Category Archives: Batman

Batman Comics Canon: Year One & The Man Who Laughs

So it’s time for a reread.

If you’ve checked out our page titled “Andrew’s Batman Comics Canon,” you know I’ve been working on a little project for a while now. The project is simple enough in concept, if not at all in execution:

Build a canon of Batman comics that creates the kind of narrative arc I want from the character. For every great Batman comic out there, you can probably find at least three utterly mediocre ones, and at least one really awful one, too.

We shouldn’t have to put up with that shit. We’re busy people, and we’ve got other comics to read. Among other things.

In this reread of my Bat-library, I want to write at least a few thoughts on each comic in the series, taking special note this time around of how each author characterizes Batman and whether that fits with my ideal interpretation of him. Sometimes Bruce Wayne can be a real asshole, and that’s okay as long as he learns something from it — on the other hand, I’m looking to construct a more compassionate, enlightened version of the character, one who learns from his mistakes (like a real person) and who gradually pulls himself up out of the darkness and trauma that gave birth to the Bat. And I’m not looking to create an emotional “bootstraps” story, either — he will need help from Alfred, from the Bat-family, and even sometimes from his Super Friends. Any suggestions are very welcome!

Disclaimer for you DC nerds out there — because the Flashpoint event radically altered a lot of the DC Multiverse’s stories and characters, and usually in a way that distances them pretty drastically from previous post-Crisis, 1986-2011 writings, this collection will probably not include many titles post-New 52. Notable exceptions are the final two volumes of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated.

On to the comics, starting with — shocker! — Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.


Batman_Year_OneLet’s the get the elephant in the room out of the way first: this comic was written by Frank Miller, and as such we can already see the seeds of The Dark Knight Returns taking root in Year One.

Well, we need to nip that shit in the bud straight away. DKR is a landmark series, hugely influential, blah blah blah, but it represents a much grimmer, meaner Bruce Wayne who for whatever reason didn’t have the moral fortitude to get over his shit and keep fighting the good fight for the good reasons. I love the climactic burly brawl — there’s something so tragic and yet compelling about these two old friends beating each other senseless over their equally idiotic, hyperbolized politics. It’s brilliantly executed and brilliantly written, containing what may be Frank Miller’s best writing of Bruce Wayne.

But my Batman would never let things get that far. He’s way too smart for that.

When Year One opens, Bruce Wayne is overconfident and arrogant. Returning to his ancestral home after long years training abroad, he thinks to himself, “Wayne Manor. Built as a fortress, generations past, to protect a fading line of royalty from an age of Equals.”

WTF does that mean? It’s an unbearably classist sentiment that feels more like weird Frank Miller commentary than something Batman would actually think. Bruce Wayne’s money is a means to an end: while it’s important to consider how his wealth separates him from the rest of Gotham City and how it affords him a position of extreme privilege, it’s also important to me that he doesn’t harbor any overt notions of superiority that are based solely on his inheritance.

Luckily, this one time, I think I can pass off his “fading line of royalty” comment as sarcastic. Because this scene happens, and it’s one of the two most thrilling moments in the Year One series:

Batman_Year_One_1988_TPB_043-1

FUCK. YEAH.

One thing Frank Miller has always understood about Batman — in Year OneThe Dark Knight ReturnsThe Dark Knight Strikes Again, and now in The Dark Knight III: The Master Race — is that he’s not about upholding the law. He’s not even necessarily about justice — at least, not in the sense of justice as a conception of fairness that we debate and agree upon as a society. After all, in that sense Batman is categorically a criminal. The above scene, on the other hand, perfectly distills what Batman really is:

Batman is a monster.

He’s a bogeyman, the creature that lives under the bed, the thing that goes bump. But unlike other folktale bogeymen, whom childish grown-ups have largely invented to terrify their children into obedience, the Batman preys on other monsters. And unlike other superheroes, the monsters Batman preys upon are generally pretty real.

And those monsters aren’t always on the “wrong” side of the law, either. In 1986 Frank Miller had Batman kicking the shit out of cops. Thirty years after the fact, I think it’s hard for us to realize how transgressive that probably was in the world of superhero comics, after decades of Batman’s chummy relationship with Commissioner Gordon and even having been a deputized agent of the law in certain comics and TV shows.

