Tag Archive: dick grayson

Red Robin #23 Review

Originally Published: May 11, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox are targeted for assassination by the Scarab while she is still in jail! What is going on here and can Red Robin put the clues together in time before he ends up being the one feeling Scarab’s sting.

The Good

I am really enjoying the fact that Lynx seems to be turning into Tim Drake’s version of Catwoman and that as much as he may not be ready for it, his life is paralleling Bruce’s more and more with every issue and story arc he appears in.

This issue also launches a story arc that will look to tie up some loose ends that were put on hold for the time being as Tim re-enters the shady world of international assassins to catch those who would target Lucius and Bruce. And making Lucius a target is great because Tim has to interact with Tam, Lucius’s daughter, and you see a glimpse of the difficulty of balancing Tim’s life with Red Robin’s, even though Tam is aware of his alter-ego.

The Bad

If you haven’t been reading previous issues of Red Robin, you might be at a loss to who all these new villains are that Tim is dealing with and not appreciate as much the clear character development you are seeing on a issue to issue basis with this series.

Also, I understand that Tim is kind of a wild card within the Bat-family, but to see Dick and Bruce just follow his lead seemed weird. When Tim is on his own, I have no problem with him doing all the work, but to be using Dick and Bruce like pawns in one of his own plans just rubbed me the wrong way.

The Verdict

If you haven’t been reading Red Robin, you might get confused, even with this being the first issue of a new story arc. It features a lot of characters that had been introduced in previous issues of the series as major players in this arc and so you might want to check out some back issues first if you want to use this issue as a jumping on point.

Aside from that, Red Robin looks to be leaping head first into a complicated yet thrilling new direction that should rock Tim’s world with this issue and has me really looking forward to next month to see just how Tim resolves all these messes in his crime-fighting life.

4/5 Stars

Originally Published: May 10, 2011, on Comicvine.com

A short while ago, I remember reading that DC planned on giving Dick Grayson his own rogues gallery, on top of those we’ve seen him fight for years as Robin and Nightwing, that would fit more his interpretation of Gotham’s Batman. And so far they’ve been true to their word with the introduction of Professor Pyg, The White Knight, and The Dealer to name a few.

Now, one of my nightly routines, when not out and about, is to watch the Adam West Batman series on The Hub. It is one of my earliest comic book related memories to watch its syndicated re-runs growing up, usually right after Captain N the Game Master and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, so it’s a nice way to relive my childhood for 30 minutes every night now that I’m an “adult”.

This all got me thinking back to a three-issue Batman: Confidential storyline from a couple years ago that introduced King Tut into the comic world of Batman. It seemed like a blatant reach to introduce new villains into the comic universe, but if DC is desperate for some new foes, then maybe they’ll be willing to reach back a few more times to those 1960s classics to help flesh out Dick’s rogues a bit more with some faces that us old-school fans might also have an extra appreciation for. Here’s a list of a few suggestions that I think would fit and not be too cheesy if written right.

1. False-Face: Originally played by Malachi Throne of Star Trek fame, False-Face was rumored to be a replacement for a story line that was going to incorporate Two-Face played by Clint Eastwood, but was scrapped because of a conflict he had since he was shooting a little movie called “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” at the time.

This expert jewel thief and master of disguise was actually featured in one three issue story arc in the comics in the late 1950s before retiring, but found his way into infamy more as a ghastly looking figure in the Adam West Batman series.

In order to modernize this character, instead of just making him a regular jewel thief that’s awesome with make-up, we make him a professor at STAR Labs or Cadmus. For one reason or another, one of the Clayfaces has been transported there for another gauntlet of tests and much like how many of Arkham’s inmates corrupt those around them, this time there is an accident and some of the basic compounds of Clayface splash onto a random scientist’s face, giving it malleable properties similar to Clayface. From there you can do a couple of things. Obsessed with the power he now has, False-Face attempts to finish the experiment and become the ninth Clayface, which I would like NOT to happen, but DC loves making more Clayfaces as laid out in a previous article of mine here. Or, he simply uses his abilities to turn to a life of crime and crosses Batman’s path.

2. The Minstrel: An electronics expert played by Van Johnson, The Minstrel appeared in only two episodes of the Adam West Batman and covers up his strong technology and electronics background with the simple motif of a wandering minstrel who distracts with both his song and various gadgets in order to pull off his crimes, including holding all of Gotham ransom to the whims of a sonic earthquake machine he creates.

