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The Matt Cave – Batmatt reviews Batman and Robin

19

Aug

Posted by Steve

With the demise of Bruce Wayne, a new Batman has stepped up to take over the mantle of the caped crusader.   Dick Grayson.  How does this new Batman fare?  What does forum member, and long time Batman fan, Batmatt think?  Well, find out as the newest member of the review team shares his thoughts on BATMAN AND ROBIN issues 1 and 2.

Batman and Robin 1 & 2:

To give a little background on myself, I started collecting comics in high school. A friend of mine took me to a hole in the wall second hand bookstore called Blue Moon Books. The store smelled of old parchment, not unlike the library. The owner had a wall of comics and I made my very first verbal contract and started with a subscription to Batman. This was during the introduction of Azrael the soon to be pretender to the cowl of Batman. During this time I became immersed in the DC universe and got to know many of the batman1.jpgcharacters and their back stories. One such character was Nightwing as he moved out from under the shadow of the bat to break out in a new territory in the neighboring city of Blüdhaven. I really liked how Dick Grayson made the city his own, but when he was called back to take the cowl of Batman over during the prodigal son story arc I became disappointed in how the Dick Grayson character was written. He came across as whiny and unsure of himself and I could not wait for him to return to Blüdhaven so we could have Bruce Wayne back. Which did happen and I was able to enjoy Batman for many years until I stopped collecting comics for various reasons.
Steve asked me to review a comic for the site and this gave me the excuse to start collecting and reading the books I love. As I started reading Batman and Robin and I felt like Han Solo as he was released from his Carbonite prison “I’m out of it for a little while and everyone gets dilutions of grandeur.” BATMANS DEAD?!? Dick Grayson has once again taken over as Batman? Hang on while I clutch my chest and breathe deeply in to this paper bag. Oh and where is Tim Drake? Great now I have black spots floating in my vision.

I’m okay really I’m now over the shock.

The story starts out with a car chase and a new Batmobile that flies, very cool and Back to The Future-ish. The mantle of Robin has been given to Damien, Bruce’s son, who has a snotty attitude from the start which carries throughout the next issue. I am reminded of Jason Todd, who is the least liked Robin in the history of Batman. Damien and Todd share many traits, but I think Damien is smarter and more impulsive. These character traits land him in trouble later on in issue two. Batman and Robin take down a thug by the name of Mr. Toad; yes he looks like a walking frog. He is carrying a brief case full of dominos. This causes a big question mark with Batman and Robin. Toad is dropped off and given to the authorities. Then we go to a destroyed Batcave where Dick and Alfred are sifting through the remains and having a conversation about Dick being Batman. I started to worry a little right here and have flashbacks to “prodigal son,” but Alfred provides support with wisdom and strength for Dick to lean on.

One notable moment from this page is the panel of the gravestones as Alfred and Dick are leaving the grounds of Wayne manor. Next to Thomas and Martha’s marker is a headstone with no markings on it and the top is the silhouette of a batsymbol, it’s a nice touch. We are then treated to a view of the new Batcave under what looks like one of the Wayne towers. Poor Alfred now has to transverse 64 floors and then descends a ladder to deliver food to the Batcave. I was shocked that the elevator did not go all the way to the cave. I could not imagine balancing a silver tray in one hand and go down a ladder, Alfred’s got skills. Dick and Damien then leave to pay a visit to Commissioner Gordon also this is the first meeting with the police since Bruce’s death. When Dick and Damien reach the police station the department is attacked by some of Mr. Toad’s associates in a break out attempt. We leave the attack to be introduced to Niko who was with Mr. Toad during the car chase at the beginning of the story. Niko is overtaken in his home by creepy doll like people that all look alike. He is then tied to a table and is turned into one of the creepy doll people by the villain of this story. Whose name is Pyg; he looks like a crazed butcher wearing a pig mask.

