tell you that there are a lot of great battles among them. The problem is narrowing it down to five.  I don’t want to miss anything but surely I’ll look back at this list and say ” damn! How could I forget that one!” Nevertheless here is my final entry of Best Comic Book Battles.

5. Batman vs Bane part 1 & 2 ( Knightfall and Detective Comics # 701) By Doug Moench, Jim Aparo, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan & Scott Hanna

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit. Technically these are two different fights from two different story lines BUT they fit so well with each other! Most people know who Bane is thanks to the Dark Knight Rises film. The film actually borrowed heavily from both of these stories. Knightfall is the classic where Bane ‘ breaks” the bat, leaving him paralyzed. it’s not much of a fair fight really. Bane pretty much takes advantage of Batman after he’s been battling all the escape convicts from Arkham. By the time Bane shows up, Batman’s on his last legs. Injured and exhausted. Bane just pumps the Venom and beats the hell out of him. I think Batman gets one punch in. This is such an important fight because Batman had never been beaten bad enough that he was broken and humiliated. It also ended a story with the villain, essentially winning.  Plus it gave us this classic image…

 

Detective Comics #701 takes place during the Legacy story line where Bane teams up with Ra’s Al Ghul to unleash a plague all over the world. The story was okay, but it did give us the much anticipated rematch of Bane vs Batman. This time Batman was 100% and Bane was Venom free. The result was a much more balanced fight. I’d even say that Batman dominated most of it. There was a lot of hype for it from my perspective. I think fans really questioned ” could Batman actually beat a guy who seemed his superior in every way?” the answer was satisfying and awesome as hell.

4. Batman vs S.WA.T. teamn ( Batman: Year One) By Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli

 

A fantastic fight scene from a fantastic story.  Miller and Mazzucchelli create a masterpiece in action with this one. As the title would suggest, this is Batman’s rookie year and he’s not used to having his back against the wall.  He’s injured and cornered by a corrupt police S.WA.T. team that wants him dead. The way Batman takes out each member one by one goes from desperate to methodical. He even finds time to save a cat. Another thing I love about this fight is that you get to see how much Batman relies on the shadows and uses it to his advantage. If you’ve played the Arkham games, you know just what I mean. You might say he adopts the dark. ( wink.) This is another fight scene that was adapted in animated and even, loosely in live action films.  It just goes to show the strength and enduring appeal of this battle.

3. Batman vs Manny ” The Fish” Cardona ( Batman:Prey – Part 2 of 5 – By Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy)

Definitely a childhood favorite of mine. I remember reading this issue over and over again. The artwork and the dynamic nature of the fight really caught my eye. Still does. I would say that compared to some of the other stories on this list, “Prey” is less known. It did get some exposure when it was theorized that it might be adapted as the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s also known for being one of the best Dr. Hugo Strange stories as well. Again we see Batman in the early years of his crime fighting career. He goes one on one with a crime lord known as The Fish. It proves to be a more even contest than Batman expects. That’s what makes it even funner for me. Seeing Batman make some mistakes and have to fight his best adds a thrill to any fight. Paul Gulacy has a unique style that may turn off some but I love it for this particular story arc.  I urge you to check this story out and enjoy an awesome fight scene. It should be fairly inexpensive if you decide to hunt for it.

2. Batman Vs Joker ( Endgame – By Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Miki

 

As the cover would suggest, a battle that has lasted ages. You knew that the greatest rivalry of all time would have to make the list.  I think a quote from ” The Dark Knight” really nails it.

“Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” – Joker

Endgame “seems” to give both combatants the end that only they deserve. It’s eerily similair to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns but it’s meant to be. It’s shockingly brutal and impossible to take your eyes off of. Like any realtionship it’s hard to keep things exciting and fresh between the two after so many years. I can say that , Snyder and Co. succeed in doing so.  A lot of fans were divisive in regards to Snyder’s last venture into the mind of the Joker ( Death Of The Family) but this time I think he nails it. The last issue/ chapter is worth it alone thanks to this glorious fight. Courtsey of Greg Capullo & Miki’s art, check out this page…

1. Batman vs The Mutant Gang Leader – Both fights – ( The Dark Knight Returns) By Frank Miller, Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley

 

This time it’s less cheating because both fights happen in the same story… a flimsy excuse perhaps, but I digress. Both these fights get mentioned a lot and while I’d love to be more original, the thing is too damn good. This particular comic WAS the first time you see Batman get his ass, more or less, handed to him. This time against the leader of the Mutant gang. He’s essentially an earlier version of Bane, full of brute strength and in the prime of his life. Batman? Not so much. In his fifties and just out of retirement. It’s a well known story and it too, inspired the Nolan movies. In fact, the entire story was adapted in an epic animated movie. It does a fantastic job of bringing this epic fight to life. One thing that is missing from the animated version is Batman’s inner monologue. You get to read the way he assesses each blow as he tries to outwit his opponent. Eventually you start to read the fear and desperation as he realizes he’s losing.

 

The rematch is a bit of a different story. This round Batman tries to use strategy rather than matching his opponents savagery. Batman manages to lure the Mutant leader to a mud pit and even the playing field. The result is one of the coolest, most quotable lines in the whole story.

“[Fighting the Mutant Leader] You don’t get it, son. This isn’t a mudhole… It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.” – Batman 

Amazing.  Frank Miller has always been a masterful visual storyteller, and here we get Frank in his prime, with a big assist to Mr. Klaus Janson on inks.

There you have it. My picks for Batman’s greatest battles. Who knows? maybe in a few months I’ll tackle a new set of characters to showcase.

Known more for his wise cracking humor rather than his fighting skills, we have Spider-Man. About as regular a guy as you can get, but this guy can hold his own. His athleticism and intellect have allowed him to survive and even persevere against the most deadly of opponents. He takes a beating but tries his best to keep on ticking. Unlike Wolverine, he doesn’t have a healing factor to fall back on. Let’s begin with my picks for his best battles!

5. Spider-Man vs Green Goblin: The Death Of Gwen Stacy – By Gerry Conway, Gill Kane & John Romita Sr.

A classic Spider-Man story line that shocked the world at the time. A death in comics that actually lasted and had consequences later on. For those unfamiliar I’m referring to Peter’s first love , Gwen Stacy. Of course the man responsible for this tragedy was none other than arguably Spidey’s greatest foe. The Green Goblin ( Norman Osborn).  In this particular case, Green Goblin went and made it very personal for Spider-Man and killing the woman he loved and rubbing his nose in it.  It was a devestating blow to Spider-Man and you can bet he was pissed. It actually fel as if Spider-man would cross the line and kill for the first time. The set up is great and the actual climatic battle was awesome. The story and the fight itself have been adapted in films and TV, so it goes to show the impact this saga had.Here’s one of my favorite moments…

4. Spider-Man Vs Wolverine ( One shot) By James Owlsley & Mark Bright

My last entry to this list is a perfect segue to this comic and it’s respective battle. As previously seen, even when pushed to the limit, Spider-man won’t kill. The story asks what if he has to for a greater purpose? The question is asked, quite aggressively by none other than Wolverine. A guy who often kills without blinking. The story sets up these two sides quite well and makes for a very real and compelling reason to have our two protagonists duke it out. Usually it’s the art that sells it but this time the words accomplish that. The inner monouloges and debates between the two men while they’re fighting, are great. It’s an often overlooked story by the mainstream audience but fans have grown to admire it very much over the years. It’s a bit of a tough find but if you have a little patience, I suggest you try to pick it up. Here’s a glimpse that may sell you on it.

