Countdown to Detective Comics 1000

So, the Countdown to Detective Comics 1000 story was awful and I’m kind of surprised by Tomasi, who’s done some really good stuff that I’ve enjoyed.

detective 999

I think he went in too hard and at a bad time.

Killing off Leslie Thompkins threw out a flag that let you know they were either headed for a reboot (highly unlikely) or it was all going to be a dream or simulation. He could’ve gotten away with killing off Ducard, but Thompkins? No way in hell.

One of the biggest problems in a lot of the Bat-books I’ve been seeing lately is that Batman’s a loser: he can’t save anyone, he’s never in control, he’s a loser. It’s like he’s been turned into the complete opposite of the Always-Prepared-For-Every-Contingency Bat-god of Morrison’s day. The Capable-Crime-Fighter-Who-Saves-The-Day is too much to ask for.

So, yes, it’s all a dream–a sim, to be precise–that Batman puts himself through to toughen himself up. I figured it would be something like that, but the lead-up to it was a hell of morass and Bat-failure. I get what Tomasi was going for with the whole “Batman needs to remind himself that Gotham needs him and that the cost is worth it” deal, but Peterson JUST did that with Batman: Kings of Fear, and he did it a zillion times better.

What a waste.

At this point, I’m actually getting sick of Batman mythology stories. All of the “Hi, I’m Batman. Have I mentioned that my parents are dead?” OG Batman was over it. I kind of wish Batman would get back to solving murder mysteries at haunted castles again.

In the meantime, however, I’m thrilled that Catwoman seems to be morphing into an Occult Horror title, even if Joelle Jones isn’t doing art for her own comic anymore, and Terrifics have not let up since that early lull of issues 2 through 4.

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Quick Comics Review

I’d said that I’d do a round-up review of the series I followed (or briefly followed) last year, and, well, here it is!

Scott Snyder’s Justice League Stuff – I enjoyed Metal a lot, and despite the promises of the short-lived New Age of Heroes that were “Taken from the pages of Metal”, the real follow-up to the event was Snyder’s new sprawling Justice League story. It started out promising, with Justice League: No Justice, but I felt like the wheels were falling off by the time his new Justice League title started; I dropped it after #2, because frankly it was too bloated and dull. Which surprised me because I thought he’d handled a large ensemble fairly well in No Justice. But the start of Justice League was just so sloppy I skipped out on everything else.

The Immortal Men – Slow, pretentious, and utterly beautiful–the art wasn’t enough to make up for the plodding attempt to cram all of the Immortal Men mythos into what ended up being a six-issue mini-series due to its cancellation. I picked this book up because “Oh, hey, Batman Who Laughs is here!” and I was curious what he was up to after Metal. Well, it turned out he was mostly just standing around behind some other villain whose name I forget so they could put him on the cover and trick people like me into following the title.

The Brave and the Bold – If not for Kings of Fear, this would be my book of the year. A Celtic / Dunsanian fantasy fairy tale murder mystery that Wonder Woman and Batman have to solve. The art was gorgeous and story compelling, and it was wonderful to see this kind of fantasy story being told today.

The Terrifics – I love the Terrifics, and due to the hiccups at DC, it’s as close as I’ll be getting to the Outsiders for some time. It was a bit slow early on, but it really hit its stride with issue 5 and hasn’t really let up since. This has been my favorite ongoing since I got back into comics, and the price is right at 2.99.

Raven: Daughter of Darkness – This one started out slow, and it’s not a take on Raven that I’m a huge fan of, but it got better after a few issues; while it’s not great, I don’t regret my decision to not drop the title.

Catwoman – I love Joelle Jones’ art style; I just wish she was better at pacing her story. I think the first story could’ve been told in 3 issues instead of 6, but that’s really a problem with contemporary comics in general. I almost dropped this after the first arc, because even though I enjoyed it, I’m not invested in Catwoman beyond her place in the Bat-o-sphere. Then Penguin showed up in issue 7, so I’m sticking around, even if he really should’ve shown up several pages earlier to offer her the gig instead of at the end of the book; again, pacing.

Batman – I’ve done a complete 180 on Tom King and his Batman. Yes, I raved about his cozy Batman stories, but when he’s not doing cozy Batman, his stuff was terrible. I got tired of watching Batman lose and not save anybody, and the lead-up to the wedding was egregious. I could’ve stuck out the Batrayal or the price hike, but not both.

Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome – This is a gem I picked up on a whim and ended up not only following the 4-issue series, I’ve got a few issues from an earlier run, as well. Great art, fun and intriguing story. I hear there’s an omnibus collecting all of Britannia up through this, so I’ll be nabbing that.

Batman: Kings of Fear – Book of the year, right here. (Sorry Brave & Bold; you were fantastic and beautiful and sublime and all, but this is ImportantTM)

Kings of Fear blew up the post-modern approach to the Batman mythology with two tons of TNT and is easily one of the best Batman stories ever written.

Batman gets hit with an abnormally large dose of Scarecrow gas, and Doctor Crane tries to analyze Batman to see what makes him tick.

It turns out that Batman’s greatest fear is that the contemporary post-modern approach to writing and critiquing Batman as a rich crazy guy who is probably just making things worse by his crime-fighting is true.

And if this were a contemporary post-modern Batman story where Batman is a loser, doesn’t save anyone, and creates more supervillains than he stops, his fears would be reality.

Only it’s not, and they aren’t. Spoilers: This Batman saves lives. Not only does Batman save the lives of people targeted by criminals, Batman saves the lives of criminals, too. It turns out that the recidivism rate of criminals who are stopped by Batman is only 2% (pretty much his rogues and their most devoted henchmen); criminals stopped by Batman turn their lives around: they go to jail, learn trades, get out, start families, and keep their shit together.

Both the tone and aesthetic of this book hearken back to a time when Batman was still a winner–a good guy who saves the day. So, while Batman is letting randos get murdered in Batman, and Leslie Thompkins just got killed by the Joker in the current Detective Comics countdown to #1000, at least one Bat-book from the last year has a real goddamn Batman who saves the day and makes Gotham a better and safer place.

The Holidays are Upon Us!

Which means new reads! And new games!

Honestly, part of the reason why I’ve been hard pressed for blogable content has been that I’ve spent the last couple months reading the 156 stories we received in submissions.

The other part has been that most of my reading that hasn’t been for Castalia House has been in the form of Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People. Which has been absolutely fantastic, but just hasn’t been great for blog-fodder, at least insomuch as I can’t easily relate it to D&D or the Pulps. Not that Churchill’s hot takes haven’t gotten me in a bit of trouble. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m hoping that by the new year I’ll be finished with it and be able to plunge headlong into some Jack Vance. PC Bushi has been kicking my ass in the Vance area and by now has probably read more than me! I’ll need to catch up.

I’ve also been steeped in Battle for Wesnoth, which DolusMiles recommended to me, and OMG, this is up my alley. I’ve been working my way through the core campaigns, but I may have stalled out late-game in the first really big elf campaign.

Asshole elf-brother: Now that we’ve exhausted our forces fighting orcs, it’s time to exact additional retribution on the lizardmen that we fought once. By the way, I am totally not turning evil from that philtre of invisibility extracted from the blood of lich that we used to assassinate the Orc Warchief.

Healer: This is messed up, dude. I’m going home and taking all of the fairies, sorceresses, and ents with me.

Lizardmen: Please don’t murder us! ::sends a bunch of max level sorcerers and spearmen to slaughter my meager forces::

I don’t think I did well enough in the previous mission, because I’m starting with too little gold to recruit enough troops to hold off lizardmen in a mission with a)no healers and b)no friendly villages to recover health at. Of course, it’s a cascading issue.

The Human Alliance mission has infinite Trolls, and a little over half-way through, I did what I could to fall back but I lost a few really good units. The next mission in the ice fields, I won, but I had too little gold and too few troops to get a lot of bonus gold by finishing early. So, I’d need to go back two or more battles to substantially improve my situation. Oh, well…

I’ve been savoring Outsiders Vol 2, and I think I’m putting off finishing it because it’s been one of the best Outsiders titles I’ve read so far. I may do a cap on it here once I’m done.

Batman & the Outsiders Vol 3 has been postponed until at least March, which had me hopping mad when I first heard about it, but honestly, since issue 5, Terrifics has been giving me just about everything I could want from an Outsiders title except for having more than one actual Outsider in it.

Amusingly, I’m back in a spot where I’m hardly buying any new comics except for the Wal-Mart giants; quite the shift from about this time a year ago, when I’d been following Metal, Batman and followed Snyder’s story into the Justice League. I may post a full on breakdown of my comic reading at some point, but I went from all-in on Tom King’s Batman to done with both him and Snyder’s arc, which lost momentum hard after No Justice.

