Large breasted women in tight clothes (and a little bit of Batman)

Batman: The Cat and The Bat by Fabian Nicieza, Kevin Maguire, Sal Cipriano and LLL

All right, so this was a fun ride but not comparable to the last three Batman comics I’ve… devoured recently. It’s probably stories like this one that give comics their trashy reputation. I mean, sure it was funny, but also kind of… well, full of chicks fighting each other and shredding their clothes in conveniently  sexy ways.

Also Batman was hardly there at all.

So it’s the story of Batgirl/ Barbara Gordon. In a (somewhat misguided) attempt to help Batman out, she steals her father’s notebook to check and make sure he doesn’t suspect Bruce Wayne, enough though he’d probably be okay with it. Whatever, so she steals it and takes it to her work. Get this – she’s a librarian! A super hero librarian! She and Giles are now my favourite people ever.

Anyway, Catwoman steals the notebook ’cause she wants to blackmail some Russian mobsters (there are always Russian mobsters) into releasing a friend of hers. Batgirl, realizing that she screwed that up pursues Catwoman all over the city. They both take their clothes off and once they put them back on, proceed to tear them apart. Eventually they lose the damn book completely and reluctantly team up to get it back. They suck at getting it back, they get discovered by Batman who apparently just hovers around waiting for someone to need a hand with something but in the end they manage to outsmart all the villains, get the book and get home before their parents. In Barbara’s case anyway.

So there we have it. If there’s any redeeming qualities in this particular story it’s Barbara’s funny internal monologue which is hilarious at points and Batman’s adorable hands off/hands on parenting style (because he really is a parent in this one).

I haven’t missed the extreme sexism in comics, and this is one of the worst examples I’ve observed so far but I don’t really regret the 45 minutes I spend getting through it. Hopefully the next one will be more awesome.

Last movie I watched: Batman Beyond.

Last TV episode I watched: Heartland. That show is on like ALL THE TIME. There’s no time of day when you can’t have your heart warmed by sweet stories about country girls and their horses. True story.

And for a change, some Batman

Batman Cacophony by Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan, Sandra Hope, Guy Major and Jared K Fletcher

Cacophony was different again from the other Batman books that I recently read. For one thing, it was much more dated. Dated meaning full of pop culture references that clearly place it in the late 200os not in some vague time that could be a distant future or some strange fantasy time shortly after WW II, like most of them. The illustrations are more appealing to me than The Dark Knight returns, but the story wasn’t nearly as fantastic.

Still, it was an interesting one, focusing mainly on the Batman’s crazy obsession with the Joker. Also, the Joker’s crazy obsession with the Batman.

The story starts with a mysterious masked villain breaking Joker out of jail, apparently specifically to distract Batman. And although Batman may be the greatest detective in the world it takes him a few minutes to work this out. The cool thing about the masked villain is that he only speaks in onomatopoeia and has been hunting non-super powered super heroes in his free time.

The cool thing about the story is how it takes the obsession between the Joker and Batman and puts it on the Batman, not the Joker.

Spoiler! This comic is canonical so at this point the Joker has crippled Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and brutally beat Jason Todd/Robin number two to death. And yet, when he gets stabbed in the heart Batman is unable to let him die, despite the pleas of James Gordon and the logic in just letting him die. At first it seems like he just couldn’t live with himself if he let someone die when he could do something about it but afterwards when he goes to talk to the Joker it starts to seem like, as sick as it is, he does need the Joker to be his foil, even if it costs lives.

And that was what made this story neat. Batman came off as crazy as the Joker.

Last movie I watched: The second half of Batman Begins. Yes, it’s pretty awesome. Not in the same way the comics are but comics made directly into movies usually suck (see X-men 3). It’s a good movie

Last TV show I watched: Haven’t since my last post. Man it’s easy to read graphic novels quickly.

My first real comic book experience!

Batman: Contagion by 5 different writers, 11 different pencillers, 7 inkers, 8 colourists, 3 colour seperators, 6 letters and Bob Kane. Sorta. ‘Cause he still gets credit for everything Batman.

And they all deserve credit but I’m not about to write out all their names. Sorry all 40 of you guys. And Bob Kane.

Okay, so the reason I’m referring to this book as my first real comic book experience is ’cause it kind of is. The book is a collection of stories surrounding some exciting events in Gotham designed to end at REALLY ANNOYING parts so if they were being released in comic book fashion, that is one at a time, you’d have to buy the next one just to know what happened.

