I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Favourites: As The Crow Flies

Been a while, since I've done when one of these. So lets do an easy one. Presenting Batman (1940) #626 to #630: 'As The Crow Flies', by Judd Winick and Dustin Nguyin.

Okay, this being a start of a creators run on a title, you expect a feeling out process with the main characters to be undertaken especially by the creators. Do the creators fundamentally change a key component of a key character? Do they use their first story as a prologue, to set the scene for their true master plan? And do they get away with it? Spoilers follow.

Great modern Batman stories are rarely about Batman, they tend to revolve around other characters, and that their story usually collides with Bruce Wayne's obsessive vigilantism. 'Killing Joke' is about Joker, Knightfall is all about why Bane has been built up as a 'main eventer', why Knightfall is all about Azrael. 'As the Crow Flies' is all about re-incarnating The Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane.

We notice right from the start that Crane is now considered to be an embarrassment to the rest of the Villain community. The contempt and disrespect that The Penguin shows Crane, at the first point is quite telling. Batman readers now see this heavyweight bad guy now fallen on bad times, humiliated and abused by someone wholly more powerful. Therefore we start to take an interest in Crane's sub-plot rather than the standard, 'Penguin-is-a-Gangster' (although, he really is written as one nasty bastard here) story. We are also dealt this nugget; subtly dropped in that, he has another skill other than producing fear inducing chemical compounds, and he doesn't want anybody else to know about it: Genetics. Could this other work be his redemption, in the eyes of the reader? A glimmer of hope, perhaps. Then, Winick throws in a potential romantic interest, and then he builds upon it. Classic hook: if the character falls in love, he might walk away from this life of villainy.

Of course, this is Gotham City. Hope, Redemption and Happy Endings don't happen here! The cleverness of the back story of Crane's new life, is just cover for his real life changing moment. That he has a double life as a Mobster Killing Hulk. With freaking Fear Gas for breath! And for me, this is a really good thing.

It's (and this is why I haven't been blogging more about Batman the last month, or so) because I've read all of Peter David's run on The Incredible Hulk this summer. It is in this title that a writer shows what happens when you take a character that has an obvious gimmick, and twist it so that creates endless possibilities and scenarios are produced. And what Judd Winick does here is take The Scarecrow, a character that hasn't changed too much since his introduction, and twisted it, mutated it, permanently, all for the better.

You see a fundamental thing for most Gotham villains is duality. Two-Face is the most obvious, The Riddler is more subtle (puzzle/answer). By making Crane less of a costumed gimmick, and more a classic dual personality (the Jekyll/Hyde monster) then the character is instantly more interesting to me, the Batman reader, as it shows evolution and invention. Crane, as the classic Scarecrow, was becoming more and more toothless over the years. He was never a physical threat to Batman to begin with, and his most dangerous weapon, fear gas, was beaten time and again by Batman (in this story, the Bat-safeguards against the Fear Gas Winick allows Batman to have, is astonishingly complete.). By the story's end The Scarecrow is turned into a physically intimidating, dangerous predator, and whose improved Fear Gas really does major damage to all those exposed to it.

One of the cheap gimmicks some Batman writers use, is that to be a true threat to Batman then his dual identity must be exposed. Sometimes this is done to great affect (The Breaking of The Bat), other times it's done really lazily ('Hush', where the secret identity was made essentially worthless by the stories end, he might have done a press conference...). Fortunately, Winick uses this gimmick cleverly. The Monster Scarecrow enters Wayne Manor, simply by following Batman Fear-induced drive back to the Cave. He attacks Alfred, but is eventually beaten. However, the Monster Scarecrow sees Batman cowl-free, in Wayne Manor. The clever bit: because Crane isn't in true control of himself, and cannot recall anything when he changes, he simply will won't ever remember being at Wayne Manor, or what he saw at Wayne Manor. This is a get-outta-jail master-stroke by a writer, it doesn't upset continuity, and presents new opportinities. Another possibility Batman now has to consider, Crane's new incarnation is proper dangerous and could he suddenly remember that night in the cave?

