The Comic Zombie Podcast: Issue #1

The all-new Comic Zombie podcast is out now!

holy bat movies

In their first episode: “Holy Bad-Movies, Batman!” – Chris Carroll and Erik Slader endure 8 hours of Batman films (two of which were good) so that you don’t have to!

Will they decipher the plot of “Batman Returns”?

Will they solve the Riddler’s ‘e.nigmas’?

Will they survive “Batman and Robin”?!

Find out here, this Bat-time, this Bat-channel!

(Also, be sure to check out Issue Zero: This Time, it’s personal!)

Holy Bat-movies! – Part 3

We did it! We made it! I was worried for a second…

In Part One – we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns

Then in Part Two – we tore apart Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and the god awful Batman and Robin

Now it’s time to review Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy!

Batman Begins

Batman Begins (2005)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Liam Neeson (Ra’s Al Ghul), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Ken Watanabe (fake Ra’s), Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Rutger Hauer (Mr. Earle)

Batmobile:

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Plot: A true origin story following Bruce’s life periodically from the murder of his parents to his travels around the world making himself into Batman, one step at a time. He becomes a member of, and eventually turns against, the League of Shadows, who come to Gotham to get their revenge and destroy the city. As Batman, he must face the Falcone mafia, the Scarecrow, and Ra’s Al Ghul, while trying to rekindle his relationship with childhood friend turned assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, establishing a relationship with Jim Gordon (one of the only honest cops in Gotham), and working to get his company back from Mr. Earle.

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Holy Bat-movies! – Part 2

Last time, in Part One: we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Batman Returns, now for our descent into Hell…

BATMAN FOREVER poster

Batman Forever (1995)

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Val Kilmer (Batman), Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Jim Carrey (Riddler), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian), Michael Gough (Alfred)

Batmobile:

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Plot: Batman and his new sidekick Robin must face the combined forces of Two-Face (former district attorney Harvey Dent, who blames Batman for the courtroom incident that scarred his face) and the Riddler (Edward Nygma, a former employee of Bruce Wayne seeking revenge for being justifiably fired), and their device that is going to steal all of the information from all of the brains in Gotham. Or some stupid crap.

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Holy Bat-movies!

All the Batmen

Batman has had a number of incarnations over the 75 years he’s been around, and many of them have been captured on film in the last 50 years. Depending on which movie you watch, he can be either part of the campy, ridiculous dynamic duo to the dark, brooding, badass dark knight. Depending on which version you prefer you can find at least one film that is to your tastes and is a totally valid interpretation of the character. Unless you like Batman and Robin, in which case go fuck yourself.

Erik and I will break down each of the Batman’s feature films, beginning with the 1966 adaptation of the television show and ending with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, and will attempt to convey what is good and bad about each, and which ones we liked (Batman), loved (Dark Knight) and straight up went into murderous hatred over (Batman & Robin).

Animated features were left out this time, as there are so many we feel like they deserve their own article.

Batman '66

Batman: The Movie (1966)

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The Not-So Great Debate – part 2: Alternate Batmen?

Click here for the First Great Debate: Battle of the Rogues!

Alex Ross - Batman

One of the go-to moves for editors in comics that want to bring a lot of attention to an established property is to replace your main character with a new version of that character. For instance, Hal Jordan was replaced as Green Lantern by John Stewart, then Guy Gardner, then Kyle Rayner, and most recently Simon Baz. Barry Allen was replaced as the Flash by Wally West. Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by John Walker (aka USAgent) and Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark as Iron Man by James Rhodes, Peter Parker as Spider-Man by Ben Reilly… hell, for when Superman ‘died’ it took 4 (!!) people to replace him.

This really hit a head in the 1990’s, when Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Flash, Superman, Batman, and a host of others were replaced by newer versions. Even Wonder Woman!

For the sake of this column, we’re going to be focusing on Gotham City’s dark knight: Batman.

Battle for the Cowl

It goes without saying that Bruce Wayne IS Batman. That said, there have been a surprising amount of times when someone else was wearing the cape and cowl. Hell, Dick Grayson has been Batman twice!

So, who is the best replacement Batman? Is it Dick Grayson, Jean Paul Valley, Tim Drake, Terry McGinnis, Damien Wayne, Thomas Wayne, or someone else?

 

COMICZOMBIE: For my money, the best replacement Batman is Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, an assassin for a holy order descended from the Knights Templar.

