Gotham Season 5 Review

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 12
  • Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Cameron Monaghan
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

The fifth and final season of Gotham does the “No Man’s Land” storyline from Batman comics. The title “No Man’s Land” even appears on-screen. After Jeremiah Valeska blew up the bridges leading out of Gotham – the city is cut off from “the mainland” and from any form of help or assistance from government or other sources. This is a little difficult to believe, but it does give the entire season a claustrophobic feel – as Captain Jim Gordon and the GCPD are the only ones holding the city together and trying to provide essentials like food, water, shelter, and medicine. Gotham is soon split into territories run by different gangs, so we do get to see brief appearances by groups such as The Mutants (even though in the comics they only appeared in Frank Miller’s Elseworlds graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns). Most of the short season focuses on a few groups: Sirens – run by Barbara Kean, City Hall – run by Penguin, and Edward Nygma (who is on his own but very important to the story). Other characters that we’ve met through the years on Gotham also make appearances. These appearances are integrated into the storyline and do not seem to be there simply for the sake of a character or actor appearing in the final season.

Barbara controls access to food and alcohol, and Penguin controls access to arms and bullets, even starting a bullet factory – so Capt. Jim Gordon has to work with them to get these “essentials”. Edward Nygma keeps waking up in strange places with no memory of how he got there or what he did. At first, he thinks the “Ed” (or Riddler) side of his personality is behind this. But we find out he’s being controlled by Hugo Strange, and behind him is Amanda Waller. Nygma discovers it was Ed who destroyed Haven, a building full of refugees – set up by Captain Gordon, with a rocket launcher. Hundreds of innocent women and children were killed by Ed’s actions. Nygma is disgusted when he realizes what he’s done, but discovers Hugo Strange literally put a chip in his head to control him and get him to do whatever he wanted. But it was Amanda Waller, a military agent, who gave the orders, including the order to destroy Haven. Waller’s ultimate plan is to use the military to completely destroy Gotham because she thinks the city isn’t worth saving. Waller also doesn’t care about the innocent civilians who suffer under her plan – even though she could have used the military to evacuate Gotham instead and then rebuild the city.

Waller also arranges to have Jeremiah Valeska escape from Arkham. Jeremiah immediately causes a lot of chaos and destruction. He is, though, dropped into a vat of chemicals at Ace Chemicals by Jim Gordon (Gordon didn’t push him in but he fell when he tried to push Gordon in). Jim also drives the truck loaded with chemical weapon bombs that will poison Gotham into the Gotham River. Waller also turns one of her mercenary troopers into the venom (a form of steroids) ingesting super-villain who tries to destroy the GCPD, and in particular, James Gordon so Gotham can be destroyed by General Wade. Wade initially arrives for “Reunification Day” and compliments Gordon on his holding Gotham together and using Wayne Enterprises technology to clean Gotham River water. But Wade has also been chipped by Waller, so instead of reporting that Reunification can go through, he orders that Gotham be completely destroyed with military bombs. The military begins to follow this order as well as landing on Gotham with tanks and hundreds of troops led by Bane.

During the course of the season, Capt. Jim Gordon works with Barbara, Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma. This shaky alliance continues, though at times various players fall back to their resentments from issues they’ve had with each other in the past. But especially after he figures out what Strange and Waller did to him, Nygma works with Gordon and even forms an alliance with Penguin. Barbara and Gordon have a one night stand that results in Barbara getting pregnant. She tells this to Gordon when Lee Thompkins finally returns, having been missing for most of the season. Gordon and Thompkins also marry. Barbara and Jim Gordon will, ultimately, co-parent their daughter, Barbara Lee.

The season is very, very dark – and a lot of horrible things happen, as you may expect in a city under siege storyline. However, the penultimate episode, “They Did What?” actually both concludes the season and the series – and is positive and hopeful. I don’t want to spoil it. The final episode is set ten years after “He Did What?” and introduces Batman. Yes, Batman.

Even though parts of Season 5 of Gotham were extremely dark and difficult to watch, I did, ultimately like the season, and I think a big part of that was the episode “They Did What?” which did a very good job of concluding the season and the series. Characters we’ve followed for five years were allowed to follow their storylines and in the final episode, we see how they’ve become the characters we know from a more “standard” Batman universe. Gotham was developed with the premise, “What made Bruce Wayne, Batman? What was he like as a child/teenager?” and it succeeded in this. But Gotham also succeeded in telling the story of a city. It explained why the Gotham City of a more standard Batman universe is so messed-up and where the supervillains came from, especially the ones that seem to have almost supernatural powers. Yes, Gotham is a different take on Batman, and it really plays with timelines (especially introducing “No Man’s Land” and Bane before Bruce became Batman) but that also falls under the category of “What if…” What if Bruce didn’t just wander the world learning how to fight, but he was pushed into leaving Gotham? What if there was a real reason that there were so many weird, superpowered, criminals in Gotham beyond just “they are there because of Batman”?

Overall, I really liked the series of Gotham. The entire cast was brilliant – especially Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth), Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle), Cory Michael Smith (Edward Ngyma) and Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot). Not that the rest of the cast weren’t brilliant too – I loved Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, Chris Chalk as Lucius Fox, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne and Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon – but Gotham was in many ways all about the villains. The villains and a few brave souls (Bruce, Alfred, Jim, Harvey, and Lucius) that decided to fight them. The series is definitely worth watching, on Blu-ray if you can (I replaced my first and second season DVD copies with Blu-rays to get the full effect of the excellent filming, direction and use of widescreen techniques.)

Read my Review of Season 1 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 2 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 3 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 4 of Gotham.

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Book Cover Under the Moon

Book Review – Under the Moon A Catwoman Tale

  • Title: Under the Moon A Catwoman Tale
  • Author: Lauren Myracle
  • Artists: Isaac Goodhart (Artist), Jeremy Lawson (Colorist), Deron Bennett (Letterer)
  • Line: DC Ink
  • Characters: Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/08/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale is the second book in DC Comics new DC Ink young adult graphic novel series. This story was even better than Mera Tidebreaker (which was still excellent) though it also has some very sad parts to the story. Selina Kyle is the daughter of a single mother who she describes as “a cocktail waitress”. Selina is less than happy that her mother is constantly bringing home a string of terrible men, each worse than the last. Selina also attends a school where she has a few friends, though she’s close with the few friends she has.

One night Selina’s mother brings home Darnell and he stays. Darnell is abusive, lazy, stupid, and a complete lout. He hits Selina and her mother, and her mother does nothing to stop it. Selina begins to think of running away. Early one morning, Darnell orders Selina to take out the trash, telling her he doesn’t want any “freeloaders” in the house. Selina does so and just keeps walking. She finds a little kitten, washes it in a public bathroom, and brings it home and hides the kitten in her room. She feeds it and tells the kitten, Cinders (after Cinderella) all her secrets and problems. We know this isn’t going to go well.

The next day, Selina is in a great mood – she’s happy to have someone to love and someone who, for once, gives her unconditional love. But when she gets home from school, Darnell spots Cinders. He grabs the poor kitten and puts her on top of a tall doorframe. Selina begs, saying the cat is too small to get down safely and she will fall. Then Darnell grabs Selina and locks her in the closet. Hours later her mother finally lets her out. But Cinders falls, knocks over a vase, and falls on the shards. The poor, vulnerable kitten dies.

Selina is, obviously, very upset. She blames herself. And she finally leaves her abusive home. When she walks out she cuts three scratches on her arm, to remind her of Cinders, and also puts three scratches on Darnell’s pick-up truck. Selina is now living on the streets. She tries to continue to attend school, but it doesn’t work out well. Formerly, she would steal things she wanted and give them away. Now, she steals to survive. She finds a house with a shed since the owner of the house never uses the shed, she moves in.

One day, Selina sees another teenager scale a building. She talks to the young man and finds out what he’s doing is called Parkour. The teen, Ojo begins to train her in Parkour. Selina takes to it like a duck to water. Ojo says he lives with two other teenagers, and invites Selina to join them. Selina declines. Selina also introduces herself to Ojo as “Catgirl” – a name she’s taken to honor Cinders.

