I Am Batman #1 Written by John Ridley Art by Olivier Coipel, Alex Sinclair, and ALW’s Troy Peteri Edited by Ben Abernathy Published by DC Comics Release Date: September 14, 2021
Jace Fox’s Destiny has arrived. We’ve been following the estranged son of Lucius Fox and his quiet reintroduction to the DC Universe but it’s here that he (literally) steps up to be something more real, concrete, for Gotham. The Batman, albeit differently, is already showing signs of the type of hero he’ll set out to be. I Am Batman throws Jace into the fires of Fear State in an #1 that gives an idea of Ridley’s mission statement for our new Batman.
Picking up from I Am Batman #0, Jace is moving comfortably in his Father’s world with reservations remaining given their past. It’s the work that takes place outside the offices and boardrooms that Jace is more attentive to. Coipel’s exquisite pencils sharply have Jace suit up in his freshly printed Batsuit with details that describe how grounded of an approach this Batman and the person behind the symbol will be. Ridley writes our Hero as someone who is well aware of Batman, as far as what he stood for and acted like. He doesn’t want to be that. He wants to be a man of the people and that starts in times of unrest. A Batman that is seen and heard, a vocal and physical reminder in the face of danger.
It’s a great contrast from our traditional and mainline Bruce Wayne’s characterization when it comes to being Batman and what he does with it. Ridley has been charting Jace’s character backward and forwards through time given his introduction with Future State and then working backward with the prequel series The Next Batman: Second Son and now the current present-day series. We’re understanding more about Jace through this investment in this character and it’s slowly paying off as he steps up as his own character taking on a mantle that plenty of characters have before.
As Coipel’s pencils guide our next Batman around the Gotham City streets, he’s presented as a smaller…a more intimate figure on his cycle. A man in a suit really as he catches two kids tagging walls with graffiti. He humors but sternly attempts to warn them away from the activity and it’s the small acts that set Jace apart, the honest effort to be seen and heard as the Batman. We zip through the city streets in a widescreen page that features some stylized nightlife, pedestrians, and a speeding car giving Jace another bout with both citizens and police in his newfound crusade.
Coipel’s mastery of the page can’t be overstated as he uses both small and large panels, sometimes window-like to show actions all contributing to the overall action and always taking care to never lose the characters in the process. He’s aided by Alex Sinclair on coloring duties and even at night, the backgrounds and surroundings never make Jace a darker figure, losing him in the nighttime. Instead, he’s the focus as he rides and battles his way across Gotham with a crisp and kinetic Coipel drawn ferocity.
While I Am Batman #1 is a first issue and I would say that it is reader-friendly to a point…it also lends itself to be read like a Part 2 or a continuing piece of a narrative given how much of Jace’s backstory and prequel series has led to this point and story threads are mentioned to give readers enough information to know what’s happening. If someone chose this as their first introduction to Jace Fox, I’d probably hand them the #0 issue as well just to be on the safe side.
On this episode, we speak with a living legend of horror, the one and only Bill Moseley! Bill sat down with us to talk about his new film Prisoners of the Ghostland which is out in theatres, VOD, and digital Friday Sept 17th! We spoke with Bill about his character the Governor, how this role is different then his others, and what it’s like to work with Nicolas Cage. Be sure to check out the film when it premieres later this week!
The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is set in 1971 Mexico City, during a time of protest, violence, and political unrest. Maite is a secretary that lives a pretty boring and mundane life, but when her neighbor Leonora goes missing, Maite will embark on a journey that goes into the deepest corners of the political movements of the time.
The thing is, she isn’t the only one searching for Leonora. Elvis, a member of “Los halcones” a paramilitary force made up of young men whose objective is squashing radical student groups, is also searching for Leonora. Elvis isn’t your typical goon, he doesn’t like violence and is searching to become something bigger than what he actually is.
As the search for Leonora intensifies, Maite and Elvis will find themselves caught in the action during one of Mexico’s less well-known dark periods.
Today, Cass Arellano (a Mexico City resident) and Katie Liggera (an outsider to the city and its history) have given themselves the task of discussing this fascinating novel.
Cass: I’ve been living in Mexico City my whole life. I love reading stories set in it, but finding such stories outside of Mexican publishers is pretty rare. That was what first caught my attention in Velvet Was the Night.
Katie:Velvet Was the Night was my first introduction to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing. I was also unfamiliar with some of the topics, settings, and historical context discussed in the novel. I haven’t read many noir books either, so Velvet was definitely a title out of my usual genre comfort zone.
Cass: You finished reading this before me and told me it was a slow burn which definitely rang true to me. It especially felt like it had a really strong first chapter and then slowed down for a bit before things picked back up. That being said, my love for the first chapter probably comes from my knowledge of the events that the chapter is set in (a skirmish known as “El Halconazo”). Fun fact, my mom was at the place it happened just hours before it occurred.
Katie: I agree that the first chapter initially set an immersive, engaging tone I thought would carry over to the subsequent chapters. Elvis was an immediately likeable character, unfortunately entangled in the politics and historical conflict plaguing the country. Moreno-Garcia did a great job setting up background related to the events while establishing the main characters. However, I did find myself revisiting a few passages and even looking up the Dirty War online because I had no familiarity with the events. Then, the pace slowed and the slow-burn began. I think having that personal knowledge about the events probably made a difference in your own initial reception to the books’ opening, whereas I found myself thrust into a world I didn’t quite understand at first.
Cass: I think my knowledge of the historical event did enhance some part of the book, but surprisingly the Dirty War isn’t talked about that much in history classes, so it was really interesting to see a fictionalized account of it, and I definitely learned some new things. What I also loved about the book was the way Moreno-Garcia described Mexico City; it felt like it was a character itself. I actually went to some of the places mentioned afterwards and I could see the characters walking around. I would love to hear how you experience that.
Katie: Wow, I would love to visit any of the places Moreno-Garcia mentions here. That sounds like a beautiful way to further your enjoyment of the novel. Well, obviously, I learned a lot about Mexico City, from history to culture to descriptions about the environments. I liked how Moreno-Garcia used the city as both a character and a sort of personification throughout. She mentions how the city “slept” when describing Elvis dreaming about Maite dancing to a record. Moreno-Garcia absolutely captures the vibrancy, the grittiness, and the influential role places take in the events unfurled during the book. Her depictions of locations provide atmosphere and mood relevant to the conflicts the characters undergo. Places in Mexico City have more than thematic meaning here. You’re totally correct in observing how Mexico City essentially is a character along with the main protagonists.
Cass: Talking about the main characters, I think they are a really strong part of the book, especially Elvis. Like you said, he was extremely likable, and his backstory felt real, no matter how tragic. His aspirations also really gave some big stakes to his story and made the ending far more surprising. As for Maite, even though I also like her, she was a bit less interesting. But I do think she is a great point of view character being an outsider to the whole mess, and someone who is yearning for adventure, when she might as well be the reader. The rest of the cast of characters is also interesting, I was especially a fan of El Mago, and Moreno-Garcia does a great job of building the myth around him.
Katie: The characters definitely counteracted pacing issues I found within the narrative. You’re right in mentioning the outsider/insider juxtaposition. Elvis, though inside the drama and boiling conflict, still retains a huge amount of individuality. His character growth was evident and, like you said, extremely surprising, considering how the main events play out in the end. Even though music is a primary connector between Elvis and Maite, I felt I saw music impact Elvis’s character more so in an illuminating way. He took Elvis’s name because he looked up to the singer! Maite annoyed me a bit, if I’m being honest. I understand the way she’s written, but her obliviousness was almost hard to believe. Yet, I feel completely sympathetic. Maite has low self-esteem and actively chooses escapism with her romance comics instead of participating with a world that doesn’t offer the fantasies comics provide. I ultimately preferred Elvis’s chapters and his growing obsession, but appreciate Maite’s necessary point of view. Also, El Mago was a standout secondary character for sure.
Cass: I’m glad you mentioned music because I felt it really helped set the atmosphere and mood of the story (have you heard the playlist? It’s sooooo good, I’m listening to it right now). I also felt it was a smart way of connecting Maite and Elvis. Firstly, because music was really important in Mexico at the time of the student protests, but mostly because both Elvis and Maite have vastly different backgrounds, but music has always been a universal language, and that is even more noticeable here seeing how music was one of the things groups like “Los halcones” and the students had in common. I also felt that music worked so well as a connection because the vinyl collections of Maite and Elvis are some of the few items both really care about.
Now that I have mentioned the atmosphere, what do you think of the noir aspects of the book?
Katie: I have looked through the playlist, and there’s a multitude of great music included. I’m familiar with Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Frankie Valli, but I need to listen to the playlist in its entirety. Music has always been a major part of my life. Using music, both recognizable and new (to an unfamiliar American like myself) in relation to the Dirty War pushback and as the common thread between Elvis and Maite helped bridge together the characters’ stories. Reader immersion also heightens when you can identify and imagine the tonal influence specific songs set for certain scenes. Music as a “universal language” is a phenomenal way to encapsulate how music functions in Velvet.
In regards to atmosphere, Silvia Moreno-Garcia herself notes how Velvet is not a thriller, nor a domestic noir, but a noir as the idea of a slow-burn, psychological drama. Characters rise to the forefront over action, which is definitely the case in Velvet. After reading, I’m unsure if I can even consider myself a fan of the noir genre as a whole. I think if Maite’s character came off stronger from my perspective, I would have felt a greater interest. Conversely, Elvis was a well-rounded character who drove home the “noir” ambiance with his personality. Again, the secondary characters came across intriguingly, adding nuance where scenes could have fallen flat. Despite all of my reservations, the ending shocked me in a good way. The payoff for this slow-burn noir book proves immensely satisfying.
