Tag Archives: Dark Knight Returns

The Darkest Night of All: Batman METAL and Dark Knight III

I have not read a whole lot of Batman comics in 2018, but the stories I have enjoyed the most were Dark Knight Returns III: The Master Race and Dark Nights: Metal. Both were fun stories than interested me far more than the other regular sprawling monthlies with their endless sub-plots, and both I waited until they were completed before reading any of them at all.

Nothing bugs me more than reading a single chapter of a story then having to wait weeks or months to read the next chapter. It’s the same reason I won’t watch Flash or Daredevil until I have the time to go through the whole season in a week (or a couple days). Too big a gap and I forget what is happening in the story.

In both of these Batman stories, we explore the roads less traveled, the paths not taken by Bruce Wayne. Some are realistic views and events based on the familiar Bruce we know and his values. Others versions [of Bruce] are nightmarish scenarios vomited into existence because every polarity must have its opposite or its tangents that demands to be heard, even if that demand is a shrill piercing endless scream from a reality that should not exist.

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Dark Nights Metal managed to be both a kick-ass action packed Batman / JLA
story and ALSO be a really dark and fucked up slow crawl through the mind of
Bruce Wayne – leaving you wondering if he is sick or sane.

All Bruce Wayne’s dark and most demented aspects are given truly terrifying life in the previously unknown Metal Underverse.  The main story was good, but the highlights to me were the tie in one shots each showcasing a more depraved, more driven more
demented aspect of Bruce Wayne / Batman’s psyche.

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It’s an intelligent and fun look at how many ways Bruce Wayne could have fully gone over to the dark side. If you thought Darth Vader or Spawn were dark and demented characters, well you ain’t seen nothing yet – they pale in comparison to these gloriously demented zealots, these bizarre twisted manifestations of Bruce Wayne’s ultimate drive and his obsessions perverted to the extreme. It’s a deliciously slow crawl through the worst parts of Bruce Wayne’s psyche, all his murky mucky hidden corners lit up like a Christmas Tree to be savored and devoured.

If you’ve ever read any DC Elseworlds, this is like an evil universe of “What If….” Batman stories, but incorporated into one deep dark bizarre evil universe that starts merging (or more like ravenously consuming) the mainline DC Universe. Its dark demented and exactly the kind of story I love. It also runs with themes of Alchemy and Heavy Metal laced into the story like a deadly neurotoxin that poisons you before you even open the to the first page.

There are so many evil fucked up versions of Batman that it’s just a smorgasbord of super nasty.

A Batman who becomes the new God of War? Another Batman who is infected with the Doomsday virus, why not? Each one more depraved and driven than the last.

How about a Batman who is basically a Clive Barker style cenobite with little demon Robins chained on leashes? That’s him in the tasteful fetish attire and a Joker grin on his face. He wears his influences on his sleeve.

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And there is a load more of them, a whole JLA of evil Batmen from a wicked universe that should not and could not exist, all based on key moral decisions Bruce Wayne did or did not choose. That’s my favourite part really, that each personality splinter comes from something deep, true and honorable in Wayne, all twisted by a dark universe where evil prevails.

It’s Metal, Horror and every fucked up Grimm’s Fairy Tale with a horrific ending wrapped in big black coat of the Bat and put through a meat grinder. On paper, it looks gimmicky as fuck. All style, no substance. Exactly my first impression, and also the reason I put off reading it for months.

Convention has it that Batman’s adventures work best when they’re rooted in a basically realistic world of gritty crime violence and backstreet reprisals, but from the very start of his career, he was drawn into demented episodes of the supernatural, uncanny and inexplicable. His was the territory of the dark unconscious after all… – GRANT MORRISON / Supergods

But reading the complete story in one day (and it’s tie ins over a couple days) – there is surprising depth and exploration of Bruce’s psyche in this story. It’s nice to also see horror being an essential part of the story, something we rarely get in modern Batman comics outside of the cliched often boring obligatory Scarecrow  appearances or the odd Kelley Jones anomaly.

This is no story of hyper-rationality and realism, but a deep exploration into parts unknown. It’s a fairy tale of pure unrestrained evil and chaos, and how close it is to home, and how the complete self in all of us has these same potentials and impulses. It’s multiple Batmen expressing their shadow self and domination of all life on earth, rather than in service to humanity.

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JLA + Evil Universe = Demented Batpeople

Dark Nights Metal also manages to creatively link itself to Grant Morrison’s run, and Snyder’s infamous NEW 52 run – both of which I rather enjoyed. It was not even necessary to do so, but it’s a nice extra – and a bit clever.