Winter comes to Gotham, and Selina continues to exist on the streets, with her shed and getting trained by her friend, Ojo. But one day she returns to the shed and finds a pile of blankets and a note, offering help. Selina is spooked and goes to the address Ojo gave her. She meets the other two street kids – Yang a computer hacker and Briar Rose, a 9-year-old girl who doesn’t talk and who screams if touched. Ojo, Yang, and Briar Rose have a nice headquarters in an abandoned warehouse.

Soon Selina finds out how the group exists – they are thieves and Yang is currently plotting to steal an antique and rare book from “some rich dude”. He’s found a buyer online and the book is worth $17,000 dollars. The four begin planning their heist.

Also, in Gotham, a serial killer called the Growler is active and killing people. No one knows who or what he is. Large paw prints are also found at the scenes of the crimes. During what is supposed to be a dry run for the heist but at a different building, Selina, Ojo, and Yang end up seeing up close a man killed by the Growler. They run.

During the actual heist, with Briar Rose, Selina discovers to her display that the mansion she is in belongs to Bruce Wayne. She can’t steal from Bruce and decides to put the book back. But then everything goes south – the Growler arrives, both Selina and Bruce fight it – though in the confusion neither recognizes the other, and Briar Rose disappears with the book.

Ojo, Yang, and Selina meet up at their HQ and realize Briar Rose is gone. By this point, Selina has become quite fond of the young girl and feels responsible for her. She is now determined to find Rosie, as she calls her. Selina had, prior to the theft, told Rosie about Bruce and programmed the cell phone Yang got them with his phone number. Rosie, in turn, enters it in Selina’s phone. They get a call from Bruce, not that anyone realizes at first who it is. Bruce offers info on Rosie.

Selina (Catgirl) goes to meet Bruce. Bruce tells her he found Rosie on his property with the book. He took her in, and let her stay in a guest room, with the book. Rosie had drawn pictures that Bruce used in his message to “Catgirl”. But she had also run away.

Selina thanks Bruce for the information and heads out, determined again to find Rosie. As she walks around, acquiring a group of cats following her, she finds flyers for some sort of religious children’s shelter. The young boy in the picture looks like Rosie’s young brother. (Yang had put together some information about Rosie, but since the young girl doesn’t talk no one knows for sure where she comes from.) Selina finds Rosie. Selina also is found by Bruce. While Bruce and Selina talk, Rosie runs off again. But Selina decides that, like herself, Rosie can make her own choices – and she hopes that Rosie finds her brother and everything is OK at the shelter.

Under the Moon a Catwoman Tale is an awesome book. I enjoyed it very much, even though much of the book is sad, and it deals with some very heavy issues – child abuse, cruelty to animals, homelessness. The book is sensitively written though and presents these issues very well.

The artwork in the book is fantastic, and has a blue-black was to it, representing the night. Flashback panels have a light purple wash. And after she loses Cinders, significant moments in Selina’s life are marked with a giant cat spirit above her – the cat is beautiful and adds a dimension to the story. Even though there is some sadness in this story, and Darnell’s treatment of Selina, her mother, and Cinders angers me, this is a good book, and something teenaged girls would probably enjoy. DC Ink is aimed at teens and young adults, and this is the second book in the series I’ve read, the other being Mera Tidebreaker. I highly recommend the series and this book.

Gotham Season 4 Review – Spoilers

This review includes spoilers for Gotham Season 4.

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Alexander Siddig
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

Season 4 of Gotham is roughly split into two sections, with the first eleven episodes focused on the villains Professor Pyg and Sofia Falcone (daughter of retired mob boss Carmine Falcone) and the second half bringing back Jerome (the Joker). Along the way, Gotham regulars Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Selina Kyla, and the Gotham City Sirens of Barbara Kean and Tabitha make regular appearances. Revived by the waters of Slaughter Swamp that was poisoned by the industrial waste of Indian Hill – Butch is now Solomon Grundy. And yes, even R’as al Ghul is back. That sounds like a lot, but this show knows how to give each of their characters time to fully develop their stories.

