Tagged: New 52

Marc Alan Fishman: DC Rebirth Saved Me


Followers of this column are about to do a double take. They will question my sanity, my constitution, and whether I’m now a pod-person. But, heed my words, for they are true.

I traveled a long and hard road from my suburban home 45 minutes north to a different suburb so that I could make a transaction I’d honestly figured I wouldn’t make for years to come. After giving up mainstream comics (and weekly comic purchases) for two years, I handed over three bucks and picked up DC Universe Rebirth.

And I loved it.

Stop laughing at me.

In all the lead up to the big epic oh my Rao event I may have said a few … ahem… embittered words over the whole announcement. And to be fair, a lot of my points will remain valid in spite of my newfound like of Geoff Johns’ epic apology for the New52. It’s still a return to event-driven sales spikes, resetting books once again to #1, and making all of comic book fandom play a rousing game of WTF when it comes to figuring out what actually happened in continuity and what didn’t. But it doesn’t serve me anymore to deal in the macro. Let me crack open the book and figure out how Johns served me a plate of raw crow and I lapped it up like… oh, whatever eats a crow quickly.

Geoff Johns made his career (in my humble opinion) on harnessing emotion and sewing it into the rich tapestry of DC’s long-standing continuity. As he elevated the JSA, the Flash, Green Lantern, and other then-off-in-the-margin players through the DCU, Johns maintained a through-line of optimism… until Flashpoint. As the start of the New52 directive, Johns helped usher in the new era of DC Continuity, one meant to gel better with various other media properties, update languishing characters, and scrubbing off the dirt of one or two many crises. But in doing so, the New52 embraced the dour side of the DCU. Suddenly everything seemingly needed to carry a hipster-sheen and a splash of fuck you to it.

Rebirth acknowledges this and takes a smart step back. We’re reintroduced to the lost Wally West, and are given him as the anchor to whatever this new future holds. Across four chapters and the epilogue Wally searches for a single soul who can actually remember him. As the speed force (a penciling, inking, and coloring nightmare of a deus ex machina if ever there was one) threatens to tear Wally apart and disperse him to the next would-be speedster, we relive his complicated backstory in between scenes and snippets in the current continuity. And as Johns has relished in it before, again everything feels earned, and intelligently aligned.

Wally feels as if the world has simply forgotten emotions, states of being, and relationships. His attempt at anchoring to Batman (the clear progeny of analysis and logic) fails. A trip to visit the once-wielder of the Thunderbolt is met with confusion and fear, proving that legacy is no tether either. We’re even goaded into believing in the power of love, only to see Linda Park rebuke a waning Wally. It’s almost gut wrenching. Wally West, once a ward, then the hero… finally gives abandons hope.

And then Wally heads home for a final goodbye with the man who’d started it all. Barry Allen.

What follows between the two of them is a scene so potent I can’t do it justice in description. Johns and his cadre of astounding artists produced tears in my eyes over the bond between fictional characters I don’t even care that much about. While I do love (and own) Johns’ entire run on The Flash I’ve never claimed more than a passing fondness for the scarlet speedster(s). But here, across 60 sum pages, I’m now looking for the local chapter of the Speed Force Anonymous.

Hello, my name is Marc Alan Fishman, and I think I love the Flash. All of them.

But, even moreso, I love hope. Optimism. Love. Friendship. Kindness. Heroism. Everything I’d stopped seeing two years ago when I gave up comics. Here in Rebirth, I got it all back in spades, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t begrudgingly call the shop after finishing it to subscribe to a few books a month. More on that in future columns. Rebirth as a single stand-alone issue suffers only from the fact that it is meant as a one-and-done precursor, spinning off into 20+ books in the included checklist. This is where my review ends and the snark reemerges. Left to his own devices and narrative, Geoff Johns weaved a wonderful – dare I say masterful – tale. But in the context of the epic event, we’re still crushed under the weight of publishing profit mandates. The end of the issue is well earned, but truly to be continued. And ain’t no way I’m continuing it to the tune of that many new books.

But you see, fellow readers of Rebirth, you are likely asking… what of the 500-pound blue, naked elephant in the room – well, actually, Mars.