It’s like watching TV only more expensive.

Luckily for me, the whole story of Contagion is contained in the book Contagion so I didn’t have to go crazy.

This book is also printed on crappier paper than say, The Dark Knight Returns, which added to the exciting comic-y feel of the experience.

I’ve been doing, God dare I admit this on the internet where it may stay forever?, research  on the Batman and his whole universe, particularly the characters and that’s part of what made this comic so exciting – I finally got to meet them! This comic features, besides the dashing Bruce Wayne, the loyal and generally awesome Jim Gordon and the equally loyal and awesome Alfred, Nightwing aka Dick Grayson aka the first Robin who grew up to pretty attractive for a drawing (love the ponytail), Tim Drake aka Robin (the third), the Huntress aka Batwoman (briefly) aka Helena Bertinelli, Catwoman aka Selina Kyle (yeah I know, everyone knows her) and a whole bunch of characters I hadn’t even heard of.

I’m kind of proud of that actually.

Anyway, so the story is basically there’s a group of people who do terrible things for no discernible reason and one of the senseless, terrible things they do is contaminate a guy who just happens to be from Gotham with a virus that turns everyone into that hunchback from the 300 movie that really sucked (unless you just injected 300 tons of testosterone straight into your veins) and then kills them. It’s super contagious and ninety percent of the people who catch it go on to die from it. Batman’s frenemy, a fellow called Azreal, gets word to him that the carrier is coming but not quick enough so the city is plunged into chaos. Everyone runs around in a state of panic looking for someone who survived the virus so they can create an antidote, tries to stop angry mobs from lighting things on fire and avoid catching the bug themselves. It involves some pretty delightful relationships (Nightwing and Robin), some fabulous forced friendships (Catwoman and Robin) and some loads of complications (Batman and Ivy).

As it turns out, comics are kind of awesome. Here’s a complicated world that readers can really delve into, get a feel for and develop a relationship with. The characters are surprisingly well developed and their relationships are real. Story wise we’re not looking at anything super original (everyone hates a pandemic) but there’s a lot to be said for an old story that can still mean something. So all in all, it was kind of awesome. I see now why people collect these.

I mean, I’m not going to start but I understand.

Comics are awesome.

Last movie I watched: Batman Begins. Just to see how I feel about it now that I’m all aware of the mythology and stuff. I’m only halfway through it, so I’m not sure yet

Last TV episode I watched: One of The Batman cartoons from 2004. I kind of love it.

I understand now. Frank Miller is awesome.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley

So this book, for anyone who hasn’t done their Batman research, is a non-canonical story about Bruce Wayne/Batman and the rest of the gang. Non-canonical meaning it doesn’t follow the story line that unfolded in the DC universe, where Batman has a weak heart and Terry McGinnis breaks into the Bat Cave and steals the suit and thus spawns the Batman Beyond series.

In this story Bruce Wayne hasn’t dawned the cape and cowl for ten years, since the death of the second Robin – Jason Todd. He’s taking retirement pretty badly and spends most of his time thrill seeking/looking for a good death, being a raging alcoholic and reminiscing with James Gordan, who is also coming up on his retirement.

Meanwhile, an enormous gang/small army calling themselves the Mutants are the new crime in Gotham, committing crazy acts of kidnapping, murder (often together) and essentially terrorism (Not in the American Terrorism way, but using fear as a weapon to subdue and control the population). At the same time, Harvey Dent is being released from Arkham with a new face and theoretically a new attitude (SPOILER – it doesn’t take).

Bruce Wayne finds himself incapable of watching these terrible events happen, so despite his age he suits up for another run.

Along the way he picks up a new Robin, a young girl called Carrie Kelly much to Alfred’s distress and together they set out to end the Mutant organization, avoid police capture now that James Gordon isn’t watching the Batman’s back, catch the Joker and keep order when an apocalyptic event occurs.

And it’s spectacular.

At first I wasn’t thrilled with the graphics – I’m still not  suppose. I tend to like big, colourful pictures with firm lines instead of little ones, sketchy ones but as I read through it I started to see the pictures as the only way to tell this story. In fragments because that’s how the story is told. We get internal monologues from Bruce, Carrie, Alfred, Oliver Queen, Clark Kent and James Gordon and a lot of the action is explained through news reports. The images have to be sketchy and hard to understand because of the time and the place the story takes place in.

