Thursday, January 31, 2013
Superman. They've been doing a good job with the villains we have seen: Luthor, Brainiac, the unsubtly named H'El, and even Metallo and Mxyzptlk (whenever Morrison's done whatever nonsense he's using him for). But I don't think we've heard word one about classic foes like the Kryptonite Man, Zod, The Toyman, The Prankster, Terra-man. I'm not surprised none of them have gotten a story, but I currently can't even tell whether they exist in any way in the new DCU. As I've mentioned before, Superman's never been as reliant on villains to fill his dance card as some other heroes, but I'm afraid the DC is just going to abandoned some of these characters as unworthy relics from another time.
Batman. Heh. No problems here. As usual, Batman is falling over himself with both classic villains and new ones every day; it's enough to make even Dick Tracy jealous.
Flash. The Twin City Rogues seem to be in great hands with Manapul. Thanks to him, DC finally bit the bullet on "power internalization" that the Rogues have needed for years to be serious threats to the Flash. A fresh new 'spin' has been put on 'the Top' in the person of Turbine, the golden Glider's got a new less on the afterlife, and a new version of the Reverse Flash is on the horizon. Plus the team isn't shying away from additions like 'Mob Rule'.
Aquaman. Well, Black Manta and Ocean Master have certainly been repositioned forcefully on the sea-board. I hope that Johns has plans for the likes of the Fisherman, because Aquaman doesn't have too many re-doable villains. I mean, it's not like Fire-haired Karla, the Invisible Un-thing, or the Awesome Threesome are likely to be put back into play. Considering that piracy is a very real-world concern nowadays, I'd enjoying seeing him bring a truly piratical foe into the mix again: Black Jack, Captain Squid, heck, even the laughable Wind Pirate. Which reminds me... who's up for OGRE? I'm up for OGRE.
Wonder Woman. I love what's currently being done with Wonder Woman, which is taking full advantage of her mythological origins, without being pedantic or being tied exclusively to characters invented 3000 years ago. But mythology's gain is Villainy Inc.'s loss. WW never had the most stellar line-up of foes, but she did have a lot of female foes (e.g., the Blue Snowman, Dr. Poison, Dr. Cyber, Clea, Giganta, the Silver Swan), which we could certainly use in the new DCU. I believe that these characters have as much potential as Flash Rogues (more, actually).
Martian Manhunter. *snicker* C'mon, DC; give us back the Human Flame. And, for that matter, the Human Squirrel (which is less ridiculous than the anthropomorphized squirrel in the GL books).
Cyborg (a.k.a. The New Martian Manhunter). ...?...
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.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Oh, wait, you probably think I'm talking about that terrible goulash character, "Hush". Ha! Ha, ha! I fooled you! I am, of course, talking about Killer Moth, a.k.a.... Batman's Double!
You'll notice that, even though this is only Killer Moth's second appearance, the writers are already showing some regret about the "Killer" moniker, because they frequently just call him "The Moth". Because that helps so much.
As you'll remember, his first outing didn't turn out so well. Then he fell off a bridge. So things just have to get better from here. HA, HA!
The story starts with a recap of the events of Killer Moth's first story. Here's the famous scene where Batman unmasked Killer Moth!
Wait. Wait, what? That.... that didn't happen. As you may remember from yesterday's post, the writer took great pains to protect Killer Moth's identity at the end of his first outing, Despite having been to the Mothcave, Batman and Robin do NOT know who Killer Moth is, they didn't unmask him, they didn't capture him. And, no, before you ask: I have not overlooked an intervening story. The writer has completely misrepresented the ending of KM's origin. But why...? Let's read and find out!
Killer Moth (or I guess he's Prisoner 234026 again now) escapes from prison using his mothy wiles, and tries to figure how to recapture the indescribable glory that was his one-day-long life as Killer Moth.
Oh, we've all been there. Sitting there broke and on the lam, wishing that we were Killer Moth. Sigh.
Then he hits upon the really bright idea of just talking the place of some rich twit, of simply stealing himself a new identity.. That way, he'll be rich and won't have to do anything bone stupid like the Killer Moth schtick.
Unless he really really wants to. Yes, instead of becoming Killer Moth so he can become a wealthy playboy, Prison 234026 needs to become a wealth playboy so that he can become Killer Moth. Being "Killer Moth". we finally realize, is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself.
Usually, there is where I'd share some sharp literary analysis that makes sense of all this. Like, how Killer Moth symbolizes the idolators of the famous with his infatuation with becoming a Batman counterpart. How he is intentionally left nameless to symbolize his searing lack of identity and how eager he is to give up his own face to become another person entirely. How his choice of the moth, which symbolizes complete transformation, as his crime symbol subconsciously represents his self-loathing and desperate need to create a new a fabulous transformed version of himself as Killer Moth, with delusions of grandeur as the 'anti-Batman'. Which all sounds good, but in reality, I just think he's bone stupid.