Professor Pyg is a well-spoken serial killer whom we usually see with a pig’s head covering his face. He starts by killing GCPD police officers and covering their faces with a severed pig’s head. Detective James Gordon, who is promoted to Captain this season, is on the case with some help from Harvey Bullock. When it turns out all the cops that the Pig kills are dirty, things get intense and confronted with evidence that he was also “on the take” Harvey quits the GCPD and opens a bar. Never fear – he’s back by the conclusion of the storyline. But Professor Pyg soon turns his attention on the Narrows – poisoning several of the homeless. He then shows up as a caterer at a fundraiser for an orphanage that Sofia Falcone has recently established. Episode 9, “Let Them Eat Pie” has Professor Pyg first singing, “He (Pyg says, “they”) Had It Coming” from Chicago – then Sweeney Todd style serving the guests’ meat pies made from the Homeless he killed. Pyg also leaves a clue for James Gordon, a quote from Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal. The GCPD arrests Pyg, he escapes, and eventually, James Gordon is forced to kill him when he takes Sofia Falcone “hostage”. It looks like Sofia will use this against Jim (as well as their brief partnership to take down Penguin) but she is also murdered an episode or two later.

I didn’t like Pyg at all – he’s too gross, and his “attack the rich to help the poor” argument might have been more convincing if he hadn’t killed six homeless people to accomplish his “goals”. Plus Professor Pyg is just not a great Batman villain, and Gotham didn’t make him sympathetic as they have other long-term villains. But, all in all, the Professor Pyg storyline is completely wrapped up by episode 10 or 11, and the remainder of the season has a better season-long villain. All the musical and other references in episode 9 were amusing though. (Someone on the show must like Bob Fosse, because not only does Pyg quote Chicago – but Riddler’s full suit is straight out of a Fosse musical – stiff bowler hat, gloves, and even Riddler’s movement emphasizes controlled snappy lines, as is seen in Cabaret, Chicago, and Pippin.)

The season opens with Penguin having come up with an idea to rule the criminal underground in Gotham: Pax Penguina – he literally licenses crime. Penguin even gets the police to allow this by paying them off. Thus Pyg’s initial strikes against “corrupt cops”. Riddler’s frozen body decorates Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. Jim Gordon, however, thinks the system is ridiculous and sets out to take down Penguin. He even sees Carmine Falcone at his home in Florida (presumably) and makes a bargain with Sofia as the lesser of two evils to take down Penguin. Meanwhile, Lee Thompson has returned to the Narrows – she’s operating a free clinic and working at an underground fight club to pay for it. Riddler is released from his icy prison – but not without problems.

Riddler now has two personalities – his “nice guy” personality (Ed Nygma) falls in love with Lee, whom he meets at the fight club, is meeker, but isn’t as “smart” – he can no longer create elaborate riddles – he can’t even solve simple childhood riddles. The Riddler personality is smart, can do the riddle thing, wears a bottle-green silk suit, bowler hat, and green gloves, and could care less about Lee. The Riddler manipulates Ed to free himself. Ed is also the one who finds Solomon Grundy (formerly Butch Gilzean) shortly after he’s resurrected in Slaughter Swamp. Ed takes Butch to the fight club, Butch beats the current champion and becomes the best fighter. Eventually, Ed, Lee, and Butch take over the club – and later, Lee takes over the Narrows. Unfortunately, Lee has a hard time holding on to the narrows and it goes back and forth between her and others throughout the season. But Ed’s love for Lee is balanced against her desire to have real power in the Narrows so she can actually do some good. At the same time, Riddler is haunting Ed because he wants to become the dominant personality. Oddly enough, with help from Penguin – he succeeds and Riddler’s full personality – cleverness, lack of caring for others, and beautiful bottle-green suit (again, with bowler hat and green leather gloves) is born.

Penguin starts out on top, ruling Gotham’s underworld through his Pax Penguina plan, but soon is involved in a war for territory against three groups of, interestingly enough, all women: Sofia Falcone who wants to rule Gotham like her father did; Lee Thompkins who wants to rule the Narrows for altruistic reasons; and the Gotham City Sirens (Barbara Kean, Tabitha Galavan, and briefly Selina Kyle). Between these various groups, the Pyg, and later developments – Penguin slowly loses his position. Penguin also briefly works with Butch and Riddler.

