Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why Mark Waid Is Awesome

"My first allegiance as a writer is to the story. Second allegiance, if not my characters, is to the integrity of the characters I didn't invent. Allegiance to the paying audience is the Road to Hell. "Fan Service" is the express lane. While I agree it's not good business to piss off your audience to such a point where you'll drive them away, "good business" is the last thing I should be thinking about when I'm actually writing. Writing "what the audience wants" or "what will please the audience" is the domain of the hack. A writer stands or falls by the integrity of his work. Everything else is secondary."
- Mark Waid, EiC Boom! Studios


I'm sure I'll have something written up about all of these shenanigans that are going on on the Interwebs sometime soon, but for now, just... revel. Revel in Mark Waid.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fight Klub

As VS slows down drastically, I've been looking at other CCGs. There's something zen-like, meditative, to me about deck construction and gameplay of many of these games, and so I'm on the look out for the next one.

One that caught my eye has been Fight Klub, Decipher's newest game. Featuring head-to-head matches with characters from film and television, Fight Klub looks cheesetastic, and the gameplay looks to be relatively solid. It's always hard to tell if a game like this will take off, especially a niche one like FK, but I definitely wish them all the best, and I'll be giving the game a shot.

You can reach the FK site at www.decipher.com - and if you want to get in, say seventhsoldier sent you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Comics Can Be Great

A lot of people have talked a lot of smack about Batwoman. Why? Because Batwoman has had very, very little definition as a character, especially when held up next to the extraordinarily well-rounded Renee Montoya - already one of the best characters in comics, Renee has been getting better and better under the pen of Greg Rucka.

Batwoman, however, has had precious little in the means of characters, other than 'lesbian who had a thing with Renee once', and this has caused a little backlash against her as a 'token' character. With Batman gone, however, a spot has opened up in Detective Comics for some of the supporting characters, and Greg Rucka is using this to, finally, flesh out Batwoman.

And you know what? It looks awesome. Credit JH Williams III, one of the most creative, fascinating talents in the industry. Credit Rucka for remembering that, as scary as the Bats should be, they are ultimately about peace, not vengeance, about saving people, not about punishing them.

Here's to hoping Kate Kane's segment works out well here. It certainly looks promising!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Weekday Update III

Ah, once more, he returns.

Well, with the death of VS, I find myself with a little free money and a lot less to write about on the blog. Marvel and DC seem to be in a bit of a dry spot for me in terms of 'things that I'm interested in and can afford' which means they've sort of doubly hit a dead spot in the area of 'things that I'm interested in that I can write about extensively or at least every now and then'. Of course, with the news that Greg Rucka and James Robinson will be collaborating on the new Superman: The World of New Krypton mini, that might be changing, because Greg Rucka is one of the better talents in comics today, and while I haven't read anything from Robinson outside of Starman, Starman happens to be a triumph of comics publishing, and thus I'm excited to read a little more from him.

But, hey, expectations aren't high.

Again, on a personal note, 'I Am Very Important' was rejected again, this time by the fine folks at Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, while 'Over the Hill' is out for consideration (but is not particularly strong as-is, and so will and should be rejected). I'm still working on two separate short stories, but I've found myself rather slammed this semester for time and inspiration, and so they are progressing slower than I might like.

Coming up this month? One or two more 'Best Books You Aren't Reading', probably some write-ups on TV that's worth watching right now, and more existential flailing to figure out what the hell it is exactly that I want this blog for.

Wish me luck, and enjoy your week!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

VS News

Well, it's official.

It comes as no surprise to any of us, I suppose - VS is gone. That said, I don't believe that I was the only one holding out and hoping that we'd catch a break. I don't pretend to know what it was exactly that tipped the scale, but I am nonetheless rather remarkably sad at the passing of what turned out to be one of my favorite pastimes of... well, of this particular decade.

To those fans of the game, I hope you don't regret the money and passion you poured into the game. I don't. I fully intend to keep my cards - and I fully intend to keep playing the game, whenever possible. I'll teach friends the game, and if I ever have kids, chances are pretty good that I'll teach them, too.

For now, however, we have become an entirely online community. With no more hobby leagues and no more official sets, where we go from here is entirely up in the air - will we fade away, forgotten? I hope not.

To that end, I'd remind everyone to try and stay active in the blogs and forums, and to be on the lookout for fanmade sets to be released for Magic Workstation, a platform that allows free online play of VS. At least one fanmade set it coming up in the near future, based on DC's recent Final Crisis, and with hope, there will be more to come.

