Friday, December 27, 2013

Red, White and Blue Batman

We don't normally see Batman associated with the American flag so that is why I was struck by this image in the recent issue of "Batman and Two-Face" number 25.  Written by Peter J. Tomasi and penciled by Patrick Gleason, issue number 25 explores a partnership of sorts while the brain trust behind the Batman comics tries to figure out if they should appoint a successor to Robin or not.

I'm not really going to get into the plot of the story, this is more of an insight into the artwork involved and the association with Batman and all things patriotic.

First, if there is one superhero associated with all things Americana and the flag it is Superman.  Which is a bit of irony that shouldn't be lost on too many comic readers and or movie goers.  Superman is an alien from another planet yet he has been historically associated with all things red, white and blue. He grew up in an all American small town and there no more "apple pie" than Big Blue and it's a wonder he doesn't sell Chevrolets!  But let's face it, he's not of this world!

The movies have gone to great pains to couple Superman with the flag also.  None more so that the Christopher Reeves series.

So why is it we never see Batman "Waving the flag"?  Is it because of his darker themes?  Is it the creature of the night persona or his propensity for striking fear as opposed to Superman's symbol of hope?  Batman is an Earthling.  Bruce Wayne was born and bred right here in the good ol' USA.  Perhaps it is because Wayne is a billionaire and he is naturally difficult to identify with. 

Even Christopher Nolan in the last Batman film went to great pains to portray Wayne as the recluse billionaire and had his alter ego seemingly fight to protect Wall Street and all it entailed.

This is what makes the artwork of Patrick Gleason (with colors by John Kalisz and inks by Mick Gray) so out of the norm.  The above panel is a terrific shot of Batman coursing through the night sky, framed by the American flag and ready to mete out justice.  It's almost as if Gleason and his team can't accept Batman as a patriotic figure as the colors have been muted and the scene takes place at night filled with eerie bats.  Not nearly as inspiring as a day awash in the glorious sunshine filled with the rich hues of the red, white and blue.

Yet the above frame is inspiring.  Batman follows the lead of the flag as it extends from left to right,  (maybe Bats is a Republican) even his entourage of bats follow the path to truth and justice as they all head in the same direction.  A direction in which Batman doles out his own version of justice that usually entails a severe beating before the evil doers are eventually left for the police.  (Hmmm, maybe that has a lot to do with it.)

Will we see more of Batman draped in the red, white and blue?  Probably not.  It's just not a theme he is normally associated with.  Justice,yes, but of a more darker grimmer kind.  I can't recall Batman or Bruce Wayne extolling the virtues of the American way or perhaps I've just missed it.  That doesn't seem likely as that would have stood out as the images published above.  I can accept that.  Maybe it is Batman's humility that lends itself to be less jingoistic.

As long as he gets the job done it's ok he doesn't wave the flag.  We know whose side he is on.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's the Problem with the Ben Affleck Batman?

If there is a problem with casting Ben Affleck as the next Batman it could be because when you see Ben Affleck you see, well, Ben Affleck!

Affleck's star shines rather brightly and I think many of us assumed the role of Batman would go to someone who wouldn't eclipse anyone else on the marquee.

Therein lies the other problem with casting Affleck, when the Man of Steel sequel comes out in 2015 it will star Henry Cavill as Superman and...

Ben Affleck as Batman!

Seriously, how are they going to avoid all the attention Affleck is going to get?  Everyone will want to see how Ben will handle the Batman character.  His casting as Batman has generated an enormous amount of controversy and I think that will continue right up until we see the first trailer and perhaps up until the movie itself comes out.



I was getting pretty used to the idea of a Jim Caviezel Batman or perhaps another TV denizen such as Anson Mount.  Both are accomplished actors, they've had varying degrees of success, mostly good, and their star doesn't shine so bright as to outshine that of Henry Cavill and bump his name from the top of the billing in what's supposed to be his film. 