I’m going to leave you here, and politely toss the gauntlet of coverage to my ComicMix cohort, the magnificent Mindy Newell. Until next time, I’m your humbled and humiliated comic reader once again.

Martha Thomases: Comic Books For Everyone!

Silvestri Batman

There was a disturbance in the Force this weekend as DC announced that they were, once again, relaunching their entire line … sort of.

On the one hand, I’m sick of this. It might work as a publicity stunt for a few months, but, in and of itself it doesn’t necessarily attract new readers. On the other hand, what else can they do?

Just a few days before, my pal Val D’Orazio posted some interesting opinions about the comic book market. She looks at distribution and promotion and demographics and all the other elements that have been part of our discussions about comics since at least the 1970s.

In case you’re new to this, let me try to sum it up (which will, by necessity, over-simplify things). The emergence of the direct market allowed comics to go from a mass medium to a more sharply focused (and therefore, more profitable) business. There were risks (for example, speculation) but there were benefits (cheaper cost of entry allowed more experimentation). For a glorious few years, all kinds of books were offered from all kinds of new publishers, although Marvel and DC continued to dominate. The market grew to include graphic novels, thus entering the mass market again via bookstores. Recently, digital distribution makes it easier for new demographic segments to inexpensively sample titles without having to go to comic book specialty stores.

Or, to quote Val, “In particular, there is going to be a big market for diverse, relevant, young adult serialized content; that is where a lot of the best “new ideas” in comics will be coming from, the sorts of ideas that get optioned for movies and TV.”

Please note: When she says “young adult,” she is referring to that segment of the book publishing business that includes Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent and the like. It’s a marketing term, not a judgment call. In other words, what is currently one of the most profitable areas.

How does the current publishing model fit with future? Not very well.

I love going to the comic book store on Wednesday. Really. Even in the snow. I like to pick up a pile of overpriced (in terms of cost per minute of entertainment) paper pamphlets and read them over lunch, or over an afternoon. However, I’m someone who has been doing this for nearly 60 years. I’m certainly not the cool, young market that advertisers and publishers want.

And even though I’ve been reading comics for such a long time, I have trouble keeping continuity together. If I was a young person today, I would find the whole thing to convoluted to bother.

DC seems to think the solution is to start from scratch so everyone has a chance to get in on the ground floor. I get it. The New 52 worked pretty well for them, at least commercially.

Unfortunately, they seem to miss what I consider to be the point: they bog down their new continuity with old continuity. And they seem to think that on talent that might be well known within the comics industry will be a selling point to new readers from outside the market.

I like Scott Snyder’s writing very much, and those Marc Silvestri pages are gorgeous. I don’t mean to say those men are not talented, but that they are not known to people who don’t already read comics.

At the same time, a lot of current readers are turned off to buying current comics book series because they don’t like stories that are “written for the trade,” that is, stories that are planned for collections, not for individual issues. This is understandable. If one spends three or four dollars (or more) on a comic book, one would like to get a story.

And a lot of people who like comic book characters (like the Flash, or Agent Carter, or Lucifer, or Batman or the Avengers or Your Favorite Here) are intimidated by comic book stores. All they know is what they see on The Simpsons or The Big Bang Theory. They might enjoy comics, but they need a safe way to sample them.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of reading comics online (I think I’ll like it better if I get the bigger iPad), I think the Interwebs offer a solution. A lot of the expense of publishing comics comes from buying paper, printing, and shipping. By promoting and publishing all kinds of comics online, publishers can attract new readers more inexpensively than with paper, and save hard-copy publishing for the more popular titles.

For example, I’m an old fart who would very much enjoy reading the occasional adventures of the Legion of Super-Pets and their romps through space. I would also like more “realistic” stories, like the procedurals in Gotham Central and Resident Alien. I’d gladly pay a few bucks for the chance, especially if, as Val suggests, there is some kind of Netflix like structure that lets me binge at will.

I haven’t figured out the economics yet, but everyone involved should get paid at least a living wage – not just the creative talent but editors, lawyers, and so on.

If you want to see comics that feature people of color, or queer people, or more women, there can be comics for you. If you want to see the (mostly) all-white comics of the past, there can be comics for you.

Just as having more channels on television has brought more good shows, having more channels for comics should bring more good comics.

