Category Archives: frank miller

Batman Year One

Batman Year One ~ I need to preface this review of the straight-to-DVD feature Batman Year One with full disclosure. I have a lot of problems with Frank Miller, who wrote the comics this story is based on. He has very little regard for comics history or continuity, and I am pretty sure that he actually hates comics, and especially superhero comics. In fact, I am reasonably sure the only reason he works in comics is to destroy the industry and the artform from the inside. And I believe Batman is the character that he hates most, and has done the most damage to. Need proof? Consider exhibits A and B to be The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman. And don’t even mention the Spirit movie, damn him.

So, you can imagine I was already prejudiced when I slipped the DVD into my player. I also had not read the comics, as I was initially turned off by the very image of Batman with a gun in the ads for it. On second thought, it may have been Year Two, but either way, it put me off the Batman Yearbooks. For those not in the know, Batman doesn’t use guns, he abhors the use of them – because a gun was the instrument that was used to murder his parents. It has been part of the character’s history for decades. Despite the fact that early appearances in the Golden Age show Batman with a gun, it can be theorized that his origins had not been set in stone yet at that time. It’s like Superman came from Krypton, Batman doesn’t use guns. Put a period.

Year One is essentially the origin of Batman as re-envisioned by, yeah, Frank Miller, but it’s also a new backstory for Commissioner Gordon. There are a number of details that have been overwritten in this version, but I won’t dwell on them, what’s done is done. Suffice it to say, as he’s done with many characters, Miller has made Gordon a horribly flawed character. For the first twenty minutes or so, Gordon is not likable at all, and to be blunt, he’s only likable because the other characters are so much more unlikable. It serves to support my theory that Frank Miller doesn’t really know what heroism is at all. His is a world of dark grays and blacks, no whites allowed.

While Gordon is the only not completely immoral member of the Gotham City police, Bruce Wayne tries his hand, badly, at fighting crime, has his butt whipped by a suspiciously possible prostitute pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle, and gets shot by the police. Not a good night. Miller retells the bat coming through the window to inspire Bruce into becoming a bat-man, only without the famous “superstitious lot” speech and adding in more daddy issues than Bruce already has. See what I mean by terribly flawed?

Miller does flaw Gordon by giving him an affair with Detective Sarah Essen, something I can’t even imagine the character doing. He loved his wife, but what do I know, Frank Miller’s the genius, right. At least, unlike the comics, which may or may not have been represented by the ads I saw all those years ago, we get no Batman with a gun in this animated flick. We do however get a crazy gravelly voiced Ben McKenzie as Batman. Why go for the bad Christian Bale imitation when all know that Kevin Conroy is the only real choice for the animated Batman. Also in the voice department, the best thing in this feature is Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon, brilliant casting and performance.

Catwoman shows up a few more times, once or twice in tailed grey outfit. She really doesn’t seem to add much to the plot, what plot there is. It really is just a cataloguing of events. Perhaps the Calendar Man would have been a better villain for the piece. Speaking of villains, we have Carmine Falcone and the Gotham Police in this one, and I really have to wonder, that if Gordon was in their way, why didn’t they just kill him outright. They didn’t seem to have any qualms offing anyone else. They seemed to almost wipe out a whole city block, MOVE style, to take out Batman.

The Catwoman short that accompanies Batman Year One is awesome. Catwoman of recent times is primarily about sex and style, and visually this short is perfect Catwoman. The pounding music score by Christopher Drake is the highlight here along with a very sexy, very daring strip joint scene where Catwoman shows villain Rough Cut that she is both beautiful lady and savage tiger. Maybe a little sexist, but it works well. And parents, be warned, this one’s not for the kids.

The chase that follows did bother me a bit however. I was distracted thinking that if her costume had to tear, would it tear like that? Catwoman’s costume is at least leather, and possibly Kevlar, or some other comic booky material. Would it tear at all? And finally, did it even have to tear? Also, it bugged me that Catwoman really doesn’t have a hand in taking out Rough Cut. She gets away, and he’s done in by bad luck. It just wasn’t satisfying for me.