The best contemporary comic books I’ve read this year have been Valiant’s Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome and DC’s Brave and the Bold and Batman: Kings of Fear mini-series.

Anywho…

The lineup for Cirsova 2019 is almost finalized. We have one outstanding offer that needs to be resolved, and I need to see that people who asked for checks received them, but we should be able to make our official announcement pretty soon.

Outsiders Are Making a Comeback

Over the weekend, I managed to link up a pretty good run of Outsiders that I hadn’t yet started on. Outsiders Vol2. #3 has been out of stock from most places where I could have bought it at a reasonable price, and I’ve been reticent to pay ebay prices (especially S&H) for a single issue, when I knew that if Midtown had it in stock, it would’ve only cost maybe a dollar [and I’d just fill in some other gaps to make the S&H worth it]. But, the guy at one of the local flea markets finally got his booth organized [and kind of sorted!—almost unheard of for flea market comic booths], and while ain’t nobody is paying his prices for some random-ass Rai & the Future Force issues, I was ready to pay $3.25 for the issue of Outsiders I’d been looking for since this spring.

But this is a post about Bryan Edward Hill’s upcoming Batman & the Outsiders Volume 3.

Back in the summer of last year, Scott Snyder teased a return of the original Outsiders lineup in The Forge [the prelude to the Metal event]. It was just a tease—a holo-dossier image of the team with the quip “Batman has a black ops team?” And then we got nothing, until the No Justice epilogue of Metal when Batman tells Black Lightning he could use someone working from the Outside.

outsiders metal

It’s pretty clear that whatever’s going to happen with the team, it’s not going to jibe with how the team was originally teased [all 5 original members, a team that had been together for some time in the background, just without their exploits featured in any current Rebirth titles or the Geoff Johns version that is appearing in Doomsday Clock], but right now, I’m okay with that.

Bryan Edward Hill was given the reins of Detective Comics for an unfortunately brief 5-issue run which will lead into his book: Batman & The Outsiders Vol. 3. All of my fears and trepidation about the quality of an upcoming Outsiders book have melted away in the wake of this series.

One of the complaints I’ve seen about recent Detective is not just that it’s a Bat Family book, but that the Bat Family has gotten rather crowded. It’s strange that the lone-wolf Dark Knight seems up to his elbows in teenagers who “dilute” the Batman brand. At least in the Detective books, Wayne Manor is overrun by unruly teenagers. Hill runs with this idea, with a villain intent on targeting Batman’s weakness: the young Bat Family members who he’s relied on.

Batman realizes that the kids need to be reined in. To this end, Bats brings in Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning. Why? Because Pierce was a high school teacher [now principal, IIR] with years of experience working with troubled teens who have issues with authority. Oh, and Katana’s back!

So what have we got here?

-A new Batman & the Outsiders team with fan-favorites Black Lightning and Katana at the core with some of the new Bat Family kids having a chance to shine without it having to be in Bat’s books.

Batman-The-Outsiders-1

-New Bat-villains with ties to Markovia; Karma, the main villain of this 5 issue arc was a terrorist that Batman severely injured in Markovia—which definitely feels like a callback to 80s Mike Barr callous asshole Batman—who would be worthy of recurring in other Bat stories, if writers could figure out how to make him more than a one trick pony. Other new main villain will be explored more in the opening story of the new BatO, which will likely see the team back in Markovia to investigate.

-80s fans who were constantly writing in saying that Black Lighting or Katana should be leading the team are finally getting their wish. Geoforce was a good dude but a poor team leader. It always made sense that Katana, who was already “mom” for the team or Black Lightning, who had both practical street smarts and leadership experience as a teacher, should be leading the team. When Batman was around, cases could be made that either of them were his “second”. But with Batman gone and only Markovian financial backing to keep the team going, the job fell to Brion Markov—and it went about as well as you’d expect: the team went from one screw-up to the next until Batman showed up and took over again.

-No Looker. I am more than okay with this.