Mike Gold: No Fire This Time

In her column last Monday, Mindy Newell talked about how an old-time friend and fellow comics reader was jumping off of the ship. Too many cataclysmic events leading directly into too many cataclysmic events. Not enough real story.

I know other readers who feel the same way, and this spring’s cataclysmic events from DC and Marvel provide an excellent opportunity to take the time they now spend reading DC and Marvel and watching the movies and teevee shows produced by, or with, DC and Marvel.

I get that, and I feel the same way. I love this medium. Always have, always will. A great many of my most enduring friendships have their roots in comics fandom, as did my marriage. But, damn, by the time I hit the staples I want a real story and not just another overwhelming grab for whatever’s left in my bank account.

In terms of my time, the Two Universes’ loss is Image Comics, Dynamite Comics, Boom Studios and IDW’s gain. Oh, I’ve always been attracted to these publishers, as well as to the artsy-fartsy output from the intelligent folk at Fantagraphics and Abrams and their ilk. And Archie, too. Hell, if Harvey was still around, I’d probably find something worthwhile over there as well. I enjoy the medium that much.

But I’ve spent all of my literate life having a special love for superhero comics and for their creators. It’s the backbone of American comics. And I’m kind of pissed that the Two Universes are trying to chase me and my buddies away.

Not that a lot of people care. North Americans spent about two-thirds of a billion dollars on tickets to Marvel’s The Avengers (source: Box Office Mojo). In the United States, The Avengers comic book sells around 50,000 copies. That same year North American comic book sales totaled less than one-half billion dollars (source: Comichron). All comics. From all publishers. All year long.

That’s pathetic.

We vote with our feet. If we don’t like something, we don’t spend money on it. Of course, fans are a bit different: we’re likely to continue to spend money on once-loved comics titles until we’re either absolutely certain they suck, or we are hopelessly confused.

Mindy’s friend is by no means alone. Disney and Warner Bros don’t give a fart about comic books, they care about return on investment. Fine; that’s their job. But from looking at the bottom line – hell, even trying to find the bottom line – it is quite possible that the movies and teevee shows in all their forms will be the only places we’ll be able to get our capes on.

(With apologies to James Baldwin.)

Mike Gold: 52 Comics Pick-Up

Nope. This one isn’t what you might think. To paraphrase Li’l Willie Shakespeare, “Not that I loved the New 52 less, but that I loved DC more.”

The New 52 is not dead. Heck, it’s not even coughing up blood. Sure, a great many of the titles they started out with aren’t around any more, and yes, in June they replace a whole bunch of others (although several seem to be excuses for new #1s), and, certainly, they’re dropping the “New 52” branding, but the New 52 is alive and well.

That’s a mixed blessing. As crappy as most of the New 52 was, I prefer to look at this new stunt as an evolutionary change and not as a reboot. You know, just like what Marvel’s doing with their latest Secret Wars event. The one that starts the month before. Super-hero publishing is a pyramid scheme infused with Newtonian physics.

It’s been around for about three and one-half years, so the New 52 is hardly new. And, well, actually, they’re not really publishing 52 DCU books each month. If I’m counting correctly, in June they’ll have 49 – plus whatever annuals, specials, and clutter that may be. Or, maybe, the only reason they’re dropping the tag line is because it leaves a bitter taste… much like, oh, New Coke.

(Hey, Mike! Damn with faint praises much?)

The news sites have been full of the details of what’s missing and what’s coming and who’s doing what, and since ComicMix is an opinion site littered with some of the finest critical minds on Earth-Prime, I’ll cut to the commentary.

Many of DC’s new titles (New 24?) appear to be flop-oriented. Is the world really lusting for a brand-new Prez series? Bat-Mite? Harley Quinn and Power Girl? Bizarro? Maybe Section 8 will click – it certainly has the pedigree – but in the aggregate, the chances for long-term survival for some of these books appears minimal.

The fact is, I applaud many of these decisions. Do something different. Do something a little wacky. They’re not breathing new life into these (and other) characters, they’re breathing new life into the DCU. Original Marvel publisher Martin Goodman thought Spider-Man and the X-Men would flop. Superman sat in the drawer unsold for years. So, history tells us nobody knows what the hell is going to stick to the wall. Marvel’s bringing back Howard the Duck based upon a 10 second post-credit appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy; you’re telling me a Bat-Mite title is a bad idea? Who knows?

