Category Archives: Batman/Superman

The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: April 5 – 11, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

COMICS I READ LAST WEEK

OneTwo

 

The best comic I read last week was

Superman #20.

Writer: Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Artist: Patrick Gleason

 

There are so many good things going on in Superman #20, it is difficult to know where to start discussing them. Following an engaging, through a bit frustrating and confusing “Superman Reborn” arc which again altered the status quo for Superman, Lois and Jon, “Black Dawn” – the new arc – jumps in acknowledging but not dwelling on the story just concluded. That is a good thing.

All of this issue feels comfortable and that is the best thing the book has going for it. This version of Superman is known and comfortable. This story is as well. It is so familiar, one of my first thoughts upon concluding the issue is that I want a Worlds Finest Reborn title.

Why? Because Tomasi and Gleason bring Batman and Robin into this issue and the chemistry among the five main characters (Lois, her superpowered family and the Bat family) is so compelling and so well written that it could easily support its own book.

Batman is concerned, of course, that Jon Kent is not reaching his potential. Jon should be, even at this point, far more powerful than his father and he is not. Something is wrong and Batman and Robin have arrived to find out what.

Great set up. Great execution. Great twist in the end of the book.

Patrick Gleason is such a great cartoonist. He is not going for photo realism, rather he creates images that are quickly iconic. His facility with Superman and Batman is matched by the ease with which he draws Robin and Superboy. Why he is not mentioned in the pantheon of current “great” artists is beyond me.

Tomasi and Gleason are a terrific team. I want them on this title for a long, long time.

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Filed under Batman/Superman, Comic Book Pick of the Week, Comic Book Review, Comic Books, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Robin, Superman, Weekly Comic Book Review

The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: September 21 – 27, 2016


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

I read 8 comics last week: Civil War II # 5, Amazing Spider-Man #18, Cyborg #1, Batman #7, Trinity #1, Superman #7, Nightwing #5 and Justice League #5.

The best comic I read last week was Trinity #1.

trinity-one

 

Francis Manapul is some kind of comic creator – like the kind of comic creator that should be followed to any title he handles. It’s clear that DC believes in him as a writer and artist as it has entrusted him with Trinity, the successor to both the Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman titles that the company had been publishing in recent years. Those were pretty solid books. Rolling all three of DC’s flagship characters into one title is a very smart move. Manapul is the creator to handle the book.

His art is truly gorgeous. One look at the cover of this first issue illustrates that point. Superman looking heroically into the camera, Wonder Woman to the left, Batman to the right. And Wonder Woman’s sword reflecting coming dangers… beautiful. The interiors do not disappoint. Manapul’s style is so well suited to both the medium and to these characters. His panel composition is striking and creative. His inks and colors spectacular. The only fear is that he be given enough time to stay on the book.

The story here is just as good as the art and Manapul does something that seems hard for other writers – he creates distinctive voices for his characters. Lois sounds different than Wonder Woman. Batman sounds different than Superman. And Jon Kent sounds like a kid. Very well done. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that DC did something very smart by reintroducing the “classic” Superman to continuity. Beyond the conflict he creates, it’s simply nice to have the Man of Steel back where he belongs.

This title is a must read for any DC fan. We’ve been told that it’s key to the unfolding new universe. Nice that it’s such a joy to read as well.

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: April 13 – 19, 2016


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

I read 5 comics last week:  Batman/Superman #31, Avengers #8, Darth Vader #19, C-3PO #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #10.

The best comic I read last week was Batman/Superman #31.

batman superman 31

 

I am not sure that there is an artist who is more unsung that Doug Mahnke. Truly, I am trying to recall an artist in recent times who gets less appreciation than Mahnke and I cannot think of one. He’s been working at DC on some very prominent titles for years. He’s been involved in big events. He’s illustrated the top characters at the company. One would think that his name would sell comics on its own and that he should be publicized as one of the best artists at DC. I have no idea why this is not the case. Just take a look at Batman/Superman #31 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Manhke’s lines are tight. His characterization is very solid. He captures the big moments of action (Superman and Batman vs. Chinese warriors) and the small moments of contemplation (check the Clark/Alfred scene – brilliant).  Doug Manhke is simply very, very good and one of my favorite artist working today. Give him a big book, DC. Put him in the rotation for one of the twice monthlies!

