ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
A recent post by [livejournal.com profile] buggery reminded me that I still hadn't read Batman: Family #1-8 (written by John Francis Moore, art by Stefan Gaudiano and by Rick Hoberg). So today I remedied that.

It's a good story and I recommend it also. First, it has an interesting, complex crime plot that you can actually follow (though I think I would have appreciated the exposition recaps more had I read it in monthly installments, but even so they weren't tedious, and helped to stay on top of the developments). Second, it included *all* of the Batfamily in a (mostly) organic way into that plot, and it is always great to see all of them relate to each other. Third, all of the main members of the villain group had distinct personalities and there were glimpses of their motivations and backgrounds, while at the same time they remained scary, or very scary, with a dash of disturbing. Several of them were clearly psychopaths, and the rest wasn't exactly sane either, but they weren't costumes, unless it suited them for convenience, they were rational and had goals that weren't centered around battling with Batman. And that made them more dangerous, and scarier.

I mean, Mr. Fun? Made me shiver, how he had those bizarre motivational slogans for better job performance running through his head while he was killing people. And Celia Kazantkakis/Athena is a psychopath but scarily competent, and nearly perfect at passing for normal. I had varied reactions to all of the villains, they read as full personalities to me. There were little details that made them real to me, like that the Technician wasn't just into his techno-toys, but also into Gotham history, especially the history of crime in Gotham (and I liked the kid).

Actually all of the minor and supporting characters worked surprisingly well, they were vivid, without hogging too much attention or storytime, and that made Gotham seem populated with lots of real people besides the heroes and the villains.

I also read JLA: Year One (by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn and Barry Kitson), and that was lots of fun. I liked seeing the early team together, and much to my surprise I even liked this Aquaman. It was also great to see Barry and Hal early in their career rather than as larger-than-life heroes (even if GL was somewhat of a chauvinist jerk, I still like him). Their fights were a bit on the bizarre side, but I suspect that is because the series might adapt/retell their early Silver Age exploits. I haven't read those, so I didn't recognize the stories, but somehow they had that logic-defying feel to them. Like that strange ray gun that took body parts and meshed them together to be controlled by the Brain, yet they didn't die (or were near death) even if half their body was missing, and it was easily reversible too. If their adventures aren't retellings, they certainly are in the same spirit. However those really only serve as backdrop for their personal lives, the developing team dynamic, and the conflicts that come from both, and those parts are very much *not* like Silver Age camp. I felt sometimes a bit lost, for example I have no clue about the Doom Patrol or the Blackhawks, but I could still follow the story.

And not related to any of the above: I looked at a preview for an upcoming Batman Elseworld The Order of Beasts, and can someone explain to me why, if the writer feels the need to have someone shout a German word, he can't look up the proper article? It can't be that hard to go to a dictionary website if you want someone shout "The Bat!" in German and find out that "Fledermaus" is feminine, and put the right article in front of the word. It's not like it's rocket science. It wouldn't aggravate me so, if this kind of thing didn't happen in a lot of cases where the authors feel the need to sprinkle some foreign language bits throughout their comic, instead of just indicating foreign languages with "< >" or similar markers. I've notice butchered French sometimes too (and my French is really bad, so it's not as if I'd even notice less than blatant mistakes), not just German. Often Spanish bits seem a better to me, which could be either because I know even less Spanish than French, or because Spanish is more widely spoken and read in the US, so that in the case of Spanish writers actually know what they're doing. But still it really throws me out of the story every time when the very thing that is supposedly there to make it look/sound more "authentic" just comes across as ridiculous.
ratcreature: WTF!? (WTF!?)
This takes the term "Batmobile" way too literally. (the panel is from the sword & sorcery Elseworld "League of Justice")
ratcreature: WTF!? (WTF!?)
Jon Jonzz the "Slim Green Lord of Glam Rock"
and
teen-angst balladeer Bruce Wayne of the Pennyworths

I have no words.

However the really disturbing images come later when they do Silver age spoofs in the "Hall of Silver Age Elseworlds First Pages", like Robin as Squid Wonder, Gorilla Grodd as Christoph Columbus, or Batman as Adam with the Joker as snake.

(The pages are from the 80 page Elseworlds Giant from 1999 that was never published in the US but some shipped to the UK, apparently it's really hard to get and quite expensive, however I downloaded a copy, and now have to cope with the consequences. The images in my brain. Ack.)