Issue two starts with a flashback. On the first page Alfred is consoling Dick and asking what happened, on the floor is an “R” patch torn from Damien’s uniform. The flashback sequence starts with a meeting between Dick and Gordon on the rooftop of the police department. Gordon and his men are suspicious of Batman and Robin because they can tell they are not the original dynamic duo, but they go along with them as the call comes in about the attempted breakout. The team trying to break out Mr. Toad is as strange as he is. A man named Rex runs into the police department on fire and this causes confusion as the Fat Lady, “Big Top” launches gas into the building. batman_and_robin_2_668x1024.jpgBig Top, Rex and a trio of Siamese triplets enter the building. This is when Robin shows his impulsiveness by jumping right into the fight. He holds his own against the triplets for a ten year old. Robin backs off when Batman tells him to and then Robin starts to pursue Big Top. As he engages her he makes a reference to Jabba the Hut and then proceeds to get his butt handed to him. Batman takes out the triplets and then puts Rex out with a fire extinguisher. It is now very apparent that Mr. Toad and his cohorts are part of a sick group of crazy carneys. Gordon and his men find Robin beating the stuffing out of Big Top with a stick. Gordon basically tells Robin to stop or else. But Robin continues to beat Big Top over the head with a stick till Batman intervenes. It is then discovered that Mr. Toad is dead and in his hand is a single domino. The relevance of the domino is still unknown to me and I suspect it will come to light in later issues. Batman and Robin enter the Batcave arguing about methods for getting the job done. This escalates to Robin ripping off his “R” patch and leaves stating he will find a teacher he respects. This is when we come full circle to the beginning of issue two where Alfred is consoling Dick. He has a long conversation with Alfred about Damien, Gordon, and how being Batman does not feel right. Always the wise, Alfred comes to the rescue with sage advice to all of Dick’s issues and the final bit of advice is the most effective. Alfred tells Dick to go back to his roots as a performer and look at it as if it were a role like Hamlet, or James Bond, or Willie Loman. I was not sure who this was till I googled him, if you’re interested it’s the main character in Death of a Salesman. This is my favorite panel of issue two with Alfred holding Batman’s cowl in the same fashion that Hamlet held the skull of poor Yorick. I wonder if Alfred had been helping Dick out during the “prodigal son” story arc we may have never seen Bruce Wayne again. I am starting to like this version of Batman. I know, I know, I’m speaking blasphemy but I am starting to really like the direction of this story. I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid yet, but I am willing to keep an open mind for a while. By the way… Robin is getting mobbed by Pyg and his weirdo dolls.
Story – 5/5

Art – 6/5: Or an A+ very crisp and not too cartoony. My only criticism of the art work is the way Frank drew Big Top, that’s a lot of cellulite… yuck.

It’s the GI Joe Way

8

Aug

Posted by Steve

On Episode 36 of Geek Out Loud, Michael Bailey and I put out the call for someone to make a video using Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” and the opening to the GI Joe Movie. Well, good friend of the show Matthew Cunningham came through for us. Here is his work:

From the Desk of the Super Clerk – Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps # 1 Reviewed

7

Aug

Posted by Steve

Our good friend Superclerk (aka Jason, who you can hear share his ramblings on various movies by listening to The Flicks Podcast over on iTunes) returns to keep EVERYONE abreast of what’s happening with DC’s big event BLACKEST NIGHT. In this installment, Superclerk brings us his recap and review of “Tales of the Corps #1.” Read on to see what he thought:

Blackest Night has begun…

We begin this first issue of Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps with battle scene on Odym, home world of the Blue Lantern Corps.

It seems Agent Orange, Larfleeze, has sent a team of constructs to the planet in an attempt to acquire a Blue Lantern ring of his own.  As the fight rages on and the Blue Lanterns fight against the orange constructs we see Saint Walker plead with Larfleeze to end his attempt to take the power of Hope.  Larfleeze will not listen, as he is mad with greed and wants the power of the blue rings for himself.

Saint Walker tells him that Hope is not something to be taken but something that is shared.  As he says this we travel back to the origins of Saint Walker…

As the planet of Astonia is in the throws of a war that is bringing the world to an end we see the family of Saint Walker huddled inside a church building.  BNTOTC1a.jpgFires have broken out, death is filling the air and the aged sun is a dark red while Walker attempts to calm his family and father.  He tells them that they need to head to the top of Mount Helious as foretold in their holy books.  It says that a messiah will be found on the top of the mountain in a time of great need.  Though they are hesitant they agree to follow him.  As they leave the church a flaming spear smashes through the window and the building is enveloped in flames.

The family heads up the mountain all the while knowing that the path is perilous and their survival is not guaranteed.  The heat from the sun bakes them as they make their way through dense jungle and rocky cliffs.  Saint Walker tries to keep the family positive by talking about their faith and letting his young son know that even if they fail in their mission, they will be together in another life and all will be well.

