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The Death of Long Form Storytelling in Comics

26030872I just finished reading the third volume of Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange series and, so far, so good. Chris Bachalo’s art is a great fit for a Doctor Strange comic and he and Aaron made a good team while working on Wolverine and the X-Men a few years back.

But, what surprises me the most about this Doctor Strange comic is that we’re three volumes in and a fourth is on it’s way in October. While reading the first trade paperback, I assumed Aaron would be around for a least a second volume. After all, most series at least last for twelve issues to get that one-two-punch setup of two single volumes of trade paperback and, then, the later released “definitive” single edition.

Three volumes, though? With a fourth on the way? What’s with this extended storytelling? Who does Aaron think he is? Chris Claremont? (Chris Claremont is a comic book writer who wrote X-Men comics for seventeen years straight. You can get the joke now.)

Of course, I don’t really think of four volumes as an extended run but it’s not far off. Twelve issues seems to be the magic number for most series before they get the reboot and a new first issue. I’m sure that helps sales, as most people would be more willing to pick up a first issue rather than a thirty-second. But, I’ve begun to have setup fatigue.

439383-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_See, with every first or second issue, we need a setup. The writers have to explain why this new series is different than the previous series, even if it’s just one Hulk book from the next. Yes, last year’s Uncanny X-Men was about our heroes on the run in Antarctica, so we needed to reboot the series so we could place our heroes on the run in London. It’s different. And we have to spend forty four pages explaining why it’s different.

With DC Comic’s Rebirth event, it hit me harder than ever before. Wonder WomanThe Lies was fine and entertaining, but I’ve read so many first volumes and origin stories of Wonder Woman that I just couldn’t care anymore. The same thing goes for the new Justice League comic. Instead of a new story, I have to read six more issues of introductory action and be reminded who these characters are again and why Batman chooses to fight crime dressed as bat.

Team book, like the X-Men and Justice League, are the worst for this because each incarnation of the team has to have a reason to exist and a new lineup of heroes. I can’t count how many X-Men comics I’ve read that are just characters walking down halls, welcoming back Iceman for whatever new direction they’re going with. But, solo heroes still get annoying, with constant first issues of Batgirl leaping from buildings, talking about how much she loves being a hero. All reminder, no momentum.

51FM5Cut0PL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_What happens, with this setup fatigue, is I stop caring and I don’t let myself get invested. It’s partly because these stories have little overlap and almost none of them carry over. Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men comes back to mind because that lasted for a while, filling up eight volumes. That’s one heck of a run in these days. But, as soon as the series was over, almost all the work that he was doing with Wolverine as a character was ignored. Series that run for less time are even worse investments. Iron Man is obsessed with rebuilding his company’s name in one series, two months later he couldn’t care less in the reboot. Why should I care for one setup when the other is one the way?

What we lose is a sense of purpose, that these stories matter. Villains no longer have plans, they simply attack because it can fill two issues with action. Subplots are largely ignored. Not to keep singing the praises of Wolverine and the X-Men, but over the course of that series, Jason Aaron was able to tell lots of small stories throughout. There was a time, such as with Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, where you could have Mastermind working in the background for a year and still not reveal is full plan to drive Jean Grey insane.

1157943-av1Maybe superhero comics aren’t going to be that type of story anymore. Brian K. Vaughan rarely writes comics that don’t last ten trade paperbacks. Fables, by Bill Willingham, lasted for twenty two volumes and spin-off titles. Sure, Scott Snyder wrote on the New 52’s Batman for the whole run, but he’s also been writing American Vampire for years.

Times have changed and I don’t mean to sound like I want “the good old days” back (I least hate thinking I sound old). I just want good stories. Comics are episodic with many having no end in sight. But, when we’re constantly starting over, that lack of ending is getting exhausting. It has to do with the fact many comics used to run hundreds of issues, so we just went along for the ride. Imagine going on a road trip for two days and how enjoyable it could be with no traffic and some great music. Now, imagine being on that road trip and the driver keeps stopping the car every hour, turns around and goes back twenty minutes and pick a new route. You have to repeat the music too. Also, I think he keeps slamming on the brakes for no reason. Dad’s are the worst.