Similar to the Joker in that he loves hijacking TV signals to torment the people of Gotham with his songs, The Minstrel takes pride in the fact that most people think his character is simply a joke while they listen to his pre-recorded telecasts consisting of him strumming and singing threats directed at Batman and the GCPD while he robs Gotham blind at the same time.

This classic use of misdirection and his strong electronics background makes The Minstrel could be just as worthy of being in the comics rogue gallery as The White Knight or Professor Pyg if this wandering wannabe musician becomes a bit more vicious and apt to kill while holding all of Gotham ransom with a more modern doomsday device.

3. Egghead: One of Hollywood’s most well-known actors of the last century, especially for the low budget horror films he would take part in, was Vincent Price. But when speaking of his favorite roles, Price went on record several times as saying the five full episodes and several cameos where he played Egghead in the Adam West Batman series was some of the best times he had on a soundstage.

Although featured in the background of several Batman comics and even having one issue of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic based off the Cartoon Network show (that pays homage to the campy days of Batman more than some may realize) devoted to him, Egghead has never been a major player at any point in the main DC continuity. But if Egg Fu can become a major player like in the series 52, why can’t Egghead get a facelift and get a couple issues devoted to him?

The biggest problem with Egghead is just trying to figure out how to revitalize arguably the campiest character ever. He has some interesting weapons like egg shaped tear gas bombs and laughing gas, but maybe he’d have to go darker. Acid filled eggs and mustard gas filled eggs for example. His crimes could still have the egg theme as well. Some kind of priceless Faberge eggs could be on display by the Wayne Foundation when he drops his mustard gas eggs on the wealthy socialites of Gotham. He’d definitely have to lose the egg-related puns though.

4. Zelda the Great: The great Anne Baxter would be called upon the play Zelda the Great very early in season one of the Adam West Batman series before being recast to play Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, in the third season. Her time as Zelda though was one of the more interesting two episodes of the series as Zelda was the first of several reluctant villains over the course of the series.

Zelda was once one of the greatest magicians and escape artists in the world, but as time went on her act grew stale and her career began to flounder. It is here that she procures the services of a retired trickster who promises to revive her act at the price of $100,000 per new trick and escape maneuver. Unable to come up with the funds but not willing to relinquish the spotlight, Zelda resorts to crime to pay for her rejuvenated act.

This could be the easiest character to rejuvenate. Cut out the secondary trickster and you could link Zelda back to the Dick’s Haley Circus days, turned to a life of crime for various reasons. Or, you could put it up as a Batman and Zatanna team-up, as Dick needs assistance with the more magical element. A disenchanted magician and escape artist who only saw the craft as a means to make money and once no longer able to fill the theatres, she turned to things more macabre than simple parlor tricks and sets her sights on robbing Gotham blind.

5. Sandman: Played by the English born Michael Rennie and only featured in two episodes, and even those saw him needing to be supported by the lovely Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, the Sandman is another easy modern conversion.

An infamous European criminal mastermind, Sandman concocts a plan to retire for good if he could pilfer the fortune of Gotham’s billionaire noodle queen, J. Pauline Spaghetti. J. Pauline is an infamous insomniac and so Sandman poses as Doctor Somnambula, an expert in curing insomniacs. In reality, Sandman simply sprays her with his sleep inducing powder where the victim slips more into a hypnotic trance and has J. Pauline reveal the location of her private financial records including stocks, bonds, and a couple hundred thousand dollars in “petty” cash that Sandman documents in the hopes of pilfering later on.

Obviously, if Sandman were to be done in a modern story arc, he’d have to be a bit more grandiose in his schemes. Instead of putting one billionaire to sleep, he could focus on the whole of Gotham before he lets loose with his sticky fingers. Or maybe you could make it a bit more personal and have the billionaire he plans on targeting be Bruce Wayne.

There are several other villains who were also original or adapted to fit the series like the counterfeit stamp maker Colonel Gumm, the wayward cowboy Shame, the master thief, assassin, and bowman the Archer who tangled once with Superman, or the first Puzzler who was also adapted from a Superman adventure, and many more, but I felt these five would be the easiest to adapt to modern times and also fit somehow into Dick Grayson’s Gotham.

So, what do you folks think of this list? Would these characters fit into modern times after a facelift? Are there some other villains that could work if they shed their campy origins and were brought into modern times? Let us know what you think with comments below and be sure to always stay tuned to the SAME COMICVINE TIME, SAME COMICVINE CHANNEL!

