The Kingdom

It  feels rather fitting that, on the day DC launches a brand new era with their “Rebirth”, I’d be writing about a completely separate shake-up to the continuity that occurred some seventeen years prior.

I’m always way behind on these things.

Drawing on the events of Kingdom Come, this comic focuses on the possible future our heroes face.  With their own selfish plans, the Quintessence grants cosmic powers and understanding to an unsuspecting Superman devotee.  Driven mad by this knowledge, he grows to believe Superman is responsible for the tragic events that ended millions of lives.  Adopting the name of Gog, he sets out to destroy Superman, not once but thousands of times, traveling backwards one day at a time and murdering him each and every day.

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Our heroes soon realize that the entire world as they know it will be wiped out if they don’t put a stop to this madman.  Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman vow to travel back through time and change history, effectively altering all reality for their contemporaries.

The bulk of this comic focuses on a few key characters, presented as children of beloved modern superheroes.  It was entertaining to read about the exploits of Batman’s son or Robin’s daughter, but the “we’re facing our last day on Earth” narrative cast a pall over most of the story.  The stories sometimes felt like tangents, and while these characters join forces at the end to help the trinity, their individual stories sometimes felt a bit drawn out or unnecessary.

I was all geared up to not really enjoy this comic.  As it began to reach its climax all I kept thinking was, “Well, this is just one possible future.  There’s no guarantee any of this will ever actually happen.”  I especially felt that when the heroes of the future met our modern-day trio.  Being able to warn them of their futures, surely these events could be prevented.

I combed through the remainder of the comic not expected to get all that much out of it.  Of course, then the story had to go and change things up.

Out of nowhere, our heroes end up in Hypertime, which is concisely explained to them by Rip Hunter:

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Aaaaaand the multiverse is back.

Rip provides an overview of hypertime, explaining that there are actually numerous parallel timestreams, all similar but all with distinct differences.  Yes, this is different timelines rather than different multiverses, but essentially it’s the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths way of thinking.

Rip (and the writers) address the fact that for years now, the prevailing thought was that only a single universe existed.

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“They think orderly, catalogued continuity is preferable to a kingdom of wonder.”  I love that line. I like to believe that it’s a commentary on those responsible for uniting the multiverse into one cohesive world which, while monumental, is also potentially limiting.

The comic implies that this multiverse will be explored and studied in months and years to come, which I can only assume to mean that the “multiverse” is back in full swing, and heroes and villains alike from various parallel worlds will be making appearances.

Surprisingly, I find myself extremely happy about this change.  When I read Crisis on Infinite Earths,  I was thrilled that I would no longer have to keep track of what was going on between Earth-1 and Earth-2.  I liked the simplicity and clarity of a single universe, and for a while I was perfectly content with it.

Of course, like all things,  I started to feel sad about the fact that I would never be seeing certain characters again (I’m looking at you, Barry Allen) and found myself wishing that there was some way to bring them back without completely erasing all of the stories I had previously read.

Perhaps that was one of the driving forces for the resurgence of the multiverse.  At least, that’s what I’m choosing to believe.  This comic ends with no more than a hint of what may come, yet it’s enough to make me want to keep reading.  With these comics moving into the 21st century, there is an entirely new crop of talent who can take these characters in new and exciting directions. It would have been incredibly disappointing if certain characters were off-limits for these writers, simply because of prior events in continuity.

I’m looking forward to reading about whatever cross-overs may happen with these parallel-worlds, assuming it’s a plot point they keep up with.  I’m hoping DC will have a slightly better handle on the multiverse this time around, and that I won’t be so completely lost while reading.

Who knows? Maybe a year or so from now when I finally catch up to all the “Rebirth” happenings I’ll be writing about how DC is reuniting the multiverse into a single continuity and how great it is, because multiverses are confusing.

No spoilers about what actually happens in “Rebirth” though!

After all,  I’ll get there eventually.

-Jess

Kingdom Come

What happens when superheroes stop caring about the protection of human life?

