Friday, January 25, 2013
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Something happened to me at one point when I was reading one of Snyder's stories in this arc. At first I thought I wasn't feeling well or had gotten the jitters from some afternoon coffee. Then it finally dawned on me: I was afraid.
Afraid like when you watch a scary movie. You know there's no monster/killer in YOUR house, but you identify with the characters and you feel afraid FOR them. It's a special kind of discomfort because the Fourth Wall blocks you from helping or escaping.
And Snyder's been able to scare me with THE JOKER, of all people. Face it: no matter how often we are told the Joker is scary, writers don't always manage to pull it off. Terror comes best from the unknown, the unfamiliar; and, as villains go, no one is more familiar than the Joker. We all know the drill; the Joker gets a wacky plan, some innocents die, Batman stops him. But Snyder's put some twists on the story this time that have kept if fresh for me.
(1) The Batfamily aren't the opponents; they are the targets. "Villain targeting the hero and his entourage" isn't an original story, by any means. But it's never been the Joker's M.O. The scheme has always been paramount; Batman's goal is to distract the Joker from the scheme, to make himself the target. Well, be careful what you wish, Batman.
(2). Snyder has given us back the Joker as Master Planner. In the Golden and Silver Ages, heck, even in the Bronze Age, the Joker was DC's great schemer. If you don't believe me, just read his first story. The very point of the character is that he's ahead of you, he's already planned the crime, and by the time you show up all you can do is watch it happen while looking stupid. The Joker's not chaotic; he's not crazy (in the conventional sense). He'll try and convince you that that's the case, but that's all part of his game. Too many younger/modern writers have fallen for the Joker's schtick; Snyder knows better.
(3). There is a point to what the Joker is doing: specifically, that there are pros and cons to Batman having a 'Batfamily'. Sure, it's being made in an odd, self-centered, and whimsical way (the whole extended metaphor of the King/Jester); but that's consistent with the Joker's character. The Joker was always one to take a theme and just run with it, whether it was flowers, or fish, or 'crimes in reverse'. But, theme aside, the point is a very clever one. If the story of young Bruce Wayne tells us anything, it's that having family -- people you care about -- makes you vulnerable. As I've discussed before, there's an on-going tension between Batman-as-loner and Batman-as-paterfamilias. This is a problem the Joker has not only perceived, but it is now fully prepared to resolve.
(4) Even the point is being made very clearly, there's still a mystery: What's on the tray? Unlike the movie Se7en, where we knew darned well "what's in the box", we really do not know what's on the tray. We know only that, well, the Penguin and Two-Face were able to identify it, whatever it was.
I'm pretty sure it's not Alfred's head or face; the Joker's own dialog make it clear that misdirection is part of his methods, and that's just simply too obvious a solution. I'm also fairly confident he hasn't blinded Alfred, and if you think back to everything the Joker's been doing in this crime spree, you'll know why I think that.
(5). Snyder has used the Joker to put a stamp of identity and approval on Batman's principle villains, and he has ranked them. There is an inner circle, consisting of him, the Penguin, Two-Face, and the Riddler. The Joker gives each of them their due, recognizes that they have important roles to play, and take some pains to get them to participate in his scheme. Now, he certainly doesn't treat them as family, but he does treat them as colleagues who matter to Batman, and therefore, to him. There are lesser players (Mr Freeze, The Scarecrow, and Clayface) but theyare definitely part of an outer circle. Significantly, Catwoman is nowhere to be found in this scheme; she's currently still being wasted as an "anti-hero", but I have a feeling that won't last a year.
This last point might be the most significant one. Even I have begun to doubt the continued viability of some of Batman's Golden Age villains. But the Joker -- as portrayed by Snyder -- has no such doubts; and if you can't believe the Joker, who can you believe? Snyder has posted very clear sign-posts to the way to revive the Riddler--Batman's most intellectual foe-- in the new DCU and I look forward to seeing more of that. Certainly more than I look forward to finding out what's on that tray.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
(9) Killer Moth fighting Batman? Probably not a good fit. However, KM would make a great foe for someone more easily intimated by his pinache and entirely misplaced confidence. Blue Beetle? Green Arrow? You tell me.