Red Robin #22 Review

Originally Published: April 13, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Part 2 of the Judgment on Gotham crossover arc for the Bat-Family comics. Azrael is on a supposed holy mission to judge Gotham along with his new sidekick, The Crusader, and will only spare the city if he can find one of its guardians pure of spirit. And so Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, and Selina Kyle of all people will be tested and judged with all of Gotham riding on the line. Is someone more earthly bound though pulling Azrael’s strings as Red Robin begins his challenge?

The Good

You really see how Red Robin’s mind works in this comic and are reminded of just how much tragedy he has overcome in his life, again reminding us that when his character is old enough, he would make a much better Batman because he thinks like Batman.

The gauntlet he has to run through in order to complete his challenge in order to be judged by Azrael also reaffirms his resourcefulness as he seems to always be thrown headfirst into challenges that would have been daunting even for Bruce Wayne in his heyday and insures us an action packed adventure.

The Bad

Azrael and this new Crusader just are not cutting it for me as the villains of this arc as they seem more like rejects from the video game Assassin’s Creed 1 instead of characters that belong in the DC Universe.

And that leads into the entire faith-based storyline, which also rubs me the wrong way. With all these characters have been through over the years, for some “holy” test of faith to be the Bat-Family’s next great challenge just seems like a waste of time. Then again, it is hinted at being part of a much larger scheme with the villain reveal at the end of the comic and this could save what is a very slow developing plot so far for this crossover arc.

The Verdict

This book is packed with some great action sequences as Tim overcomes the obstacles thrown in his path, but a very slow developing plot overshadows this. A villain reveal at the end of the comic gives me hope this crossover arc can kick it up a notch in future issues, but as of right now Azrael and the Crusader just are not doing it for me in terms of playing the villain role for an arc that was deemed worthy of crossing over multiple titles.

If you are a fan of the Bat-Family books and picked up Part 1 of this arc in Batman #708 then whether you usually pick up Red Robin or not, you should pick up this issue. If you aren’t into the Bat-Family, then this is not an issue to try to start trying to familiarize yourself with them.

Originally Published: April 6, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Reign of Doomsday continues as Cyborg Superman has turned the JLA Satellite into his own personal playground in an attempt to find meaning in his life by snuffing out Doomsday’s. Unfortunately, Batman and Supergirl are caught in the middle of their epic confrontation!

The Good

One of the most thrilling battles I’ve ever seen in a comic happens here between Cyborg Superman and Doomsday. Cyborg Superman literally attempts to throw everything in the satellite at Doomsday to the point where the satellite takes on the features of Cyborg Superman’s face and Doomsday KEEPS coming.

The most awesome part of this battle is that Cyborg Superman thinks that he has won after blasting away almost half of Doomsday body, not realizing how Doomsday adapts. Soon Doomsday adapts Cyborg Superman’s abilities into his own and becomes Cyborg Doomsday as he pulls parts of the JLA Satellite into his being as well and wrests control of the satellite away from Cyborg Superman, thus changing the outside to look like Doomsday’s face instead of Cyborg Superman’s. You can actually feel the fear of Cyborg Superman when he realizes what happens.

On top of this, you see Cyborg Superman’s thought bubbles and you realize just how insane his immortality has driven him and how obsessed he has become in wanting to be the one who destroys Doomsday in the hopes it can justify his existence, which was a brilliant way of giving more depth to this character in the midst of some tremendous action sequences.

There are also two specific full page spreads that should simply blow you away and that sum up the epic action that takes place in the pages of this comic perfectly.

The Bad

Batman and Supergirl are of almost no consequence for much of the comic. Supergirl is still trying to fight off her dark side and Batman knows the only way the good guys might win the day is if he can cure Supergirl. So while you have one of the greatest battles we’ve seen in some time happening between Cyborg Superman and Doomsday, you have a psychology session going on for Supergirl as she tries to cope with the loss of New Krypton and get over her dark self.

This break in the pacing was difficult to handle and had me wishing Batman and Supergirl were on the outside of JLA Satellite with Saint Walker and Starman who were uselessly trying to break in.

Also, if you haven’t been following the Reign of Doomsday story arc, this is NOT the time to jump into it. Although the action is great to see, you’ll be completely lost as to how we got to this point and you might not be able to appreciate how epic Doomsday has been over this story arc so far.