To set the record straight, I like Ben Affleck.  He's a local guy and you have to root for the home dude through thick and thin.  And Ben has has his share of thin.   Those days are long gone and now Affleck is one of the crown jewels of Warner Bros.  From what I understand now, they were hotly pursuing him the whole time.  There is a terrific article over at Deadline/Hollywood where they enumerate all the advatages to keeping Ben close and happy not the least of which his Oscar status and his ability to both star and direct.  The article goes on to say that the big budget Man of Steel 2 will be a good experience for Ben under Zach Snyder and he'll be able to take the training wheels off and tackle the Golden Fleece for DC Comics and Warner Bros in the big screen adaptation of a Justice League movie.  The article goes on to say Ben may only star as a supporting role as Batman in various pictures such as the JLA or with Superman off and on in a World's Finest adaptaion.

That makes pretty good sense and I wish I had thought of that.  Ben can go on to make his own pet projects when he's not filming a DC movie and his larger than life paycheck will finance anything he desires.  Check out that Deadline/Hollywood article, it makes a lot of sense.

So what's the problem with a Ben Affleck Batman?  There isn't one.  If you take a step back and calm down a little it should be a win win for everyone.  We just have to have a little faith.  Everyone wanted to see their guy and when it didn't happen all hell broke loose.  Even bad publicity is better than no publicity right?  Hopefully they will tackle this casting with a little humor too.  I'd like to see them promote the next Man of Steel film as as a wholly Superman vehicle and with a little wink at the end of the teaser trailer  "and introducing Ben Affleck as Batman."   That would be great and it would show everyone they know what they're doing and the firestorm they created.

We all want to see the DC franchise succeed on the big screen and a healthy rivalry with Marvel is a good thing for all concerned.

Problem?  What problem?!!!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Batman on the Edge of Despair

 Will Catwoman Pull Batman Back From the Abyss?

Peter Tomasi has reached the penultimate stage of the Kubler-Ross model exploring the five stages of grief.  The fourth of which to be examined here, depression.

Depression is a critical step in the grieving process in that if one does not successfully move on from this stage he or she may find themselves wallowing in it's abyss forever.

In my previous post that dealt with the bargaining phase,  I imagined this sequel to encompass something like a warm embrace from Catwoman to salve the damaged psych of the Batman. She would tell him the things he needed to hear and provide the loving touch his cold heart demanded.

It didn't exactly go that way.  Tomasi has different plans.

First, let's look at the analytical definition of "Depression" as included in the Kubler-Ross model. 

Depression - I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die soon so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?" During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the 'aftermath'. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It's natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation.

The above definition cannot be taken literally in Batman's caseHe is not the one that is dying nor is he near death.  Instead he is the bereaved.  His feelings mirror the "certainty of death", in other words, his son Damien will never come back.  The danger for Batman is the "disconnect".  Something, if not alleviated, will become so dire that he will push away everyone close to him and he will become the menace to society that Batgirl warned him of in the previous issue,  (Something that is going through the test phase with Carrie Kelly.)

I should've gotten wind of Tomasi's tact when the story opens and Catwoman is in the middle of a heist.  The object of her desire is a golden figurine, "Ram in a Thicket".  The allusion here is a story from the Old Testament where Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Abraham's deadly hand is stayed when he is distracted by a Ram stuck in a nearby thicket.  If I had put the pieces together here I would have realized that Batman was standing in for Abraham and he needed something to stay his own deadly hand before he did something rash.

Catwoman provides him with that distraction.

 Her solace comes none too soon.

In the above image Batman sits alone in the Batcave and he's replaying audio from a mission with Damien.  The signs of depression are clear.  The head is bowed and the eyes blackened with sorrow.  His posture is slumped in forlorn resignation.  In listening to his son's voice Batman seeks to recreate Damiens' presence.   It is a desperate venture and one that is hollow in nature.  Listening to the sound of his son's voice won't bring him back.  In fact it is a trap that forms a closed loop that keeps you perpetually in its grasp.

As I said, lucky for Batman, Catwoman is on the prowl.  I was a bit disappointed that Tomasi had Catwoman appear on the scene in the line of duty, not of her own volition.  The story opens with Catwoman receiving orders from Steve Trevor on behalf of the JLA.  So, Catwoman really is just using Batman to aid in her invasion of the Chinese embassy to recover a "valuable asset" not to directly aid Batman in overcoming his sorrow.

That's too bad.  Red Robin and Batgirl both actively sought out Batman, I thought Selina Kyle would do the same.  These two have been pretty close over the years and this would have been a great opportunity to bring them even closer and develop their relationship further.