Kingdom Come, an otherworlds story written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross, imagines a possible future in which superheroes of old have gone into retirement, while a new crop of metahumans runs rampant across the globe.  These new characters show no concern for the human population, and battle one another all across earth, with no regard for how many innocent lives they might take.

The story is told through an elderly pastor names Norman Mccray who, along with The Spectre, must bear witness to the ultimate battle between metahumans, a battle that will determine the fate of all of humanity.

We’re given a glimpse into many of the old heroes’ lives.  Batman’s secret identity has been revealed, but he still protects Gotham through a series of robotic sentinals.  Wonder Woman, deemed a failure at her task of improving man’s world, has been stripped of her royal title and forbidden to return to Paradise Island.  Worst off is Superman, who after losing his parents as well as Lois, has fled into a self-imposed exile, ignoring the catastrophes occurring in the world around him.

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Wonder Woman lures him out of hiding after the recklessness of other metahumans has caused the deaths of over a million people in the midwest.  Feeling guilty for turning his back on humanity for so long, Superman vows to stop this new generation of super humans.

Superman, ever the optimist, believes this can be done mostly peacefully, and thinks he will be able to subdue the majority of offenders easily enough.  Bruce, however, takes a hardened, more realistic view of the matter, questioning if perhaps a war is supposed to happen, so as to bring about an end to super humans.

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A clear divide is created, with half the metahuman heroes siding with Superman, and the others siding with Batman.  Both are up against the metahumans who side with neither and don’t love being imprisoned by Superman.

It’s a three-way battle that could very well spell the end of humanity.

At this point we’re graced with a sub-plot involving Lex Luthor brainwashing Catptain Marvel to serve as his agent of destruction.  It pained me to see Marvel being used this way, and my entire thought process at this point essentially boiled down to: “Luthor you jerk, leave my poor, sweet Billy Batson alone.”

Sadly, Luthor ‘s plot is successful, with Captain Marvel freeing all of Superman’s prisoners, inciting a massive riot.  Seeing no other recourse, the U.N. decides to launch not one but three nukes at the battle.

Superman sees the missile coming before anyone, and in a rather poignant scene finally gets through to Billy and tells him that he must ultimately make the decision.  Captain Marvel, knowing the life of a human and a god, is the only one who can decide if the metahumans should be destroyed, or allowed to continue fighting.

Marvel sacrifices himself and detonates the bomb above the battle, leaving Superman alone in a field of decimated corpses.

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Wanting revenge, Superman attacks the U.N., planning on killing those responsible for his friends’ deaths.  Norman Mccray and Spectre reappear once more, with Norman convincing Superman that this is not the way.  Discovering that other heroes survived the blast, Superman calms himself, and the remaining heroes agree to put an end to their oppressive treatment of humanity.

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A truce is reached, and the remaining metahumans can work beside the humans to help build a better tomorrow.

Overall I enjoyed this story of a possible future for our heroes.  The artwork is absolutely beautiful, but then I’ve always been a fan of the painterly style of comic art.  It’s a less than ideal scenario for our future, but then it also seems entirely possible.

Each character has adapted and changed to a certain degree, none moreso than Wonder Woman. Once a staunch advocate of peace, Diana has not started to believe that war is a necessity, and that killing is justified given the circumstances. This seems a far cry from the princess of Themysicra that we’re all so familiar with, yet it pinpoints just how drastically the world has changed.  If even heroes like Wonder Woman and Superman have lost hope, what chance does the world have?

The only scene I found particularly odd was the epilogue, in which our three main heroes meet.  Diana and Clark decide to tell Bruce that they’re expecting a child, a secret the world’s greatest detective has already uncovered for himself.  In a twist, Diana asks Bruce to be the godfather, believing that he can offer a grounding “human” influence that Diana and Clark never could.  Bruce agrees, and the three happily leave arm in arm to plan the future.

