Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Humourous Aside

I was reading through the ads and letters pages in some back issues lately (what? It's like a free time machine!) and found a letter and response that, in light of films like The Dark Knight and Watchmen versus, say, X-Men Origins: Wolverine or The Incredible Hulk, made me chuckle.

From Batman #437:
...What prompted this letter, however, was a number of articles in the Comic Buyer's Guide on the forthcoming Batman movie. My congratulations to you and to Warner Brothers! Superb! Batman looks eminently formidable and Bruce Wayne has never looked so debonair. Jack Nicholson's Joker is chilling and the Batmobile is awesome. This is going to be a blockbuster! I've seen the previews, and the characters appear true to their comics form. It seems you have better luck transferring your characters to the movies than your major competitor. What's the trick?
Thanks for great comics and movies.
Mike Kuker
Redding, CA

No trick, just ingredients. You start with a solid, definable character and he sort of takes over, no matter what the medium.

Yep. DC > Marvel. Warner Bros > 20th Century Fox.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Modern Age Batman Review: Batman and the Mad Monk #1

Golly, that cover seems familiar doesn't it? Could it be? Yes! It's Detective Comics #31! Matt Wagner is back to retell the tale of Batman's encounter with the vampire known as The Monk within the settings of Modern Age continuity. This six-part series is a follow-up to his Batman and the Monster Men series and is also the second half of the overall "Dark Moon Rising" storyline.

"Batman and the Mad Monk, Part One"
By: Matt Wagner
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Rob Leigh
Synopsis: In a Gotham City jewelery store, Batman has his second run in with the Cat-Woman. He first encountered her on the Roman's rooftop, and thought she might have been another costumed hero. But now she's stealing jewels, revealing herself to be merely a thief with a flare for the dramatic. Batman is disturbed by this growing trend of costumed criminals, first her and then the Red Hood, and wonders if he is somehow responsible for inspiring them. The Cat scratches him on the chest and makes off with the jewels. As the Batman wonders if he might want to start wearing body armour under his costume, he realizes he's been drugged.
Meanwhile, Julie Madison, girlfriend of Bruce Wayne, has been left waiting for him again. Finally, Alfred shows up, only to explain that Bruce won't be able to make it tonight. Furious, Julie storms home.
On the rooftop of Police Headquarters, Captain Gordon activates the Bat-beeper he was given to signal the caped crusader, worrying if maybe this time he won't recieve the signal. He's shook out of his revery by the arrival of three crooked cops, most likely sent by Commissioner Grogan to beat some sense into Gordon. A fight breaks out, but is cut short by the arrival of the Batman, who makes quick work of the dirty cops and makes it clear that the roof is off-limits to all but Gordon. Gordon informs Batman that he called him because he needs to show him something in the morgue.
Julie arrives home to find all the lights turned out, and her father alone in his office, terrified of being seen. He had owed money to the gangster Sal Maroni, and though the debt was absolved, he believes that the Batman is after him and will kill him for his crime.
In the morgue of Gotham Central, Gordon shows the Batman a corpse found in the Gotham River. It has a gash in its throat, chewing marks in its trachea, and is completely devoid of blood. Batman thinks its the work of marine life, with the blood having been siphoned out of the body in its journey down the river. Until Gordon produces a second body, identical wound, also drained of blood, found in the basement of a condemned building. Oh. Snap.
We end the issue in a Gotham night club called the "3rd Avenue Nite Club." Omg. Anyways, this young, slutty, blonde broad is in the bar complaining about how dull her life is every since she ran away from home and came to Metropolis. This talk interests the foreign-accented Dala, who looks to be a smokin' hot goth chick in a black corset and leather pants. Dala offers the girl a sniff of her special perfume, knocking the girl out, who then gets placed into a car by a bunch of guys in red robes that Dala refers to as "the Brotherhood", which is apparently lead by someone named Niccolai. Just your average alt-scene date-rape, right? Right?
My Thoughts: To be honest, instead of launching me into a new and exciting series, this issue feels a lot like its wrapping up details from Batman and the Monster Men. The opening with Catwoman is a fun bit, bringing us in line with where we are in Bat-continuity, but the story doesn't really come to the party until the last four pages. And the big cliffhanger ending that should get us excited for the next issue is fairly weak. I do, however, agree with the decision to introduce Dala early, as a lead-in to meeting the Monk, and keeping the Monk himself a mystery. In the original story we met Dala much later in the story, and she seemed a rather pointless addition.
The Art: Wagner continues to give us great artwork, again especially in his depiction of Batman, who gets some awesome panels in this issue. Dala looks fantastic too. Basically everything else looks much as it did in Monster Men.
The Story: As noted above, this issue is really about bringing new readers up to speed from the last series, tying up loose ends, and then slowly bringing us into the new dangers presented in this story. Unfortunately, we bounce back and forth too many times and ultimately this feels like it should've been the first half of a first issue rather than an entire issue. It's a perfect example of just how little story there is in a modern comic book, because the creator knows most people are going to read it in the trade paperback straight through and it'll be fine in that format as the first chapter of a larger story. But on it's own its unsatisfying and I don't know if it would get someone to continue to buy this series if they picked it up.