Gems of the New 52: The Robin Rises Saga

I hate being a Nega-Nerd (A nerd who is super negative) however, I often complain about DC Comics’ New 52.  Trashing decades of established history, tradition and storytelling and transforming beloved characters into easy to market products just seems wrong to me.  When storytellers are beholden to the whims of corporate executives, share holders and focus groups, the end result rarely ever yields any creativity, originality or imagination.  The jokers in the business boardrooms know nothing beyond making money…screw storytelling.

"Did somebody call for Business Joker?  And what's wrong with making money?"

“Did somebody call for Business Joker? And what’s wrong with making money?”

 

However, even with the storytelling by committee model, there are a few great adventures that squeeze through the cracks.  Robin Rises has shaped up to be one of the coolest Batman stories since the confining New 52 project began.  Like everything else related to the New 52, Robin Rises is attached to a little unnecessary confusion.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the New 52 boiled down the careers of all the heroes to just 5 years.  So here are the stats for the first five years of New 52 Batman: In Five years: Batman is killed and resurected, has 4 Robins (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne) , 2 spin-off female allies (Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Batwoman/Kathy Kane), 2 Robins killed (Jason Todd, Damian Wayne), 2 Robins Resurrected (Jason Todd, Damian Wayne), 3 Robins take on other aliases (Grayson is Nightwing, Jason Todd is Red Hood and Tim Drake is Red Robin) 

That’s a lot in five years.  So here is the quick back up story for Robin Rises.  Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s son and sidekick is murdered by his mother, Talia Al Ghul because he defected to his father’s side.

Batman butters his bread  Butter side up while the League of Assassins butters theirs butter side down....the sure sign of EVIL.

Batman butters his bread Butter side up while the League of Assassins butters theirs butter side down….the sure sign of EVIL.

Robin Rises sees Bruce Wayne go on an insane search for a way to bring his son back to life. Batman discovers that Damian’s body has been stolen by his arch foe, Ra’s Al Ghul (And Damian’s grandpapy).

 

My Grandpa just wanted to make us laugh...he never went on evil crusades...that we knew of.

My Grandpa just wanted to make us laugh…he never went on evil crusades…that we knew of.

Ra’s seeks to use his knowledge of Lazurus Pits and ancient resurrection techniques to bring Damian back and brainwash him. This leads to an awesome series of “Road Trip” Style of adventures pairing Batman with the likes of Batgirl, Red Hood, Aquaman, and even Frankenstein’s Monster as they try to stop Ra’s.  The adventure takes a crazy turn when Glorious Godfrey, the elite assassin of Darkseid, the alien from Apokolips whom had previously sent Batman’s consciousness on a trip through time shows up to steal Damian’s body.

The Batman/Frankenstein hour of power was sadly canceled in 1978.

The Batman/Frankenstein hour of power was sadly canceled in 1978.

This leads Batman to take on the Justice League and steal and experimental suit and the Boom Tube teleportation devices that can take him to Apokolips.

A fight like this breaks out every time the Justice League argues about what to order for dinner.

A fight like this breaks out every time the Justice League argues about what to order for dinner.

Eventually Batman and his whole crew end up on Apokolips where they go toe to toe with legions of aliens bent on death and destruction.   The whole story is just as fun and entertaining as the comics I grew up reading and never once does the story seem like it was dictated by share holders.  There is no way this sprawling mega epic (Spanning 23 issues in total if you count Damian’s death and the Road to Resurrection story line….and you should!)  could ever be made into a movie and that’s part of what makes it so great.  These are comics made for comics sake.  This story was designed for original fans, not just some schmuck who saw Dark Knight Rises and wants to see what all this Batman Comic Book fuss is all about.  Personally I would have tolerated the Nolan films more if they didn’t have Christian Bale in them….maybe Adam West.

With Joan Collins as Talia Al Ghul and Sammy Davis Jr. as Bane!

There is a lot to love here for Batman fans.  I highly recommend reading the whole saga as well as going back before the New 52 and checking out the Grant Morrison stories that brought the world Damian Wayne.  I hope that you enjoyed this installment.  I shall see you  Next time when we shall be checking out Grant Morrison’s Multiversity. 

