Funnybook Babylon

January 20, 2009

FBBP #87 – Ripped from Last Week’s Headlines

Happy Inauguration Day, everyone! Now that President-Elect Obama’s inspirational address has been delivered, we expect you’re primed to listen to more eloquent uplift. But if you’re tired of that sort of thing, why not check out this week’s FBB podcast?

Obamamania
is on everyone’s mind and we’re no exception, but we can’t let other Big Stories get lost in the swirl of Hope and Change: we also discuss Batman Actually R.ing I.P., and a fresh “Yes, This is Being Published” from two reliable purveyors of YTiBPs.

Check back later in the week for a belated birthday appreciation of Sam Kieth!

January 16, 2009

Obamamania Update!

So, hey, people sure are excited about this whole “Spider-Man Meets Barack Obama” thing. Here’s a few things I wanted to address about the excitement.

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December 4, 2008

Batman #682 – “The Butler Did It” (A Final Crisis Tie-In) (A Last Rites Tie-In)

Batman #682

Batman #682

Double crossover banners, bitches! THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT!

And the title of this post isn’t even a spoiler, I ain’t doin’ my victory dance just yet. Note time. Also, this issue? Less straightforward than the last two.

But first, a note.
If you’ve dug Grant Morrison’s run on this title, and the sort of philosophical psycho-thriller approach he’s taken, then I highly recommend you check out this week’s X-Men Noir #1 by Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero. It’s a gorgeous book, and Van Lente’s script is incredibly smart and bursting with novel ideas in a way I haven’t seen on an X-title since, well, Grant Morrison. It’s astonishing how well he translates the X-Men’s core themes – and I don’t mean the Claremontian “wah wah we’re persecuted just like real world minority” themes, I mean the themes about evolution and natural selection and the generation gap – into a world without powers, but everything remains intact, and the manners in which this is accomplished are absolutely inspired. It’s a great book, totally worth both the admittedly high price of $3.99 and the considerable amount of hype Marvel’s given it, and may have actually been my favorite book I’ve read this week. (I haven’t hit up Jason Aaron’s Punisher X-Mas Special, though, which Tim Callahan seems to have adored, so that might change. But I doubt it.)

UPDATE: I just read the X-Mas Special. Tim’s right, it really is brilliant, so get that too.

Lo, there shall be… annotations!!
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December 3, 2008

FBBP #81 – The Batcast

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , — Chris Eckert @ 10:37 pm

We aren’t above cashing in on Bat-Mania, so if you can’t get enough of David’s Batannotations and all our other Batcoverage, LOOK NO FURTHER! Batman #681 dropped last week, with #682 in stores today.

Our final Morrison on Batman podcast (until the next one) featured topics including:

  • WHO IS THE BLACK GLOVE?
  • Class Warfare in Gotham City
  • Joseph’s continued attempt to monetize the site using “space medicine” beer
  • Chris’s continued attempt to stick media theory square pegs into round comic book holes
  • Jamaal’s questioning of that Bald Scot behind the curtain
  • Ragged Robins and Millionaire Playboys
  • The Balkanization of the DC Universe and Why This Could be Good
  • There are no Atheists in a Batcave (or are there?)

We’ve got winged mammals coming out our ears, and now you can too!

November 26, 2008

Batman #681 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 6: Hearts in Darkness”

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 4:47 pm
Batman #681

Batman #681

Yeah, yeah, I know I have shitty reactions sometimes. Full-on notes below the jump, although this issue is way more straightforward than normal.
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David Overreacts A Bit To Batman #681

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 11:22 am

UPDATE: After doing some thought and reading it some more, my initial reaction (which I’ll keep here even though I don’t still agree with everything I said this morning) was regarding my expectations for the issue more than the quality itself, since it’s actually a pretty fucking incredible action comic. My problem was, I thought I’d find out for sure who and what the Black Glove was, so I got angry, even though we have the next issue coming next fucking week. Which is pretty dumb and nerdragey of me so I admit to a decent degree of embarrassment, but still, I was really sure this issue was going to have the huge twist that was promised, even though honestly nobody ever said that for sure and we practically still have two issues left. In three weeks I may very well be feeling like a total asshole, and I’m okay with that, since I like good comics.

ORIGINAL POST I AM SAD ABOUT BELOW

Normally, this is where I’d do page-by-page annotations, but I don’t really know if there’s anything to annotate.

This is what DC promised:

This is it – “Batman R.I.P.” concludes here! The final, heartrending confrontation between Bruce Wayne and Jezebel Jet. The final fate of The Dark Knight. And the horrifying and shocking truth behind the Black Glove. With The Joker, the Club of Villains, Robin, Damian, plus an ending you’ll never see coming – this one has it all!