(10) Killer Moth versus Batgirl is yesterday's news. Because once you've seen this, w
hat more could you hope for?
No, what I'd really pay good money to see is:
BatWOMAN versus Killer Moth.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Fortunately for Killer Moth this opportunity presents itself the very next night. Now, if we wanted to be kind, we'd assume that Whitey has told Killer Moth what his next 'job' is, and that Killer Moth, as "Batman" therefore arranges to run into the Casey Gang on patrol. But, well, we're not kind, and it's not true. It's achingly clear from the dialog that, no, in fact, Killer "Batman" Moth and Robin just coincidentally happen upon them.
While Killer "Batman" Moth does his Captain Obvious routine, Robin indulges in silk-based humor.
"Batman" makes good on Killer Moth's promise and when Whitey Casey uses his 'mothsignal', his pursuers back off.
A quick change and Killer Moth condescendingly confronts Casey.
But Whitey Casey, who's so dissolute he gargles with absinthe, ain't buying. Hilariously, the worldly Whitey still finds it non-credible that Batman was scared off by Killer Moth, because... because Killer Moth.
This is the point where Killer Moth should say "bugger off, Casey," realize that trying to build up the "Moth" brand is way more trouble than it's worth and just skip town with all of Bruce Wayne's money and Vicki Vale on his arm. But the most important thing to Killer Moth, as we've established, is BEING Killer Moth, so he's got to escalate his escapades by promising to deliver Batman & Robin to Casey. So quick-changing back into his Batman outfit, he drives to Robin to the vault where Bruce Wayne is trapped... OR IS HE?!?!
Well, of course Bruce Wayne escaped, you ninny. One; he's Batman; why didn't you go back and shoot him the second you discovered that? Two; bank vaults are designed to keep people OUT, not in. You'd probably know that if you'd ever tried robbing a bank, instead of cos-playing your "Killer Moth" fan fic character. Bruce managed to escape by--well, it's easier to let him explain it:
So, when KM finds the vault empty, he needs to improv fast. Forgetting which end of the gun actually does the work, Killer Moth knocks out Robin just as he's asking the eternal question, "HOW MUCH LONGER ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP UP THE MYST..."
Pistolwhipper Moth then doubftires back into his crime costume.
But, MEANWHILE, the REAL Batman comes upon Whitey Casey (and you know he's not the first).
Naturally, Batman takes barely a panel to beat the crap out of the Casey Gang (I mean, really; they're silk thieves), then dashes off to follow Robin, whom he's deduced Killer Moth has taken to the same vault he just escaped from.
Sure enough, Kidnapper Moth has locked Robin in the vault. Which, if you think about it, means that the very first thing Batman did when he broke out of the vault was... re-attach the door. Way to go, Mr. Monk.
Of course, by now, Robin realizes that he's been dealing with a fake Batman all along, so when the real Batman comes to the rescue, Robin attacks him.
Batman proves his identity by spouting one of those stupid unrealistic Hero Hints from Heloise that he was so fond of in the Golden Age: "...then the racing stripes come out nice and straight!" "Yeesh, only the real Batman would care about something so stupid in the pre-internet era."
Meanwhile, Killer Moth makes the only smart decision in his career.
Whitey Casey, however, does his best work lying face down, and, believing that Killer Moth double-crossed him, uses the machine gun that Batman apparently didn't think to confiscate. Probably too eager to rush back to make sure his patch job on the vault door was still holding up.
And you just know that, as each bullet ripped through his body, all he can think is, "My KILLER MOTH COSTUME!!!!"
Naturally, this leaves us with the classic comic book irony of "Batman must save the life of the person who can end his career if he survives". Yawn.
So, Killer Moth was shot up by over 9000 bullets, but at least they were all in the legs and torso. I guess that's why he survived. Clearly, Whitey wasn't able to aim for his head (that would be nearly impossible from Whitey's angle, lying on the ground as he was).
Wow. I mean, I'm not surprised Dr Sonny Blandish has identified the exact portion of the brain entirely responsible for your memory of the previous week (he is Sonny Blandish, after all). But facial reconstruction AND amnesia by gunfire? Screw you, Joe Biden, I need a gat stat, because those things are MAGIC. Once AGAIN, Batman's life/identity has been saved by guns.