Thanks to Ben Seck, Billy Zonos and others, who kept giving us quality cards and probably kept the game alive long past when anyone else would've expected it.

VS is Dead - long live VS?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Watchmen News

To give a little history on the Watchmen setting (I have no idea if this is actually in the movie itself), a fake newscast has been released celebrating ten years of Doctor Manhattan.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Season

So, the nominations are up for this year's Oscars, and like many years, they seem to reward careful mediocrity over stunning execution, critical/popular acclaim, or... uh... any other category you could base such things on. I loved The Dark Knight, and I was truly disappointed by the lack of Oscar nods it got, but the real crime? Wall*E, one of the most daring films of past year and perhaps the best romance of the past five, is left out of a Best Picture nod in favor of blatant Oscar-bait like Benjamin Button.
Is Benjamin Button a bad movie? Of course not. It's well-crafted, heartfelt and interesting. But it never once reached the highs of Wall*E.

Feel free to chime in with the actors, actresses, and films you feel got snubbed this year!

The List Of Nominations

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Batman R.I.P. pt 2

Spoilers of course.

From the astonishing Pinderpanda.

What does it mean?
Note: Batman RIP is polysemic, ambiguous, elliptical and all those other things that're great for literature and troublesome for bald 'fact files' like this. The section that follows therefore cannot aim to be as 'definitive' as does the rest of the guide, but can only aim to be plausibly interpretive.

What do the red skies mean?

Red skies appear on a number of occasions throughout Morrison's Batman RIP.

In the opening 'flash forward' sequence to events six months after the main storyline, over the skies of contemporary Gotham as Batman pursues 'The Green Vulture', during the sunset Honor Jackson shares with Bruce, and during Bruce's subsequent transformation into the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

Red skies have a particular meaning in DCU-lore. They were first seen during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, most notoriously in what became known as "Red Sky Crossovers" - issues marketed as Crisis tie-ins which had little connection to the storyline other than that particular colouring choice.

They are now a familiar omen of disaster. As DCU#0 puts it, "When the Multiverse is on the verge of destruction, when the skies drip red as the barriers between parallel universes bleed... When Earth's greatest heroes rise up together, willing to sacrifice everything they have in defense of all they hold dear... That war is called a Crisis."

2006's Ion maxiseries eventually revealled that the reason for this is that the weakening of the walls between universes during times of Crisis allows for a glimpse of 'the Bleed', an arterial channel between realities first introduced in Warren Ellis's Stormwatch run which went on to become a major part of the cosmologies of both Wildstorm and Final Crisis.

The association of red skies with Crises raises the question of RIP's association with Final Crisis. Addressing this in an interview Morrison says, "it could be the start of it, because those red skies have been seeping in for a while, but it's certainly not happening at the same time as Final Crisis #1. It could be happening a week before or something, but I haven't exactly specified it." (IGN, August 2008 ). So the red skies should be seen as signs that the Final Crisis was immanent, rather than that it was underway. This fits the sequence of events in the story.

This leaves the red skies in the six-months-later 'flash forward' sequences however...

"That's actually even more in the future than Battle for the Cowl," says Tony Daniel, "[That] would, hypothetically, appear at the very end of it" (Daniel, Newsarama, December 2008).

This places them well after the conclusion of Final Crisis, and would seem to suggest that on that occasion a red sky was simply a red sky.

Red also has a significance (or at least a significant lack of significance) in the red and black pattern the Joker is making throughout the story. The red skies also serve as visual references to this.

How exactly did the Joker talk with his tounge sliced in half?

In Batman #680 the Joker reveals that he knows Doctor Hurt's true identity by mutilating himself to display a serpent's tongue. It has troubled many readers that he appears capable of comprehensible speech after doing so.

It is however entirely possible that the Joker wasn't capable of comprehensible speech before doing so, and the tongue slicing merely serves to make this explicit.

The Joker was shot in the face in Batman #655 and, when he reappeared in #663 had undergone facial reconstruction surgery leaving him incapable of producing any sounds except "a subhuman paste of of slobbery vowels and clicking consonants." The prose story in that issue makes it very clear that, while the Joker thinks he's talking, all that's coming out is "mangled phonetics and toxic intent."

