Comic Reviews, Comics, Reviews

Gotham Academy Volume 1 Welcome To Gotham Academy Review

Gotham Academy was very popular when it first came out. Everyone raved about how awesome it was, but then the series slowly died down as the issues kept going. Eventually, everyone dropped it..or so it seems. Well, I finally took the plunge and read the graphic novel. I can’t say that it lived up to the hype for me…at all, but it’s a fairly decent comic. The art and characters just hold it back a little, but the art’s the main problem.

Gotham City is tired of always being super gloomy and gritty. They don’t deserve that reputation when they have such a nice school right? (Bullies aside….) This comic series focuses on the school and one of the students in it, Olive. Olive mysteriously vanished during the summer and lost her memories of what happened. Only a few people seem to know what happened to her, but they’re not spilling the beans and Olive always has to dash off so she can’t interrogate anyone. Bruce Wayne may hold all of the answers, but how can she talk to a billionaire while at this school? For now, Olive won’t worry about it and she’ll just try to enjoy the school life. Try being the key word.

Perhaps it is due to the memory loss, but Olive isn’t a very nice person anymore. Her friends say so anyway. One of her friends is Maps, a fairly nice kid who’s always very eager and optimistic. Maps is easily the best kid in the comic although she could go downhill fast if she starts to take the situation with her brother and Olive personally. If Olive decides to pull the friendzone card, Maps just needs to roll with it. I won’t judge her on actions that have not yet happened though so I’ll give her a brief slide for now. Maps helps to make the comic fun as without her, the school would be a little lifeless.

Olive, Maps, and some other classmates decide to have fun poking around the parts of the school that are forbidden to them. It’s what these kids do for fun after all! They manage to find Killer Croc which was interesting. I’m tempted to say that Killer Croc is completely out of character here, but I haven’t officially seen him in the New 52 yet so maybe not. Either way, he is looking after Olive a little during her stay at the school because he got along with her mother. Although, he may not ultimately get a say in that since Batman is on the prowl. Batman’s role is very small as the comic is trying not to rely on star power yet so he just has a cameo along with Bruce Wayne. He looks like the bad guy to an extent, but you have to remember that Killer Croc is a wanted felon for a reason. He may act pleasant on the outside, but he’s really a very sinister fellow at times.

The ending of the comic was pretty intense as Damian got a quick cameo and outsmarted the other kids. Given his professional training, Damian would be very overpowered in this series. To an extent, I can see why people wouldn’t want him in this school. He will certainly change the dynamic of the comic and also shift away a good amount of focus from Olive. Still, I think this may have been what the series needed to get a little bit of a boost.

As mentioned earlier, I do think that the art really hurts the comic. People seem to love the art, which continues to show the gap between critically praised art and my kind of art. Batman, Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, I consider all of those to have bad to terrible art. Instead, look at Superman, Justice League, and All New All Different Avengers for the art that really sells a title for me. If this volume had that level of art, it would be a completely different experience. I dunno, I just find it really sub par here and the art just isn’t clear or bright enough to really snag your attention. There also isn’t a deep plot yet so it can’t get away with a darker art style like Secret Avengers can.

One subplot that is definitely not good so far is Olive’s plot with Maps’ brother. The guy can’t really take a hint and at least the two are basically solo acts at the moment, but how long will that last? Romance is the last thing that this title needed as the plot threatens to turn the comic into your average school story with romance. That’s definitely not the way that I would have written the script. The romance plot continues to thicken though as a Teenaged Man Bat shows up for some more drama. If you don’t see the parrallels to Twilight yet, you will! It was also a very anticlimactic way to end Olive’s fire plot from her origin.

