The Axiom-man Saga is my superhero series. It consists of novels, novellas and short stories. There are some comics, but those are peripheral tales. The canon is in the books and stories.
For the completist, this is the order in which to read the series:
Episode No. 0: First Night Out Doorway of Darkness Black Water (short story)
Episode No. 1: The Dead Land There’s Something Rotten Up North (short story in the anthology, Metahumans vs the Undead) City of Ruin Rite of the Wolf (short story in the anthology, Metahumans vs Werewolves)
Episode No. 2: Underground Crusade Outlaw
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Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) Written by Brian Azzarello, Josh Olson, David S. Goyer, Greg Rucka, Jordan Goldberg and Alan Burnett Directed by Yasuhiro Aoki, Yuichiro Hayashi, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam and Shojiro Nishimi Runtime 75 min. 4.5 out of 5
Okay, now this is how you do something new with a character and do it right and totally change the formula. Not only was the style of Batman animation changed—this whole movie is done in anime by genuine Japanese anime directors—but also instead of giving us one big story, why not give us six shorter ones in the same universe?
This flick was meant as a bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, giving audiences an in-depth glimpse into Batman’s past and what he’s been up to between those two movies. To make it even sweeter, Kevin Conroy voices Batman for all six short films.
They are (and what I thought):
Have I Got a Story for You –
Premise: A bunch of skater kids relate to each other firsthand encounters with the Dark Knight.
Really good, each story seeming to center around Batman chasing the same thief. The art direction is ridiculous! Did you see the backgrounds in this thing? While the character designs for this vignette were so-so, the backgrounds were insane. What makes this vignette special is it shows how the Batman legend was born, that is, people swapping stories, relating what they thought they saw versus what really happened, and how one tale leads to another until, eventually, Batman is myth and man combined.
Of course, sometimes the facts get straightened out, as per the ending of this story. You’ll have to see for yourself what I mean.
Premise: Two cops take a recently-dropped-off-by-Batman felon to the Narrows for incarceration. There they encounter tons of trouble and Batman comes to the rescue.
This one is much grittier than the previous story, focusing heavily on the cops and gangs. The art is superb and while the backgrounds are more classical animation, the character design is top notch and I really dig how everyone looks in this tale. Batman is boss in this: big, powerful, sleek, tough—wish he looked like this all the time. Well done.
The main point of the story is the question: is Batman an ally? One cop thinks so, the other is skeptical, and the conclusion reached? Well, you’ll just have to see this wicked cartoon for yourself.
Field Test –
Premise: Lucius Fox shows Bruce Wayne some new gear he can use as Batman and he gets a chance to do just that.
How does anyone draw this good? The backgrounds are so realistic it’s upsetting (in that good way). The character design is very classic anime: pointier noses, smaller eyes, very realistic body proportions.
Batman definitely has a unique style to his suit in this; not your classic uniform but it works. I also like the change of pace by showing his eyes instead of having just whites. I think this is the first time Batman’s been animated that way.
All in all, this vignette was great and there is a moral to the story about Batman’s stance on guns and how he understands the need to defend himself against them . . . but not at another’s expense.
In Darkness Dwells –
Premise: When a congregation starts going crazy during a church service, Batman thinks the Scarecrow is to blame. Instead, he’s greeted by someone far more dangerous: Killer Croc! However, Scarecrow is still waiting in the wings.
Visually, this vignette is very comic-book-like. I see glimpses of Mike Mignola’s—Hellboy artist and creator—style though I doubt that the animators were trying to imitate that. It’s just what it reminds me of.
This one was pretty exciting. Lots of action, lots of danger, lots of Batman stopping baddies and getting out of tight situations. Dig it.
Working Through Pain –
Premise: Suffering from a gunshot wound, Batman flashes back to before he donned the cowl and reflects on pain and what it means in his life physically and emotionally.
This one’s pretty gory, but that’s to further cement the point of this tale: pain . . . and what it does for Batman, how he deals with it and how he overcomes it. Giving glimpses into Bruce Wayne’s travels and the training he picked up along the way, we get to see the lengths he went to to perfect his body in the areas of enduring through pain—physical and emotional—something he no doubt knew he needed to do if he was to succeed in his mission. Except, there is one pain he can’t overcome.
Visually, I liked the art style of this one as well.
Premise: Deadshot comes to Gotham and the word is he’s going to assassinate Jim Gordon. When the GCPD catch wind of this, they let Batman know. Batman becomes Gordon’s shadow and resolves to keep his friend safe.
The art direction in this is like a high-end comic book come to life. Really, really liked it. Great line work, crisp images, solid colors, dark and bleak like a Batman comic. Awesome. And that train tunnel? Gotta be a 3D background but it looks unbelievably cool.