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Gems of the New 52. Part One: A quick Primer on the New 52

DC comics has a long, lavish history that any writer, artist and reader could dig into.  Since the DC comic book universe was established waaaaaay back in 1938 with the debut of Superman in Action Comics # 1, the Universe had just been expanding and expanding.  Then in 1985 DC had a company wide event called Crisis on Infinite Earths in which a cosmic villain wiped out almost all of DC’s alternate realities.  Wait, you’re not following all this?  Oh sorry.  Excuse me for one moment then while I issue a….

If you are not a nerd go watch a Kardashian or something then come back later.

If you are not a nerd go watch a Kardashian or something then come back later.

Why am I even issuing a warning?  You're the one reading a blog called "Nerds of Mass Distraction"

Why am I even issuing a warning? You’re the one reading a blog called “Nerds of Mass Distraction”

We now resume or regular scheduled Nerd Fest:  

Crisis on Infinite Earths was meant to clean up some of the inconsistencies in the story lines but it didn’t really do its job.  This led to the revamped Post-Crisis continuity where Superman never fought crime as Superboy.  Other clean up events such as Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis attempted to trim down the seemingly unwieldy continuity but nothing really stuck.  By 2009 DC actually embraced a lot of its past, Superman now fought crime as Superboy in the past (Sort of, he at least joined up with the Legion of Superheroes as a teen), Barry Allen (The Silver Age Flash, who was killed off in 85’s Crisis) returned as the Flash.  It looked as if the DCU was just going to expand on its large history and grow larger and larger.

Then in December of 2009, Disney bought Marvel.  As strange as it sounds, that one real life business deal managed to change the fictional DCU.  With a plan to take the already successful Marvel Studios films and expand upon them, Disney was set to build yet another entertainment empire.  Before the Disney buy out in December, the muckity mucks at AOL/Time-Warner already knew the move was going to happen, so in September the mega company announced that they would be folding DC Comics into the already established DC Entertainment division.  What does this all mean?  Soon the company ejected the well established leadership whom all been veterans in the comic book industry and announced that entertainment industry insider Diane Nelson would be the new President of DCE.

The next President of DC Entertainment...

The next President of DC Entertainment…

So the suits from the second largest entertainment company were now running one of the biggest comic book companies in order to compete with the other biggest comic company which was just taken over by the biggest entertainment company….confused?  The funny thing, so was AOL/Time Warner.  In their panic to compete, they didn’t realize that Disney was taking a hands off approach to running Marvel.  Their policy was to just allow Marvel to run itself and continue to prosper.  Yeah, there has been a lot of cross-pollination with the Marvel Studios films but other than that Disney has kept its eyes on the films….and toys and theme parks and shirts and cheap crap made in china….but they let the comic book company continue to run itself.

That meant keeping this guy as far away from the comics as possible by distracting him with cameo appearances in every Marvel Movie for the next century.

That meant keeping this guy as far away from the comics as possible by distracting him with cameo appearances in every Marvel Movie for the next century.

…The first order of business for Diane Nelson and the DCE?  To ditch the long established history and remold the 70+ year old characters into properties that would make great movies.  DC used the plot of the horrendous Flash Point Mini-Series to rewrite the company’s history.  The Flash’s arch foe, the Reverse Flash goes back in time all Marty McFly style to mess with the Flash and ends up changing history.  This creates a crazy ass tangent world where Biff Tannen now runs Hill Valley and Metropolis…or something like that.

 

"Do you think I gotta chance with Lois Lane?"

“Do you think I gotta chance with Lois Lane?”

