Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Batman In a State of Flux: Modernization (Part 3 of 3)

“Oh, you. You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren't you? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun… I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”

-       The Joker, The Dark Knight

     Critically acclaimed writer Jeph Loeb teams up with artist-legend Jim Lee to create Batman Hush, a two-part story that takes the vigilante on a crusade through Gotham, meeting the majority of his rogue’s gallery along the way. The pace was fast. It seemed as though every page, every panel, was dealing with an entirely different predicament, which would all link up by the end of the book. The first book focused on Batman battling such foes as Poison Ivy and Killer Croc, as well as having some aid from Oracle and Huntress. The book ends with a climactic showdown between Batman and Superman; an obvious nod to Frank Millar’s The Dark Knight Returns. Hush was renowned for having many supporting heroes and villains, but more so for giving each character a specific purpose in the story. Anyone who entered the story had something of importance to contribute to it. 
        Part two is where things started to heat up, as Batman forms an alliance with Catwoman in order to stop the Joker and Harley Quinn. The side-story in the second part showed us quick flashes of Bruce’s childhood with his parents and his childhood friend. After all the excitement and thrills, Batman is left to face his newest villain, the title character, Hush. After the book’s release, fans went crazy over the detail and representation of pretty much everything in the story, but it was Jim Lee’s incredible artwork that really shined and allowed the books to reach their full potential.

      Just eight years after the end of the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher film franchise, director Christopher Nolan brings the cinematic Batman back from the grave, in good fashion too. With Christian Bale, Liam Neeson and a large lineup of renowned actors, Batman Begins introduced fans to the modern vigilante of Gotham. While still as dark as the Burton films, Begins added a bit of lightness with clever jokes and a lot of heart. We finally got to see Batman’s origins on the big screen and see just what Bruce Wayne had to go through to become Gotham’s protector. The film also stood on its own by using great special and practical effects that only 21st century technology could provide as well as utilizing new villains, not seen in previous films: Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows. With a personal look at the Wayne family, an updated Batman for modern audiences and an action-filled, meaningful film, Batman was back on the big screen and would only get better as time went on.

      Batman sales in comics soared as he was featured in epic stories such as Infinite Crisis, which only increased his popularity. The large addition came in DC’s Final Crisis book, written by Grant Morrison, which saw the return of Darkseid, who has recently gained control of the Anti-Life Equation; the source that allows him to control the minds of others. Slowly he began taking control of the world’s most powerful beings. Batman and the rest of the JLA forged a plan to stop the ruler of Apokolips, which sadly ended with The Dark Knight’s death. Batman was burned to a crisp by Darkseid’s Omega beams, which became the cover image (if you haven’t seen it, it’s the website’s background, just to let you know). The death of Batman not only affected Final Crisis, but virtually all DC stories at that time. Superman stories mentioned his death, and his own stories had to cope and adjust to a world without Batman. A “sequel” to Final Crisis was released, also written by Grant Morrison, titled Batman R.I.P, which shut down any assumptions that he may still be alive. Fans weren’t sure what they would do in a world without Batman. Would this be another remake of the Death Of Superman in ‘93, or were they going to permanently kill of Bruce Wayne forever? Only time would tell, but fans quickly forgot about the troubles in the comics, as the greatest superhero movie of all time was released, The Dark Knight.
    With Christopher Nolan returning to direct the sequel to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight starred Christian Bale as Batman, in an even darker and more depressing story then the first, and Heath Ledger as the Joker, a performance that will go down as one of the most creative and visually astonishing in film history. Ledger used strange mannerisms and a certain tone, which was on par with the Joker from the comics, but original, turning the Joker into what could be viewed as a real person. Something that was hard to imagine with Nicholson’s Joker in Burton’s film. 
     It seemed as though Batman Begins established the new, modern and realistic nature of Batman and The Dark Knight perfected it. We really believed that Batman could exist in that world, and the performances from each actor only contributed to the atmosphere of the film. With unbelievable action sequences, praised performances and a storyline so original and so perfect, The Dark Knight is undeniably the best superhero film of all time, and is up there in movie ratings in general. The film grossed a total of $1,003,045,358 at the box office making it one of the best selling movies of all time (take that Avengers!)