I’m looking forward to a few of the titles, although I will sample more than that. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the new Doctor Fate series by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew. I love the character, Levitz has a solid track record with Justice Society heroes, and the guy is a lot more interesting than your off-the-shelf mystical hero.

On the other hand… I see where we’re getting a new Green Arrow #1 in July. Who would have ever expected First Issue Special would be so influential?


Mike Gold’s Got Plenty…

… of nothing.

Actually, that’s not true, but we (daughter Adriane and I)  spent the better part of the day wiring up new media gizmos and overhauling our Internet and fussing with the powers-that-be at the cable company, and we’re not done yet.

Ergo, I have no time and even less energy to pound out my weekly illumination.  Yep, I am getting old indeed. No more voluntary all-nighters.

So I’ll leave you with this single thought, one I passed on to artist extraordinaire ChrisCross yesterday: why does DC’s two-month Convergence stunt sound more interesting than the past three years of The New52?

Yeah, it’s a trick question. I just wanted to name-drop.

But if you’re truly dying to read something incendiary, try my column over at Michael Davis World this week. Yeah, it’s political. Real political. And incendiary. So there.


Mike Gold: 52 Original Future Crises Of Sin

Original SinNow that the Big Two are deep into their mandatory summer crossovers – as opposed to their mandatory winter crossovers, their mandatory spring crossovers, and their mandatory fall crossovers – I can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

At the core of both series is the same plot: all or most of the sundry parallel universes are going to collide into one, if, indeed, that many. This does not envelop either series in an aura of originality, particularly when Marv Wolfman and George Pérez did this 29 years ago. You may not think they did it better way back in the early days of the Gilded Age of Comics (and you’d be wrong about that), but at the very least you could understand that story. Original Sin and Future’s End… not so much.

At least Marvel’s Original Sin is built around a clever plot point: somebody offed The Watcher and stole one or both of his eyes… and then, one eye exploded implanting various deep dark secrets held by various characters into the brainpans of those who were within the blast radius of the eyeball.

No, I don’t know how big the blast radius of a Watcher eyeball is. And I’m a bit pissed off at offing the big bald guy anyway, but it’s comic books, where death has no meaning whatsoever. If they ever kill Aunt May off, she’ll be back in a few months with a bionic bustle.

DC’s Future’s End simply makes no sense. Batman Beyond is sent back in time to prevent the end of the world as we know it, but he misses his mark and arrives later than he was supposed to. Well, fine. That’s it. The hero blew it and it’s over, right?

No such luck. All the characters wander around slapping their foreheads and mumbling woe is me a lot. It doesn’t help that this series features the New 52 version of the DC Universe, which really hasn’t been very well-defined or thought out, but has been compromised after-the-fact by bureaucrats who wouldn’t know a good comics story if they bothered to read one.

It was time to retire the mega-event crossover before we started worrying about Y2K. But these puppies make money, so the Big Two are going to keep on hitting the event button like a crack whore with new kneepads.

It’s easy to understand why comics fans like the Marvel movies. They exist in a comparatively small universe with clear roadmaps. DC doesn’t have that goodwill going for them, and Man Of Steel offered little hope.

But we continue to hope. These are great characters. We love them, and we hope that someday the powers at Warners and Disney start to trust those characters as much as we do, before the core audience is all on catheters and people start to view Superman and Wolverine the way we view The Lone Ranger and Buck Rogers.

Before time runs out. 

REVIEW: JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time

JLA Adventures in TimeI am sometimes mystified by Warner Animation. Back in January, possibly as a part of their Target deal which rolled out last summer, shopped were able to buy JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time. This stealth release received zero publicity and marketing but clearly the exclusive window has closed with the animated feature now available everywhere.