Cass: I’m also not a huge fan of the noir genre and I haven’t read many noir books. That being said, I have watched my fair share of noir movies, so it isn’t a surprise that my favorite scenes were those I could imagine in classic black and white movies, like some scenes with Elvis and El Mago, or some of the reunions of Maite and Emilio. I especially liked the two scenes that took place in “La Habana” coffee shop. Those were the moments I felt everything came together in perfect harmony, and when the tension hit its highest point.
I also was pleasantly surprised by the ending. Without spoiling too much, I loved what Moreno-Garcia did with the photos that are central to the plot of the book, and how she ended Elvis and El Mago’s story. It was shocking but it also made a lot of sense when you think about all the things that had happened before (I really like how the screwdriver played a big role at the end). But even when Elvis’ story concluded perfectly, Maite seemed to return to the exact same point she started in, I even think some of the secondary characters have more complete arcs throughout the book.
Katie:Velvet absolutely excels as a noir book when considering how all the minor points and quiet, possibly even overlooked details, coalesce by the ending climax and denouement. Great mysteries lay all the clues right in front of the reader, interspersed sporadically, where you start to question what is important to remember until the interplay hits all at once. The photos were background characters. Objects like the photos or even the screwdriver acted as key components to nearly everything happening. As I said earlier, the payoff works, even if there were stumbling blocks along the way. Elvis embarked on a “hero’s journey” in a loose sense, definitely. His character went through conflict, reward, and ultimately, change. I do feel the same about Maite’s conclusion coming across a bit weakly. Overall, her character was flatter, but still interesting. As for secondary characters, stop me before I spoil El Güero’s character arc! Moreno-Garcia brings all the emotion with El Güero.
Cass: Overall I really liked Velvet Was the Night. As a “chilango” (a habitant of Mexico City), I was amazed by how well the city was painted across the book. The history of “El Halconazo” and the Dirty War is fascinating to me and I’m really glad we are getting stories like this that highlight how crazy things got. Even though some characters felt more interesting than others I felt the book as a whole was a great experience and I would recommend it to any fan of historical fiction and the noir genre. For me Velvet Was the Night is the New York noir-like tale that Mexico City deserves.
Katie:Velvet Was the Night may not have resonated with me from all angles, but stories like this are ones that deserve high recognition. I learned about parts of history and a place I have little to no connection with. Still, Moreno-Garcia writes clear prose to include and inform readers like myself. Scenes were developed thoroughly, with characters interacting in manners that built the tension and kept me guessing at each outcome. Velvet Was the Night will genuinely appeal to noir genre buffs, but it may even win over readers unaccustomed to the genre.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is available now at your local independent bookstore or anywhere fine books are sold.
The GC616 logo flashes across the screen before fading to reveal Reagan sitting at the desk like always.
Reagan: Good evening and welcome to GC616. The Bullseye lockdown continues, now in its tenth day, no updates have been issued by the authorities who are requesting that citizens continue to stay inside their homes and away from any uncovered windows. As usual, we will update you on the details as they become available.
In the meantime, here’s Justin with some news about the comic series Conan.
Justin Partridge III sits behind his usual taped together TV trays, but he looks concerningly happy this time, dressed head to toe in a Pilgrim outfit. A grim black one, complete with tall, wide brimmed hat, riding cloak, and sword belt, which houses a rapier. An odd staff-like object adored with the head of a wolf leans against the main anchor table. Draped across the front of the trays is a poorly hung streamer-paper banner that reads “HAPPY 300 ISSUES, CONAN!” and to the side of the trays a low sitting lawn chair stands.
Justin gestures wildly with his hands as he speaks.
JPIII: Hello again, Citizen Fleshies! MAN, do I have a treat for you today. Here in the studio today, all the way from Aquilonia and The Hyborian Age! The man celebrating a whopping THREE HUNDRED ISSUES! The one, the only, CONAN, THE CIMMERIAN!
Justin takes his phone from the cloak and starts to play a random Basil Poledouris track as Conan The Barbarian steps cautiously into the studio. He is wearing one of his borrowed Hellfire Club frocks but holds a wicked looking double-headed axe. He sits but lays the axe on his lap, eying the off-screen crew menacingly.
JPIII: Conan! Thank y-
Conan: My wine.
JPIII: OH! Yeah, of course!
Justin reaches behind the trays and lifts up a comically huge clay jug of wine. He hands it, with some effort, to Conan, who seems able to lift and drink from it with one hand.
JPIII: So, Conan. 300 issues! That’s a big deal! Did you have any idea when you first met the Frost Giant Daughter that you would end up here? 300 issues later?
Conan seems to have finished the wine. He eyes Justin closer.
Conan: Why are you dressed as a priest?
JPIII: It’s not…I’m Solomon Kane.
Conan: KANE!? THAT BRIGAND!?
JPIII: NO, WAIT IT’S A COSTUME!
But his axe is already up and the battle is joined! Justin barely gets his sword and staff drawn before Conan hits him with a mighty glancing blow, launching him through his section of the backdrop. Sparks fly! But Conan seems satisfied with the single blow and he leaves the studio, taking a huge handful of deli meat from the crew table before he does.
Justin’s head emerges from the hole. Except…it isn’t his face. The synthetic flesh once showing Justin’s face has ripped away…to reveal the face of MACHINE MAN! Or at least A Machine Man. Now dressed in a ruined Justin suit and Solomon Kane cosplay.
He falls backward in a clatter of gears. The feed cuts back to Reagan, who has a surprised look on her face.
Reagan: Umm. I’m sure Justin is fine. Now let’s catch up with Taneli and the Defenders.
The report switches from the high quality 4k resolution that the studio cameras are capable of to a much granier security camera feed. Taneli floats in his prison cell behind the refined Atlantean bars. His cloak floats in the water behind him with no noticeable breathing apparatuses for someone who from the looks of it is a regular human. A blue skinned atlantean swims by as they make their prison rounds to ensure no one has escaped from King Namor’s bondage. He floats towards the bars and looks up at the camera, his eyes perking up behind his half mask with a large smile on his face.
Taneli: Hello again viewers. It’s been sometime since we last met. I’ve been without any form of communication since I splashed down into the oceans. I did find Atlantis or more like they found me. King Namor had me locked up here as a trespasser as I was peeking through their armory for the item which I seek. I am still new to this world of magic so bear with me as I stumble my way to find what I need. So I have been a prisoner for some time.
He held up his wrists that were bound together with a coral cover set of chains. As the viewers watched, Taneli’s fingers and hands moved as if they were dancing as the water itself heated up. The metal grew hotter as it expanded enough for Taneli to slip his hands out.
Taneli: Perfect, finally got that right. I would have had to wait another week if that didn’t work. You’re here to hear about the Defenders, aren’t you? They’re stuck in a time before time. A world before our, well, your world. Carlo Zota is a rogue scientist spiraling through that time and the Defenders are there to stop him at the request of the Masked Raider. Now they’re in the Sixth Cosmos on Taa. Turns out that’s where Galactus was born. A destroyer from the world before.
As Taneli speaks, his hands wave again as the bars shift in opposite directions so he can swim through. The camera feed changes to the next camera as he makes his way through the city, each capturing his report, controlled by his magic.
Taneli: The Silver Surfer is on this team… the Herald of Galactus. The mothman of planetary devouring if you will. Imagine being faced with the being that is at the root of so much of your own suffering and the suffering of billions? What choice would you make? I doubt the Silver Surfer would kill a child but hope to set him on a path to a better future. Taaia, Galactus’s mother, helps the team face the devourer of the world before. Who just so happens to have made Raider’s friend Zota his herald. One moment…
As Tanelli swims into a clearing, a group of Atlantean guards turn their sights onto him. If he wasn’t quick with his hands, he would have been killed. But before they could strike, a portal was opened that they were all sucked into as the guards and the water were teleported far across the galaxy to the planet of Frost Giants. A true chiller of a realization for them.
Taneli: The Defenders uses a weapon of pure emotion to handle Omnimax, their version of Galactus, before being sucked even further back in time and reality. Sticky situation but it’s good for me. Good that I need not worry about Stephen Strange meddling into my affairs. I am off to somewhere a lot dryer than this. Actually, a place almost out of time. Until then, stay safe.
Taneli enters one of the Atlantean’s ship’s as he commandeers it for his own needs. The camera lingers as the vehicle leaves the docking bay.
Reagan: Thanks Taneli! Now let’s go to Chad who is not coming to you via text this time.
Chad’s typical fanfare plays with heavy electronic beats with his sizzle reel opening his report. The highlight of this week’s reel starts with a still frame of a beautifully stenciled glass door that reads “Alias Investigations”. The stillness is broken as a woman in a leather jacket throws Chad through the glass and towards the camera. The reel ends and Chad is sitting on his couch in a C.M. Punk “Clobberin’ Time” shirt and a pair of boxers with Spider-Man logos printed across them.
Chad: What up my Chadlians! I just got back from Krakoa. Absolutely wild Labor Day Week. Did you know they grow everything there? Also they’ve got the magnets guy on trial. Not so mag neato. Also I was just watching that last report and only caught that Galactus’s mom is a total MILF. Sucks I’m not a celestial but it’s not the size that counts.
Chad turns off his TV so he can start his report.
Chad: Sorry my boy C.M. Punk is back in the ring. Anyway, Spider-Man! Finally something happened. You ever see those gaslight, gatekeep, girl boss memes? No? I’ll tweet some for you. Anyway, The Human Centipede turns out to be the bone-zone consequences of Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy. But it’s not. Turns out Harry Osborn gatekept, gaslight, girl bossed his dad into clapping some robot cheeks. Basically he worked with some bad dudes to make robots and make these fake offspring. Listen, Norman ain’t a good guy but what kind of shitty parenting leads to your kid building a robot that you take on a one way trip to pound town? Sick stuff. That’s all I got this week. If anyone knows Galactuse’s hot momma, give her my number. Oh wait, I got something else!