I guess Tomasi had different thoughts.

At least we got this superb image from Patrick Gleason.  The above frame is worth the price of the comic alone.  With the villains easily subdued, Batman and Selina take to the sky in possession of their new charge, Jai-Li.

Batman shows a some heart here and gives the little girl a thrill ride for the ages.  I suppose Tomasi's plan was to have Batman figure out how to beat his funk on his own.  Batman sees a little girl lost and without her father so he substitutes himself and takes the opportunity to bring a family together.  His may be lost, so this feels good even if it's only for a few moments.

The above image speaks volumes in that regard.

It was a bit puzzling to see Carrie Kelley return for the final frames of the book.  She receives a fake message from Damien that Batman constructed in order to preserve the fiction that Damien is still alive.

This seems to go against moving beyond the hurdle of depression.  This moment signifies there is still a bit of denial going on.  For the comic book reality it makes sense but as far as Batman's psyche is concerned it seems like a step back.  Maybe Tomasi is just setting up the next storyline.

Speaking of which!  Nightwing returns to help Batman with the next step of the Kubler-Ross model, acceptance.   A perfect symmetry to end this journey, the original Robin.  So how does Carrie fit in?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bargaining With Batman

Batman's Sanity Hangs in the Balance.  Can Batgirl Save Him?

Peter J. Tomasi along with guest penciller, Cliff Richards, returns to his examination of Batman's grief in "Batman and Batgirl #21".  Tomasi has been using the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief and this chapter's examination covers the "Bargaining" stage.

Here is the Wikipedia definition.

Bargaining"I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..."
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time..." People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?.." when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.

For this definition we are not speaking in the first person.  Or rather, I should say, Batman, is not speaking in the first person.  When the above definition says, "I will do anything for a few more years" Batman is really saying, "I will do anything for a few more years, if Damien were only alive".  

Batman, of course, is not dead here.  His son is dead and as we find everything in this chapter is post mortem.  

Tomasi has taken the interesting tact of handling this stage for Batman not through his eyes but through the eyes of Batgirl.  In fact, Batgirl, does a little Bargaining of her own.  

Batman has not asked for any help in coping with his grief (although he has shared some grief with Alfred) and here we find Batgirl trying to volunteer her help.  Naturally Batman rejects all her advances and pretty much spends the entire book ignoring her entreaties.  When they first meet in this issue, Batgirl can barely share two words with Batman before he storms off.  

This actually allows Batgirl to come to grips with a death in her own family.  Her brother died when she confronted him and he fell to his demise before she could grab him.  She blames herself and she takes this opportunity to make a confessional of sorts to her father, Commissioner Gordon.  She can't speak to him face to face, it would expose her identity, but it least she talks it out.  This alleviates her guilt to some degree and lightens the emotional load.  Too bad Batman doesn't afford himself the same luxury.

Batman makes his own effort at bargaining by confronting some two bit hoods that are attempting a robbery and holding some hostages.  The robbers decline his offer and make the mistake of going for the whole enchilada.  Classic mistake.

It's not clear what kind of bargain Batman is really trying to strike here.  Damien is already dead so he can't bargain for more time with him.  Are we to understand the bargain he really is trying to offer here is his own life?  Is Batman trying to sacrifice himself in order to join Damien in the afterlife in order to end his misery?

This would run counter to the aforementioned definition of "Bargaining".  It barely comes close to the part where there is a "sustainable solution".  If so, Batman would be dead.  He doesn't voice this but this would end Batman's career in crime fighting and his "raison d'etre" is to avenge the death of his parents and seek revenge for the innocent.  (Something he tangentially he refers to later in the Batcave.)  Deep down Batman realizes this and violently takes down the hoods.  

Batman doesn't bargain.  He can't even transcend the denial stage of grief.

Batgirl offers a unique solution to overcome Batman's grief and in doing so she allows herself a solution to overcome her own pain.

Batgirl offers to take the place of Robin which is a wonderful solution.  It would help exorcise her own demons and fill the role Batman so desperately needs, a sounding board to bounce his troubles off of.  I would have loved to see Barbara Gorden as the new Robin.  She can't get close to her own father as Batgirl but at least she would have had a father figure in Batman and he would have had the protege he needs to protect and nurture with the added benefit of not being so raw.