The idea of Diana and Clark ushering in a new age of superheroes with their own child was a sweet touch, but the ending felt a bit too treacly.  I suppose it was meant to show that they had all regained their humanity and that there was once again hope for the world, but it just would up seeming a bit too perfect for my liking.  After all the chaos and destruction, all the lives lost, it felt out of place.

Nevertheless, the story was well-written, albeit perhaps a bit short.  There were so many characters featured that few were given their own moment in the spotlight, and many were hardly alluded to at all.  I would have liked to see this as a longer mini-series, with more time allotted to what the superheroes had been  up to in these chaotic times, as well as more information on the newer generation of metahumans (shockingly little information is given about any of them.)   Overall though, it was an interesting cautionary tale of what might happen when superheroes lose their way.

Their choices, be they good or bad, have such a strong impact on the rest of the world. It is only by humbling themselves and working with the rest of humanity that they can hope to bring about any sort of positive, everlasting change.

-Jess

Superman: Red Son

What would the world be like if Superman had crash landed in Soviet Russia instead of rural Kansas?

Thus is the basis for Mark Millar and Dave Johnson’s re-imagining of the Man of Steel. I was exciting to read this Elseworlds story, curious to see what sort of subtle shifts in Superman’s personality would be created due to this change in location.

Superman has been re-imagined as a Red, serving as Stalin’s right hand man and eventually taking over as Russia’s reluctant ruler after the leader’s death.  It was nice to see that this comic didn’t take a standard “capitalism good, communism bad” approach, and instead addresses the concepts from a more rational standpoint, highlighting the good that either party could do with Superman at its helm.

Without the love and caring of the Kents though, Superman seems to have lost something. He doesn’t maintain a secret identity, and he seems almost robotic at times. He still strives to save people and doesn’t promote violence, and yet he was bred in a world in which violence is a key component of the regime.  Although not a villain, Superman is striving to gain control over the entire world so that he may keep it peaceful and safe.

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Throughout much of the comic we are given glimpses of America without a Superman. Lex Luthor is an even more prominent figure in society, yet he is still hell bent on destroying Superman in any way possible.  He crafts numerous creations in his attempt to murder his rival, yet all fail.

Most of this felt like name-dropping within the DC universe, meant to impress the readers with small cameos by various heroes and villains alike.  We see what becomes of Batman and Wonder Woman, as well as Hal Jordan and Brainiac.  We also catch glimpses of other characters and see what fates would have befallen them: Lois Lane is in a depressingly loveless marriage to Luthor, while Jimmy Olsen works for the government.  Unfortunately I suppose it wasn’t exactly what I expected going into the comic, and so it ended up not grabbing my attention as much as it could have.  The changes just felt too severe.  Would Lois Lane really have married (and stayed married to) Lex Luthor if Superman and Clark Kent weren’t around?  That mplies that her entire personality lives and dies with Clark, and I can’t really get behind that sentiment.

With the premise of an alternate history, I assumed that other characters’ origins would remain the same, and that this one key aspect of the DC universe, Superman’s landing location, would be all that changed in that regard.  I realize the changes could be attributed to the butterfly effect, but I can’t get past the concept that now Bruce Wayne and his parents lived in Russia and that Hal Jordan never received his power ring directly from Abin Sur, all because Superman landed in Russia instead of the US.  The numerous differences felt a bit forced, and were distracting to the overall story rather than adding to it.

With that said, the comic picked up steam and completely subverted my expectations with the last twenty pages or so.  Surprisingly, this coincided with what happened to the world after the death of Superman.  Forced to fly Brainiac’s ship far away from Earth to save it from a destructive blast, Superman is presumed dead, and the world continues without the man of steel.  As a result, Lex Luthor essentially reigns supreme, bringing about a period of wealth and prosperity not only to the US, but the the entire world.

Disease is eradicated, life expectancy increases exponentially, and overall the world evolves into something akin to paradise.  As Luthor lays dying at an absurdly old age, he is asked what his greatest accomplishment was:

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With all that he did, defeating Superman was still his proudest moment.