Azrael as BatmanHe replaced Bruce Wayne when he was taken out of commission by Bane during the “Knightfall” trilogy. Jean Paul has a complicated past, to say the least, and his grasp of sanity was tenuous, at best. A man that was just beginning to understand his inner demons, let alone conquer them, he was given this humongous responsibility and tossed into the deep end: a Gotham overrun by half of the inmates of Arkham Asylum, plus Bane and his goons. Yes, the weight of the mantle of the bat caught up to him quicker than he would have liked, and he went crazier than hell,  but while he was Batman it was incredibly interesting to see him slowly, and yet all too quickly, crumble under the weight of the conflicting missions of Batman and Azrael. Both dark avenging creature of the night types, but Azrael’s role was as a destroyer, and Batman’s role has always been a protector. The dichotomy made him very intriguing, even if he never felt like the ‘real’ Batman. That said, he existed in Bruce Wayne’s Gotham. He argued and fought with Tim Drake as Robin, he strained the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon, and he fought guys like Bane and the Joker.

Jean Paul Valley: best replacement Batman.

ERIK SMASH! : Bruce Wayne is and always will be Batman. Even in 95% of the Elseworlds tales Bruce is still Batman. He’s one of those character-archetypes that simply transcends the decades. That said, there are plenty of kick-ass, Batarang-throwing, Bat-replacements.

When looking at a line-up of potential Batmen, Terry McGuiness is the natural choice for Bruce Wayne’s replacement. Why? Well, part of it might be because when Bruce retired and put up the cowl for good, it was Terry who he finally deemed worthy of the mantle, the other reason might be because it was later revealed that Terry McGuinness was in fact Bruce’s illegitimate son/clone via Amanda Waller (long story…)

Batman Beyond intro clipsFor those of you that don’t know (hand over your nerd cards, you know who you are), Terry McGuinness was the main character in “Batman Beyond”, the sequel series to Bruce Timm’s 1990’s “Batman: The Animated Series”. “Batman Beyond” picked up decades after Bruce Wayne gave up crime fighting when he was nearly killed by a couple of low-life crooks, and was forced to use a gun to defend himself, something he swore he would never do. “Never again,” he states coldly as he shuts down the Batcave forever (it’s really an amazing and emotional scene).

Then in the somewhat far-off (unspecified) future, where Bruce is an old fogey, Gotham looks more like Neo Tokyo from Akira, and the legend of the Dark Knight has been reduced to urban myth, rebellious teenager Terry McGuinness picks a fight with a pack of ‘Jokerz’ (gangster punks ripping off The Clown Prince himself), and gets cornered at the front gates of Wayne Manor where Bat-hermit Bruce ironically happens to be taking a stroll outside for the first time in apparently ever. Bruce then manages to fight off the wannabee thugs with his cane. After helping Bruce back home, Terry accidentally stumbles upon Wayne’s secret, which leads him to stealing the Bat-suit, and then eventually realizing the error of his ways and convincing Bruce to train him to become Gothams’ new protector. (‘Mask of Zorro’ style)

Now I do realize that Terry is very different from Bruce in several aspects. He’s a much more flawed individual, and his personality more closely resembles a cross between Nightwing and Spider-Man in a bat-suit. However, part of that is because he is still young, and never experienced the kind of psyche-shattering tragedy that Bruce was unfortunately subjected to. Instead, Terry’s inner demons compel him to make up for past mistakes.

You get to see Terry struggling with the duel lifestyle in a way that Bruce never had to face, because let’s face it, for Bruce, Batman was his life, and for Terry, he still has a chance to have a life of his own, and carry on the never-ending war on crime. Regardless of the mistakes he makes, you can tell from the get-go that Terry has it in him, he has the potential to one day live up to Bruce Wayne’s standard, and eventually impart the way of the Bat to his apprentice and so on.

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Unlike Jean Paul Valley, Terry possesses the perfect mix of badassery, and a good heart.

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Top 10 Comic Book Movie Villains

Part of making a good comic book movie is getting the hero correct. You have to make sure they look close enough to the source material, and you really have to make sure the character feels right. You can’t have Daredevil fighting on a seesaw, or Batman and Robin going to a social event with the media present and talking to reporters (I hate you, Schumacher).

But, just as importantly as all of that is getting the villain right. How many lame ass versions of cool characters have ruined (or at least contributing to the ruining of) movies? I’m looking at you, Jim Carrey’s Riddler, Danny Devito’s Penguin, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face, Arnold’s Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, Collin Farrell’s Bullseye, Jigsaw in Punisher War Zone, and every villain in every Superman movie (yes, even Terrance Stamp’s Zod).

Here are my top 10 examples of villains they got right.