Chad leans forward on his couch and opens his laptop, VERY quickly closing some tabs before anyone can see.
Chad: Check it. I found a super cool webcam to watch. You know how sometimes Zoo’s have 24 video feeds of penguins or hippos or something? I love watching those. They’re like my ASMR but now I found this super weird one.
Chad: I think it’s actually like a Go Pro or something strapped to a bird’s face. Super weird angle but I have been seeing some really cool stuff. There is this dude Ka-Zar and he died and came back. ARE I PEE to KA-ZAR but he got better. So he’s a smokeshow, his wife, Shanna, is a smokeshow, and they have a cool ass kid with like a flower launcher. Basically the coolest family on Earth.
Chad: So they fought a T-Rex, OH WAIT IS THIS THE SAVAGE LAND? At the party on Krakoa, Wolverine said if I gave him a good game ass slap again that he was gonna send me there. Dude was a great pong partner. Anyway, the T-Rex was on some Resident Evil business with some worm monster in it but Ka-Zar tossed it out like the trash after moping around for a minute.
Chad: Shanna said something at their dinner though. Wait actually maybe this stream isn’t legal? Maybe I shouldn’t watch this family eating dinner… anyway she said that they can’t eat the animals that they protect. It made me think about those little penguins at the zoo… I would be heartbroken if someone ate them. I really gotta think about this whole vegan thing a little bit more. Beer is vegan right? Anyway, back to you Reagitoni.
Reagan: Thanks Chad! Now we’ve got Kevin with some news about X-Force.
The camera cuts to Central Park. Kevin stands in his fedora and trenchcoat, looking extremely uncomfortable in the bright September sun. Beside him stands the blue furry form of Hank McCoy, frowning at Kevin.
Kevin: [Breathless] Reagan, I am here on an incredibly rare field operation outside my basem – uh, my operations center, for a coveted interview with one of the shadiest and hard to reach individuals on the entire planet.
Beast: You are here because I wished to let you know in person that I would like you to please stop trying to contact me, or indeed the other mutants you have been deluging with attempted communications.
Kevin: [Ignoring him] Now, Beast, if that is your real name
Beast: I can assure you it is not.
Kevin: You’ve been hiding out from the world for a very long time. Some people think you exist only as a legend, a rumor, a shadow in the night –
Beast: What on Earth are you talking about? I was an Avenger for several years. In fact, you see that bar on the corner? Simon and I once – but no. That was… another me. [Murmuring, as if to himself] In fact, perhaps it’s better that you do think of me this way.
Kevin: And what way is that? As a secret mastermind behind a global conspiracy against mankind itself???
Beast: [Nods to himself and then looks up, as if resolved] Yes. Why not. Yes, I do what I must to protect my people, and I do it well. And it is good for you – for humans – to be aware of what that entails. Especially after your recent appalling behavior.
Kevin: [Growing more excited] And that creature on the coast – those recent murders – you admit that you were-?
Beast: [Looking into the camera] What I admit is this: some of you humans attacked me- attacked Krakoa very recently, with your miniaturized assassins. Ingenious technology, but – thanks to my good friend Black Tom Cassidy – it has not worked. I am still here. And you, my Russian friends, will not be able to say the same for long.
Kevin: Is that – Russian – so –
Beast: I know who you are. I know what you’re doing. I know everything that transpires on this world now, and rest assured, I – we – will stop it. And on that note, I must bid you adieu. And you, strange little man – do not try to contact me again. I have known fine reporters in my day, and you are not among them.
He turns and strides off camera. Kevin barely notices, bouncing with excitement
Kevin: I knew it!! I knew it!! Oh they called me crazy, well who’s crazy now??? ‘Russian’ – He practically admitted he’s in bed with Putin – probably got kompromat on the whole nation!!! Man I’ve got to make sure they see this on Reddit
Kevin races out of frame. The camera hangs on the empty park for a moment, then cuts back to studio.
Reagan: We really need to vet our contributors better so we don’t keep bringing on conspiracy theorists. Anyways, thank you one again for tuning in to GC616, we’ll see you next time!
What makes Batman Batman? With the hero not being a billionaire anymore and not being able to afford his famous toys, it might be the right time to ask that question.
Just prior to the Joker War, when the Joker stole Bruce Wayne’s fortune, it was revealed the billionaire had been embezzling money through shell companies and illegitimate accounts. That money, of course, was intended to fund Batman’s war on crime, but Bruce couldn´t explain that to the financial regulators and, even if he could, it was illegal anyway.
Catwoman then outsmarted the Joker and transferred the fortune to Lucius Fox, who offered to transfer it all back to Bruce. The problem was that, with the embezzling revelation, the USA government was sure to keep an eye on each penny spent and that would make secretly funding Batman’s activities impossible.
That put the Dark Knight in a delicate situation, in which his operations would need to be less costly and his resources less vast.
And this invites the question of what does this mean for Batman? Who is Batman without his deus ex machina gadgets? Is he even defined by his money?
Every time I see a status quo change in Batman or a different media interpretation, I always remember that interview Grant Morrison gave to LA Times in 2010:
“It’s really weird. Batman can take anything. You can do comedy Batman; you can do gay Batman…it all works. It’s something intrinsic to the character. It’s so strange and amazing”.
Of course, Batman is famous for paying for the Justice League Satellite in the JL cartoon and for joking that his superpower is being rich in the Justice League movie, but stories in which his mega-expensive tech isn’t all that important aren’t rare. Just a grappling hook and some batarangs and he’s ready to go.
Quoting Frank Miller,
“Batman isn’t interesting because he has a cool car. It’s great that he has a cool car. But he’s interesting because he straightens the world out. And he brings order to a very chaotic world. Especially when you’re a child. You need somebody, even if it’s a fictional character, to tell you that the world makes sense and that the good guys can win. That’s what these heroes are for”.
Miller even writes that Batman in his seminal work “Year One”, in which we see a Batman with no technology, outside of a sonic device designed to attract bats. In Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”, considered one of the best Batman stories ever, he doesn’t use any kind of tech at all. In “The Long Halloween”, another beloved story, Batman doesn’t use any expensive gadget either.
During the 90s, in the famous Alan Grant run, Batman might have used special suits and fancy computers, but they are mostly a device to accelerate the development of the plot as opposed to an actual necessity or an integral part of the character. What is essential to that era is how the rich hero reacts to the constant social and political issues present in the stories: there is an extreme effort to present Batman as a compassionate person, using his money to help people in need.
In Alan Grant’s words,
“Because Batman is human. He’s experienced the full gamut of human emotions – grief, fear, rage – so he understands how people feel. Plus, he’s a self-made hero. He didn’t need an alien with a power ring, or to be born on a high gravity planet, or have an accident with chemicals. Instead, Batman took human powers to their limit with no external help (except for Alfred, perhaps). It just made sense to me that he would be a man of huge compassion – not obsessed to the point of insanity which some writers have proposed”.
Grant’s Batman is probably the most compassionate and least emotionally detached version of the character we’ve seen in the Modern Era. While it is very interesting seeing him engaged in social justice activities, it is sometimes very easy to overlook the role rich people have in the unequal distribution of wealth. There is a danger to reading stories that humanize the rich and save them from scrutiny, even though that isn’t the writer’s intention. I will come back to this in a moment.
What Grant brings upfront in his stories is Batman’s heart. That is the foundation for Bruce Wayne to become a hero. Alan Grant clearly sees Batman not as a selfish figure who dresses like a bat to avenge a personal tragedy, but as an altruistic hero who doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to other people. That’s why he trained to be one of the world’s greatest martial artists and detectives: for other people, not for himself. But with all that altruism, it’s difficult not to question his relationship to wealth distribution. A gold heart without sharing is an awkward capitalist invention.
If we look at the reason behind James Tynion IV’s creative decision to take away Batman’s money, we will see that there is a plot reason and there is a civic responsibility reason:
“The hero’s endless fortune doesn’t just invite questions about his civic responsibilities, it’s also come to function as a deus ex capitalism, handwaving any level of property destruction and excusing any reveal of a new gizmo or vehicle.
Batman’s money allows writers to transform him into a grim version of Silver Age Superman, who could travel backwards in time by accidentally flying too fast. And while that may be a realistic depiction of the power of a multibillion-dollar fortune, it’s not particularly good for creating high stakes comics.”
The plot reason has more to do with the writer himself, while the civic responsibility reason speaks more of Batman as a character. Is he socially responsible? Getting rid of his fortune is a smart way to avoid that question, but that’s not what I am going to do. If the heart is part of him being a hero, then we should ask if Batman’s heart is in the right place.
Some characters like James Gordon expressed concern that Batman might attract his mentally ill villains, but what about the common villains: the robbers, the thugs, and the muscle for the crime lords?
Some scientific studies suggest there is a relationship between income inequality and crime. When money is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people and a great number of people in need, the result is a great crime rate.
The French economist Thomas Piketty discussed in his best-seller book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) the history of wealth and income inequality in Europe and the United States since the 18th century and demonstrated how an unequal distribution of wealth causes social instability. The problem is that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few means a lack of wealth in the hands of many. Billionaires are made out of the exploitation of labor, oppression of marginalized people, and the neocolonialism of underdeveloped countries.
This means that for Batman to be a billionaire, several Gothamites, and people everywhere there is a Wayne Corp., need to be poor and if there is poverty, there is crime. So with that said, it stands to reason that the Wayne family wealth is partially responsible for Gotham City’s crime rate.
When Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted in 2019 that billionaires should not exist, he brought to the general public a discussion about the moral question behind the existence of super-rich people.
More and more people are seeing billionaires not as an epitome of success, hard work, and talent, but as an epitome of greed, privilege, and exploitation; characteristics that do not fit a hero.
Comics have always been political and a product of their time, so as society’s view of super-rich people starts to change, maybe Batman’s relationship to wealth needs to change too. If part of what makes him a hero is his heart, it should be in the right place and associated with good characteristics.
Maybe, if we don’t see more social responsibility, Garth Ennis’s view of Batman could one day become the mainstream view:
“What we’re talking about here is a billionaire aristocrat who beats up poor people, as well as the mentally ill. I don’t know what that has to do with a code of honor.”
If you missed last week’s report, check it out here.
(Words in italics signal actions)
The GC52 Logo appears on televisions, computers, and all other types of viewing devices at its normally scheduled time. Intern Jerry sits at the center of the newsroom behind his desk. This week he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Jokerize deez nutz”. The large window behind him looks out over Metropolis. The setting sun sparkles off the Daily Planet Globe, the crown jewel of the City of Tomorrow. The GC52 theme music begins to dim as the actual program begins.
Jerry: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening to all our wonderful viewers from the docks of Coast City to the furthest reaches of Oa, you are watching the multiverse’s best news show that brings you the news that you need to know! Jerry here filling in for Dan while he is on assignment in Gotham. Just doing my part to bring you up to the minute updates on the worlds you live in!
So you remember when Dan went to that nice house on the lake? They got an email over to us, well to Dan…but I’m sitting at his desk so I opened it. They were running out of food and stuff but they got some magic notepad that makes packages appear the next day. I would just write 900 copies of Shrek 2 to see if it happened. Sorry, that was insensitive, I’m really nervous doing this. Bad things are happening to those people. They can’t die and things are looking… bad. Just really bad. I hope they’re alright.
Our next story comes from an unusual source, this message in a bottle found floating in the sink of the GC52 office break room. While we don’t usually endorse weird ways to submit stories like this, it’s about time someone investigated these strange headaches people are reporting worldwide.
Jerry begins reading the message.
Dear Diary, things have been pretty tense aboard the Manta-sub recently. Ever since the boss found that weird rock he’s been a man possessed. Even when we’re after the fish-man he never gets this intense. It all started when he began getting these strange headaches and had to hunt down this artifact, but Captain Demo went and stole it from him. So Black Manta went after him on his own and took it back with ease and we even got some fine plunder from that loser’s ship. Picked up some new recruits from his crew too!
I got a peek at this rock a while ago and I really don’t see the fuss. Just a stone with weird red lines on it. Boss is working with Gallous the Goat (who is a human woman, not an actual goat) to figure out what’s going on, and all the bickering between those two is making the sub miserable with all this talk of “morality”. I hope this rock stuff is figured out soon, we haven’t tried to kill Aquaman in weeks! Anyways, time to throw this diary entry into the ocean to annoy Atlantis!
Mark the Manta-man
Jerry: We sent out the best reporter the seven seas have to offer in order to investigate further. There…aren’t many reporters that live on the seas though, so all we got back was a jumbled voicemail from a “Captain Jim”.
Captain Jim: OK OK OK. HEAR ME OUT HERE. The Human Flame’s the key here. It all comes back to him. Word on the high seas is there’s someone running around stealing the Human Flame’s essence and doing Doctor Fate magic. Speaking of magic, my friend Dead Dave also told me there’s a lady with a fire sword causing trouble in the underworld and there’s no such thing as a coincidence where magic is involved. Probably a magic rock causing all of this too!
Jerry: I hope you enjoyed those random unrelated facts and just remember, it’s easier to teach a reporter to sail than a pirate to report.
An overlay image of Crush appears to Jerry’s right.
Jerry: Did you all hear that Crush escaped space prison? Honestly, good for her. Sounds like her dad betrayed her which ya know…tracks for Lobo from what I know. Maybe she had some time to really think about how she is betraying herself in all of her relationships with the issues she has with… never mind not her therapist. I just love gossip and I love people getting through their baggage. Oh, emergency report coming in!
On the screen, bold letters flash in front of a blaring red background reading, UPDATE. The camera cuts to Katie wearing a SAVE THE GREEN! T-shirt. Felicia also appears to be donning a verdant-colored shirt on her little cat body.
Katie: Urgent news today, Earth-lovers! Felicia and I finally bought matching outfits. Doesn’t she look purr-fect in her tiny kitty shirt!
As if on cue, Felicia stands up on her hind legs and lifts her paws to reveal her SAVE THE GREEN! shirt.
Katie: Look at that! Talented and beautiful. She’s a cat of all trades! On to the actual news report I’m required to give you now. We last heard word from intel relaying information about Task Force X’s plan to capture the mysterious green force disrupting Kaziranga forest. Sources report a deluge of trouble raining down on the infamous Suicide Squad members deployed inside. Antihero Heat Wave was recovered after team leader Rick Flag found Heat Wave’s body half-drowned, along with his equipment. It must have taken an immense threat to extinguish his flame!
A green god himself, Chemo split off from the rest of the group, leaving destruction in his wake. Who told him he could fight fire with fire by decimating the marshland even further? SAVE THE GREEN PEOPLE!!
Again, Felicia rises. She points a black paw at the barely scrutable words on her shirt and taps in consolidation.
Katie: See! Even Felicia doesn’t like what she’s hearing about all this mangled forest mess. I have scarce details about the location of the other Task Force members, Parasite and Asa. Amanda Waller must be feeling the heat now! Oops, too soon?
All we can say for certain is this: The Suicide Squad is scattered throughout Kaziranga, and the “Swamp Thing” they are hunting remains at large. I believe a supernatural force is battling against — or with? — Mother Nature here. It sounds like a nightmare out there. No one will be resting easy tonight. The search for the “Swamp Thing” has run into some major roadblocks. Thankfully, we can’t hear anyone scream in the forest…I’ll have a new update soon. Let’s hope we don’t get another visit from King Shark again! Also, SAVE THE GREEN! T-shirts are available on my website at-
The camera cuts Katie off before she can offer unsolicited promotional material on-air.
Jerry: You think Swamp Thing ever… hits the green? Darkseid’s Lettuce? Joker’s Laughing Grass? Poison Ivy’s Smokey Kiss? Speaking of lighting it up, let’s check in with Jordan about Task Force X.
As the camera cuts, a small room comes into view, Jordan adjusts his chair and riffles through different folders and books.
Jordan: Welcome back to our top-secret Bell Reve branch for GC52. It has been an incredibly eventful few days here with a move to a new location which unfortunately is confidential. Anyway, let me get you up to speed. The Squad recently encountered Superboy on assignment on Earth 3. Of course, this was more than a little strange given that Superboy was already on the Squad. Our own Superboy didn’t take well to this imposter, in much the same way as this other motorcycle Superboy.
As the two came to blows, the rest of the Squad fulfilled their assignment. Turns out this assignment was recovering a whole lot of Superboy clones which Waller had kept as a secret, even worse than that is the fact that our Superboy wasn’t the real one after all. Instead, he’s a defective clone called Match who was unaware of his own identity. After securing the clones, the Squad was suddenly teleported back to our new base.
Ambush Bug: Whoa there, you don’t wanna forget the stinger at the end of the annual do you?
Jordan: Ugh. Sorry everyone this is Task Force X’s newest teleporter, Ambush Bug. What are you talking about Bug?
Ambush Bug: Well at the end of the issue Robbie Thompson revealed that the escaped Rick Flag has recruited the original Mirror Master Sam Scudder for a new Suicide Squad designed to stop Waller.
Jordan begins looking progressively annoyed the more Ambush Bug talks.
Jordan: Uh-huh, sure. Look I don’t think I’m gonna be able to get you to leave, so please at least simmer down and stay quiet. Anyway, the Squad got a bit of downtime in a simulated reality. Unfortunately, our friend Ambush Bug here broke some bad news to the Squad.
Ambush Bug: Bad news?! Hey buddy someone needs to keep this story rolling
Jordan: I said be quiet, please. It turns out that Nocturna is from another Earth, was brought here by Bloodsport, and brainwashed into believing she was of this Earth. All this intrigue was promptly interrupted however by a bunch of demons sent into the simulated reality by Waller. She’s testing the Squad to enter hell itself and reach the Rock of Eternity.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the Squad has run into a bit of an obstacle as a group calling themselves the Hell Squad has appeared. These seem to be previous members of Task Force X who died in the field, and they’ve returned with a vengeance. We’ve since lost contact with the Squad and are trying to bring comms back online now. I’ll be sure to update you as this progresses. But in the meantime, just remember that you didn’t hear any of this from me.
Ambush Bug: Ooooo very ominous.
The camera cuts before Ambush Bug decides to teleport into the studio.
Jerry: Thomas is in this week! This should be…enlightening. Get it? Like Green Lanterns ligh-
Thomas stands in front of a dead screen.
Thomas: Hello Jerry, I’m standing in front of the GC52 Smart Report Interactive Screen, which as you can see is powered down. I had all kinds of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold footage queued up for display, but apparently someone told those dunderheads that NFTs exist, and now every smart device that tries to show an image of them…well, see for yourself.
Thomas turns on the display, which momentarily shows Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in an exciting car chase before pop-up ads for “Blue & Gold” shaving kits, mattresses, food crates, and website tutorials fill the screen and cause it to freeze.
Thomas: So that’s what the media is dealing with. This NFT menace arrives on the heels of Booster Gold’s announcement that the two superheroes are available for less-than-Justice-League level jobs and threats on a pro-bono basis. Every recorded moment of their exploits becomes a digital product for sale that, itself, promotes another product with their name on it. Kord Industries is bankrolling the initiative, which goes to show that the only thing trust fund babies have more of than discretionary spending is time and industry to waste.