ETA: I fixed the link to teen-angst balladeer Bruce Wayne...
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
You remember how a short while ago I brought to you some Elseworld scans, among them that wacky Batman SM outfit? And thought that couldn't be topped? Well I'm just now reading a Superman Elseworld trade, Superman: The Dark Side (written by John Francis Moore, pencils by Kieron Dwyer, inks by Hilary Barta), and the plot isn't really all that important to these three panel scans. All I have to say is, if you ever wanted to see Lex Luthor naked (well okay he has a loin cloth), gagged and wearing a dog collar, while a huge dominatrix wielding a whip towers over him (you see bloody whip marks too), you should take a look behind this cut tag.
you'd think I was kidding, but I am not )

You know, each time I think that there are certainly things I'd only ever see in fanfiction not in the comic books, I'm proven wrong.
ratcreature: RatCreature is buried in comics, with the text: There's no such thing as too many comics.  (comics)
Recently I commented in [livejournal.com profile] lcsbanana's LJ and shared a couple of pictures from Elseworlds, some wackier than others, and some rather freaky, and I thought I might as well turn it into an entry in my own blog, because some of those images you really shouldn't miss...

There is a rather freaky Elseworld comic from 1998 called "Batman: I, Joker" (written and illustrated by Bob Hall), about a future Gotham ruled by a Batman cult, in which we see CultLeader!Batman fight a weird bondage gear Batman (and anybody who thought the regular Batman outfit couldn't possible get any more fetish-like is proven wrong). In case you're interested in some context, and some more disturbing pictures: The cult ruling Gotham has a ritual once a year where others can challenge The Batman (who is thought of as a god) to become the next one, and to win that right to fight, first they have to bring down one of the supervillains who are resurrected and let loose in the city for that ritual. Actually they are not so much resurrected, as that they take normal people, erase their memories, disfigure them and implant them with wrong memories of the supervillain they are to represent. You can see this exposition with the cult in action on the pages 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. The weird Batman in that SM outfit is a challenger who managed to kill the Riddler, and actually in that story the guy they chose to play the Joker happens to have been a member of some underground guerrilla, and managed to beat the false memories and challenge the Batman, and it ends with Joker (well someone who had his mind wiped, Joker's personality implanted, and been given the face of Joker) as the next Batman though he's a good guy and determined to end the cult in what I guess counts as a wacky (and somewhat disturbing) happy ending.

I also pointed out some of the cliche and/or genre Elseworlds (because I love Elsewords, just like I love AUs, so I read them quite a lot, though honestly those below are not my favorites, just evidence that there is probably nothing these poor characters didn't have to go through):
- Cave!Batman (from Legends of the Dark Knight #35, and okay, that is actually, in the story, supposed to be a Viking!Batman, but does that look like a viking to you?!)
- Pirate!Batman (from Batman Chronicles #11)
- Vampire!Batman (there's a series, but this image is from Batman: Bloodstorm)
- Batman as a were-bat because of some gypsy curse (also from Batman Chronicles #11)
- Batman in the wild west (cover of Batman: The Blue, the Grey, and the Bat)
- as King Arthur's knight (cover of Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table #1)
- Samurai Batman and Robin in medieval Japan (from Robin Annual #3) which by the way ends with Robin comitting ritual suicide, because he broke his word to Batman and avenged his death when he swore he would not.
- Batman as Egyptian Bat-God (which I haven't read because it sounded like a bad SG-1 x-over)
- Bruce Wayne as gay artist in the 1930s in Berlin (from Batman Chronicles #11, which features an amazing amount of bad writing for just one comic). Personally, I think neither the pink house coat nor the lipstick (well it *looks* like lipstick anyway) suits him, though it makes sense in a weird way, that in this universe Robin is female, just like in the regular comics with the heterosexual (officially anyway) Batman Robin is a boy...

Finally, not (quite) an Elseworld but a really good (and creepy) story, Mask by Bryan Talbot in LotDK #39/40, where Bruce Wayne is in a mental hospital, and only imagines running around as "Batman" in his fantasy world, in reality his costume is a ridiculous outfit made from junk and he's institutionalized. Of course in the end it turns out a supervillain plot after all, but that really isn't the point of the story. I mean it could've been an Elseworld if it hadn't turned out to be a supervillain scheme.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
For seemingly days now (okay it's just since late Saturday, it feels longer though) I've been seeing all these posts on my flist about Hereafter, more squee, and fic, and discussion than usual after a JL ep, and I can't participate yet, nor do I have any clue what the excitement is about (preferring to remain unspoiled, so please don't say). And worse, so far I haven't found an encode of the frelling episode online in the places I usually get the JL episodes. This sucks. I want to watch it too.

