Saturday, September 24, 2011

Batman: Year One

For some unexplained reason lately I've been on some sort of Batman obsession. If there's anything that might have sparked it it's the constant flow of speculation about The Dark Knight Rises. I've seen photos of what might be a Batplane, people are bitching about Catwoman's costume, footage of filming is being leaked and the rumours never seem to die.

What might also be helping is the reboot of the entire DC Universe. That's right, everything old that was new and became old again is new again. Batman's been fighting crime for only five years now or something...I don't know. I didn't follow the news that closely however I might go and pick up some issues since everything should be easy to follow. But instead I'll tell you what I thought of a Batman collection I'd been meaning to pick up for some time.
Relax, this was before Frank Miller directed 'The Spirit'

First off, if you're worried about being confused by comic book jargon, back stories and whathaveyou, you can relax. This story explains everything for those new to the Dark Knight although if there's one significant difference is that Commissioner Gordon has a son when most people know that his only child is his daughter, Barbra, later goes on to become Batgirl and then Oracle.

I really liked this book and have re-read it twice since I got it two weeks ago. If there's one thing that surprises me about the story is that it's more of Jim Gordon's story than it is Batman's. More pages seem to be dedicated to him than the Caped Crusader and he also seems to be doing more monologuing and at times it seems as if we don't know enough about Bruce Wayne, what he was doing for the past 12 years (He is 25 in the story meaning that he's been gone since he was 13) or how he revealed his plans to Alfred. Did the faithful butler know that his employer was out doing reconnaissance work when he got stabbed and shot or did he answer the bell at the end of the first chapter to find a bloody Bruce Wayne insisting that he not call an ambulance since it would jeopardize his future plans?
"You're young, rich and healthy...but instead you want to fight crime dressed as a BAT!?"

Then there's the issue of Selina Kyle who starts out as a hooker and eventually becomes Catwoman. Now that's all well and fine but I'm somewhat curious as to how many hookers know karate. I'm not joking either, when she attacks Bruce Wayne, he notes that she knows karate but just karate. Most hookers I've met use tazers or pepper-spray. That or just a kick to the nuts.

Her story seems...too brief. It almost feels like there was supposed to be a lot more in there but the editors cut it out. Hell, the last we see of her is just one small panel where she's bitching about she's being suspected of being Batman's accomplice. Jump to a month later in the story and not even a mention of her. Considering how much Frank Miller likes to write female characters who are whores or just parading around in their underwear these days, you'd think he'd have some sort of conclusion where her and Batman have some sort of detailed encounter where he warns her to stay away and hints that he might know her secret identity or something. I don't know, it just feels like there's no proper conclusion.


Wait, is this Catwoman or a dominatrix?

Also, there's not a lot of Batman in the final chapter of the story. The last action scene doesn't even involve Batman, it's just Bruce Wayne wearing a motorcycle helmet. Was it just not logical that it take place at night, during Gordon's day off? Plus, it would have been nice if we ended with a shot of Wayne in the Batcave (Something that was always mentioned but never shown) finishing up or halfway through construction of the Batmobile. I'm very curious how he was able to get from Wayne Manor to Gotham City and back all those times.

But does this mean that it's a bad story? Nope. It's a great story. A must read for any Batman fan or anyone who wants a superhero story that feels grounded in real life. It may have stuff that stick out as flaws to me but I only noticed because that's what happens when I re-read stuff for the third or fourth time. It doesn't take away from my enjoyment.

But also reading this makes you a bit sad. Given what Frank Miller has done creatively in the last couple of years (All Star Batman and Robin, The Spirit movie) you have to wonder what happened. Stories like Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns are considered the best graphic novels of all time, right up there with Watchmen. And yet the most memorable thing he's given us lately is:
Seriously, Frank...why?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Was I?

It was the second week of grade 10 for me ten years ago. I had just come from my first period English class and was headed to the first floor for second period History. There was a four minute window that you had to get from one class to another and while other students were entering I saw another teacher come in and say to my teacher if he had heard about a plane that flew into the World Trade Center.

Even though I had no idea what was going on, it immediately caught my ears however after a few moments I quickly dismissed it. Probably just some two-seater plane with an amateur pilot who had trouble and made a deadly collision. Tragic but nothing extreme, I thought.

Once that period was over it was time for lunch. I made my way to a pay phone to call my dad because he was to pick me up for lunch and at the time he had about as good a memory as his grandmother does today.

"Dad, you're supposed to pick me up today, remember?"

"Andrew, I'm sorry, I forgot. I've been watching the news. Do you know what's going on?"

"No, what?"

"Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center. Both towers are gone!"

I suddenly got a flash of these two large towers on fire, being destroyed in the middle of a metropolis. This was something that happened in Tom Clancy novels and bad movies. As I waited outside for him to come pick me up I could hear more and more students suddenly talking about it.

As soon my dad pulled up I got in and we raced home, listening to news updates on the radio and once inside, watching it all unfold on television. A plane had flown into the Pentagon and another airplane had crashed somewhere in America. The endless loop of the second plane hitting the second tower and their final collapse was searing itself onto my brain. Constant flashes of "America Under Attack" sent a sickening feeling through my body.

I never expected to hear those words. In my life the words "Under Attack" was something that happened to Federation Starships or characters in a Schwarzenegger movie. You just never expected it to happen in real life.

I can't remember what I had for lunch (Or if I ate anything) or the rest of that day. However I do know when I first became interested in the world around me. Before then I had my sights on place: Hollywood. I wanted to be an actor and make movies for a living. But suddenly my life took a dramatic turn. I wanted to know what was happening in the world all the time. I started paying a lot more attention to American politics.

Before that, my generation never really had a "Where Were You When" moment. The closest we ever got to that was when Bill Clinton went on TV and admitted that he had lied about Monica Lewinsky. But there was never anything that got our attention and maintained it for a long time. Never something that shook us and changed us, whether or not we were aware or willing to admit it.

I remember being in one of my first days of college for journalism and leaving the Politics class. I can't remember what we discussed but I know that I talked a lot throughout it, like most of my classes and that the date was September 11, 2007. We had just come out and another student remarked to me, "Hey, you know a lot about politics."

"Yeah," I answered. "I've been interested in politics for the past six years."