For Part 1, click [here].
For Part 2, click [here].
For those of you that don't know about what happens to Batman in Final Crisis, here is the nutshell. Batman gets launched back in time leaving the cowl of the Caped Crusader of up for grabs. It falls to Dick Grayson and in Bruce Wayne's absence, the former boy wonder is now Batman. There are several Batman comics with him being the dark knight and I really like the Dick Grayson Batman. Especially in Scott Snyder's The Black Mirror. This comic shows the new Batman and his relationship with Jim Gordon. There has been a spree of freak murders and Jim thinks his psychotic son, James Jr. This comic will show something you may not know about comic's most popular police commissioner. Batman attempts to solve the murders while Gordon tries to figure out if his son is involved or not. This comic is twisted and epic in its story telling. I knew nothing about Gordon's son until this comic and it was shocking. To accompany great writing, Jock and Francavilla's illustrations are awesome. Jock has a more modern style that you see in a lot of comics. He is very detailed and focuses a lot on using sharp lines in his work. It really is a wonder to look at. Mixed with Francavilla's colors, this team knows how to set a mood. There's a part where Gordon is standing on a roof top talking to the Bat and the sky is colored red to match the murder they just discovered. It's haunting and leaves you begging for more. Francavilla's illustrations are more soft, and honestly, reminds me of the classic 80s animes I used to watched. Oh, and this book is bloody and violent. I think it's a great piece for the Dick Grayson Batman and shows the reader that the prodigal son can fill the big boots of Bruce Wayne. Scott Snyder is a great writer. I would read his recent works on Batman but unfortunately, it's all new 52 stuff...and we all know how I feel about that. Do yourself and favor and go pick up The Black Mirror.
Ok, if you haven't played the Arkham City video game, then you might no be on board with this. And you kind of have to play the game in order to grasp this book. The comic is actually a lead into the game. When I picked this up, I was fresh off beating AC and marveling in the work of Rocksteady. I saw this comic and I had my doubts because I was thinking that it was probably one of those books made to make money because the game was so good. But then I saw two words that erased all doubts: Paul Dini. Dini was the mind behind Batman the Animated Series. When I saw his name, I had to get it. The book shows what the game details. Hugo Strange's pull on the Warden Sharp and the development of Arkham City. Furthermore, we see how Sharp gets and campaigns for the TYGER personal military. We see how all the villains make their way in and is a great filler between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I wish I read this before I played the game. It would have made me want to play it more. Carlos D'Anda's illustrations are not my favorite, but it compliments the unique design of the game. In the graphic novel, you can also read the AC Digital Chapters which are written by Paul Dini and illustrated by several people. The Digital Chapters tell the tale of The Carpenter and her contribution to AC. And to top it off, we get some original character designs at the end. This is probably the best comic companion to a video game I have ever read. If you like the games, you'll like this book. You'll probably want to play them again after reading it.
If you call yourself a Batman fan and you haven't read these books, guess what? You're not a Batman fan. I don't even care if you don't like these, you have to experience them in order to say you like the Dark Knight. This is a classic story in the Caped Crusader's history that is ten years after Bruce Wayne has retired as being Batman. And then he comes back, hence, The Dark Knight RETURNS(in case anyone who hasn't read it was wondering why it was called that). It's a dystopian like future where a grizzled Batman fights new criminals, recruits a new Robin and sets the stage for a bigger picture. The world has changed and cities are run by evil more than ever before. Here's something to wet your whistle, Batman and Superman fight. "Oh, what's so great about that?" Well, Batman is armored and equipped with Kryptonite gloves. There ya go. Now, a lot of people, critics, fans, hold TDKR is THE BEST Batman comic ever created. It's not a tough sell. But I think you have to combine both stories together. Strikes Again doesn't really get the attention I think it deserves. Batman has a Bat Army, Robin becomes Cat Girl, villains from the past, the fight against Lex Luthor, the story gets just more crazy and outside the box. And the only person that could bring us the most off the wall, unique view to a popular comic book character is Frank Miller. This is before I feel he went bat shit crazy. It's original, it's creative, it's content no one would think to do. This is my personal favorite of Frank Miller. This is when I think he was peaked. His writing is brilliant and keeps you turning the pages. But it wouldn't not be a great without the work of Klaus Janson. Just, WOW. I am not an expert on identifying art or critiquing it, but Janson's style is a lot like Frank Miller's writing, it is one of a kind. The people are drawn based on their personality. Batman is broad, stacking, chiseled, just the way the Bat acts. Alfred's head is tall and long, eyes closed, exactly how you would picture what a Butler would look like. Then you got to Strikes Again and Lynn Varley's work. Pretty different, more "cartoony" and I don't want that to sound insulting. She has very unique way with faces, focusing on lips, noses and eyes. It's also pretty wild which is perfect for the wild story of Strikes Again. Overall, it's one of the most epic Batman stories created and deserve everyone's time. You won't see Batman the same way again.
Neal Adams is one of my favorite comic book artists ever. Though, I have not read a lot books he has written. Enter Batman Odyssey. First off, Adams' art is great. It mixes the look and feel of old school comics from the 60s and 70s with a modern day twists. Characters are detailed with accurate proportions and even small things, like forehead wrinkles, muscle tone, body hair, very detailed. Bruce Wayne tells a story that brings himself all the way back to when he began. I'm talking when Batman used guns. Yeah, Batman used to use guns. Flash forward to where the Dark Knight is now and his attempting to save someone from a kidnapping that leads to the emergence of Man-Bat's serum being stolen and twisted so more Man-Bats show up, which leads to Sensei being behind it all. Which then leads to the craziest thing I think I've seen in a Batman comic, which is Batman under the Earth in a land of lizard people and dinosaurs. Crazy right? On one of the TORT episodes, I speak about when I met Neal Adams at Denver Comic Con 2013. He quizzed me about the book and I was so nervous, I made an ass out of myself. I mean it. Don't believe me? I told Neal fucking Adams that his book was awesome to read when I was stoned. Yeah, not my finest hour, by far. But I loved this book so much, I had to tell him. I don't care if I was embarrassed. And a HUGE bonus in this book is the appearance of Boston Brand, also known as, Deadman, one of my favorite DC characters. The best part about it is when Deadman and Robin team up to find Batman in the underground. At first, I was like, "why?" but then when you think about it, Robin grew up in the circus with his family as trapeze artists until his family was killed during a stunt. Boston also grew up in the circus where he was gunned down during a stunt as well. I then connected the dots and thought that the team up is amazing. Neal Adams is a great artists and this book is well written. A LOT of twists and appearances. I think it's a great combinations of what comics were and what they are now.
Nine Lives – Written by, Dean Motter and Illustrated by, Michael Lark
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader – Written by, Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by, Andy Kubert
The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul – Written by, Grant Morrison and Paul Dini and Illustrated by, various
Cacophony – Written by, Kevin Smith and Illustrated by, Walt Flanagin
Year 100 – Written and Illustrated by, Paul Pope