 3. Spider-Man Vs Venom ( Collected edition) By David Micheline & Todd McFarlane

This is an old fan favorite. We(fans) just love seeing Spidey and Venom take each other on. It’s like Wolverine vs Sabretooth. Venom went on to become, arguably Spider-man’s most popular nemesis in the late 80’s/ early 90’s, and for good reason. He was a guy more powerful than Spider-Man, so there was a great physical advantage. Plus he absolutely hated Peter Parker & Spider-man. There was always a sense of impossibility when Spidey was tasked to do battle against him. Let me tell you that Spider-man lost more than he won against Venom. Well, physically anyway. The stunning detail that Todd McFarlane added to the art work made it all the more enjoyable. I remember studying each page for what seemed like hours. Every panel seemed cooler than the next. Venom proved to be so popular he even got his own series in the 90’s. Some might say he was a victim of overexposure but what can you do?

2. Spider-Man vs Kraven The Hunter ( Kraven’s Last Hunt) By J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Zeck

We went from the dark nature of the Venom saga, to the even darker nature of Kraven and the Kraven’s last Hunt story line. I’ll say right now that this story is, likely my favorite Spider-Man story of all time. The conflict, the drama and the artwork are all superb. Certainly one of the darkest Spider-man stories I’ve read. Kraven the hunter was often seen as a joke compared to some of the other, more notable villains in Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery. Then this came out and proved everybody wrong. Kraven was presented as a man of great skill and even honor. A man to be respected and ultimately, feared. He sets out on his greatest hunt against his greatest adversary. The one who got away, time and again. He not only hatches an ambitious plan, he executes it.  Spider-Man gets badly beaten in their first encounter. So much so, that he ends up buried alive. This is not the end of Kraven’s plan though. Read it yourself to get the juicy details. The imagery & metaphors used throughout this tale are spot on. They add a lot of insight and intrigue into Kraven’s state of mind. It’s almost as if they created a new character in this story, He’s so fleshed out. he becomes so fearsome that he jumps to the cream of the villain crop. Mike Zeck also nailed it here. For my book, his best artwork to date. Check out this splash page.

1. Spider-Man vs Green Goblin ( Spectacular Spider-Man # 200) By J.M. DeMatteis & Sal Buscema

We started the list with the Green Goblin and we finish with him as well… sort of. This time the man behind the scaly green mask Is Harry Osborn, Norman’s son. Heir to more than just his fortune apparently. This battle became even more intense due to the personal nature of Peter and Harry. Best friends forced to fight each other. There’s a lot of backstory here. A lot. It was only a matter of time before it all boiled over. The setup for this climatic brawl had been years in the making. A friendship that seemed destined to fail due to the very nature of both men. A tale worthy of the bard himself. To get real insight on this particular issue ( #200), it would be best to read the ” Child Within” story line. Same creative team. My favorite Spider-Man writer paired up with my favorite Spider-Man artist of all time make for one satisfying conclusion to all the build up. It’s almost an entire issue of action. Plenty of emotional weght and spectacular( no pun intended) visual story telling.Something about seeing Spider-Man lose it brings everything up a notch. I suppose it’s because to piss him, you have to do more than hurt him physically. You have to push his emotional limits and even his psyche to throw him off the edge, but he never really falls off. Very similar to Superman in many ways.  If you want more than just a standard, Spider-Man wise cracking affair, look to this gem.

I enjoyed Batman growing up, reading comics and watching the cartoon show. I had never seen any more than novelized adaptations from the movies, so I was interested when I found this one, hanging out like a sore thumb at the book store.

This novel, No Man’s Land, is fairly unique among a lot of typical Batman material and delivers on some noir-type moments, framed in a post-emergency setting. The story picks up just after Gotham is devastated by a powerful earthquake. Much of the population decides to evacuate, only the brave and desperate remain behind. The GCPD is officially disbanded, leaving no one to guard the prisons and leading to Two-face and Joker’s escape. Jim Gordan and other detectives remain behind to bring order to the wasteland.

After his defeat at the hands of Bane, Batman has been forced stop his vigilantism, which revives the mystery surrounding him when he finally returns in the midst of Gotham’s disastrous remains. The story follows a variety of characters, not just Batman and Jim Gordan and I was impressed with the depth of some of them.