Jerry: Thomas, is there any risk of “Blue and Gold” clients being used in future advertisements, especially if these, excuse me, en-eff-tees can manipulate devices used to watch them?
Thomas: That’s an excellent question, Jerry. NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, were invented by the Riddler as a means to skim rich people who want to skim middle-class people who want to skim poor people. It’s all tracked on a digital ledger that perfectly accounts for all transactions except when it doesn’t, and uses enough energy to qualify as a Swamp Thing story. This crossover sounds brutal, but I have hope that people can tell the difference between a risky investment and unadulterated bull–
Thomas’s video and audio feed freeze as a 3D rendering of Booster’s face appears in front of him to address the camera.
Booster Gold: Hello, fans and Gold Club members! Blue & Gold Restoration LLC does not endorse this fake news valuation of NFT markets. Any ideas or strategies discussed herein should not be undertaken by any individual without prior consultation with a financial professional for the purpose of assessing whether the ideas or strategies that are discussed are suitable to you based on your own personal financial objectives, needs, and risk tolerance. Blue & Gold Restoration LLC expressly disclaims any liability or loss incurred by any person who acts on the information, ideas, or strategies discussed herein. Stay golden!
The Booster graphic disappears, and regular video and audio resume. Jerry is visibly disturbed.
Jerry: Moving on… Thomas, you’re pulling double duty this week, as there have been quite a few developments among the Green Lanterns. Care to bring us up to speed?
Thomas is drenched in sweat and slurring his words.
Thomas: Umm let’s shee herr… new information indurcates that Lantern Mullein met with Sinestro to discuss potato involvement in the attack on Oa. Lantern Stewart has been deployed to investigate Gold Centurions and their presence in the Dark Section following the Barrier War, including whether New Gods are involved.
Jerry: Thomas, everything okay over there? You haven’t been hitting the sauce between takes, have you?
Thomas: I feel abs…
Thomas begins melting from the top-down, becoming a pile of goo and JCPenney clothing. Jerry is once again visibly disturbed.
Jerry: Oh my. Security? We might have a supervillain attacking us? Someone call janitorial, at least!
The real Thomas kicks in the studio doors, microphone in hand, letting in glorious yellow light.
Thomas: That was just a lifelike model biding for time while I made my way here in person, Jerry. We’ve got CRUZ NEWS!
Confetti and released birds burst forth from all directions as a choir’s powerful chords wash over the studio space.
Thomas: Okay, first off. We knew Jessica was a Yellow Lantern, right? Like, we all knew. But what was really going on there? We finally got the full scoop. Not only did she defeat three Yellow Lanterns while depowered in a derelict space station, not only did she drop the gauntlet at Sinestro’s door, but she used a yellow ring to put Hal Jordan in his cocky place afterward, too! What a hero. What an inspiration.
Jerry: What will this mean for Cruz’s standing within the Green Lantern Corps? Soranik Natu has jumped corps before, but are the Yellow Bogeypeople really so trustworthy?
Thomas: They are when Jessica’s taking point. Her sensitivity to fear means she can find strong expressions of the emotion and act to help those situations. There’s a whole candle metaphor that gets the point across beautifully. Lantern Quintela is some ten steps behind Cruz on using rather than abusing Sinestro’s Corps.
Jerry: That all sounds rather promising. How are other prominent Lanterns taking this power shift?
Thomas: Kilowog returned from some space raid with barely a few survivors, sounds like a rough day. He’ll probably take it well. Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner are Rao knows where at the moment. If they’re feeling profound fear, though, they have a friend on the way! ‘Til next time, Jerry.
Jerry: Thank you, Tho-
Jerry’s replacement intern rushes in front of the camera, tears off his shirt, and screams “CRUZ NEWS” just before blacking out.
Jerry: Now I know how Dan felt like when I was interning here. You’ll remember viewers that over the last few weeks we’ve been receiving reports from an ex-GC52 reporter, Ethan. He’s actually a DEO agent and has been assisting with an investigation into the Multiverse. Well, looks like everything that’s been happening has drawn to a close. Let’s take a read of what Agent 17 had to say.
Jerry picks up a report from the desk and begins to read.
For storage in DEO Archives regarding Operation: Infinite Frontier.
Compiled by Agent 17.
It’s over. Our heroes are back home. Is it a win? In the long-term, hard to say. But right now, at this very moment, yeah, the Chase, JSA, and Justice Incarnate did it. So once this report is filed, I’m going on break. I’m gonna lie down on a sun lounger at some beach, with a cold can of MultiBrewery, and do nothing for a week.
But first, what happened exactly? Well, turns out Justice Incarnate had been investigating everything that’s happened from their side, just the same as Chase and JSA were conducting their own investigations. After communications were cut off on Earth-Omega as they all converged on Darkseid, Chase filled me in on what went down. It’s a lot, some stuff involving our Earth’s Flash being controlled to chain the universes off from each other. Injustice Incarnate being defeated by the combined forces of the heroes present. President Superman of Earth-23 rescuing Flash. And in the end, with his plans thwarted, Darkseid sending everyone back to their own universe, except Flash. No one knows where he is.
Now, what’s happened with the DEO, well, Bones vanished. No surprise there after his plan failed. So Chase now has charge of the organization. Good I say, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone I trust as much as her. She’ll steer us right. And we’ll find Bones soon enough. Anyway, she’s in New York right now debriefing Roy Harper. He went through some stuff during this old thing but I think he’ll be okay.
Once Chase is back and I’m done with my holiday, I’m going to ask about getting a posting in Justice Incarnate’s base. Having a permanent presence there will be good and hopefully help prevent something like Operation: Infinite Frontier from happening again. But first thing I’ll be doing when I’m back is catching up with an old friend.
Jerry places the report back on his desk and looks to the camera.
Jerry: I think I know who this old friend is and well, that’s gonna be something. To end our report tonight, I’m handing you back over to Dan who is coming live from a Batcave in Gotham City. I will see you next week.
When the report cuts over to Dan, he looks nothing like he normally does. Gotham City is a hellscape where suits and ties don’t cut it. His hair is pulled back by a black bandana with the bat symbol on full display at the front to show his allegiance if it comes down to it. His eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep due to keeping such long hours. His normal formal attire is replaced with his worn GC52 T-shirt hidden beneath a heavy bulletproof vest with a spray-painted bright teal bat symbol on his chest. The lid to his thermos pops off as he takes a long swig of his coffee.
Dan: Evening viewers, it’s only been a week since I’ve arrived in Gotham but things are not great. Since Oracle was taken over by some hijacker, people have had fear driven deep into their hearts like a stake. But we are out here doing what we can in the city. It’s been a long time since I’ve been home in Gotham but this is what needs to happen…
Dan takes a deep breath as he rolls his neck to release some tension.
Dan: Saint’s propaganda reports continue to run on every major news station but ours… Must be easy to have the Devil’s hands in your pocket to slip you a 20. But he’s trying to make sure Gotham knows his intentions are pure… That he wants to build a new Gotham. I think the people of Gotham know better than to trust the Magistrate program. They’re just Robocop’s with their prime directive to serve their masters’ whim. What Gotham needs isn’t a police state, it needs the Bat.
A loud buzzing can be heard from one of many pouches on Dan’s person as he pulls out his phone to answer. The phone has been patched directly into the Ghost-Net, the network the bat-family is working from in this crisis. He speaks off-camera for a bit before lifting it up again to speak.
Dan: Batman is alive. I hope people see this report because Batman lives. The Scarecrow captured him and things sound worse than we thought. His tech has had a major upgrade somehow… Maybe a tech mogul helped him? But my contact is beneath Gotham with Queen Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Ivy’s ex-girlfriend The Gardener. The Unsanity Collective is down there with them so they’re safe currently. For the time being, things are calm. But eye of the storm… I have a strange feeling that Saint has something much worse coming for Gotham.
Now I have to get back on the streets to help people. As always… be it the Bat Symbol in Gotham, a red streak through Central City, or a golden lasso on Themyscira… GC52 has you covered with the news you need to know. Till next week, I’m your host Dan McMahon. Be strong in all your convictions.
Books covered this week:
Batman #112 by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.
Crush and Lobo #4 by Mariko Tamaki, Amancay Nahuelpan, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher.
The Nice House on the Lake #4 by James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, and AndWorld Design.
Black Manta #1 by Chuck Brown, Valentine de Landro, Marissa Louise, and Clayton Cowles.
The Swamp Thing #7 by Ram V, Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer, and Aditya Bidikar.
Suicide Squad #7 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Marcelo Maiolo, and Wes Abbott.
Suicide Squad 2021 Annual #1 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Dexter Soy, Chris Sotomayor, and Wes Abbott.
Blue & Gold #2 by Dan Jurgens, Ryan Sook, and Rob Leigh.
Green Lantern #6 by Geoffrey Thorne, Marco Santucci, Tom Raney, Mike Atiyeh, and Simon Bowland.
Green Lantern 2021 Annual #1 by Ryan Cady, Sami Basri, Tom Derenick, Hi-Fi, and Rob Leigh.
Infinite Frontier #6 by Joshua Williamson, Xermánico, Romulo Fajardo Jr, and Tom Napolitano.
Bree and Rook converse on the closing of Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s first story arc on Nightwing (Issues #78-83). One party thoroughly enjoyed the 6 issues, while the other was not quite as impressed. There is much to be discussed from either camp, read on to find out who thinks what!
Warning for spoilers on all six issues.