I did however get my comics on Saturday, except for the new Superman/Batman, that I thought was supposed to ship last week, but then again, that might be late everywhere. JLA/Avengers #3 was great, though I definitely need to reread it with some annotations, I didn't have a clue about many of the events that were referred to, especially those in Marvel continuity. I've also got an older comic (well slightly older, from 1998), a JLA Elseworld, The Nail (written and pencilled by Alan Davis, inked by Mark Farmer). It's no secret that I'm fond of AUs whether done by fans or by DC, so I have a soft spot for Elseworlds in general. I liked this one, and I have a couple of comments, unfortunately I'm going to lag behind with posting more indepth comic comments, both on the current issues as well as more on The Nail, (and probably blogging in general) due to obnoxious RL stuff that insists on intruding on my fannish time.

Still I wanted to mention that I'd love to see some fanfiction for The Nail Elseworld, in particular some that explores spoiler for what happened to Clark/Superman in this Elseworld )

icons

Nov. 21st, 2003 21:25
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
I've made some icons from the Elseworld comic Superman: Red Son (written by Mark Millar, pencils by Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett, inks by Andrew Robinson and Walden Wong). I've wanted to for some time now, because I just get a kick out of seeing Superman with a hammer and sickle symbol instead of his customary S. BTW, the comic, a three part prestige format Elseworld that I think is also available as a paperback (or will be soon) is quite good. At least I enjoyed reading it. But then I have a thing for AU stories.

As usual, comment if you'd like one, feel free to customize them yourself if you want, or ask me to add text, and I'll do my best. Credit would be nice, but if you usually don't do GIP posts, or list icon creators with your icons that's fine too.

1)(c) 2003 DC Comics / Superman: Red Son2)(c) 2003 DC Comics / Superman: Red Son
a few more behind the lj-cut )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I got The Batman Chronicles #11, an issue with three Elseworlds stories. The best of the three (which isn't saying much) was for me the third, "Curse of the Cat-Woman" written by Kieron Dwyer, art by Lee Loughridge. However, the main point of this entry is that I found entertainment value in the art of the first two, though I didn't like the stories. The first one by Paul Pope puts Batman into Berlin 1938, and it suffers both from lack of research as well as from a weak story, but -- Bruce Wayne looks really, really gay as a Cubist artist wearing some pink house coat with a fluffy collar. In the second one (which isn't really a comic, more one illustration each page with text), "The Bride of Leatherwing" by Chuck Dixon and Quique Alcatena, we get a swashbuckling version of Batman, like what would Batman look like as a pirate. This also looks very, very odd.

For your enjoyment I put scans of both behind the cut-tag... )
ratcreature: RatCreature feels sick. (sick)
Today -- well technically yesterday -- wasn't a very good day. It started when I woke up from a nightmare of me picking splinters of a broken glass out of my bleeding throat and mouth (there was more unpleasantness, but that was what I was dreaming right before I woke up, and all that stuck in my memory), and as soon as I was fully awake I noticed that my throat was hurting for real. Granted, not like "bleeding and cut by glass" hurt, so waking up to a sore throat was maybe still an improvement. Anyway, the whole day I've been feeling like in a limbo between being well and the real onset of a cold, not feeling ill or in serious discomfort, yet not quite right either. I don't have a fever, and still my body temperature feels off to me, my throat doesn't hurt so much that swallowing is painful, but it feels scratchy, my neck and head feel achy etc. So while I hope that this goes away without getting worse, I have a suspicion it will not.

Of course I realize that my onsetting cold is not the most interesting thing, however, I spent a good part of the day in bed reading comics, and because I took a nap earlier, I have a problem to fall asleep right now, so I thought I'd start to share my opinions on them. I read The Batman of Arkham, Batman: Prodigal, Nightwing: A Knight In Blüdhaven, and Superman: Metropolis #1. I have half-composed comments in my head on all of them, however since I do want to sleep (after all it's said to be good against colds) I'll just comment on The Batman of Arkham for now.

The Batman of Arkham is an Elseworlds story, 48 pages, written by Alan Grant, art by Alcatena. It is set in 1900, and I bought it because I really like the idea of a Batman in that era, and I like other Elseworlds stories set then, however unlike The Golden Streets of Gotham (which I reviewed here) and Gotham by Gaslight, this one didn't do much for me.

