I haven’t seen the new film Batman vs. Superman. I will eventually, once the crowds die down. As much as the trailers look exciting, the early mixed reviews are not surprising, even though I avoid the fanboy shadenfreude of seeing movies based on beloved characters bomb. I want good movies regardless of what inspires them. I did see the Man of Steel movie, and it had little takeaway besides momentary thrills, with lots of high-octane action and little to contribute to the world of its characters.
Here’s some places to go for a Batman fix:
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has a fresh rendition of the Dark Knight that is worth checking out. The Flash is sent into an alternate timeline. DC Comics has loved these over the decades, and when I was reading comics they were often fun. Here the world is on the brink of global destruction as Aquaman and his Atlanteans are waging war with Dianna (Wonder Woman) and her Amazons, with Earth and its inhabitants getting steam-rolled in the process. None of the Justice League are who they used to be, either unpowered (Hal Jordan/ Green Lantern) or missing (Superman) while some of the supervillains are in the fight against the two unstoppable armies.
It’s Flashpoint’s Batman that is the most engaging of these alt-universe personas. He looks and talks different, uses guns, and is disappointed any time he can’t kill a criminal. It’s as if he were bitten by a radioactive Punisher. Yet Flash must work with him to solve not only his own but this alt-Earth’s pending crisis. I won’t reveal any more if you haven’t seen it. I didn’t read the Johns/ Kubert comic books from where the story originates and spanned several different comic series so I can only take the animated movie at face value. No doubt the comics had more story that couldn’t fit inside the film’s run time. But I was engaged throughout, and the artwork and voice acting ranges from serviceable to excellent.
Currently in post-production, 2016 will see the release of the animated version of The Killing Joke. Mark Hamill reprises his role as the Joker. Here the Batman’s arch-nemesis is off to prove the point that one bad day can make a sane man go mad. Just having Hamill back is enough to get me watching. But if you haven’t read the 1988 Alan Moore/ Brian Bolland graphic novel, check it out first.
This is an essential Joker tail that teases one possible origin (as we learn, it’s a multiple choice with a man like Joker.) The story offers some of the usual parallels between Batman and Joker, and the conclusion is one of the best in a Batman story, summing up the possibility of redemption and reconciliation between the two enemies.
Moore gets plenty of credit as a Batman writer, but I’ve always loved Brian Bolland from his 2000 A.D. work with Judge Dredd. His style is crisp, with enough expressionist flair to contribute to the story. He’s also a good writer and I hope he does more of that.
Finally, if you haven’t ever watched the 1992-1995 Batman: The Animated Series, please do. It’s some of the highest quality Batman stories outside of the printed page. The artwork may initially come across fast and cheap, but it grows on you with time. And when it came out, it became obvious that it was a perfect delivery system for story, outpacing the X-Men animated shows as well as others in both quality and quantity. Plus we got the excellent Kevin Conroy voicing Batman, who will also be heard again acting in the animated The Killing Joke. Plus Mark Hamill. Watch it for the Joker episodes. But of the 85 episodes in total, few are weak and all a worth a look.
I’m still mildly hopeful that the new movie will have something which will make it worth watching. I’m staying away from reviews as to avoid spoilers. But even if it’s a stinker, there’s so much more Batman out there worth revisiting or, if you’ve missed the above, exploring for the first time.