All the Books Show: Episode 93 – Wonder Woman

One more week and we’re right on schedule!

This episode we talk about the history of Wonder Woman, her comics and media representations. It’s a geeky episode, but Wonder Woman is cool so it’s all good!

ww1chiangI really did end up loving the Brian Azzarello run of Wonder Woman comics. It started off rocky and the weirdness of all it put me off. I think the problem was, when it was released, it was so different than the other stories being published in the New 52 and I was looking for anything to make sense during that terrible time. But the second volume really won me over and now I think it’s one of the best series they’ve done and my favorite run of the character. You just have to read it like a Vertigo title, or an Elseworld story.

Did we leave your favorite Wonder Woman story out? Favorite episode of the old Justice League cartoon? Let me know!

You can follow us on Soundcloud, Youtube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Wonder Woman – A Review

wwposter5It’s insane to me that Warner Bros. and DC Comics took seventy-five years to make a Wonder Woman movie. In that time, they’ve made movies for Steel, Jonah Hex, Catwoman, Supergirl, Constantine, the Suicide Squad and yes, I chose the bad ones to point out. I mean, they had a Lobo film in the works before they had a final script for their premier heroine.

But, the movie is here, so we can (but probably not for long) move on from that fact. Let’s focus on the film instead.

I had hesitancy about the movie leading up to seeing it. After all, Man of Steel made me rage until I had destroyed all the love in my life. (old blog, please come back to this one). Batman V. Superman was so dumb I just felt bad for it. And though Wonder Woman was a highlight in that movie, anything remotely NOT dumb would have been a relief during that two and a half hours.

But I was pleasantly surprised. For first two thirds of the movie, Wonder Woman is the film I wanted for years. The first third, which takes place in Themyscira, is great and the island itself feels exactly right. The Amazons have a Spartan vibe, without the machismo, and feel like a real society, even if our time with them isn’t that long. The action scenes that take place there have a 300 vibe, but those scenes are done with confidence and not in way that wears our patience.

Steve Trevor, as played by Chris Pine, is likable and charming, but he’s got an edge to him and also comes across as more progressive than his World War I society. The chemistry between him and Gal Gadot is on point and there’s some great interplay between the two early on.

The action is great. I think, like Captain America, we sometimes forget how strong Wonder Woman really is. But, unlike the First Avenger, Wonder Woman’s powers are big league. She can topple buildings, toss trucks and wreck through soldiers as she goes for jog. When her full powers are on display, such as the terrific charge through the front lines that ends the first half of the movie, she really is a full blown super hero.

ww-11802rv21But Wonder Woman is more than just a set of powers and lassos and bracelets. Gal Gadot is, and I don’t want to understate this, fantastic. For years, I thought Wonder Woman would be one of the hardest characters to cast, but I can’t imagine anyone doing the job better than her. There are times when I could of sworn the character walked right out the comics. She’s inspiring, she’s dangerous, she’s funny, smart, naive, she’s stubborn but for the right reasons. When she speaks, you believe her. When she charges into battle, you want to follow her. Gadot embodies the character in such a defining way that it feels iconic before the movie is even over.

wonder-womanAnd now, with all that praise, here comes my critique and my struggle to not spoil anything. And that’s hard, because my problem with the film, is in the third act and might qualify as a twist. For a long time, the movie seems like it’s going one way and it works. Characters are learning lessons, humanity is getting called out for being the worst species to ever walk the earth and it feels right. But, they need a big action scene to end with and after we’ve seen what a tank Wonder Woman is, the stakes have to be raised. The final confrontation is so fantastical and out there, it almost feels like it’s betraying the rest of the excellent movie that came before it. Actually, the excellent animated movie with Keri Russel might have hurt the live action’s take on the confrontation. It’s not a deal breaker, it doesn’t make the movie a bad film, but I feel like a stronger third act could have put this movie up there with Spider-Man 2, X2: X-Men United and Batman Begins.