Cops, lawyers, corrupt politicians, police commissioners, along with all the usual shady businessmen, pimps, drug dealers, and gangsters… The Batman just don’t give a fuck. He has declared to the world: You hurt people or victimize people in Gotham City, and you’re asking for it.

“None of you are safe.”


Batman_-_The_Man_Who_LaughsI’ve come to think of Batman: The Man Who Laughs as a fifth act to Year One. It’s got the same gritty, crime-noir tone and picks up pretty much right where Frank Miller’s landmark series left off. There are some minor continuity issues between the two (they were, after all, written about 20 years apart), but they’re not terribly jarring or important.

Bruce has come off his high horse just a little in this one, partly I’m sure because Miller didn’t write it. Ed Brubaker takes off running with Batman’s unrivaled detective abilities and really nails the introduction of the Dark Knight’s nemesis. Joker’s got a very Mark Hamill/Batman: The Animated Series feel in this comic, but with a little more of the wickedness and cruel humor we find in Batman: Arkham Knight.

Anyway, this comic ups the ante. Year One‘s antagonists are all very real-world and pedestrian: crooked cops, pimps, gangsters, etc. But the grisly opening scene of The Man Who Laughs tells us we’re dealing with something completely different now. And Batman knows it too — the comic is peppered with his trademark characteristic of being relentlessly self-critical and hard on himself when he can’t save everybody from the likes of the Joker.

I also love the last scene at the Gotham reservoir. Batman proves for the first of many times that he’s a master strategist, capable of thinking well ahead of even his most unpredictable of enemies. And, reinforcing several moments from Year One, Batman refuses to kill — even this most depraved member of the human race. When Joker’s beaten and bloody at Batman’s feet, he says “I’ll kill them… some other time…” And Batman replies:

“No, you won’t.”


Next  up: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s collaborative trilogy, The Long HalloweenDark Victory, and Haunted Knight!

Advertisements

Aspects of the Knight II — Gotham as Failed City-State

“Crime. Despair. This is not how man was supposed to live. The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years… Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance… You are defending a city so corrupt, we have infiltrated every level of its infrastructure.”

Ra’s al Ghul asserts Gotham City’s inefficacy and impotence to his former protegé Bruce Wayne while his agents begin their operation to terrorize and destroy the city. The scene evokes two warlords, verbally sparring over disputed territory: on one side stands the legacy of Wayne, bypassing (and even scorning) the official authorities of Gotham but also adamantly maintaining the city “isn’t beyond saving… There are good people here”; on the other, (allegedly) a far older and more violent cult of cyclical destruction, who believe they are a necessary evil akin to “a purging fire” that is “inevitable and natural” (Batman Begins).

B_23Their conflict eventually comes to actual blows, but the fact that the fate of millions hangs on the outcome of this single conversation confirms, at the very least, that something is truly rotten in Gotham City. What kind of society gives rise to a figure such as the Batman, and attracts the deadly attention of an international terrorist organization? And why does the audience implicitly authorize the Batman’s use of force in the fictional Gotham, where they would likely condemn such actions in any real-world American city?

Max Weber (1864-1920) contends in his essay Politics as a Vocation (1919) that the monopoly on the use of legitimate force is the defining characteristic of “the state.” Though this argument is ethically problematic given that, without modification, it essentially boils down to “might makes right,” it has since been used as a key criterion of the “failed” state — that is, a government that has failed in many or all of its basic responsibilities and whose legitimacy is therefore called into question. Though the criteria and even the term itself have evolved over the 20th century, modern definitions of the failed (or “fragile”) state still prominently include “the monopoly on the use of legitimate force” (Fund for Peace). Further, the concept has expanded to accommodate the existence of failed governments at a regional or municipal level — including, in our case, failed cities.

In Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Gotham is a failed city-state according the Fragile States Index published by Fund for Peace. The failures of Gotham’s “legitimate” government have fractured the city into several warring factions — the primary combatants being the Falcone crime syndicate, the League of Shadows, and the Batman. As in the real world, the ordinary citizens, elected officials, and law enforcement of Gotham align themselves with every faction, but often have little real power in any of them. Though many of the FSI’s “Indicators” apply to Gotham, a few are especially relevant:

gotham_batman2003_3
Gotham’s slum — “the Narrows”

Economic Decline: Early on, Bruce’s father Thomas tells us “the city has been suffering. People less fortunate than us have been enduring very hard times” (Batman Begins). Roughly two minutes later in the film, both he and Bruce’s mother Martha are dead at the hands of Joe Chill, an impoverished, desperate gunman. Six minutes (read: fourteen years) later, assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes lectures Bruce on how little has changed since his parents’ death:

“Look beyond your own pain, Bruce. This city is rotting. They talk about the depression as if it’s history, and it’s not. Things are worse than ever down here. [Carmine] Falcone floods our streets with crime and drugs, preying on the desperate, creating new Joe Chills every day” (Batman Begins).