Batman declines this ingenious offer, telling her to go....

The fool.

Well, perhaps I should be a little more sympathetic.  Batman is deeply in the throes of pain.  The kind of pain that is of superhero proportion.  Maybe if talks his anguish out with someone he truly loves.  Someone he loves nearly as much as much as he loved Damien.  Perhaps then he could come to some sort of bargain and work through his depression.

I wonder who that could be?

Next up, Batman and Catwoman.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Dark Knight Descends

The Iconic Batman: Art of the New 52 #10 

I found this unusual perspective of Batman in "Batman and Batgirl #21".  Batgirl has been chasing down some heroin pushing thugs down by the Gotham docks when Batman suddenly makes his appearance.  She had just been wondering where Batman has been, as she wants to talk to him about the loss of his son, Damien.

This particular issue deals with the third stage of the Kubler-Ross model of grieving which is known as "Bargaining".  I'm not going into the depths of this particular topic at this point (that will be for a later post).  Instead, I'd like to comment on this striking frame as contributed by guest penciller, Cliff Richards.

You can almost hear Batman's cape snap open as he launches himself into the fray.  This dynamic entrance is made all the more surreal by having Batman's disembodied head wreathed in the darkness of his gothic veneer.

There is no encumberment of arms and legs to distract the viewer, just the bizarre promontory of Batman's head reaching out from some blackened netherworld.  Batgirl's narrative box exclaims, "Speak of the devil".  This just adds to the spectral quality of this depiction as Batman seems like some holy terror reaching out to pull those into some hellish place where he only dares to tread.

Batman's athleticism is often characterized by the inclusion of overwrought musculature.  Something I am often critical of.  I'd rather see a more human Batman rather than someone whose physique is comperable to Superman's.  Batman is a part of this world not something that is alien or unreal.

That is why I find this rendering of Batman so fascinating.  The other-worldly musculature is gone as is the human aspect.  All we get is tendril like extensions from Batman's cape which makes him neither bat or human.  Instead we get a minimalist vengeful wraith that characterizes Batman's innermost quality.

A rare feat.

Peter J. Tomasi has been exploring  the depths of Batman's pain over losing his Robin in these issues of "Batman and Robin" each with a guest partner.  In this issue Tomasi has found an ideal collaborator in Richards as Richards seems to understand that the depth of Batman's anguish resides in his mind.  So it is fitting we see this mind detailed in his cowled visage as his heart breaking struggle continues.

I'm not sure if Tomasi had any input into Richards work, specifically this frame.  But it seems like a partnership worth pursuing in the future.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The New Earth 2 Batman Is In The House!

And he knows how to make a grand entrance!

The new Earth 2 Batman made his appearance in the recent Earth 2 annual and if there are any comic detectives out there they have figured out who he is.

But not me.

Not to sell myself short but all I can think of is the Thomas Wayne Batman from the incredible "Flashpoint" series. 

There are similarities, particularly the glowing red eyes and propensity for meting out justice with "extreme prejudice".  (That's an Apocalypse Now reference people.)  The Bat logo is different on the chest but both utility belts are tinged in red.

The Flashpoint Batman lost his son in Crime Alley and took up the mantle of the Bat so who is to say that the Earth 2 Thomas Wayne, upon learning of his son's demise, didn't do the same thing?  I know what you're thinking, "Too easy".  You may be right.  It does seem a little too easy but it would be a wonderful way to revisit the character and take a new spin on his vicious application for crime fighting.  It would be difficult to top the twist of the Joker reveal in that series but I am game if they are.

Any other candidates?  (Apparently, we still don't know who E2 Batman is after the publication of Earth 2 #13 although he does make a cameo.)

I had a theory that it would be Jason Todd after the tease came out in the form of the cover of "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #17.  I figured Jason Todd would die in one universe and be "resurrected" in Earth 2.  There was poetry in that.

But Jason Todd didn't die in "Earth 1".

That doesn't mean he can't be the Earth 2 Batman it only means that the poetic symmetry is lost.  I can live with that.

