Book Review: Batman: The Widening Gyre by Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan

Batman: The Widening Gyre by Kevin Smith and art by Walter Flanagan Is the sequel to Batman: Cacophony, which I really enjoyed and rated 5 stars Batman: Cacophony review This story asks the question of what does it take for Batman to trust in both love and in partnership. In this graphic novel both relationships will be tested. This book features Batman, Nightwing, Robin (Tim Drake), Superman, Aquaman Catwoman, Joker, Poison Ivy, The Demon, Killer Croc, Deadshot, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face and a plethora of D list villains from the history of Batman’s Rouges. Baron Blitzkrieg anyone? though he is one over the cooler ones for the new era. This book does have Kevin Smith patented humor which is not all dick and fart jokes, this one is a little bit more mature than Cacophony and thankfully no rape jokes. There’s a lot of great moments Catwoman’s reaction to aging and getting called a cougar. Robin’s callback joke to being a man. Batman not trusting when a person or situation is too perfect, Alfred finding out about Bruce Wayne’s sex life and Aquaman rushing to the surface because dolphins reported a woman screaming in the ocean, which was a result of sex.

The Plot: Bruce Wayne meets a woman from his past that seems to perfect, but in his world as Batman too perfect leads to bad, can he let his guard down to find something real. As Batman he meets a new vigilante calling himself Baphomet that helps him time and again, but can he trust this new vigilante, or not. We go through Batman’s troubled past with trust issues and when he finally started trusting Robin and his trust issues with Superman. This comic will end in one of the most shocking twist I have ever read in a Batman comic.

What I Liked: The humor and observation that only Kevin Smith could bring to the world of Batman. The brutality and carnage of these villains, especially Mr. Freeze, we see people frozen but also death by shards of ice. Bruce Wayne happy and letting his guard down for a second. The personal tour of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude on a date. Baphomet and his secret origin. The hilarious Batman and Aquaman scene. The theme of trust throughout. The Demon as a villain is terrifying and I liked that he brought him from him Green Arrow run. When on the tour of the Fortress of Solitude there’s a Dinosaur, and batman has a line about he had one before they were cool to have at your hide out. It is double the size of Batman Cacophony.

What I Disliked: Every female character is sex crazed. There’s too many religious minded crimes, it’s Batman and I want to escape reality. The romance moves too fas, in regards to feelings. The story arc takes too long too develop. The Book ends at a cliffhanger and says to be continued except so far Kevin Smith has not continued it’s been 9 years!

Recommendations: I will recommend Batman fans check this comic out for the questions and conversations that are asked and answered. If you’re a fan of Batman: Cacophony then you have to check the sequel! I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars, while I liked the first one better this is a worthwhile read, and I will continue to read any works Kevin Smith.

Book Review: Batman: Cacophony By Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan

Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith features issues 1-3 and an alternative script for the third issue, it is a truly great comic with a lot of great conversations. Kevin smith known for writing and directing movies such as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Red State, and Tusk, has a way with dialogue, and adds it to comics as well. I was a big fan of his Green Arrow run, where he ended up creating one of the villains Onomatopoeia which is featured in this work as well. This graphic novel is sadistic but it leads to great questions and conversations.

The Plot: The Joker is locked away in Arkham Asylum where we see someone break in determined to kill him. That man is an assassin known as Deadshot, The Joker casually ask why he’s deemed to die. The Joker finds out that one of his poisons is being changed to a party drug called “chuckles” due to the fact it makes you laugh. The Joker is livid that one of his poison’s doesn’t do what it is supposed to do kill. Deadshot is there for that matter that the parent of one the drug users wants the Joker dead for the reason his son died by result of an overdose to the drug “chuckles”. Just before Deadshot has killed Joker, he is saved by another villain Onomatopoeia, a villain that repeats the sounds heard and killed Vertigo a costumed hero that used to run with Green Arrow. Onomatopoeia has a plan that involves the Joker and taking down Batman.

What I Liked: The conversations, there’s a really great one with Jim Gordon and Batman on wether to let the Joker die or not, and another with Batman and the Joker on if the other truly wants each other to die. There’s a great moment when the Joker realizes a joke after Deadshot is taken down by a head shot, and can not contain himself. I liked Batman using some of Deadshot’s technology. Onomatopoeia as a villain is terrifying, and I loved the reveal at the end for his character. Since Kevin Smith is known for his dick and fart jokes I was not surprised by this, for the most part they landed, on exchange with the Joker seeing Batman Junk when he changed was funny especially Alfred’s comment on it.  The alternative script was cool, most graphic novels only do a panel or two it was nice seeing the entire script and where it changed in the actual published version.