Sure, we’ll likely find out more about that, but it really doesn’t explain why she has such an aversion to Bats. I just don’t see how the fire memory would be traumatic after the flashback that we got. Olive may end up getting fire powers or something, which would be neat though. The comic hints that she may also have a split personality, which would explain things, but the mystery will likely unfold more as the series goes on. The first arc essentially ended here as we were introduced to Olive’s story. The other classmates aside from Maps don’t have much character or personality yet so we’ll see if they ever end up becoming likable. I doubt it to be honest since they all seem shady or just not very ethical, but anything’s possible I suppose.

Overall, I wouldn’t call it a bad comic, but Gotham Academy’s not a very good comic either. It’s essentially middle of the road, although I would have given it a solid six had the art not been so underwhelming. The series has a lot of potential though. As long as it steers away from the romance and we maybe get an action scene once in a while, I’ll be satisfied. Hopefully, Olive’s mystery continues to be interesting and doesn’t end in an anti climactic way. Damian’s inclusion to the series will also change things and the writers will just have to be careful about how he is portrayed here. If handled right, he could definitely give the series a boost. If you’re looking for a happy school story, then check this one out. It may be up your alley. If you’re looking for a story with a little more charisma…check out My Little Pony Pony Tales. Superman Unchained.

Overall 5/10

Comic Reviews, Comics, Reviews

Batman Beyond 2.0 Volume 2 Justice Lords Beyond Review

It’s time for another volume of Batman Beyond 2.0 and this was certainly an exciting one. The cover is easily the best that we’ve seen in Batman Beyond and it’s one of the best covers that I’ve seen in a comic. This really makes you want to open it so that you can find out just what is happening. Well, the wondering is over and now you can really jump in and watch the epicness unfold! It certainly lives up to the cover.

For the plot, Batman Beyond is still wondering why the heroes are so unnerved by Wonder Woman’s sudden appearance when she defeated Brainiac. Superman explains about how the Justice League met the Justice Lords a long time ago and they believe that she might be the Justice Lord version or worse…she may have been corrupted. Batman Beyond is tasked with going to the Justice Lord’s dimension and finding out what happened over there. This is no small task, but Batman Beyond has to make sure that there isn’t an invasion being prepared by the villains. So, he heads out on what could be his toughest mission yet!

This volume definitely has a lot of action and it’s cool the Justice Lords plot return. I had always wished that we could have gotten a sequel episode in Justice League so a comic version is naturally the next best thing. As this is the future, the roster has certainly changed, but we find out what happened to the old timers. Superman’s still around and that’s certainly the important thing. His personality is a little intriguing and I’ll touch on that in a moment.

Before I go into that, it’s certainly refreshing to have some good art here. Batman Beyond typically does though so I wasn’t surprised. Superman looks a tad skinny, but it works for the fight scenes since Superman is more streamlined this way. The style certainly works for the series and all of the characters look accurate to their TV show counterparts. The only time where the art dipped was in the final few pages. It seems like the final mini comic suddenly got a new artist, which didn’t go over so well compared to the rest of the collection. It was sudden and more than a little odd.

One part of the comic that was a little dicey was how corrupt Lord Superman became. The main Superman emphasized that the Lords were the Justice League, but then they got corrupted. Still, they aren’t just evil duplicates from a parallel world, they’re merely a what if. Lord Superman definitely doesn’t look like that though as he jumps past the line into full blown villain territory. It certainly wasn’t very subtle and I suppose that the message is about how you will just get worse and worse as you break the rules. It is true that once you do one bad thing, it is easier to do another. I understand the logic.

That being said, I just don’t see Superman going this crazy. You’d think that you were watching Injustice For All or something. This is a Superman who already had quite a few years of experience under his belt and he was a seasoned veteran. Certainly not just your run of the mill fighter. To see him fall so low is just sad. The rest of the Justice League also looks pretty bad. They’re all savage and/or crazy. They grew up in a pretty messed up planet, but I like to think that some of them would have made the choice to still be heroes. After all, it’s just the right thing to do right? Hopefully, they will learn to be better heroes now. Although, their farewell to Wonder Woman suggests that this may not be the case.

