Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Boy Wonder is Born (Robin: Year One Review)

Batmania readers, welcome to another edition of Graphic Novel Monday. This weeks review is on the Boy Wonder's debut, Robin: Year One. Written by Dixon and Beatty (the writers of the Nightwing series), Dick Grayson, the future Nightwing and Batman, the kid who had all the tools and determination to change the DC Universe, and one of the biggest fan favorites of all time. Robin: Year One shows the many firsts of Dick Grayson. Grayson's first year as Robin shows him tackling the Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, and his own mortal enemy, Two-Face.

Robin: Year One shows the untold origin of Dick Grayson, not the death of his parents, the Flying Graysons, but his first encounters with some of Batman's big villains. The novel is cut into four sections, and the first tackled is the abduction of young girls that seem to be disappearing all over Gotham. When a girl from Dick's class goes missing, he looks into it and eventually finds out that the Mad Hatter is behind the girl's disappearance. Along with Hatter's appearance, Robin tries to tackle the cold hearted Mr. Freeze without the help of The Dark Knight. And an appearance by Two-Face shows you why Harvey Dent's alter ego is to Dick Grayson what the Joker is to Batman.

Robin: Year One has a lot of recurring themes, including Jim Gordon being afraid of Robin getting hurt. He's not the only one, as Alfred also shows concern for Grayson, but Bruce believes that Grayson is something special ... and as we know Dick Grayson is. This is a very well written book, it establishes that Grayson isn't just some kid fighting adults, he's a determined, athletic young man ready to take on the world if he has to. The artwork is reminiscent of Batman The Animated Series, yet goes well with this type of story. Still, it seems a little rushed, and a little hard to believe that Dick could take on some of the biggest villains in Gotham with absolutely no help from Batman. I give Robin: Year One a 8.5/10.

- Jason Todd

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gotham City Sirens #2 Review

Hey Hey Hey, Jason Todd here with a review on Paul Dini's Gotham City Sirens #2. For those that didn't catch issue one, our three favorite ladies of Gotham, Selina "Catwoman" Kyle, Pamela "Poison Ivy" Isley and Harleen "Harley Quinn" Quinzel teamed up to become the Gotham City Sirens. After being taken in by Catwoman, Harley and Ivy decided to tie up our Feline Female and drug her with a truth serum from one of Ivy's many plants. What did they wanna know? Who is Batman?
I'm warning you guys now, there are spoilers ahead, I usually avoid them but there was so little in this issue I would have nothing to discuss If I didn't.

So in Issue two we see a flash back to three years prior where Selina meets with Talia Al Gul, this is billed as a meeting between the only two women Bruce Wayne has loved. Apparently the guy didn't care for his Mom at all ... but anyway Talia felt the need to teach Selina a technique that allows her to bury the knowledge of Bruce Wayne being Batman, incase someone ever happened to ... give her a truth serum and ask her apparently. Catwoman must not be all that great at learning because even though we see she learned in the Flashback, she still says Bruce Wayne is Batman, along with a few other people including Jim Gordon, Slam Bradley and Harvey Dent. After convincing the other Sirens that Batman is more of a Legend than one man, everyone is now happy and friends again, despite the recent mutiny.

Meanwhile, Harley goes shopping which appears to be her new vice since she can't shower Mr. J with her love. While out she runs into the man everyone believes to be Bruce Wayne but is actually the recently escaped Thomas Elliot a.k.a. Hush. When "Bruce Wayne" is kidnapped and held for ransom, Harley see's it as a chance to save the man who granted her a release from Arkham Asylum. Now with Harley running around town with a disguised Hush, (the very same man she helped Catwoman rob) Ivy and Catwoman are out to save their fellow Siren at our issues end.

Alrighty, so first things first, I love that the Dini stories interact, Hush escaping in Streets then still being out in Sirens is very cool. That's ... about it for things I liked. Okay ... so the first issue of Sirens left us with a GREAT cliffhanger, only for this issue to say, yeah well just incase anyone ever asks Catwoman who Batman is, lets say she learned how to hide her thoughts. This seemed very meh ... for Bruce it makes sense cause he's prepared for everything for Talia and Selina ... not so much. Then it's like why did we even learn about this if on the fourth page Selina says it's Bruce anyway. Then Bruce is the first person mentioned and No one cares? Not even Harley who later saves Bruce because he helped grant her a pardon from Arkham, yet she doesn't care that he's possibly Batman? Also, is it just me or is anyone else tired of Harley walking around in whatever the hell she's wearing? She's yet to put on her costume, yet all Selina seems to own is her costume.