What I Disliked: There’s a rape joke that kind failed, featuring the Joker and Onomatopoeia where Joker misinterprets their relationship thinking he wants to rape him which the Joker seems all to willing to comply, which seemed a bit too much.

Recommendations: I really enjoyed myself it was funny, action packed and well drawn. I really recommend this one but there is the trigger warning of extreme violence and rape discussed, that not everyone will enjoy. I rated this short graphic novel 5 out of 5 stars. I bought this one and the sequel The Widening Gyre at the same time and will read it soon since I enjoyed this one so much.

Wrap Up – April 2019 Book Reviews

I had a great reading month completing 6 novels, I had no five star reviews but 3 four star reviews, 1 three star and 2 two star reviews, I read one advanced copy that is due out in a week.  This month was special  I gained a record 47 followers this month. So thank you to new and old followers.

Four Star Reviews: 

On the Come Up By Angie Thomas, her follow up to The Hate U Give while I didn’t think it rose to the five stars that I gave The Hate U Give, it was darn close.  We follow a young up incoming female rapper, as she tries to make it in the rap game and still keep her voice.  It is both coming of age and thought provoking, my favorite of the month.

Westside by W. M. Akers This is a pretty strong debut, my netgalley read this month. It’s about Gilda who solves tiny mysteries (like a missing glove of jewelry) on the the westside of New York in the 1910’s. Her Westside is haunted and dying it looks like a shell to Eastside. Gilda while detecting a missing glove stubbles upon murder, mayhem and a conspiracy that could destroy New York.

Batman: White Knight by Scott Snyder – this book sold me on it’s what if scenario, What if the Joker went sane? What would happen to Batman? This is a really fun book by one of my favorite writes of Batman comic’s at the moment.

Three Star Reviews:

Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions by Lois H. Gresh this novel combines the writing styles of H. P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Cohan Doyle, and the mix is not so smooth, I wanted to enjoy this one a little more, some parts were really good but others were hit and miss.

Two Star Reviews:

The Burglar by Thomas Perry has a great premise of a female burglar fakes like a visiting relative to the super rich neighborhoods as she jogs around, but really she’s casing fro her next heist.  She finds a really nice home with signs that no one has entered in a while, what she finds are very expensive painting and three bodies all killed executioner style with a video camera rolling. The burglar after tampering with the evidence to hide her herself, takes it on her self to take find the murderer.  This novel finally gets exciting among the final pages but I was  too little too late for me.

Dark Days: The Road to Metal by Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison, How can a Graphic Novel featuring today’s top comic book storytellers? It could have two new and totally relevant comics and then a a whole lot of filler with random panels talking of the God machine, and including the full complete comics with no summary of events. I still want read Dark Nights: Metal but this Graphic Novel only hurt my excitement for reading it.

Book Review: Dark Days: The Road to Metal by Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison

Dark Days: The Road to Metal by mainly Scott Snyder and some Grant Morrison is kind of a miss. This Graphic Novel collects Dark Days: The Forge #1, Dark Days: The Casting #1, Final Crisis #6-7, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1, Batman #38-39 (End Game 5-6), Nightwing #17, Detective Comics #950, plus the Map of the Multiverse. I have no doubt that DC’s Dark Nights: Metal will be good but this collection is not the best, sometimes we get the whole comic for 2 pages of panels about the God Machine. This collection is in a weird order, that makes it hard to follow. Scott Snyder is currently my favorite writer in DC, with his work in The New 52 and creating the Court of Owls story arc, and creating White Knight which I just reviewed this month, But his work in Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting is not that good, the set up is weak and the payoff which will be Dark Nights: Metal has a cliffhanger when it’s getting interesting.

The Plot: Is there is a metal of the Gods buried deep in Earth’s crust. This metal can make a machine to turn your dreams into reality, but also your nightmares into reality. The metal is also regenerative and used in Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit and the formula that keeps the Court of Owls’ Talons alive for so many years. The metal is in Joker’s spine and let him heal after cutting off his face, the Joker is also in the prophecies for the metal as the Pale man. The metal was forged by dark Gods who want to take back over Batman is trying to figure it out before the metal is used to open a door to the old God’s. The rest of the novel is 6 comics where the metal of the God’s is mentioned and the prophecy about it.

What I Liked: It made me want to read the excellent Batman Endgame again where the Joker makes a super potion from the metal in his spine, to turn all of Gotham into his image. I had never read Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne but reading issue 1 makes me want to read more. Dark Days: Forge has a nice Joker twist involving the bat cave which I thought was clever. The cover art was cool and all shinny which is a reason I picked it up.

