Book Review – Batman/Superman vol. 1: Cross World

  • Title: Batman/Superman vol. 1: Cross World
  • Author: Greg Pak
  • Artists: Jae Lee, Brett booth, Ben Oliver, Yildray Cinar, Norm Rapmund, Paul Siqueira, Netho Diaz
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Superman (Clark Kent), Wonder Woman, Kaiyo (Darkseid’s Agent of Chaos), Lois Lane, Catwoman (Selina Kyle)
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/10/2016

I ended-up reading Batman/Superman, Volume 1 – Cross World twice because although I liked it the first time – I found it very confusing. The second time through, again, I enjoyed it but parts of it were still very confusing. The art in some places was truly inspiring – the double spread showing the parallels between Superman’s origins (including the deaths of Ma & Pa Kent in a car crash???) and Batman’s (the oft-told story of the death of Bruce’s parents – here reduced to 5 stunning panels) was incredible. When Wonder Woman arrives on her Pegasus holding a sword – that was awesome. But I could not, for the life of me, figure out who was who when it came to the two versions of Batman and especially the two versions of Superman. One version of Batman was married to Selina Kyle. The other was not. One was much older, the other younger. For Supes – one was older, much more powerful, and a bit arrogant. The other younger – leaping not even flying, and possibly wearing jeans and a T-shirt with the S-shield. The panels and art tended to be small and close-up, thus we couldn’t see who was who based on the different uniforms. On the other hand – the art was stunning, just stunning.

The story has an agent of Chaos (I thought at first it was Klarion the Witch-boy nemesis of Doctor Fate – it wasn’t. It was Kaiyo an agent of chaos from Apokolips bent on destroying Darkseid.) However, this isn’t really clear until towards the end of the book, and the final chapter tells Kaiyo’s story as well as giving the history of Darkseid. On my second read-through, knowing who Kaiyo was helped. She also had the power to possess people – taking over Catwoman, Lois, even Wonder Woman for brief periods.

Kaiyo – because she can, brings the heroes of two Earths together. Thus we have two Supermen and two Batmen, and a Wonder Woman. And on one Earth, the army has developed a weapon to take out Superman because they think he’s “too strong”. Kaiyo tells the Supermen, the Batmen, Wonder Woman, Lois, and Catwoman about this – after they’ve figured it out. She tells them they must choose – destroy the crystal, or keep it to destroy Darkseid. Needless to say because she’s an agent of choas she’s not super-clear about explaining this – but everyone had figured it out by the time she starts to explain it. When the crystal is destroyed – Kaiyo wipes the minds of everyone involved – thus they won’t be warned of Darkseid’s coming.

So that’s the storyline, but the fun comes in seeing two Supermen and two Batmen not only interacting with Superman and Batman but with the alternate universe versions of themselves. It’s fun – confusing – but fun. This is also a beautifully illustrated book. And the bonus section consisting of a “page to screen” with pages of dialogue and information explaining how it was then translated to the page by the artist were fascinating, and even explained the book a bit better (only certain pages or spreads were commented on – not the entire book). It was a fascinating look at how the process of pulling a graphic novel together works.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

  • Title: The Twelve Doctors of Christmas
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Note: Includes paintings for each story
  • Characters: One story per Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/22/2016

The Twelve Doctors of Christmas is a wonderful, wonderful book. Everything about this book is just awesome and it would make for a great Christmas gift for Doctor Who fans young and old. The presentation of this book is impressive – it’s a cloth-bound hard cover with incredible full-color art paintings – one per story. There is one short story per Doctor and one painting per story. The paintings are bound in groups, though, rather than as front pieces for each story, so you read four stories then get four pages of gorgeous art. Still, the full-color paintings are beautiful and aptly illustrate each story.