The film uses Chicago’s multilevel streets to great effect here, as Rachel drives she and Bruce down to a lower street where poverty and vice are painfully evident. Fund For Peace lists “growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling, and capital flight” as one of the warning signs of a fragile state; this indicator will become even more important in The Dark Knight Rises (FFP).

State Legitimacy asks, “Are federal and/or local officials considered to be corrupt?” and “Does the government have the confidence of the people?” (FFP). In Gotham, corruption is the status quo. Judges accept bribes from convicted felons, even to the point of becoming an accessory to murder; police detectives steal from street merchants and moonlight as low-level enforcers for the mob; prominent psychiatrists perjure themselves for money and torment their patients to ensure the secrecy of drug trafficking operations. As for public confidence, Police Detective James Gordon quips, “In a town this bent, who’s there to rat to anyway?” (His partner is the mob enforcer mentioned above.) Near the film’s climax, when Dr. Crane’s fear toxin has poisoned the streets and Arkham Asylum’s inmates run free among the general populace, even a little boy (representative here of Gotham’s poorer classes) recognizes it is the Batman, and not the GCPD, who will set things right: “Batman will save us. He’ll come” (Batman Begins).

BD-10844RFinally, and most importantly, External Intervention. As applied to nations, this typically refers to aid received from other countries or organizations in the form of economic assistance or military support. In Gotham, though, it is the Batman who intervenes: he is “an external actor… responsible for many government functions and not at the behest of the government” (FFP). The Batman stops crimes in progress, he secures evidence against the perpetrators, and presses the police department and the district attorney’s office to prosecute; in short, he enables Gotham’s judicial systems to function as they are intended. He is also the only one capable of combating Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows, who have “infiltrated every level of [Gotham’s] infrastructure” — especially, it seems, the city’s SWAT teams and riot police (Batman Begins). The legal authorities of Gotham are helpless against these invaders, while the Batman is not; in fact, he is the only one protecting whatever tenuous sovereignty Gotham’s legitimate government still holds. These factors seem to indicate that the “state” of Gotham City has effectively defaulted its monopoly on the use of force to the Batman, a state of affairs confirmed by the film’s final scene, in which Jim Gordon signals for the Batman from the roof of GCPD Headquarters.

Returning to the question of “audience authorization” — I believe most viewers would point to the above reasons for our implicit approval of the Batman’s actions, even if unable to employ the specific vocabulary; Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index simply gives us a framework for trying to explain Batman’s origins. Interestingly, the FSI seems to also strengthen the notion that Batman, more so than any other comic book hero, is as much a product of his environment as he is of his own personal trauma.

What the FSI clearly does not do, however, is give us any readings on the morality of donning cape and cowl and slugging it out with Gotham’s lawless underworld. “Legitimate” is already a slippery enough term without lighting the Bat-Signal. In subsequent posts I will examine Batman’s code of ethics, especially compared to Gotham’s police and judicial authorities.


Batman Begins. Warner Home Video, 2005. DVD.

“CAST Conflict Assessment Framework Manual (2014 Reprint).” CAST Conflict Assessment Framework Manual. Fund for Peace, 2014. Web. 24 Dec. 2014. http://library.fundforpeace.org/cfsir1418

Weber, Max. “From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Bahasa Melayu Translated, Edited, and with an Introduction, by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills.” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. (Open Library). Oxford University Press, 1946. Web. 24 Dec. 2014. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL6498314M/From_Max_Weber_Essays_in_sociology.

Aspects of the Knight

“A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you… then you become something else entirely.”

“Which is?”

“Legend, Mr. Wayne.”

Uttered within the first five minutes of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, these lines neatly summarize one of the enduring tensions through 75 years of Batman comics, films, and TV shows, as well as the pivotal question of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy: In appointing himself protector of Gotham, how can Bruce Wayne rid the city of the evil that took his parents’ lives and yet remain a symbol of hope — without becoming merely a police-sanctioned thug, an extrajudicial killer, or even the harbinger of permanent martial law?