I loved every single frame of this book, the way Bruce was struggling with himself, Clark Kent coming across as the sell out (which he kind of was… just sayin’), the surprise twist at the end it was all wonderful. Very dark, very powerful and very human.

Last movie I watched: Ghost. Nice movie but the DVD was all scratched for the pottery scene. That was disappointing

Last TV episode I watched: Yu-Gi-Oh or something. I don’t know. They were throwing cards at each other.

And that’s got to be the worst

Tinker Bell and the Wings of Rani by a boat ton of people but mostly Disney

1) That has further damaged my already limited faith in Disney.

2) If this is what girl graphic novels are like, no wonder no one reads them.

3) LAME

So I realized I hadn’t read any graphic novels targeted specifically at girls and I also like sparkly, colourful things like fairies. I grabbed Wings of Rani. Well it sucked. I mean like, really terrible. The pictures were pretty in an uber feminine way. I like fairies as much as the next estrogen dominated person but this is just unmanageable.

In the first story one of the fairies wants to win the painting contest so she and her best friend travel all around the island looking for something to paint after the sneering bitch fairy taunts them only to learn at the end that friendship is more important (and then paint a picture of friendship and win the prize). The second one is about how one fairy gives up on her dream of seeing a flower she’s been caring for open in order to find a lost fairy (surprise! She makes it back in time.) The next one involves a conflict between the boyish fairy and the bitch fairy who both want the same dress. The next one is the only one with any really story to it, involving Rani the only fairy who can swim because she has no wings saving a friend and telling the story of how she lost her wings (she cut them off so she could get a magical item for a quest and then traded them to a dragon) but the didactic-ness of it was overwhelming. Finally, in the last one the Queen can’t find her shoes so she goes out without any and starts a fashion trend of not wearing shoes.

That’s right, this book is about girls who paint, like flowers, dresses, are self sacrificing and like shoes. Can we pause to give my feminism a moment to recover?

So two things about this book made me angry. Thing one  – the terrible lessons it’s teaching girls, and yes they are actively teaching. After not wearing shoes for a while the girls all learn valuable lessons like “try to be positive in the face of a problem” but at the end of it all, the story is more about the footwear. Plus, girls could easily learn that lesson fixing cars or playing soccer or anything that doesn’t involve glamorous foot fashion. All the conflict, if there any comes, from the bitch fairy who’s random acts of selfishiness seem to be core to her personality leaving her with no redeeming qualities and essentially as a plot item (women as the plot item?! When does that happen?!). Each fairy has a talent too – TinkerBell is a tinkering fairy, there are speed fairies and garden fairies and water fairies and…. polishing fairies? That’s right. Some of these great fairy talents include the ability to make things sparkly again. Even the self sacrificing lessons come through too strong. Sure it’s important, but why is it so important for girls?

Thing two – the stories sucked. Straight up, they were boring . I don’t care about which dress they wear to the party. Just don’t. Lame.

So anyway, that’s that. Not so good.

Last movie I watched: Still Batman Beyond and the Return of the Joker. Still awesome. Batman’s relationship with his various sidekicks and replacements is so cool!

Last TV show I watched: Most of a Heartland show. Super nice. Pretty horses, pretty boys.

My absolute favourite graphic novel to date (everyone should read it right now)

Pandemonium by Chris Wooding and Cassandra Diaz

Spectacular!

This is by far my most favourite graphic novel I have read so far in my graphic novel reading quest (which is shortly going to lapse into a Batman reading quest, just so you know…). Anyway,  Pandemonium – fabulous book.

It’s the story of a teenage boy named Seifer in a place called Pandemonium where everyone has wings and horns. He’s just a small town boy who desperately wants to do more with his life than his family expects (which is excel at a game called Headball and eat weird things like Stinkbug). His father is furious when he finds out that Seifer is secretly reading books and Seifer decides to go visit his eccentric grandfather who is determined to eat his cat. On the way back home he is kidnapped by the secret service, called the Velvet Spies, and taken to the Queen. It turns out that the Prince Talon, the Defender of the Realm has gone missing and the enemies of Pandemonium are starting to move against the Queen. Seifer just happens to look exactly like the Prince Talon so he’s going to pretend to be the Prince until the real one can be found.