Either way, this short is awesome and don’t miss stuff. Loved it. And it features a much much better Catwoman than the one featured in Batman Year One. I still despise Frank Miller. See this DVD for the Catwoman short, it’s worth it.

Bookmark and Share

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Yeah, I know, I’m late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn’t that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.

Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I’m not a sword and sandal guy, and I don’t really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check – I haven’t even seen all of Kirk Douglas’ 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved “I Claudius” and HBO’s “Rome” for instance. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.

At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare “Spartacus” to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is visually thrilling and something we haven’t ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.

Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.

Bookmark and Share

The Spirit on TV

The Spirit ~ No, this is not the 2009 film where Frank Miller killed Will Eisner a second time, this is the 1987 ABC telemovie and pilot featuring Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon) in the title role. Word is that Eisner himself nixed the series because he hated this version so much, and only allowed it to be aired once due to contract restrictions.

It is however available on YouTube, which is where I recently saw it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when this originally aired, I didn’t know who the Spirit was. I know, for shame.

The TV movie isn’t really that bad when viewed in comparison to Miller’s travesty. It is camp in a way that fans of the 1966 “Batman” series could appreciate, only less humor and more bad sets and acting. It is still an enjoyable watch, and eons better than what Miller did. At least Jones dresses like the Spirit. Shame there wasn’t a series, had I been aware, I would have watched.

.

Hulk Vs…

Hulk Vs. ~ This is the newest of Marvel Comics and Lionsgate’s direct-to-DVD features, this one a double feature with the Hulk fighting Thor and then Wolverine, two different stories, one great DVD. I watched the Thor half of this animated flick first so the thought didn’t occur to me right away, but after the Wolverine half it became clear what this reminded me of. Decades ago, after CBS’ live-action “Incredible Hulk” series was canceled, they produced a couple made-for-TV movies with the same cast but using the Hulk character as a spin-off point for other Marvel heroes. We were ‘treated’ to albeit greatly-altered versions of Daredevil and Thor, hopefully for pilot purposes that thankfully never manifested.

That’s what this disc is, spin-off pilots for Thor and Wolverine, because like those telemovies, these featurettes really have little to do with the Hulk. The stories are firmly Thor and Wolverine stories, set firmly in their worlds and among their supporting characters and opposing villains. There’s really not that much Hulk honestly in this Hulk DVD. Really, any rampaging beast could have subbed easily in these Thor and Wolverine adventures.

On the plus side, the Thor adventure is a wonderful journey into the mythology of that character as it was designed and established by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the day. Watching this I was filled with nostalgia and an urge to go back and read those comics. This was magic. While Odin sleeps, Loki and the Enchantress possess the Hulk to destroy, who else, Thor. See the wonder of Asgard and the fanboy fantasy of an old-fashioned Thor/Hulk slugfest, complete with character development, originality and suspense. A solid story backed up with the crisp animation Lionsgate has become known for with these productions.

Whereas the Thor part seemed to be all about what was right about comics of the 1960s, the Wolverine segment equally reflected, in my opinion at least, everything that was wrong with comics of the 1990s. While I was happy it was not a simple rehash of the Hulk’s first encounter with Wolverine (that character’s first appearance by the way), I was disappointed that it turned into just an excuse for the Hulk to smash foes who could not die and characters who can cut and slash to cut and slash without killing. Honestly with all the regenerating I can’t help making a comparison to Frank Miller’s ridiculous take on The Spirit and the Octopus in his recent but horrible film.

While hardcore X-Men fans may delight at seeing Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red and especially Deadpool, someone who I have never been able to divine the popularity of, this was all just a horse and pony show to me. I would have rather seen the Wendigo. At least that story had a plot.

This DVD is well worth the rental, but not the purchase, and unless you’re a serious X-fan, just watch the Thor half.