Bree: There’s no denying the technical strengths of everyone involved at every step of creation for all six issues. The art, colors, and lettering are phenomenal, the pacing is consistently great and the dialogue flows very well.
Rook: Yeah, absolutely. The book had my attention locked in from its very first double-page spread — very deliberately set at dawn in Bludhaven — and it continued to show off how Taylor, Redondo, Lucas, and Abbot are masters of their craft throughout.
Bree: The bulk of my personal criticisms are likely more indicative of decisions made at various stages of the pitch and editorial process. The ‘big 2’ function somewhat uniquely, and it is quite possible I’ll be eating my own words if/when other books are announced. As it currently stands, Barbara Gordon exists in Nightwing and occasionally Batman and Detective Comics. Her role in Nightwing initially made a lot of sense – a friend had experienced a great amount of trauma and could use some support- but the finale of issue #83 made me realize how underutilized her skill set is in this book. If the Rebirth approach of “everything is canon” still holds up, Barbara would have served as a member of the United States House of Representatives (Detective Comics #423). Even if this Barbara is earlier on in her professional career, I would like to believe that she would still be a better fit as the head of a massive charity operation than someone who hasn’t had any experience with bureaucracy.
Rook: That’s a great point, Bree. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if Barbara continued to serve as the brains of Dick’s new Alfred Pennyworth Foundation — her running the logistical end of it, while Dick handled the glad-handing, social politics, and general operations as the face of the charity. Because you’re absolutely right — with or without her political background, Babs is without a doubt the better pick to handle that.
I feel like there are two main reasons we don’t see Barbara with her own foundation. One is just the reality of the setup — Alfred raised Dick, so Dick was his main beneficiary and gets the money to try and turn the city around.
Two, I think this run’s first arc, “Leaping Into The Light,” has been a statement of purpose: Taylor is in this to evolve Nightwing’s role in the DCU. He’s aiming to maneuver Dick into a position that is arguably long overdue as an A-list major player, and part of that plan is letting his operation become a bright mirror of Bruce Wayne’s setup. Instead of trying to help the world primarily through crime fighting, corporate activism, and shrewd business moves intended to consolidate more wealth for more crime fighting, Dick Grayson wants to solve the biggest non-criminal threats in the city first. He’s not fighting a one-man war, he’s just here to help. That’s a big distinction in the character — he got closure with Zucco that Bruce never could, and as a result, he has a wider view than his mentor.
Now with the Pennyworth Foundation, Dick has his own way to help a whole city of people. And that’s going to require his famous skills as the most likable, genial guy in the DC universe, because making a charity like this work is going to require a ton of charisma. After all, if he wants to help the city, he’s going to have to partner with public officials, navigate fundraising events, all sorts of that crap.
Then there’s the secret third reason, which is that there may be a Batgirls book in the making that could occupy a lot of Barbara’s time in the future. Here’s hoping she gets to be Oracle in some capacity in all of these bat-books because I’m really enjoying the distinct dynamics she has with each cast.
Bree: I have a hard time wrapping my head around Dick being “likable” on that kind of scale and on that type of stage. Some of my favorite moments of his are when he’s had slightly too much for one day and some sarcasm slips through (“Do I get a kiss? It’s just that I like a kiss when I’m getting screwed”, the time he barricaded himself in a cave to avoid Donna asking him questions he didn’t want to answer). It keeps him feeling human. The most snark he’s had in Taylor’s run thus far is saying “acab” once.
Charities as massive bureaucracies can be a hell of their own making; we don’t know the scope of the Pennyworth Foundation quite yet but the implication that some of it will be international is slightly concerning for me. The problem with a lot of corporate activism and large-scale charities is they often rely on top-down decision-making, and the people in the boardroom making said decisions are very removed from the actual crisis at hand. The lack of transparency about how the money is being spent can lead to corruption and embezzlement as well. Dick still currently owns all of his inherited wealth, he will be signing the checks and therefore he is still participating in top-down decision making. The people he’s talking to are functionally his employees, this isn’t a non-profit co-operative. The game hasn’t changed, the reader is currently supposed to believe Dick will be an ethical billionaire simply because he is an ethical person. There has been no shift in how wealth is owned and redistributed. The story has the potential to be very leftist in optics but ultimately neoliberal on a functional level.
The people that are often doing the most work are often the least talked about because they’re too busy doing. When it comes to mutual aid networks and grassroots organizing (which is what Dick is currently positioning the Pennyworth to be, or at least borrowing the language a lot of these orgs use), you don’t necessarily need a face to represent the whole org. One of the most effective ones I’m familiar with is Common Grounds. They started by organizing aid for those affected by Katrina, and now operate in many different states with a roster of staff and volunteers in the 30,000s. Scott Crow (one of the initial founders) was on Robert Evans’ podcast (Worst Year Ever) and talked about how they initially had a tiny, public office and kept all cash donations in a shoebox. They are effective because they operate as a non-profit co-operative, every team is empowered to make their own decisions about their allotted funds. I think all of those tidbits make for an interesting podcast, but I am unsure it’ll work within the DCU.
Taylor is steering into tackling very real and very topical issues. Why is there a housing shortage when you could get a few Speedsters and a Kryptionan to build (at least) a house a day? Starfire and Donna can fly all the trash to the dump in minutes. I think there’s a way to go about it in which every problem can exist in the context of the threats the DCU offers, i.e. how do you rebuild after Darkseid scorches half the earth? Personally, I’d probably prefer that than an attempt to borrow directly from life. Telling real stories without sensationalizing them or caricaturing (i.e. the helpers versus the helped) would be a near-impossible line to tread within the DC imprint. The medium is the message.
Rook: Yeah, that’s absolutely something to be wary of. Charity operations can really let their initial promises fall by the wayside when partnering with massive corporate organizations.
I think you make a great point here about how Taylor is walking the book into some seriously thorny territory by using real-world issues in a universe that isn’t always compatible with real-world problems. When you make it clear that Nightwing can virtually end homelessness in a city with his wealth, it makes you wonder why Batman hasn’t done the same thing. (The answer is probably that supercrime is a much larger problem in the DCU than in ours, so it eats up more of Bruce’s budget, but that doesn’t feel like a particularly satisfying answer even if it’s built into the genre.)
I’m definitely interested in seeing what you describe, dealing with DCU-scale problems that parallel our own world’s issues without trivializing them. Frankly, I’d love to see more of that kind of worldbuilding and subject matter. However, I think hewing closely to real-world issues has a specific advantage.
I’m mostly thinking of the bit in Dick’s issue 6 speech, where he begins by saying “I don’t think there’s anything heroic about being a billionaire.” Despite everything, large segments of liberals and conservatives alike worship at the altar of Musk and Bezos. That is heavily influenced by Tony Stark’s status as a messianic figure at the center of the biggest pop culture franchise in the world. (And Bruce Wayne helped pave the way for that.)
Framing the act of being a billionaire for what it is — hoarding money — is a pretty bold move, one I’m not sure DC’s editorial will be willing to commit to. Still, it has so much power in this Nightwing arc specifically because it’s so close to a real-world issue. Maybe this is giving Tom Taylor a little too much credit, but I think he’s trying to redefine what being a billionaire hero means. Punching Ultron or the Joker with expensive tech is great, and an important part of the genre, but our heroes need to use their wealth to deal with problems like homelessness that our society overlooks.
Bree: Lastly, Dick doesn’t really demonstrate any flaws that aren’t also endearing. He does admit to being “off” due to his recent injury many times, but it’s likely that will eventually heal. Or be forgotten by whomever takes over the book next. He’s attractive, he’s fit, he’s kind, he’s smart, he’s skilled, and he’s now incredibly wealthy. I’m aware that he’s always been a well-rounded and capable person- and that’s part of why he’s a character that’s easy to love- but the needle is moving a bit too far for me. This is especially apparent in his relationship with Babs. We don’t really know what she’s thinking because her perspective in any book is currently minimal, but we don’t even need to because why would she reject someone like that? The initial ‘conflict’ they had pre issue #83 felt manufactured, in my opinion. A very Hallmark movie “will they won’t they”, in which you know they will because they’re both well-adjusted, attractive people in their late 20s/early 30s with similar goals and ideals. Although, Taylor is certainly not the first to manufacture similar drama with those characters, in all fairness.
Rook: You make great points, particularly about how flat the conflict with Dick’s relationships has been. I’d attribute that to all of this arc being setup, but that’s definitely not going to work for everyone and it’s dependent on the story sticking the landing.
You’re absolutely right that Dick seems a little too perfect — it strikes me as consistent with his characterization in books like Grayson and Batman & Robin, but less so with (what I’ve seen of) his appearances in the Teen Titans.
Still, I’m not quite sure Dick doesn’t have any flaws in this run. The big one that always sticks out in my mind is overreach. We downplay it a lot because wanting to be everything for everybody and help as many people as possible is, well, admirable. But I think it’s very deliberate that Dick gets gradually more battered as these issues play out. If he sees there’s someone to help, Dick Grayson will always put himself last in line. That really wears on a person and putting yourself through that can lead to mistakes and unintended consequences.
Basically, things worked out this time because it’s Nightwing’s first leap into the light, but putting himself last might lead to some serious consequences down the line. And hey, maybe I’m giving the creative team a little too much credit here, but I feel like they’ve set up a variety of circumstances that will really test Dick in the future. Melinda Zucco, Heartless, and Blockbuster all complicate his life quite a bit in different ways, and I’m looking forward to the trials he’s going to go through as a result. (Sorry, Dick.)
The GateCrashers are properly obsessed with lots of things. We’re so obsessed, instead of shouting our overwhelming joy for various forms of media into the void, we’ve created this monthly column – so we can share it with you. We know you think you’ve discovered all the good stuff out there, but we’re here to remind you that you may have missed a few things!