As they are crossing a very old wooden bridge stretched out across a great divide Walker’s father falls through some rotted planks and falls to his death on the rocks below.  After burying his father and saying a prayer from the holy book the family continues on the path before them. The heat pounds them from above and the children cry out to their father that they are thirsty.  Walker can do nothing but comfort them with words as they continue the climb.  It’s a blessing when they come across a creek flowing down the mountain and they can drink and cool themselves in it.  As the children laugh and play Walker and his wife discuss the faith he has in the scriptures from the past.  While she has found herself doubting the words he has found comfort and energy from them no matter what the situation is.

As they talk a flash flood rages through the stream and the children are pulled away by the raging waters.  The parents run after them and in the attempt to rescue the children Walker’s wife and daughter drown in the rushing water leaving Walker and his son to mourn they’re passing.

After another burial the two head father up the mountain.  As they climb sharp rock and brave the heat once again the young boy Jatt finds a tree that bares fruit.  Before Walker can stop him he has eaten of it and soon falls sick.  With only the words of his faith to give his son, Walker soon finds himself alone on the mountain with the last of his family to bury in the ground.

Walker climbs hard to the top of the peak.  Even at night the heat rages and the sharp stone cuts into his flesh.  After hours of pulling himself up the rocks he comes to the top where he expects to find his messiah…

But at the very top he finds nothing but a blank stone.  The faith that has carried him up this mountain and helped him deal with the loss of his family and even his world crumble beneath him as rage consumes him and he shouts out to the god he believes failed him.  Rain pours down upon him in response and the blank stone becomes slick with rain.  As the water beats down Walker sees that the stone is much like a mirror and staring back at him is his own reflection.

In silence he climbs back down the mountain and returns to the city in the midst of war and stands on the street and preaches to anyone who will listen.  He continues to do this until people have gathered and take in the faith that his people had discarded.  Soon the war subsides and peace begins to settle in the hearts of all.

As the people of this planet renew their faith and hope the aging red sun begins to crackle with blue energy and the people watch as the sun is revitalized and grows young once more.  From that sun comes a ring.

The blue ring comes to Walker and admits him into the Blue Lantern Corp for his ability to instill great hope.  As the ring powers up and forms the uniform around him he sees the family that he lost and the words “All will be well” Can be heard.

As the flashback comes to an end we see that Saint Walker is surrounded by the constructs of Agent Orange and even though his fate looks grim he knows that no matter what happens to him this day… all will be well.

In the next story we are shown a young Mongol on the dead planet of Debstam IV.

He awakens from sleep as his father, the senior Mongul, heads out into the world without a word.  Mongul wishes that he could join his father on whatever journey he is heading out on but knows that he would not be allowed.  Instead he puts on his fathers battle gear and trains himself to be a mighty warrior as well.

He looks over video of his father battling the mighty heroes of Earth.  He makes battle dummies from the bones of the dead and fights them.  He attempts to use his father’s weapons with less than impressive results.  In the end he knows he is only fighting bones and dreams.

As he smashes away at the dummies he witnesses a ship crashing to the surface of this lonely world.  He rushes to the crash site to find the pilots climbing out.  They greet him in peace in hope of finding help in fixing the ship but are greeted instead by the might of the small Mongul.  He uses his death ray to kill one of the survivors as a lesson to the rest.  They have now become his first slaves.

He orders them to build a statue in his honor and when they aren’t doing that they are ordered to fight him so that he may train against opponents that fight back.  When one of them gets in a good hit he kills slave without warning.

He is so busy with his new slaves that he fails to notice his father coming up behind him.  His father isn’t pleased with the boy and when he finds out the ship is too far gone to get them off the dead planet he vaporizes the rest of the crew and destroys the statue built to honor his son.  There is only one ruler on this planet…

As the father goes on about his business the younger Mongol rebuilds the statue and uses the bones of his slaves as bowing worshipers kept hidden from his fathers sight.

In the last story of the book we are shown the Indigo Tribe…

In space sector 3544 we see a silent tribe crossing a desert at night. The indigo light burns in their staffs. Their leader seems to be a woman who stops them to witness a battle taking place in the distance.  Green and yellow light dance over the sand.  They head towards the light and come upon a man bleeding on the ground.  He is a Green Lantern by the name of Sarolis.  He tries to tell them they need to leave area, as the person he is fighting is very dangerous.  They ring attempts to translate but the language of the tribe is unknown.

The woman reaches out and puts her hand to his chest and seems to absorb the green power.  She can sense that it is the power of will.  Sarolis reaches out to her and soon he passes and the ring flies out to find another to bear the Green Lantern power.

Witnessing this from a hidden place is the Sinestro Corps soldier who inflicted the mortal wounds to the Green Lantern.  The tribe sees him and he fires upon them with his yellow energy.  The woman’s staff absorbs it and she uses the yellow fear against him and he flies off into space filled with the fear he once instilled in others.