Then he kidnaps Bruce Wayne after a boxing match (really; just don't ask) and locks him in an abandoned bank vault in the foundations of an abandoned bank. Because Gotham City is... a very odd place.
My favorite part of this? "I don't want a murder rap hanging over me if anything goes wrong. So I guess I'll change my name to...KIDNAPPER MOTH! HA,HA!"
Then he sends Dick off to an orphanage, fires Alfred, and moves to Ibiza with Vicki Vale. Cuz you know it would only take one phone call to convince her.
Just kidding. Naturally, he gets called into action as Batman immediately. OH, the comic book irony!
So, Killer Moth has seen the Batcave and knows who Batman is. Uh-oh. That only leaves two options for him later: getting shot or amnesia. Place yer bets, folks!
Then there's long, boring sections about some gang that's stealing...
...shipments of machine parts. Machine parts? How riveting.
Oh, plus there's Bruce adapting to life in an abandoned bank vault. You know how Golden Age Batman is: "An abandoned sewing kit! I can catch some rainwater in this thimble and use it to clean this spool of thread to use as dental floss! Mustn't let my dental hygiene lapse just because I'm trapped in an abandoned bank vault!"
And by long I mean six or eight panels; in the modern age it would be six to eight months, but modern readers would probably be okay with that because it would mean they could stare at lovingly detailed double-page centerfold spreads of stolen machine parts.
As part of this subplot, Killer Moth sees the opportunity to revenge himself on Whitey Casey. You can tell Whitey Casey is part of Gotham's gay porn industry/mafia because his name, like most gay porn star names, works as well backwards as it does forward.
'Tighty Whitey 2: The Boxer Rebellion".
Speaking of porn, Killer Moth spends the evenings wallowing in fan-porn in the Batcave's Trophy Room reminiscing about events we know damned well never actually happened.
Anyway, with Robin's (substantial) help, Killer Moth-as-Batman ruins Whitey Casey's plush racket of stealing machine parts, which I suppose one sells to Gotham City's insuperable fences, who then re-sell them to criminals who make Mothmobiles, fiddle-cars, and giant mechanical bears. I tell you, Gotham City is an economic rainforest, people.
Then, as Killer Moth, he confronts Whitey as part of an elaborate Frasier-type scheme to convince the underworld that Batman is afraid of Killer Moth, thus ensuring the success of his Killer Mothing business.
Poor KM! "I gave you my number and waited at home for you to call in this very outfit that I bought special. I waited and waited and you never called, hurting my feelings and making me feel bad about myself and I didn't even go to the Supervillain Homecoming Dance but sat home alone and stared at my empty trophy cases. I hate you."
Well, Killer Moth is about to fool you, Evil Andy Warhol! HA! HA!
Yep. Even though he's now succeeding as FREAKING BATMAN, that's not enough for him. He needs to make KILLER MOTH a success. AND use an old rival to do so. It's another ingenious Killer Moth scheme.
What could possibly go wrong...?
Thursday, January 17, 2013
When we last left Killer Moth, he placed Robin in perhaps the least reliable death trap ever: a moth-themed Conical Pendulum of Doom.
Then he makes Batman accompanying him on a drive. Well, it's more like a date, really, because Killer Moth, who has been hiding 'Batman lore' under his mattress for years to get him through those lonely prison nights, is still rather a smitten fanboy: he wants to see the Batcave. Essentially, he makes Batman take him for a drive and then back to his place (the BatCave), no doubt to view his etchings in the Trophy Room.
Here they are, listening to the radio in the front seat of Batman's love mobile. You have to admit, they are a cute couple.
Of course, what neither realizes is that this is actually their second date; they just had dinner together in their secret identities. Wait, this is familiar somehow. Killer Moth extorting a member of the Batfamily to go on a date...? Oh, yeah!
Having lost his advantage as Robin's captor, Killer Moth jumps out of the Batmobile and, instead of totally getting away from the befuddled Batman, decides to play a game of tag with him. What a different world we might be living in if KM had had the wisdom to run away to fight another day.
By the way, I skipped what felt like 23 pages of tedious scenes of Batman driving around the city with KM and Robin trying to escape the Langrangian Death Spiral, and grabbing a bottle of sulphur between his legs, and somehow sulfuring his way out of the trap, in such a way that he was blinded as he's left the Mothcave and crawled back to police headquarters. He's not called the Boy Wonder for nothing. The whole point of the convoluted escape was so that Robin could get OUT of the Mothcave without knowing where it was.
Killer Moth truly is Batman's counterpart, because both think in the same high unnatural way. Rather than escape when Batman has no idea where he is, Killer Moth taunts him and runs up a bridge cable. Batman, rather than just calling the cops now that Killer Moth has foolishly stranded himself at the top of a suspension bridge and starving him out, climbs up after him.