Where is the line between the vigilante and the legend?

Batman has always been a character of contrasts. Bruce Wayne is the playboy billionaire “Prince of Gotham,” the hot topic on every gossip talk-show and in every tabloid by day; by night, he is a “weird figure of the dark” that preys upon the criminal underworld as the mysterious, terrible Bat-Man (Detective Comics 1937 #33). Known and unknown; light and dark; hope and fear; these contrasts have kept the character vital through the decades.

Batman's origin story in Detective Comics (1937) #33
The very first rendition of Batman’s origin story in Detective Comics (1937) #33

But the duality in Ra’s al Ghul’s words to Bruce Wayne — the merely mortal vigilante versus the immortal legend — has nowhere been illuminated more clearly than in Christopher Nolan’s films Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The tension between these two figures, these aspects of the Batman, drives Bruce Wayne’s saga while elucidating his relevance: his is the dramatization of an ordinary human being’s search for an ethical, meaningful response to a world plagued by apathy, senseless tragedy and willful acts of evil.

The word vigilante derives from the Spanish for “one who is vigilant”; a guard, or watchman. In modern parlance it describes an individual who pursues and punishes wrongdoers without legal authority to do so. Vigilantes, bounty hunters, and lynch mobs all cast long shadows over American history and fiction, from the fanciful (such as Zorro) to the pseudo-historical (Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok and other mercenary lawmen of the late 1800’s) to the completely real and despicably violent legacy of white supremacy in the American South.

Much of Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s inspiration for Batman can be traced to Zorro, the dashing pulp hero of the early 20th century, and the Scarlet Pimpernel before him; DC Comics writers have often acknowledged this lineage by writing that Thomas and Martha Wayne took their son Bruce to see The Mark of Zorro (1940) on the night of their murder.

cbj2-BatmanTDKR1_022_The_Dark_Knight_Returns-c
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns

On this basis, “vigilante” means at least this much: he or she takes action against injustice (real or perceived) where legal authorities can not or will not, employing some degree of violence. Contextually speaking, a vigilante may also violate alleged criminals’ due process and be subject to legal action themselves.

Though comic writers’ characterization of him has differed wildly over the years, the Batman always fits these criteria neatly. He relies on martial arts training, detective work and technological superiority to bring his personal vision of justice to Gotham’s criminal underworld. The vigilante ignores due process, violates suspects’ civil rights, and in Nolan’s trilogy he resorts to increasingly unethical methods as his campaign against Gotham’s organized crime escalates. This Batman forever lingers in the shadow of his parents’ death, locked in an ultimately futile struggle to prevent others from suffering similar pain and loss. According to Brooker, this crime-fighter extracts “a merely personal catharsis from beating up petty thugs like the one who killed his parents, rather than attempt[ing] to alter the society which produced those criminals” (27).

The other aspect of the Batman is less tangible. Until now we’ve referred to him on Ra’s al Ghul’s terms: a legend, “an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.” While this also quite accurately describes the character, it isn’t necessarily very helpful for our purposes. If Bruce Wayne was interested in fame or notoriety, he’d announce on national television that he is the Batman. And yet if he desired complete anonymity, he would not have chosen such a distinct and theatrical guise.

In terms of setting up Bruce Wayne’s vision of this legend in the making, the following scene seems most relevant:

 This aspect of the Batman, the symbol, strives to save a city strangled by its own lawlessness and corruption, to inspire in its citizens a revival of the civic engagement and altruism he learned from his parents before their murder at the hands of an impoverished, desperate mugger. This Batman believes without reservation that the people of Gotham City are basically good; they just need “dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy” (Batman Begins). The symbol is “incorruptible, everlasting,” hiding behind anonymity to imply that “Batman could be anybody” (Batman Begins; The Dark Knight Rises). The symbol’s function is to transcend the individual’s limitations — “as a man… [he] can be ignored… destroyed” — while dramatizing the individual’s will to act against injustice (Batman Begins).

Following the films’ lead, I will continue to refer to these alternate personas of the Batman as “the vigilante” and “the symbol.” Both address separate and sometimes conflicting concerns of their unifying alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, but they also rely on each other; frequently, the vigilante creates the dramatic examples on which the symbol thrives, while the symbol inspires Gotham’s law enforcement officers and public officials to pursue the city’s crime syndicates more actively, despite fear of reprisals.