Oh, and writer Peter Tomasi who, it seems, is effectively bridging the gap between the New 52 and Rebirth is no slouch, either. Actually, these two creators are perfect for each other. They are not the sexiest names in the business, but they are truly the most consistent. Tomasi writes big, high concept stories and puts together arcs that hold together, that are taut in their pacing and not decompressed to the point of glacier-like pacing as with some other writers. I love his plotting, mainly because it makes sense. A reader can follow it. Tomasi doesn’t trick the audience, he invites them along for the ride. I truly enjoy his work.

Both their talents are on display in Batman/Superman #31. Telling the story of a dying Man of Steel who engages Batman on one final mission, Tomasi brings some unexpected emotion to the story. I have to note that this issue is the first time in a long time I’ve cared about Superman in the comics. Tomasi quickly gets to the core of the Superman/Batman dynamic in this book and, more importantly, he finds a core to Superman that has been lost in these last stages of the New 52. Perhaps it’s the freedom to write a story wherein Superman will likely die or perhaps it’s just that Tomasi is that good.

I’d like to see these two creators get their due. A book like Batman/Superman #31 should be read. It’s words and art portraying the best versions of beloved characters. These guys are good.

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Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 3 of 3


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Here are the final prevalent comments about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with which I disagree (and a few valid complaints with which I completely agree):

7. The “Martha” connection is just silly

battleHmmmm… Batman is shown, time-and-again thinking and dreaming about his mother, reflecting on his father’s last word -“Martha” -and standing before his mother’s crypt. When he is about to kill Superman and Superman says “Martha… help me save Martha,” why doesn’t it make perfect sense that this name would give Batman pause? Why is it so silly to think that word wouldn’t break Batman, even momentarily, out of his rage?

It does make sense. From the opening montage of the Waynes’ murder, we’ve been led to this moment.

Some also complain that Superman would say “help me save my mother” as opposed to “Martha.” I suggest that “Martha” was the word in Superman’s head from his confrontation with Lex Luthor (who says “Martha” about 20 times during that conversation) and that he has a sense that “help me save my mother” would not have the impact of “help me save Martha.”

He does know Bruce Wayne is Batman. He likely knows that Martha is, in fact, Batman’s mother’s name as well.

8. Someone else should have killed Doomsday

doomsdaySuperman knows that Doomsday is his responsibility. Doomsday is a Kryptonian creation after all. He is responsible for him. He doesn’t know Wonder Woman. Though he’s battled side-by-side with her (for all of about 5 minutes), he cannot fully know her abilities. He cannot fully trust her. The idea that there is one shot to take Doomsday down and it involves Batman’s Kryptonite spear and Superman should have handed that spear to someone else makes no sense to me. In fact, it’s far more heroic (and Superman-like) for him to have done exactly what he does: sacrifice himself to save the day.

I can only imagine the response had Superman stopped and said “hey, Wonder Woman (or whoever you are), can you take this spear and kill that guy for me?”

You can argue whether the Doomsday coda in the movie is unnecessary but I don’t think it’s fair to say, once it was clear the spear had to be used, that Superman should have handed it to someone else.