Hilarity and also awesome narrative ensues.

Seifer is supported by an awesome adviser who comes up with the most creative threats ever, a young noblewoman called Cassie who has a mysterious past as well as powers, the two princesses who are Talon’s sisters, and an enormous red cat that wants to eat Seifer.

So this book is awesome. It’s funny, like laugh out loud funny, and sure some of the humour is totally burp jokes (for the boys) but some of it is not. The wording is clever, whether or not all kids will understand it, as an adult it’s hilarious. The pictures are brilliant and beautiful just to look at, never mind the words and the characters are genuine. Of course it follows a fairly standard arch of character development for Seifer, that is he starts to win the hearts of the people through his bravery and kindness, to traits the real Prince Talon lacked but the characters, the situations and their reactions all piece together the archetypal story in a super readable, enjoyable way.

I was reading it across the counter from my Mother and she said something about how graphic novels probably didn’t teach kids to read in the same way. Although she might be right, this novel makes a pretty compelling argument against that. Each character has a different voice and the vocab is hard. “Fathom” comes up, and I’m just saying, that’s probably a little outside of most ten year olds’ vocab which means that by reading this book they are totally getting new words and new contexts and that’s awesome.This book doesn’t make assumptions about it’s readers. It’s (relatively) easy to read but it’s got hard words. It’s got boy humour but also girl humour, strong male and female characters. Dark panels but a light story. Essentially, there’s no one who shouldn’t like this book.

And if you do, I will beat you up

Last movie I watched: Batman Beyond and the Return of the Joker. ‘Cause it’s awesome.

Last TV episode I watched: The last episode of the first season of a Batman cartoon from the 2000s I think. It was delightful.

Are my expectations just too high?

Caliber: First Canon of Justice by Sam Sarkar, Garrie Gastonny, Imaginary Friends Studio, Annie Parkhouse, Stanley Lau, Eric J, David Elliot and John Zopfi

Okay so check this out: King Arthur only a Western.

This adds to my conspiracy theory that the Americans are trying to steal everything. EVERYTHING. Even olde English myths.

I am of rather mixed feelings about this delightful graphic novel that is, for reasons unknown in the kids collection despite the sex, drugs and okay, so there’s no rock and roll, just some pretty intense violence.

So the story is basically this: an old Indian man (it hurts my soul to call him an Indian man since that’s clearly not the right wold) called Whitefeather/Merlin is looking for someone to wield a magical gun. He believes it is a man called Ulysses Pendergon (Uther Pendragon) but when Ulysses takes the gun he uses to kill a falsely accused tribe of … shudder… Indians and Whitefeather realizes he made the wrong choice. Ulysses is killed and Whitefeather disappears with the gun.

Yeahs later Ulysses son, a young man named Arthur comes to Tekacoma to claim his father’s land, only to learn that it’s been seized by a corrupt government. But while he’s there he runs into a dance girl named Gwen, a gunslinger named Lance, his uncle Hector and of course Whitefeather, who finally finds the man who’s supposed to use the magic gun. They have to fight some baddies, including Whitefeather’s former lover Morgan and make some allies as well as save all the railway workers from certain death.

It’s a super exciting story, if for no other reason then it’s fun to see how they take a Medieval story and work it into the Wild West. The story changes, for example Arthur’s cousin Kay dies to motivate him on his mission of justice (instead of living long enough to become Stewart of Camelot) and Whitefeather doesn’t stay dead when I expected him to but generally it’s pretty true to the old story, about right before might and doing the honourable thing. The illustrations are lovely and really add to the story. Very compelling, very new, very fun.

The problem I had with it was … this is the Old West and it doesn’t do anything to suggest that it’s aware of the problems within the genre. And we have problems. The… shudder… Indians are all wise mystic people who connect with spirit animals, like Whitefeather, and while I recognized a certain amount of mysticism as a major cultural element, no one ever writes Aboriginals as people. The women are all big busted wenches who are good with firearms and can-can dances, none of them exist outside of these roles. The one Chinese girl, who came to the west to find her father who is working on the railway is hyper sexualized, exotic to the extreme and a master martial artist. Again, this is just a character trope, not a character. I know, I know, these are the things that make Westerns Westerns but I still… I just want more. Is that wrong?

Last movie I watched: I’m not answering that. But it was a cartoon and it started with a B.

Last TV show I watched: See above.