Some of you are thinking, "Well, he's seen Killer Moth zooming through the air, so maybe he thinks Killer Moth can glide away to escape or something." Well...
So Killer Moth plunges to what any comic book reader knows is NOT his water doom, with the Lagrangian Dynamic Duo not having learned his identity, all the better to return to taunt them another day.
Tomorrow, in fact! But before then let's recap...
After years of preparation, Killer Moth gets one and only one gig. He then gets his ass kicked and is disarmed in mid-air by Batman. He does manage to capture B&R through some Mothmobile trickery, but blows it by leaving Robin in an overly elaborate, easily ruined death trap. Then, instead of escaping, he has Batman chase him up a bridge cable which he promptly falls off of thanks to his own grease gun. In fact (except for the death trap and shooting at some cops), Killer Moth hasn't even pulled off one successful crime.
Hm; so far Killer Moth is a great concept but poorly executed, since this is not the most auspicious beginning to the anti-Batman's career. Perhaps it will get better tomorrow, since how much worse can it get?
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
But it's not like Batman's situation. He can't just lurk around town waiting for crimes to happen. Not in that outfit. Besides, his is a sales model; he needs cheap crooks who are (a) incapable of dealing with the GCPD and (b) not so cheap that they won't fork over some money for Killer Moth to rescue them. So he sets up a keynote speech for his new product (I,KillerMoth) at a local hive of scum and villain. Fortunately, while it's not that large, it's large enough to hold the small number of cheap crooks in Gotham City who are incapable of dealing with the GCPD.
Yeah, he just called a roomful of Gotham gangsters "cheap crooks", while dressed in that outfit. I tell ya, the man's got some major mothballs. Still, the audience is surprisingly receptive. You can tell by their body language: arms folded, hats on, talking to one another. Oh, and there's Benny the Bookie, taking bets on whether Killer Moth survives to finish his entire presentation.
Actually, KM does have a great moment in his presentation: when these hardened Gotham criminals ask about their biggest fear and Batman's biggest advantage: ROBIN THE BOY WONDER.
His answer couldn't possibly be improved upon:
Say hello to my little friend! Oh, that's how Killer Moth is so confident he's going to survive smack-talking a roomful of Gotham hoodlums: they're all afraid of GUNS, because, well, Batman will beat the crap of them if they carry guns. So, basically, Killer Moth is going to carry a GUN. Plus, he promises he's going to shoot Robin. Repeatedly. Heck, if this were the current issues of Batman & Robin, I'd pay him to show up and do that.
I mean, it's not exactly on the level of spelling your name in an acrostic of crime across the city, but, hey ... it's a plan.
Obviously, with salesmanship like that, the Moth's business is going to be off to a killer start.
Turns out it actually happens; some cheap crooks mix it up with the boys in blue and both Batman and Killer Moth are called into action at the same time. Naturally, Bruce Wayne and Cameron Van Cleer are having dinner together at that very moment. In a restaurant with very big windows so that they can see their respective signals.
Remember, criminals; before you make that service call, beware of hidden charges! So, even with a cut of two thirds, how many of these calls do you think it takes to pay for something like the Mothmobile? Or for the gas, even? Because that car is about, oh, forty feet long.
Anyway, having parked the Mothmobile god only knows where, KM finally makes his big debut, zooming in on the scene from above on a steel strand (rather than Batman's "silken cord"), his guns a-blazing.
One thing you gotta give Killer Moth: he loves his job.
Killer Moth assumes the cops are surprised to see him swinging in from above. But really, they're probably just thinking, "WTF is that guy WEARING?!" Because the real terror of Killer Moth isn't that he'll kill you; it's that the last thing you see before you die will be Killer Moth.
Let's see; if Killer Moth shoots those four cops he'll have a bullet left each for Batman and Robin. Or, if we're lucky, two for Robin.
NOW is the moment. The one Killer Moth has spent YEARS preparing for. All that study in prison. All that money spent. All the time in the gym and the lab. Batman's about to get MOTHED, baby.
So much for Killer Moth's 'gun advantage'. Joe Biden, I hope you're taking notes, because that's how we handle gun control in Gotham City: by snapping people's spines in mid-air, leaving them to dangle, crippled, over the middle of the street from a steel cable, wearing a really really gay owl costume.
HA! HA! I fooled you! I was just kidding. Killer Moth's back isn't broken. I can't believe you actually thought they'd break someone's back in a Batman story!
Killer Moth proves quite resilient and resourceful as he escapes in the tricky Mothmobile, which he uses to then blind and anesthetize the Dynamic Duo.
Well, here it comes. Being a stone cold killer, the Moth just caps Batman and Robin's asses right there and... Oh, wait, that's right; no guns. Hm. I guess... I guess the only sensible thing to do is to drag them back to the Mothcave.
Oh ho, this is the part where Killer Moth picks up his killer guns and shoots Robin dead with his six assistant bullets, rendering him Batman's most famous enemy for all time!!!!