The first episode also has Bruce Wayne, dressed in black, beating up criminals on Gotham city streets. Lucius Fox gives him a bullet-proof flexible suit (a basic Batsuit, minus cowl) but when Bruce is forced to kill R’as al Ghul with a ceremonial knife at his request – Bruce flips out. His reaction to having to kill someone is to become a rebellious teenager – hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking, chasing girls, and being a spoiled brat. he even gets himself emancipated and fires Alfred. It takes some time for Bruce to stop this behavior, and deal with his issues (the trauma of having to murder R’as), but when he does – he and Alfred are wonderful together. Selina also helps Bruce face his issues and get back to being himself. So he doesn’t become the Bat yet.

Barbara Kean tries to pick-up the organized crime that Penguin doesn’t control – opening a gun-running and sale organization. She also runs a nightclub where the women don’t have to pay for drinks. Tabby supports her in her goals – and they try to recruit Selina. Barbara, it turns out was revived by R’as al Ghul, using “Lazarus water” (presumably because they couldn’t do a full Lazarus pit sequence). When R’as dies – Barbara becomes the Demon’s Head. It turns out, R’as really should have left an instruction book. At times, Barbara is able to lead the League of Shadows – but at times the League, especially the male members, balk at a female leader. The male League members even bring R’as back, but Barbara and Bruce kill him again. Barbara ends up as the Demon’s Head, understanding her powers, including the way to interpret visions of the future, as she leads a new female-only League of Shadows.

Tabby works with Penguin to get Butch “fixed” by Hugo Strange. It surprisingly enough works once they finally manage to get Butch to Strange. However, as Tabitha and Butch declare their love for each other – Penguin fatally shoots Butch (after calling him a friend) because Butch killed his mother. Then he wounds Tabitha – who goes to Barbara for help (we don’t see the result).

Both Riddler and Lee are wounded at the very end of the season too (yes, they look like they are dying – we can assume not because: comics).

The main villain of the second part of the season though is Jerome and his twin brother, Jeremiah. Everything else – Penguin, Riddler, the Sirens, Bruce, Alfred, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Bullock is spread through the entire season. Jerome is as nutty as before and he orchestrates a breakout at Arkham when Ed Nygma and Oswald Cobblepot are briefly locked up. Jerome uses a radio signal to get people up on rooftops ready to jump at midnight. But if Jim Gordon tries to stop anyone, including Harvey, they will jump immediately. Jim solves the conundrum by having people save each other. He and Jerome confront each other – and Jerome falls to his death. Jerome’s followers stage an attack on GCPD HQ.

But Jerome also threatens his twin brother, Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a brilliant engineer and he develops a self-perpetuating generator (with a little help from Wayne Enterprises). We are given a few hints that Jeremiah isn’t normal either – he lives in an underground bunker with only a female secretary / bodyguard for company, in a scene between Jerome and Jeremiah – Jerome accuses Jeremiah of lying about the horrors Jerome did as a kid, which resulted in Jerome being physically abused and ultimately sent away, while Jeremiah was sent to engineering school. Jerome uses his Joker Gas on Jeremiah which turns his face stark white – and releases his inner demons. Jeremiah is much scarier than Jerome because he’s so cold and calculating. Jerome wanted chaos. Jeremiah has a plan. With the final two episodes entitled “One Bad Day” and “No Man’s Land” long-time fans of the Batman Mythos know what’s coming and aren’t disappointed. Bruce, Jim, Lucius, and Harvey stop the initial explosions of the generators that Jeremiah has rigged to become bombs. But Jeremiah succeeds in blowing-up the bridges leading into Gotham City – leaving the city isolated.