And though these two Batmen seem to mesh fairly well in Batman Begins, the vigilante becomes increasingly problematic and unethical in The Dark Knight, damaging the Batman’s symbolic power almost beyond repair. As a result, one of the primary aims of the trilogy’s finale The Dark Knight Rises is the restoration of Batman as an icon of individual commitment to moral action; after abandoning the vigilante’s questionable motives and methods, the Batman returns to the role he devised for himself early in the first film: a hyperbolic, theatrical display of the “ordinary citizen standing up for what’s right” (The Dark Knight).

Whether Bruce Wayne, the billionaire “Prince of Gotham” counts as an “ordinary citizen” is also a question we must address, especially with The Dark Knight Rises, which incorporates contemporary American perceptions of economic inequality and class warfare into its narrative. Can anybody be Batman? Of course not. But we should also be careful of applying a purely Marxist lens to a film (and character) whose background and ambitions are significantly broader than merely a reprised version of A Tale of Two Cities with Batman thrown into the melee.

Over the course of many posts I will examine Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy with a focus on not only the tensions between “symbol” and “vigilante,” but also the ways in which these aspects of the Dark Knight intersect with issues such as corruption, mass surveillance, terrorism, and class warfare.


Batman Begins. Warner Home Video, 2005. DVD.

Brooker, Will. Batman Unmasked: Analysing a Cultural Icon. London: Continuum, 2000. Print.

Finger, Bill, and Bob Kane. “The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom.” Detective Comics 1.33 (1939). Print.

Miller, Frank, and Klaus Janson. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. New York, N.Y.: DC Comics, 2002. Print.

The Dark Knight. Warner Home Video, 2008. DVD.

The Dark Knight Rises. Warner Home Video, 2012. DVD.

Icarus: Detective Comics 30-34

Let's be honest: in comics, you can and should judge a book by it's cover. Manapul's are gorgeous.
Let’s be honest: in comics, you can and should judge a book by it’s cover. Manapul’s are gorgeous.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the arduous wait for the next issue in a monthly story-arc. I have been following Snyder and Capullo’s Batman: Zero Year arc, but as Dale pointed out in his last post, that story was hardly one to have you counting down the days until the next issue.

Manapul and Buccellato had me doing exactly that with this 5 issue run. I like my Batman stories like my OJ and eggs: pulpy and hard-boiled. The Icarus story-arc delivered, and it was exactly what I needed to pull me back into a series I haven’t followed since well before the New 52. In fact, the story was so damn good I had to re-read all 5 issues immediately after finishing the conclusion. The story treads very little new ground (though I thoroughly enjoyed getting a new look at Detective Harvey Bullock; for once he was more than just a caricature), but it’s perfectly executed. The art is gritty, vibrant, and memorable. Better yet, the mystery kept me guessing until the final issue. Manapul and Buccellato crafted a detective story that fulfills all the requirements of a thrilling super-hero action comic: Giant squids? Check. Knock-down-drag-out sumo fights? Check. Radioactive-human-explosions? Check.

True to the Detective Comics title, the best part of this story isn’t the detective work, but the detectives themselves. The mystery of Elena Aguila’s murder and Gotham’s most dangerous designer drug feel almost secondary to the friction between Bats and Harvey as they race to solve the mystery. If that sounds very backwards and a little grim,  it is. Manapul and Buccellato use their inaugural run on this title to reminds us of the contradictions which make Batman my favorite super-hero: he stands for justice only because he is willing to break the law. As the story unfolds, they reveal the same impulse in Bullock’s own police-work. The cop and The Detective clash not because they’re different, but because they’re so similiar. The line in the sand is little more than a badge, which is exactly why they can put aside their disgust for one another to catch a murderer. Thankfully, Manapul and Buccellato’s colorful portrayal of both characters keeps their new angle on this familiar theme from feeling stale. A two-page spread of Bullock at home in his apartment melted my heart, as did a scene of Bruce repairing Damien’s old motorcycle. It’s details like these that kept Icarus from being just another dark, gritty, DKR-riff. Also compelling were the story’s numerous references to other events in The New 52 Gotham. Without distracting from the plot, Icarus connects to Zero Year (particularly fun for me as I was reading the stories simultaneously) and Batman Eternal. This is how you get people hooked on comics.  I’m not ashamed to say that it’s working.