But, please, don’t take my issues with the finale to indicate I don’t like the movie. It was great, should be seen and I look forward to watching it again. To meet expectations seventy-five years in the making is a daunting task, but Patty Jenkins was up to the challenge and delivered. This was the first live action DC movie I loved since the Dark Knight way back in 2008.



logan_1_origI’ve talked a lot about the X-Men and their movies on this blog that, even though I’m behind, I’d be remiss not to talk about Logan. And since it’s now out in stores, everyone can watch the movie. Including me. Forever.

Logan broke me. I’ve seen movies that made me sad, that got me emotional but few have hit me so hard that I had to bring it up in therapy. Yes, Logan is an action movie, full of blood and violence and adamantium claws doing what adamantium claws do. But, it’s also a powerful piece of legacy, aging, family and your place in the world, no matter how bloody.

And all of that is well done and can effect you alone. Normally, it would get me to that emotional level as well. But the reason Logan got me was something I’m not sure the movie should be blamed for. The end of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and the ultimate fate of the character in the movie felt like a long, heavy book closing on my life and I was not prepared to deal with those emotions.

The first X-Men movie came out in 2000 and I was 14 at the time. It changed my life in pop culture related ways, getting me into comics and making me a fan of the characters and the Marvel universe. But, as a weird, unpopular and messed up teenager, the X-Men gave me a place that I wanted to go and live, gave me characters that I wouldn’t to be friends with and take me in like a family. Not since Animorphs had I found a world and characters that felt so real that I could almost see the door.

And Hugh Jackman was there from the start and he’s stayed for seventeen years. As my life has gone on and changed, as I’ve dropped out of school and graduated college and got married and traveled around and said goodbye to friends and family, this has been a constant. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has been one thing, one of the very few things, that hasn’t changed, that I could expect on a regular basis. And while he’s always teased retiring from the role, it always seemed like something vague, something I wouldn’t really see.

And I didn’t think watching his last performance would be as emotional for me. I mean, it’s just a character. I can read Wolverine adventures in the comics, rewatch the movies, there’s plenty out there. But it dawned on me while watching Logan that the character, as played by Jackman, is one of the most consistent father figures I’ve ever had. The character has been something I could trust was going to be there. And yes, it’s also because I love the character and Jackman’s portrayal of him and I don’t want it to end.

But like Logan in the film, I had to face how much older I am than when this all started. I had to except that I may someday die very far from home, that the world won’t be the same as when I was younger. That family and loved ones leave. There was a lot I wasn’t expecting to come to the surface.

I’m not 14 anymore, free from the oppressive figures that had been in my life. I’m not the 17 I was when the second movie came out and I was a dropout with no direction. Nor am I the 21 that I was when the third movie came out and I was about to start college. It goes on and I’m not that age anymore.

I’m still not sure I’m explaining this well enough. I don’t want the character to end? Is that what I’m trying to say? This run is over and it’s been so integral in my life there’s an empty space now. It’s its bigger than I thought it would be. I know how this sounds, but it’s like I lost a friend, or family. Because Logan wasn’t just an end for Hugh Jackman’s role, but it has a sense of finality for the X-Men series as well.

And I wasn’t ready.

All the Books Show Episode 79 – The Medium

So, what are we talking about this week? Graphic novels! Now, every week, in our Bookmark segment, Nic and I always have at least one graphic novel we’ve just read and talk about for a bit, but this week, we really focus on this medium.

The idea of this episode is to suggest graphic novels for those who don’t like superheroes, or maybe even graphic novels in general. If you think superheroes are silly and not worth your time, that’s great! Stay away from Spider-Man comics. But if you think that genre is all that makes up the world of graphic novels and the art form, get ready for a wild ride!