When this version of the Joker reappears in DCU#0, Tony Daniel draws him with retracted lips which would be unable to manufacture any rounded vowels or labial/labio-dental consonants. Daniel is careful never to actually show him speaking.

It seems very likely that the Joker we see in RIP is talking in the same "subhuman paste" and that his speech balloons (coloured green to distinguish them from conventional dialogue) contain the words he's trying to say rather than the actual noises coming out of his mouth.

Careful reading of the arc shows that nobody, from the Arkham psychiatrist, to the Club of Villains to the members of the Black Glove, show any sign of understanding him before or after the tongue-slicing. They respond only to the fact that he has spoken or to actions that he's taken rather than to the content of anything that he has said. There's no evidence that any characters with whom he converses in Batman RIP can makes heads or tails of what he's saying.

There's one exception to this.

The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh has an extended and two-sided conversation with the Joker, and is able to fully understand him both before and after the tongue-slicing.

But then, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh also has two-sided conversations with gargoyles.

Batman typically works by gathering evidence and consciously interpreting it. In RIP we're shown that as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh this process is unconscious. Whereas normally he'd read the city and deduce what the clues were telling him, in this state of mind he experiences this as direct linguistic information; "Shh! The city's talking" (Batman #679).

It follows then that he'd also be the only one able to converse with the Joker. Just as he interpreted the city's clues and experienced them as talking gargoyles, he'd be able to read the Joker's body language, intent and phonetics and experience them as actual speech.

It's also worth looking at what the conversation is about. The Joker is insisting that all life is fundamentally meaningless and that all attempts to make sense of it are doomed. And the World's Greatest Detective is making a liar of him...just by the simple act of understanding it.

Who (and why) was the Black Glove?

At San Deigo 2008 Grant Morrison said that the Black Glove's true identity would be someone "everybody in the world knows." Curiously, when the identity was eventually revealed, much of the readership failed to recognise him.

Lets go back to when Morrison first took on the Batman monthly and he mentioned that he'd "rather Batman embodied the best that secular humanism has to offer" (Newsarama, 2006). This take on the character has proved vital to how Morrison has written Batman throughout his career and is crucial to understanding why the Black Glove is who he is.

By 'Humanism' here, we're talking about the whole raft of philosophical ideas that came out of the Enlightenment and told us that it was possible for us to stop thinking of life as one long downhill ride from the Fall or the 'Golden Age' and to start thinking that humans had a chance to improve the world and themselves if they started playing smart and making the effort.

Where Batman comes in is that humanism does this through reason, rationality, science and all that sort of stuff, to the exclusion of all the irrational mumbo-jumbo that's also a part of being human. Arkham Asylum, by a younger and angier Grant Morrison, punishes Batman for his humanism by painting him as a repressed, joyless prig and having him suffer humilation and agony for his failure to integrate into himself myth, ritual, chaos, the Id, and all the other things reason excludes.

By the time of Morrison's JLA run things are very different. Here Batman is routinely defeating gods and ur-gods by holding to these values.

Inbetween we get Batman: Gothic, where reason and rationality are shown to be effective but limited. Batman solves the mystery, but an epilogue reveals that he's been blind to a major player in the events....the Devil himself! Humanism works here, but remains oblivious to the man behind the curtain.

The Devil next reappears in Morrison's Batman mythos during RIP, where he's wearing Mangrove Pierce's body and using the name 'The Black Glove'.

Batman is invested in a project which attempts to improve humanity through reason and rationality. There's no greater threat to that than the possibility that deep down inside humanity is a kind of irrational evil from which it can never escape.

The Devil's the ultimate supernatural bogeyman. There's no greater threat to it than the possibility that people might one day be able to work and think their way free. If that's true then the Devil's days are numbered.

The Joker is well aware of who the Black Glove is, making numerological references to the Devil, quoting the Rolling Stones and illustrating the point by fashioning himself a serpent's tougue. He also claims to know why the Devil hates Batman (#680) and it has to be because of this; the possibilities for humanity that Batman's values and achievements represent scare the Devil (#681).

Batman has to acknowledge though that the Devil is a part of him. Just as humanism tried to exclude from its discourse the irrational side of human experience, Batman tried to fence off the nonsensical aspects of his own life experience inside The Black Casebook; "All the things we'd seen that didn't fit and couldn't be explained went into the Black Casebook" (#665) but when he writes the final entry in the Casebook he faces the posibility that he's reached the limits of reason.