– From the solicitation

And also to show how strong he is and the way he deals with what happens to him. Bad guys take him down, and I’m thinking, ‘How do I get him back up?’ [Laughs] When we find out at the end who the villain is, it’s possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years.”

– Grant Morrison, at NYCC ’08

So, what did we get? See below the jump.
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More Blogs about Batman and Food

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , — Chris Eckert @ 1:24 am

batmanandfood

 

Later this morning, the final chapter in “Batman R.I.P.” drops, so I need to get my crackpot theory out there tonight! THE MYSTERY DIES AT DAWN!

I’ll just lay it out here: I think Grant Morrison’s whole Black Glove mystery, the whole core of Bruce Wayne’s damaged psyche, all ties into a preoccupation of another famous orphan: FOOD! GLORIOUS FOOD!

I’m sure I’m not the only person who read Batman #678 and wanted to know why was Robin eating so much. Twice, he appears, investigating all the weirdness surrounding Batman and his Black Casebooks. Twice, he is stuffing his face with junk food. When I reread Morrison’s whole run to lend a hand in David’s annotations, I was really just looking for more “food” clues. Everyone wrote me off as grasping at straws, that I had gone as clue-crazy as Batman himself in the midst of a “Zur en Arrh” induced breakdown. But look at the evidence. LOOK AT IT! (more…)

November 2, 2008

Dissecting the Anatomy Lesson: Everyone Wants To Be Alan Moore

Over in a comment thread to Jeff Lester’s recent (and very funny) review of Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns, Chad Nevett points out that

it seems every hero that was unique and alone in the past five years has discovered “Oh no, there are tons of you guys!” Kind of lame.

It hadn’t really hit me on the head until now just how much this is true, and where the whole twist comes from. While the DC Universe has always honored and integrated the concept of the known legacy, the unknown or unexpected legacy has become a frequently used element in a lot of recent (like, past ten to twenty years) superhero comics. You know what I mean: that story where the hero finds out, or hasn’t thought about and is now forced to deal with, the fact that he’s not unique, and that many of his presuppositions and assumptions about his identity were askew or outright false.

We’ve seen it a few times in recent years:

  • The Last Iron Fist Story in Immortal Iron Fist
  • The current New Krypton arc in the Superman titles
  • The Spider-Totem legacy in J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man
  • The Speed Force legacy in Mark Waid’s Flash
  • The emotional spectrum and rainbow Lanterns in Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern
  • Any fucking story that tries to deal with Hawkman’s origin
  • The current Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance story in Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider
  • The end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men with the Phoenix
  • Possibly Batman R.I.P. with the threat of ultimate betrayal and the commentary about Gotham being “a machine to make Batman”

I’m sure there are tons more I’m not thinking of; isn’t Ron Marz doing stuff like this in Witchblade? It was used pretty early on in Spawn, I think. Either way, the point is this: guys, the shocking twist in Alan Moore’s “The Anatomy Lesson” from Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 rules. I think we all know that; it totally pulled the rug out from under the reader in every conceivable way, and used that as a springboard to redefine the scope and themes of the book from a horror story to a space-spanning Gothic romance, and significantly increased the stakes of Swamp Thing’s actions and significance.

But along with its kissing cousin the Story Where The Hero Disappears and Similar Dudes Take His Place, it’s been sorely, sorely, sorely overused over the years, and is now gaining speed like the Terence McKenna timewave into some sort of singularity of plot twist reuse. Hell, Geoff Johns even managed to make it work with Green Lantern – back in the ’90s, when every superhero was stuffing their ranks with variations and refractions on themselves like a hot dog vendor trying to meet a product variance statistic, “holy shit, there are MORE of them!” didn’t mean anything for Green Lantern because, well, there already were more of him, so they just inverted the twist and killed them all off. Johns, on the other hand, just employed lateral thinking – instead of the twist being that there are more Green Lanterns than Hal Jordan, it’s that there are more Lantern Corps than the Green Lanterns.

I mean, it’s a cool story, and I greatly enjoy every comic I just named above, and will hopefully continue to do so now that I’ve realized the reliance on this thread. And there are tons of stories that are nothing like this, from Secret Invasion to All Star Superman (although it had some elements of it), but it’d be nice to see more people try to come up with the next “The Anatomy Lesson” than just trying to tap into it (where consciously or unconsciously).

October 2, 2008

Batman #680 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 5: The Thin White Duke of Death”

Batman #680

Batman #680

I dunno what kind of overview to give here other than “holy shit, this issue was incredible.”

So holy shit, this issue was incredible. Annotations below, and Tim Callahan‘s got his take up on his site as well. (more…)

August 20, 2008

FBBP #67 – Manifestos Never End Well

…except for the the one Joe wrote when we started this site. But then, everyone else seemed to ignore it and it never saw the light of day, so probably that was for the best. Look at the track record for public manifestos, it’s not pretty.