When the Flash uses his super speed mystic mojo whama jamma powers to set things straight, there is some other crazy woman in the time stream (We find out she’s Pandora and she’s nothing special so just move along…) and she messes up the proper timeline.  So now from this point on (2011), all of the major DCU characters have only been around for 5 years. The company debut 52 brand new # 1 issues.  The cosmic reset button had been pressed and everything starts anew….except it didn’t.  A lot of writers and artists who had existing books and huge running storylines threatened to quit if their stories were scrapped for this reboot.  DC agreed that the writers could keep their stories intact when the reboot hit.  What we ended up with was a lot of weird inconsistencies.  Grant Morrison had been writing his mega Batman opus since 2006 and he drew a lot from the character’s past.  This was the story of a Batman who had 3 sidekicks named Robin over a long career.  He learns that he has a ten year old son, Damian with his arch foe Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter Talia….Then he gets killed by a monomaniacal alien dictator named Darkseid and finds himself hopping through time like in Quantum Leap.  Batman’s first Robin, Dick Grayson (Who was also Nightwing) takes the mantle and Damian Wayne becomes Robin.  Then Bruce Wayne returns and announces to the world that he “finances” all of Batman’s tech and creates an international team of Bat themed super heroes.  That’s a big whopping story that took over six years to tell.  Well, once New 52 hit….all of that stuff I just mentioned still happened in Batman’s life, but in five years.

Not to mention the nearly ten year Green Lantern saga Geoff Johns was crafting was still part of the New 52.  So a lot of the history was jettison and the stuff that stayed was all crammed into the amazingly unbelievable time frame of just five years.

Needless to say, The New 52 seemed like a construct for making money, not for honoring the fans of a lush history.  Most of the books in the initial New 52 line up were canned pretty quickly.  Of course, all the core heroes stayed but many of the other titles didn’t make it.  Overall, many of the stories read like safe, committee made tales that are afraid to push any kind of envelope out of fear of alienating someone who wants to read the comics when the movies are released.  However, with that said all of that said there have been some amazing gems in the new 52 Manure pile.

"Manure!  Why is it always Manure!"

“Manure! Why is it always Manure!”

 

Next time we will start off our Gems of the New 52 series with the Robin Rises saga!  

Why Ant Man won’t suck…

There are a lot of fans out there who like to be negative.  For some fans, negativity is all they know.  One time I was in a comic book shop digging through the dollar comic bin as I am want to do when this guy rushed through the door looking like Harold Green.

Canadians and anyone who was obsessed with PBS in the late 90's will get this reference.

Canadians and anyone who was obsessed with PBS in the late 90’s will get this reference.

Unlike Harold Green, this guy was the most negative nerd in the world.  Negative with a capital N.  The first thing he said to the clerk was “Hey do you have any Spiderman comics that don’t suck?”  How are you supposed to respond to that?  “Suck” is such an objective, personal thing.  One man’s gold could be another man’s “Suck”.  Just ask fans of Larry the Cable Guy.  He’s like a god to millions of Southerners but I think he’s annoying.  The clerk began to inform the guy about the new Superior Spiderman books (The storyline where Doctor Octopus had transferred his brain into Peter Parker’s body and took the mantle of Spiderman for a year.  It appeared to be a cheap gimmick but was incredibly well written and fleshed out Dock Ock as a flawed, very human individual who realized he wasn’t as superior as he thought)  This Nega-Nerd was not having any discussion of Superior Spider-Man.  “I said, books that don’t suck.  I don’t want to hear about Superior Doc Ock.”  The clerk just smiled and asked the guy “How many issues of Superior Spiderman have you read?”  That’s when the nerd just rolled his eyes and said “I’d never read such a lousy book.  I just read online that it wasn’t good and some of my friends on facebook thrashed it.”  The incredibly nice clerk continued to smile, impervious to the Nega-Nerd’s super negativity.  “Well how do you know it sucks if you’ve never read it?” The nerd sighed “My facebook friends have the same tastes as I do.  If they say it sucks then it sucks.  Why would I waste my time?”  That’s when the clerk reached under the counter and grabbed the Mjölnir, Thor’s Mighty hammer and used it to blow up the nerd’s head.

nerdexplode

Okay, this didn’t actually happen.

Why am I talking about negative nerds?  Because the new Ant-Man trailer is set to premier tonight during the 2 hour Agent Carter series premier.  The Ant-Sized trailer has already premiered.  It’s a great gimmick.

Already there are flocks of Nega-Nerds taking to the internet and complaining that Ant-Man will “Suck” and that he is a “Sucky” character.  I am here to dispel any rumors, myths or innuendo that Ant-Man is a bad character and that he will suck. First of all, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ant-Man.  Not so much the Hank Pym original Ant Man, but the funny, down to Earth wisecracking Scott Lang Ant-man.  Scott Lang was like Han-Solo with super powers.  He was a devil may care rouge that we all liked but he also had a soft side.  He was a single father trying to balance the life of dad and hero.  With that in mind….