Frank Miller’s The Spirit


That’s right, this is Frank Miller’s The Spirit, not Will Eisner’s, that’s for damn sure. Frank Miller hates superheroes. I’ve said it before, and I’m pretty sure I’ll say it again. Frank Miller hates superheroes. If The Dark Knight Strikes Back is Exhibit A, then surely this film, 2008’s The Spirit is Exhibit B. I have read and heard that Eisner and Miller were great friends. I can only suppose that they fought before the former’s death because I think this interpretation of his hallmark character may well have him spinning in his grave. Frank Miller’s The Spirit is a hate mail for not just comic book fans but movie goers as well.

Was the Sin City sequel not ready for a Christmas release so the studio grabbed Frank Miller and forced him to rush this piece of crap into theatres? That’s my only guess, because it certainly looks more like Sin City than any possible version of the Spirit. Again I am pulled back to the Miller/Eisner friendship. What did they talk about? Surely not the Spirit because obviously Miller doesn’t have a clue what that’s about.

For those not in the know. The Spirit is an amazing comics character created by Will Eisner specifically for the newspapers, a stroke of brilliance at the time as it wasn’t a newspaper comic strip, but a weekly comic book insert that came in the Sunday paper. The Spirit stories were known for their imaginative and innovative graphic design and storytelling structure – decades ahead of anything that was going on in ‘real’ comic books of the time. Eisner was truly a genius ahead of his time, and one of the masters of the artform.

The character of the Spirit himself was ex-cop Denny Colt. Exposed to a weird chemical he appeared to be dead but was really in suspended animation when buried and written off as dead. Crawling out of the grave, donning a mask and using his now officially dead status as a cover, he became the Spirit and defended the people of Central City from all manner of villain, many of them female, and frequently rivaling the rogues galleries of Batman and Dick Tracy in their strangeness.

How Frank Miller took that and got this movie is something I will never understand. It reminds of “Smallville” in one way – some of the names are familiar but nothing else is. Frank Miller’s Spirit is super-powered where the original never was. He shares an origin with archenemy the Octopus in that a chemical exposure left them both with ridiculous Wolverine-like regenerative powers. They can’t die, and so engage in cartoon-like combat with anvils and infinite bullet holes. I think even Tex Avery would think these scenes overindulgent.

These aren’t the only differences. Most annoying that Miller’s Spirit is all in black, except for the red tie. The Spirit really doesn’t have a costume for heaven sakes, so why is it so hard to get it right? In the comics, simplicity itself, blue business suit, blue hat, blue gloves, blue mask, and red tie. Well, at least he got the tie right. This is a CGI motion capture film, you can’t tell me that blue wouldn’t work, or for that matter, look terrific. Is it really that hard? Comic book superheroes come in colors, for some reason Hollywood mutants forget that. Miller, having worked in the industry, should know better. But then again, it’s probably on purpose, he does hate superheroes, remember?

The casting is interesting. I liked Gabriel Macht in the title role, a lot. It’s a shame he couldn’t be the real Spirit because he would be terrific. Too bad Frank Miller has made it so no one will ever want to make another Spirit movie ever again, so bad the stigma will be from this. Dolan is miscast, and the women are all breathtakingly beautiful, if only on hand most of the time as sex objects. This is Frank Miller after all. Are we sure this isn’t the Sin City sequel? I know he hates superheroes, but I wonder what his problem with women is as well. Maybe he hates everything as everything gets the short end of the stick in this flick. Including Miller’s own cameo –P.U.

Louis Lombardi provides a bit of odd comic relief. Funny only if you are into S&M or the Three Stooges I suppose. He plays multiple clones who are henchmen to the Octopus, killed and mistreated left and right, and assures that Lombardi will never get a serious role again, much less any part of any “Sopranos” or “24” reunions. The clone names, printed on the fronts of their shirts, provide a bit of an inappropriate injoke that can distract from how bad this flick is.

Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus is a curiosity when you consider, that in the comic book version, you never see the Octopus, never. It’s the trademark of the character. The question is not why was this done, but – can Samuel L. survive this? Can his career recover from this offensive cartoon of a movie? Over the top doesn’t cover the madness of his performance. I’m sure many directors will unfortunately think of his role as the Octopus when considering him for work and just take a pass. I love Sam, but he stepped in it this time.

Frank Miller hates superheroes, and he must really really hate the Spirit. Maybe he saw what a success The Dark Knight was and decided he had to kill this beast before it got too big, too popular. He had to drag comics back into the literary gutter where he thinks they belong. Well, Frank, after seeing your interpretation of the Spirit, all I can say, is “Good job.”

Oscar Nominations 2009

Yep, that time of year again. At approximately 5:30 this morning, every movie geek in the world was at their computers or glued to their TVs to see what the Motion Picture Academy selected as the best for the year 2008. I was too, but afterward I went back to bed. Yep, I was that impressed.

Here’s what we’re stuck with this time around:

Best actor: Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Mickey Rourke

Best supporting actor: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger and Michael Shannon

Best actress: Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet

Best supporting actress: Amy Adams, Penélope Cruz, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson and Marisa Tomei

Best director: David Fincher, Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant, Stephen Daldry and Danny Boyle

Best film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire

The rest of the noms can be found here.

==================

My early picks and guesses…

Mickey Roarke is back in Hollywood’s good graces and will take actor for The Wrestler. For supporting actor, it’s Philip Seymour Hoffman by elimination. Downey was terrific but just far too politically incorrect for the Academy, and he was also in that superhero movie, as was the late Heath Ledger. Frank Miller put superhero movies back in the ghetto with his ‘interpretation of The Spirit so there’s no way a comic book movie can ever win.

Best actress should go to Kate Winslet, but for Revolutionary Road rather than The Reader. And I think the magic of The Wrestler will help Marisa Tomei get her second Oscar – this one legit. 😉

I believe that Slumdog Millionaire will take both best picture and director as well for Danny Boyle, as well as for score and song. I’m guessing Waltz with Bashir for best foreign film and Wall-E for best animated.

Also I need answers when it comes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as I haven’t seen it. Did anyone like it? Do you know anyone who liked it? Heck, has anyone even read a good review of it? I’m puzzled by this one.

The Spirit – Sneak Peek

This trailer focuses on the women of The Spirit. Yes, women have always been an important part of the Spirit’s life but this (for several reasons) looks more like the women of Sin City than The Spirit. I hope Frank Miller hasn’t ruined the Spirit like he did Batman

Daredevil

DREAMS AND REALITY

A Film Review of “Daredevil”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Writer and director Mark Steven Johnson says he has always wanted to bring Marvel Comics superhero Daredevil to the big screen. There is great care taken in adapting Stan Lee’s origin of the hero and Frank Miller’s epic 1980s storyline into a motion picture. An air of love is apparent in every frame – possibly too much – an unwillingness to relinquish control of the vision bogs the movie down. Usually it’s a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen destroying a production; here it’s one guy ignoring others’ input that might have saved it. I admire Johnson’s respect and determination, but not his Daredevil movie.

The imagery is intense. While it suffers from the darkness curse of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns (not especially fitting for Daredevil) it keeps the cinematography theme that made Spider-Man such a hit with comics fans. They are scenes that ripped whole from actual comic book panels and rendered beautifully in reality. Notable is the opening with old hornhead atop the cathedral, gorgeous, just gorgeous. No matter what can be said is wrong with this film, the visuals are stunning.

When it’s happening, the action is relentless. I challenge anyone to breathe during Daredevil’s frenetic assault on a pool hall early in the film. The scene is electrifying, it’s just not Daredevil. Daredevil’s just not that good. I’d have trouble believing this type of invincibility of Batman. Despite the impossibility of the final fight (neither Daredevil nor Bullseye should have lived so long with their injuries) it too is amazing.

