The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection – Alan Grant and John Wagner

I have no idea who this Judge Dredd character is, but his crossovers with Batman sure has some beautiful art. The cover simply doesn’t do the artwork justice, it’s really intricate and done with paint or pencil or something. I’d buy a poster. The four stories were good as well, but nothing could compare with the posters.

Batman Nightfall: Volume 1 – Doug Mench

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You remember that time Superman died for a bit back in the nineties? Turns out that soon after, Batman broke his spine, and Batman: Knightfall explains how that injury came about.

Bane is a genius muscleman raised in a prison, and perhaps it’s that detachment from the mainstream cultural mileau that explains his decision to dress like a roided up luchador. His intensity and isolation could also explain why he’s so fixated on ‘breaking’ the Batman – the official reason is that he had nightmares about bats as a child. And yes, this Bane inspired the character with the same name in The Dark Knight Rises.

Bane’s plan to wear down Batman by freeing all the villains from Arkham Asylum, and attack Batman shortly before his inevitable breakdown. The great thing about this scheme is that it allows the writers to showcase iconic Batman baddies like The Made Hatter, The Riddler, The Scarecrow and the Joker, the last two of which even team up.

Batman’s replacement, a blonde assassin brainwashed by monks, proves too radical even for his mentor’s taste. But what he does with the batmantle will be covered in the next book, which I really need to read.

Secret Wars – Jonathon Hickman

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Two different versions of the Marvel universe have collided and fused into a bizarre planet called Battleworld, ruled with an iron fist by Dr. Doom.  I guess this is like a Marvel of version of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline.

Every now and then I try to figure out why I prefer DC over Marvel. Both are silly, but while Marvel seems to embrace the absurdity, DC knows that their stories are inherently ridiculous but still manages to take them seriously. I don’t really know, but Secret Wars’ patchwork planet is a great way to showcase Marvel-brand silliness.

Even better, this event reads as though it’s intended to define the status quo for future Marvel adventures. So when I read some of those titles, I’ll have more of an idea what’s actually going on. Great.

Osamu Tezuka Story – Toshio Ban

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This is the largest manga volume I’ve ever read, and happily it’s one self-contained narrative about Osamu Tezuka, who is both the Walt Disney and Will Eisner of Japanese culture. And an unrepetant workoholic – he always seemed to be working on at least five different manga at the one time. The Osamu Tekuza Story is both a fascinating look at a hard-working artist and at how Japan has changed since the thirties. I recommend it.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 1 – 2 Tom Holland

Imagine you’re an ordinary person in the DC Universe. Your world is a scary place, buffeted by bizarre forces you barely comprehend and constantly threatened by extraterrestrial megalomaniacs. The only thing that stops your emotional landscape from becoming a whirlpool of existential terror is the knowledge that you’re ultimately being protected by the moral paragons over at the Justice League. Sure, Superman sometimes goes a bit evil but that’s probably just Kryptonite poisoning, and if things get really bad maybe the Sandman can organise a massive sleepover to bend reality back into the right shape. There’s a MLK saying Superman scribe Elliot S. Maggin seemed very fond of, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”, which applies particularly well to the DCU.

Anyone who believes that in the world of Injustice: Gods Among Us is headed for a breakdown. This prequel comic to some fighting game I’ve never played applies Murphy’s Law to the Justice League in the most heartbreaking way possible, by showing how Superman becomes determined to enforce world peace after the Joker tricks him into killing his wife and their unborn child, and the dire lengths Batman goes to to oppose his reign. It’s brutal stuff.

Yet somehow the well-written characterisation makes it feel that this dark scenario is possible for these classic characters. I feel that too many modern Superman adaptions darken the character to make him more appealing to the audiences who loved The Dark Knight trilogy, and by that I’m referring to the more recent Zack Snyder films. Going dark misses the point of Superman. While his stories aren’t necessarily childish, they do generally have an optimistic view on humanity. And they’re silly, especially Jimmy Olsen’s bizarre transformations and anything involving bizarro, and that’s really an essential part of what makes Superman fun. Tom Holland understands this, and instead of writing his heartbroken Superman as a Frank Milleresque angstlord, his Superman takes his simplistic and intuitive approach to morality in a horrifically different, tyrannical direction. It’s a believable evolution from his classic persona.

Batman is the same as he ever was. Really, someone as grim as him hardly needs any adaption to the new status quo. Although his butler Alfred really steps up to the plate in this book, beating up evil Superman thanks to the strength he got from a reverse-engineered Kryptonian medical technology. But we didn’t know that at the time, so it was awesome.

You can tell by the way I’m raving on about these books that they had a profound effect on me. Maybe they’ll do something similar to you.

Kiss Me Satan: New Orleans is a Werewolf Town – Victor Gischler and Joan Ferreya

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So this one’s about a demon attempting redemption by acting as heaven’s dogsbody, in one of those eschatological conflicts where predictably enough, each side is as bad as the other. He makes it to New Orleans, where he has to defend a trio of witches from the werewolf mafia. Didn’t work for me.

Flash: Rogues Revolution, Gorilla Warfare and Reverse – Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

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I read more of Francis Manapul’s and Brian Buccellato’s Flash run, and it’s still very good. If I read anymore I might become a Flash fan. While I appreciate The Spirit-style titles, they do make the layout a bit confusing at times.