Alone once more the tribe continues on with their travels through the dark desert.

STORY:

Saint Walker – 5/5
Geoff Johns wrote an excellent origin for this character.  His pain and struggle that lead up to him receiving the power of Hope works well for the character and I really want to see more involving him and the other members of his corps.

Mongol – 4/5

While I liked the story it wasn’t one I really needed to see.  Mongol is a villain from the Superman books and his rise to power after his father died has been well documented.  It does give us a little insight into his childhood but it’s not anything new for readers who know the character.  Peter J. Tomasi does well in it’s telling though as he keeps it simple.

Indigo – 4/5

Geoff Johns gives us a look into the Indigo Tribe that leaves us with more questions than answers.  The fact that the Tribe doesn’t speak in a language we understand makes it hard to review the story.  I don’t really know what they are doing in this tale but it makes me want to see more of them and I guess that’s the point of this book.

ART:

Saint Walker – 5/5

Jerry Ordway brings this story to life.  His art shows us the emotions of these characters perfectly even though they don’t have normal human features.  I feel the heat of the planet with the way he has drawn the people as they make their way up the mountain.  I truly dug it.

Mongul – 5/5

While I dig artists who go into every little detail I really love artists who are able to be very simple without watering down the world we are trying to see.  Chris Samnee does this very well with this story.  I dug the art and would like to see more from this guy.  It’s a simple but powerful style he is rocking that I dig.

Indigo – 5/5

Rags Moralez is given a simple story set in a simple background but he has to have the characters emote in an effective way, as we don’t get one side of the conversation.  He does this perfectly as we can see the pain on the face of Indigo as she interacts with the dying Green Lantern.  This art works perfectly with the weight of this story.

BNTOTCV1.jpgCOVERS:

Regular Edition: 5/5

I rate this five out of five when put together as a whole with the other two issues.  When set side by side they have the main characters from each of the Corps doing battle in space.  It’s a sweet image.  Ed Benes and Rob Hunter get the job done.

Variant Edition: 5/5

A simpler image but one I think is pretty sweet.  It shows the hands of the various Corps raised in the air and energy coming from the rings.  I dig it.  Dave Gibbons makes it work.

All in All – It’s a good start to the mini series that will give us a deeper look into the characters that we will be seeing through out the event.  I recommend it to those wanting to be in the know when it comes to the major players.

Green Lantern First Flight Reviewed

5

Aug

Posted by Steve

I couldn’t think of a fancy title for this review, but I guess that’s ok…at least I’m writing something right?  Right?  Right.

I am admittedly a geek, but what I’ve found since making my foray into the blogoshpere/podcasting world is that I am far less versed in all things geekdom than I once thought.

My first exposure to The Green Lantern was through Challenge of the Superfriends reruns on Saturday mornings.  As a kid I totally bought into this guy’s awesome powers and even his one weakness…yellow.  As a kid it just made sense.

A few years later when I began reading/collecting comics, I found myself falling on the Marvel side of things for some pretty silly reasons.  But I was happy being a Marvel zombie.   It wasn’t until 1997 when I was in a comic shop and saw Grant Morrison’s JLA number 1 that I began to broaden my horizons into all things DC a bit.  You remember the cover don’t you?

It had S

jla3_001.jpg

uperman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, an as yet unknown to me Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern all on there looking ready for action.  As I saw that cover I knew I must have that comic because there were the Superfriends all looking pretty awesome in a 90′s kind of way.   What I wasn’t prepard for was just how foreign the characters of Wally West and Kyle Raynier would be to me.   As I read the panels of those two discussing how out of place they sometimes felt as the “rookies” of the group, I got curious and began to seek out what had happened to the Flash and Green Lantern that I had known as a kid.   What I found was a whole other Universe that was just as rich and as fun as the Marvel Universe I had played in for so long.   In fact, DC offered something quite different from Marvel at the time.  I remember telling a friend, “Marvel has heroes…really good character, but DC has LEGENDS.”  I had become a bit of a DC nerd trying to uncover the history of these characters, who were their predecessors, just how cataclysmic has this Crisis been.  I learned to love the DC Universe, and I kicked myself for not paying more attention to it for the years before that I had been collecting.

So it is, that I bring to the table limited knowledge of certain DC characters when I watch these animated movies or even the big screen adaptations of the characters.   While I know the characters and enjoy them, my limited history with them makes such experiences a lot more fun than it may be for someone who has been completely devoted to a character for a while now.