The new Earth 2 Batman seems to be incredibly fit and obviously fearless.  He even has the ability to travel the world at will, has the best tech and knows all about the new Earth 2 heroes.

That's not something you pick up overnight.  You need some serious cash to pull that off.  So is it Thomas Wayne?  He should've been able to access his son's fortune.  (Did his son have a fortune?)  If the original E2 Batman was a billionaire wouldn't it be easy for his heir to inherit that fortune.  Does Earth 2 have a Dick Grayson?  How about this, Damien Wayne dies in the original universe and his doppelganger takes up the reins in the E2 universe.

Now that makes sense.  Damien was no stranger to violence and was trained in a world of assassins.  He was even a killer.  We witnessed that when he took out the character of "Nobody".

So, the poetic justice I wished upon Jason Todd may come true in the form of Damien Wayne.  At one time Damien Wayne was seen as the future Batman as depicted in this image taken from Batman #666.

 This future version of Batman was a ruthless killer and he even used Gotham City as weapon rigging all the buildings with explosives.  We don't know the E2 Batman very well but it doesn't seem as though he is willing to let Gotham burn, let alone the world, to see an end to his means.  Still, if we were to transfer these attributes to the Earth 2 Batman then we may have deduced his identity as Damien Wayne.  

Something is holding me back on this.  The maturity of this E2 Batman for one.  The Damien Wayne we knew was a child of ten years this new Batman is obviously way beyond that.  Anything is possible in the comics yes but something just doesn't feel right.  I can't put my finger on it but I'm going to lean towards Thomas Wayne or Jason Todd as the new E2 Batman.

Or it's their Azrael.

No, wait, it's Alfred.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Is Batman Angry? No, He's Raging!

Writer Peter J. Tomasi continues his exploration into Batman's despair by examining the next step of the Kubler-Ross model of grief, Anger.  Actually, as you open the cover to this mag the first page reveals that Batman is experiencing a higher resolution to anger, rage.

Before we move on let's take another look at the Kubler-Ross model and how anger is defined. 

Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief. 
(Definition courtesy of Wikipedia.)

In the issue of Batman and Robin #20 or better put, Batman and Red Hood #20, we once again get a guest appearance from Carrie Kelley.  I'm starting to believe that Kelley has been introduced as a touchstone for Batman.  Not someone to reflect each stage of grief off of, but instead to help measure each stage by enduring Batman's grief (with snappy comeback's) and be there when he's cleared the last hurdle.  Maybe she will be the next Robin.  I can see Batman reaching the final stage, Acceptance, and not only passing through that moment but accepting a new partner.  Someone that has withstood all his barbs, Carrie Kelley.

As an example, in the illustration above, Batman can barely contain his anger as illustrated by Gleason and Richards.  His jaw is clenched, a vein protrudes from his neck and his eyes are shaded a cavern black to accentuate the depth of his pain.  (So, good luck to you Carrie.)

For Tomasi , the real focal point for Batman's rage in this issue is going to be Jason Todd, also known as the Red Hood.  Tomasi has a unique use for Todd.  If I am reading him correctly, Tomasi is going to use Todd, not as a buddy and former partner to Batman and not someone he can share an adventure of revenge in, but for a  much more darker purpose.

As a canard, Tomasi does position the two former partners on a mission to Ethiopia to root out the assassins that targeted Damien, Batman's now dead son, and take them out.  Accomplishing this the two move on and Batman reveals to Todd his real reason for bringing him along.

Batman tells Jason that he wants him to relive that awful night where he died at the hands of the Joker. In doing so, Batman hopes this will jog Jason's memory and provide a key of sorts that will help Batman in his quest to bring Damien back from the dead much like Jason was resurrected.

I have no doubt this is partially true.  I think Batman is seeking to rid himself of guilt and sincerely looking for clues to bring Damien back but Jason is just a pawn in this pursuit.  There is a larger truth playing out here and this is where Tomasi reveals the real reason Jason Todd is along for the trip.  If Batman is to move beyond the second stage of grief he just doesn't want to come to grips with it, he wants it beaten out of him.