Much has been said about Ben Affleck and how ‘not right’ he was for the role due to physicality and acting ability. While I can’t say he was perfect as Matt Murdock I can say he was perfectly believable.

I’m not an “Alias” fan, in fact, I’ve never seen the show. Many people have told me they’ve enjoyed it, mostly because Jennifer Garner is ‘so hot.’ Based on Daredevil, I don’t see the ‘hotness.’ Maybe she just doesn’t look all that great fifty feet high, on TV at five inches she’s okay. Not to say she’s not sexy, Garner fills out the black Electra costume adequately.

Costumes are another problem. If you’re going to go with the conceit of putting Daredevil in the red costume why not go all the way and have Electra and Bullseye in their comic book uniforms? At one point Bullseye even says to the Kingpin, “I want a costume.” Kingpin, like the film, never delivers.

Speaking of Bullseye, he is played with equal menace and camp by Colin Farrell (The Phone Booth). In the comics Bullseye’s gig is that he never misses. In the film it seems he never misses unless it really counts. Despite this defect Farrell dominates whenever he is on screen, Bullseye is a delight, albeit an evil one.

Mark Steven Johnson faced a dilemma in casting the Kingpin. He could get a white man who looks like the character who could not act or get a black man to portray a white character who could act. He went for the latter in Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile) and I’m glad he did. I think his Kingpin is perfect in mood and personality.

Writer/director/actor Jon Favreau is wasted as Foggy Nelson who offers some of the best lines and lighter moments which are painfully few. Joe Pantoliano is completely wasted as Daily Bugle (name changed to protect Spider-Man movie copyright) reporter Ben Urich. Scott Terra who plays the young Matt Murdock is a name to watch. He too steals the scene when on camera. Kevin Smith’s cameo as coroner Jack Kirby is very cute and speaking of references to comics creators they appear so often here they lose their charm. When winks and nods get old to comics geeks you know you’ve gone too far.

Speaking of the comics there are prominent parts of this story missing from the film, most notably Daredevil’s mentor Stick and the ninja gang called The Hand. Perhaps they were left out so as not to create comparison with Splinter and The Foot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is odd considering Daredevil is the original source material and TMNT is the parody.

Electra with her sai weapons (yet another inspiration for TMNT) present the best and worst in this film. Her and Matt’s playground dance/fight/flirtation is worth the price of admission and arguably the finest moment in the flick. Their jumping into bed after a few lines of conversation and knowing each other for a day is unbelievable and disturbing – especially when it is assumed (as in the comics) that this is true love. Really, besides being able to kick each other’s ass and a penchant for running across rooftops what do they have in common really?

Worth seeing but don’t expect Spider-Man and don’t think too much.

Sweating 03: Batmania Vs. Supermanga

SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF 03

Batmania Vs. Supermanga

Reviewing: Secret Files & Origins To The DC Universe 2001-2002, Sugar and Spike Replica Edition #1, Birds of Prey #42, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, Superman #178, 182, Adventures
of Superman
#603-605 and Ultiman Giant Annual #1

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

DC has been doing these Secret Files books for awhile, sometimes they’re worth it, sometimes not. I’d have to say Secret Files & Origins To The DC Universe 2001-2002 was not. This was a commercial, and false advertising at that.

Let’s just look at the cover. Superman (who at least looks like Superman, a rarity as we’ll see below) appears in six panels in the lead story. Wonder Woman, two panels. Hawkman, the reason I bought it, was mentioned once and appeared barely in two panels. Saturn Girl, also two panels. Krypto, apparently the star of the book, six panels like his master. Azrael gets a vague non sequitor two page sequence. Orpheus, a new character gets a text piece – an ad for his new book basically. And Steel? Only on the cover. What a rip!

