Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder, drawn by Greg Capullo
Collects Batman #25-27, 29-33
I continue to fully enjoy Scott Snyder’s run on Batman for DC’s New 52 initiative. A while back I briefly talked about reading the first entry in the Zero Year story. I get that diehard Batfans don’t like how much he and artist Greg Capullo are straying from the origins laid down by Frank Miller in Year One, but I heard an interview with him somewhere where he said that he was equally freaked out by the idea, but was encouraged by editorial to blaze a bold new trail for a new universe. Thus was born Batman’s earliest adventures in a flooded Gotham City run completely by the Riddler.
While the previous volume felt a little more straightforward, I really enjoyed how Snyder played out the mystery of who Dr. Death is (and why he does what he does) while also laying down Riddler’s plans for keeping Gothamites docile. I appreciated that this story felt somewhat familiar — like No Man’s Land or Dark Knight Rises — but also blazed its own trail, kind of like a jazz solo in the middle of a standard (or maybe a familiar tune in the middle of a crazy jazz composition).
I also appreciate how Snyder disseminated the information throughout these issues, though I fully admit that they would have been lost on me had I read this book in monthly issues. All those little bits and pieces about how Dr. Death ties back to Bruce Wayne were super neat and compelling, but I doubt I’d be able to remember them over the span of eight months or so. This is why I love trades.
You also can’t talk about Batman without talking about Greg Capullo. I never read his Spawn stuff, but he just seems so perfect for Batman. I’m glad he and Snyder have been able to keep this run going together because it lends such a specific visual to this new take on Batman. They remind me of one another and pair so well that it feels like a complete thing made by two creators at the top of their game. The colors by FCO Plascencia are also off the wall in the best way possible. So bright and crazy at times and so subdued at others.
Batman Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift (DC)
Written & drawn by a lot of folks including Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Collects Batman #0, 18-20, 28, 34, Annual #2
While the previous five volumes of this collection all tell an increasingly c0mplex and cohesive story, Graveyard Shift brings together a variety of tales told in that time and during Batman Eternal, a weekly comic that was set in the present while “Zero Year” took us back to Batman’s earlier days. So, as you might expect, this book doesn’t have the feel of the previous one (especially because Snyder’s joined by a series of other writers and different pencilers plying their craft).
Even so, it’s impressive that this all still feels like part of the larger Gotham City Snyder and Capullo have been working on so far. In that way, it feels a bit like an anthology whereas the others are part of a sequential story. Oh, also, many of these stories take place after the much publicized death of Damian Wayne, which I haven’t read yet, but obviously knew about.
Personal highlights include Bruce Wayne testing his Batarangs in a flashback on the roof before Gordon pops up to ask him some questions, more Harper Row, Clayface drawn by Capullo, the nod to the Batman Beyond armor, Superman’s appearance, Mateo Scalera’s art and Batman’s new accomplice inside Arkham.
My only complaint about this collection comes from my weird need to know where every story actually comes from. They’re all credited as they begin, but they skip over which issues they first appeared in. That’s a pet peeve of mine (as is a trade filled with non-consecutive stories/skipping stories as they were originally published) but I still enjoyed the experience of looking at Gotham from a different angle, something I’m also experiencing in my re-through of Batman Eternal.
Stung was actually a bonus tossed in the box without warning. At first I wasn’t super interested because it sounded like a bit of Syfy or Asylum craziness with a plot revolving around giant wasps attacking an upscale garden party. But this Benni Diez-directed, Adam Aresty-written film is actually pretty damn delightful.
Our heroes are the owner of a catering company and her slacker employee who can barely handle himself when she switches from one shirt into another on the way to the event. He’s a bit too much of a goofball for my personal tastes (haven’t we seen enough of this character?) but he gets tangled up in the craziness of the events around him and starts adapting in the process.
Anyway, they wind up working some local bigwig’s party when these insane wasps start attacking. The stings are bad enough, but they also make their targets transform into gigantic wasps. Our heroes are joined in their drive to survive by Clifton Collins Jr. (who starred in Capote) and friggin’ Lance Henriksen, both of whom play against type a bit and also last much longer than you might expect.
I give Stung a lot of credit for not only featuring some impressive special effects (yes, there’s a lot of CGI, plus a fair amount of practical grossness) but also playing with expectations with what many would assume is stunt casting. I also thought it worked quite well as a nature-run-amok movie along the lines of Frogs. My own personal scare factor was boosted because I’ve been dealing with wasps under our siding all summer and hate those damn things. Whether you have wasps diving bombing your table or not, I highly recommend checking out Stung. It just went up on Netflix Instant, so it’s even easier!
I also gave The Return Of Count Yorga a watch. I feel like I’ve always known about these movies (or at least the original one from 1970), but just never got around to watching either of them. I think I saw part of the first on Netflix a while back, but who can remember?
Anyway, in this film, Yorga (Robert Quarry) makes his come back because of the Santa Anna winds (sure, why not) and he soon gets to work turning the gorgeous Cynthia — played by Mariette Hartley — into a fellow undead minion. Along the way his vampire brides also turn an orphan boy who then leads them to Cynthia’s family. Soon enough everyone in the family is turned aside from a deaf woman. She goes to the police about the attack, but no one believes her because the vamps cleaned up the mess and the kid is on their side.