If I have any complaint about this storyline is that the developed characterisation of the new, improved Scarecrow, and the newly layered. down-trodden Jonathan Crane isn't fully expanded upon (curse the 22 page comic book format!). But I suppose that's the hook for the follow up story. Maybe that's the first signpost for the Judd Winick era of Batman?

By the stories end the true tragic loser is the protagonist I care about, The Scarecrow. He is betrayed by the romantic interest. He is forever changed and genetically mutated by a more dominant evil mind. He is physically beaten by The Bat. His life as the old Scarecrow is over. His redemption through love can never be accomplished now, and now he is (sometimes) a monster. As he escapes into a forest, it becomes clear that The Scarecrow's story is a true Urban Gothic tragedy.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

But is it Mart?

Okay, I know the original plan was to eBay a lot of my books this month. There were only two transactions that I managed to felt was worthy of the Quest, these hadn't even touched burning my self-imposed spending cap. To be honest, I got withdrawal symptoms, I needed to buy... I needed more Batman. Like, now. I needed a comic mart.

I'd been to the London Collectors Marketplace earlier this year for the first time and absolutely loved the experience. Thousands upon thousands of cheap and cheerful comics. The big boys of the southern UK were present, Incognito, Orbital, and Krypton, as were a whole load of smaller traders. If I wanted a 25p Robin book, I got one. If I wanted Hulk 181 at £575, I could have got one. Truth be told, it was after this event that I got really serious about having a proper go at this collection.

Months later, I attended last weekends Golden Orbit event held at The Thistle Hotel in central Manchester. While there were significantly fewer traders than the London event and a £2 entry fee, there were a hell of a lot more bargains to be had. The average price I paid for a book was 50p, which is a bargain any way you look at it (I'm sure going to miss the 50p Batman comic, when I have to get the older/expensive titles). The other cool thing I noted about this event, that differed from the London, was because the event was a lot smaller, there was definately more of a friendly, more welcoming atmosphere.

I'd love to list the stuff I got there, but I'm still suffering from Buyer's Guilt, so like a really shady one night stand, I just accept that it happened and try not to talk about it! Yes, it's true, I got very carried away in the two and half hours I spent rifling through traders long boxes, and I wasn't the only one.

The point of this blog, is this nugget of advice: If you have decided to start, or build upon a comic book collection cheaply, and are fed up of eBay and your LCS, and live in the UK, then get yourself to one of these events. They are so awesome, I'm already saving up for the next one.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Goddamn Batman: And Spawn

The Spawn/Batman crossover that was released in way back in 199, is a bit of an odd beast. I'm sure that there was a lot of excitement about this book before the release simply because it was Frank Miller's first return to Batman since Year One and DKR. Even in the inside cover there is a note to mention that this is a companion piece to the Dark Knight Returns universe. Did it need any more hype?

Spawn, for those who aren't initiated, was Todd McFarlane's creation when he and a few other artists went and formed Image Comics. McFarlane had every ambition to take over the comic world with this guy and this crossover would've helped him to achieve this goal. From a promotional standpoint 'Spawn/Batman' would confirm that his new could have equal billing with comic book character royalty. There is no question, McFarlane's art is gorgeous. And the story, ahh the story, well most of it works...

There are a few moments of brilliance here. Like a lot of Miller's 1990's stuff there is a lot invention and experimentation going on, and this is all over this crossover. For example, there is the humorous determination of Alfred's insistence that Bruce should drink the calming chamomile tea that has been prepared for him. There is the 'mind fusion' scene between Spawn and Batman that is really well done. I love the consequences of the first fight (c'mon that's what two superheroes do when they meet for the first time!) between Spawn and Batman that really pads out Miller's updated characterization of the Bat. Also, there is a cleverness to the way Spawn is the presented as more heroic of the two in this crossover, by the stories end.

For me though, it is in this volume that the Frank Miller 'Goddamn Batman' is born. For sure, the older Batman in DKR is a cynical, calculating fellow that is weighed down by the demons of abandoning his vigilante quest. Added to the excessive actions of his enemies, the reader accepts that Batman must be a little more hard-boiled, and more hardcore, than he ever was before.