We talk Sandman, Usagi Yojimbo, Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, Saga, Paper Girls, Transmetropolitan, Fables, Ex Machina (actually, a lot of Brian K. Vaughan) and a lot more. It’s just another topic that I’ve been training my whole life for. If you want more from me on this, I wrote a blog a while ago about this very subject! Find it here.

We also talk book news and other events, including NBC’s list of books to read during Black History Month.

So, let us know what you think. Did we leave your favorite graphics out? Did this not win you over AT ALL. What else should we talk about?

You can follow us on Soundcloud, Youtube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Batman and Robin Volume 6 – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Batman and RobinThis is the first time I’ve read this title and actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because Damian is only seen as a corpse, which means he’s silent. I think a big part of it is that I’ve always liked globe-trotting Batman tales, and I like the guest stars we have in this volume. What comes across as a pleasant surprise, though it shouldn’t, is that Batman isn’t a jerk to everyone he meets. Sure, he’s his normal Batman-self when it comes to people telling him what to do, but he almost seems cordial when talking to Aquaman or Frankenstein. The latter is just fun to see any day.

Ra’s is up to his old tricks again, which is fine, but I wish he would go back to doing some big villain plotting again and give us a break from the Lazarus Pits for a while. Batman is out to find the bodies of his son, Damian and his ex-girlfriend/villain Talia. He’s focused, as he is wont to be, but it’s not a focused that makes him insufferable. He’s downright relatable.

The final issue, with Batman sneaking into the Justice League Watchtower and going to a big, bad place is fun and it was nice to see him to so without coming across better than all heroes on Earth. For once, while reading this book, I want the next volume. And maybe I’ll go back to the books I skipped. Am I just a sucker for fun art? Maybe, but I think Peter Tomasi actually has stepped up his game.

Gotham Academy Volume 1 – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gotham Academy I’m all over the place with this book. It’s fun, moody and has a much-needed playful tone that Gotham City lacks. On the other hand, there seems like some missed opportunities and undefined character work.

Olive Silverlock is the best part of this book because she legitimately comes across as a worldly teen. She has a great design, a cool back story and I’d like to follow her story more. I hope DC doesn’t screw this up and make her into a Justice League sidekick that gets killed someday.

Gotham Academy is an interesting place. Looking right at home in Gotham city, it feels old and not the best place for kids to be sleeping. It almost comes across as a refurbished Arkham Asylum. Sure, it’s a prep school, but it’s extra creepy when we get inside the walls.

The story itself is akin to Harry Potter and might just appeal to the same crowd. Powers aren’t really on display here, but you get some weirdness anyway. There’s a few other characters, plus Gotham’s own Batman, that are likable, but not all the characters shine. Olive’s ex-boyfriend comes across as empty and more of a plot device than a person, and the faculty are missed opportunities.

Not the Ridller

Not the Ridller

Which is where my gripes come into play. Sure, we should have new characters and histories, but I wanted some Bat-related elements. When I read the first page, I thought the headmaster was Ra’s al Ghul and then I was swiftly corrected. But it keeps happening! The librarian looks like the Riddler but he isn’t and all I could think was wouldn’t it be cool if this was some sort of school where the Riddler was your librarian, where the Scarecrow is the school counselor and where wood shop is taught by the Ventriloquist. Obviously, it would be a completely different book, but I think it would have done it for me.

Either way, this is an interesting new title for the DC universe and it’s especially welcomed in Gotham City. We already added it to the library’s collection and I’ll be interested to see how well it does with our patrons, teens especially.

On Bookcases, Comics and Board Games


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.


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.


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.


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.

Holy Reread Batman! – Quick Looks Part One

Part Three of the Batman Reread! In this, Eric looks back at the comics that take place during or between The Man Who Laughs and The Long Halloween.

Batman_Lovers_and_Madmen_HCBatman: Lovers and Madmen
Now this is interesting. Michael Green writes a story that, for all intents and purposes, can’t be considered canon, since it contradicts The Man Who Laughs and The Killing Joke. Both of those are already considered the origin of the Joker. But here’s the thing; to me, this is a better tale. This story puts front and center the idea that Batman is responsible for the Joker, yet he’s only part to blame.