My only gripe with Icarus: who is he, and why doesn’t he loom larger in the plot? The answer lies somewhere in the bittersweet denouement. Despite Batman’s best efforts, true justice slips through his fingers. Batman can’t be everywhere, and as Alfred regretfully reminds him in the final installment, “That’s the job…picking up the pieces.”

Enjoy this story with a Negroni. This drink started as a relative unknown to us here at CnC, but over the past few months it’s captured our hearts. It’s a classic cocktail, and one of the simplest and most versatile. It’s elegant, well-balanced, colorful, and just bitter enough to make you take notice. All you need is equal parts gin (so far my favorite is Norseman), Campari, and sweet vermouth. Garnish with an orange twist.  Lemon twists are acceptable too.
It’s amazing how many different characters you can get from this drink by simply trying different gin and vermouth combinations. The Negroni is a drink that’s just as challenging, rich, and complex as any good Batman story.

P.S.
If you like easter eggs, pick-up Detective Comics Annual #3 to round-out this arc.  Besides being a fun one-shot, it’s a great tie-in to the Icarus storyline.

Batman: Futures End #1

I had given up on Futures End. I had decided it was just going to plod along, repeatedly zooming in for close-ups on boring third-stringers about whom I give zero fucks (*coughFirestormcough*) and generally just being a high-effort, low-reward series on which to keep up.

Then DC sent me Batman: Futures End #1. When I got home today, I poured myself some home-brewed Irish draught ale, took the dogs outside to run in the yard, sat down on the stoop and cracked the seal on this sucker (mine doesn’t have the fancy hologram cover like in the .gif below).

035.DCC.Batman.1.0_384x591_53876be1b76ea2.04065498

This Futures End one-shot appearing in the monthly Batman title resembles Futures End #0 from Free Comic Book Day this year: it’s exciting, action-packed, and yet story-driven in a very media res kinda way. And most importantly, it takes place “five years from now.” (“Now” being the date in DC’s current New 52 continuity). Why’s that important?

Because when you set shit in the future, you (mostly) don’t have to give a shit about continuity.

That’s why The Dark Knight Returns is so fucking good, that’s why Kingdom Come is off-the-chain amazing, and so on for dozens of DC’s Elseworlds tales (DKR and Kingdom aren’t technically Elseworlds, but that’s beside the point).

And technically, this comic is part of continuity, so the storyline they’ve introduced here will probably end up a lot less cool than it seems right now, but that doesn’t detract from the fun of this one-shot.

SPOILERS!

So waaay back when the passage of time was still at least kind-of a thing in the DC Multiverse, there was this big crossover event called Final Crisis. Among a lot of other trippy mind-bending story threads Grant Morrison wrote into the series, there was this one where Batman gets captured by Darkseid’s goon-squad. They’re all like, “Holy shit, we just bagged the most bad-ass motherfucker on planet Earth, what should we do with him?”

Rather than just, you know, kill him (which you probably should if you’re just a lackey of the story’s primary antagonist) they decide to clone him like a million times,  steal all of Bruce Wayne’s memories, and implant them in the clones to make a Batman-army — all of whom would for some reason decide to work for Darkseid, the incarnation of evil in the DC Multiverse. I dunno, maybe Apokolips has really good unions.

Anyway, Batman totally fucks that plan (“What kind of man can turn his own memories into a weapon?”) and then shoots Darkseid with his own supernatural bullet. Cue Omega Effect and Bruce Wayne tumbling through time, buckling some swash with pirates and riding off into the sunset of the Wild West and such.

Back to Batman: Futures End #1 which, despite the Flashpoint event and the New 52 relaunch, still takes place after Batman’s experiences during Final Crisis.

And so, being the goddamn Batman, he mulls these experiences over a bit. He reflects. He considers his overarching strategy. He examines his weaknesses, and recalls the fact that, bad motherfucker though he is, someday he will die. Pff, stupid death. And then he’s like, “Eff that. BATMAN CAN NEVER DIE.

So he starts researching how to create stable, programmable clones and implant them with all of his memories up to and including that one night in his father’s study:

BatmanYearOne_06

Hence, the cover of Batman: Futures End #1 — an army of Batmen.

