Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Year Two

Batman: Year Two, written by Mike W. Barr, was the first graphic novel I ever bought. I was drawn in by the cover, which depicted a grimacing Batman holstering a pistol.
There's a purity to Batman in Year Two - a pointy-eared optimism. He's due for a rude awakening when he encounters his predecessor - an extremely violent vigilante known as the Reaper.

As in Batman's first encounter with the Mutant Leader, he barely makes it home alive.
Just as Batman had to suit up to face Superman in TDKR, he resorts to desperate measures to take in The Reaper. Since Batman abhors guns, he takes up the only one he owns - the gun which killed his parents.
You may recognize in that flowing cape the style of Todd McFarlane - one of the greatest artists of the era.
Things get complicated when Bruce starts dating a beautiful and idealistic young woman, who just happens to be the Reaper's daughter.
By the climactic battle, Batman has learned how to take the enemy's weapons into his own hands, without becoming him. He is forced to take down his beloved's only family.

In the aftermath, the Dark Knight is left alone to pick up the pieces.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Redeeming Miller's Superman

Superman fans might not feel that The Dark Knight Returns represents the best in our boy in blue. And they'd be right. At first glance, Frank Miller's Superman is the opposite of strong. He's weak, fearful - well, I think the word Frank might use is impotent. The question is, why?

It's not that Superman has gotten selfish. He continues to serve the American people, secretly, as an agent of the United States government. He is still as great a physical threat as ever. And he is willing to risk everything for a people who don't even know he exists, and are too foolish to preserve themselves.

Fans who consider TDKR's Superman to be a weak rendition are missing many of the nuances which make him such a great character in the book. After all, it is Batman who is the most flawed, even if his triumphs are Olympian. Clark, in many ways, is cooler than Bruce, more level headed. He first tries to reason with Batman, before trying to fight him - never suspecting that he might actually lose. And when they do battle, Superman pulls his punches. His goal is to take Batman in alive.

Superman's motivations in TDKR only become clear at the very end of the book, when he happens to overhear a heartbeat. At this point Superman has a choice. He can "out" Batman, or he can leave him alone to carry out his mission secretly. Here's what happens.

In the end, Superman is redeemed - albeit with a couple bruises. His mission is - and always has been - keeping the peace. He is neither tyrant, nor pawn, but simply doing what needs to be done to keep the planet safe. Upon discovering Batman is still alive, Superman's immediate feeling is relief. He is happy to leave Bruce alone, as long as it's kept quiet. Batman understands Superman, and was counting on Clark to do the right thing... and with a wink, Clark proves Batman right.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

O'Halloran, Ma'am...

This is a quick but imaginative scene, which packs a lot of information into very few panels. It starts with a steamy silhouette between an escort and a congressman.
The congressman, under the influence of the escort's mind-control lipstick, ascends to the roof and starts calling for nuclear war, wearing an American flag. Police try to rescue him...
He falls to the ground and is quickly proclaimed street pizza.
Commissioner Yindel is then approached by Batman, disguised as a detective O'Halloran. She tells him what she knows.
As O'Halloran #1 walks away, the commissioner is approached by the real O'Halloran.
The jig is up, and Batman is forced to make a hasty getaway, peeling his mask along the way.