Here in this volume Batman, still early in his DKR-world career, is presented just as a really, bitter and twisted, highly obsessed Dirty Harry-style vigilante. For Miller, Batman doesn't like anyone or anything much. Any objective he sets himself is accomplished with ruthless aggression, and by any means necessary. This is the same Batman that would again pop up in later works.

However, where the story disappoints is that the entire project feels a bit too rushed. The finale happens way too quickly. I had to skip back a few pages to make sure I hadn't missed something in the stories climax (I hadn't). And the villain of the piece turns out to be a wet paper bag. Also, there is an almighty faux-pas that occurs right at the start of the book that cannot be easily forgiven by a true Batman fan.

You can now pick up this book rather cheaply. And for 50p at a comic mart, it's quite a lot of fun. It's just I expected, and you probably did too, a lot more.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Quest Starts Stalking The Huntress

And so this Batman Quest is bigger again.

When you are collecting a family of comics, you have to put in a bit of research. Well, I thought I had done enough and then I noticed that there was one character that kept popping in and out of the main comic books, and I had been blatantly ignoring her. It appears that I'm not the only reader either, this is a character that has never achieved any measure of love from the main readership of Batman. This is something I'm having to get to the bottom of when I get this character's books.

Yes, Huntress...

You and I, we are going to get acquainted over the next few months... And I have a feeling that you might be the most retconned character in the history of Batman comics. However, it is safe to say you are an important character to the Gotham City world, which is why you have to be added.

The following books are, therefore, to be added to the The Batman Quest:

Huntress volume 1 (1989)- 19 issues
Huntress volume 2 (1994)- 4 issues
Nightwing and Huntress (1988)- 4 issues
Batman: Spoiler/Huntress: Blunt Trauma (1998) 'Cataclysm' pt.13- 1 issue
Huntress: Cry for Blood (2000)- 6 issues
Huntress: Year One (2008), 6 issues

And I know that there will be more spin-off titles to follow this addition.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The History of an Addict

One of the main reasons I'm embarking on The Batman Quest is that I love to collecting comics in order to complete a titles. As mentioned before, I've collected other titles before to completion, in order to read them.

That said, I'm not really very disciplined in collecting a title. I tend to get sidetracked very easy and I admit to having loads of titles that I am looking to finish, and not all of them are Batman titles either. Some are huge, long running titles while other are newish miniseries. So after nearly two months of doing this Blog, I thought it would only be fair to give you a bit of a background on my Batman Quest.

The Mid-nineties are when I started picking up the foundation blocks of my collection, Batman and otherwise. That's not to say I had loads to start with, but just enough, and the I stopped. I returned to comic collecting with a vengeance at the start of 2007, and have since finished a lot of runs.

I picked up, and finished, 'Hitman' in October 2006, I finished 'Punisher MAX', Peter David's 'Hulk' amongst others and then last summer I finished Gotham Central (which took less than two months to collect from scratch. Even during this time period, I never, ever gave serious thought to building upon the Batman books I'd picked up in my teenage years. After all, I knew that recent Batman titles were easily available (and reasonably) priced in the UK, but I had other collections to have a go at instead.

So what changed this sane approach to collecting comic books? Well partly this was due to the incremental collecting of Batman books throughout this period. It wasn't really focused, and it was happening so that I had something to read on the train home from London. The Batman titles were cheap, fun and I knew that it was always going to be good.

The first moment I felt the need to finish a Batman run was because Greg Burgas wrote that one his Comic Books You Should Own was Batman 515-552, so I felt obliged to see if he was right. This seems like a rewarding challenge, I thought to myself, I already have a number of these books as I picked them up during the 'Foundation' years. And I knew finishing this run would be rather easy. Which it was.

Then I noticed that Burgas recommended the Wagner and Grant 'Tec run as well, and because I loved Wagner/Grant 2000 AD stuff, I just had to get that too (and, again this wasn't too difficult). By which point, back issues of Batman (1940) were being picked up by me as I fell for the Batman 'RIP' switch and bait (and yes, I always knew that Bruce Wayne would die but would get better), and then felt obliged to pick up all of the Morrison's run. And then I noticed something about my Batman collection in relation to the entire comic collection: Because of these bits and pieces I'd picked up over the years, Batman had earned it's own long-box section.