In the various isolation experiments, initiations and Thogal rituals we've seen Batman undertake he's found this 'source of pure evil' deep down inside himself. And as Doctor Hurt breathes, "The Black Glove always wins" it is Batman's own black glove we see smashing through the helicopter window.

Since we're talking about a book set in the shared universe of the DCU we have to mention that this is a world not short of Devils and Devil-analogues... Neron, Satanus, the First of the Fallen, Lucifer and plenty of others could all in different ways be thought of as 'The Devil' in DCU continuity.

I would suggest that it is not helpful in understanding Batman RIP to do so here. What Batman trimuphs against here is the idea of the Devil rather than any specific pre-existing variation on that idea. Although perhaps we should mention Orion's warning from Final Crisis #1 concerning Darkseid and his retinue of evil gods; "They did not die! He is in you all!"

It'd be tempting to give the last word to Damien, who says, "I know the Devil exists, or at least something exists which might as well be the Devil. I've met him." (Batman #666)

The Black Glove is something which might as well be the Devil.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Best Books You Aren't Reading - Patsy Walker: Hellcat

Patsy Walker: Hellcat is, from what I know, the first book from writer Kathryn Immonen, and it teams her up with artist David Lafuente Garcia. A relative no-name writer on a relative no-name character on a miniseries that doesn't even touch Marvel continuity beyond the premise for the mini... yes, this was a book that was destined from #1 to be a Book You Aren't Reading. What I didn't know was that it would be one of the Best Books you weren't reading. I'll admit it, I picked it up because the premise for the first issue made me smile and the cover for #1 was absolutely gorgeous.


Patsy Walker, S.H.I.E.L.D. wants YOU to join the Initiative…and protect the frozen north. You heard me right, sister. The Klondike. Seward’s Folly. Alaska. So pack some long johns and prepare for trouble. GUEST-STARRING: IRON MAN!

Patsy Walker is, at the behest of Iron Man, sent to Alaska as part of the 50 States Initiative. Unfortunately, she's the only member of the Alaska team, because... who the Hell wants to attack Alaska? Still, ever loyal, she heads off to Alaska and finds herself embroiled in some bizarre, mystic quest.

I'll be honest, I sneer at people who are confused by most Morrison comics, but off the top of my head, I couldn't describe to you the plot of Patsy Walker: Hellcat, thus far. Despite that, though, the book has had a sense of cleverness and of FUN that many modern comics forget to include somewhere between all the death, rape and angst that gets tossed around.

Combine the offbeat sense of humor with absolutely gorgeous art from Lafuente, and you've got a winner. While the much-delayed mini seems to come out once in a blue moon, when it does, it's a breath of fresh air amongst the largely stagnant comics it sits between. It isn't a powerful narrative, it isn't comics-as-art-as-literature, and it isn't anything you haven't seen before... but, well, imagine Holly Golightly with superpowerrs written by someone on shrooms with an affinity for wordplay, and ask yourself: is this something I can really afford not to try out?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Batman R.I.P.

Now, I'm not normally a fan of Batman or Superman, so it feels weird to realize how often I've written about them. But, well, there's been interesting stuff going on with them of late, between Grant Morrison and... uh... actually, really just Grant Morrison.

Still, many readers expressed confusion at the recent Batman R.I.P., its tie-ins, Final Crisis, etc... and I have tried to answer those questions when they have come up. However, while I do enjoy organizing things, this project was too large for me to start, and I (to be honest) didn't care nearly enough.

However, the magic of the Internet is the knowledge that, someone, somewhere, DOES enjoy this sort of thing, and is incapable of admitting that a project might be too large. Even more magical? Sometimes that person offers said project in an intelligent, well thought-out sort of way.

Prepare for some magic, then, from Gaiaonline.com poster Pinderpanda (man, that sucked the dignity right out of the room, huh?).

Batman RIP to Battle for the Cowl
- A Reader's Guide.

Contains spoilers galore.

Updated 08/01/2009

What's Happening?

What's going on in the Bat-books?

A number of Batman-related titles have been cancelled (Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey) and a number are going on hiatus (Batman, Detective) before relaunching in some form. This may, or may not, involve the replacement of Bruce Wayne as Batman.

Charitably this this happening because when "one writer is doing such a big thing, then it has to impact other books [...] because this story is too big to ignore" (Fabian Nicieza, IGN, December 2008 ).