10. The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)

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This really shouldn’t have worked. They completely changed everything about the character except for his name, Emil Blonsky. He looks different, acts different, has a completely different origin, and somewhat different motivations. The only real similarities besides his name are the fact that he’s as strong as, or stronger than, the Hulk, he’s huge, and he’s a maniac who has no qualms whatsoever about massacring anyone and everyone that gets anywhere near him.

I like the fact that we saw Blonsky evolve from a regular man to a psuedo super soldier to a gamma monster. I like the design, despite the fact that he’s completely different from the version that’s been around for nearly 50 years. I like that he’s made with a combination of super soldier serum and Hulk blood, which is the worst nightmare of the Hulk, and something that would/will piss off Captain America to no end.

I think the fight(s) between Blonsky/Abomination and the Hulk are the highlights of this movie, and probably keep it from being a really average movie.

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – BRONZE AGE (3 of 4)

Continued from Part 2: The Silver Age

THE BRONZE AGE (1970 to 1985)

— “I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX!!!” – Jean Grey (Dark Phoenix)

This is considered to be the start of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics, and with good reason, which continued into the late 90’s (the Copper Age). Some very dark twists to many popular characters backstories were first established during this time such as: (Retro Spoiler Alert!) the Green Goblin killing Spider-man’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacy, not MJ), the demise of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker, Elektra’s murder by Bullseye, etc… (BULLSEYE was introduced in Daredevil #131 – 1976, and ELEKTRA in #168 – 1981)

Often disputed between comic fans / historians, this Bronze Era is typically said to have occurred sometime between 1970 and 1985 give or take a couple years. This was a time when comic books became more socially conscious and began featuring real-world issues. Comic books were no longer just an escape from reality, but a mirror of it. This is when the legends behind the most acclaimed adult-themed comics started to creep onto the scene. Writers and artists like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and countless others who are still relevant today, most of whom are still actively in the comic industry today!

The Bronze Age was when there was a resurgence in interest for super heroes in general. Following the cheesy campy spoof that was the Batman 60’s TV series was the first serious, live action, depiction of a comic book, on the silver screen with Superman: The Movie in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s there was the Wonder Woman show and the Incredible Hulk became a Smash Hit! (pun-intended)

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – GOLDEN AGE (1 of 4)

“First Appearances can be deceiving…” (Spoiler Alert – #2)

Click here for Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe!

“In the beginning there was the word, and the word was <SHAZAM!>” – John 1:1, New Testament, Biblical quote (altered, obviously)

One of the things I absolutely love about comic books is the intricate history, not just the current ‘in-cannon’ history of the stories themselves, but the history behind the stories, the history of the characters, and their creators. What started in newsstands and drug stores eventually evolved into bestselling graphic novels, and smart phone downloads.

In this (retro) installment of ‘Spoiler Alert’, I (ERIK-SMASH!) will be discussing the initial appearances of many of the world’s most famous super heroes between both MARVEL and DC comics! Furthermore, I will be delving into the differences between their initial appearances and today.  One big difference between DC and Marvel over the years is that DC characters almost always started out in their own separate worlds and eventually crossed over into the same continuity, whereas Marvel characters have always been a part of the same world from day one. However almost all these characters started out in a series that was not titled after them.

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for single comic issues to have Multiple (complete) stories rolled into one, whereas today you’re lucky to get One story in a single issue, since most stories are stretched between several issues and later collected into a trade paperback, so most of today’s comics are the equivalent of a chapter. Anyone who already knows a bit about comics knows that Superman first originated from Action Comics 1 (1938) and Batman made his debut in Detective Comics 27 (1939), while Marvel’s Spider-man (created by New York comic gods STAN <the man> LEE and Steve Ditko) first swung into the pages of ‘Amazing Fantasy’, Issue #15, in 1962. But did you know that Wolverine first appeared in the Incredible HULK?! (Issue 180, 1974)

Real quick note about DC and Marvel. The two competitive companies are akin to Microsoft and Apple in that both are very similar in a lot of ways, both have been known to copy one another, there are a few differences in the way they get things done, but it all comes down to the fact that both of them pretty much do the same basic shit. A key difference right now would be that Marvel’s live action films are kicking ass left and right (Iron Man, Spider-man 2, X-Men: First Class, Daredevil, THOR, ‘The INCREDIBLE’ HULK, etc), in comparison to DC’s few and far between with a few notable exceptions (The DARK KNIGHT Trilogy), even though they have just as much potential, but take their animated films and DC is far superior in quality thus far with their new line of PG-13 movies directed to an older audience (Superman Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Batman: Under the Red-Hood, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Doom, etc), also, obviously, with a few notable exceptions (Hulk vs Wolverine).