Even though I didn’t like Pyg as a villain, and Jerome is just simple madness and chaos, Jeremiah made for an excellent villain. Adapting the massive “No Man’s Land” storyline is hard and Gotham managed to give it a good start (I can’t wait to see the follow up). As always, the imagery in this show is so good. This season opens with Bruce, very Batman-like on a rooftop with his cloak flowing behind him and a gargoyle in the background. It ends with Gordon shining a light at the clouds from Gotham City PD with Bruce standing nearby as a beacon of hope. In between the development of the other characters is just so well done. I love Penguin and Riddler so much I almost want to see them succeed – even though they are the villains. And the women this season also came into their own, even if they didn’t always meet their goals. I actually, overall, liked Gotham Season 4 very much, and I recommend it. I’m also looking forward to Season 5, which will be the final season.

Read my Gotham Season 1 Review.

Read my Gotham Season 2 Review.

Read my Gotham Season 3 Review.

Book Review – Trinity vol. 1: Better Together

  • Title: Trinity vol. 1: Better Together
  • Author: Francis Manapul
  • Artists: Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Brad Anderson, Steve Wands
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Superman (Clark Kent), Batman (Bruce Wayne), Wonder Woman (Diana), Lois Lane, Jon Kent
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/30/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I read Trinity twice, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some parts that are a bit confusing, especially at first, but it’s a wonderful story – about Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The story opens with a monologue by Lois Lane who is now married to Clark Kent and the two are raising their son, Jon. Bruce Wayne and Diana arrive at their farm house. Young Jon experiments with his powers, which he can’t quite control. Next, he’s in the barn, Jonathan Kent is unconscious on the floor, young Jon is freaking out, and Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman arrive in their costumes. Jon flies off. The costumed heroes save Jonathan then go after young Jon. They find him, and later, Superman begins to wonder what just happened, though he’s happy to have seen his parents again.

Next, is Bruce’s story – he’s too late to see his parents before they die, or to prevent the horrible events of That Fateful Night. He sees a counselor, who gives him some medication to control his fears. This causes horrible, frightening hallucinations. Superman, adult Batman, and Wonder Woman have to save Bruce. By this point everyone is getting suspicious.

Next, Wonder Woman takes a boat, with Bruce and Clark, to Themyscira. By now, the three, including Wonder Woman, know nothing that is happening to them is real. The Amazons test the three, and they pass their tests. Hippolyta offers “Wonder Woman”, as she introduces herself, the chance to stay, but says the two men must leave. Diana decides she must go with her friends. Meanwhile, young Diana, is incensed at this and follows them, then begins to lead them through. They discover that Mongul, under the influence of the Black Mercy is behind everything. However, he had contacted Poison Ivy, Avatar of The Green, whom he manipulated to help him escape. The third person that is behind the dreamworld is the White Mercy – something created by Mongul’s need to escape and his boredom. The White Mercy, who appears as a child, appears to Poison Ivy as a child – she wants to use Superman to free her “daughter” the White Mercy. Mongul wants to escape the dream world of the Black Mercy. Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are caught in the thrall and dream world of the Mercy plants. Ivy even goes after young Jon. However, though, basically a construct, the White Mercy learned from the three scenarios he had Clark, Bruce, and Diana experience. In the end, he helps them escape the dream world. Mongul is returned there, Ivy forgets everything, including her “daughter”, and the White Mercy? It may have escaped to the real world.

This is a beautiful book – the art is gorgeous, with a marvelous painted look. The panels reflect the characters, as well, forming the famous symbols for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at times. Though at times it was hard to tell what order to read the panels in. All three interwoven stories really explain and stress the strengths of Bruce, Clark, and Diana. It’s a great book and deserves a spot on any DC Comics fan’s shelf. Highly recommended.

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.

Book Review – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

  • Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Author: Frank Miller
  • Artists: Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley
  • Line: Elseworlds Stand-Alone Novel
  • Characters: Bruce Wayne, Carrie, Joker, Two-Face
  • Publication Date: 1986
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/14/2016

This is the first graphic novel I ever read, and unlike most graphic novels, it’s one I periodically re-read. Simply put, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is a classic that influenced graphic novels, comics, and even the Super Hero genre for over two decades. First published in 1986, and I have an early printing – this graphic novel has never been out of print, which is highly unusual.