What I Disliked: The order makes no sense, and only confuses the reader more, the stories were not meant to connect but I needed at least a recap to know where I was. Final Crisis is DC’s most complex story and should have just been recapped instead of having the last two issues, I read through it but I hardly understood a thing.

Recommendations: I would skip this collection and just read Dark Nights: Metal, the synopsis before reading will make more sense then this collection did. Scott Snyder is a fantastic writer, Please read his work in White Knight and The Court of Owls, instead of this. This Graphic Novel has actually put me off of reading Dark Days: Metal, other reviewers I would love to here your thoughts on Metal and why I should read it, the covers are cool. I rated this book 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy with Matt Hollingsworth

Batman: White Knight by Sean Gordon Murphy is a batman tale that ask the what if scenario what if the Joker went sane and became the former gangster lackey Jack Napier once again. Napier is out to save the city from the true villain of Gotham, Batman. This story drives deep into the psychological relationship of the Joker and Batman and the way their relationship is intertwined. It also highlights Joker’s relationship with Harley Quinn, and what she does for him is hold him back from what he’s really capable of. Artistically you will see all version of the bat-mobile from television, I personally liked seeing the 1960 bat-mobile in action.This comic series is packed with some really great moments and one off puns, I liked Bullock insulting the Penguin by calling him happy feet.

The Plot: Batman chases the Joker to a pill factory, in his chase Batman causes a lot of damage and almost injures an innocent bystander that Nightwing saves, as Batman risk everything to track down the Joker. Once caught the Joker threatens Batman that they need each other and that if he goes sane that it would destroy Batman. Joker has a set of pills that were designed to do just that, Batman challenges his threat by forcing the pills down Joker’s throat. The pills seems to work turning the Joker back into Jack Napier, the man he was before he turned into before he took a chemical bath. Napier has all the Joker’s intelligence and focus without the Joker’s craziness. His target is exposing Batman for the true villain that he is to Gotham. The Joker charges Batman with assault saying the police just let him get abused, and he target’s all of Batman’s collateral damage to property, and that there is a 3 million dollar fund to clean up all the damage. The joker proposes Batman should stop being a vigilantly and give all of his resources to the police. Napier’s plan divides Batgirl and Nightwing against Batman who they see going off the rails as Alfred is sick and Batman needs him as his moral compass. Harley Quinn who doesn’t like what her Joker has become turns herself into Neo Joker and will not stop till her Joker is back. How will this story end? Is Joker the White Knight of Gotham that can truly save the city?

What I Liked: Really good character work on Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn. There’s two Harley Quinn the original and the replacement, it works with one wanting the Joker sane and the other as his insane old self. I like that Harley is added to the whole Jason Todd Robin story, since she wasn’t created when the original story took place, I like what role she played in it. The line Batman gives to the original Harley Quinn about, “you held him back from the real danger that you know he’s capable of.” All iterations of the Bat-mobile are represented. The story and concept are great, I would’ve enjoyed a longer version of the story, I feel this concept could’ve been expanded on.

What I Disliked: When Joker reverts back Jack Napier it changes back to original skin color, I think this should have been done with make up, to mirror Batman who is always Batman but puts on the Bruce Wayne persona, to say that Jack Napier is always the Joker. I didn’t like the Jack Napier running for councilman, I thought it was too rushed.

Recommendations: I will totally recommend this Graphic Novel as a great what if story, that really expanded the Joker/Batman relationship. The final twist reveal reminded me of the excellent The Long Halloween storyline. I just read the excellent No Man’s Land that expands on Batman and James Gordon’s relationship as a good contrast to this Graphic Novel. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

Wrap up: March 2019 Book Reviews

This Month I have read 6 books, with two five stars reviews, one four star and three three star reviews to even out my month.

Five Star Review:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins – This was a great novel easily one of my favorites, I was drawn in to the story so quickly.  I like how it used the life of Marilyn Monroe combined with Elizabeth Taylor to develop a story of love, betrayal, secrets, and fame set during the Silver Age of Hollywood.

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – An excellent sequel to The Five People you Meet in the Heaven, is a good sequel where it expands on characters from the first book, and catches up new readers that don’t have to read the sequel to know what happened.  This novel will give you the feels, and I think it makes a great case for what happens to pets in heaven.

Four Star Review:

Batman: No Man’s Land by Greg Rucka – This novelization tells the tale of DC comics epic one year Batman storyline the stretched over 80 comics, into a 400 page book and it not only back sense but is good as well. Where after devastating earthquakes Gotham and it’s bridges it is now an island  declared No Man’s Land as the government gives up relief and the gang and bad guys take over.    It has too many great moments to mention, this storyline is is currently the background for the finale season of Gotham.