Also, one cool thing about all these first appearances is that if you can get your hands on one of these issues, (I’m talking first printing) especially the older stuff, it’s going to be worth a lot more than your average comic. For instance, Action Comics #1 recently sold for a whopping $2.6 MILLION!!! It originally only sold for a measly 10 Cents (talk about inflation). But that’s a rare case seeing as it’s not only one of the rarest comics of all time, but it is the original super hero comic of all time! So yeah, if you’re ever perusing a vintage collection of comics in a random flea market keep your radar out for these diamonds in the trash.

Now that we’ve got those honorable mentions out of the way let’s buckle our seat-belts and set our Flux Capacitor for the 1930’s because when it comes to history I like to go chronologically. We’ll be skipping the Victorian and Platinum Ages that led into…

THE GOLDEN AGE (1938-1956)

—“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”  – Superman narrator / radio announcer (from the 50’s TV series)

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The Not-So-Great Debate #1

The Not-so-Great-Debate: Battle of the Rogues
Batman / Spider-man

One of my favorite things about reading comics is the sheer amount of debates you can have about them. Who is cooler: Batman or Superman? Who is faster: Quicksilver or the Flash? Who would win: the Hulk or the Thing? Burton Batman or Nolan Batman? Married Spider-Man or single Spider-Man? Cyclops’ X-Men or Wolverine’s X-Men? Captain America or Iron Man? Avengers or X-Men?

I’ve always been interested in these conversations. When I worked at a comic book store, one of my favorite things was to listen to the arguments customers would have (especially the younger ones). The best one I ever heard was between three brothers: One was about twelve, the next probably 9 or 10, and the youngest was 7-ish.

They were debating which Robin was the coolest. The oldest loved Jason Todd, the second Robin that was murdered by the Joker, but mostly because of his time as the Red Hood since his unfortunate resurrection. The youngest was ALL ABOUT Tim Drake, and thought the other two were insane to even entertain this notion that there could ever be a Robin that measured up (for my money, he’s right, but that might be a topic for another day). The middle one had a strong argument, as he thought the best Robin was the first one- Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing (and replacement Batman). They went back and forth for probably twenty minutes, and it never devolved into shouting, or name calling, or anything like that. It was really just each kid making their case (“Tim beat the Joker! Without Batman!”). I remembered that conversation recently, and thought that there could be some entertainment value in something like that.

So, I called up Erik Slader (of EpikFAILs.com) and we settled on a topic that we come down on opposite sides of. We’re going to go back and forth, at least until we have each made our cases. If one of us can convince the other that we’re right, all the better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

Our first topic of discussion:

“Who has the better villains: Spider-Man or Batman?”

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ComicZombie: The best super-heroes always have awesome villains. Superman has Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, and Doomsday; the Flash has Professor Zoom and the Rogues, whereas the X-Men have Apocalypse, Sinister, Magneto (sometimes), Sentinels, the Marauders, and just about every human on Earth; Daredevil has the Kingpin, Bullseye, Lady Bullseye, the Hand, Mr. Hyde, the Owl, and Mr. Fear, while the Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom; and the list goes on and on for the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and so on and so on.

However, I don’t think there is any debate that the heroes with the greatest villains are: Batman and Spider-Man. I also don’t think there’s any debate that Spider-Man edges out Batman for the title, but that’s why we’re here.

Batman has awesome villains, yes. But the real appeal for his rogues is really all at the top of the list; the heavy hitters, for lack of a better term. Spider-Man’s group of freaks is awesome all the way from the real bigs, like the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, etc to the guys that are practically hopeless, like the Shocker, Hydro Man, Boomerang, Cardiac, and a whole host of others. Granted, most of the appeal is at the top as well, but Spidey has more “A-list” villains than Batman does. His rogue’s gallery as a whole is just better.

ErikSmash!: So the duel Begins… 

Of course both of these dubious super-villain team-ups have their own merits, but on behalf of all Fan-boys and Geek-girls out there, I’m going to have to side with BATMAN’s rogues gallery as the best in all of comic-dom.

I might be a DC loyalist, yet even I can admit that your friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN has an all-star cast of costumed crazies, and perhaps even the best rogues gallery.. in the MARVEL universe that is!, but you have got to be shitting me if you think for a second that Spidey’s baddies are anywhere near the archetypal greatness that are the foes of the Dark Knight! Two-Face, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, The JOKER! All these characters are so awesome they often overshadow the hero. It can be argued that as cool as Batman is, it’s his villains that make him legendary, these are tales so psychologically metaphorical they will last the test of time and have already proven their versatility in their various reincarnations over the ‘Ages’ (Gold through Platinum).