Uncharitably this is happening because "the sales on the Batman titles went through the roof with the first issue of RIP. So quite clearly DC took one look at that and said let's put some branding on the other Bat titles" (Morrison, IGN, May 2008 ).

Either way, what we're left with is a curious maze of personal writer-led stories and mandated editor-led 'events'. This is your map.

What is Batman RIP?

In the pages of Batman, 'RIP' is a six issue arc which runs from #676 to #681.It concludes a "25-chapter novel" (Morrison, Newsarama, Feb 2008 ) which has run intermittently in the title since #655.

The title was also used as branding for issues of Detective Comics (#846-850), Nightwing (#147-150), Robin (#175-176), and Batman and the Outsiders (#11-13). These stories have at best a thematic or tangential connection to the main arc. They do not interact with it "in any crucial way" (Dini, CBR, June 2008 ) and were written with no input from the main arc's writer (Morrison, IGN, May 2008 ).

The main storyline involves the attempted ruination of Bruce Wayne's soul by a source of pure evil from beyond the limits of reason, and the subsequent kicking of said evil's ass by the Undamned Batman.

What is Last Rites?

'Last Rites' was a bit of masthead branding applied to issues of Batman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, Robin and Batman and the Outsiders published following the conclusion of 'RIP'.

The 'Last Rites' storyline published in Batman ('The Butler Did It/What the Butler Saw') is set during Final Crisis and clarifies Batman's involvement in that series and its relation to RIP.

The 'Last Rites' storylines published in the other titles show various Gotham residents adapting to life without Batman.

What is Final Crisis?

A seven-issue miniseries, plus tie-ins, offered as DC's major event for 2008.

It variously attempts to be, or has been marketed as being...

...a sequel to Jack Kirby's Fourth World, OMAC and Kamadi material.

...the conclusion of the plot threads Grant Morrison has been running through all his DCU work since Animal Man.

...the third part of a 'Crisis' trilogy that began with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.

...the 'Third Act' of Didio-era DC which has run through Graduation Day, Identity Crisis, and everything since.

How successful it is in being any of those things is a matter of much debate. As is the level to which the project is interested in being anything other than the first two things. As is the level of comprehensibility the series attains given these various demands.

In Batman terms the series is important since it features "the final fate of Batman" (Morrison, IGN, August 2008 ); A mischievous and ironic phrase since the death of Barry Allen (returned to life by Final Crisis) occurred in an issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths bearing the cover blurb "the final fate of the Flash."

What is Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

A two issue story by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert that will run in Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853.

In both its title and its publication method, it parallels the Alan Moore/Curt Swan story "Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" which ran in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 and which gave the Earth-1 Superman a 'final story' with which to cap off the continuity erased by Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Gaiman has said of the story, " I think the most important thing Sandman did, and it did create some important things, was that it was the first mainstream comic ever to finish a story. And I think that cannot be underestimated. The idea before that had always been that if you were writing a monthly comic, let's say Superman or whatever, you couldn't finish it. You weren't ever allowed to do the last one, to have the story mean anything. You had to turn back to the soap opera. [...] One of the things that attracted me to [Whatever Happened...] was when they asked if I would be interested in writing the last Batman story, so that's what I'm doing. The last Batman story." (Ain't It Cool, December 2008 ).

It is solicited as a "captivating and mysterious tale the likes of which Batman and friends have never experienced before. Delving into the realms of life, death and the afterlife."

What is Battle for the Cowl?

A three-issue miniseries which will be published during the March to May hiatus taken by Batman and Detective.

The story will deal with the matter of Batman's succesion. "The cape and cowl [is] the focus of the story. Should it be retired or should someone take the mantle? Will it make a difference either way? Batman was much more than just a costume, you know; putting it on doesn’t make you Batman." (Daniel, Newsarama, December 2008 )

It will be suported by a number of tie-in one-shots and miniseries. Those so far announced include Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead? (dealing with Spoiler, Vicki Vale, Harvey Bullock and Leslie Thompkins), Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive!, Oracle and Azrael: Death's Dark Knight.

The core series is to be written by RIP's penciller Tony Daniel, who boldly invited himself to do so...

"I was casually talking to [editor] Mike Marts about the story and my thoughts on how great it could be. I consider myself a storyteller, so in my mind I guess the wheels of the story were naturally spinning. And in this case, you couldn’t shut me up.

I mentioned how this could be something really great and not just a stop gap before Grant’s or my return to the title. [...]