Three Star Review:

If, Then by Kate Hope Day – This novel is all about the counterfactual statements such as if so and so happen then this happens. A strange phenomenon happens where three neighbors start seeing vision of themselves in a possible future. All the neighbors have to ask if they see this vision, then will they have this future. I felt the ending didn’t answer all the questions I had, but the character’s

Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey – This is a science fiction story that compares a lonely lighthouse keeper to a Beacon keeper in the middle space that keeps a gravity shield to protect starships that pass by.   This book looks at isolation of a wounded soldier, it’s a pretty good character study.

 A Bad Day For VooDoo by Jeff Strand – This is my second Jeff Strand and boy do his books take you on a ride.  When Tyler Churchill learns there’s a Voodoo doll of him he will do anything to take the power that others have over him. This book takes any story you have read with voodoo dolls to a whole new level.

 

 

Book Review: Batman: No Man’s Land (novel) by Greg Rucka

I was pleasantly surprised how well written this novelization of the Graphic Novel Batman: No Man’s Land. Greg Rucca does incredible work on characterizations on Jim Gordon, The Huntress, Batman, and Oracle, really adding some depth to the characters. The novelization does a good job of catching you up on all the milestones in DC the at the time, Batman had his back broken in Knightfall at the hands of Bane, In the Killing Joke Joker tries to make Jim Gordon a good man go insane with Joker shooting his daughter Barbra Gordon who is Batgirl in the back crippling her, and she now goes by the Oracle and keeps watch over Gotham from the clock tower, Dick Grayson original Robin now goes by the name of Nightwing and other small bits it keeps you up to date on. I’m a little bit more then a casual fan but it did a great job of up dating me of events I might have forgotten. This Novel was written almost 20 years ago and still holds up really well. My reason for checking this story out is it is the background for the current storyline on Fox’s Gotham TV show and was used for the movie The Dark Knight Rises, the novel is way different but the situation is the same.

The Plot: After a massive earthquake hits Gotham ruining water and power and knocking a bridge out, the government gives the city of Gotham a cutoff where the city will be cut off from the federal government of the US and be known as “No Man’s Land”. a could deal of people stay behind with little effort from the government to remove them, the rest of the bridges are blown for Safety, which keep the people on the island of Gotham ( think Manhattan). Jim Gordon, his wife (also with the police), and a handful of his police officers stay to give aid, of the officer’s in the Batman cannon most notable are Montoya and Bullock. Batman has not been seen or heard, Bruce Wayne Batman’s alter ego has been fighting diplomatically for months to get government aid, this is a big catalyst for a fractured Jim Gordon and Batman relationship. All the Arkham Asylum patients are released as a humanitarian effort, which leads to them creating gangs and marking off territory of Gotham. The Police with Gordon have a small chunk, but have to deal with the gangs in Batman’s absence. There’s a mysterious figure taking up the Batman mantel a mysterious woman that’s there to try to keep the name a live but is she a friend or a foe? The oracle survives in the clock tower with a string of spies who report to her to she can keep track of all that goes on in Gotham. Both Robin and Nightwing were told to keep away, and have done so with his blessing as they deal with the resident that have left Gotham and live over capacity in the new town. Jim Gordon struggles with leadership and not much weapons makes tough decisions that lead in death and defection as he makes alliances with criminal’s to survive while Batman is gone. Will this destroy the character of Jim Gordon or can he hold out until Batman gets back?

What I Liked: Amazing characterization, there’s a scene where Oracle see’s the the new batgirl save the day for the first time since her accident, and goes a little crazy aiming the gun at her wanting the new batgirl to feel the same pain. The scene where Joker meets and talks to the new batgirl. The scene where Jim Gordon makes a plan that he knows will get people kill and to punish himself listen to the aftermath of every gun fire and scream. The scene where Jim Gordon and Batman have it out and Gordon tells Batman that he can’t get hired anywhere else because he needs a vigilante to do the job, there’s a couple more scenes that are just great. Really great stuff with the Huntress’s character and her need to kill. The new Character of Cassandra the mite who’s a spy for Oracle has a cool background story and some neat reveals in the book. The Writing of the Oracle’s journal that acts as the unofficial narrator, really worked, I had a little issues with how it started but it was really effective. Really clever twist that I did not see coming.