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight’s entertainment! I only have one question. Where is Harvey Dent?” – the Joker

I’m not going to even bother defending guys like CALENDAR MAN, MAXIE-ZUES, KG-BEAST, KILLER-MOTH, or VENTRILOQUIST, for example, but even those guys have had their moments, and can cause some serious trouble for Gotham’s Knight. However, when it comes to Batman’s rather extensive (and ever-growing) rogue’s gallery, the numerous heavy hitters far exceed those of the bottom of the barrel rejects. So let’s start with the one that is more acclaimed than all of Spider-man’s bad guys put together:

THE JOKER! From his first eerie introduction in Batman #1 to Heath Ledger’s terrifying portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy, this agent of anarchy is the essence of nightmares. Not only that, but as perhaps Batman’s ultimate arch-enemy, you’ve got a perfect foil for one dark and brooding, ever-stoic, crusader of justice, versus: an unstable, unpredictable, laughing terrorist, dressed in a purple suit with makeup and green hair, whose only out to prove that life is meaningless, and doesn’t even care if you get his inside jokes. Denny O Neal once claimed that the Joker is not only one if the greatest comic book villains, but that he’s right up there with the other great villains in all of literature. My favorite thing about the character is that almost everything he does has an ulterior motive, or worse: not motive at all. For instance, when the Joker brutally murders your best friend in a most horrific (albeit humorous) manner there’s a 50/50 chance that it was either a spur of the moment idea that conveniently presented itself, or was simply an elaborate plan to drive you over the edge of sanity itself. Check out ‘The Man Who Laughs’ by Ed Brubaker (featuring a retelling of his first encounter with the Batman, following ‘Year One’), ‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore (one of the most acclaimed and pivotal Joker tales), or better yet: Brian Azzarello’s chilling graphic novel simply entitled, ‘JOKER’!

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The 5 Best Batman Stories You’ve Probably Never Read

So everyone knows about Year One and the Dark Knight Returns.  A lot of people know about The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, and most people who have ever read a Batman comic know about the Killing Joke (after Year One, my personal favorite). But those have been discussed, dissected, and praised into the ground.

I’d like to tell you about 5 Batman stories that you probably have never heard of, much less read before. One of them is an “Elseworlds” story, which was an imprint DC Comics used to tell stories about their characters in completely different situations than you would normally find them, much like Marvel’s “What If…?”. For instance, in an Elseworlds story you might see Batman become a vampire and fight Dracula, or see what would have happened if Kal-El’s rocket ends up being discovered by a young Gotham couple before they ever have a son of their own, a couple named Thomas and Martha Wayne… Another of the stories I’m going to talk about isn’t an Elseworlds story, but it doesn’t really ‘count’ in the Batman continuity, as it takes place 100 years after the Batman first showed up in Gotham. The others take place in completely different periods in Batman’s career, from the beginning to the ‘dark period’ of the 1980’s to more or less the present.

I present my 5 Batman stores you’ve probably never read.

5. Batman: Year 100

BatmanYear100100 years after Batman first began stalking the streets and rooftops of Gotham city, and things aren’t so great. Big brother is watching everyone all the time, everything is run by gigantic corporations that own and control governments, and there isn’t anybody standing up for the people in Gotham. The police have the capability, but are largely crooked beyond belief. One of the honest Gotham cops, a Lt. Gordon (the great grandson of the Commissioner) does what he can, but it’s not enough. Then there is a gun fight, and a federal agent turns up dead, and the police are shut out of the case. Nothing adds up from the outside, and Gordon can’t figure out what’s going on. Everything seems strange, especially when you add in the bizarre reports of some kind of creature with giant, leather wings that can’t be killed by bullets, is inhumanly fast, and impossibly strong.

We all know who that sounds like….

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Paul Pope writes and draws this entire story, and his artwork is incredible. You see every wrinkle, every fold in Batman’s suit. When he uses gadgets you can see every nut and bolt. The details are great.

 

The story is a little strange as you get into it, as you don’t really know who Batman is until the end, and while it’s a cool reveal, it’s also a bit of a head scratcher, because it’s hard to believe that this person would still be alive after all this time. Regardless, it’s a really interesting take on the Batman mythology, and in my opinion every bit as valid of a possible future for Batman as the Dark Knight Returns was.

 

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