This is not the Justice League animated characters nor is it the New 52 animated reality; instead, it is some weird hybrid, an all-ages heroes versus villains romp done on the cheap. With the Legion of Super-Heroes’ foe the Time Trapper manipulating events, the Justice League of America — Superman (Peter Jessop), Wonder Woman (Grey DeLisle Griffin), Flash (Jason Spisak), Aquaman (Liam O’Brien), Batman (Diedrich Bader), Robin (Jack DeSena), Cyborg (Avery Kidd Waddell) — take on the Legion of Doom — Lex Luthor (Fred Tatasciore), Solomon Grundy (Kevin Michael Richardson), Black Manta (Richardson), Cheetah (Erica Luttrell), Bizarro (Michael David Donovan), Toyman (Tom Gibis), Captain Cold (Corey Burton), and Gorilla Grodd (Travis Willingham). So, if anything, this owes its pedigree to the defunct Super Friends (complete with wink and you miss it, cameos from Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog) and no other animated series.

Of course, if you use the Time Trapper, you need some Legionnaires so we see Dawnstar (Laura Bailey) and Karate Kid (Dante Basco) in the 31st Century, demonstrating the JLA’s influence through the ages.

It certainly smacks of Saturday morning fare given its brief, 54 minute, running time and the far more limited animation in comparison with the more sophisticated direct-to-home-video fare we’ve become accustomed to. They’ve done a fine job distancing themselves from such franchises as noted by the different, but serviceable vocal cast. The character designs remain top-heavy but at least the angular chins that drive me nuts are more traditionally square-jawed. The costumes are also modified with a dumb-looking utility belt on Batman.

Written by Michael Ryan and produced and directed by Giancarlo Volpe, this provides us with some quirky takes on the characterization but they move things along at a nice clip, even if there’s more action than characterization for my taste.

You get, appropriately, two bonus episodes: The All-New Super Friends Hour “The Mysterious Time Creatures” and Super Friends’ “Elevator to Nowhere”.

The Point Radio: Jeff Foxworthy Grabbing Ratings From On High

Jeff Foxworthy is back on the highly rated Game Show Network’s AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE and talks about his transition from stand up comic to game show host, plus Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler tells us about their big screen reunion in BLENDED and DC Comics cleans house in a big way.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

REVIEW: The New 52 Futures End #1


Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen
Art by Patrick Zircher

I won’t lie to you, this book’s got me confused.

It starts in the semi-distant future of the time of Batman Beyond, a world that has been taken over by the latest iteration of Brother Eye, a sentient satellite/robot/thingy, which has taken over the world in Terminator-esque fashion.  In an attempt to Fix What has Gone Wrong, Batman Beyond/Terry McGinnis comes back in time to kill someone, a person not specifically named as of yet, but since in this story, they maintain that now it’s Mr. Terrific who built Brother Eye, one might be able to guess he is the target.

The thing is, Terry has not gone back in time far enough.  He landed fives years in our future, a time where Michael Holt has already created Brother Eye and is in the process of introducing its technology into society.  Terry says they’re seven years too late, but he landed five years in the current DCU’s future, which means he should have landed about two years in its past, relative to our present, which would be a little bit before the narrative of the New 52 even started


Timeline worries notwithstanding, another big problem here is that we’ve already seen Brother Eye in the New 52, in the pages of Dan Didio and Keith Giffen’s OMAC, and he had no connection to Mr. Terrific at all.  At the same time the Mister Terrific book was going (and I was enjoying it) and there was no mention of any Brother Eye technology at all.  Indeed, when they ended the book, they tied it into the coming Earth 2 title instead.  If one wanted to go there, one would have to assume that this book spoils to some degree the events in the aforementioned Earth 2, wherein Michael is currently in somewhat dire straits.

I must assume it will be explained, but we’re once again in a position where DC seems to be reversing itself on the storylines of a new universe that’s not yet even three years old.  This appears to be the third version of Brother Eye in only five years, and the fourth in total.  In the previous iteration of the DCU, Brother Eye was created by Batman as a fail-safe system to take down his fellow heroes should the need ever arise.  The system gets out of hand…

and they have to take it down, a goal at which they only partly succeeded, as various OMACs kept popping up in various places.

In the New 52, Brother Eye is back in control of a single OMAC, in the person of one Kevin Kho.  After the brief (but enjoyable) run of his title, he popped up in various titles, most recently the Suicide Squad, mere weeks ago during the events of Forever Evil.

(And this is all over and above the original OMAC series created by jack Kirby during his brief but creative period that he was at DC, a period that also brought us The New Gods, another stable of heroes too good for DC to not keep using.)