This week we review:

Batman #679: The fourth chapter of Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel’s “Batman R.I.P.” storyline

Punisher MAX #60 – The conclusion of Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov‘s “Valley Forge, Valley Forge”, as well as the capstone to nearly a decade’s worth of Punisher stories by Ennis.

We also discuss the big story in the blogosphere this week, new Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman’s video manifesto on “saving the comics industry”. If you listen to Kirkman’s follow-up interview on Wordballoon, you’ll learn that at one point the plan involves creators to literally tell fans to “go fuck themselves”. But there’s so much more to it. Listen and learn!

August 16, 2008

Fun with Solicitations: DC Spoils the Crap Out of Their Books

A message board several FBBers frequent has been embroiled in a debate about what constitute “spoilers”: many posters feel like if something is revealed by official company promotional material (Nick Fury’s “Secret Warriors” will survive Secret Invasion and receive their own book, Darkseid successfully takes over Earth in Final Crisis, Character X will be appearing soon in Title Y) then those plot points don’t really constitute “spoilers”. Usually this sort of thing doesn’t constitute a “twist” or whatever, and so these topics are fair game for discussing upcoming comics. But DC seems determined to test this assumption with their November solicitations, as seen on Newsarama. So be warned, “spoilers” after the jump:

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August 14, 2008

Batman #679 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 4: Miracle on Crime Alley”

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:15 am

Oh hell yeah. This issue was incredible.

Batman #679

Batman #679

Page 1: Batman’s fully enveloped himself in his new persona. Note his weapon, the baseball bat, making him a literal bat-man. (I can’t believe I had to have this pointed out to me.)

Pages 2-3: The tailor doesn’t seem to be Paul Gambi, the Crime Tailor. As an aside, as I stated on Tony Daniel’s blog, I utterly adore Bat-Mite’s little cheering expression while Batman gets his interrogation on. Fantastic.

Page 4: This is where things, obviously, start getting weird. Batman’s always been associated with perching next to gargoyles; however, the rapport with the city here is new. Le Bossu’s gargoyle henchmen go along with his Hunchback of Notre Dame theme.

Page 5: “A machine designed to make Batman.” This is perfectly in standing with Morrison’s assertions about the nature of urbanism from The Invisibles, as well as the The Magus/The Game-inspired aspects of this whole arc. How deep does the rabbit hole go? Is the entire city of Gotham a playground designed to create such a wonderful human creature, or is Bruce Wayne fucked up and listened to his imaginary friends? The way Morrison’s managed to make it so it could really go either way is fantastic. (more…)

July 8, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 2 – The (Aunt) Agatha Christie Period

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 10:55 am

Going forward with part two!

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s part one as well.

Batman #667

Batman #667

Batman #667 – “The Island of Mister Mayhew”

(art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart)

NOTE: Rather than recapitulate it here, I’d just like to point everyone towards J.H. Williams III’s commentary on the Club of Heroes and the particular artistic style associated with each one.

Page 1: The Black Glove, named for the first time. Note the roulette wheel, red and black, good and evil – it’s clear here that Mayhew, strung up, is making a bet. Judging by the actual wearing of black gloves, it seems clear this is the same character we saw at the end of 665. A friend of mine who for some reason wants to remain anonymous because this idea is fucking brilliant thinks that this might be a sort of retelling of the story of Job, with Hurt acting as Satan and Alfred as God, which fits in perfectly with the question raised by this bet – which is stronger, good or evil? It also fits in perfectly with Morrison’s use of the blind chessman figure in Invisibles.

Page 2-3: I just want to mention I love the look Tim gives Bruce for asking a question to which he himself is the answer.

Page 4: Tim mentions that Alfred is staying at home rebuilding Wayne Manor, which seems to place this after the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover – which is after this arc, so I have no idea how that works. Anyway, that’s his alibi for now.

Page 5: The Knight was last seen in JLA: Classified #1-3 by Grant Morrison & Ed McGuinness, and before that in Morrison’s JLA run.

Page 6: El Gaucho, respected crimefighter from Argentina; Legionary, past-his-prime Roman-themed crimefighter from Italy; the Musketeer, French crimefighter who, as he says here, just got out of prison; and Chief Man-of-Bats, the Batman of the reservation. All members of the Club of Heroes.

Page 7: More details about Mayhew’s life. Just as all of the Club of Heroes are alternate takes on where Batman may have gone, John Mayhew represents a directionless, unfulfilling life for Bruce Wayne without a cause and a mission. This is where we first see the poster for the Black Glove film, which comes into play later during R.I.P.; Mangrove Pierce and Marsha Lamarr are both names worth remembering, both within and after this arc. The group shot of the Club of Heroes is new, and lacks Superman, whom the original story (Detective #215) featured.