Utterly fair complaints with which I completely agree

  • There’s not enough clarity given to the idea that Superman gets blamed for the African incident. He’s there. He saves Lois. People die – by gunshot. What exactly happened? Do people believe that Superman shot people or that his very presence there created the incident? A few more lines of dialogue may well have cleared this up.
  • I like the character of Secretary Stanwick and I like the idea that Lois is investigating the African incident, but I cannot help but thinking that these scenes don’t serve any other purpose than to give Lois something to do. I think the movie might play just fine without them.
  • Though I love the initial confrontation between Superman and Batman when the Batmobile goes skittering of the Man of Steel’s leg, shouldn’t Superman have done something about the car chase and the gun battle going on immediately before he lands in front of Batman? Didn’t he see/ hear that going on? Couldn’t he have figured out a way to stop Luthor’s goons and Batman?
  • I understand why Lois Lane was present for the Doomsday Battle. Her being there adds sadness and drama but creates two significant problems: first, to give her something to do the filmmakers have her realize out of nowhere and with no context that the spear is going to be key to the battle with Doomsday – a battle she has no knowledge of. It would have been so easy to fix this! Have her see on her cellphone that the creature came from the crashed Kryptonian ship. Let her make a logical leap. There just seems to be some connective tissue missing here. Second, why put Lois in jeopardy in that scene? That simply doesn’t have to happen and distracts from the main action (however, if Superman hearing Lois’ struggles was intended to contrast with the cut scene of Superman trying to zero in on Martha’s cries for help which he is apparently unable to do, the entire sequence might have reason for being there). Having Lois in danger here and having Superman save her for the third time in the film severely undercuts the idea that she is an independent woman who can watch out for herself. Rather she seems a damsel in distress. Unfortunate.

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Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 2 of 3


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Here are THREE MORE prevalent comments about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with which I disagree:

4. Superman doesn’t do anything to stop a terrorist attack or react to it

Superman CapitolComplaining about this “problem” and citing it as an example of Superman’s lack of heroism misses a major point of the movie. Superman admits to Lois he didn’t hear the bomb and, in a telling moment, admits why: he wasn’t listening for it. Through events in Batman v Superman, Superman comes to understand that, if he’s going to be a hero, he’s obligated to listen and to react. He cannot let his priorities and desires get in the way of being a hero. He says as much to Lois before he has an encounter (not a dream, but a memory) with his father telling him a story about the consequences of acting and of being too proud of oneself for being a hero. Superman missing the bomb is unfortunate. It’s a tragedy. It reminds the hero that his responsibilities are different than everyone else’s. This is also a good thematic moment for the film as it underscores Luthor as reprehensible villain and Superman as developing hero.

And, as for not reacting after the bomb explodes, there wasn’t really much Superman could do for those who were incinerated, was there?

5. The “reveals” of Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are poorly handled

LexCorp_Meta_Human_dataI just flat out disagree with this argument. I disagree with the idea that Bruce Wayne looking through Luthor’s computer files and his sending them on to Wonder Woman (along with that very cool photo of her [and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor] in 1918) for her review is silly. I’ve seen the sequences described as “Batman emails Wonder Woman You Tube videos” and derided as dumb. Again, I disagree. I LOVE the idea of Lex Luthor knowing about these heroes before they’ve fully revealed themselves. It makes him all the more dangerous and of which other metahumans (referring to the “Metahuman Thesis” he and Senator Finch discuss) does Luthor have knowledge? Other heroines and heroes? Members of the Suicide Squad? Reviewers mention that this reveal is either boring or poorly placed (or both) in the movie. Perhaps people would have liked these, too, as post credit sequences. Okay, fine. But to say these sequences are poor is just not true – though if someone mentioned the Dr. Pepper product placement in the Cyborg scene as being more than a bit distracting, I would be inclined to agree.