I had high hopes for this issue and it really let me down...there's hardly anything worth mentioning and the one fight scene was maybe two and a half pages long. I don't know if Dini's trying to set up ground work for later on but this is not something that makes me wanna read the next issue. I give Sirens #2 a 4/10.

- Jason Todd

Monday, July 20, 2009

Identity Crisis Review

Hey guys, it's that time again! This week's "Graphic Novel Monday" feature is brought to you by one of my favorite writers, Brad Meltzer. I'll be reviewing Identity Crisis. Many of us have always wanted to be a superhero, especially as a kid; we all wanted the fame, the fans and the lifestyle. But what happens when someone stops shooting at the bullet-proof superhero, and aims for their vulnerable family and friends? This is the story that shows what happens, and shows you that not all superheroes are truly invincible.

Our story starts with "Elongated Man", Ralph Dibny and Firehawk conducting a stakeout on the roof. As they converse we see Ralph's nose twitch, a sign that something's wrong (as a twitch of the nose from Ralph Dibny has always meant that there were villains around or something was not right.) Elongated man mentions that it's his birthday celebration tonight (not his birthday) and his wife, Sue Dibny, always finds a way to try to surprise him. Being the expert detective that he is, always figures it out. Ralph never let Sue know and always acts surprised but this night, everything goes wrong. Ralph can sense it and rushes home, to find his wife, murdered, along with his present ... a positive Pregnancy test.

With Ralph devastated, the league is out for answers, and sends out everyone from the Titans, The JSA, and The Outsiders to get answers. While along the way the killer strikes again and again, with no answers pointing towards who they are and why they continue to target the loved one's of Superheroes. And along the way there's tragic scenes involving a certain Boy Wonder, shocking betrayals, and some actions by Dr. Light which are so outrageous, that it will leave you in awe ...

This is the end-all-be-all of Graphic Novels. Brad Meltzer is a genius, the artwork by Michael Bair is both beautiful and eerie at the same time. This is honestly one of the greatest stories I've ever read. This story is so pivotal that the effects are still being mentioned today, even in the Blackest Night storyline. Identity Crisis is in my top three Graphic Novels of all time easily, possibly my favorite of all time. If I could recommend one Justice League book it would be Identity Crisis. Simple as that...There's nothing else to say, 10/10.

- Jason Todd

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Blackest Night Begins

Hey guys, Jason Todd here again, this time with a review of the Epic Blackest Night issue one. As mostly everyone knows, the Blackest Night storyline is regarded as one of the biggest storylines of the year. DC Comics gave the helm to Geoff Johns for this story and decided to have Ivan Reis do the art and I think both will excel in these positions. So grab a flashlight as we jump right into The Blackest Night.

Right of the bat, the first thing I have to say is that this is one of the best drawn covers I've seen in a long time. It really draws you in and lets you know that this is a special story and something that shouldn't be taken lightly. Like Infinite Crisis & Final Crisis this is a story that will echo throughout the DC Universe for a long time after it's concluded. When our story starts we see the first Black Lantern, The Black Hand, cradled over the grave of our beloved billionaire Bruce Wayne, before sending out what had to be Billions of Black Lantern rings. If you don't believe me you go look at that page and tell me it's not billions...its like a swarm of locusts. Anyway, we move on to Hero Celebration day where heroes and citizens alike worship their fallen saviors, including fallen Teen Titans, Aquaman, and the Kents paying respect to Johnathan Kent. Even those treacherous villains are paying respects to their fallen comrades.

Later in the comic we encounter things that have clearly set up other story line's down the way, including a an update on The Atom, Ray Palmer, A conversation with Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, Alfred discovering Bruce's grave has been robbed, and the Resurrection of some of the biggest names in DC History, including Martian Manhunter and Aquaman, being brought back from the dead. And not to mention many more things that I won't ruin.