As I mentioned, Hartley is just captivating, but so is Quarry. When he’s just hanging out in slick guy mode — at a costume party no less — he’s mesmerizing. But when he’s in vamp mode? It’s a bit laughable. Instead of sneaking up on his victims, he puts both arms straight out and just charges at them (complete with white pancake makeup). Even with that, though, there are some pretty scary moments, though they mostly revolve around people telling the truth and not being believed or voices coming from nowhere potentially driving folks crazy.
So, yeah, it’s a little goofy at times, but there’s also enough cool in this movie for me to recommend it if you dig on early 70s movies with some psychological scares and great actors.
Unfortunately, toy commercials have become less fun for me over the past year or so. I still love combing through YouTube looking for oldies, but goodies to share here on the site, but modern days ones have become a hassle. Why, you ask? Well, I have a four year old who segued from the nearly commercial-free Disney Channel and PBS to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network which are packed with spots. With each one comes the inevitable chime of “I want that.” It can be exhausting.
But then we both saw the spot for this fantastic looking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Giant Leonardo transforming playset and my faith in toy commercials was restored (for about 30 seconds). Just look at this amazing thing. It would be cool if it was simply a giant Ninja Turtle, but with a few flips and snaps you find yourself rolling down a skateboard ramp, avoiding sewer traps and locking up bad guys in jail!
As a kid, I loved and coveted all of the TMNT playsets from the sewer one to the Technodrome because they always looked rad and came packed with action features like that. It’s nice to see Playmates carry on that legacy. The downside? Now I want to not only buy this bad boy, but a ton of modern TMNT action figures to go along with it!
Boy oh boy do I have a lot of Superman trades lying around waiting to be read. I figured I’d do something about it and made my way through this batch here starting with Superman Vs. Mongul which collects stories from DC Comics Presents #27, 28, 36, 43 as well as “For The Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11.
As a longtime, albeit post-Crisis fan of Superman’s I thought I knew all about Mongul, the villain planted the Black Mercy on Supes and later teamed with Cyborg to destroy Coast City. It turns out Mongul actually had several appearances before that written and drawn by the likes of Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Paul Levitz and Curt Swan.
The opening two-parter finds Mongul blackmailing Superman into getting him the key to Warworld from Martian Manhunter (who’s hanging out on a planet called New Mars apparently). From there he teams up with Supergirl to stop Mongul which works pretty well until he appears again a few months later. This time, Supes partners with the Starman of space to fight off the yellow madman. The third DCP story then teams Supes with the Legion to fight Mongul delightfully drawn by Swan, the man born to draw Silver Age Superman and his pals. Fun fact: Mongul has a strange ability to shrink people and put them in clear boxes that he uses in every one of these appearances.
I actually didn’t read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “For The Man…” this time around because I can only take so many “he’s living in a fake reality!” stories and am no stranger to this one specifically. However, if you’re looking for another reason to buy this trade, that might push you over the edge.
Reading Superman Vs. Mongul reminded me that I also had a copy of DC Universe Special: Superman #1 which actually features all Mongul stories. This book came out in 2008 which the big yellow bastard was a big time player in the Green Lantern books and, much to my surprise (especially given the re-use of its rad Ryan Sook cover for the above collection) has no overlap with the SVM book.
This reprint floppy includes a story from Superman #32 by Roger Stern and Kerry Gammill, the two part Showcase ’95 tale by Peter J. Tomasi and Scot Eaton and an appearance in Flash #102 by Mark Waid, Micahel Jan Friedman and Oscar Jimenez. The first is part of Superman’s time away from Earth where he had amnesia and fought on Warworld, the second shows what happens when a prison tries to mess with Mongul’s memory and the third pits Wally West against the villain. I’m actually a big fan of the Showcase story and am pretty sure it’s not collected anywhere else, so for that alone, this one’s worth the price of admission. As an added bonus, Tomasi wrote many of the Mongul issues of the Green Lantern saga.
I also made my way through Superman: The Power Within, an odd little collection that brings together the Superman strips from when Action Comics went weekly (#601-641 to be exact) and the three part story, “The Sinbad Contract” from Action #658, Superman #48 and Adventures #471.
The former, written by Roger Stern and drawn by Superman legend Curt Swan, is a series of two page spreads told in the style of comic strips with a good deal of recap. I’m sure that helped readers pick up on details they would have otherwise missed reading the weekly adventures, but it can make the all-at-once reading experience a bit slow. The story itself revolves around a guy named Bob Galt who’s part of a Superman god cult and a group that thinks he’s the anti-Christ known as the Consortium. Ultimately there’s a big villain reveal that I didn’t see coming, but it would have been nice to see Superman and said bad guy square off a bit more (as it is, the villain’s only in three strips).
Swan also penciled the “Sinbad” story which was penned by Bill Messner-Loebs. This one’s about a pair of Muslim siblings who wind up with a special power belt that belongs to Lex Luthor. While much of it is about the boy and his older sister trying to figure out what to do with the newfound power, the three-parter also heavily deals with the idea of anti-Muslim sentiment and how it can be used as a weapon more powerful than the aforementioned belt.
As a big Superman fan, I will be keeping all three of these books in my collection. I’ve gotten much better at letting go of trades and donating them to the library, but I have a much harder time doing that with pre-New 52 Superman trades. There’s just so much greatness in this character that I want to hang on to these books to flip back and watch him defeat Mongul again or deal with problems a lot more complicated than bank robberies or alien invasions.
Even with all the Halloween-related work I had going on this season — which included healthy doses of Warren’s Eerie comics and Marvel scare books — I still had some time to read a few other things leading up to the big day. I’ll hit these up in a quick hits fashion, but still wanted to call out a few fun aspects of each book. Read more…