So that’s the premise; the comic’s timescale and scope are actually much tighter. Batman breaks into the only lab in the world with the cloning technology he needs, and naturally the lab belongs to Lex Luthor, so there’s, I dunno, I guess like some high-end security systems or something, but Batman’s like “bitch please” and strolls in like it’s a revolving door convention.

He discovers something* that causes a minor inconvenience during his egress from the facility, but he manages to grab the tech he needs and bug out before Luthor’s security activates “the B-Zero Contingency.” Yes, Lex Luthor built a special contingency into his security program, because Batman.

So you can tell I really liked this comic, and it makes me mad because now I want to start reading Futures End again. And here’s me thinking I could just ride it out until the collected hardcover dropped.

*Luthor’s trying to clone Superman. Again. So there’s an army of Bizarros trying to stop Batman from escaping. Like I said — minor inconvenience.

Batman #33 — “Retcons complete! Returning to the future…”

WP_20140730_002So I finally got around to reading Zero Year‘s final issue, sipping on a coffee cocktail instead of a boozy one. (Buttered Ice from Butter Bakery in Mpls — cold press, vanilla syrup, and cream. Delish.)

I’m relieved it’s over. There were some cool moments, like Batman zooming around on a motorcycle in an overgrown, jungle-like Gotham City, or when he fights off a pair of hungry lions with a well-timed gasoline fireball.

But it’s still a story about the Riddler, by whom I’ve never, ever been impressed. These days he alternates between hapless “private eye” and arrogant shitbag, neither of which should by any stretch of the imagination give the goddamn Batman even the slightest pause.

But Bats does break his stupid face, just like I hoped, so there’s that.

Further, Zero Year retcons a lot of details from Batman’s early career. As in it completely invalidates the events of Batman: Year One, which is pretty much universally regarded as one of the seminal works in the Dark Knight’s history.

I’m okay with change, but I need it to advance or complicate the characters somehow. With the exception of some fairly under-explored tensions between Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne, I don’t see that happening in Zero Year.

I’ve got another year of Batman coming; I’m hoping Snyder and Capullo return to the present tense of the New 52 and start adding to the Dark Knight’s history, rather than rearranging the past.  Their work in Court of Owls was excellent, as was Snyder’s previous run in ‘Tec and Batman which resulted in the collection titled The Black Mirror.

For now I’ve got a 9-day overdue copy of Preacher Book One on my shelf, so I better get cracking.

CnC Brain Trust Special #1 Spectacular!

Holy nerd extravaganza, Batman! A brand new ongoing series on the real-life events behind the Cocktails and Comics cyber-facade: Brain Trust Special #1!

(Spoilers!)

The minutes:

  • Jean Paul Valley is a boring, derivative character who only served to artificially extend the life of an otherwise great storyline (Batman: Knightfall).
  • Andy Kubert’s Damian: Son of Batman 4-issue miniseries jumps off from an imagined future first created by Kubert and Grant Morrison in Batman Vol. 1 #666; Bruce Wayne is dead and Damian assumes the mantle of the bat. Ass-kicking ensues.
  • Prince Oberyn Martell was far too likable and therefore could not possibly survive more than a season on HBO’s Game of Thrones. He had become such a fan favorite that his final scene in “The Mountain and the Viper” was akin to watching a horrible, horrible remake of The Princess Bride in which Inigo Montoya is brutally murdered juuuuust before he achieves his long-awaited revenge.
  • Knob Creek’s 120-proof Single Barrel Reserve is a vile substance on its own, but drinkable (even pleasant?) in a 2:1:1 ratio with limoncello and amaretto.
  • WP_20140607_007Cherry Heering is a liqueur that serves well as the sweetener in a whiskey sour. A 2:1:1 bourbon-lemon juice-Heering ratio is recommended. Adjust the sweet and sour quantities to your taste. And don’t forget the egg white and soda for that gorgeous frothy head!
  • The Muddler is a new villain of our own creation; he’s a down-on-his-luck bartender who wanders the clubs and dives clobbering those poor souls unfortunate enough to drink (or serve) bad cocktails. His clobbering device of choice is an excessively over-sized hardwood cocktail muddler.
  • Chris McMillian is a walking library and national treasure of American cocktail history. Check out this video of his take on the mint julep, which should probably be the only julep you ever make. I mean really — how many barkeeps do you know who recite prose from the 1880’s as they prepare your drink?
  • Behold! the elusive sharktrain, CnC’s Master of Sazeracs, whose first post to the blog we await with bated breath.