Then it dawned on me that I was not far from finishing a few other Batman titles, and then I started pursuing those missing issues. From there the first Batman series I was able to finish was the 'Batman Chronicles' in January of this year. True, this title was only 23 issues and was quite easy to come across. However, for me, it did feel like quite a big deal.

Soon afterwards, I was able to finish Shadow of the Bat series a couple of weeks after. Shadow was a bit of a long-winded collection. I'm pretty sure I picked up the first couple of issues in Cardiff in the mid-nineties, and was able to bag many more, before my interest in the Bat took the double smashing of a shite Batman film and the interest of a certain super hot babe (hello there, if your reading this!). After this long comic sabbatical and a bit of UK shopping, the outstanding issue was #83, which for some whacky reason was impossible to get my hands on in this country. This was finished as I completed my Bi-Annual Mile High Comic order. When the book turned up, I was well chuffed to get that series completed. This was a proper Batman title I completed.

I think it was after completing these two titles that made me think: What Next? So, I awoke one day to the thought that wouldn't it be cool to pick up all of the B(40) titles from, say, Miller's Year One? But if I did, then I'd have to get the 'Tec titles otherwise some of the crossover stories won't make any sense. What about finishing the crossover storylines that overlap other Batman titles? Maybe I should get those, as well? What about key issues? What about Silver Age? I don't have a Silver Age collection, and maybe I should have? If you are a true comic book collector, you have to have Silver Age books, don't you? What about Golden Age?

And then I thought, what is the answer to all of these questions? It was simple: I will go and get them. All of them. It can't be that hard, can it?!

And then I thought, that'll make an interesting Blog...

Monday, 11 July 2011

On The Bay

When you embark on a humongous, ambitious and downright stupid attempt to collect every single Batman comic, there are times that look at your bank balance and decide to make a list of priorities.

Or to put it another way: You never, ever stop buying a car.

So this month I'm going to have to get as much bat-for-my-pound as possible. And to do this exclusively through the internet. And especially the wondrous place of eBay.

I have bought absolutely loads of stuff from eBay over the years, and most of this stuff has been to fill the holes of other collections and to ease my whims of certain runs by certain creators. This was always done as cheaply possible.

Therefore, The Batman Quest has certain rules as to how to buy comics off eBay. I'm sure anyone who buys comics of The Bay have very similar ones. They are as follows:

1.Anybody charging more than £1.50 in extra P+P (what we quaint British call 'shipping') should be considered expensive. If it is more than £1.50, it better turn up mega quick and in packaging that ought to survive a nuclear explosion.

2.If there is a photo of the product, use it. Sometimes, there are a few things that you can notice: Whether the comic is what is listed. Or, if the comic is either a pence or cent variation. Lastly, whether the Guide Listing stands up to the photo (sometimes you can tell)

3.Yes, I operate a floor limit. There is a limit as to what I will pay for each and every book. And I will walk away when I think the price is too much, after all the book will return (eventually).

4.If I drop big cash, I might even collect the books personally and pay in cash. For obvious reasons.

5.'Buy It Now' is always more expensive than the comic is actually worth. The only time I do this is when I cannot buy the book anywhere else, and if it is only when I am totally desperate to complete a run.

6.I love 'Make An Offer'. Shame that not many sellers want to give you that option.

7.When something looks too good to be true, then chances they are. I always look at all of the small print, if there is any element of misleading
information, I walk. Any problems, I'll ask the seller for more information.

8.Always enquire that if the seller does 'combined shipping'. They usually do, and the seller usually have other goodies that I can buy!

9.If I love using a certain dealer, I tend to return, and will trust spending a lot more in the future.

10.Always eBay in the UK. I have been burnt by an American seller before. It might have been a genuinely lost in the post, but I can't guarantee that. Once bitten, twice shy and all that...

11.If a dealer has shocking feedback, then I'll walk away.

12.If a dealer is unable to string together a coherent sentence. Or cannot spell. Then this means 'kid' and then I walk away.

13.Yes, I do operate a Shitlist, If you burn me, then I will remember you, and will happily avoid you like an Australian media tycoon...