     After the death of Bruce Wayne in the comics, writers quickly realized that they couldn’t just kill off the character, which led them to realize: Bruce Wayne may be dead, but Batman lives on. In August of 2009, Grant Morrison created a new comic series titled Batman & Robin in which Dick Grayson assumed the role of the new Dark Knight and Bruce’s long, lost son Damian became the new Boy Wonder. The series mixed some things up; one of them being that Robin was more moody and rebellious as Batman was more encouraging and generally happy. The premise of the series follows Bruce’s closest companions coping with his death and trying to find their place in the new world. Dick struggles to fill the shoes left by his former mentor, as well as training Damian Wayne, who had spent his entire childhood with his mother in the League of Assassins, to become the new Robin. Every three issues would follow a new story arc, the first being titled Batman Reborn, the second, Under the Red Hood and so on. This kept things moving throughout the story as well as keeping a continuation between each arc. The series was ultimately revamped after the New 52, but the premise remains the same, only now, Bruce Wayne has reassumed his role. Dick did a fine job filling in though, and was almost as enjoyable to read as the original, but he fits more properly in his Nightwing role.
     While Batman Begins had a videogame adaptation, The Dark Knight did not, and many fans were kind of bummed about that. Statistically speaking it would have probably been poorly done, as most movie adaptations are, but it doesn’t mean we weren’t going to play it anyway. But something better came a long instead. Being loosely based on the old graphic novel written by Grant Morrison, Batman: Arkham Asylum was released and wowed videogame players and DC fans across the nation. This was the first, realistic representation of Batman in a videogame and featured veterans from Batman’s animated history like Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. Batman is trapped on Arkham Island as all the criminals are released from their cells. He must stay on the island and insure that everyone be locked up, but the Joker and his large gang of thugs have a hidden agenda, which has Batman challenged by classic foes like the Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane and many more. It received a Guinness World Record as the most critically acclaimed superhero game of all time and was voted game of the year by GamesRadar and several other gaming websites. This is surely a game no Batman fan should miss.

     In September of 2011 DC decided to relaunch all of its existing titles following the DC crossover event called Flashpoint. All of the issues would reverberate back to #1 and certain key aspects of most character’s mythologies were retold, altered or “erased” from existence. Bruce Wayne was back as the one and only Batman, and Barbara Gordon was returned to her Batgirl identity. The Batman universe can now be read throughout 11 different on-going series, all of which were rebooted during the New 52 event. After reading only several issues of the New 52, I like what I see. Some fans however were disappointed at some of the alterations made, but I say: stop complaining and just accept it. DC is trying something new, and for most characters it has worked out for the better. I think we all just need to wait and see where this New 52 takes us, but for now lets just enjoy it.
      Fans were treated to the next “big” Batman game, the sequel to Arkham Asylum, Arkham City. This new story, written by successful Batman writer Paul Dini, takes you into the crime-ridden streets of a section of Gotham, which has been transformed into the new Arkham. This new game features the same voice cast as the first and more villains like Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul and Hugo Strange. With several new additions to the game like new gadgets, more unlockable costumes and the ability to play as Robin, Nightwing or Catwoman extended the likeness of the sequel far pass its original, quickly making it the best-selling superhero game of all time. The game successfully made you feel as though you were truly Batman, something that had never been done with any other superhero. Much like how Batman Begins created the new modern Batman and The Dark Knight perfected it, Arkham Asylum created an incredible Batman videogame universe and Arkham City perfected it.

   The third installment of the Nolan Bat-films was released on July 20th of 2012, and considering the fact that virtually everyone has seen it by now, I still cannot spoil anything for those who haven’t. Having said that, the film was a huge success and created great, modern modifications of Catwoman and Bane and utilized certain key elements from classic Batman comics such as No Man’s Land and The Dark Knight Returns. While it was hard to measure up to the perfection of it predecessor, TDKR performed admirably and concludes the greatest superhero trilogy of all time… you know you can’t deny it.

2013 and Beyond:
    Batman has had a strange and fluctuating history. Beginning as the dark crusader of Gotham, to the corny, campy, shark-repellant using joke of the 60’s, to the Dark Knight. The character has always been strong enough to survive his own history, and he is currently stronger then ever. With the continuing success of the New 52, Batman will strive in future comics and as long as we still have writers like Grant Morrison or Paul Dini working on the character, he will be successful. I’m awaiting the next, new writer who will invent the next Batman story worth praising much like Frank Millar did in the ‘86. Batman’s future in films is still undetermined. Whether another rebooted franchise is released 8 years from now or whether we get another look at a familiar or new Batman in the upcoming Justice League movie, fans will never get enough of a good Batman on screen. You know, Superman may have been the first, Spiderman may be the most relatable to young viewers, but in my opinion Batman is the best and he always will be.

"People think it's an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It's never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I'm doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn't that day. And tomorrow won't be either."

-       Batman, Identity Crisis

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment