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.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Goddamn Fixer...

Frank Miller's 'Holy Terror', as absolutely everybody who has even a passing interest in comics, was originally conceived to be a part of Miller's Batman.

Trouble was Miller's Goddamn Batman got a little bit too blood thirsty. Okay, murderous. And totally way too psychotic to be Batman. So 'The Fixer' was born... and 'Holy Terror' was able to be finished as Miller had intended.

Cleverly, though, Miller knows that you that. And almost rubs your nose in it. Female jewel thieves that like to dress up as cats, who'd have thought?! And when he's got that out of the way. He then does the comic equivalent of taking a sawn-off shotgun and firing it at 120 pages of paper.

The Batman Quest really loves this book. Which was a surprise. As I had convinced myself I probably wouldn't. And debated long and hard whether I should hit the 'BUY' button on Amazon. Why did I decide to buy this book. I reasoned, in the end... Frank Miller, The Batman story that isn't. Oh why not?

It's angry. Really Angry. It's response is to be nasty. Really Nasty.

Politics, and not Miller's politics, are all over the book. For me, this is a classic 'What If...' storyline that takes a real world issue and then places it into the world of the 1990's anti-hero (a genre Miller is partly responsible for creating). My interpretation of this book is that Miller looks at what happened in ten years of political action/reaction in America since 9-11, and then compresses it into 120 pages of quality comics. In short, we have here is a superheroes political commentary on the War On Terror.

You may not like what is being said within, the finger pointing at Saudi Arabia, at Islam. At the Palestinian/Israeli situation. Or even the link between an Irishman being involved with Al Queda. Miller also throws in American Imperialism into this piece ('Empire City', with it's welcoming 'Blind Justice' symbolic statue looking out at the world, c'mon!). By taking a scattergun approach to a massive subject, is trying to cause Us, the reader, to react. And by using the different captions, different cameos, different colours, different images, different set-pieces, he ought to succeed (and by looking at the reviews throughout the internet, he does succeed). This is socio-political thinking, by one of the greatest comic book creators, who is able to say and express whatever he wants to say and does it by not saying anything overtly.

For those who're are more frustrated by the sparse artwork over the pages, and the way that book's captions read (sometimes top down, sometimes from left to right). Guys, I think Miller has designed the book for you to be frustrated with it!

This is the same reason as to why he doesn't hide the 'The Goddamn Bat'. Miller wants you frustrated and engaging with the work (indeed, comparing it to Frank Miller's Batman), before the terrorist attack. Then he knows that you'll be still reading it, right to the end.

The genius is that 'Holy Terror' is supposed to be, and designed to be, divisive. It's designed to provoke debate. Because that's exactly what any major, shattering event (whether it be economic, man-made, or natural) does to an educated populations politics. It makes you think. And helps create your own opinion. It helps shape your own politics.

And to be truthful here, if Batman had been 'The Fixer', I think my interpretation of the book would have been lost. This story, and 'The Fixers' actions would have been very much against those practiced by what my understanding as to how Batman operates. Also, I feel if this was a true 'Goddamn Batman' book, I feel that Miller's central message would have been diluted.

On top of all of this, the book looks really cool sat next to a copy of '300'. Which let's face it looks so out of place with the rest of trades...

'Holy Terror' is awesome. It's simply recommended by me. Buy It. And then get Angry.

Friday, 4 November 2011

When Batman had to fight... Captain America!

In my home town there is a place where I can buy some back issues. It's totally a sideline, and is blatantly an opportunity to off-load a large amount of ex-Diamond stock. Or, it's the excess of a collection that the proprietor, has acquired. It's very late nineties, and there is a lot of what I consider to be... Throne Reading.

You know what I mean, comics that occupy that personal 5 minutes behind a locked door. Comics that you don;t feel too guilty about reading in such a situation...

There's an awful lot of nineties Marvel for sale here which is fine. Occasionally, I'll come across a gem or a complete miniseries, which will convince me to continue to pop my head in and wade through the old stuff that I have flicked through a million times before. And such an occasion happened yesterday when I picked up a NM collection of the 1993 release 'DC versus Marvel'.

Now I have a (hatred is a bit strong) dis-like for the use of the Batman to be used in DC Universe. It's not that I don't think that Batman, as an icon, shouldn't be utilised as a pivotal figure in a massive promotional crossover. Nor is it that I give a scooby that the reality of a normal bloke dressed up as a giant Bat fighting alongside and against Gods, Monsters, Aliens and Time Machines being particularly far fetched. Nope, it's because I'm lazy.

I'm lazy because I couldn't give a monkeys about the JLA relationship that Batman has. I don't care about his interaction with other DC superheroes. I don't want to involve my life knowing about the history of, say, The Green Arrow. And what the history is between Batman and the Martian Manhunter. Add to that, there's usually a character whom I don't know and couldn't care less in finding more about them. I look and see a Plastic Man in these books: and I think, balls to it!

Maybe it's the writing and the interpretation. Occasionally, these team books get it really spot on (Morrison's interpretation in JLA was pretty clever). Sadly though, usually Batman stands around looking pointless (like in an issue of Alan Moore's 'Swamp Thing'). Or worst still is when Batman is more filled out and the writer handling it gets it spectacularly wrong. For example the cameo of the Batman in the earlier issues of James Robinson's 'Starman', where the Bat broods, and only exists in the storyline in order for Robinson to lecture about his ushering a new breed of superhero. In short, these books aren't ABOUT Batman, he's just in them.

Seriously, I take most books that utilise Batman as a supporting character badly and I avoid them like the plague. Which is why I don't consider these books as being necessary to complete the Quest. And I'm not the only one, according to Grant Morrison in his 'SuperGods' book, Denny O'Neill felt pretty much the same as me. Batman works best in Gotham City. Usually. Why did I buy this miniseries, you may ask? Because it was very, very cheap.

DC versus Marvel is a strange one. I have no idea why either company did it. Oh, I suppose Ca$h had a lot to do with it. Guaranteed Sales; funny books is a serious industry that works on bottom lines. Even the writers that wrote this thing, even admit that their poor plot device is incredibly ropey, and it's best that the reader not to think too hard here! That this plot device exists primarily to ensure that the big guys fight each other very quickly and efficiently.

While there is a few cool setpieces involving our Caped Crusader (especially with Bullseye) the fight with Captain America is so bad as to not be funny. An entire four issue miniseries between this fight is reduced to a hand full of pages. For those who don't know the fight takes place in the sewers.

Perfect throne reading, then?

As Stan Lee might say, 'nuff said'.