Inside the book we get a jumbled but touching story about a working couple who hardly have time for each other because their jobs have them each running around the DC universe. It’s interspersed with mentions of various major plotlines going on in many DC books this past year. The highlight is a fictional movie ad for “Topeka” a movie made about the Worlds At War series that ran through the Superman books.

Then we have the blatant ads, the pin-ups and text pieces on upcoming series or books DC wants to push. Suicide Squad (already on the cancellation block), Haven, Doom Patrol (yes, another new Doom Patrol), Orpheus (a Bat spin-off I won’t bother with cuz I don’t want to buy the other fifty Bat-books to keep up), Power Company (actually quite good, but this dry text piece sure wouldn’t have sold me on it), Josie Mac (also quite good but dry as well) and Legion which is completely unrecognizable to me as the Legion but makes sure to make itself inaccessible to new readers. Hmmmm, ads that don’t work, another $4.95 down the drain, I think I won’t be buying any more Secret Files.

To wash the sour taste of that one out of my mouth I also purchased the reprint of Sugar and Spike #1 originally published in 1956. This was a joy by the master Sheldon Mayer and worth every penny of $2.95. Why can’t we have more comics like this?

Birds of Prey is a hot topic lately. It’s been picked up as a series for the WB by the same people who do “Smallville.” To be aired Wednesdays at 9:00 PM it will be in the future as “Smallville” is supposedly in the past. Also in common with “Smallville” the comics continuity is thrown out the window, in other words some of the characters in this show will have the same names as characters in the comics. The plot for the pilot has Batman (played by the actor from the OnStar commercials) fleeing Gotham City after the Joker (voiced but not performed by Mark Hamill) kills Catwoman and cripples Batgirl. Years later Batgirl, now a computer hacker tries to fight crime with help of two new female crusaders.

Casting for the moment has Dina Meyer (who was so hot in “Starship Troopers” and “Johnny Mnemonic”) in the Oracle/Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Rachel Skarsten as the telepathic (?) and teenage (??) Dinah Laurel Lance (not called Black Canary in the pilot but sources say her mother appears in later episodes and is referred to as Black Canary) and Ashley Scott (“A.I.”, Fox’s “Dark Angel”) as the Huntress/Helena Kyle (reverting to the original comics continuity as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman). Recent casting changes have Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”), who was to have played Dr. Harleen Quinzel who eventually becomes the Joker’s companion Harley Quinn, having her scenes reshot and replaced by Mia Sara (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Time Cop”) because she could not commit to the series.

Now I don’t follow the comics series because it’s so tied up with the Bat-continuity and I don’t want to buy fifty books a month for one story but I know enough to know the show certainly won’t attract viewers to comics, they’ll be hopelessly confused. The most recent BOP I picked up was #42 because of Power Girl.

I’m a big Power Girl fan mostly because of the Justice Society and the 1970s All Star Comics series. That said, this issue read and the horror of what’s been done to the character in the intervening years I think the only writer that should be allowed near her is Paul Levitz. The story in this book, why Power Girl no longer works with Oracle, is good by Chuck Dixon (who should be pounded in the head for getting PG’s secret identity wrong – it’s Karen Starr, not Steele. Hello? What do these DC editors get paid for anyway?), it’s just not my Power Girl.

As long as we’re on the Bat-books, this summer welcomed the long-anticipated sequel to the classic The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I bought all three issues of The Dark Knight Strikes Again or DK2 at a tragic $7.95 each and am wondering who I see about getting it back. Who said we needed a sequel anyway? The original was just that, original. It had things to say, trends to set, unexplored territory to explore and talent to show off. Unfortunately I think Frank Miller (like Peter David and the Hulk in my last column) has said all he has to say about Batman and should quit while he’s ahead. DK2 is drivel, and a waste of money – for me, for you and for DC cuz I’m sure Miller did not come cheap.