The Verdict

If you have been reading Reign of Doomsday, then this chapter is another stellar addition to the story arc and you will absolutely love how far Doomsday and Cyborg Superman go to try to stop one another and pummel each other into submission.

Even though it has some pacing problems, the only way I say you don’t pick this up is if you haven’t read the previous chapters and to that I tell you to go catch up as soon as you can so you can read this comic.

Under the Red Hood

Originally Published: July 27, 2010, on Collider.com and PlayerAffinity.com

It was one of the most controversial decisions in the history of comics. Back in September of 1988, DC Comics opened up a 24 hour vote where fans would decide the fate of Jason Todd, the second Robin in the famed Batman canon. By less than a 100 votes, fans decided that Batman would not make it in time to save Jason from the clutches of the Joker and thus complete the now legendary “A Death in the Family” story arc. Flash forward 20 years now (about four or five in the actual DC Universe) and DC decided to find a way to bring Jason back. Batman: Under the Red Hood is the story of how Batman’s greatest failure comes back to haunt him in ways he never could have imagined.

The comic story arc was originally written by Judd Winick and so it was only natural for DC Animation to approach Winick to rework his story into a screenplay. That was an easy decision. The difficult part was going to be having Winick actual trim down years of comic pages into something that could be told in a 75 minute movie.

There were some obvious reworks that needed to be had, like the summarization of 20 years of guilt on Batman’s part into a simple monologue in the Bat-Wing, but there were others that fans might come to question. Like the complete removal of Tim Drake as the third Robin and nothing more than a cryptic reference late in the movie to Barbara Gordon (the original Batgirl). Removing Tim Drake took away the great confrontations that the prodigal son Jason Todd had with the latest Boy Wonder and is something that fans would probably have liked to have seen.

Aside from this, many of the reworks were necessary to tell the story of the return of Jason Todd as efficiently as possible. There would have been no way to explain how the events of Infinite Crisis and Superboy Prime were what brought Jason back from the dead without making another new movie, so it was written off as being Ra’s Al Ghul and his Lazarus Pit. Also, to show every hit Jason did against the Black Mask as he began to move up in the underworld ranks would have taken an extra hour, so only showing a couple got the point across as well as moved the story along at a good pace. And for those out there who were not familiar with the “A Death in the Family” arc, there are plenty of flashbacks to fill in the remaining blanks of the Batman canon.

So, the story is about as true to the source material as it could be when being crammed into 75 minutes of animation, but what about the actual movie itself? I say it is absolutely brilliant. I still wish DC Animation would stop adapting raw source material and come up with some original stories again like in the Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond days, but for what it is, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a great telling of a landmark Batman story.

The animation is crisp and really jumps off the screen on Blu-Ray. For the most part, the voice acting is top of the line and although most Batman: The Animated Series fans would wish that Kevin Conroy was voicing the Dark Knight, Bruce Greenwood does an admirable job stepping into the role. Add in voice acting veteran John Dimaggio playing possibly the best Joker since Mark Hamill (a possible future replacement once Hamill permanently hangs up his acid spraying flower?) and Jensen Ackles wonderfully portraying the rage and raw emotion Jason Todd is always emitting, and almost everyone involved did a great job bringing these characters to life for this story. The only character portrayal I question was the Black Mask and how he was made out more to be a stereotypical Italian mafia boss instead of the criminal mastermind and psychopath who has come to haunt Batman time and again. I understand he was more of a plot device here to help set-up the final confrontation, but the character deserved more respect than what it was shown.

As always with these straight to Blu-Ray/DVD movies, there are plenty of bonus features to make the buy even more worthwhile and Batman: Under the Red Hood does not disappoint. Included on the disc are four episodes featuring Robin from Batman: The Animated Series, as well as two short documentaries detailing both the creation of the character of Robin and the infamous 1988 vote that sent Jason Todd to his doom. Throw in a preview of the next DC Animated feature, Batman/Superman Apocalypse, and a short bonus cartoon about Jonah Hex, based on a story by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, that is as brilliantly done as the main feature itself, and you have nearly three hours of bonus content that will make any DC Universe fanboy work a nice groove into their couch to watch this great package.

When all is said and done, any and every Batman fan will enjoy this portrayal of Jason Todd and his story as he has been reworked back into the DC Universe. Great action, superb voice acting, and tremendous storytelling make this a must have for fans of the Dark Knight. Batman: Under the Red Hood is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Batman: Under the Red Hood gets 9 out of 10.

-Ray Carsillo