What we’re probably not getting:

-We’re in the Rebirth continuity and Dr. Jace was never reintroduced Post-Crisis. There has never been a Dr. Jace in the current continuity. This is a good thing for Dr. Jace fans. I thought she was a cool character, and I hate that she got thrown under the bus for the Millennium event [all DC writers were instructed that they had to throw one character from their book under the bus to be a Manhunter sleeper agent; in the case of the Outsiders, it was decided that the woman who had given the team leader his powers and acted as the chief science advisor and almost defacto leader would suddenly betray the Outsiders for no reason, get Metamorpho killed, and be buried without honors as a traitor. It was terrible]. There is a chance we could have Dr. Jace back and all of that “she was a Manhunter sleeper all along” could be wiped out. I don’t think this is a real possibility, but I can cross my fingers.

Outsiders_Vol_1_27

-I’ve never liked the modern look for Katana. It’s ugly and dumb, and the association of the Rising Sun iconography with her because of her ethnicity is double so with a character whose ethnicity was not her defining characteristic. Sure, the orange and gold costume was garish [though I prefer it to even the crimson/maroon and gold she had in later stories], but it had a charm that’s thoroughly lacking in her black & white get-up she’s had for the last several years. IIRC, one of the rules of Suicide Squad was “no costumes”, so maybe that’s part of the justification for the look, but I’ve always though it was drab and made worse by the one spot of color being that lampshade hung on her race. The new look is a more streamlined, though slightly more colorful version of her look from New 52. She’s drawn “sexy”, which, while not a problem in and of itself, feels out of place for Katana, as she was an inversion of the “dragon lady” trope. The unflattering nature of the original costume vs. what was typical of female comic characters underscored this.

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Anyway…

Hill can tell an exciting story and has shown that he can add some reflective depth to the characters; one of the things that always kept me sticking with the Outsiders was the potential that these characters had to show some real depth—we got flashes of it with Barr writing, but I think that under Hill’s writing, we’ll finally see some of them really living up to that potential.

I’m completely stoked for this, and at this point, I don’t care that the origins of the team may contradict how Snyder set them up. The wheels fell off Snyder and at this point, I’m done with him. Hill, on the other hand, I’m open to and see loads of potential, and I am looking forward to his run—I can hardly wait until the new book launches.

Cirsova’s Script for Batman #50

There are a lot of important things I probably should’ve been doing today, but in a fit of mania I wrote a 22 page script for a Batman Wedding. I hope you all enjoy this more than you did Batman #50.

Page 1:

Church sanctuary, wedding day. Members of the Bat Family and Justice League are seated in the pews in costume; Batman and Catwoman stand at the altar.

Narration: At long last, the day is finally here! The Wedding of Batman and Catwoman!

 

Page 2:

Panel One: Bat & Cat looking at each other in front of priest. Green discordant notes from the side

Priest: Do you promise to—what’s the organist doing?

Panel two: The organist is Joker.

Joker: I can’t believe you didn’t invite me to the wedding!

Panel three: Batman holds up Joker by the collar.

Batman: How DARE you!

Joker: Easy, Bats, you don’t want this wedding to blow up in everyone’s face.

 

Page 3

Panel 1: An explosion

Panel 2: Everyone in the sanctuary is coughing; there is mist everywhere.

Panel 3: Joker’s head is on the ground, looking up; it’s animatronic, because it had been a Joker doll.

Joker’s head: It would be a shame to spoil such a happy day.

Panel 4: Batman holding what’s left of the Joker automaton in one hand, covering his face with the other.

Batman: Joker gas! Quick, get everyone out of the church! Cat?

Panel 5: Batman looks back to the altar. Catwoman has passed out.

Batman: Cat!

Panel 6: Batman falls down.

 

Page 4

Panel 1: Batman, Catwoman, Robin (doesn’t matter which one), and Batgirl are pinned to a large block of ice.

Batman: Where… Where are we? Cobblepot!

Panel 2: Penguin, Joker and some Joker thugs look on at the captive Bat Family. It is clear that they’re in Iceberg Lounge. One of the Joker thugs has a freeze cannon.

Joker: I rented the place out for a reception! What do you think?

Penguin: If anyone asks, I’ll just say Joker forced me to do it. No one would believe otherwise!

Joker: It’s true!

 

Page 5:

Panel 1: Joker menaces the Bat Family

Joker: Don’t you think I wanted to be a part of this? I could’ve killed you, but I got you a gift!

Robin: You’re sick, Joker.

Panel 2: Joker turns, hand to his mouth, calling.