Snyder is nowhere near the caliber of writer that Morrison is when it comes to exploring niche exotic, weird and offbeat material, but he managed to really surprise me with this story by including key elements of his NEW 52 Batman personality, and tapping into the larger mythical/magical framework of stories human beings tell for generations.

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There is a good dose of archetypes and a scale to this mini-crossover that felt not too big, not too small…. but just right. Dark Nights Metal is a terrific read. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea for sure but I encourage you to to check it out.

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THE TRIUMVIRATE KNIGHT

After the original Dark Knight Returns – a seminal stand alone defining work – nobody could have expected, predicted (nor wanted) a sequel.

So, years later Miller wrote The Dark Knight Strikes Again (aka DK2) as a sequel – and it was not terribly welcome. There was as sense of “the first one was classic, don’t fuck with it Frank” coming from many fans, the same way classic stand alone movies are revered, and sometimes genuinely shit on when remade, rebooted or re-interpreted by a studio looking to make a quick buck.

I first read Dark Knight 2 from my local public library in the collected edition. The art was a real turn off, but I enjoyed the story. On subsequent readings, I’ve come to enjoy the skewed art that is more…. mmm…. expressionistic and emotional (moving away from realistic anatomical drawings).

I certainly can see why there were so many complaints about the art. Some of it still bugs me to this day, but it’s definitely Art. The scratchy look really reminds me of early Romita Jnr stories, the kind that suit a grim crime ridden environment. While I enjoy the color palette used, the actual digital coloring itself is a bit of any eyesore, coming across as more experimental than refined.

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DK2 didn’t try to just repeat the first book or story, but did something new. And really that’s what I want out of any comic book story. The art style is clearly closer to Miller’s 300 book,  Lynn Varley also colored those books. Can you see Wonder Woman’s nose in that picture? Did you even notice?

Art (good or bad) should get a reaction out of you, and I do find many of the comments hilarious that just assume EVERYTHING in DK2 is “bad art”. It’s pretty ignorant to assume that anything not anatomically accurate or super shiny and Avengers style pretty is “bad”. Or that doing something more fast and loose is bad rather than a stylistic choice. It’s not even a new style for Frank, as he has done these freakish looking pin ups for decades that have appeared often in other people’s books. His Savage Dragon pin up is an eye sore to me, but it’s one of Larsen’s favorite Dragon pin ups.

Personally I found Dark Knight Strikes Again an interesting read and more enjoyable the second or third time through when you get what Frank was going for. And I still re-read it regularly. I picked it up again just now to flip through while writing, and will probably read it again this weekend.

With Dark Knight Returns III: The Master Race, we got a more conventional commercial story – usually the death of creativity. But when that commercial story is a collaboration of Miller and Azzarello – well that’s still one damn good read, even if it lacks deeper meaning and more overt political commentary like the original Dark Knight Returns. I did enjoy seeing more classical comic art in DK3 rather than the hyper stylized Pollock splashery of DK2.

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It’s pointless trying to outdo the original DKR – it’s a masterpiece of sorts, but instead we get another story set in that universe that is less controversial and more… for lack of a better word – palatable. That should be a criticism, but it’s not. It’s a fun read if you like Batman, or even just the wider DCU.

How much Miller wrote DK3 is debatable, as his co-creators (check out the credits below) and more “hands on” style of DC Comics suggests that it was a more commercial effort with a more restrained Miller.

The art by Andy Kubert is lovely, but you get the impression with another artist (and another well known writer) involved, did Miller ghost write this one? Did he pass them some details scribbled on a cocktail napkin and DC said “Hell yeah, we like money, but we’re in control on this one Frank, fans don’t like when you draw outside the lines with squiggles and stuff”

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*spoiler alert* The Butler Did it

Whatever the reality of the situation, I enjoyed the final product.

But Frankly speaking…….I’d rather read a more wild, chaotic and excessive Miller story any day than a subdued one. I don’t care if it’s downright bonkers, as it’s his freedom to express what he wants to express. I’m sorry if you don’t like his stories or whatever…….(yeah I’m not) – but artists have to actually genuinely express themselves to make something interesting. Anything else is just vanilla monthlies.

I love monthlies too, there is a time and a place for restraint and “by the numbers” story telling (such as regular monthly books) and there is a time and place for more experimental material, such as in one shots, Elseworlds stories and creator driven mini-series.