The Batman-vs-Deadshot battle is a sweet one, high speed on a train.
The main thrust of this story is about guns and how Batman feels about them. Since it was a gun that killed his parents, it’s a touchy area for him.
All six of these stories were well done, well thought out and well written. I’m proud to be a Batman fan while watching these and I’m equally happy DC tried something new with the character and succeeded in spades. By tying this animated flick into the live action ones, it added a whole new dimension to those stories and to these animated shorts as well.
Batman Forever (1995) Written by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott-Batchler and Akiva Goldsman Directed by Joel Schumacher Runtime 121 min. 3 out of 5
Two Face has been terrorizing Gotham for a while and after executing a terrible sentence at Gotham Circus, he inadvertently changes the life of the Dark Knight forever by setting in motion a chain of events that lead to the birth of Batman’s legendary partner, Robin.
Continuing in the “double villain” trend as established by Batman Returns, a disgruntled—and stalker-ish—employee of Wayne Industries, Edward Nigma, gets revenge on his boss by becoming the Riddler, and steals his way to the top of the technology enterprise game.
It’s two-on-two in this third installment of the Batman franchise.
Riddle me this: what do you get when you cross Adam West and Michael Keaton? You get Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Batman, one who is part serious and part humorous. This is the film that I’ve always viewed as the “transition piece” between the dark Bat-flicks done by Tim Burton and the all-out camp-fest that is Batman & Robin.
Though a bit over the top, the story of Batman Forever is a good one and if you watch it just for that, you’ll highly enjoy it.
It was the humor that brought this film down.
First, Batman ain’t funny. He’s so serious and dry he makes Al Gore look like Superman.
Second, Two Face isn’t funny. Tommy Lee Jones, as much as I enjoy him as an actor, got the character wrong. Two Face is a gangster not another version of the Joker.
Third, Riddler isn’t all whacky and zany, though by director Joel Schumacher’s choice to cast Jim Carrey in the role, it’s evident he was after Frank Gorshin’s Riddler from the ’60s instead of the comic book Riddler. Jim also got this part shortly after he became super famous so obviously this role was playing to his strength of being a rubber-faced whack job.
Fourth, though it was a neat thing to add Robin to the mix, Chris O’Donnell was too old, but, I suppose, having a kid running around in an anatomically-correct rubber suit would have raised too many questions.
This film was 50/50 for me. Had its pluses and minuses. I’m going to leave this in the “decide for yourself” category.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) Written by Paul Dini Directed by Curt Geda Runtime 77 min. 5 out of 5
He was thought dead. The laughter was supposed to have ended.
But evil never dies.
The Joker is back!
His mission? Why, give Gotham a wedgy again!
But this Gotham is different than the one the Joker left behind. It’s a new Gotham with a new Batman.
Plenty of surprises abound in this thrilling chapter in the Batman Beyond universe.
This movie is brilliant, pure and simple.
I’ve seen both the regular and the uncut versions of this film and it’s the uncut version that’s being reviewed here (the regular is virtually the same and has only a few altered scenes).
The uncut version doesn’t hold back and isn’t sensitive to the viewer’s eyes. This one’s much more violent than the regular version. In the original release, certain events were only implied. In this one, they are shown. (If anything, I was surprised at how graphic this cartoon was compared to the Batman Beyond and Batman: TAS episodes.)
Ah, yes, the joys of direct-to-DVD releases.
The Batman in Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis, is real. You care about him, you relate to him. You want to be him even when the tension mounts between him and his mentor, Bruce Wayne.
The Joker’s nasty in this and once more Mark Hamill, with that creepy laugh of his, reminds us why he was born to play the Joker. The dialogue, the jokes—utterly fantastic!
The story is stellar, with multiple plots going on at once. It also answers the questions you have about the fate of the characters from Batman: TAS, which had a series finale that fell flat. (It was just another episode, really.)
The first time I saw this film I couldn’t believe what happened to one of the Bat regulars. It still blows me away every time I see it. Wow.
In 2027 A.D., the Zombie Apocalypse took the world by storm and no one was prepared. Countless lives were lost as humanity battled to regain control of their planet. Eventually, they did, and out of the ashes of fallen civilization rose a new world, one bent on revenge against the hordes of the undead that took everything from them.
Enter Tony Sterpanko, entrepreneur extraordinaire who found a way to capitalize on humanity’s thirst for vengeance against the zombie. He created Zombie Fight Night, a worldwide craze where the undead men and women who remained from the apocalypse faced off against people and beings that once existed on Earth or were existing for t