What I Disliked: The whole government plan to abandon Gotham was a little bit murky and could’ve been explained way better. I really disliked that in the Oracle’s journal’s on day one she reveals who batman is, Day one! I know why they did it for the reader, but if I die here’s somethings you need to know Dad, but day one! No Man’s land last a while and could have been more relevant when Batman does come back. I have a problem with how loose some character’s are with secret identity. Poison Ivy owns a big chunk of Gotham the park and she never gets dealt with. I did not care for the Harley Quinn dialogue, it felt really forced.

Recommendations: I put this up there with my favorite Batman stories, The Long Halloween, Knightfall, and The Court of Owls. If you want to read a book that really adds to the mythos of Batman then this is the book. Greg Rucka also did a fantastic job with his new 52 run on Wonder Woman which I would also recommend. I rated Batman: No Man’s Land 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Batman: Nightwalker is kind of a misnomer, because Batman is not in this book, This is a Smallville version of Bruce Wayne before he was Batman when he turns 18. This left a pretty good opportunity for a great story, but it’s just okay. There’s was things that I liked a lot is this book, but I felt most of it was a missed opportunity to add the the Batman/Bruce Wayne mythos. The people that are relevant in the later years are few and far between, there’s of course Alfred, Lucious Fox, Harvey Dent, James Gordon, and vague hints at Killer Croc and Zsasz. The villains the Nightwalkers are new editions and one of the best parts of this novel.

The Plot: The Nightwalkers are terrorizing the rich elites of Gotham. Bruce Wayne has just turned 18 and inherited all of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s assets. Bruce throws a huge party for his 18th party, filled with a lot of people he doesn’t even know his only friend’s are Dianne, and Harvey Dent. He has a run in with a former friend the Mayor’s son, who only comes around when he seems to want something, and he wants Bruce to lie for him. Bruce refuses and just wants to leave. He ends up driving around in a supped up WayneTech Aston Marten car. He witnesses a police chase that the suspect is getting away, Bruce snaps and goes into action chasing the criminal down and crashes his car into his. Bruce then finds out the driver was one of the Nightwalkers. Bruce is not rewarded for his action but is give community service at Arkham Asylum for interfering with a police investigation. He has to sweep and mop the female wing and solitary confinement area, Bruce witnesses detective questioning one female prisoner that is a member of the Nightcrawlers, she stares off and doesn’t say anything to them. The next day when they are alone she talks to him, he soon learns he is the only person she’s talked to and she’s murdered three people. The police involve Bruce to try to get information while he’s talking to her a riot breaks out and he has to protect her. Bruce is starting to feel attached she gives him information on a weapons stash but doesn’t tell him about the next victim where the mayor is murdered. Bruce feels as he’s getting closer but his friends and Alfred are starting to worry. She reveals that he’s on the list of targets but is vague about details, notices a code in her words and actions, but will he figure it out in time? Is she a killer or a victim?

What I liked: The descriptions of Arkham Asylum are really detailed and you feel the dirt and grime of the place. I did like Bruce getting catcalled by the female inmates. The action is written really well, when it is there. I like the question it makes Bruce Wayne ask about what is justice? Madeline is a great femme fatale. The Nightwalkers are kind of throwaway bad guys, But Lu adds a lot to them and giving them reason. The little twist towards the end was well done. There are a lot of women in powerful roles and women henchwomen. something that Gotham is is not know for, so that was refreshing. Alfred called Bruce, his ward, was a great moment.

What I disliked: Bruce is moody but not really dark, his parents passed away only 5 years ago and he seems to well adjusted. The friendship with Harvey Dent was wasted, they did dig a little bit into Harvey’s abusive relationship with his dad, but there could’ve been a lot more, since he later turns into Two Face. There’s not a lot of action, when it is there it’s good but there’s only three scenes of action, I wanted the prison riot to last longer, and bigger stakes. The Mayor’s son story line falls flat, it could have been more interesting.

Recommendations: If your a casual Batman fan I would recommend skipping this, it doesn’t add anything to the mythos. I would recommend this for a good introduction to Batman, which seems to be the audience the book is aiming at. Warcross by Marie Lu has been a book that keeps getting recommended to me, reading this actually makes me want to read an original story, because when she creates something new it’s good like the bad guys, but where this book struggles is when she has to fit the story into the Batman legacy she doesn’t add much and you can feel the push back. For this book review I give it 2.5 out of 5.

There are currently 4 books in the young adult DC icons series, featuring Wonder Woman, Batman, Catwoman, and Superman I have heard that Wonder Woman: Warbreaker is great and I will like that one a bit more. The comic book nerd in me wants to eventually read them all.

Reviews By Ryan Hixson Readingwithmyeyes