WP_20140607_003

  • The cocktails of the evening included: the Sazerac, the Perfect Strange, the Mint Julep, and the Cherry Whiskey Fizz. Look for the recipes in upcoming posts!
Uptown Pizza goes with everything
Uptown Pizza goes with everything

 

Comic booooooooks
COMIC BOOOOOOOKS… and a mint julep

 

Because It’s Not Funny: Why No One Should Ever Read “The Killing Joke” Again

Reposting a previous blog from Sure as Shiretalk re: misogyny in superhero comics. #YesAllWomen

Sure as Shiretalk

I bought this comic sometime in 2008 or 2009, during its most recent resurgence to popularity. As The Dark Knight‘s release date approached and Heath Ledger revealed it as a source of inspiration for his upcoming performance, Moore and Bolland’s 1988 one-shot (re)surfaced as the definitive depiction, “easily the greatest Joker story ever told.” The Killing Joke is a bizarre, brutal carnival ride of a comic book to be sure, but it doesn’t add anything meaningful to the characters it involves and torments and maims.

It does a lot of subtracting. It robs a beloved heroine of her dignity and the use of her legs. It lowers the Batman to the Joker’s level of depravity. And it diminishes the value and complexity of one of the most compelling villains in comic books.

Why does anyone like this comic? Why did I like this comic?

Until sometime last year…

View original post 1,343 more words

Futures End #0-3/Batman Eternal #5-7/Limoncello Lemonade

The-New-52-Futures-End-full(Spoilers. But they’re pretty lame ones, so don’t fret too much.)

DC Comics’ official page for Futures End #4 poses lots of questions.

“Where is Red Robin? Who wants to steal from the world’s most famous man? And whatever happened to Stormwatch?”

But unless I’m very much mistaken, they answered all of these questions as main plot points in Futures End #1-3 (tending a dive bar in New York City; Terry McGinnis aka Batman Beyond; it blew up, respectively).

So I have a few questions of my own:

Why is Green Arrow “dead”? (Again?) And more broadly, what does “death” even mean in superhero comics? (Answer is almost always: Nothing. Nada. Fuck all.)

Why should I care about Frankenstein? Why is he featured so prominently in 2 of the 5 issues thus far, and more pointedly, is DC pushing him on us because that movie sucked so hard?

(Almost forgot that existed, didn’t you?)

And one perpetually nagging query: What’s with Batman Beyond’s face? Especially the mouth region. Like… you can see his teeth and inner mouth and stuff, but the mask completely covers his jaw and mouth and lips… I don’t understand. Somebody please explain.

Anyway — Futures End #0 was so promising. It was all Terminator-meets-Days of Future Past, and as usual, the goddamn Batman was the last man standing. Mr. Terrific seems intriguing so far, despite the fact that the “T” could just as easily stand for “Tool.”

Though I really want to like this series, I remain ambivalent. Oddly enough, the same is true of Batman Eternal.

BatmanEternal7Again, strong start followed by filler. I mean, Oswald Fucking Cobblepot is the cover image for Eternal #7. Can we be done with Penguin already? Nobody fucking cares. Least of all Batman.

Is a weekly series just too ambitious? Or maybe “bloated” is a better word. With an eternally (heh) rotating creative team, Eternal and Futures End are perhaps suffering from that cliche about the box of chocolates. One person’s pineapple truffle is another’s rum nougat. (Or vice versa…?)

Eternal #5 features art by Andy Clarke, who pretty much knocked my socks off. Looking forward to more issues from him — his images are simultaneously sharp as glass and just a little rough around the edges.

On to the drink! Today was really the first summery day here in Minneapolis, and I was craving some lemonade. I bought some limoncello for the Bourbon Pom drink I posted a while back, so I figured I could use some of that up. So — I give you the limoncello lemonade. (It’s limoncello with lemon juice and ice.)

1.5oz Il Tramonto limoncello

juice of one lemon

ice, slightly crushed

Combine in a glass. Stir. Add ice.

Yup. So I was lazy. It’s a lazy kind of day. Good way to get rid of limoncello if you have no other use for it, but I’d highly recommend that Bourbon Pom if you’re looking for a little more pizzazz.