Review: Batman Year One

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What can I possibly say about one of the most celebrated Batman graphic novels, that hasn’t been said, written, sung or otherwise praised?

Not much. Turns out it is pretty awesome.

The little that I can add, as a blogger who reviews old comic books for new comic book readers, is

  1. It rendered well on my tablet using the Kindle App.
  2. As the name implies Year One  is a good starting point.

Finding a place to start for a long running series like Batman is challenging for a new reader. Even with all the resources on the Internet it can lead to disappointment. Sometimes we just need to start and accept that we won’t understand everything in the book.

I got lucky and read it before reading a few other Batman graphic novels. Honestly, my selection had to do with price. I recommend reading Year One before The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.

Year One is two separate yet converging stories encapsulated into one. One covers the emergence of Batman and the other follows Jim Gordon. Both stories are good, but I enjoyed Jim Gordon’s more than Batman’s. I also enjoyed how the timeline subtly builds suspense.

It was written in the 1980s so don’t be surprised with the lack of technology (like cell phones).

Sidetrack #1: I wonder if reading comic books from the 1980s will be the closest my children will come to understanding what life was like before cell phones.

When will I read it to my kids?

Not for a while. The opening image is of a young Bruce Wayne kneeling over his murdered parents. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t avoid talking to my children about death. I just don’t think my 3  and 6 year old boys will enjoy (operative word) a story of a hero with a traumatic and tortured past.

There is also a scene where a young prostitute approaches Bruce Wayne. Ya. Holding off on reading Year One to the children for a while.

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My Very Own Comic Book

I consider myself a writer even though I have never been published and I do something completely different to earn a living. To keep my interest in writing fiction I write whatever I can motivate myself to create. Which are usually stories that likely will never be “finished” and certainly not published, but have serious potential to be long running series.

In a good year I may write a short story that has a beginning, middle and end. Most years it is a few good starts, with maybe one really good start on a promising  novella. I’m comfortable with all these stories coming up short. It is the phase of life I am in. It is better for me to keep practicing so when the phase of life comes where I can devote more time to seriously honing my skills I’ll be ready, and I’ll be able to work with the best ideas I’ve accumulated over the years.

And if that phase of life never comes…. I am absolutely comfortable with that possibility.

In any case, when I started reading comic books a few months ago I thought, “Hey I bet I could write a story line for a graphic novel.” A large part of my enthusiasm was the chance to collaborate with an artist.

I picked up one of the short stories I had tinkered with a year or two ago and began reworking it as a graphic novel. Inspired by this new endeavor, I quadrupled the content and charted several intense conflicts. So it basically became a novella in a weeks time.

To be clear, I had no delusions about commercial success. I wasn’t dreaming movies, merchandising, or an entire theme park based on the super hero universe I was outlining.

Quite the opposite. I was excited about doing this because… I really didn’t care if it was any good. I know it is an unusual motivation, and it flies in the face of the “follow your passion” movement. But I’ve learned when I work on projects I care almost nothing about I listen better to people who care tremendously about the work. And that has lead to some pretty impressive outcomes. So from my backwards point of view I was approaching this graphic novel for the right reason: not caring.

True to the form of my not caring methodology, I needed to talk with someone who did. I bent the ear of another Dad I run into a couple of times a year at birthday parties. He used to work in publishing and he had a lot of great suggestions. And yes, we had this conversation during a 4 year old’s birthday party.

Weeks later everything he said began sinking in and I understood what was required of me: scale back. Writing a graphic novel is considerably more work than writing a short story. A familiar phrase (finally) resonated in my mind: you don’t have time for this.

Sidetrack #1: Please observe there is a difference between “you don’t have time for this” and “you are wasting your time”.

In any case, I wasn’t giving up on the idea of writing a comic book. I explored some options and  thought a “one shot“ was appealing. I even came up with a separate idea from the graphic novel adaptation of an unfinished novella. To be fair it didn’t take me nearly as long to acknowledge that I was over committing.

Sidetrack #2: Over committing is an art. Some people can do it gracefully and pull off amazing feats of craftsmanship. I am pushing myself in this direction, but I still acknowledge that I have limits.

Somehow I arrived on six pages. Shorten the one shot idea so it can fit on six pages. Then find an artist. Maybe I’ll get lucky and after reading this post one artist will say, “Hey I want to work with someone who doesn’t care!”  Or maybe another one will say, “Hey I want to work with someone who will listen to my ideas”.

Because that is how the Internet works right?

Enough randomness for this post. Give yourself +5 if you read this all the way through. If you are interested in another post like this one, I suggest this one about comic books and Christmas shopping.

Review: Wonder Woman Odyssey

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The Background

This series is available in 2 volumes on Amazon Kindle. The cover to Volume 2 is pictured above.

From everything I gather the story was part of the ongoing Wonder Woman series and not a stand alone graphic novel. But to me it read more like a graphic novel because it is entirely self contained and concludes gracefully without leaving anything unresolved.

Readers do not need to be familiar with the long running series since Odyssey references practically none of it. This abrupt departure from the continuity caused plenty of turbulence for fans of the Amazon Princess. And it is hard not to sympathize with them since they have dedicated some serious time to the heroine. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have felt to realize one of their favorite characters was no longer being written for them. They were an after thought. Front and center in DC’s mind (or marketing strategy) was making the character’s story more approachable to a new audience. Essentially for readers like me. (Keep in mind this is all speculation)

In hind sight this was probably a testing ground for the Wonder Woman’s series in the new 52. A safe and temporary place where DC could learn what changes their writers could and could not get away with to please loyal fans while bringing in new ones. Whether or not this turbulence was intentional DC seems to have learned from it as Wonder Woman in the New 52 has received lots of praise from fans. (At least according to my Google searches it has).

 

The Review

As a newcomer, I wasn’t looking for strict adherence to the Wonder Woman character, her allies or her foes. I was looking for a comic book I would enjoy, and Odyssey delivered. The story line advances at a comfortable pace into a complex conflict. I read it twice and look forward to enjoying it again.

 

The Art

I read a handful of reviews or comments on Odyssey by people who are art critics and they were not pleased. Personally, I think the artwork has broad appeal and it definitely drew me into the story. I found only one thing with the artwork that was slightly distracting and it was so negligible that it isn’t worth mentioning.

 

When would I read it to my kids?

I’ll have to flip through it again, only one scene comes to mind that would need some explanation for my children (this post may give some insight).  I’m thinking 3rd or 4th grade. But to be honest the story line maybe too confusing for them. It will probably be middle school before they will enjoy it.

Past Expiration Date

It has been over two months since the last post. Anybody who is anybody on the Internet knows that blogs don’t come back from such a long hiatus.

It is basically blog neglect to have gone this long without posting proof of life. So basically this blog is past its its expiration date. Spoiled. Sour. Blah.

Clearly I don’t have time for comic books, or time to blog about them. But in these past few months I somehow found time to read more comic books than ever (admittedly not a high bar to clear). And surprise! I have spent more coin on comic books than I ever have and should probably slow down the spending a bit.

So this is a perfect time to fire up the blog and tell the world what I have been up to. And what better way than a list of what I’ve read.

Batman Graphic Novels
** Batman Year One
** The Killing Joke
** The Long Halloween
** Dark Victory

Wonder Woman
** Odyssey

Batgirl
** 1 – 27

Captain America
** Volume 1

Transformers
** IDW Collection 1 – 3

I’ll be reviewing these and more! (When I find the time)