This is particularly brutal and I give credit to Tomasi for this device.  I had wondered in a previous blog post how someone like Batman, who is pretty much angry all the time, could deal with this stage.  As noted above Batman just isn't dealing with anger as a stage of grief, he has evolved it into a stage of rage.

At first Batman provokes Jason into hitting him.  From then on he gets his wish.  Todd doesn't like being used as a pawn so he is particularly viscous in his attack.  No doubt Batman counted on this also.  Batman feels he deserves this out of guilt for Todd and for Damien.  He even taunts Todd by weakly boasting he's, "Still standing".  Todd is smart of enough to know he is being used and grows weary of Batman's pathetic machinations.  Batman has done Todd a favor, whether Todd realizes it or not, and let Jason work through his own pain.  But I think Jason Todd and Tomasi know the rest is up to Batman and in order for him to move on the next step is up to the Caped Crusader.  They go their separate ways.

This issue is extremely well done.  I think Tomasi has given us a terrific look in to the stage of Anger for Batman.  Or Rage if I read it correctly by Tomasi.  Batman is special, he's always dealing with anger at some level and he uses it as a motivational tool.  It comes from the death of his parents as a child and he has donned the mantle of the Bat to work through that pain.  But what about the pain and grief of losing his son?

Only Rage will suffice and Batman needs it beaten out of him.  Kudos Peter J.Tomasi.

Next up: Bargaining

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Iconic Batman: Art of the New 52 Pt. 9

I spotted this image by Cameron Stewart in Detective comics #19 which was also the 900th issue of the comic if you follow it back chronologically.  The issue itself was an expansive collection of stories meant to tie in many of the Batman universe characters and serve as a compendium to smooth out the continuity wrinkles brought about in other Batman issues such as Batman Incorporated.

While I thought it a bold effort I don't think it was entirely successful and it acted more as a jumping off point for future stories rather than a homage to 900 issues of Batman in Detective Comics that I hoped it would be,

Saying that, what I would really like to discuss is the excellent piece of art contributed by Cameron Stewart as shown above.  As near as I can tell, it seems to be influenced by the "Art Deco" school of thought.  I say so because it employs the use of geometric shapes and invokes the modern age of machinery and the buildings made possible by it.

Batman is a creature of the night and is often set in a dark Gothic motif.  Stewart also sets Batman in the heart of the night, but instead of gloomy forbidding shadows, his frame is awash in a cold neon glow.  This is further accentuated  by the use of depth as our picture descends nearly to street level where it develops into a blur of greenish haze.  This haze serves just as foreboding as any pool of shadows because it disguises the endless whir of man's crimes against his own kind and the confusion wrought by the relentless maleficence that makes up the world of Gotham City.

Batman is depicted in minimalist fashion.  Absent is the sometimes overwrought musculature that often defines Batman artistically (See the cover to Detective Comics #19).  Stewart, instead, gives a partial glimpse of  the Batman, his square cut chin juts out defiantly over the depths and seems to add a quality of momentum as if Batman is moving from roof top to roof top.  The square cut of the shoulders and the frame of the cape adds to this dynamic canvas and serves as a nice counterpoint to the checkerboard of the cityscape with it's art deco inspiration.

Batman's cowl with it's sharpened nose and piercing ears are complimented by his armored kneecap and adds to Batman's fearsome nature which gives him a weapon like quality that cuts into the night.  The knife like edges to the cities buildings with their Escher like opposition to each other further supplements this dangerous spectacle.

This is a refreshing perspective offered by Stewart and is deserving of praise.  It evokes motion, danger, and a dizzying fathomless environment that only Batman  can decipher.  We can only hope to see more of this fascinating work.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Batman: Still in Denial over Damien?

I thought it would be interesting to see how the rest of the Bat family of writers are handling the aftermath of Damien's death.  If we take a quick look at James Tynion's effort we'll see he's following Peters Tomasi's line of thinking that Batman is still in denial.

Tynion got a short feature and the end of Scot Snyder's Batman #19.  At first I thought it just another tacked on story to justify the added dollar for the issue (that and the fold out cover) but I thrilled to see it explored the world of Batman and Superman in real time.  I'm eagerly anticipating the return of the Batman/Superman comic for early this summer and here we get a sneak peek into that dynamic.  The added bonus here is that Superman and Batman are not only allies but friends.