So after spilling my guts for about 10 minutes about the ideas that were pouring out of my head, I jokingly told Mike that I would gladly accept the invitation to write Battle for the Cowl. Only he hadn’t done that and we both laughed. But I emailed him later after thinking about it more and it was too late. I was ramped up on my second cup of Starbucks and there was no turning back. I asked him to consider it." (Daniel, Newsarama, December 2008 )

How do these stories fit together?

This is at times a little unclear.

Many of the peripheral stories involve the Gotham cast reacting to Batman's disappearance, but the problem is that Batman disappears three times during the main storyline. Once during RIP, where he becomes a homeless drug addict for an issue, once following RIP's conclusion, in which he briefly vanishes in a helicopter crash, and once following whatver happens in Final Crisis.

The helicopter crash is the most puzzling of these, as it seems to serve no narative purpose and makes RIP look as if it has a weaker conclusion than it does.

Dan Didio explains that he mandated this extra bonus disapearance "Because we live in the world of collected editions, we needed a conclusion in the Batman series, so that we could collect it properly within Batman, without having to bring in segments of Final Crisis to complete the story" (Didio, Newsarama, December 2008 )

This logic is undermined somewhat by the fact that the collected edition of Batman RIP is including the two Final Crisis tie-in issues which follow it, so those reading it in trade will be confronted by segments of the larger story and will find the helicopter crash as much of a perplexing non-event as did those who followed the monthlies.

Thanks to this editorial masterstroke, we've got a stack of RIP tie-ins and Last Rites comics set "after Bruce's disapperance" and two disappearances this could possibly refer to - the helicopter crash or the events of Final Crisis.

I would argue that the balance of evidence seems to suggest that the "OMG! Batman's gone forever!" stories we've seen so far do not occur after his "final fate" in Final Crisis but rather while he was temporarily missing following the helicopter crash; Last Rites does not appear to be set in a post-Final Crisis world and there are references to the disapearance in clearly pre-Final Crisis books (such as Supergirl #34).

The broad sequence of events would then seem to be...

Batman RIP
(In which Batman defeats a 'source of pure evil' but has a curse placed upon him - his next case shall be his last! He then disappears in a helicopter crash.)

Various RIP tie-ins and Last Rites books
(In which everyone goes mental about Bruce being gone forever. Except in Tomasi's excellent Nightwing, where they sit around eating popcorn and waiting for him to return)

The flashback sequence shown in Batman #683
(In which Bruce returns from the helicopter crash as if it were no big deal. He is then dragged immediately into the events of Final Crisis #1)

Final Crisis #1-4
(In which Batman falls into Darkseid's clutches)

Batman #682-3
(In which Batman escapes Darkseid's clutches)

Final Crisis #5-7
(In which we learn the "final fate of Batman" )

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Battle for the Cowl

A more detailed, issue-by-issue, chronology is offered in the next section.

How do I read it?

How do I read any superhero comics set in a seventy-year-old continuity?

You've two options.

The first is to accept that every story, no matter how self-contained and no matter how good or bad a jumping-on point, has a "Previously..."

We're all of us finding our seats after the movie's started and spilling our popcorn on those around us. Don't stress about this. Just find somewhere, anywhere, that looks like an interesting place to start and jump in.

Be prepared to ask questions. Be prepared to look things up. Be prepared to ignore everyone who says you have to have read "X" before you can read "Y". Be prepared to be confused, and to work through that confusion if you find anything that fires your imagination enough to make that feel like work worth doing.

The other option is to start in 1939 with Detective Comics #27 and plough on through from there.

How do I read Batman RIP?

The six issues of Grant Morrison's Batman RIP printed in Batman #676-681 (and collected in the Batman RIP hardcover) comprise the final chapter of a longer storyline.

Morrison says that, "This is the first story I had planned when Peter Tomasi, the editor at the time, asked me to do Batman [...] the very first story title I noted down was “Batman RIP”. [...] So it came from there…and out of that notion came the idea for the big overarching story I’ve been telling since I first came on the book. Everything…the “Zur-En-Arrh” graffiti, the Joker prose story, the Club of Heroes…every detail that’s been in the book for the last couple of years is significant" (Newsarama, Feburary 2008 )

The complete story is collected across the Batman and Son, The Black Glove and Batman RIP trades.