There are twelve short stories in the collection – one per Doctor, and the stories also feature many of the Doctor’s well-known companions. Each story also has a theme of Christmas – but it’s interpreted by the various authors in a broad way, so we get stories that range from Barbara and Ian “going home for the holidays” to the Seventh Doctor and Ace trying to rescue a crashed alien from Macy’s at Christmas (after hours) and trying to also save the few workers in the store. All the stories are inventive and approach the Holiday differently. It’s a wonderful collection.

This was an uplifting and fun read – and I could see myself re-reading it every year. It’s a beautiful presentation as a book, a great gift, and an enjoyable read. I simply loved it – and it was good to read at this time of year.

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

  • All I Want for Christmas (First Doctor, Barbara, Ian) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • A Comedy of Terrors (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) – Colin Brake
  • The Christmas Inversion (Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • Three Wise Men (Fourth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • Sontar’s Little Helpers (Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough) – Mike Tucker
  • Fairy Tale of New New York (Sixth Doctor, Mel) – Gary Russell
  • The Grotto (Seventh Doctor, Ace) – Mike Tucker
  • Ghost of Christmas Past (Eighth Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Red Bicycle (Ninth Doctor, Rose) – Gary Russell
  • Loose Wire (Tenth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • The Gift (Eleventh Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Persistence of Memory (Twelfth Doctor) – Colin Brake

Book Review – All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder vol. 1

  • Title: All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder vol. 1
  • Author: Frank Miller
  • Artists: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, 
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/05/2016

All Star Batman and Robin – the Boy Wonder is intense, really intense and the art is breath-taking. It brings to mind the classic Frank Miller graphic novel, Batman The Dark Knight Returns. However, that is also part of the problem with this book. In All Star Batman and Robin – Batman is a dangerous psychopath. He’s catching and beating up murderers, rapists, and thieves not to put an end to crime and corruption in Gotham City but because he enjoys it. And he kidnaps Richard Grayson not because after watching Dick watch his parents die he sees a kindred spirit – but because he selfishly wants a protégé, and this Batman will torture a twelve-year-old to get what he wants.

The Justice League also make appearances in this graphic novel – we see Black Canary become Black Canary (which was awesome, if violent), Wonder Woman (another violent psychopath who hates men), Superman (who Batman hates), and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern (who Batman also hates). The argument and then fight between Batman, Robin, and Hal takes place in a yellow-painted room, because Batman wants to mess with Jordan. Yet, Jordan’s arguments make sense – Batman’s violent actions are and will bring down official wrath on all the masks – all the heroes (who at this point aren’t acting that heroic). Plus, Batman’s anger at Hal seems fueled not by anything concrete but by mere jealousy.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns when I read it in the 80s, and the dark, apocalyptic view of Batman, Gotham City, and the world in that book made sense (as well as shaking up the comics world at the time which was much, much more light-hearted). However, even in The Dark Knight Returns Batman has honor – knowing he’s gotten too old to fight, he hangs up his cape and cowl. When the gang violence and everything else erupts, he comes out of retirement – having lost everything to death or simple abandonment, and he becomes the hero.

Here, Batman is at the beginning of his career – but he isn’t a detective, he isn’t the caped crusader, he isn’t an honorable knight – he’s a psychopath who cares for no one, who manipulates Dick Grayson into being a killer like himself, who doesn’t even care for Alfred. This isn’t my Batman – and all the breath-taking art doesn’t change that.

I read graphic novels for character – and the character of Batman was way off in this graphic novel. It felt like an Elseworlds or alternative reality Batman – maybe, but not my Batman. Not how Batman has been consistently written by those who seem to know the character best and write the character consistently the best. You’ll notice I never refer to him as Bruce Wayne – that’s because in this book, he’s always Batman – and he’s never Bruce. For once, he needs a little Bruce.

This book will haunt me (that his dying mother saw him as a psychopath, as does Alfred is downright frightening), so that speaks to the power of the story. But it’s not a likeable story, and nothing can take away the fact that Batman is simply out of character. This is too extreme and too unlikable – and I wish I hadn’t read it in some ways.