Joker: Ladies, bring in the wedding cake!

Panel 3: Penguin’s henchgirls, Jay, Raven, and Lark wheel out a large cake with a riddler “?” on top.

Joker: Doesn’t that look good enough to eat?

Panel 4: Mad Hatter pops out of the wedding cake holding a bridal veil.

Joker: I’ll bet you were expecting Harley Quinn! Jervis, come on out, and show ‘em what they’ve won!

 

Page 6:

Panel 1: Joker gestures to Catwoman, Mad Hatter approaches holding the veil out towards her.

Joker: We’ll have Catwoman back to a life of crime in no time! Get that on her and set her loose!

Panel 2: With the veil placed over Catwoman’s head, she looks on with a vacant stare

Joker (off panel): Now go and rob the nearest bank. Get yourself something nice for the honeymoon.

Catwoman: ~meow…

Panel 3: Joker thug shooting Catwoman with the freeze cannon.

Joker: Hit the reverse on that thing Freeze loaned us… and don’t hit Batman, we don’t want him getting out!

 

Page 7:

Panel 1: Catwoman scrambles away.

Joker: And off she goes!

Panel 2:

Batgirl: What are we going to do, Batman?

Batman: Don’t worry, I was expecting something like this. Hold your breath…

Panel 3: Everyone in the iceberg lounge looking around as gas seeps in.

Joker: Hey, what is this? Gas is MY shtick! No, don’t… pass… out… zzzzz….

 

Page 8:

Panel 1: Batman smiling

Batman: It pays to have someone working from the OUTSIDE.

Panel 2: The gas solidifies into Metamorpho

Metamorpho: Heya, Bats! Looks like these guys are down for the count with my sleeping gas!

Panel 3: Metamorpho is melting the ice with his powers

Robin: Thanks, Rex!

Batman: We’ve got to catch up with Catwoman. She’s headed to the 1st Bank of Gotham.

Panel 4: Freed, Batman is rubbing his wrists.

Batman: Can you and the rest of the Outsiders handle these clowns yourselves?

Metamorpho: For four volumes!

Panel 5: Batman has slung Joker over his shoulder.

Batman: I’ve had enough jokes for one day!

 

Page 9:

First Bank of Gotham, a towering edifice. Catwoman is climbing up the side in broad daylight!

Onlookers: Hey, is that the Catwoman?

Onlookers: What’s she doing?!

Onlookers: In her wedding dress, too!

 

Page 10:

Panel 1: The Riddler stands in front of TV camera crews in front of the bank.

Riddler: What’s black and white and robbing 1st Bank of Gotham on her wedding day? The Catwoman of course!

Panel 2: Batman grabs the Riddler; the cameras are still on them.

Batman: What’s your part in this Riddler?!

Riddler: The part I play is the part you say! Isn’t this your wedding day?

Panel 3: Batman has let Riddler go and walks past him.

Batman: I don’t have time for your nonsense. Batgirl, Robin, watch him!

Riddler aside to Batgirl: Even if it’s just an act, can’t you leave my face intact?

 

Page 11:

Panel 1: Catwoman breaks into the bank window.

Panel 2: Catwoman sneaks down halls of the bank.

Panel 3: Catwoman trying to open the Bank vault.

Panel 4: Catwoman still trying to open the Bank Vault, but looking surprised

Batman(from behind her): Stop! It’s over.

Panel 5: Batman lifting the veil off Catwoman; her eyes are clear again.

 

Page 12:

Panel 1: Batman and Catwoman standing in front of the vault.

Catwoman: What happened?

Batman: Mad Hatter put a mind control device in this wedding veil and told you to rob a bank.

Panel 2:

Batman: Joker must have hoped that if everyone thought you returned to a life of crime, it would be impossible for the Batman and the Catwoman to be married.

Panel 3: Catwoman looking downcast, turned away from Batman.

Catwoman: Maybe he’d be right…

Batman: Exactly…

 

Page 13:

Panel 1: An interrogation cell at GCP, Gordon stands next to Bullock and looks on at Joker, who’s in a straight jacket.

Gordon: There’s always more than meets-the-eye with Joker’s plans.

Panel 2: Joker grinning in the room.

Joker: It was all King Tut’s idea, I swear! He’s so funky!

Panel 3: Gordon looks frustrated.

Gordon: Do you think it’s even worth questioning him, or should we just toss him back into Arkham?