The main thing that annoys me about sellers on Ebay is simply greed. It never ceases to amaze me when you see a seller flogging a newish (say, less than three years) comic book for MORE than he actually paid for it. They don't seem to understand that they now own a Second Hand Comic that has (probably) been read, and it more than likely will never be a classic key! Idiots.

Lets see how I get on this month...

Friday, 8 July 2011

Batman: Year One

One of the cooler things that I have discovered on YouTube is this:

What with the animated Batman Year One movie currently trending around the internet at the moment, I thought the guys who put this thing together ought to get a bit of glory.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Batman Quest gets Bigger

When I started this collection. I knew that it was inevitable that in all of the energy that I was expending looking for certain titles, I would forget that certain Bat-Books existed, and could not be ignored.

Typically, it dawned on me yesterday that The Batman Quest may not be considered finished until I collect the following titles...

Battle for the Cowl: 3 part miniseries
Also including: 3 part Oracle, 3-part Azrael, 2 Gotham City Gazette and 5 character one shots. Total= 16 issues.

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home:
9 Issues

These books are already being found in bargain bins throughout the UK. So, I don't expect to face any trouble picking them up.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Re-Boots, Re-Numbering, Re-Thingy

The 52 No 1 thing that is about to be unleashed onto the scared, nay terrified, UK comic retailers in about a month. There was an Email sent to these poor bastards from DC about the what to expect from, what I here-by describe as the Re-Thingy (simply as no one has a scooby as what will re-numbering really means in continuity stakes). I came across this quote by Senior Vice-President-Sales Bob Wayne on CBR and was immediately pissed off!

“A partial renumbering would not have had the impact we needed to showcase the amazing changes and direction we have planned for the new DC Comics universe of characters,” he writes. “Counting issue numbers is focusing on the past, not the future.”

Pissed off because as a comic collector, interested in buying the back issues of the product that DC has pushed out since 1937, of course I am interested in the past. And that this corporate language bollocks actually insults me as it suggests that the his own product may not have any historical value!

On a purely selfish level, as stated before on this blog, I am glad that they are renumbering the DC Universe. Simply because it has allowed me a finishing point for the Batman Quest. And, yes, I admit I have decided on picking up just one title after the Re-Thingy and that's only because I'm curious to what Morrison's got planned for Action Comics (oh in six issues into this volume, number one thousand will be reached, anyway. Which really leads up to the rant proper...).

That said, as a collector of titles of long-running titles (and I'm sure that this is going to be the same for other comic collectors that love 'focusing on the past') is that there is something inherently cool within the hobby about buying a copy of a comic that has Big numbers. The coolest number in all of comics is number 1,000.

Now, let me back this up. I have quite a lot of 2000ads' (and through it's weekly release schedule it currently sits on #1740), and I actually remember being genuinely excited that a comic that I was patronising was about to get its #1000. I actually cared that this book that I'd picked up since #785 was going to make it to a serious landmark issue. In fact, I felt a bit of pride. Pride, because I felt that partly through my continued support that 2000AD was going to make it to that landmark. There is no doubt that when the book gets near to prog 2000, I'll start caring again a bit too much.

It's like being a long-time supporter of a struggling football team. You see the team year in, year out getting mullered in poring rain. Then occasionally, a great moment like a promotion, or beating a premier league side in a random FA Cup match and with it momentary euphoria hits. And all the irrational emotional involvement that you have with your hobby pays off.

True, I don't have Detective Comics, Batman, or Action Comics on my Pull List. But there will be a lot of comic fans that have carried these titles year in, year out and now find that big number issue are denied them. And especially those Superman fans that now have that the one thousandth issue denied to them, all because they're idiots that 'focus on the past'.

For those that were counting down to number one thousand, I'm really pissed off for you.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Favourites: Rules Of Engagement

What has a cracking Batman story got to do with an enlightened 18th Century Prussian Major-General? Quite a lot actually...

Batman: Rules of Engagement'Rules of Engagement' was the d├ębut story arc in Batman Confidential, which in itself was the replacement for The Legends of the Dark Knight. If anyone really wants to know what the relevance of both of these book titles are in Batman continuity, it is that these are usually stories that take place after Miller's Year One and before the introduction of a Robin. The first story in the new Batman Confidential (published on December 2006) is very much a favourite and regardless how you read it, just great stuff (which if you buy on Trade Paperback you will be thoroughly rewarded!)