Anytime you get  a Kubert – be it Andy, Adam or Papa Joe on a book, you are in for a visual treat. I still fondly remember Andy Kubert’s amazing work on Batman vs Predator, he’s one of my all time favourite comic books artists.

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The backup stories in Master Race use the “scratchy” style we saw in DK2, and are Miller’s art, while Kubert’s stuff is in the main story.

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It’s not like we have not had a good Miller story before with someone else on art duties. Mazzucchelli / Miller on Batman: Year One was a winning combination. But it does make me curious what would a purely Miller written and drawn DK3 have been like? Supposedly there is yet another sequel coming. Which for many fans means an excuse to foam at the mouth and scream gibberish online. I don’t care for that sort of thing.

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If you like something, read it and enjoy it. If not, move the fuck on.

It’s a waste of life to rant and rave nonsensical crap. I don’t mind genuine criticism, whether it be written or video content, provided it has an actual point of view. But mostly, I just love to read comics – and I don’t care or have the time to read “reviews” of comics (that take more time to read than the actual comic itself!) I do however like anything that takes the time to go deeper into a topic  I love – like Batman – and wish more people would create that sort of thing.

In Dark Knight III: The Master Race, there is a heap of other DC Icons as guests in the story. Superman is a more well balanced character, and Batman responds to one of the greatest threats he has ever faced. A whole army of refugee Kryptonians who intend to rule the earth by force as dictators and make it their new home.

Bats don’t tolerate that kind of crap, so you know he’s not going to sit back and do nothing. How it plays out is a fun enthralling read and perhaps a more traditional comic story than the excesses of DK2. That’s neither a good nor bad thing, but however it all stacks up – it’s a book I’m happy to add to my growing collection of Batman comics on the book shelf.

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Batman Court of Owls_Wolverine Enemy of the State_Superman Red Son and Friends

I recently purchased a few good trades online. A few Tintin books, some Donald Duck hardcovers, a POWERS hardcover and a sexy pile of Batman trades.
I piled most of them up next to my bed along with some books that I have been re-reading lately such as Superman: Red Son and Wolverine: Old Man Logan and Wolverine: Enemy of State.

Enemy of the State is great fun, I especially love the John Romita Jr. art – he is on top form in this book. It’s a shame Romita’s work on Superman (or is it Action? I genuinely don’t know) is not to everybodies tastes. But you can’t please all the people all of the time.

I have to admit, I am a big fan of Romita Jr. along with his legendary dad John Romita Snr. Both are true comic book legends in my book. However if I am frank I don’t really care for Romita Jr.’s version of Superman either.

Red Son is by Mark Millar is a fantastic book that I love to re-read. You’ve got Soviet Red Communist Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are in there too, and it is one of the best Superman stories ever if you ask me, despite being an alternate reality tale. I love alternate reality Superhero fiction, and I love dystopia stories (Mad Max, The Road) and Millar delivers in spades with Old Man Logan and Red Son.

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*SNIKT*

Old Man Logan and Superman: Red Son are genuine classics. They are bold, fun, crazy, over the top, smart and clever. And I never get tired of reading them. For every gimmicky book that Mark Millar puts out (I love those too!) he also puts out something that is genuinely thought provoking. I’m not saying this is Allan Moore territory here, but Millar’s works are always great fun, super exciting, and do something different, odd, or just plain weird with the superhero genre conventions.

Some may call Millar a gimmick writer, but I happen to think he is a good writer who uses gimmicks well. I think it is one of his strengths along with Warren Ellis, while Ellis has a different tone to his stories, also writes one gimmick story after another. But they are so damn good you don’t even notice. There is so much depth to the majority of Warren Ellis’ stories that you look past the gimmick to see what ideas he is exploring.

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The best there is….Bub

Old Man Logan is all kinds of awesome. It’s basically Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven reimagined with Wolverine as the lead character.

In the near future, all the major Marvel Heroes are dead. Wolverine is a pacifist with a wife and children, Red Skull is the President of America, and each territory in America is ruled with an iron fist by a major super-villain. Wolverine has to pay his rent to of all people, the Hulk. Not in person, he has to pay rent to the Hulk’s family of inbred cannibal hillbillies, or otherwise they will definitely kill you for fun, and most likely eat you, or your family.

How does Wolverine being a pacifist work?

I found this idea ridiculous, how could Logan ever be a true pacifist? He kills five ninjas before breakfast!