 

Page 14:

Panel 1: Gordon still standing there, but instead of Bullock, Clayface is standing next to him.

Gordon: You’re awfully quiet, Bullock…

Panel 2: Gordon looks in horror at Clayface.

Gordon: What are YOU doing here?!

Panel 3: Clayface moves in on Gordon.

Clayface: I got a bit part…

Panel 4: Clayface

Clayface: and I’m ready for my close-up!

 

Page 15:

Panel 1: A blast of a freeze ray from the freeze gun hits Clayface and knocks him away from Gordon.

Panel 2: Bullock holding the freeze gun.

Bullock: Some Asian lady with a sword said this was at the crime scene… good thing I hadn’t checked it into evidence, yet, huh?

Panel 3: Joker furious in the interrogation room

Joker: What? That’s it?! I was hoping for much more in the third act!

 

Page 16:

Panel 1: Batman is standing in front of the camera crews outside 1st Gotham Bank; Catwoman is looking down and is wearing cuffs beside him.

Batman: …and that’s why I’ve decided that the Batman and the Catwoman can NEVER get married.

Panel 2: Two-Face’s cell; Two-Face is watching the live broadcast on his TV.

Batman on the TV: Batman is a crime-fighter, and the Catwoman is a criminal.

Panel 3:

Two-Face: Why that no good double crosser…

 

Page 17:

Batman fires his grapnel with one hand, holding Catwoman in the other, and goes soaring off away from the press conference that’s formed around the outside of the bank.

Batman: It’s time she gets her just deserts.

 

Page 18:

A Gotham Courthouse.

Caption: Later that week…

 

Page 19:

Panel 1: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle stand in front of the desk of a Justice of the peace wearing normal clothes.

Justice: Your paperwork is all in order, you’ve paid your license fee. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne.

 

Panel 2:

Bruce Wayne: It may be awhile before Batman and the Catwoman can be seen together in public.

Selina: I’m hoping that we’ll be in private for a bit. Meow!

 

Page 20:

Panel 1: Bruce and Selina leaving the courthouse.

Selina: This was all brilliant, really…

Bruce: With Batman and Catwoman ‘officially broken up’, there’s no suspicion about the wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.

Panel 2: Continuing down the steps

Selina: And that’s fine. It’s the man I’m marrying, not the costume.

Bruce: …Of course!

Panel 2 circle inset: Nightwing smiling and waving.

Nightwing: Thank God for that, right?

Panel 3: Selina looks lovingly at Bruce

Selina: You may now kiss the bride!

 

Page 21:

Panel 1: Bruce and Selina embrace and kiss.

Panel 2: The couple ride off in a car together

Selina (from inside the car): Our friends are all waiting for us at the little chapel we booked just outside of town.

 

Page 22:

Panel 1: Arkham Asylum

Joker narrating: What? That’s it?

Panel 2: Joker in his cell

Joker: No big twist ending? Batman and Catwoman aren’t getting married!? Everyone saw that coming!

Panel 3: All of the Bat Family + Catwoman waving.

All: Thanks for reading!

Batman: See you after the Honeymoon!

If you want me to have more time to devote to writing weird stuff like this, please don’t pledge to our Kickstarter for Volume 2! ;D

Disclaimer: DC owns Batman, all the characters, trademarks, etc., yadda yadda yadda.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Why I Defend It

So far, the DCEU has been pretty terrible.

  • Man of Steel was an overly serious and pompous trainwreck that fundamentally misunderstood the character of Superman and managed to make the two plus hours of non-stop action dreary and tiresome.
  • Batman vs. Superman had a few decent moments of pathos that were tied more to our memories of Chris Nolan’s Batman than anything the movie actually gave us, but those were largely mired in a poorly paced mess of a plot that relied on a number of assumptions and the feeling that we’d “missed something”. Plus making Gotham Metropolis’ Jersey City was a strange choice.
  • Suicide Squad was another trainwreck that felt like it should’ve been the second movie in its own franchise and was edited so haphazardly that I think they were going for a Tarantino feel but without an ounce of finesse; fans cheered it against critics because a) they’re fans, b) everyone hates critics, even when they’re right on occasion, and c) Harley Quinn fangirls & boys.
  • Wonder Woman was heralded as brilliant because it was the first entry into the franchise that was a competently done film.
  • After watching creepo Ezra Miller try to pressure an uncomfortable and embarrassed looking Gal Gadot into saying his Smash-the-Patriarchy BS during a promo interview, I figure I’ll wait until my gym picks up Justice League to watch it.
  • The fact that they’ve hired Ava DuVernay to direct New Gods suggests that WB & DC are entirely unserious about the prospect of making good movies in the immediate future.