It seems Superman has been trying to contact the Caped Crusader and accusing Batman of ignoring his calls.  From there we get to see the world's greatest superheroes together in the panel we see above.  Call me a geek but I thought it was pretty exciting.  Yes, we've seen them together in the Justice League but this seems a lot more organic to their relationship.

Tynion and artist Alex Maleev depict the two in the natural state.  Superman regally floating above the city, stock still but impressively powerful.  Batman, haunched over in the shadows using binoculars, ever the detective.  (Also not surprised to find Superman floating nearby.)

Superman shows his concern for Batman by asking about Damien.  Batman, emotions still raw from Damien's demise cuts him off with typical impatience.  Well, not so typical in this case.  Even an intervention from Superman isn't enough to break down the wall.

Batman, still in denial.

Our next set of frames comes from the greater part of Batman #19.  Snyder and artist Capullo continue to explore Batman's denial.  We find Batman in the depths of the Bat Cave.  He had just been ruminating over a recent case with Robin and a close scrape with death.  As was his want, Damien teases Batman about his fallibility.  Now Batman stands over a pool of water deep in thought.  Alfred tries to shake Batman out of his gloom by voicing concern over recent events and how Batman reacted to the "death" of Jason Todd.  As Batman did in Tynion's story he cuts of Alfred with a curt, "enough".  Alfred can only look on with a mixture of shock and dismay.

Batman, still in denial.

Soon Tomasi will move on from the "denial" storyline and explore the next step of the five stages of grief and that is "anger".  I'll continue to seek out clues that his fellow writers are following his lead.  (Then again, it'll hard to tell Batman's regular anger from the anger over Damien's death but I'm game.)

(p.s., Did anyone else get the impression that Batman was standing over a water filled Lazarus pit?)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Do You Believe in Batman and the Red Hood's New Beginning?

The above illustration was taken from "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #18.  In that particular issue Jason Todd, who was the second Robin in line behind Dick Grayson, was just recovering from a dream filled fugue state after he was poisoned by the Joker.  When he awoke from his trance he found himself in Wayne Manor and in the arms of Bruce Wayne.

The issue was one of redemption and forgiveness and it occurs in the aftermath of Damien Wayne's death.  (Although it isn't entirely clear that Jason knows of Damien's death at this point.) What is known is that this story comes in the wake of the "Death of the Family" series and it appears that Bruce Wayne wants to start the healing process and it begins with Jason Todd.

So why would I ask if this scenario is believable?

Running parallel to these events is Peter Tomasi's examination into Batman's  five stages of grief in the Batman and Robin series.  Tomasi has just finished the first stage, Denial, and the second stage is Anger.  The third Robin in line, Tim Drake, had to deal with Batman's issues with denial and in the next issue Jason Todd will be featured as the "guest Robin" in "Batman and Red Hood #20"

Jason Todd is known to have a few anger issues of his own so I wonder if he is the right partner for Batman.  Todd has also undergone some recent transformations in Red Hood and the Outlaws # 19 although I won't spoil them here.

The immediate above illustration come from the solicitation for the May 8th issue of Batman and Red Hood #20 (or Batman and Robin #20 if you prefer).  It depicts the angry visage of Batman bursting through the  Red Hood of Jason Todd.  So what can we derive from this?
  • Will Batman's anger issues be so great that it will shatter the identity of Jason Todd both new and old?
  • Does this illustration suggest Todd's influence will be futile and Batman's anger cannot be contained?
  • Are we being given a clue into the fate of Todd as his own story progresses?

Adding fuel to the fire of a rapprochement between the figures of Batman and Jason's Todd's Red Hood we get these events as depicted in Justice League #19.  Here, it is obvious there is an element of trust between the two as Todd has continued access to the Batcave.  It's also clear Todd has forged a tight alliance with Alfred and more importantly, Batman, despite having his lair invaded with Todd on duty.  Instead of being disappointed with Todd, Batman voices his concern that Jason Todd is okay and trusts him to watch over the fallen Alfred.

I'd like to think that Batman and the Red Hood can start a new beginning.  Seemingly, the ground work is being laid for such a thing.  But like the cover of Red Hood #17, seen above, things aren't always as they seem and a little misdirection is usually employed.