When you find out why Wolverine has not popped his claws in decades, and refuses to lift a hand in violence, it is absolutely heart breaking. Think of all the terrible things that have happened to Wolverine over the decades, how he has suffered at the hands of friend and foe alike, how basically everyone he has ever known in his entire life has betrayed him at some point.

Even Charlie Xavier. Even Nick Fury, Even Scott Summers have all fucked him over in one way or another. The reason Wolverine is a pacifist Old Man Logan is by far the worst thing that has ever happened to Wolverine in his lifetime, and the way Mark Millar handles it is genius.

I won’t give away the whole story, but it features a blind Hawkeye and Wolverine in a road trip across America to deliver a package. Things go wrong of course. Along the way they run into some iconic super-villains, former heroes, a Venomised T-Rex and Wolverine fights the Red Skull and later the Hulk in one of ther best ever (and shortest battles) where Hulk eats Wolverine. Not bites off a pieces of Wolverine, he literally eats all of him, and it is VERY disturbing, and very disgusting.

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That’s GOTTA hurt!

With the digital comics I read, the amazing stuff I find at my local library (a ten minute walk away) and the trades I buy online, I never have a lack of comics to read. There is always something – whether old or new – competing for my attention.

Some books that I find at the library I fall in love with and have to buy at some point. Things I never would have otherwise read include Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman, Ed Brubaker’s INCOGNITO and *sigh* Ed Brubaker.

Well he wasn’t at the library, but wouldn’t it be great if he was there, and he could read aloud a book of your choice? I think that would be awesome.

I’ve been reading a lot of Wolverine lately, (one of my all time fav characters) and while the old Canuck doesn’t have quite the same pedigree of talent on his fine book as Batman (mostly because Batman has been around a lot longer), there are some pretty damn good Wolverine stories out there.

My favourites are the stories by Mark Millar and in recent years Jason Aaron, who must be a Hunger Games fan, as he seems to keep “catching fire” over at Marvel along with Matt Fraction – both of whom can do no wrong in my book. Whether in Wolverine’s main books, the spin off books or the excellent Wolverine and the X-Men book, fans have been spoiled for quality Wolverine stories in recent years.

I also really enjoyed reading the Origins series recently. No, not the mini-series “Origin” where Wolverine is a kid, and we learn that is name is James Howlett (ugh…..lame!).

The later series Origins (plural) in 2006 that ran for 50 issues and is basically a cliff notes version of all the horrible shit Wolverine did before he lost his memories.

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In Origins Wolverine has his memories back, and we get to relive them along with Wolvy right from the start all the way up to the modern day. We get to see Wolverine fighting alonside Captain America in WWII, but with the new addition of Bucky as the Winter Soldier appearing soon after these stories. We get to see Wolverine fight Deadpool and Sabretooth, and a whole host of other cool characters like Cyber and other baddies.

The series makes some sense of Wolverine’s twisted and demented and often ret-conned history. It is violent as all hell, and the tone is similar to Garth Ennis’s Punisher. Mostly focusing on flash back fights, and filling in the gaps in Wolverine’s history, and a good excuse to rehash all of Wolverine’s classic battles with his iconic villains. I loved every page of it!

**SPOILER ALERT** Sabretooth is NOT Wolverine’s dad. But Claremont wrote him that way, only for later writers to change it into some sort of Darwinist evolutionary mumbo-jumbo. DOH!

So these trades…

What did I pick up, WILL I actually talk about the one and only true #Batman, on this Batman blog? Stop being so impatient!

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*Drool* So much Batmanliness

First up we have Gates of Gotham, Dark Knight Returns, Batman Eternal V1 and Batman: The Cult.

I’ve read all of these books before, the problem with Dark Knight Returns is I keep giving it away, so have to rebuy it frequently. I really enjoyed the moody Victorian story in Gates of Gotham.

Batman Eternal was a fun surprise – I have read the story before in digital format, and thought it would be crap – but the first year was damn good fun. Shame about Batman Eternal the second year – which so far is utter crap.

Batman: The Cult is one of those books I have to reread every year (usually from the library). This is the first time I have owned this book, and while the cheap flimsy paper is annoying for such a classic book, the art is spectacular and really shines despite the flimsy toilet paper it is printed on. Bernie Wrightson is one of all the time great comic book artists, and an AMAZING horror artist.