The story takes the kid-friendly Batman of the time and turns it on its ear. The time is the “near-future”, a dystopian future of gang violence, televisions everywhere, and where even Bruce Wayne has given-up retiring the cape and cowl. The Dark Knight Returns introduces a darker, scarer Two Face and Joker, a female Robin named Carrie, a very dark future, and an older, more grim Batman, who comes out of retirement out of necessity. Miller’s story is a classic and not to be missed. The 2-volume animated film based on it (The Dark Knight Returns parts 1 and 2) also does the original graphic novel justice, and includes nearly all of the more controversial images and parts of the story. The movies mimic the unique look of the graphic novel as well.

If you’ve never read this classic story, I highly, highly recommend it – it’s not to be missed.

Gotham Season 1 Review

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Camren Bicondova, Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen 

Gotham is simply awesome. Just awesome. It should come to no surprise to anyone who spends any time looking around this blog that I am a massive Batman fan, and I just love Gotham. The series takes the idea of a prequel to the Batman mythos we know so well, and makes it it’s own show. Gotham is in it’s own seperate universe from the CW’s DC universe shows. Not only is it much darker than Arrow and much, much darker than The Flash, but it’s setting and look are very, very different. But it still has elements of the Batman universe we know, just… earlier. Also, in some cases, this is very much an alternate view of Batman and the Batman villains we know, a different universe so to speak – but every different version of Batman is different, and that must not be forgotten. It’s pointless to discount a truly excellent show – because the way the characters are presented is different from what you expect, or the particular version of Batman you know.

Gotham looks great and the cinematography is incredible. And the subtly of suggestion in the cinematography was something that I really loved – and that reminded me of the great Film Noir stories of the past. At the end of “Viper”, as Liza and Falcone sit listening to Opera on her iPod, the camera pans up, and the green bushes framing the park form a bat. In “The Mask”, Harvey Bullock gives a rousing speech to the cops to get them to help search for a missing Jim Gordon, as the cops rise to help Bullock, sunlight rakes the room from screen left, like a sunrise. And in the episode where Harvey Dent is introduced, we see him with half his face in shadow and half in the light. Plus the cinematography is just gorgeous throughout – the city, a combination of sets and on-location shooting in New York City, manages to look both gorgeous – and old, shiny – yet used and dirty – and the architecture, is just incredible. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen Gotham City not immediately look like the city where something was really filmed or a studio lot.

The show uses a mix of styles, setting it apart, and not in a particular era. For simplicity of storytelling – everyone has cell phones. Yet the architecture has that gorgeous Art Deco look to it, with a bit of Gothic. (The Police bull pen set, is a fantastic two-floor set, with wonderful Gothic look to it – from the pillars to the archways (OK, they are rounded – like Romanesque not pointed like true Gothic, but still – it quickly brings to mind church architecture.) to the windows, to the clock.) I did watch the special features for the season set, and it didn’t surprise me at all that the Bull Pen was inspired by great train stations – St. Pancras in the UK and Grand Central in the US). Fish Mooney’s place has a 30s speakeasy feel – even once Penguin updates the look (and the updating showed surprising restraint, and was realistic to what Penguin could do. Plus they add to it with each episode – which also gave a realistic feel.) Barbara’s penthouse. Oh man – her penthouse, with that giant clock window?! How much more of a reference to the “Birds of Prey” do you need? And it was so, so awesome when you had Barbara, Ivy, and Cat, together in that place – with the clock in the background. And yes, her penthouse, her parents mansion, the mayor’s place, Don Falcone’s – all show the opulent, yet cold, wealth of Gotham’s elite. Even Wayne Manor seems cold at times.

Jim Gordon, in many, many ways, even more so than in Batman: Year One, is the hero of Gotham. He’s young, idealistic, and his light will bring light to the city. Or at least we hope so. In the first season, he turns things around and brings hope and light – even when he makes mistakes. Harvey Bullock changes, but not too radically, because of Detective Gordon, and Ben McKenzie is so good in the role. I’ve criticized his acting before, notably in Batman: Year One, but here he’s found a suitable role in a suitable environment – and he excels as a result.