The character on stage is Jack, a skilled hitman who sees no point in life. He’s too good at what he does and keeps hoping a cop will get lucky and take him out. It’s when he sees Batman, all dressed up and out of this world, that Jack finds a reason to live. Batman is ridiculous and it’s nothing Jack has ever seen.

Over the course of the book, Batman has a few chances to stop the actions that are going to turn this guy into his worst enemy, but he doesn’t. Batman is still new to the game and even sets Jack up to get beat by some mobsters. The Joker is given life because Batman exists. Without him, the man called Jack might have just lived out his boring life and died on the job.

It’s well told and does such a better job at examining the Batman/Joker relationship, that I wish this was the official story, instead of the mediocre The Man Who Laughs or the overrated The Killing Joke.

Batman_Dead_to_RightsBatman: Dead to Rights
Taking place after the events of The Man Who Laughs (or whatever is the first Joker appearance), Dead to Rights, written by Andrew Kreisberg, shows what happened the first time Batman dropped off one of his rogues at the police station. The Joker is on display here, as the first real super villain Gotham had and we get to witness how unprepared the cops are for this type of criminal. The book shows how handling these characters wasn’t always second nature to Gotham and how someone like the Joker, Riddler or Scarecrow can change the game forever. It’s a little goofy at times (because the Joker is full murder clown in this one) but the story is a smart one and worth looking at for an early history of the Bat-world.

250px-Baty2Batman: Year Two
A direct sequel to Year One and it does not hold up. Mike W. Barr’s writing is not up to par but it is nice to see early Todd McFarlane art in the later issues. Due to that, however, even though this book was written in 1987, it reads and looks like a early nineties comic for all the wrong reasons. Bloody violence, overwrought religious undertones, giant capes taking over the page, it’s a trip.

I’ve heard people bring up the similarities  between this comic and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm but I don’t know if I would have found the comparisons otherwise. Maybe because they’re early Batman, maybe because the villains are reaper-themed characters, but that’s were the likeness end. This Reaper is dull, killing just because it was cool to have a villain kill with a scythe, all while wearing one ugly costume. Throw in some terrible Joe Chill (Bruce’s parent’s killer) and Batman using a gun (for very little reason) and you have a comic that you’re not sad to see leave canon.

1279121-92219_20070502143807_largeBatman: Snow
By the team of Dan Curtis Johnson, J.H. Williams III, Seth Fisher, this story is right at the end of Batman’s solo career. He tries to form a team out of misfits, who would act more like an anti-crime cell than masked heroes. While that’s going on, Batman also has his first encounter with Mr. Freeze, which is also his first fight against someone with ‘superpowers’.

Mr. Freeze’s roll is largely forgettable, borrowing from the animated episode “Heart of Ice” and not adding anything very interesting to it. The team building is more unique because it flies in the face of how Batman wants to work; alone. But he builds them unlike a team of heroes and more like operatives. When it all falls apart, Batman decides that working with other people isn’t the problem, he just needs to go about it in a different way. And so he happens to see the Flying Graysons are in town, so…

Next week, we read Batman: The Long Halloween!

Holy Reread Batman! – The Man Who Laughs

Part Two of the Batman Reread! In this, Eric and his wife, Kendra, look back on Batman: The Man Who Laughs.


You’re the only one laughing, buddy!

Eric: Batman: The Man Who Laughs was written by Ed Brubaker with art by Doug Mahnke and released as a one shot graphic novel in 2005. It’s reads as a direct sequel to Year One, dealing with Batman’s first encounter with the Joker.

I’m trying to remember what I thought when I first read this book way back when. In all honesty, I don’t think it left too much of an impact, it was just another book I grabbed at the Comic Book Palace (Haverhill, Ma). Sure, it was a little longer, being a graphic novel, but it read like any other one shot. At the time, I might have been interested in the Joker’s origin, but time has tempered that desire.