From a fanboy perspective, this simple Batman Confidential story attempts to clear up two bits of Batman continuity for the main books. Firstly, it explains where Batman 'gets all of those wonderful toys'. And, secondly, it shows the creation of the Wayne Foundation, and therefore the change from Bruce Wayne, businessman to Bruce Wayne, anthropologist.

'Rules of Engagement' by Andy Diggle, (awesome art by Whilce Portacio and Richard Friend, by-the-way) is a Batman story that reeks of research, thought and commentary about modern day warfare. Andy Diggle must have spent hours reading Jane's Defence and academic journals on war, strategy and intelligence to write this. For me, this story is very much told by a story by a man who reads 'The Guardian', and while absolutely fascinated by revolutionary thinking concepts in modern warfare, he ultimately understands that war, and its consequences aren't very nice. In telling this story I'm convinced that Diggle was very influenced by the man responsible for all of much of the basis of modern military thinking: Carl von Clausewitz in his book 'On War'. In fact, I believe that there is a level where a lot of the story-telling must be explained with this Major-General in mind.

Firstly, let's discuss the central plot: Bruce Wayne meets Lex Luthor meet for the first time as their corporate entities pitching for massive domestic government defence contracts. This is, of course, prologue to Luthor attempting a coup d'etat in the USA. This plot can be broken down into three acts which allow a narrative breakdown of this story. A first act showing the preparation for war, the second act illustrates the rejection of politics to attain a political solution. Concluding with, a the third act, showing actual conflict occurring.

I know your thinking: that this is just a comic book story, and that I may be reading way too much into it. But read the first issue yourself. Read the title of the Batman story again. Read the warlike language contained in almost every dialogue caption. Where words of conflict are not used, words of corporate business appear and eventually they merge into the same stream of thought (expressed by both Wayne and Luthor, therefore allowing the reader to engage with the Arm's Trade debate subtext). Eventually this language turns political, and then is used in the context of preparing for war. The tone of the Defence Pitch at the start of the story is totally relevant for the Prussian Major-General's standpoint that war is the extreme act of political intercourse. And, Diggle knows this as he prepares the Lex Luthor character as a man heading to war.

Indeed, what is truly brilliant amongst the political sparring between Wayne Aerospace, Lexcorp and the U.S. Government; is that behind all of the bravado and mad technological advancements shown throughout the story that there is something more simple at play here. For me, this book, allows a single military history concept to take a central position in the story. It is one very simple concept, that underpins most warfare academic thinking, this is 'Friction of War'. This theory was developed by a Prussian Major-General Carl von Clausewitz, who after fighting in the Napoleon Bonaparte got very introspective about the nature of war, and attempted to write these thoughts and theories down. His book, 'On War' [link] was first published in 1832, and is still being read, and studied, by those at West Point (and believe me, this book is written by a soldier for other soldiers). Von Clausewitz's Friction of war is a theoretical concept that he believes is inevitable within any General's campaign: As he explains

Friction, as we choose to call it, is the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult”.

'Friction', for Von Clausewitz, is the fog of war, it is the grit that build up in engines of tanks, it is the rain that makes mud that bogs down your horses. It is what a General cannot see, cannot account for and ultimately cannot plan for. However it is inevitable regardless of rules of engagement.

So what 'Friction' are we seeing in Rules of Engagement'? Well, for Lex Luthor the resistant element that he simply didn't count upon during his villainous scheme is the appearance of the 'another spandex-clad obsessive sticking his nose where it doesn't belong': Batman. After all, we are told that Luthors been plotting this plan for many years as shown. Indeed, it explains the the plot's first scene. Lex Luthor, in implementing his grand strategy never, ever takes into account that there is another with the means and determination to prevent him attaining his military goal. Indeed when the U.S. Forces attempt to take Area One, they also do not count on Batman turning up. There is no doubt that the 'Friction' in this story is Batman.