We find out that Lord Batman and the normal Wonder Woman did try their best to keep the peace on Earth though so they get kudos for that. Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl (I think) are the ones who deserve some blame. Apparently, they just couldn’t take the war and decided to get off planet. It’s good that they didn’t want to be villains anymore, but running away from the problem is never the answer and it just makes them look bad. They should have helped to restore law and order on the planet instead of running off. I thought that they were made of sterner stuff!

In the present, Bruce Wayne still looks good. He figures out Wonder Woman’s scheme (Even if she didn’t know about it) right away and he gets a good hit on Superman. Unfortunately, he is still very old so he doesn’t get to help out with the fighting that much. It’s all right, he had his day. Batman Beyond does a good job of making the most of his opportunities. His new Kryptonite suit is definitely good and he’s even able to fight Superman with it. He’s naturally on the losing side, but it is good to see him try. He is still a really good main character and hopefully he’ll stay that way for the duration of the series. I still think that he’s wrong in blaming Bruce Wayne for the guy’s many secrets, but at least Terry isn’t being petty about it.

The comic came close to making me take a step back when Superman stabbed Lord Superman with a chunk of kryptonite, but Superman still made the hero call so I was fine with it. He did a good job of stopping Lord Superman even if they didn’t get to personally fight. Settling for Superman defeating Shazam and the underlings is a good consolation prize. Superman may be old, but I would still pick him over any of the other heroes. It was certainly very dicey to see the Justice League get thrashed so badly by the Justice Lords, but I’ll just assume that they were surprised. It should be a fairly even battle although one side would ultimately claim victory. The comic didn’t exactly have time for prolonged battles, which is a decent reason for rushing it. There will just be some power level inaccuracies, but nothing major.

A movie could easily be made out of the explanation near the beginning of the collection as Wonder Woman discusses what happened in the past. The Justice League did get to have a rematch with the Justice Lords, which would have been awesome to have seen on TV. Another movie could even be made about Lord Batman and Wonder Woman’s battle against Lord Superman and Lord Wonder Woman. There’s a whole lot of potential in the backstory, which would be a lot of fun to check out. The comic did a great job with the story telling and it actually managed to make the flashbacks just as interesting as the current story.

I think that I’ve essentially discussed all of the major points that I wanted to touch on. As this is part of the rich DCAU continuity, there are so many interesting things to note in the comic. These characters really were quite good and it’s always nice to see them revisited. If only more comics could take place in this timeline along with extra shows and films. If any part of DC deserves this treatment, it’s certainly this continuity.

Overall, Justice Lords Beyond is a great collection to read. Whether you’re a longtime DCAU fan or someone who is just getting into the Justice League, this is a great story of parallel universes. There is a lot of action to be found here and Batman Beyond even gets a new suit, which is stronger than his old one. The pacing never slows so there’s always some kind of excitement going on. I don’t think that Batman Beyond is going to be able to top this collection, but there’s always a chance. If we get a time travel adventure going….there is always a chance! My library definitely seems to have more Marvel comics than DC, or at least from the ones that are checked out so reading a great comic like this one is always enjoyable. I look forward to seeing what DC adventure is next!

Overall 8/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Batman Mask of the Phantasm Review

It’s time for one of the first great Batman films to finally be reviewed and Mask of the Phantasm was certainly a film that turned the tides for animated superhero films as we know them. This film was in the same continuity as the 90’s Batman TV show so that was definitely a draw for many since it was known as the definitive version of Batman. I can’t argue there and seeing him on the big screen was probably a lot of fun. This is a pretty solid film that also contains the Joker so expectations were certainly high coming into it. I’ve seen it several times at this point and it’s always been one of the better Batman films.

