Monthly Archives: November 2014

Holy Reread Batman! – The Long Halloween

Part Three of the Batman Reread! In this, I look back on Batman: The Long Halloween.

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Trick or… Never mind.

The Long Halloween was one of the first ‘official’ sequels to Year One. Written between 1996-1997, the book is by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale. A serial killer, dubbed Holiday, is taking out members of the Falcone and Maroni family, Harvey Dent is trying to shut down the mob, and Batman’s rogue’s gallery is causing no end of trouble. There’s a lot going on and it’s no wonder it takes a year to tell.

Normally, I wait until the end to talk about the art but there’s no way for me to hold off with this book. Tim Sale’s art is gorgeous and one of a kind, and everything he draws is dynamic. Even the scenes that are just talking heads are lovingly illustrated and knock your socks off. His Batman is both heroic and demonic and his cape moves in the spirit of Todd McFarlane. I know the art might not be for everyone, some people prefer the realistic styling of Jim Lee and the like, but it’s Sale’s stylized art that truly makes this book a classic.

Which, upon rereading this, I believe even more strongly than I once did. On my first read, this book felt like a great American novel, with clever dialogue and a mindbending mystery. Now, not so much.

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A whole lot of problems…

Jeph Loeb does a good job with this story but it suffers from his own style. If you read interviews and hear others talk about him, it seems that Loeb likes to write stories without the answers planned out. So, in this book, he’s written a murder mystery without knowing who he’s going to have end up be the killer. When I first read this, I thought the multiple choice answer of the Holiday’s identity was brilliant, because it let me decide who was the real bad guy. Now, I just wish Loeb would have told us, because it seems like everyone was Holiday, which means the character isn’t really important, because it doesn’t really exist.

I also had remembered Harvey Dent and his transformation into Two-Face being more subtle and tragic but on rereading, I was disappointed. It seems like Dent was always an angry and dark character, willing to bend to the rules to see justice. Maybe I’m bringing Christopher Nolan’s White Knight version of the character into the book now, but it does hinder my sympathy for Dent.

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Look familiar?

Okay, one more complaint. Batman fails. I hate that. I hate it when all the work a hero does ends up being fruitless. Remember how Jim Gordon and the others went to a lot of trouble to save the mayor from the Joker’s shooting in The Dark Knight? But then, in the next movie, the same character is killed off by Bane, making pointless all the work the heroes did! I hate stuff like that.

So, when Two-Face kills the mod boss, while Batman is in the room, I’m angry because Batman didn’t save the day. Holiday is never stopped, even though some people end up in jail for the murders, but everyone he wanted to kill is dead now! At the end, the question is asked if Batman and Gordon did the right thing, but looking back, I’m not sure what they did to help!

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She really is awesome in this story.

It really is Tim Sale’s art the saves this for me. I’ll read countless stories of nonsensical plotting as long as a get a parade of Batman’s villains drawn by Sale. And there are plenty of cool moments that Loeb gives us, many of them ending up in The Dark Knight (the burning pile of money, the pact between Dent, Gordon and Batman). Catwoman is written well here and is one of the cooler parts of the story. I also liked how this book shows the switch in Gotham from normal mob crime to Batman’s more colorful super villains. And if you don’t feel bad during the Mother and Father Day chapters, you need your heart checked.

Also worth checking our is the Noir version of the book. Without colors, the lines pop and you can feel the grit this story has. I still prefer Sale’s art with the dynamic colors, especially since the holidays rely on them, but it’s still great to look through.

Up next, Dark Victory!

On Bookcases, Comics and Board Games

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Use the reference puppy to scale the room.

It’s amazing what twenty dollars will do.

A week or so ago, I was in a very productive mood. I had my wife’s car tuned up, got my haircut, when grocery shopping and had earned some points on Shopkick. I also stopped at Target and bought a bookcase for twenty dollars. But that changed everything!

See, I wanted to move my six long boxes of comic books out of our dinning area. They were just sitting there; old, white dirty boxes filled with comics that never get read. But to move them, I had to buy a bookcase because we were using the boxes as shelf space. But, in order to fit all the boxes in my bedroom, I had to shrink the number down.

Anyway, moving the boxes out and putting the new shelves in meant more room in the dinning area, so we moved to the guinea pigs to the corner of that area and moved a bookcase from there to that now free space, spun the table around… Look, how we did it doesn’t matter. The point is, both the living and dinning rooms feel like they have more space.

Shrinking the comic boxes was not easy. I have a lot of single issues in them and I’ve promised myself to never willingly get rid of any X-Men comics, which make up about half of them. I was able, however, to get rid of a box and half, which meant they fit along my side of the bedroom now. Not as many as I wanted to go, but I’ll take what I can get.

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Still in there, but not so much in the way.