The mix of Batman and horror does not always work – despite Gothic horror being part of Batman’s earliest adventures. This book gets the tone just right. It goes out on some Grant Morrison-esque limbs where you wonder if it is all going to fall apart – but redeems itself by the end. Let’s just say that this book borrow liberally from Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, has Batman using friggin’ guns (doh), getting brainwashed and totally beaten by a religious Zealot (Decon Blackfire) and despite all this – manages to still be amazingly good, one of my all time favourite Batman books.

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Hook them up to my veins!

Next we have Batman: Year One, Batman: Court of Owls Volume 1 and Court of Owls Volume 2, along with Grant Morrison’s JLA: Earth 2.

Year One and JLA Earth 2 are stone cold classics, and both have been made into animated films. As much as I love the animated films, they pale in comparison to the books. If you have not read either of these books – then you my friend are Crazy with a capital ‘C’. You HAVE to read them. Both are great to read over and over, and I find them more rewarding each time I read them.

You know a book is good when you can enjoy it a second or third time, or read it once a year. You know a book is GREAT when you can pick it up any day of the week and enjoy it, hell you could read it three days in a row and it is STILL great, still just as thrilling each time you read.

Year One and Dark Knight Returns to me are those books you can read anytime, anyplace, and they are always brilliant to read.4

Court of Owls is another fun read. There are parts of Scott Snyder’s Batman that I love, and parts I don’t really care for. I don’t like when Batman is relatively incompetent. I do like that Batman has to WORK for his victories. And I LOVE the former Spawn artist Greg Capullo’s artwork which is super-stylised.

While Capullo is not to everybodies tastes, I used to enjoy thumbing through Spawn on at the comic shelf just to enjoy Capullo’s art – even though I never bought more than one or two issues of the book. Because you know, most of the time the writing in Spawn was total shit. But the art was always exceptional. The animated Spawn series though was brilliant, and well worth checking out.

Some are already calling Court of Owls and Scott Snyder’s overall run on Batman into and beyond the NEW 52 “classic” but I think it is a little early for that. Let’s give it 5-10 years, and then consider his run for “classic” status.

I will say that Snyder’s Batman is very very very good, he manages to do shock and surprise, he does the old “I can’t believe they did that” revelations and cliffhangers well, and he manages to write consistently good stories month to month. Most important of all, he is genuinely passionate about Batman and the stories he is telling and has a vision of what HE wants to do with the character, which is what you want from ANY writer on any book.

I will say that I think the Face/Off Joker is a stupid gimmick and I have really have had enough of that. Just put the guys face back on already. It’s a crappy gimmick that admittedly looks cool on covers etc, and is amusing for an artist to draw and get “shock horror” attention in comic shop catalogs like Previews or thumbnails on websites – but in the fiction, it just doesn’t make any kind of sense at all.

I mean you look the other way on so many things in genre comics, but a guy with his face cut off and stapled back on that is constantly hanging in various parts (that has not been fixed by a plastic surgeon) would be getting constant infections. Not the “I’m a little sick and woozy” type of infections. The kind that will slowly kill you for sure. So yeah, NEW 52 Joker should be dead ten times over by now with his stupid face hanging off.

Then you have that awful Joker’s Daughter character (*not really his daughter) who finds the face and starts wearing it, but then the Joker gets his face back, yet SHE’s still wearing it and well, fuck off, enough already. Does the Joker now have two faces? Is the Joker’s daughter character wearing a fake face? Does anybody give a flying fuck about his utterly stupid and gimmicky Days of Our Lives quality crap? Seriously!

batman dont give a fuck

The other books I picked up  (other than POWERS and Donald Duck) was Supermen: The first Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941. A book that is sure to start as many arguments as it ends, these golden age stories are culled from the pages of long forgotten rags of misfortune where stupendous, amazing and sometimes strangely arousing beings with bizarre powers and stories were encountered on the news stand.

The stories themselves are nothing special in terms of the writing, this is one more for folks into comic-book history, particularly the history of the Superhero as a genre with its own conventions, and for people like that me that are always writing about Superheroes and interested in not only the origins of a genre, but in reading reprints of early proto-typical Superheroes.

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POW! right in the kisser!

The book begs the question, what makes a Superhero?

Powers? Mission? Costume? The type of book a character appears in? All these and more are interesting questions to ponder that have no definitive answer.

Supermen is A brilliant book with high quality reproductions of the stories reprinted inside.

Check out the images below. It’s only a book of reprints, with a brief intro but no other commentary, so is not a book on comics theory etc, just reprints of the actual strips. If you are into that sort of stuff, the book is totally worth picking up.

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Well I’m full of PEP now
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Why is that underwear dude wrecking all the cool robots?