So I’ve no idea how these stories from the current DCU will be tied to the new facts presented in this first issue of the weekly book (which got a tease last weekend as part of Free Comic Book Day.

The story as presented has some obvious parallels to The Terminator, but older DC fans will also recall the MaxiMegaCrossover Armageddon 2001, where a hero of our time chooses to take control of the world, forcing a person to come back to the past, discover which her is was, and stop them.

The book suffers from a weakness not of the story, but the premise itself.  Taking place five years in the future of the DCU, it can be safely assumed that the events of the story will never come to pass, so we’re effectively reading a just short of a year-long(more on that in a moment) “imaginary story” that will have no impact or connection to the ongoing narrative of the regular titles.  Such stories are lots of fun to read in graphic novel or other one-shot format, but 40-odd issues at three or four bucks each?  Not so sure.  I mean, Trinity was entertaining, and Countdown…a bit less so, but both ended up being very expensive stand-alone stories, and they got a lot of people quite annoyed as a result.

They’ve certainly started the death toll quickly, with one major DC down already, and one super-team which was getting positive press for apparently getting a major spot in the book…suddenly not.  But again, since the book takes place in a nebulous future that will almost certainly never take place, there’s no sense of loss at all.  I expect we’ll hear neither hue nor cry at these, or any deaths in the book, as even the most casual reader will suss the fact that they Won’t Really Count.

There’s another weekly starting in October that will connect with Futures End in some way.  I think it takes place in the present in the DCU, which, if so, would still be later than when the string of events supposedly started.  How they’ll connect, or if it will be a story you could enjoy on its own, we shall have to see.

But here’s the thing – Dan Didio has already let slip that all three weeklies (the third being Batman Eternal, which is quite good so far) will not all be a year long, as the past weeklies have been, but will all be ending in March of 2015.  This certainly gives the impression that something will be coming in April of 2015, which only happens to be the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

So DC has effectively gotten people to already half-discount the current story, making it seem like it’s nothing more than a prologue to Whatever’s Coming Next.  It’s the exact same mistake they made with Trinity War and Forever Evil.  They sold Trinity War as a Big Event, but as soon as news (and the solicitations) for Forever Evil came out, interest in Trinity War all but ceased as people assumed that FE was the real Big Event.  It’s a process they’ve been using since Infinite Crisis, but now that people are hip to the move, interest in the current book drops as soon as news (or even just rumors) of the next Event come to light.  Forever Evil has ended, though the last issue of the book has been delayed over a month, resulting in several books coming out that take place after the ending.  And largely, save for Dick Grayson, not a heap of a lot seems to have changed. Lots of rebuilding, some strained relations between folks who knew Grayson, but pretty much it seems to be back to first position.

Mixed into the coming months is also Grant Morrison’s next mini Multiversity, which also deals with other worlds of the DCU, and will (assuming it doesn’t get delayed, because how could that ever happen on a Grant Morrison book?) will also be ending next Spring.

So DC has certainly done a good job of getting people interested in next April.  Problem is, there’s a whole Gorram year between now and then, a year full of books that DC needs to keep people interested in.  If people start to get a whiff of a Clever Theory that DC plans to pull another massive change to their books, we may end up with a year-long lame-duck session, with people dropping books they presume (correctly or no) are going to go away, which will only serve to make that more likely a possibility.

In short, DC needs to make its books exciting and engrossing right now, and not dangle a carrot into the future and ask us to trust them.  Sorry but fool me…lessee, carry the four…

Let’s just say I hope we’ll all be here come next April.

REVIEW: Son of Batman

Son of BatmanWay back in the 1970s, there was a fun little one-off story by Denny O’Neil where Batman was pitted once more against Ra’s al Ghul, but the unique element was that he was drugged and by the time he woke up, he had been married to Ra’s’ daughter Talia according to their customs. The Detective, as Ra’s called his son-in-law wanted to make his daughter happy but also entice the man to father an heir. By story’s end, it was clear Batman wasn’t interested and ignored the betrothal, which never really came up again.

