Friday 23 August 2013

Batman: The Death Of The Family

Written by - Scott Snyder
Pencils - Greg Capullo
Inks - Jonathan Glapion
Colours - FCO Plascencia
Letters - Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt

Hello again! 
The Exegesis has been away for a while, lot's of changes have happened over the last 18 months but now it's back, so let's get into it! 

Okay, let me start by saying, I like David Finch because he's a great artist (he really is), but his writing is dreadful (really dreadful). So at the start of the DC New 52 relaunch I automatically picked up Detective Comics #1, as the previous run by Scott Snyder had been one of the best ever stories published by DC. Now Davd Finch was at the controls and I was instantly unimpressed by where he was taking things... A relaunch, a new beginning, a place to show new readers and old alike some new, original stories featuring new characters. And what do we get? The Joker. AGAIN. And this time he has gone and cut his face off. Who does David Finch think he is? Mark Millar? Give me a break...

But see, it was all a plan, it was a ruse! Scott Snyder had it planned all along from the start. Following that first issue of Detective Finch took things even further down hill, whereas Snyder was churning out his Court Of Owls run. Classic Batman. A story which reminded Bruce of how much his 'family' mean to him and why he needs them. The perfect setup for 'The Death Of The Family'

There have been stories over the years that have suggested reasons as to why the Joker and Batman are still alive, how one can't exist without the other, this story seeks to explain this idea from the perspective of The Joker. This incarnation of the Joker is much more creepy than those of recent times, Snyder explains in a recent interview, "That’s what I love about that take on him that Grant Morrison created, where he’s reborn all the time as a new self, that kind of hyper-self, hyper-sense of identity. For me, it’s a generous way of defining him, because it allows all of us to make up our own takes and have them all be “true.”" A great example of this particular Joker takes place in the Gotham Police Station, the Joker is in the building and in the dark begins to kill police officers whilst taunting Jim Gordon, left helpless and scared. Then the Joker starts to become super weird, he starts to tell of a secret that only Gordon knows about. Where he hides his cigarettes from his wife now that he's 'quit' smoking. They're kept under his bed, where the Joker claims he sometimes lyes at night... That really creeped me out.

Scott Snyder also recently explained why he wrote the story that he did "I can’t believe I get to go to work and write Bruce Wayne every day, so honestly, my big fear was that I won’t get a chance to do it again. I feel like you have to approach characters like the Joker, the Riddler or Batman like, if I only got one chance to write this character, this is the story I would do." Which I can understand, because when it became apparent that it was Snyder's idea to cut the Joker's face off way back in Detective #1, I knew from experience we were in safe hands.

As I've already mentioned, this story is a way to let the Joker express his true feelings about Batman and to let him know why he thinks they both exist. Only, as you would expect, his perspective is pretty twisted. As the story draws to it's conclusion it is revealed what the Joker has been upto over the last year or so. He has taken over Arkham Asylum and has turned it into a castle that he has built for the two of them, which lends a real "Frankenstein" feel to the story, Snyder says "the Joker really believes that Batman is the walking dead, that he lost his spark and his fire because he has this family that makes him an old, slow, weak man. He wants to shock him back to life." In this castle Batman discovers a tapestry that is made up of inmates from Arkham stitched together which is to remind Batman of the 'wonderful times they've spent together'. Although this is completely grotesque it never feels like it's gone too far. It's all about context, a context that has been setup from issue #1 of Detective Comics. This is the Joker confessing his love for the Batman, in his twisted toxin riddled mind he's come to the conclusion that Batman loves Joker, that's why he's never killed him. The Joker sees that Batman's family is holding him back like a weight around his neck, and that it's his job to free him so that they can be together in his 'castle'.

Not only does the Joker resemble 'Leatherface' from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the final showdown in Arkham Asylum also brings to mind the dining room scene; I'd love to know if this was a concious decision by Scott Snyder. Now, my initial reaction to what took place at the dinner table was as it should be, I was shocked like most people. "How could DC let Snyder do this? How can this possibly be resolved?", he played me like a fiddle and I absolutely love that. But then I felt conflicted and a little confused. Is this not the Joker? What the hell? Why would he NOT do it?! But then it occured to me, he's the joker, IT'S A PRACTICAL JOKE. Oh right, I get it, hang on, I thought he was for real though? I thought he wanted to rid Batman of his 'family', why would he spare them? And I'm still a little unclear on this, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

Overall this is certainly on a par with Snyder's last Batman story 'The Black Mirror', although that story felt like it had a little more room to breath whereas this felt like it was very compressed. I read it with all the tie-in books which defintely felt quite bloated (with some exceptions such as Nightwing), so I would say none of the tie-in books are really neccesary they just fill in a couple of gaps. The collection of Death Of The Family issue13 - 17 is released in October and is something I'll definitely be adding to my collection.

Well there it is, the Exegesis is back and I've had a blast writing this one, but now I'm a bit drunk and it's time for bed, thanks for reading!

Saturday 14 January 2012

Sunday 8 January 2012

Detective Comics, No. 322

Written by - Dave Wood
Pencils & cover art by - Sheldon Moldoff
Inks by - Charles Paris

I'd like to start 2012 off with one of the strangest Batman comics I've ever read entitled 'The Bizarre Batman-Genie' from 1963. As well as this I've also been reading 'The Black Casebook' (2009) which contains reprints of 'classic' Batman stories that inspired Grant Morrison's 'Batman R.I.P.' and also features an introduction by the man himself. Here Morrison talks about how when he came to writing a new Batman story he found that many of the ideas he was coming up with had already been done at some point over the past 70 years of Batman's existence. So what Morrison decided to do was to treat this 70 years worth of publication as actual events that occurred to Bruce Wayne over a period of roughly 15 years and approach it from the angle of what kind of psychological effects this might have on a man. Morrison says that this approach, "required me to deal with and recuperate some of the more problematic areas of that long history, in particular the despised "sci-fi Batman" era of the 1950s when the Dark Knight Detective was thrust awkwardly into stories involving other dimensions, time machines, space travel and colourful alien worlds." 'The Bizarre Batman-Genie' isn't included in 'The Black Casebook', but for me is one of the strangest Batman stories I've ever seen.