Gotham is also the story of it’s villains – and like the graphic novels The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the Dark Knight Trilogy directed by Nolan (especially Batman Begins), and the works of Frank Miller, such as Batman: Year One, those villains start with the Mob. Four of our main characters all have some connection to the mob – and the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce’s parents, is the spark that lights off the signal for everyone to jockey for new positions – which results in a mob war. The Players include Don Carmine Falcone and Don Maroni – the two crime bosses of Gotham’s major crime families. They have an “understanding” and the uneasy peace is easy to upset. Fish Mooney is a top lieutenant, under Falcone. She wants to push “the old man” out and take over. Her schemes fill the first half of the season. Under her is her pal and right-hand man, Butch, and her errand boy Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot. Oswald is smart, and he’s studied and learned. He snitches to the cops on Fish, gets caught, but it’s a move in a larger game. Soon he’s working for Maroni, but eventually we find he was always working for Falcone. Penguin has two goals – to push out Fish (much like Fish wants to push out Falcone) and basically to take over all of Gotham and to be the king of organized crime in the city. The thing is, Oswald isn’t quite sane – and he messes with everyone. He has a goal – to be in charge of everything, but he doesn’t seem to be afraid to mess about with Falcone, Maroni, Fish and everyone else – even relying on James Gordon – but demanding favors in return.

The other villains we meet are merely introduced. In fact, the series starts with the “strange villain of the week” but quickly develops into a fascinating story that successfully interweaves the story lines of all the major characters. We meet Cat – young Catwoman, an orphan and street kid who’s probably Bruce’s age – maybe a bit older. We meet Ivy, who might be Poison Ivy – or might be a feint. We meet Joker, well, ditto. And we meet Edward Nygma, a forensic scientist working for the Gotham PD, who loves riddles. Yet he also has a crush on Kristen Kringle – a female records clerk. Nygma’s also fascinating to watch, and I hope his character is developed more in Season 2.

Finally, Bruce and Alfred. Again, if you look through my blog, you’ll quickly learn how much I adore Alfred. His relationship with Bruce is my favorite of all the relationships between characters in Batman (with Bruce and Richard Grayson being my second favorite – by a close margin.) Getting the Alfred and Bruce relationship right is key to making any version of Batman work for me. And screwing that up – that destroys any version of Batman for me. Gotham, fortunately, does not mess-up this vital relationship. In the first episode, maybe the first couple, I heard Sean Pertwee’s accent and I thought, “Oh, no – way too cockney, way too East End,” and it wouldn’t be the actor’s natural accent – his father was Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor on Doctor Who, and fairly RADA/BBC English for an accent. But fortunately, Alfred’s and Bruce’s relationship develops – and develops perfectly. Alfred, with every move he makes or doesn’t make, with every thing he says, and everything he does, loves Bruce Wayne. He loves him. And he will do anything to protect Bruce and to serve Bruce and to help Bruce – but he won’t smother him or coddle him. And he knows that he absolutely cannot take the place of Bruce’s parents – to even try would push Bruce away. So, from the very beginning, we are seeing the essential Bruce and Alfred relationship. Bruce, for his part – and brilliantly played by David Mazouz, pulls back at first, but both the first time Alfred is injured defending him, and most definitely when Alfred is stabbed – Bruce realized what Alfred means to him, and he knows he cannot go on without Alfred. The scenes between Alfred and Bruce are some of my favorites in the series – and they often lighten up a very dark show.

Because, in the end, the show is very, very, very dark. And very violent. At times Gotham wavers into Tarentino Film territory. And there is certainly very much more than just “an element” of Film Noir. Noir is full-on present in Gotham. But in the midst of that darkness, there is light – Jim Gordon brings light, with his attempts to be a real honest cop. Gordon’s light brings light to those around him:  Harvey Bullock, his captain, even to Bruce Wayne. Alfred and Bruce’s relationship, and Bruce’s determination to get to the bottom of his parents’ murder, and to clean-up Wayne Enterprises, also brings light.

Honestly, if you missed this show last year, it is a must-see. It isn’t just a must-see for the Batman or DC fan – it’s a must see if you appreciate good television. (I will say that because of the violence, I would but it at PG-13, maybe 15-and-up).