Batman is framed by a new vigilante in Gotham, but this new figure is willing to cross the line. He has already vanquished several members of a mob and he intends to finish off the last survivors. Batman won’t have this and he decides that he’s going to have to take this Phantasm down. Will Batman really have what it takes to pull off such a feat? The film also deals with Batman’s meeting with a lady named Andrea. She has something to do with his past and now she has returned after 10 years…what’s her angle!? The Joker also decides to show himself towards the second half of the film so he adds to the intrigue.

Mask of the Phantasm certainly delivers on the animation front as Batman’s cloak looks very crisp and modern. You would think that this was a high budget episode of Justice League and that’s what I expect from a theatrical film. I think that the beginning of the film certainly got the most attention as it looks considerably better than the rest of the film, but the whole thing still looks really good. For a film, it also makes sense to trow most of your budget into the opening to really hook people in as opposed to a show where you want to put some budget into the beginning, but then you’ll want to save a lot of it for the climax. A good indicator of how good the animation looks here is to look at Batman’s design. The way that they design his cape and cowl are pretty good indicators of if the animation is good or great. Mask of the Phantasm is definitely on the latter side of that.

This film’s soundtrack uses a few tunes from the TV show while also inventing a new theme that plays during the intro and ending. It’s an operatic piece that works pretty well with Batman since it lets you know that something serious is about to happen. It’s more fitting with the ending than the beginning since it highlights a key decision that has now been made. It’s rather dramatic and it works well. You definitely won’t doubt that this is a theater film while you’re listening to the soundtrack.

Batman looks pretty good for the most part although I certainly have some qualms with his portrayal here. It naturally revolves around his scenes with Andrea. Many of the events with them take place 10 years earlier during Batman’s first adventures as a crime fighter. She arrived and he started to consider hanging up the mantle before he had even begun so that he could lead a normal life. It’s not the “I am the night. I am vengeance. I am Batman!!!” character that I remember, but this was fairly early on in his career so I could cut him a tiny bit of slack. Now, what I can’t simply overlook is that 10 years later Batman is once again in shambles because Andrea has returned.

No matter how close they were, there’s no way that anything would cause Batman to hesitate at this point. He’s already decided that being Batman is something that he’s going to do until he’s physically unable to handle the job anymore. He definitely wouldn’t consider stopping now for any reason. So, that subplot was definitely a pretty big stretch and it was a little sad how his secret identity was found out so easily. I don’t think he would typically make the mistake of standing in front of the Wayne’s grave or at least being caught doing so. He just didn’t look too good there and I have warned films about the possible traps involved where romance is concerned. I think it did hurt his portrayal here.

That aside, Batman tended to look pretty good in the fight scenes. It’s safe to say that he had the edge against the Phantasm and he took out the Joker with sufficient strength and finesse. It was only close because Joker had the home field advantage and I can live with that. He is still a tough villain after all so a close fight is to be expected. Batman put together the clues for the mysteries pretty quickly here and he also put Alfred in his place when he started to go a little too far. This is definitely the Batman that I am used too and it will be tough for any continuity to ever surpass the DCAU version of Batman.

The Phantasm is a pretty intense villain. I naturally won’t disclose his secret identity even though the film is so old because spoilers must be protected through thin and thin. So, naturally these lines just pertain to when he is in costume. He’s a pretty intense villain and he seems to show no fear as he hunts down gang boss after gang boss. He is equipped with a pretty sharp gauntlet that can cut through guns without effort and he is quite adept at moving through smoke. I think that some of his feats are certainly a little exaggerated since there is no possible way (Barring supernatural powers) that he can accomplish them. One example is where he throws a smoke bomb and Batman immediately grabs at him, but the Phantasm is gone. It’s pretty spooky, but a little hard to buy.