The plot features a group of criminals who have stolen an ancient lamp and magic powder from somewhere in Europe and have taken it back to the US. There plan involves them throwing the powder over Batman which turns him in to a genie for one hour in which they use him to commit their devious crimes. It's certainly not one of my favourite stories but was worth a read for the novelty value. But it is only from reading Grant Morrison's thoughts on Bruce Wayne's life that give this story, along with many other ridiculous tales, the context in which to understand them. Morrison states that "Batman keeps a 'Black Casebook,' his own version of the X-Files, where all the bizarre, supernatural or logic-defying encounters of his career can be recorded." I like this idea a lot, this idea for me elevates potentially throw-away child's fantasy story ideas into something slightly more believable; something unexplainable and modern.

Saturday 31 December 2011

Top 10 Films of 2011

What a year for films it has been and 2012 looks to be as good if not better with the likes of The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman and The Hobbit to look forward to. There are some films that are missing from the following list because either; a). I didn't get to see them in time but I'm sure would have made it, b). They weren't good enough c). I forgot about them. (yes I know The Adjustment Bureau isn't there but if it was a top 20 it would have been no.11)  But for now I'd like to share my top 10 films of the previous 12 months, let me know what you think!











Thursday 29 December 2011

Top 10 Comic Covers Of 2011

Once again it's that time of the year where I like to look back over the previous 12 months and compile lists of my favourite things. First up is my favourite comic book covers of 2011 (some of them have even entered into my favourite covers of all time).

Action Comics #1 - Rags Morales & Brad Anderson

Severed #3 - Attila Futaki

The Shade #1 - Tony Harris

Swamp Thing #1 - Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn

Animal Man #1 - Travel Foreman

Moon Knight #5 - Alex Maleev

Uncanny X-Force #19 - Rafael Grampa

Daredevil #1 - Paolo Rivera

Batwoman #2 - J.H. Williams III

Detective Comics #880 - Jock

Monday 12 December 2011

Action Comics, No. 434

Written by - Cary Bates
Pencils by - Curt Swan
Inks by - Vince Colletta
Cover by - Nick Cardy

Well, it's been a while (almost 4 months) since my last blog entry, and what a busy 4 months it's been! It's nearly Christmas now and the bad weather is finally here to stay, so what better way to spend these dark cold nights than wrapped up in some classic comics! I absolutely love the image on the front cover of this issue which depicts Superman (not Clark) squirming in a dentists chair as the dentist tugs away at one of Superman's back teeth; my favourite part is the female nurse in the background close to feinting. Some of my all-time favourite covers are from DC's Action Comics. There seemed to be periods where there would be a good run of covers for a few issues and then some not so good; I guess it was all down to the particular team that was involved in the book at the time as the turn-over of talent was fairly quick it seems. 

This is issue 434 of Action Comics from 1974 and the title of the story is 'The Krypton Connection'. The premise of the story is Clark is tricked into eating chocolate that gives him super-toothache. Lois takes him to a new dentist that is handily working out of the building next-door to the office. Once in the chair he is sedated with gas to which he expects no effect but somehow he is knocked out. Lois then notices that the woman working in reception is the same woman who delivered the chocolates to Clark. When confronted, the woman blasts Lois with a 'Memory Extinguisher' and sends her on her way. Whilst sedated Clark hallucinates visions that explain who the dentist and his assistant are; they are Dr. Xadu and his wife, Emdine Ze-Da. They then proceed to brainwash Clark into wanting to destroy the world.

One of the quirkier moments of the comic that I enjoyed was just before Clark ate the chocolate, he finds on his desk a machine gun. He picks up the gun and immediately it starts to glow, then a burst of different colours fill the panel to which Clark exclaims "Great scott!". Just then a guy called Steve Lombard (sports presenter) pops his head around the door and explains that it's a novelty item called a 'Razzle Dazzle Gun' that "shoots out psychedelic streams of light! All it takes to set it off is the body-heat of your hand!". Bizarre!

Monday 22 August 2011

Green Lantern: Willworld

(re-issue cover)

Written by - J.M. DeMatteis
Art by - Seth Fisher

Green Lantern: Willworld was originally published by DC Comics in 2001 and has just recently had a reprinting. Willworld is the story of how a young Hal Jordan came to master the use of his power ring, set in a world created entirely by the imaginations of other Green Lanterns.

The story was originally developed from artwork by Seth Fisher after he pitched ideas with some concept art to Joey Cavaleri; it was decided that the art style would be the starting point for a Hal Jordan story. Seth Fisher stated that, " I wanted a writer that would shrug off some of the spandex clich├ęs that I was worried could limit my art, but still tackle the fantastic. I wanted it to be surreal and yet grounded at the same time.", he also went on to say, "We wanted a book where I could squeeze my imagination for everything it was worth and 'Green Lantern' just seemed to have the most potential that way."

(original cover)

For me, Green Lantern: Willworld, is almost certainly all about the art; it is the driving force behind the story and the characterisation. That's not to say J.M. DeMatteis' writing isn't up to scratch; in fact the writing perfectly compliments the imagery and brings a subtle level of humour that is required to guide the reader along. The world that is created by Seth Fisher is Green Lantern crossed with Alice in Wonderland and Yellow Submarine viewed with a head full of mescaline; a surreal psychedelic playground combined with mind-boggling quantum physics.