I will mention that the conversation between Hal and Barry showed just how long Barry has been gone and reminded us of how many characters have died lately. Also, the appearances of Hawkman and Hawkgirl elevated the story tenfold, as someone who's never cared for either, I for one can't wait to see what happens with them. There's really nothing bad I can say about Blackest Night, It's a great opener, packed alot of punches and set up future storyline's. But as much as I want to, I know I can't justify giving this issue a ten, only for the reason I know that future issues will be better, I have alot of faith in Geoff Johns. I Highly recommend you check out the Blackest Night Issue 1 because it's definitely gonna shake things up. I give issue one an 8/10.

- Jason Todd

Monday, July 13, 2009

Can you keep a Secret? (Private Casebook Review)

Graphic Novel Mondays is back for it's fourth appearance, courtesy of Jason Todd. This week's review is Paul Dini's Batman: Private Casebook. Featuring artwork by the talented Dustin Nguyen, Dini's Bat-world is brought to life, in various short stories featuring the Caped Crusader and many of his allies and enemies. There's some definite hits and misses though, so lets get right into it.

Batman: Private Casebook is a who's who of Batman mythos, while some of the bigger names like Joker, Two-Face, Nightwing and Robin are missing from these stories, other characters step up. Casebook includes five or six short stories (I can't remember off the top of my head) about our favorite Gothamite and includes appearances by Zatanna, Mad Hatter, Scarface, The Riddler, Ra's Al Gul, Catwoman, and Scarecrow. Casebook also features a well put together format, as it ties up loose ends from some comics that take place prior, for example Heart of Hush and The Resurrection of Ra's Al Gul. While the stories differ some of them are very well done while others feel rushed or insignificant.

One of the best written stories in this Casebook compilation in my opinion is the story featuring Zatanna. Without giving away anything to would-be-readers, I will say that Bruce and Zatanna give conversations with such believability that you feel like these are characters who truly do have a history, and thats a big plus when it comes to Dini's work. Other stories I felt didn't exhibit Batman behavior, like Batman entering chatrooms looking for information seemed odd to me ... maybe thats just weird to me though. I also didnt care for the Scarecrow story, it was too short, didn't feature Batman/Bruce Wayne at all and I felt it was an odd day to close the book. I know Dini loves Magicians, but I feel that Zatanna in three stories was overkill.

Overall Dini's writing with Nguyen's gritty art style makes for a good, but not very memorable book. I'd recommend checking this out, but I wouldn't spend over 13 dollars on it. Overall Paul Dini's Batman Private Casebook gets a 6.5/10.

- Jason Todd

Friday, July 10, 2009

Batman Begins...Again? (Batman #688 Review)

Batman is back, or so Gotham thinks. And in a way he is, along with a brand new Robin. Winick and Bagley reunite to bring the Dark Knight back to the forefront with what can be considered the main Bat-book of the bunch. And the main attraction Dick Grayson, the man, the idol, the Batman....except he still has a problem with the cape. Now, lets jump in, to Batman #688!

Right of the pun intended, We join our hero being beaten to a pulp in the Batcave. Dick's taking a beating by a shadowy figure that continually berates him, and tells him he's not Batman. Dick is an imposter, he doesn't posess the things that made Batman the savior of Gotham, and that Batman is dead....and pretty soon, Dick may be as well. Turns out this this three weeks into the future, so jumping three weeks back, a.k.a. now. It's reported that Batman is back and has changed his ways of tampering with evidence before the police get a chance, and while the reason for this change is unknown (to everyone but the reader) it's getting Batman many praises, especially from the GCPD.

Now outside of giving everything away, I will mention that I'm a big fan of these talks between Dick and Alfred, no matter what comic they always give clarity that this is a different dynamic, but nonetheless something special. Also, we see Damien's training session with Dick which i thought was really well done, especially with Dick showing that him being as talkative as always and how he uses it to upset his opponents into making mistakes was a great piece of advice to show him giving Damien.