Andrea is one of the new characters for this film and she’s pretty decent although it can be tough for Batman fans since we don’t like to see him give up like this. Unfortunately, Andrea is in a pretty tricky situation since her father got involved with gangsters so now their lives are in jeopardy. That’s why she ended up leaving Batman 10 years ago and then she returns for this film. She seems nice enough, but also a little too easy and the whole affair with Batman happened way too quickly. Naturally, both of them are to blame for this, but also allowing the flirting by Reeves was a bit much on her part. I probably prefer some of the original characters from the final film in the Batman DCAU trilogy, but Andrea certainly could have been worse. At it stands, Andrea didn’t make the film lose any stars. (A star probably could have been gained without her subplot though)

Joker appears to give the film some star power on the villain front. Admittedly, the film probably wouldn’t have been quite as exciting without him. A super villain is always appreciated and you feel pretty confident that he will be able to stand up to the Phantasm. He is the Joker after all and he’s always prepared for every eventuality. His home base is pretty cool and he’s just a very charismatic character. I always did like him in the DCAU even if he’s not my favorite villain in most of the other forms of media. His fans will certainly be pleased with his portrayal here and he is seen as a pretty big threat from the get go.

Arthur Reeves is one of those guys who likes to be at the top of the Anti Batman game. He appears on TV constantly to remind people that Batman is a menace and you would almost think that he was Harvey Dent at first. It makes you wonder how this guy always manages to get on TV, but he is a politician. Let’s just say that all original characters tend to have something to do with the plot so he’s entangled in the past full of mysteries in this film. He’s definitely not a good character and I wouldn’t have minded if he hadn’t been in it. I guess we do need more villains though and he beats some of the sub villains. He just brings shame to the Arthur name! If it helps….he does have the courage to laugh at the Batman!

You may wonder about a certain figure on a boat as the film ends and what it all means. Well, I like to think that the figure threw another figure away as a certain explosion hit and quickly escaped, which is how the figure is here. That also explains why the other figure continues to appear in future media in this continuity. I think it makes sense, but it also undermines one character’s big moment at the ending. Ah well, at least it means that the character resisted from crossing the line one last time…even if it was accidental. This may sound vague, but you’ll know what I’m talking about as you watch the film.

One scene that may make you wince is when Batman takes on the cops. Typically, that is an easy feat for Batman, but they were probably trying to make it a little more realistic for the casual moviegoers so Batman actually doesn’t look good. We’ve seen him take on a planet full of enemies in the past so no true Batman fan will really be able to buy the scene. It’s also sad since Batman ultimately has to be saved. I think it would have been more appropriate for Alfred to have saved Batman since it would have left the crimefighter with more dignity. As the scene stood, it was a pretty sad moment for the Dark Knight. It also makes Bullock look worse than usual since he just shot someone who has been helping him out since day one. That’s definitely what I call being not grateful to someone.

The main plot is a lot more interesting than the flashbacks, but I did enjoy this rendition of Batman’s origin. It was fun to see his first fights against the hoodlums of Gotham. I just think that it would have been even more fun without the romance in Andrea’s subplot. This film definitely has a lot of romance in it and it’s interesting that the other two Batman films have romance plots involved in some way. It may help the general audience I suppose since they expect that, but you can certainly do a good Batman film without such a subplot. After all…what would the fans have to say about all of this? Batman is the solitary Dark Knight…end of story.

Overall, Batman Mask of the Phantasm is a pretty good way to start off the classic Batman trilogy of animated films in the DCAU continuity. The soundtrack is pretty good and the animation is superb. It tops several of the DC films that have come out in the last few years and that’s no small feat. Batman’s portrayal is hardly perfect, but he still looks smart and tough, which is good. The Phantasm makes for a nice villain and the Joker’s certainly a classic villain to use. The opening action scene is pretty great and you really feel the blows. The film may only be a little over an hour, but there are a lot of danger/combat scenes to help make up for that and the action never get boring. I definitely recommend checking this film out whether you’ve watched the TV show or not. It’s good as a stand alone Batman film no matter how much experience with Batman you have. Even if you’ve never heard of Batman before, (Is that even possible?) this is a pretty good place to start.

Overall 7/10