In 1989, DC published its first original graphic novel featuring its heroes and here, Son of the Demon, saw the romance between Batman and Talia result in a night of passion which resulted, unknown to him, in a son, who were last saw left for others to care for. The comic books never acknowledged this turn of events and O’Neil, then editing the Batman line, let his writers pick up on this juicy thread.

TaliaIt wasn’t until Grant Morrison came along and was given carte blanche to incorporate every Batman story ever told into his crazed mythos that positioned the Dark Knight for a new century. Talia was there at the outset of his stories so Morrison was planting seeds that resulted in the stunning arrival of ten year old Damian, his son. The story arc was interesting to read since this was a kid trained in everything and was apparently a genius at it all along with his self-entitled, obnoxious attitude, making him a far cry from the well-behaved parents (Talia by training, Bruce Wayne through love).

That initial story arc has been adapted by Warner Animation in the just-released Son of Batman animated feature that veers wildly and not entirely successfully from the source material. Despite the preceding film, Justice League: War being the first in a new internal continuity series of films, using the New 52 model, this one already is set beyond that world. We open with an extended look at Ra’s (Giancarlo Esposito) League of Assassins under attack from overwhelming forces resulting in his death just inches from the Lazarus Pit that revived him so many times before. Talia (Morena Baccarin) is left to spirit Damian way and bring him to Gotham City for a long overdue meeting with his father (Jason O’Mara).

Batman_Damian_07Comic veteran James Robinson provided the story which was turned into a script by Joe R. Lansdale, solid choices that raised expectations only to be handed disappointment. They chose to graft Deathstroke into the story, making him the force behind the attack. As luck would have it, the next phase of the plan involved kidnapping scientist Kirk Langstrom with his unproven Man-Bat formula and then turning Deathstroke’s minions into the army of Man-Bats as cleverly introduced by Morrison in the comics.

While that’s going on, Bruce is struggling with the existence of his son. The movie’s best lines go to Alfred (David McCallum) who is delighted to have the acerbic, annoying Master Damian now underfoot. Of course, after mocking the Robin outfit, he accompanies Batman on the case leading to an all-too-brief encounter with Commissioner Gordon (Bruce Thomas). And just when he’s needed, Nightwing (Sean Maher), Damian’s predecessor (the film skips any mention of Jason Todd or Tim Drake) turns up. Here is where more should have been done between rival “sons” and how Bruce interacts with them, but the film hurries thigns along to get back to the action. At least they pause to have one poignant conversation between Damian’s parents which helps emotionally center the story.

Langstrom calculationsOne of the film’s faults is shared with the inspirational comics in that a ten year old’s skills cannot rival adults’ simply through size and the fact that Damian is still growing and learning. He should not be a rival to Batman, or even Nightwing, but still learning. His impetuousness and smart mouth are the only things that feel right with him.

The final fight with the Man-Bat army is over-long and the number of recruits impossibly large so is unconvincing.

Phil Bourassa’s character designs are good although he veers toward too-many people with pointy chins including Damian’s parents so Damian’s round-faced look makes little sense. His figures, notably Deathstroke, are too bulky and appear to have elongated torsos that look wrong. And I wish he captured Talia’s Middle Eastern exotic look that Neal Adams established and was reinforced by other artists including Jerry Bingham. Instead, she’s a generic-looking busty brunette. The budget-conscious animation also felt more limited than usual.

Overall, it’s entertaining if you buy Morrison’s take on Batman at all (I never did).

The 75-minute film is accompanied with some excellent bonus features.  We start with “The Fan and the Demon Head: The League of Assassins” (10:00) with Morrison, historian Alan Kistler and others providing some context. “Strange Blood Ties: Damian Wayne” (15:00) looks at Ra’s, Talia, and Batman in the comics leading to Damian’s introduction. “Designing the Characters with Phil Bourassa” (10:00) is an interesting look at how the comic sources were adapted for the film’s specific look. Finally, there are episodes from the various television series including Batman Beyond’s “Out of the Past”;  “The Knights of Tomorrow!” and “Sidekicks Assemble!” from Batman: The Brave and The Bold; and, finally “Showdown”  from Batman The Animated Series. There is a sneak peek of the next offering, Batman: Assault on Arkham, featuring the Suicide Squad and based on the video game series not the New 52 animated universe.

The affordable combo pack comes with Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet copies.