Here now are 3 reasons why Ant-Man will be great:

1.  Ant-Man has a rich history to draw from.

Before he was a Super Hero Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man was just a science genius in a Marvel Horror comic.

Before he was a Super Hero Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man was just a science genius in a Marvel Horror comic.

The character has been around since before Spiderman and he was one of the original Avengers.  Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man was a super genius who discovered a process to shrink himself and grow giant sized using particles he called Pym Particles.  Apparently he had a giant ego too.  Pym and his fiancee Janet Van Dyne fought along side the Avengers  as Ant-Man and Wasp.  Later Ant-Man became Giant Man.

giantman and wasp

Despite the name Giant-Man and the Wasp was not a 70’s cop show.

Soon, the Super Hero game proved too much for Pym’s fractured genius psyche and he began to have a nervous breakdown, becoming the somewhat villainous Yellow Jacket.

Yellow Jacket vs. his arch foe Green Cardigan

Yellow Jacket vs. his arch foe Green Cardigan

Oh yeah and somewhere along the line Hank Pym became Goliath…

"Split personality disorder?  You're crazy man, We don't have split Personality disorder, do we guys?"

“Split personality disorder? You’re crazy man, We don’t have split Personality disorder, do we guys?”

And he invented the killer super intelligent robot Ultron…..

"Hey kids, I'm Ultron!  Be sure to watch for me in my new movie Avengers 2:  Let's Make more money!"

“Hey kids, I’m Ultron! Be sure to watch for me in my new movie Avengers 2: Let’s Make more money!”

Of course there were two other men to don the Ant-Man mantle which brings me to…

2.  Scott Lang is a character you will care about.

Unlike Hank Pym, the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang does not have an illustrious career.  Scott starts out as a promising young electronics genius who falls on hard times and turns to burglary.  He becomes a wise cracking, Han Solo-esque rogue but lands himself in jail several times.  Once released from Prison Scott attempts to lead a legitimate life, but his daughter becomes terminally ill.  A company known as Cross Technical Enterprises has a way to cure his daughter but it is next to impossible to break in…so like any rational person, Scott Lang breaks into Hank Pym’s lab and steals his Ant-Man tech in order to break into Cross Technical Enterprises.  During the attempted robbery of Cross Tech, Lang stumbles upon a terrorist plot and saves the doctor who can heal his daughter.  Hank Pym learns about Lang’s heroism and allows him to remain Ant-Man only if he uses his new found abilities for good.  See, it’s the set up for the movie!  Wise ass Scott Lang strays toward the dark side, steals super hero tech, saves the day and is guided by the original super hero.  Paul Rudd can deliver as the charming, pain in the ass Scott Lang, just as much as Chris Pratt delivered as Peter Quill/Star Lord.  This was a role made for him.

3.  The film has a cast and crew that is destined to make a great movie.

Beyond the development hell that the movie found itself in while it was being developed by the amazing Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End), the Ant-Man movie has all the right factors to be as good as Guardians of the Galaxy.  The script still has elements of the Edgar Wright Draft as well as the draft by Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Anchorman, Stepbrothers) Together with Director Peyton Reed (Yes Man, The Break Up, Down With Love and most importantly the Back to the Future Animated Series) and a brilliant cast this movie will be fun and amazing.  Who doesn’t want to see the World wise older hero Hank Pym (Played by Michael Douglas) mentoring Scott Lang as he tries to redeem himself and make up for his criminal past.  With Evenglyne Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the movie is already promising to expand on the comic book mythology.  How cool would it be to see the second generation of a super hero family fighting alongside her father’s protegee?  Actor Corey Stoll fills out the cast as the Villainous Darren Cross, the owner of Cross Tech.  Darren Cross will eventually steal the mantle of Yellow Jacket and fight the new Ant-man.

With a funny, action packed script, a cast of diverse and well adept actors and a proven director this is sure to be one of the best Marvel movies.  So stop being a Nega-Nerd and wait for the film to come out before you thrash it!