Kendra: I really liked this one. However, I wasn’t prepared for how dark it was. I have been watching a lot of the Batman animated series with Eric and though the Joker is bad news, we know Batman’s got it under control. Here, however, he was definitely a force to be reckoned with. In Gotham’s defense, they had never dealt with The Joker before so they truly had no idea what to expect.

Even though Batman: The Man Who Laughs was written 18 years after Year One, it is still written in the same style. We get to hear the entire story by going back and forth between Batman and Gordon’s points of view. Also, it seems to take place not long after Year One. Gordon is captain but still not commissioner, and he fills us in on what Batman has been up to since showing up on the scene. It was cool to read them back to back so it seems like a continuous story.

The reason Gordon is here.

The reason Gordon is here.

Eric: The problem with being a sequel to Year One is that the book just isn’t as good. I don’t mean it should or could be at Year One’s level, but it’s not as good as a story for what it’s doing. It gets from point A to point B, but without any real pathos or style. Considering this is the first battle between two legendary characters, you would expect to see something memorable.

Joker kills some people. Batman thinks maybe the Joker was the Red Hood.  Joker is going to poison Gotham’s water supply. Batman stops him. The end.

It’s not very compelling. Jim Gordon is in it, narrating like he did Year One. The problem is that Gordon doesn’t do anything besides serving as exposition. Where his story was just as important as Batman’s in Miller’s tale, here Gordon is used because Year One used him. He explains what’s happening, gives us some plot and reaction to the Joker’s crimes, but he’s basically useless.


Pretty gruesome stuff, Joker!

Kendra: Like I said before, this is really dark which is not usually my style but it worked. Some of the pictures were hard to look at. While reading this I realized that I was seeing a side of the Joker I had not seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The Joker’s poisonous laughing gas seems to be an integral part of the character in the comics and animated series, but they left it completely out of the movie. I wish Nolan had used this in his film. I think maybe they didn’t use it because in Batman Begins, the Scarecrow tried to poison the water system. Still, Joker loses some of his personality when all he’s doing is planting bombs everywhere.

Eric: The parts that work for me in this book are small. Seeing the victims of Joker’s experiments as he tries to perfect his toxin is creepy, if not overly grotesque. Batman may feel responsible for the Joker and he’s willing to make some hard choices to stop the clown’s plans. If this is canon, I suppose it gives us the most solid look at the Joker’s origin, but we might have been better off not knowing.

Mahnke’s art is solid, but too sketchy for my taste. Realism is nice, but Year One had that and wasn’t ever ugly. His Bruce Wayne looks older than Gordon at times. The Joker gets the benefits here, as he does look like a scary clown, but it’s still done is a way that tries to remind us that this grounded. Depending on your taste for such things, your mileage might vary with Mahnke’s art style.


The art is good, but not amazing. But maybe you’ll disagree!

Kendra: The only other problem I had with it was there was no big fight at the end. Batman just blew up what Joker needed and that was it. He did it in the nick of time but it still seemed too easy. I liked seeing Batman’s struggle with whether or not to kill the Joker. I did like being reassured that Batman is truly out for justice and that he’s not a killer (How ‘bout that Man of Steel)! Overall I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. A must read for any true Batman fan. Just be prepared to see the Jokers most evil side.

Eric: Kendra’s review makes mine sound harsh. Batman: The Man Who Laughs is still a solid comic book, telling a story as well as it can. It was also a sequel written twenty years later from the first part. But it doesn’t do anything more, or say anything about the relationship between the Joker and Batman/Gordon/Gotham.

Next week is our first recap week. I’ll be flying solo as I look at other stories set between Batman: The Man Who Laughs and Batman: The Long Halloween. This won’t be a ‘reread’ because I’m just working off of memory, but some (all) of these tales are still worth checking out. If you want to check them out before then, here’s the list;

Batman: Year Two
Batman: Lovers and Madmen
Batman: Dead to Rights
Batman: Snow

See you next week!