Now please remember I think that 'Rules of Engagement' is more than a Batman detective story. I see warfare almost everywhere in 'Rules of Engagement' for it not to be there on purpose. There are scenes using private armies, of corporate espionage resulting in the capture of military secrets. We see command and control situations. The operation of United States troops attempting to take Lex's Area One base. We see lines of communication interrupted on both a military and civilian level. We see the use of propaganda after the completion of the coup d'etat. As the story develops, I think you can draw a parallel between Lex Luthor's ambition to that of, say, Napoleon Bonaparte: Here is a very ambitious man willing to anything to achieve his goal of attaining ultimate power, and that includes using force to attain the goal.

As the story progresses into the final act, I am reminded Carl von Clasusewitz wrote that the “aim of warfare is to disarm the enemy and it is time to show that, at least in theory, this is bound to be so”. And he also wrote that:

“Basically, surprise is a tactical device, simply because in tactics time and space are limited in scale. Therefore in strategy surprise becomes more feasible the closer it occurs to the tactical realm , and more difficult, the more it approaches the higher levels of policy.”

Therefore, I argue, that Batman's strategy at the climax of the concluding confrontation, is to disarm Lex Luthor. And he uses 'Surprise' as a tactic to achieve this goal. Indeed, I strongly believe that this scene and the key components to Batman's involvement throughout 'Rules of Engagement' owe a lot to the work of von Clausewitz that leads me to think that there is no narrative co-incidence at play here.

To complete this assessment of 'Rules of Engagement', I think there is another thing that needs to be noted, and that Diggle successfully tries to reflects this theme of 'Friction' to then-current real world politics. That 'Friction', is always present in real world conflict, regardless how advanced the technology. What was interesting that when this book was published, there was real 'Friction' happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Coalition (especially, the United States forces) were better equipped and technologically more advanced than their enemy. Yet they still had to deal with the 'Friction' created by poorly armed insurgents groups that weren't factored in when the campaign had started (this link was from a few days before the release of Batman Confidential #1, as to illustrate my point), in order to complete their political victory. This Batman story is very much about world politics in 2006.

This is never more noticeable than when Diggle has a robot shouting 'Depleted Uranium' at Batman during the Area One siege. This is not a random phrase. Andy Diggle is hoping that you research the horrible, unforeseen consequences of depleted uranium. That you make your own opinion that whether the inevitable technological advancement of weaponry to prevent future problems of 'Friction' are necessary (this is a link to the most right wing British newspaper's piece on the subject, if you think I'm over-playing this). Especially, when you consider that they might create other problems.

For me, Andy Diggle, is responsible for a Batman story that is in every way as intelligent and thought-provoking as a quality action comic should be. And should be appluaded for doing so.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Quest Wastes It's Time In Manchester

Manchester is one of the biggest cities in the UK: great curries, great people. But, if anything I have leant in this Quest is that it is the worst place I have so far visited in my never ending Batman Quest.

As far as I am aware (and if anyone reads this who knows any better, leave me some feedback!), there is the grand total of two comic book shops in Manchester city centre.

One of those stores is the flagship store of the Forbidden Planet International chain. Usually, I hate FPI stores, with a passion that cannot be measured, but the shopping experience here was strange. Strange, because it was... well, nice. Yes, they sell some back issues. Not many, and they are expensive, and I was able to pick up exactly one issue for the Quest: Detective Comics #866

The other store in Manchester is Travelling Man. My experience with Travelling Man is that they were brave enough to attempt to crack the Bristol market four years ago and ultimately failed. Not because they were crap (hey, my shopping experience there was fairly good- the cashiers actually make eye contact, and even smile!), but that they had to deal with the excellent Forbidden Planet Megastore up the road. Unlike FPI, they actually sell their back issues at a heavily discounted prices (there was the almost impossible to find in nearly two years of looking: a 50p copy of Godland #22= completing that run!!!) Very few Batman universe books were in these bargain boxes sadly, but the ones I picked up did not cost me the earth. Oh well. Some you win, some you lose.

In short, until I get information that refutes this statement, The Batman Quest won't be returning to Manchester unless a Comic Mart or Comic Con hits the city because to me it's useless.