Amanda Film: Promare
Last month was Anime August here at GateCrashers, and to celebrate, I watched dozens of hours’ worth of anime (and, well…haven’t stopped). One of the anime I ended up watching was the 2019 film Promare, a movie I’d heard about for years before finally sitting down to watch it myself, and oh boy, was it a wild ride in the best possible way.
Promare takes place in a post-apocalyptic world 30-years after a calamity where fires caused by mass spontaneous human combustion killed half the world’s population. Certain humans, like secondary protagonist Lio Fotia (left), developed pyrokinetic powers from the fires. Others, like primary protagonist Galo Thymos (right), spend their days putting out the fires caused by the combustions. It sounds way grimmer than it is. In fact, Promare is pure fun with beautiful animation and extremely meta dialogue. It even pokes fun at action-adventure story mechanics by naming their giant battle mech (yes, I said giant battle mech) Deus Ex Machina. Because, of course, they did.
I’d definitely recommend taking the time to watch this delightful movie. I rented it off of Amazon Prime for $1.99. But it’s also now available to stream on HBO Max, and it’s coming back to theaters for a limited engagement!
Gabrielle TV: Regular Show
I started watching Regular Show on HBO Max, as a way to have something to put on while I do other things or in little stretches of free time I have, given how short the episodes are. But I did not expect to be so engaged and entertained by it. It’s honestly crazy how invested I am in the lives of these dumbasses and their interpersonal relationships as much as their crazy bizarre adventures. Even more, as someone who currently finds themself in that same weird phase of life, it’s so reassuring, in a way, to see them go through it; be confused, fail, feel love, sadness, excitement, and sometimes even win.
Katie TV: A Series of Unfortunate Events
I was a completionist when it came to reading long book series growing up. Comprising thirteen novels total, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was among one of the first full series I remember reading. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the 2004 film adaptation. Flash forward to 2017, and the books finally received a worthy Netflix adaptation. I watched the first three episodes with joy but forgot to ever return for more. Finally, having graduated college now and finding myself with more time on my hands than I could have ever imagined, I consumed every episode of the completed Unfortunate Events Netflix series in about a week. The dark comedy, gothic undertones, phenomenal acting, and sharp humor captures the book series’ tone identically. I binged the show and felt my mind actively sharpening, wheels turning in my head with analysis and appreciation for the visionary media I saw on the screen. Needless to say, I’m happy I was able to revisit the show with each episode available to stream all at once. A few essays about A Series of Unfortunate Events may be on the horizon.
(Side note: Daniel Handler’s inappropriate comments and utter sexism are unacceptable. It’s unfortunate that he is entirely connected to this adaptation of his books, but I am choosing here to try and separate the work from the creator without praising the creator himself.)
Sean Graphic Novel: are you listening? by Tillie Walden
When I was a kid growing up, my family would frequently go on long car rides. Be it down the 95 to visit my grandparents in Florida or across the state to spend a Christmas afternoon with my dad’s side of the family, I would always love going on these long car rides. Just seeing the world pass me by. The odd tourist attractions, the cold dips of snow, or even the presence of other cars. I remember this one time, we were stuck in a massive traffic jam, practically frozen in place for two hours. It got to the point where many drivers and passengers, myself included, actually left our cars to stretch our legs and see what had happened. I bring this up because reading Tillie Walden’s brilliant are you listening? brought back these memories and so many others. A story of love, healing, and the desire to get a cat home, are you listening? is a triumph of color and images. Its color pallet perfectly captures the comforting, dangerous, melancholic atmosphere of being on a multi-day car trip. It’s a feeling I will always hold dear and one I love every time I see it. Highly recommended.
RJ Documentary: The Last Dance
On a chilly November morning in 1996, my father and I witnessed a young rookie Allen Iverson play against the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan. Growing up in the 90s meant one of three things: you owned a pair of Air Jordan’s, you had a #23 Bulls jersey, or you had seen Space Jam more times than you would brave to admit. You didn’t want to just play basketball like Mike, but rather as his famous slogan stated, you wanted to BE like Mike. Flash forward to this soul-crushing pandemic, and the basketball gods had gifted us an enlightening documentary called The Last Dance, a never-before-seen / behind-the-scenes look at the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. I’ll admit, my first watch took place only hours after its release in early 2020, and yes, I even participated in the memes of Michael Jordan “taking things personally.” But like all things new, they are consumed so quickly, that sometimes a second look gives more depth than what was originally thought. Each of the 10 episodes carries you through the meteoric rise of Michael Jordan, while also capturing something that is ever-present with our current idolization of everyone in front of a camera, as well as a realization that Michael Jordan is human. He was an insatiable gambler, he smoked cigars, drank beers after games, he harassed and bullied teammates. Jordan was all those things, and yet he’s still known as an Olympic hero who literally lifted the NBA into a worldwide phenomenon. If you are not a basketball fan, this documentary might not give you quite the satisfaction, but you can still enjoy it as a time-capsule of the 1990s and a reflective piece on one of the greatest sports players of all-time. My wife, who is admittedly not a basketball fan herself, watched along-side me, which is a testament to the documentary’s appeal. Jordan’s basketball legacy remains untarnished, but as he walked away a hero, perhaps we have lived long enough to see him turn villain.
The Last Dance can be seen on Netflix, Prime Video, and for purchase on Apple TV.
Rook Video Game: The World Ends With You
I’ve been on a The World Ends With You kick lately. I’ve always loved this game, but when the anime adaptation premiered earlier this year, a single gorgeous episode wasn’t enough to sate my appetite. So I downloaded the Nintendo Switch remake, and while I originally started playing it to kill time until the (excellent) sequel came out, it quickly sucked me in all over again with its phenomenally vibrant visual style and incredibly creative combat system.
The sequel is out, and so far, it’s fulfilling its promise as the successor of one of the most legendary JRPGs of the Nintendo DS. But from time to time, I keep coming back to the original. With an incredible post-game experience that lets you travel back in time to uncover the machinations that were happening offscreen, that’s to be expected. It also doesn’t hurt that there are over 300 incredible abilities to collect and combo together, a killer story full of immensely satisfying twists and turns, or a cast of characters that will live in my brain for decades to come. It’s a singularly unique experience, and I can’t recommend it enough.
But don’t take my word for it; try out the (stand-alone) sequel’s extensive demo, or watch the anime adaptation on Hulu. Chances are, you won’t regret it.
Amir Film: Cure
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure might be the best horror film I’ll watch all year. A bold claim to make given there are plenty of other horror films on the way, and yet I doubt any of them will hit in the same way Cure does. While many horror films work with overly familiar tropes and unearned jump scares with zero impact, Cure feels like an original work that aims to disarm you more than it wants to make you scream. The less said, the better; the film follows a police detective as he attempts to solve a series of violent and random murders. The only signifying clue that ties them all together is that each victim carries an X carved into them, and the murderer on the scene has no memory of committing the crime. What starts out as a curious police procedural quickly unravels into a commentary about the facade humanity puts on to hide away the potential for violence brewing underneath; the truth that any one of us may carry a desire to cause harm, one that is completely out of our control. Making excellent use of long takes, an editing style that calls to mind The Exorcist III, and imagery that sticks with you, Cure just might be the film that captures the pressure that comes with living during a post-pandemic (if we ever get there) mindset. There simply is nothing else like it.
Critical Role is a wildly popular actual-play Dungeons & Dragons show on Twitch and YouTube and has been pivotal in reintroducing table-top roleplaying games (TTRPGs) to the world. They’re creating, or at least significantly contributing to, what many are calling a “Roleplaying Game Renaissance”, spurring many viewers to try to replicate the experience at home, including myself.
If you’re a fan of the show like me, it’s not hard to see why. Matthew Mercer and his close friends of big-name voice actors weave a complex, engaging narrative with memorable characters and gripping conflicts. They’ve transformed an otherwise intimidating gameset and long-established community into an approachable entertainment experience, with nearly 1000 hours of content (easily more if you go for their spinoffs).
I tried to pick up D&D once in 2018 and was open to it after finding an inexpensive starter set. I woke up on a Saturday, crunching through the 45-page rulebook that I now realize is abbreviated and felt…I got it? Kind of. After trying and failing to explain the game to a few friends, and sharing some clunky “how to” videos, I couldn’t get enough of them to commit; it was a bit of a drag, so I shelved the box and told myself, “another time”.
Sometime late in 2019, early 2020, I had heard the name “Critical Role” thrown around casually on the gaming news websites and YouTube. I ran across “Critical Role Campaign 2, Episode 1,” read the description, and fired it up over coffee and breakfast. Right away, I took away a few things. One: they hadn’t even started the game and they were having a BLAST. Two: they were good enough at this game that I could watch it and learn better how to play myself. Three: There was a whole first campaign with over 100 episodes already available to watch, with warnings of spoilers. I personally hate having my media spoiled to a fault, so I closed the first episode of Campaign 2 before they even finished their introduction, searched for Campaign 1: Episode 1, and hit “play.”
Instantly, I was engrossed. They were excited to be there, casually drinking, and the entire cast was actors, writers, and/or directors; and hey, I already knew a few of them from one of my favorite games: The Last of Us. Comparing the Campaign 2 episode to what I had in front of me, the early growing pains were clear, but most importantly, they were humbling. The technology, the miniature setup, the confusion on rules all brought the whole thing down to earth. I thought “Holy crap, if it’s this chaotic for a hit show with big name talent, then my chaos doesn’t seem so bad!” I kept watching.
