Comic Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland) is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories ever written. It is hugely popular and fanboys the world over embrace it like it is some sort of geek bible. It tells the origin story of the Joker and gives us the event that leads to Barbara Gordon’s transformation from Batgirl into Oracle. It essentially covers a lot of ground for only being 48 pages.

Being written by Alan Moore (Wathcmen, Swamp Thing, V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) adds a certain level of credibility and mystique to this tale. That being said, for me, it doesn’t live up to the hype and the fanfare. The story isn’t bad but it just doesn’t develop into something all that thought-provoking, which is what one would expect from Alan Moore.

The Killing Joke gives us one of the many Joker origins and the one presented here has seemingly become the most popular. The thing is, there have been several different Joker origin stories told by several different writers that all vary to large degrees. In fact, in Batman canon, no Joker origin story is considered to be “the one”. The mystery of the character is that we just don’t know what his true origin is and frankly, I think it should be left that way: open for debate till the end of time. Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight plays off of this, as his Joker goes on to tell varying stories of how he got his scars. Even the film Joker’s beginnings are unknown.

When it comes to the character’s origin, I’m more in favor of what was written by Michael Green in Batman: Lovers & Madmen. If you haven’t read it, I suggest that you do. I found it to be a better story than The Killing Joke.

The one thing that The Killing Joke has going for it, especially at the time of its release in the late 1980s, is the amazing art by Brian Bolland. The scenes are fantastically orchestrated and Bolland’s ability to convey emotion through his subjects is pretty spectacular. This definitely upped the ante at the time and brought a new level of artistry to the comic book industry, which was in the midst of a big evolutionary jump at that time. The inks and colors were also incredible and gave this book such a vibrant presentation. More than reading this graphic novel, I just liked to stare at its pages in awe.

I do thoroughly enjoy The Killing Joke but apart from the revolutionary art, it lacks in meat and potatoes, which is pretty uncharacteristic of Alan Moore. I think a lot of people embrace it simply because Moore’s name is on the cover, as he has become a comic book writer who has been deified by the fan community. I’m not saying that Moore hasn’t earned that distinction but this book isn’t on the literary level of someone who has reached that level of worship.

Comic Review: Godzilla: Rulers of Earth

I haven’t read a Godzilla comic book since I was pretty young. I always had hoped for a really good series featuring the greatest kaiju of all, so I felt that I had to jump into Godzilla: Rulers of Earth after hearing some pretty great things about it.

To start, IDW Publishing has grown to become one of the greatest comic book publishers in history, as far as I am concerned. They continue to acquire lots of properties that I grew up loving: G.I. JoeTransformersTeenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesDoctor WhoStar Trek and so many others. They continually take these great franchises and create great comic book companion pieces to them. What they have done here with Godzilla, is really no different.

The artwork in Rulers of Earth is great. All the kaiju monsters look absolutely perfect and the action is intense. Also, this series includes just about every kaiju you can think of. The best part, is that it doesn’t just feature Godzilla versus familiar opponents, it gives us a lot of dream matches that don’t even include Godzilla. We actually get to see how certain monsters would fare against one another.

The only real negative about this series, is that there is so much focus on kaiju fights, that the overall story suffers. The human characters are very cookie cutter and mostly uninteresting. They try to make them unique and cool but their development is sacrificed for an almost endless stream of kaiju action. However, the whole point of kaiju entertainment is kaiju action, so I can’t really fault the writers for making that the centerpiece of Rulers of Earth.

Ultimately, this feels like a twenty-five issue comic book version of the film Godzilla: Final Wars. Sure, the story is different but this is essentially a kaiju Royal Rumble in comic book form. While IDW tried to fit in every monster they possibly could, I don’t necessarily think that was the best approach. But still, I really liked this series.

Comic Review: Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Vol. 1: Once and Future

I haven’t read a lot of Aquaman comics, at least not in the modern era. However, I wanted to show respect for one of the most ridiculed superheroes of all-time. Picking up Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Vol. 1: Once and Future was cool because it gave me a good jumping off point for a new incarnation of the character.

Many people weren’t interested in this story as it introduced a new Aquaman. It didn’t bother me and I saw it as similar to Marvel’s Thor and what he goes through with Ragnarok. Even though this isn’t the same character as the Aquaman people are used too, it had that rebirth after Ragnarok vibe to it. It felt very similar to the relaunch of Thor a few years ago.

To start, the story was interesting enough but it wasn’t anything I’d go out of my way to revisit. Maybe I’d feel differently had I read passed volume 1 but I didn’t have much of an urge. While there were things I liked about the book, such as the beautifully drawn, inked and colored pages, it was just a tad better than mediocre.

I feel as if this set up could have evolved into something much better but it didn’t lay enough groundwork to keep me that interested. I just wasn’t captivated by it.

Comic Review: Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls

Being that I am a lifelong Batman fan and since I have been watching Gotham, where the mysterious Court of Owls is now a big part of the show, I wanted to check out their debut in comic book form.

I have to admit, I haven’t read a lot of the modern Batman stuff. The main reason, is that DC Comics constantly reboots their universe all the time and the constant changes aren’t just hard to follow, they’re incredibly annoying and I really don’t care for it to begin with.

So in this reboot of Batman, which doesn’t seem like a reboot, in any way, as I’m not sure what has changed and what hasn’t, we start with the large Bat Family all intact.

Anyway, Batman finds out that the old nursery rhyme about the Court of Owls may have some truth to it. After digging deeper, he finds that his family was somehow involved with the group. He then starts to have run-ins with The Talon, who is the bad ass assassin of the Court of Owls.