Morrison also lays groundwork for the storyline in issues #30 and #47 of the 2006-7 weekly series 52. The relevant events from that story are well sumarised in the main Batman title but can be found in the third and fourth trade collection of 52.

The story also relies very heavily on events from two Silver Age stories; The Superman of Planet-X from Batman #113 and Robin Dies at Dawn from Batman #153. Although the relevant events from these stories are eventually recapped in the storyline, this doesn't happen until a point where many readers will have become exasperated. DC have yet to make these stories available to readers, but will remedy this in the Black Casebook trade available from June 2009.

A reader wanting the 'complete RIP experience' could then find it by reading...

The Black Casebook trade.
Weeks 30 and 47 from the third and fourth 52 trade.
The Batman and Son trade.
The Black Glove trade.
The Batman RIP trade.

Since it contains no major Status-Q changes, WHY should I read Batman RIP?

You might enjoy it. Then again, you might really not. The storyline has been fairly polarising and divisive among the readership.

As a rough guide I'd suggest that you'll probably enjoy Batman RIP...

...if you're frustrated with LOST for giving out too many answers.
...if your favoutite TS Eliot poems don't involve cats.
...if your personal 'top ten' films include The Fisher King, Jacobs Ladder, Angel Heart, The Name of the Rose or anything by David Lynch.

Matt Fraction best explains the run's appeal...

"It's a pretty spectacular example of [...] using Batman as frame of reference for Batman. The gag is that everything that's happened in the Batman comic actually happened to Batman, right? And what would that do to a human mind? From the bleak noir stuff to the bam-sock-pow stuff and everything in between. [Morrison]'s using the whole history of the character to comment on the character as the character endures it. And to comment on the comics mainstream, and on heroes, and all that great stuff. I mean, the first fight scene takes place in an art gallery during a Pop Art retrospective where these faux-Lichtenstein paintings of comics are commenting on the comic we're reading as we're reading it, for god's sake. And as the run went on, Morrison really used the entirety of the character's history as a frame of reference and context to comment on the character. Batman-as-Batman-as-Pop-Culture-in-toto. It's a mess, and a glorious one at that, and his reach might have exceeded his grasp for a couple reasons not exactly germane to this discussion, but it's been a pretty amazing piece, all the same. It's the Cremaster of superhero comics." (Fraction, The Comics Reporter, January 2009)

How do I read the Batman RIP tie-ins?

Dini's 'Heart of Hush' storyline in Detective # 846-850 is set shortly before Morrison's RIP issues and has no connection to them except the the idea that Hush is making his move now in order to destroy Batman before someone else beats him to it.

Robin #846-850 is set during the events of RIP, seemingly inbetween Batman #678 and Batman #679.

Batman and the Outsiders #11-13 and Nightwing #147-50 are set following RIP's conclusion.

Since they've no impact on the main plot, WHY should I read the Batman RIP tie-ins?

If you're following the characters in those particular books, or if you're looking for a Paul Dini story about Hush and a Peter Tomasi story about Two-Face.

There's no other strong reason, although events from 'Heart of Hush' may eventually prove important in Battle for the Cowl.

How do I read Final Crisis?

Final Crisis consists of a seven-issue miniseries, four accompanying miniseries (Revelations, Rogues' Revenge, Legion of Three Worlds, Superman Beyond) five accompanying one-shots (Requiem, Rage of the Red Lanterns, Resist, Submit, Secret Files) and two tie-in issues (Batman #682-3).

It was preceeded by a weekly series called Countdown to Final Crisis, published against Grant Morrison's wishes and in contradiction to his storyline (Morrison, Newsarama, June 2008 ). Considered alongside its own spin-offs, but not counting tie-ins in the monthlies, Countdown to Final Crisis comprises at least 102 issues, none of which make any fucking sense. It is best ignored.

Someone approaching Final Crisis to see Batman's story play out can happily confine themselves to Batman #682-3 and the seven-issue core Final Crisis mini.

Final Crisis is however, as discussed in 'What is Final Crisis?' above, the conclusion to a great many long-running stories. Readers may find their experience of its accessibility varies.

For example, when confronted with Turpin, a tough cop with prior history with superheroes, some readers will say "Hey! This is Dan Turpin from New Gods #5." They will get on fine.

Some readers will say, "I don't know who this guy is. But it says here that his name's Turpin, and that he's a tough cop with prior history with superheroes. That's probably enough to be going on with." They too will get on fine.