Actually, what I can get is some pretty hefty store credit. I took the comics to the Friendly Local Gaming Store we have in town and because of certain series, I got more money back than I expected. And paying bills was the last thing I would want to do with the money I got from selling those single issue pieces of my soul. I get it, it wasn’t very responsible. I’ve moved on, so let us do so here.

Now we talk about board games.

So, the past year I’ve been reading/watching everything on Shut Up and Sit Down and they’ve really turned me on to the modern board game scene. I’m not sure how I missed the beginnings of this (it’s probably due to the fact that when it was starting, I was playing lots of video games and Dungeons and Dragons, and then starting college), but now that I know it’s a thing, I want in. I always thought that Risk was the pinnacle of board games and that Settlers of Catan was the last great new game.

Color me surprised (which I would think is a shade of red) when I find out there are great new games coming out every month. For me, it started when I was at Barnes and Noble, doing some holiday shopping and I wandered over to the board game section of the store. Normally, the prices and my lack of familiarity kept me from staying long, but something caught my eye. It was called Forbidden Island, it came in a tin and it had some gorgeous art of the cover. It was also only fifteen dollars. When I brought it home, Kendra and I had a really fun time playing, it being my first cooperative game as well.

Later, I grabbed the ten dollar game, Love Letter, which has been a hit with us as well. Now, I want them all (I can’t have them all). But I have begun my (our) collection. Kendra and I both agreed to buy the Firefly board game a while back and it was fun, if also long, but I think we’ll have a better time when we play again knowing the rules. After I finished writing my book, we celebrated by buy a new game, this time it was Castles of Burgundy. Two things about that game, besides it being fun. First, it was in Barnes and Noble’s discount section for eighteen dollars, which made it a steal. Second, neither Kendra or I can call it anything but Castles of Ron Burgundy. We just can’t.

I got some birthday money a few months ago, which I used to buy Zombies!!! and Dixit. We haven’t played Dixit yet, since it needs at least three people, but I can’t wait. Coming up with creative descriptions for weird art? Yes, please. Kendra doesn’t want to play Zombies with me, because she’s afraid of the undead. And losing! I also found Carcassonne on sale and that’s a lot of fun.

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Store credit!

Back to the store credit. So, I used my comic book earnings to get some of the higher end and pricey games I’ve been wanting for a while. I picked up Ticket to Ride, which I like and Kendra’s been wanting it for a while. It’s definitely a good introduction game for people who just want to stick with Monopoly or Sorry. I got 7 Wonders, which I can’t wait to try with a full seven people someday, but also because I love building civilization that come with beautiful artwork.

I also bought Letters from Whitechapel, which is a game where when player is Jack the Ripper and the rest of are inspectors trying to catch his secret movements. The other bigger game was Eldritch Horror and even though I don’t love Lovecraft, the game hits a mark for me. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a cooperative game that you usually lose at, or the fact that you’re paranormal investigator’s traveling the world. Maybe it’s the fact that I want to like Lovecraft and this game does that without making me read dry stories that don’t always work. Maybe it’s because the components are so pretty. We may never know.

The last two game I want to mention are microgames. The first is One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which is a hidden roles game like Mafia, but smarter, quicker and with Werewolves. The second is The Resistance: Avalon, which is a Camalot-themed game of hidden roles and mission, where you’re trying to figure out who’s on which team, and who might be Merlin, and who might know who Merlin is but is a spy… it’s great. Both games are three to ten players, so you can guess what I’m bringing to holiday get-togethers now.

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Goodbye closet space!

I’m not buying anymore for a while, or at least until Christmas, but I will be slowing down with them anyway. For one thing, they take up a lot of closet space, which is why I had to rearrange the closet! Also, just because I have the game, that doesn’t mean I have the people to play them. I’ve been using Meetup to find gaming groups, and I’ve been to some and they are fun. Kendra’s going to actually come to one next week. It also showed me where there is swing dancing in Jacksonville, so that’s another thing we’ll be doing soon.

The thing I’m trying to do, by prayer and sheer force of will, is meet people with similar interest. It’s one thing to meet someone and make an acquaintance, it’s another to meet someone who wants to play a game like Eldritch Horror, or watch a Mystery Science Theater episode, or roleplay or anything like that. For a while, I thought it was selfish to want that, since I should be happy with being able to talk to anybody. But I need to game. It’s in my blood. I need to have fun in these specific ways or I start to get bored and depressed. I know life isn’t about fun and games all the time, but I need it regularly or I start to get like Jack Nicholson.

So, hopefully, I’ll know people by name at these game meetups soon. Hopefully, I’ll have people over for game and movie nights, that don’t involve Apples to Apples and Sandra Bullock.

Anyway, the point of the blog is that twenty dollars is a great price for a bookcase.