Part of it is the artwork. It's not bad exactly, but for example it is not very dynamic. It rarely uses perspective for dramatic or composition purposes, though maybe I just noticed that because I read it right after Nightwing: A Knight In Blüdhaven, where Scott McDaniel goes, IMO, totally overboard with the other extreme, using unusual perspectives so much that the art is sometimes hard to follow and the perspective looses its impact (but more about that in my hopefully upcoming review of that comic). Also the bodies in motion and the fight scenes aren't great. And the hatching isn't really done well. I know from experience that hatching well is frelling hard, and I'm not good at it either, but look at the hatching of artists who really know how to do this well, like for example Bryan Talbot when he uses the technique (for Batman fans I can really recommend his two-parter Mask, in Legends of the Dark Knight #39/#40), and then at The Batman of Arkham. And after all there is no rule you have to use a lot of hatching in comic artwork. But I think what works least for me are the broad white ornamental panel borders. I think they are supposed to evoke a turn of the century "feel", and reflect the theme of the page, but they just were somewhat annoying to me, and another very "static" thing.

All that said, there is much worse comic artwork out there, and I guess it wouldn't have mattered this much to me, had the story really worked, but that was somewhat flat too.

The premise is okay, this Batman isn't looking for justice or for revenge as much as for understanding, why his parents were killed. And since in this reality his parents were killed by someone mentally ill, this Batman sums up his mission like this, when talking to Gordon: "My parents were murdered by a lunatic when I was a child. I vowed then to dedicate my life to the prevention of such needless tragedies -- by curing the madmen responsible." So he studied the emerging theories of psychology, bought Arkham Asylum, reformed its methods, and captures mad criminals during the night as Batman, to research and cure the criminally insane as Doctor Wayne during the day.

We meet a number of Batman villains briefly, some getting better (like Killer Croc), some not or not yet (like Two-Face and the Ventriloquist), some still on the loose (like the Joker), also Crane as a psychiatrist with a rather different set of theories from Wayne's ("Fear will accomplish what kindness never could!") and if the reader didn't get that anvil, all the time his shadow is cast in the form of a Scarecrow. Also we see Poison Ivy (with whom I'm not familiar at all) who turned to crime because her feminist suffrage demands were denied, though we never get details, but I thought it was interesting touch that she's incarcerated as insane because she's feminist (and also refuses to comply with the demand to wear "decent" dresses). The main plot finally is about Batman thwarting Joker's plan to turn all of Gotham mad through his laughing gas.

All this could have been interesting if there had been a real B plot besides the Joker-Batman thing. That alone isn't enough for 48 pages, at least for me it isn't. The only thing that might count as B plot is Crane taking over the asylum when Bruce is disabled by Joker's gas, and Killer Croc helping him, but we don't really see enough of the characters for them to have an emotional impact. Instead of developing some of the altered characters, who then get to do something that ties into the main plot, we meet all those others just as briefly, as if just to show them and how they turned out in this Elseworld, but they don't really seem to have a purpose and we don't really learn a lot about their fates either. The one or two page flashbacks and doctor patient talks with each of the bad guys who are not really involved with anything in the action just slow things down, and take up space that could have been used to make me care more about the characters who actually do things, like Crane.

I think my final verdict on this one is that it is thoroughly mediocre, both in its artwork and in its story, and I wouldn't spend $5.95 on it again.

Now this review turned out longer than I thought, it's after four a.m., and I hope I'll be able to sleep now. More on the other comics in some future entry.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
And yet again I've read a Batman Elseworlds story; this time "The Golden Streets of Gotham", 64 pages, written by Jen Van Meter, art by Cliff Chiang and Tommy Lee Edwards. It came out this January. And unlike Gotham Noir, about which I talked here recently, I enjoyed this one a lot.

I preordered it because the cover really grabbed my attention in the catalog: I have a weakness for art nouveau style if it's not too flowery (I'm not well-versed in correctly naming the subtle differences), and I liked the different look of the Bat costume that really fits that era as well, so I would have happily bought this comic just for the cover regardless of its content. However it turns out I liked the story as well.

In this universe, set around 1910, Batman isn't Bruce Wayne, son of rich parents who are killed during a robbery, who henceforth fights crime, here Batman is Bruno Vanekow, whose parents -- first generation immigrants -- are killed in a sweatshop fire, which was intentionally started by the owner because the workers planned a walk-out. While "The Cat", i.e. Selina Kyle, agitates in secret underground worker meetings for unions and better working conditions, and plans a citywide strike, the Bat robs the corrupt rich capitalists at night, finances the movement and helps the poor with the spoils, thus becoming a Robin Hood for the exploited immigrant underclass. There is also a serial killer subplot, which ties very neatly into the main story line (not totally predictable, not extremely original either, but it worked for me). James Gordon is a honest cop among the widely corrupt police force, and a young Dick Grayson (together with a theater troop) aids the Bat at crucial moments. Grayson is also the narrator, since the whole story is as he tells it to Elana Karadian (I have no idea whether she corresponds to anyone in the regular Batman universe), who's researching the role Gotham's old theaters played in organized labor.