Batman and "Red Hood" #20 comes out May 8th and we are sure to get more answers at that time.

Until then, can we believe Batman and the Red Hood's new beginning?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Batman and Red Robin #19 In Denial?

Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason follow up their masterwork that was Batman and Robin #18 with Batman and Red Robin #19 and it is a somewhat more muted affair.  

Yes, I am aware of the irony of calling a dialog heavy sequel to the totally wordless issue that was  number 18 "muted" but I do so because it lacked the depth of its predecessor.  Batman and Red Robin 19 is a different cat altogether and it threw its readership for a loop with the reintroduction of Carrie Kelley to the Batman universe.

I'll get to that later.  What I really wanted to focus on was Tomasi's deliberate follow up to 18 and how he was going to explore the five stages of grief as originally outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

As noted by Wikipedia the stage of Denial can be explained as, "Conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage."

I don't see Batman as "locked in this stage" because, A, Tomasi is going to move him through all 5 stages and B, Batman has to move on to "anger" because if Batman is anything it's angry!

The first glimpse of "Denial" we get from Batman is from his alter ego Bruce Wayne.  Wayne has sought out Carrie Kelly to pay off her fees as charged to Damien for what I can only assume are lessons in theater.  (Whether acting or history or both.)  Wayne is referring to Damien as if he is still alive which is classic denial and at this stage of grief almost reflexive.  Alfred (callously?) points this out to Wayne and he retorts with a sardonic thank you.  Wayne's rebuttal can also be seen a symptom of denial as it is a slap at his closet ally and friend, Alfred, and intended to sting.  Lashing out at ones closest to you keeps you from facing the truth they wish to impart.

Paying Carrie Kelly off is also a form of denial as Wayne intends to close that chapter that involved her and Damien.  Thus, he no longer has to deal with it.

From here I sensed that Tomasi drifted a little from the theme of denial and drifted into the second stage of "Anger" and added a touch of the third stage, "Bargaining".  Batman goes on a mad caper to capture "Agent of S.H.A.D.E." Frankenstein with the hopes of incorporating "Frankie's" insight and abilities of reanimation.  

 In doing so Batman is effectively admitting that his son is dead.  This is in contretemps to the stated definition of denial.  I suppose Tomasi is to be forgiven for this drift of thematic narrative.  I really don't know anything of his educational background nor would it be fair of labeling him a psychologist.  I'm only pointing out that if you are going to entitle your book, "In Denail" you'd be better served to sticking with that theme and plumb the depths of that particular issue.

In the above set of two frames we get Batman admitting Robin is dead ("Not for long") and denying it has any permanence when he recounts his own "death" and that of Superman's.  Again, a bit of a mixed message for the stated theme of denial by Tomasi but who said Batman was anything but complicated.

I suppose it fortunate that Batman isn't into full on "Anger" or he may well have dismantled Tim Drake.  Here we can make a case for a solid return to the denial theme.  If Batman had been in full use of his capabilities instead of being in the thrall of denial he would have anticipated all of Red Robins tactical moves.  Instead, the tables are turned on Batman as the former pupil outmaneuvered the master catching him when his judgement is clouded and his plans for a grisly re-animation are foiled.

While this issue doesn't measure up to the greatness that was issue 18 and I think it drifted from its stated theme, we still get a look at Batman while he begins his descent into grief.  "Anger" is the next step and we certainly got a glimpse at the rage that is engulfing Batman.  The next issues is to be entitled "Batman and Red Hood in Rage."  The Jason Todd character of Red Hood has visited death before and as a former protege of Batman this pairing should unearth some deeply buried resentments and sublimated issues that were never successfully resolved.  If that isn't a recipe for anger then nothing is.

As for the introduction of the Carrie Kelley character, the fictional non-canon character that is now inserted as a fictional canon character, so what!  I know it has the resolute fan-boys' knickers in  a twist but if it was intended as a publicity stunt it worked as the first printing of Batman and Robin #19 was completely sold out.

 Kelley will add a new dimension to world of Batman as she seems determined or at least the type to be determined to find out what happened to Damien.  A thorn in Batman's side is always good theater.

Next up:  Do you believe Batman and "A New Beginning?"