6. Lex Luthor’s plan makes no sense

LuthorLet me see if I’ve got this straight. One of the most intelligent men in the world is confronted by the fact that powerful aliens who could destroy the world not only exist but live among us. He’s seen the results of their battle, lost property in that battle and wants to ensure that a battle like this never happens again. He’s also been programmed from childhood to fear those with power. So, as Superman begins to do good acts all over the world, Luthor begins to plan. His plans are simultaneous, manipulative and ambitious. He helps create (I believe) the Metahuman Thesis. He uncovers all he can about metahumans and vigilantes – including their secret identities. He notes that Bruce Wayne, who he knows to be Batman, has lost property and people to Black Zero event and begins to manipulate him, hoping to cause a conflict between Batman and Superman. After having the Kryptonian crash sites searched, he discovers something that can kill Superman. He tries to obtain it legally. When he cannot, he steals it. As Superman’s public approval rises, he arranges an incident in Africa (placing Lois Lane in jeopardy) to cause the public to again question the Man of Steel. He arranges to take possession of Kryptonian artifacts (including General Zod’s body) in Metropolis. He both experiments on Zod and learns an incredible amount from the Kryptonian technology – including how to create a weapon to destroy Superman if he cannot manipulate Batman into doing so. Once Batman steals the Kryptonite, Luthor likely advances both his research into other ways to deal with Superman and his plan to force Batman to kill Superman. He blows up the US Capitol further turning opinion against Superman while also solidifying Batman’s apprehension of him. He puts Superman in the position of having to confront Batman by kidnapping Superman’s mother. And, when that doesn’t work, he unleashes Doomsday, a creation that he didn’t fully activate until after Batman fails to kill Superman.

What did I miss? Makes sense to me. I love this plan, I love the wheels-within-wheels aspect of it. I love that the knowledge Lex Luthor gains from the Kryptonian Archives seems to leave him more unhinged than he already was.

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Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 1 of 3


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Would we call the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reviews mixed?

Would we?

No, I think we’d have to call them roundly terrible and, while the film is making money, it is not going to be the financial beast for which Warner Bros was hoping. It doesn’t seem that the company is altering its ambitious DC Comics movie plans (and Forbes has a great article on why this doesn’t need to happen, but an change in financial expectations does) for which I am glad. I really liked Batman v Superman and I am looking forward to Wonder Woman, Justice League and solo films featuring the characters (especially the rumored Ben Affleck Batman solo movies).

I am surprised at the amount of “ink” that Batman v Superman continues to generate. The idea that no publicity is bad publicity is one thing, but there seems to me to be a shocking amount of vitriol directed at the movie. If it was so terrible as most seem to believe, so mishandled and so offensive, why are people still writing about it? Move on to the next thing (Civil War anyone?) and leave it alone.

I do understand that these characters are beloved and this is a movie that had a lot riding on it. For those reasons alone, it should generate conversation. I am simply surprised by the glee I sense in many of the scathing reviews and commentaries. I am surprised by the joy I gather some are taking in trashing the film, the filmmaker, the cast and just about anything associated with Batman v Superman.

Unlike reactions to Avengers and, more recently, The Force Awakens – many were rooting for these movies to be good – a loud segment of the internet and movie critics seemed to be rooting for this movie to be bad.

Not everyone who didn’t like Batman v Superman falls into this camp and reasonable people can disagree over whether or not they liked the movie, what they liked about it and what turned them off, but common themes in critiques have surfaced that really bother me. Comments like these hold Batman v Superman to a level of critique other films of the superhero genre don’t seem to have to endure.

Here are 3 of my least favorite cases-in-point and, needless to say, there are SPOILERS aplenty from here on out:

1. Superman doesn’t act like a hero

Superman Day of the DeadCan we please acknowledge that Batman v Superman is the final act of Superman’s origin story? This is ironic, I know, as he dies in the conclusion of the film, but the movie presents a Superman still learning the ropes and learning his place. He is a different Superman than he was in Man of Steelbut he still doesn’t quite know who he what he should be doing in the world. He is not, throughout most of the film, as unflinchingly heroic as many want their Superman to be but he becomes that hero in two very telling scenes at the film’s end.

First, when Lex Luthor brings Doomsday to life, the monster’s first act is to take a killing stroke at its creator. Superman blocks the blow without hesitation, a clearly selfless (he’s just been told the creature is a Kryptonian nightmare and can kill him) and heroic (Luthor has, in the last 60 minutes, pushed Lois Lane off a building and threatened the life of Superman’s mother) act.