Along with appearances by Two-Face, the Penguin, and a conversation between Jim Gordon and Sergeant Pike, there's alot of depth to this issue. It was very word-driven with less action than I'm used to after reading some of the other Batman: Reborn books but that was something I enjoyed more than anything. I'm starting to tire of the jumping around in time plot device, especially as it was used so much in Red Robin, but it was used sparingly here. The artwork was a plus, and even seeing Batman smiling wasn't all that weird, considering it's Dick. Either way the story left us with a great cliffhanger and me desperately wanting to read Batman #689. My final rating for Batman #688 is a solid 8/10.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Batman: Lovers and Madmen Review

Hey guys, welcome back to Batmania Reviews, Jason Todd here with our third installment of Graphic Novel Mondays. Today’s review is an arc from the ongoing Batman Confidential series, which establishes some of the big first moments in Batman Mythos. The issue arc for those interested are issues #7 to 12, but this is also available in hardcover format, which I’ll be reviewing today. This story was written by Michael Green and features artwork by Dennis Cowan. So without further adieu, I present Batman: Lovers and Madmen.

Over time people have always debated the Joker’s origin, whether it was failed comedian, petty crook, or as shown in Alan Moore’s “ “The Killing Joke” (one of my personal favorites) a simple family man who had a bad day. Lovers and Madmen revamps the creation of the Joker as a simple man named Jack. A master criminal and thief, a man so good even The Batman himself can’t seem to track him. But Jack’s grown bored with his profession and his life, and is ready to give them both up, until he catches glimpse of The Caped Crusader. Seeing this man dressed like a Bat, is somewhat funny to our guy Jack. And he can’t wait to play with our hero.

Without giving away too much, this is one of the best Joker stories I’ve read in a while. Things are put into perspective, and loyal Bat-fans will notice a lot homage’s to future Batman stories, including how Joker got his Glasgow smile, what makes the Clown Prince of Crime tick, we see a young Dr. Crane, and even a certain blonde waitress named “Leeny” that’s currently attending college with hopes of becoming a psychiatrist.

This is without a doubt my favorite Joker origin. No disrespect to Alan Moore but in my eyes this is the Joker’s past. I’d always wondered why Joker was portrayed as such a frail, weak guy. If that’s possible would he really have caused Batman so much drama over the years? Here Joker is shown as a guy at the top of his skills, a guy who always has a plan and may even be smarter than Batman himself. And lets not forget Batman, the debut along with hatred of The Joker causes The Dark Knight to do something so out of character you won’t believe your eyes.

The artwork is very gritty, yet it adds to the story and compliments it nicely. So with that said I label this a must-read for all Batman fans and a definite must-read for all fans of the Harlequin of Hate, The Joker. I give Batman: Lovers and Madmen a solid 10/10

-Jason Todd

Friday, July 3, 2009

Batman & Robin #2 Review

Hey there guys, Jason Todd here with a review of Batman & Robin #2. This is my first weekly comic review and what better way to start than with Morrison and Quitely's reintroduction of the Dynamic Duo. Well, you could call this the Disaster Duo because that's where Batman and Robin seem to be headed. Robin's constantly undermining Batman and frankly believes he could do a better job, and sets out to do so.

We start the issue with Dick telling Alfred of his latest mission, how he and Robin went to stop a supposed break out at the Gotham City Police Department. One of Gordon's men comments "Didn't they used to be taller? And didn't Batman's voice sound different?" Batman and Robin proceed to stop the havoc in the police department, but not without casualties. Something Dick believes Bruce would have been able to prevent.

"I hate the cape, Alfred -- the cape was the first thing I ditched when I got out on my own." That quote sums up the entire issue. Dick comments that no one believes he's Batman, and that Gordon and everyone else looks as him as some imposter, playing Batman. His own Robin comments that he's not Batman and he never will be. Alfred convinces Dick that as a circus performer he should pretend that Batman is a part to play, and perform everynight. Encouraging words for sure... now if only Batman knew where to find Robin, because Damian could sure use some help.

Without giving away anything that could ruin the story I will say that this issue was definitely more informative than the last. The Dynamic between Dick and Damien is still bratty kid meets forced-to-grow-up-too-soon adult. I'm getting tired of Damien's persona but what can you do? All in all I'd have to say that Batman & Robin seems to be on the right path to establishing this new Dynamic Duo. I'll give it a 8/10

- Jason Todd