The story and the mystery are all really well written and this big change to the Batman mythos is kind of cool. I know that people were sort of split about this plot development a few years back when it happened. I like the concept and the idea.

The best thing about this collection of Batman issues 1 through 7 is the artwork of Greg Capullo. I used to love his work on Spawn and it is really cool seeing him draw my favorite hero.

Unfortunately, this collection doesn’t have a proper conclusion as it ends on a cliffhanger. That should be resolved in the following volume, which I have yet to read.

The Court of Owls is a good read and a neat twist to the world of Gotham City.

Comic Review: Hawaiian Dick, Vol. 4: Aloha, Hawaiian Dick

Well, I finally got around to reading the fourth volume in the Hawaiian Dick series by B. Clay Moore. Unfortunately, this volume reads like it is the last one. I hope there is more but some things happen in this one that forever change the course of the characters’ lives and their geographical location. That’s kind of a bummer but I have really enjoyed the series.

In this story, Byrd a.k.a. Hawaiian Dick is pitted against an old enemy from an earlier story, an enemy thought dead. This story also features the emergence of his one surviving brother. It also hints at a romantic relationship blossoming between Kahami and Mo Kalama, which is really sweet, honestly.

A lot happens to setup the story but a lot felt unresolved. I liked this volume, overall, but I felt like it was rushed at parts from a narrative standpoint and it left the reader with a lot of questions but I won’t spoil the plot details. That alone makes me hope that there is something else planned but I guess, time will tell.

The art in this book is done by Jacob Wyatt, Jason Armstrong and Paul Reinwand. It is a different style than the other books. While I preferred the look of the earlier ones better, the art is still really good. It was the art and style of those early Hawaiian Dick stories that really drew me in.

Aloha, Hawaiian Dick despite the length of time since the last story arc was originally published, maintains the quality of the series. As I’ve said in my reviews for the other volumes, I hope that there is more in the future and that we get to see these characters for years to come. I also think that this could be fantastic if adapted for the screen, whether large or small.

Comic Review: Batman: No Man’s Land – The Complete Saga

There have been a lot of huge stories in the Batman mythos over the last 75 plus years. This story may have been the biggest.

Following the events of Contagion and Cataclysm, No Man’s Land tells the long and epic tale of life within Gotham City after a massive earthquake.

In a nutshell, everything was nearly destroyed and the United States government condemned the city and requested that everyone leave, as it was christened “No Man’s Land”. Nothing comes in and nothing comes out of Gotham City in this world. It is essentially like the world in Escape From New York. Except this is Gotham City and this world is full of Batman, his allies and his enemies.

This event took place across every Batman related title throughout 1999. It encompassed the entire Batman world and involved just about every living character that existed in the flesh, at the time.

This is a great series to pick up, as it sort of reinvents and reestablishes the Batman landscape. With Gotham being wiped out everything literally has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Batman reestablishes his connections with his allies and makes some new ones in the process. This series also invloves just about every major Batman villain, so each chapter in this series is literally a Who’s Who of Batman’s rogues gallery.

This series is also notable for being the first time that Harley Quinn and Mercy Graves appeared in comic book form, as part of official DC Comics canon. Both characters started out in the DC Animated Universe but became so popular that they were officially adopted by DC.

The art and the writing in this series is well beyond top notch. There are a lot of things that make this one of my favorite Batman sagas, if not my absolute favorite.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how Batman would live in a post-apocalyptic scenario, here’s your chance.

Comic Review: Spider-Man – Back In Black

This was a pretty good trade paperback and a pretty bad one, all at the same time. Let me explain.

Spider-Man’s Aunt May is hit by a sniper’s bullet meant for Spidey. The reason Spidey is being hunted is because a few months prior during the major Marvel event Civil War, Spider-Man publicly revealed his secret identity. Since then, he and his family have been in danger and the bullet hitting Aunt May is a culmination of that.

Spider-Man then falls to the dark side more or less, returns to wearing his black costume and thus brings the ruckus to the criminal underworld in an effort to discover who was behind the hit.

On his hunt, Spider-Man throws his personal code and morals out the window and basically becomes the Punisher with Spidey powers. Ultimately, his hunt leads him to the Kingpin, which results in an epic beat down of the Kingpin in front of his fellow inmates in prison.

That part of the plot was awesome but it was over pretty quickly. The tone was perfect, dark side Spidey was compelling and if you have ever been a fan of the character, it wasn’t hard to connect to his grief, emotion and quest for vengeance. Then the other 60 percent of the book ruined it.

For the remainder of Back In Black, Spider-Man acted like his old self while wearing black – cracking jokes, generally being a good lighthearted buddy to his friends. It was just odd how his behavior was, as the story was tied into his quest for vengeance and his total lack of anything other than hardcore justice.

Spidey spends the rest of the book helping Sandman clear his dad from a crime he didn’t commit. This leads to Spidey getting tied up with some new villainous chick made out of spiders, who just wants to get knocked up. It was a very poor rehash of that shitty 90s film Species. Frankly, this was all pointless and unnecessary to the overall tale and point of the Back In Black concept.

The trade paperback then ends with a story called Sandman: Year One, which is moderately interesting but has nothing to do with Back In Black and actually features Spider-Man in his red and blue outfit and not even in the black one. But whatever, the more random stories that Marvel throws in this thing, the more they can charge for it.

Additionally, throughout this book, Aunt May is in critical condition in the hospital. They follow this plot thread but then never reveal if she recovers or not.

If you ever do pick this thing up, read the first five chapters Back In Black 1-5, skip out on the rest of the book and save yourself some time. Unless you want to know why Betty Brant is afraid of toilets.