Some readers will say, "I don't know who this guy is! How am I expected to follow all this continuity?" They will get hopelessly confused.

You probably already know what sort of a reader you are.

Someone looking to read everything that feeds into this story would be faced with reading the complete DCU work of Jack Kirby and Grant Morrison, the complete Wildstorm work of Warren Ellis, Wanted, Sin City, Secret Invasion, every prior Crisis crossover and every DCU book published for the last four years.

Someone looking for a more manageble project of preparatory reading might just want to check out the four Jack Kirby's Fouth World Omnibus volumes and Grant Morrison's JLA and Seven Soldiers runs.

What's the chronology of all this?

What follows is an attempt to place the books considered by this article into an issue-by-issue chronology. Bare in mind that a chronology is not the same as an 'ideal reading order' or a list of 'essential reading' and also that in many places this is based on my own textual sleuthing and subjective judgement, rather than on anything official.

Detective Comics #846-50 (Heart of Hush)

Batman #676-8 (RIP parts 1-3)

Robin #175-6

Batman #679-81 (RIP parts 4-6)

Batman and the Outsiders #11-12 (Outsiders No More).

Nightwing #147-151 (The Great Leap)

Robin #177-182 (Search for a Hero)

Detective Comics #851 & Batman #684 ('The Last Days of Gotham')
Happens concurently with 'Search for a Hero'.

Batman and the Outsiders #13

Bruce returns from the heli-crash, as flashbacked to in Batman #863 .

Final Crisis #1-2

Final Crisis: Requiem
(Concurrent with FC#2. I've just included this because of the awesome scene of Bruce with the Oreo.)

Final Crisis #3-4

Batman #682-3 (The Butler Did It/What the Bulter Saw)

Final Crisis #5-7

Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader?

Battle for the Cowl.

Battle for the Cowl Questions

Is Azrael really coming back?

Published alongside Battle for the Cowl will be Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight, a three part mini-series.

The Azrael it features will neither be Jean-Paul Valley nor directly connected to the Order of St. Dumas. This character will have been appointed by a seedier splinter group called 'The Order of Purity' and will wear the Suit of Sorrows introduced in the Resurrection of R'as al Ghul crossover.

According to Fabian Nicieza "He's known and not really known, but it's a character that spins out of his introduction to the Bat-books in a very interesting way." (IGN, December 2008 )

The description of him in the solicts ("He was a husband and a father. A brother and a friend. A cop and a dark knight. But he had all that taken away." ), the darkly religious tone of the character and comments about him having been "manipulated and abused by many other outside forces" (Nicieza, Newsarama, January 2009) has caused some to speculate that he's the Third Man, the satanic replacement Batman created by Doctor Hurt.

"It could seem to suggest that, couldn't it?" says Nicieza (Newsarama, January 2009).


Thanks Pinderpanda! May your name live on in infamy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rejiggering the Blog

Well, I'm sure my faithful reader noticed a drying up in recent months. There are, of course,a variety of reasons - read: excuses - for this. Having no one with which to play VS, I have trouble finding the motivation to create and test decks as often as I once did. Having no job and therefore no money, I have trouble finding the cashflow to buy a suitable amount of MEV, especially knowing how unlikely it is pull what I want/need. Hearing nothing from UDE, I don't know what the future of this game is. Having Read/Rant, I already have an outlet for reviewing comic books.

So, what else is there? Well, I will of course be writing over the next month or two to try and figure out just what it is I want this blog for. I can never fully abandon VS - it was my passion for the game that brought me here, and that passion will take notably more than neglect and starvation to kill. And yet, if I hope to maintain 2-3 updates each week, I will need to find something to write about with the same passion that VS and its fabulous community inspires. Until UDE tells us SOMETHING about the game, it shall probably not feature heavily in the blog. Even if the game goes out, I'd just like to leave all the uncertainty behind.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'm not writing - I have two stories out there in the ether, submitted for consideration. I'm not wild about the chances of either, but I'll let you know if things go my way. As I mentioned before, I'm reviewing comics at Read/Rant, working on the follow up to the DC Project, and more. So, yes, as of now, I'm going to try and find a way to repurpose my blog. I suppose, if I do have any readers out there who enjoyed specific segments, what subjects would you all care to see more of?

Apologies for the long delay between posts. With hope, I can get this blog back on track. It's over a year old now. Here's to hoping it doesn't fall apart just yet.