LuthorNow for my dangerous claim: the one bright spot of the DCEU was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. It was the one genuinely interesting thing that the films did in terms of storytelling, direction, and acting. His Luthor was not without problems, of course—the biggest being that his character was named Lex Luthor.

 

The main complaint I hear about him is “He’s not Lex Luthor; he’s not my Lex Luthor,” and no, he’s really not. Which is why it’s a damn shame they call him Luthor, because now you CANNOT do anything else with the character. Lex Luthor is usually portrayed as either a criminal mastermind, a mad scientist, or evil corporate billionaire with tons of resources at his disposal. In most cases, he’s set himself up as untouchable, and in fan favorite portrayals (StAS, L&C:NAoS) he’s often a cool, calculating and collected character—quite the opposite of Eisenberg’s portrayal. You need that aloof, powerful and untouchable nature to remain an ongoing villain to Superman. Yet the Luthor portrayed in BvS is a fantastic Batman villain and far more interesting than your typical portrayal of Luthor.

At its core, Batman vs. Superman is a story about three men who are living in the shadows cast by their absent fathers*. Their fathers have shaped who they are, what they do, what they believe, and they are constantly trying to live up to ideals that they think will make the ghosts in their memories proud. Eisenberg’s Luthor is shattered by this pressure. He’s the broken mirror that’s held up to Batman and Superman; could they turn into this broken and groveling man who is desperate to make Daddy proud? Many times in his adventures, Bruce Wayne comes close to this; he approaches the edge and often has be pulled back by his friends and loved ones. He sees himself, to a degree, in a character like Eisenberg’s Luthor, and it terrifies him. He wears the mask of the happy playboy billionaire, but every day inside he’s asking himself “Am I making my father proud?” And it makes Bats and the folks watching him wonder “How is he going to avoid ending up like that? Can he? How similar they are!” Like I said, A GREAT BATMAN VILLAIN!

Now, I understand why a lot of people don’t like him, I really do! And I agree, he’s NOT Lex Luthor, and his character should NOT have been called Lex Luthor. Calling him Lex prejudiced fans against character and ensured that this intriguing villain, great in his own right, cannot be used or explored further in future. It’s a shame, because really he was the one worthwhile thing the DCEU gave us.

*:One aspect that sets Supes & Bats apart from Luthor in the film is their love for their mother—something which Luthor is not shown to have—which brings them together against him at the movie’s climax, but that’s like an essay unto itself, right there!

Retrospective: Batman and the Outsiders Vol.1 & Outsiders Vol. 1

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a while, but I’ve just been so busy that I’m only now getting around to it! A couple weeks back, I finished the original run of Outsiders. That includes Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1, Adventures of the Outsiders (a continuation of BatO vol 1 sans Batman), and Outsiders Vol. 1 (a deluxe format monthly that ran concurrently with the conclusion of BatO post-Crisis, taking place one year after).

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Outsiders was a title with peaks and valleys in its relatively brief run. By the time it was cancelled, it’s hard to not look at it as a mercy killing. I won’t say that Looker’s arrival ruined the Outsiders, but many of its best stories predate her addition to the team. After Jim Aparo left the original title, Mike Barr’s writing was still on enough to deliver some great stories, but by the time Jim had left the deluxe format title to other artists, like Erik Larsen (who drew Geo-Force’s chin longer than the rest of his head from the lip up), Mike had started writing for a main-line Batbook and was phoning it in a bit.

The Outsiders were never a great superhero team, and a lot of their team fights were run-of-the-mill Silver Age schlock (to which it was sort of an homage, if not the last gasp). The real charm of the Outsiders was in the deeply personal moments that these characters would sometimes share with each other and the reader.

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Halo didn’t exactly have it easy, either, but she’s pretty chipper about it.