Page 8: The Native American vigilante is an alcoholic? Seriously, Grant?

Pages 14-15: Someone wearing Mayhew’s face, presumably taken off with the switchblade at the start of the issue. However, considering Mayhew shows up safe and sound later on, it seems likely this is simply a parlor trick (which raises the question of what the use of the blade was). “Place your bets” again digs in the gambling angle, and Morrison really loves to use the wearing-skin concept.

Page 16-17: We later find out the explosion originates from Wingman’s ship, where he planted the bomb as an accomplice to Mayhew and the Glove.

Page 20-21: Mayhew, wearing black gloves, kills Legionary.
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July 7, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 1 – This Is Your Brain On Drugs

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:01 pm

I’m seeing a whole hell of a lot of confusion about Batman R.I.P. out there, which is perfectly understandable – it’s a pretty damn opaque story, even more so than Final Crisis. In the interest of art appreciation, I’ve decided to try to go through Morrison’s recent Batman work and see if I can help shed some light on this fairly byzantine plot, as well as point out the myriad continuity references Morrison makes.

Also of considerable interest are Tim Callahan’s annotations and musings about this run – as always, this article is just one dude’s opinion. Apologies to the numerous people I’ve talked about this run with over time whose ideas and comments I’m probably about to partially steal, but thanks to you anyway, especially Chris Eckert.

This was originally going to be all in one go, but when I finished I realized I somehow wrote 8500 fucking words, and nobody in their right mind wants to read that. So I’ve split this up into the Kubert issues (655-658, 663-666), the Williams/Daniel issues (667-669, 672-674), and the R.I.P. issues (672-678) (which are jam fucking packed). I’ll have it serialized out throughout the week.

Before we begin, I just want to mention many of the recurring themes/phrases/ideas throughout this story, that you’ll see me pointing out:

  1. Hallucinogenic drugs/through isolation: Batman tripping balls is the overriding concept throughout this entire run, and the seed from which almost every other aspect and plot development takes place. Drugs, and their effect on the human psyche, especially in combination with living an iconic fantasy life, have brought Batman to a very fragile point. None of this is new, half of Batman’s enemies use hallucinogenic poisons (especially the Joker and Scarecrow), and he’s been poisoned or on drugs like every third Batman story since 1960.
  2. Nature vs. nurture: This is especially evident in the rivalry between Tim and Damian for the right to be Batman’s son, as well as the ruminations on Batman’s own upbringing. This theme generally extends more into the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover, which I won’t be discussing here since it seems to have little relevance to R.I.P., and I’ll also probably feel like an idiot when it becomes important and I have to do an appendix, but ah well.
  3. Red and black: These two colors show up everywhere representing good and evil, with special relevance to the colors on a roulette wheel.
  4. Zur en Arrh: self-explanatory after the latest issue, this is Batman’s implanted Manchurian Candidate codeword and the identity of a planet from Batman #113 that Bruce was abducted to (no wonder Morrison is referencing that story; he loves alien abductions) and on which he had the powers of Superman. The guy who summoned him was the “Batman of Zur en Arrh”, who had on that horrendously/hilariously ugly costume Tony Daniel reintroduced at the end of 678.

Throughout, I’ll also be taking a look at the various suspects for the identity of the Black Glove, whose identity Morrison calls “the most shocking Batman revelation in seventy years.” Taking a look, then, at the likely suspects:

  1. Bruce Wayne: Batman’s fucking with himself, a la Len Wein’s seminal Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries, where he got hurt in an explosion and started blacking out and being his own worst enemy, in a very personal and similar manner to the Black Glove. He’s supposedly cured by the end of the story, which was also a rather excellent round-up of his origin and life up to that time in continuity, and contained a lot of elements Morrison seems to be reusing (Thomas Wayne’s original Batman suit, for instance).
  2. Thomas Wayne: Batman’s father is alive, actually a con man, and out to reclaim Wayne Manor. I personally think this is actually going to be an issue four or five fakeout Morrison employs, a la Jason Todd in Hush, and it was hinted at in Batman #677. However, I just think this would be too crazy to stick, and would also harm Greg Rucka’s (in my opinion underrated and brilliant) Death and the Maidens, a story Morrison’s expressed fondness for.
  3. Dick Grayson: Pretty damn unlikely, considering recent events in R.I.P..
  4. Tim Drake: See above.
  5. Alfred Pennyworth/Beagle: Anyone who’s been reading my stuff on this site knows that this is who I think it is, and I’ll be pointing out instances of his absence and evidence of his guilt. I’ll be taking a look at the reasons against, too, but I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty damn sure this is the culprit and recent issues have only backed that up.

So. Let’s go.
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