Actually this current day framework is the only thing that didn't really work for me, because I didn't see the point of making it all a flashback. But the frame is only about eight pages of 64, so it didn't really bother me. I may be partial to this one because I'm fond of stories set in early 20th century, but the universe worked for me.

Also I liked the artwork. I already mentioned the cover, but the rest is quite good as well, not really in the style of the cover, i.e. not so much art nouveau, which is not surprising, since that works more for decorative stuff than for a dynamic comic, but the artwork gets the atmosphere across. It is not the "typical" superhero style, and obviously nobody wears tights. It's 1910 after all. I really like the look of the Cat (who is of course assumed to be a man by her followers for quite some time), with the coat, the hat and the cat mask, and I already mentioned that the non-skintight version of a bat costume worked well for me.

So I think "The Golden Streets of Gotham" is worth reading.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
So I've read "Gotham Noir" recently. It's a Batman Elseworlds story, 64 pages, written by Ed Brubaker, artwork by Sean Phillips, and it first came out a while ago, 2001 I think, so it's not new. I've liked the Elseworlds concept since I first encountered it, though I didn't know it had a label then. The first Elseworld story I read was a German edition of "Gotham by Gaslight," I think it was in 1990, and the German publisher didn't distinguish Elseworlds titles from the regular Batman series. Back then I didn't think that there was a system to Batman continuity, since all I had read were a couple of graphic novels by artists I liked, and I more saw it as a vaguely connected universe with common themes and characters, definitely not as a continuing story development (much in the way one reads fanfic for something, where a lot of things are similar while others are not, and the stories don't really have much to do with each other). And honestly I still have no clue about Batman continuity and I don't really care much, but I assume that there is a bit more of a system to it, even though I'm not aware of it.

Anyway, I guess I like Elseworlds in particular (though in truth I haven't read that many, since I don't read much superhero stuff) because I like AUs in general, but with comics titles they have the additional advantage that if you, like me, don't read a lot of a series, you avoid the continuity maze from the start and don't have to worry about missing things when you pick up a comic.

But while I can really recommend the aforementioned "Gotham by Gaslight" (not at least for the artwork, which I like a lot), "Gotham Noir" left me cold. I'm not entirely sure why. The basic idea to bring Batman back to its noir 1940s detective pulp roots is great. I like that time and the style, and I also think it suits Batman very well. Also that the focus isn't on Batman/Bruce Wayne but on James Gordon could have been interesting. But --

While the premise that Gordon isn't commissioner, but had been forced to leave his job as a cop in the wake of a scandal and is now a drunk private eye, with a failed marriage and still haunted by memories of WWII, worked for me, and I could even more or less see the rest of the characters, the plot that evolved from that premise was very flat. Okay, so it was supposed to be like a pulp magazine plot, still it doesn't have to be like a handful of cliched building blocks thrown together: Gordon is framed for murder, the city government is of course corrupt, and at the root is the "dark secret" which is of course (how could it be anything else?) some child molestation story. Yawn.

I think what made me far less tolerant for these cliches than usual was that Batman came across as about as three dimensional as the graphic representation Phillips chose, which was to depict Batman only as a black silhouette with white slits for the eyes. I mean, even if Gordon is the focus, in a Batman comic there should be at least a bit more to Batman than an ink blotch.

BTW, the artwork as a whole didn't really work for me, not just the Silhouette!Batman. It's hard to pin down, since the artwork isn't bad or incompetent, but to me it came across as very static. Especially in the action sequences. And though sometimes such choice can work, somehow here for me it didn't. Also I think that the coloring which uses in parts the typical airbrush-type color nuances, that are so common nowadays, instead of single colors, doesn't work that well with the more stark b/w brush style.

I like some of Ed Brubaker's other stuff -- in particular "The Fall" which he did with Jason Lutes, though that may also be because of Jason Lutes, whose comics "Jar of Fools" and "Berlin" I like a lot -- but "Gotham Noir" didn't impress me. Certainly not the worst Batman I've ever read, but not really good either.

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