Two-face had a dramatic scene at the ruined courthouse. Outside of his split personality, I’ve always felt that Two-face’s character is difficult to define, but this scene here digs far under this villain’s skin. Another scene that deserves focus is when Batman needs to take on the personality of Bruce Wayne, but he had been serving as Batman in the city’s ruins for so long, he was out of practice for portraying his true identity. The internal dialogue during this shift in personality is truly revealing and entertaining.

 

Through much of the book, Two-face and Penguin are working to wind up on top and control Gotham, now that the city is vulnerable. Joker, however, mostly keeps to himself, hoping that rumours about Batman’s return are true. This story also has Joker’s first encounter and inevitable team up with Harley Quinn, who provides a lot of mischievous charm.

Toward the end, when Gotham is about to begin its reconstruction, the Joker finally launches a major heist and puts the entire city into panic. The story ends shortly after a confrontation with Joker and leads to a satisfying conclusion, but on a slightly sad note.

I enjoyed this story, there was a lot of the classic villains, but some left out. Several scenes were easy to enjoy, which made flipping through four hundred and sixty pages a breeze. It follows cannon from the series, but also does its own style of Batman at times and I’m impressed with the author’s knowledge of the series characters and of Gotham. Definitely recommended for anyone with the faintest interest in Batman. There is also a comic version of this story, so check it out.

 

Long over due doesn’t begin to cut it. Bill Finger was instrumental in creating the Dark Knight and his world but never got the credit for it. Since Batman’s inception Bob Kane was the only creator associated with the character. Even Kane admired on a few occasions that Bill finger had a hand in Batman’s creation.

I can’t help but feel lukewarm about this news. On the one hand, it’s good that current and future generations see the name Bill Finger attached to , arguably the most popular superhero of all time. On the other hand, it feels much too late. Bill Finger passed away in the seventies with not a lot of money to his name. This would become the case for, the even more ripped off, Jack Kirby. There was even a time when Superman’s creators ,Siegel and Shuster ended up the same as Jack Kirby. It wasn’t until ” Superman: The Motion Picture”, came out in the Seventies that DC awarded both men some money and their name as creators. However, that is still a legal mess to this day.I’m not even to clear on what the official terms are. Siegel and Shuster both passed away, but their families continue the battle in their name.

It seems a normal occurrence, historically speaking. Reward the creators when they are either dead or too old and sick to really benefit from the money. At the very least Bill Finger’s family will be compensated. Here is DC’s official statement.

DC Entertainment and the family of Bill Finger are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement that recognizes Mr. Finger’s significant contributions to the Batman family of characters.  “Bill Finger was instrumental in developing many of the key creative elements that enrich the Batman universe, and we look forward to building on our acknowledgement of his significant role in DC Comics’ history,” stated Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment.  “As part of our acknowledgement of those contributions,” Nelson continued, “we are pleased to confirm today that Bill Finger will be receiving credit in the Warner Bros. television series Gotham beginning later this season, and in the forthcoming motion picture Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”  

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

I can’t help but wonder if this will help to shed some light on Spider-Man and Steve Ditko’s situation. It’s not entirely to late. For those unfamiliar with this story, it parallels Bill Fingers quite a bit.

 

Stan Lee is the face of Marvel and often referred to as. the creator of Spider-man. Throughout the years much has been made as to, how much Stan Lee was even involved in the creation of Spidey.  Rumors began years ago, along with many sources stating that artist, Steve Ditko was the main mind behind Spider-Man. No legal source, mind you. Considered more, opinion rather than actual fact. As fate would have it, Steve Ditko faded into obscurity without the issue ever being resolved. Fairly destitute as I’ve heard.  Not exactly the kind of destiny you want for a legendary artist. The point is that Steve Ditko can still have his chance to be given his due, but how long can the powers that be, afford to wait?

Regardless of what happens with Mr. Ditko, when Batman day comes this year ( Sept 26th) raise a glass for Bill Finger.