On the other side of the Bat-coin this summer was the Bruce Wayne: Murderer story arc running through all the books. I only picked up the first part; Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure. Ten cents… I find the marketing ploy rather curious considering most comics shops gave these away for free. It’s a great story, the best Batman I’ve read in years, by Greg Rucka. You get the origin, the motivation, brings you up to date in continuity, springs a great cliffhanger to launch this summer’s story arc and entertains as well. As interested as I am to find out what happens I just don’t have the cash to buy all the Bat-books this summer to find out. Shame, cuz the start is terrific.

It was recently announced that Wolfgang Petersen, director of action films like “Air Force One”, “The Perfect Storm”, “Outbreak” and “In The Line of Fire”, was online for preproduction of a film project called “Batman Vs. Superman”. Sadly from interviews it seems the German director knows very little about these two great American icons. It will be based upon the old day vs. night, hero vs. anti-hero cliche which is from a script by the multi-talented Kevin Williamson (“Scream”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Dawson’s Creek”) which is at least a good sign. Petersen wants to cast unknowns in the title roles rather than actors already established in the parts. It should be noted that there is also a “Batman Year One” (Darren Aronofsky), a live action “Batman Beyond” (Neil Stephenson) and a new “Superman” (McG) all in preproduction and unrelated to this project right now as well.

If we were to do a Batman Vs. Superman as far as comics quality this summer Bats would be the sure winner because the Superman books surely do suck. Over the past months the art has been turning more and more manga. Sorry this is not my Superman, he’s not big eyes and cartoony exaggerated muscles. My Superman is Max Fleischer, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, even John Byrne or Alex Ross but no how no way manga. If I want that crap I’ll watch one of my videos or read Impulse. It ain’t Superman.

With my thoughts on the deteriorating art stated I’m just going to review the writing on the following books. Superman #178 features a visit to Smallville (do I smell a marketing link here?) and the return of Quality Golden Age great Uncle Sam. Sam has been restored to his original form after a stint as the costumed Patriot (a biiiig mistake in my eyes) and engages Supes in a Marvel Comics style brawl for no apparent reason (shades of the Hulk and the Thing). Superman #182 has Supes saving Lois from various members of the newly-re-formed Suicide Squad (now this is a marketing ploy) like Killer Frost, Solomon Grundy (again? Wow, between the “Justice League” cartoon and the comics this has been one busy summer for old Grundy) and Deadshot. As with the Batman 10-Cent Adventure above both these books have great cliffhangers but are so continuity-heavy in the subplots it kills any desire to pick up the series regularly.

I also picked up Adventures of Superman #603-605 because I’m a sucker for the Crime Syndicate even if they’re not the evil Justice League from Earth Three anymore. Crisis still burns me up, I was five when I was introduced to the concept of parallel Earths (Justice League of America #91 to be precise) and have never had a problem understanding it. I still maintain it was the idiot editors at DC who didn’t do their jobs that were the morons who didn’t understand it, not the readers. Jeez, how did anyone watch “Sliders” if it’s such a hard goshdarn concept???

Post-Crisis the Crime Syndicate now hail from an anti-matter universe which of course makes even less sense than Earth Three thanks to the twisted mind of Grant Morrison (don’t get me started…). Here again, the art… ick. Mirror Mirror is an appropriate title for this trilogy because the manga-ish art has turned into some dark twisted Bizarro version of manga – it hurts my head to look at it, let alone read it. Any coolness the story may have had was destroyed by the visuals. It will be a loooong time before I pick up another Super-book.

For us Superman purists at least there is still Big Bang Comics. These folks specialize in paying homage to the Golden Age and the Silver Age of comics. Their version of Superman, Ultiman, has the Ultiman Giant Annual on the shelves this summer. Set up like the DC 80-Page Giants of the 1960s we get a few Silver Age style stories of Ultiman, a Thundergirl (sort of Mary Marvel meets Supergirl), and a Blackjack and his Flying Aces (Silver Age DC Blackhawks). A great tribute to the comics of the sixties. Ahh, memories… definitely pick this one up.

reprinted from http://www.comicwidows.com