It’s that way with The Green Lantern.  I know the origin of Hal Jordan.  I know how he went nuts and became Parallax.  I really enjoyed how Geoff Johns brought him back in “Rebirth,” and “The Sinestro Corps War” was one of the coolest things I’d read in comics in a long time.  I’ve really been looking forward to following “Blackest Night.”  However, I don’t know all the names of the Green Lantern Corps.  I recognize faces, but if a character is done slightly different than he or she is done in the comics, I miss it, and it doesn’t bother me.

Having said all that, I really enjoyed GREEN LANTERN:  FIRST FLIGHT.  As I watched it, I was impressed with the pacing of the movie, the animation was pretty good, and while I had some issues with the voice work and choices for voice acting, the story and characterization of the players involved made for yet another successful outing from the crew at WB and DC Animated.

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The first thing that I noticed  about this film, and liked, was the pacing.  There is no time wasted in getting the ring on Hal Jordan’s finger, and while we are privy to his personality (fearless), and a little bit of his relationship with Carol Farris, there’s not a lot of time spent exploring that.  This is a movie about the rise of Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern of sector 2814.   Honestly, I like that.  While I love a good character piece and appreciate delving into a heroes psyche as much as the next geek, I also like it when the writers of a story move confidently forward realizing that it’s not necessary to explore romantic relationships, daddy issues, and egos to show what a character is made up of.   FIRST FLIGHT flows so well as not only an origin story but also an all out sci fi space movie that moves with very little slowing down from start to finish.

While some might complain that Hal figures out the ring a bit too quickly, let’s not forget that Hal didn’t become a test pilot because he’s stupid.  It takes a certain amount of intelligence to become a pilot, much moreso to pilot prototypical aircraft.  For me it’s not a stretch given how much the ring does for the wearer coupled with Hal’s own intelligence.  Also, as Hal learns, he does a lot of mimicking what he sees other Green Lanterns do.  Thus making the moments of his own ingenuity with the ring that much cooler.  Can you say fly swatter anyone?

There were a few moments in this movie where some animation took me out of the movie for just a second or two.  The use of computer animation was there several times and it was apparent.  In my opinion, when using computers to add effects or certain elements to animation, it shouldn’t stand out too blatantly as to separate itself from the rest of what’s going on.  It looks great, but it does have a bit of the off color brick in Scooby Doo going for it at the same time.  You know the brick I’m talking about…just different enough to differentiate itself as something that will be moved.

However, those few moments weren’t enough to turn me off to the animation as a whole.  The character designs were great and I really liked the fact that classic characters like Kilowog had a certain realism to their look.   Sinestro has less of the look of The Leader from Marvel comics with the big forehead, and looks more akin to his design from the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” series.  The Guardians, while at times hard to differentiate looked like…well, the Guardians, and Hal Jorda was Hal Jordan no mistaking him for any other Green Lantern we may have seen before.

The only thing that really bothered me about the movie was the voice acting.  There were, as with other DC Animated projects, so great actors put to use in this movie.  However, Christopher Meloni sounds a little too much like Robert Patrick to me, and I couldn’t shake that image while watching.  I really thought they should have tried to get David Boreanaz again, but I understand why they didn’t.   Michael Madsen is one of my favorite actors.  He has a subtle charisma about him that causes the screen to light up whenever he’s on it.  However, I really felt Kilowog’s voice was a little understated.  I guess I feel like someone that big should have a more booming quality to his voice.  All in all, those are really the only voices that bothered me.  So, I guess the voice work isn’t such a sticking point.

What really drives a movie like this, though, is story.  GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT is the story of Hal Jordan’s rise to the role of Green Lantern of sectot 2814.   It is also the story of Sinestro’s descent into evil.  It’s a very well crafted story with moments that are dark and horrifying, and those moments that…well…those moments in movies that I am a complete sucker for.  SPOILER WARNING:  When all is lost and Hal steps up with no ring on his finger to save the day, then saves the day with a ring on his finger, I absolutely love it.  The final battle is big, the build up to the final battle is tense, the stakes are high, and the good guys kind of win in the end.

All in all I give this movie a very solid 3 1/2 green whatever I give 5 of  out of 5.  I don’t go full on 4 or 5 because I watched the sneak peek at SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES before I watched FIRST FLIGHT and OH…MY…LANTA…IS THAT THING GONNA ROCK!!  However, if you’re a Green Lantern fan, or a fan of Superhero movies…pick this one up.  It’s totally worth it.