Second, Superman sacrifices himself to save the world from Doomsday, a monster he understands is his responsibility. He doesn’t leave the situation to chance. He acts with no regard to his safety and, in fact, acts knowing he’s likely to die from his actions.

This sounds pretty heroic to me.

2. Batman kills – other movie Batmans haven’t

batman killsLet’s be honest, Ben Affleck’s Batman isn’t the first movie Batman to kill. He’s not even the first movie Batman to outfit his vehicles with guns. No, that honor goes to Michael Keaton’s Batman whose Batwing had twin mounted machine guns which the hero used liberally in the climax of 1989’s Batman. And, though it is sacrilege to say anything negative about the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, I will note that Batman’s logic of “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” employed throughout those films is really, really flimsy.

What I will say is that Batman v Superman‘s Batman does kill more than all of his cinematic predecessors combined. There is no doubt about that. I don’t love a Batman who kills but, in the world created for Batman v Superman, a world where Batman has lost a Robin, has been fighting crime for 20 years and feels he’s changed nothing and has now encountered a being whose he existence he perceives as a threat to humanity, I understand this dark choice. I understand this character who brands some of the criminals he encounters and isn’t particularly concerned about their well being going up against them in battle.

Further, I think the movie suggests that the Batman we encounter at the end of the film has rethought that dark choice. When he says he failed Superman in life but won’t fail him in death and when he doesn’t brand Lex Luthor, we are presented with a Batman who is changing his ways.

By-the-way, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow kill. They kill real good. I understand and am pleased that people hold the character of Batman to a different standard, but that standard is a bit unfair, isn’t it? Where’s the moral outrage over the collateral damage on villains the Avengers wreck?

3. Batman’s “dreams” make no sense

Batman DreamHmmm. Okay, whose dreams do make sense? I believe the dreams are not supposed to make literal sense. They are supposed to illustrate the character’s state of mind. He’s terrified of Superman’s power and preoccupied with obtaining the kryptonite to do stop him in the Superman as fascist dream. He’s thinking about the last twenty years being empty and believes he’s failed his parents (especially his mother – his father’s last word “Martha” suggests his father failed his mother, too, and Bruce’s mother is on his mind a lot in the movie) in that he sees the results of his crime fighting as essentially meaningless. Both of these dreams indicate emotion and state of mind, both critical to the movie, by-the-way, and are not literal.

There are two other things to note and they are related: Batman has a dream (vision?) of the Flash who seems to be traveling through time to issue a warning to Bruce about the future and that future seems to include the villain Darkseid – we see his omega symbol on the ground in the Knightmare dream sequence, we see Mother Box technology in the Cyborg scene and we hear Lex Luthor reference a Darkseid sounding threat at the end of the movie.

Are these elements integral to the proceedings in Batman v Superman? No, they are not and, perhaps, that’s why some have reacted so strongly to them. Would they have been better as Marvel movie-like post credit scenes? Perhaps,though I can see that Warner Bros may have tried to avoid that very comparison by placing them within the content of the film. Would critics have been as hard on them for making little sense if they were post credit sequences? Yes, I think so.

These scenes make just as much sense as the Thanos sequence (Avengers), the Collector sequence (Thor: The Dark World) and the Apocalypse (X-Men: Days of Future Past) sequences and those scenes didn’t receive the nearly the level of scrutiny as these have. In fact, these sequences were primarily praised for being cool.

Is the reaction just about the scenes’ placement within Batman v Superman? Maybe. Maybe… but I doubt it.

Coming soon… Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 2 of 3 

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Batman V Superman – What Do You Need To Know?


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We are two weeks away from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and I, for one, am very excited to see this movie.

If you’re wondering about any important details heading into the film, Empire Magazine  has done a wonderful job pulling together all that is known going into it. There are very, very minor spoilers – nothing to ruin what I think is going to be a great film.

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