 

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For instance, Katana begins as a very complex character; she’s lost her husband and her child and sworn bloody vengeance. Batman helps temper some of that vengeance, and taking care of Halo stirs her maternal instincts, though there’s the tension of being an adoptive mother of a teenage daughter that she has to work through. One of the great touches that I wish more had been done with was Bruce setting Tatsu up with her own oriental bookstore in Gotham as a front; she gets the ball rolling to open a store of her own on the West Coast in the deluxe series, but nothing ever comes of it. You can’t imagine how much I would love a series of Katana solving cozy oriental occult mysteries out of her bookstore. Unfortunately, Katana spends much of Outsiders Vol 1 just being the close-combat character with no powers who speaks in stilted English. While much of Katana’s personal drama actually does get resolved to satisfactory degrees (something I gather that gets rolled back in later books), the series misses out on opportunities to develop her further.

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Halo goes through a pretty powerful arc, and has a rough ride, learning she was never human to begin with, finding her human host body was a terrible person, and nearly being absconded with by Kobra cultists while trying to find herself. She unfortunately spends much of Outsiders Vol 1 filling in the twee teenager role, but without near as many of the touching moments, such as when she and Brion were teased at as a couple but mutually backed away—the great “you’re like a sister/I’ve never had a brother before” moment was powerful, especially given Terra’s death over in Titans, but it was a bond that never really developed deeply.

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Fans were often split as to whether Katana or Black Lightning were Batman’s #2 on the team while he was leading it. Many folks in the letters especially wished to see Black Lightning step up into the leadership role. And I’ll give Outsiders Vol 1 this: the arc where BL is wanting to try to get back on better terms with his ex-wife, but the African politician behind the food aid charity she’s working with turns out to be an evil dictator who’s stealing the money and turning his country into a Soviet satellite really was the best the deluxe run had to offer. And it was good. But Geo-Force was, for story reasons, the nominal team lead.

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Except once Batman left, Brion kinda lost his chill, and Looker showing up to cheat on her husband (and lead Brion to cheat with Denise) didn’t help things. Looker, who was something of a knock-off of Dazzler, is portrayed as a chronic narcissist, is drawn like a drag queen, and never gets any character development beyond “Thot who cheats on her husband who misses her deeply”. Which is a real shame, because her origin arc in the final issues of BatO was really good and set her up to be a potentially better character than she ultimately ended up being.

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Emily Briggs ultimately cheats on her husband because he loved her for who she was; she wanted him to be attracted to the attention seeking fame-whore persona she adopted when her physique changed. It’s pretty tragic.

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Metamorpho was pretty great throughout. I really have no complaints where Rex was concerned other than the fact that he gets killed off for the garbage Millennium Crossover. He doesn’t get Ben Grimmed too hard, but his condition does give him some motivation. Stuff with he and Sapphire Stagg was solid, and just before he’s killed off, the two of them adopt a child together.

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I get that it was a way they could end the comic and it had to tie into Millennium somehow, but making Dr. Jace a Manhunter sleeper agent was a terrible choice. After Batman left, she became the de facto team coordinator (if not leader), since Brion was usually having mantrums. She helped keep the team together, and really even played a role in starting it, since it was she who gave Brion his powers. Making Looker, who had sewn discord among them members of the team pretty much from the moment she showed up to the last battle with the Manhunters, the mole would’ve been a much better twist than making Dr. Jace suddenly evil for no reason.

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Barr wrote a brutal, violent, and often petulant Batman, yet somehow his other characters from Outsiders tended to shine the brightest when he was around. His return at the end of Outsiders Vol 1. and the appearance in the Annual (a story that made me reconsider whether Kobra was trash-tier) were bright spots not for him, but for the other team members, but it wasn’t quite enough. Halo’s haircut, Looker being foisted front-and-center on so many occasions, and the character development that made first run what it was getting kind of tossed in some cases, flatlined in others, left an ensemble title with the ensemble spread thin even when the stories themselves were solid.

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I need a better camera. I did a grid transfer enlargement of a panel of Geo-Force fighting Superman from BatO 19, one of the best issues. 

It sounds like I’m dumping really hard on a series that I do love, but I guess I kind of am. I’ll admit that a lot of the love I have for the Outsiders is for the potential that the characters and the title had that ultimately go unrealized. But I don’t want anyone to think that there weren’t high points. There were. Lots of them. And that’s why it was hard to watch a title that had so many great moments and great character development begin to grow stale and flanderize some of its best characters.

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Oh, yeah, and Atomic Knight is an Outsider for like 3 or 4 issues.