The voices were immersive, the characters distinct, and the artful descriptions painted a transportive picture. There was music and art, dice and statistics, and an actual open world. As a long-time devourer of any video game that had the words “open world” in its description, I’m regularly disappointed by their bounds; but not here. That guy just turned invisible and went somewhere he clearly wasn’t supposed to! That mysterious house of mages has magical traps their sorcerer must navigate to enlist arcane support! Oh, and the job they got hired to do, with all the hints of missing workers and strange creatures? It all accumulates in a spectacular battle, where the episode ends on a cliffhanger.
The episode was over before I knew it. Then so were the first ten of Vox Machina’s journey. Then the next forty. The campaign took a glorious path through love, horror, revenge, and divine politics. Before long, I welled up as the team at Critical Role sunset Vox Machina and their epic story. Surely, they couldn’t top that. Fans of Campaign 2 will know that the Mighty Nein do just that; cue additional wows, surprises, and tears of joy and pain. Not to mention the global pandemic and lockdown; I had so many hours of free time to kill at home, and this was the place to spend it. Many viewers have watched an episode, a campaign, or every minute those voice-acting goons are on the internet (this nerd is unabashedly in that third category) and been inspired to bring some semblance of it home.
If you and your friends are interested in playing a game yourselves, all you need are a few tools to transport yourselves into an entirely different world. There you can bring your own characters and tell your own tales, an experience I would argue is unmatched in many popular media, including video games, which have made a valiant attempt at adopting the genre as their own. Yeah, I went there; get ready to experience the original interactive media!
Before anyone tries to gatekeep you from the inside, or warn you about the “Matthew Mercer Effect,” let’s make one thing clear: tabletop roleplaying-games are for anyone and everyone. You don’t need experience. Everyone must start from somewhere, right? You don’t need a fancy setup. Pen and paper will do and many of the basics are available for free or cheap online. All you truly need is a group, open minds, a bit of time, and a shared enthusiasm for some form of media, be it high fantasy, science fiction, anime, what have you.
Let’s break that down in case you’re missing any of those. The first thing you need is a group who is interested in playing. You’ll probably want at least three for your first game; two player D&D will have a very different dynamic, but don’t let that stop you. If you’re having a hard time getting people together, you can always check out your nearest comic book store, local Adventurer’s League, or many Discord servers’ “classified” channels. Chances are there are other people nearby or online looking for a group or a wandering player to fill in their last available seat.
Once you have a group together, start with finding a time you can all meet regularly and agree on a schedule up-front; the biggest challenge any group faces, yes, even Critical Role, is scheduling. Next, you’ll need to decide how much of a commitment your group is up for. Sessions can run anywhere from two hours to all day, and they can be a single event or a years-long weekly occurrence. So be sure to set expectations and try what’s right for everyone. Notably, there are two main kinds of game formats: “Campaigns” and “One Shots.” The only difference is that a One Shot is planned for a single session, and campaigns string sessions together through connected characters and stories. Think “film” vs “tv series.”
Now you’ve arranged a session or cadence, you’ll need to decide roles. Whoever is the most experienced or most enthusiastic will be your best candidate for the role of Dungeon Master (DM). Note that this role will take more work, so be sure this person is up for it. My guess is that if you’re the person doing the research to read this article, that will be you! The DM will be preparing, running, and guiding the game. Everyone else will be Player Characters (PCs), the core “party” of adventures with a goal of saving villagers from kidnapping goblins, retrieving a mysterious item for a crime-lord, or saving the very world you live in.
Where does all this material come from you might ask? There are two main categories of D&D content: pre-written modules made by publishers, and “homebrew,” made by your DM. For your first game, I’d recommend a module. This takes care of the story, non-player characters (NPCs), and dungeons for your new DM so that they can learn the ropes with a lot less up-front work. Similarly, your new PCs can use pre-made characters, reducing their up-front work as they learn the mechanics of the core game, race, and class. Keep in mind that Dungeons & Dragons, while incredibly popular, is far from the only RPG out there. Do a bit of searching at your local comic shop or your favorite place to order nerdy products online, they’re bound to have more than one. You may find that a specific IP of another game fits your group more, especially if you’re not a huge fan of the fantasy genre. Though it should be noted that D&D can be adopted for many genres, that usually requires a bit of work or the right pre-written module, which I haven’t experimented with myself.
Last, but not least, you’ll need a few tools to satisfy the mechanics of the game. The core rules of Dungeons & Dragons are available for free online, as are pre-built character sheets, as mentioned above. If you purchase a module for another system, be sure to check that it comes with the core ruleset, or that the rules are available elsewhere. You’ll also need at least one 7-piece dice set to share among the group, though having a set per person is ideal. Those can run you anywhere from $0.16 per die if you buy in bulk, to $100+ for a fancy set; just shop around until you find what you need and are comfortable spending a few bucks on. Keep in mind you can also find free online dice rollers, but if you’re like me and my friends, you’ll develop an addiction to physical dice much sooner than you expect. Also, check out some of the free digital game management options out there as well, especially if you’re playing remotely.
Now arm every player with a way to take notes, a comfy seat, and your favorite snacks. You’re ready to dive into a game that centers on a core desire so many of us crave: creative storytelling. May the dice ever be in your favor and have a freakin’ blast.
As a spooky little kid I was fortunate enough to have a TV and a VCR in my bedroom. My family wasn’t wealthy but this little luxury wasn’t expensive and my mom knew how much I liked movies, especially horror movies. The first film I ever saw, due to a flakey babysitter, was James Cameron’s Aliens. According to my mother, 3 year old me thought Aliens was hilarious, a stark contrast to my vehement anger after witnessing the murder of Bambi’s mother in Bambi.
Having my own personal TV (covered in X-Men stickers of course) also just made sense because that meant I was able to watch horror movies on my own in case my mom wanted to use the living room TV for something other than a 50th viewing of the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. I was a bit obsessed, but I was rarely “a problem child” and so my mom didn’t really mind. After all, she was the neighborhood “Halloween Lady,” known for her over the top decorations and nightmare tableaus, so it all had to come from somewhere.
My collection of VHS tapes was formidable, it blossomed with what in my purview were the most important films like Halloween, Night Of The Living Dead, Clueless, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Friday The 13th Part II, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When it came to what my collection lacked, I loved going to the local video store and perusing the aisles searching for the perfect three rental combination: a tried and true classic that I had already seen but not yet purchased, a new release with cool enough box art, and a random horror film that I grabbed exclusively based on my intuition. This is how I first watched Event Horizon.
Event Horizon, some might call a “bad movie” and to that I say, let’s leave behind this “good” and “bad” binary folks. Like its Paul W. S. Anderson predecessor, Mortal Kombat, and everything Anderson has directed since, Horizon is an exercise in genre camp. Anderson doesn’t make subtle films, I’m not sure he can, and honestly I appreciate that. We’re in an era where horror films are often expected to be a cerebral, deeply nuanced experience and sometimes I just want to watch a bloody mess that doesn’t ask me to consider… well, much of anything.
The premise, boiled down, is essentially “y’all, what if we did Hellraiser in space? A concept that is executed considerably less well in the film Hellraiser: Bloodlines, where spoiler alert, a space station folds in on itself to become a massive anti-hell puzzle box full of light that traps and destroys demons.
The film opens with a series of intertitle texts that imagines a much more advanced history for humanity. Rewatching this film with my 35 year old brain, I cackled when I read “2015 – First Permanent Colony Established On The Moon.” I love the unbridled hubris of science fiction compared to our own stunted growth. We always imagine we’ll accomplish more than we do.
After further scene setting, we get our first shot of the Event Horizon, arguably the main character of the film. The ship is drastically phallic, or uterine? Dealers’ choice really. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective.
Various objects float inside the ship’s compromised gravity, a water bottle, a paperback book, a paper cup, and a standard wrist watch. It all makes one question how we have established space colonies but never updated the design of watches or plastic bottles. The camera settles on the image of nude floating body, arms spread wide, in front of a window shaped like a cross. The camera enters the man’s screaming mouth and exits Sam Neil’s open eye as he wakes in terror. Daddy is being called home.
Does Event Horizon make sense? Well, no, not really. The “Gravity Drive” or Einstein Rosen bridge inadvertently detours the ship through hell, and now the ship… is Hell? Is Hell’s avatar? The ship sent out a distress call to summon more victims like I might order DoorDash while nursing a hangover on a Sunday?
That said, Event Horizon doesn’t NEED to make sense to be a lot of fun. When did you ever love a piece of art specifically because it made sense? If you go into this film expecting iron-clad science and grounded characters, you’re at the wrong dance, honey.
The characters are all fairly thinly drawn, their motivations and choices aren’t nuanced and serve simply to move the plot forward. In the moments that we do get character backstory, as with the suicide of Dr. Weir’s wife, or the illness Technician Peters’ son suffers from, it’s all very vague and piecemeal. Other characters seem to have little to no interior lives whatsoever. Who cares, want to watch the ship eat them?
Fortunately, the film doesn’t look quite as dated as some of its CGI filled contemporaries, the Event Horizon “herself” is filled with impressive practical effects and beautiful gothic sets inspired by the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The production design on this film is gorgeous, internal spires, spikes, oscillating hallways, and bizarre textures cover every surface. Does it make sense for a spaceship to be designed like a gothic cathedral? Of course not, but is it a cooky fun concept? Absolutely.
Event Horizon, like all of Paul W. S. Anderson’s work, is ridiculous and best enjoyed a bit stoned if that’s your thing or at the very least with a rowdy group of friends who don’t mind both screaming and laughing at a goofy drama queen of a movie. It’s the perfect movie for a riffy kiki night. Ridicule the dialogue, point out the plot holes, and gag over Sam Neil’s full-body make-up moment. Category is: Spiral Cut Ham Honey.
Highly recommended for fans of Hellraiser, Alien, Solaris, Sunshine, and the Dead Space game series.