The story now provides a brief summary of future generations of Luthors, with each generation bringing about a new key addition to society.  Eventually, so much time has passed that the sun now burns red, and one of Luthor’s descendants, Jor-L, believes the world will soon end.

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As a solution, Jor-L decides to send his son back in time to the mid twentieth century, in the hope that he will be able to change the path of humanity and prevent the destruction of the planet.

I found this “twist that’s not really a twist” ending to be intriguing, albeit it flawed.  The time travel paradox is pretty apparent, as Superman would have had to go back in time in the first place in order for these future events to have happened.

Then again, maybe we’re just not supposed to think too critically about it.

I enjoyed the idea that Superman’s actions doom his own planet to the same fate Krypton faced, all because of where he landed and how he was raised.  The story poises interesting questions about the concepts of nature versus nurture, and tangentially reinforces the importance of Jonathan and Martha Kent in the ultimate formation of Superman.  He is simply not the same man when raised by others, and although the comic never comes right out and says it, the Kents’ role in making Superman a true hero is clear.  This is one of the only reasons I disliked the ending, revealing that this Superman is actually a descendant of Lex Luthor.  With that implication, it could be argued that Superman behaves so differently because it’s in his blood, with less emphasis placed on who raised him and how.  I would have preferred that his origin remain the same, so that the marked difference in his personality was more clearly defined as having been a result of his surroundings and interactions with people.

I found that I enjoyed the concept of this comic more than the comic itself.  I didn’t particularly love reading it, and yet I’ve been mulling it over for the last few hours.  It’s an intriguing alternate history for a hero whose basic premise has remained unchanged for decades.  Although the execution of the story may not be perfect, the concept is enough to carry the story, and for that alone it was well worth the read.

-Jess

JLA Presents: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. Vol. 1

Usually Mistah J is really good at predicting which comics I’ll like and which I won’t.  Oftentimes he’ll hand me a comic and preface it by saying, “I think you’ll really like that one” or “You just have to get through this,” and for the most part he’s spot on with his predictions of how I’ll react.

This time though, he was a little off.

As I glanced at my next stack of comics to tackle, he pointed out this Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. trade and said he figured I’d end up liking this one, since it’s about a young female superhero sort of in the vein of Young Justice (which I really liked).

Maybe that was the problem. I went into this comic expecting to like it too much.

This 1st volume of Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. tells the story of Courtney Whitmore, a high school girl who just moved to a small town and learned that he new stepdad, Pat Dugan, was a Golden-Age superhero sidekick named Stripesy.  Finding The Star-Spangled Kid’s old utilty belt, she puts it on and starts using its powers to stop bad guys.

On the surface, I love the concept.  There’s enough there to power a story, with Courtney trying to fit in to a new school and accept a new father figure in her life.  I kept waiting for it to get really good.

It never did.

Quite frankly, Courtney’s the problem.  She’s not even remotely likable.  When the comic opens we see her complaining about the move and arguing with her mom. Okay, that sounds perfectly realistic enough, I’ll give you that.  I wasn’t too thrown off by that part alone, and figured it would get better.

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It didn’t.

Courtney continues to complain about everything in her life.  At one point the comic attempts to make her more relatable, by cursing her with what is apparently the worst thing ever.

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Oh dear me, the poor thing. That attractive, athletic, popular girl has been plagued with braces. She is infinitely more relatable now.

Not.

(The cheese-factor of this comic has brought back my memories of late-90’s slang. I will be peppering it throughout the rest of this post. Not.)

There simply wasn’t anything left to endear Courtney to me, and I was struggling to find a reason to really like her. I kept giving her the benefit of the doubt though, figuring she would come around and stop complaining so much.

Nope. Instead, the final nail in her proverbial coffin came during a crossover with Young Justice.  Meeting for the first time, Wonder Girl comments politely that she likes Courtney’s outfit, to which Courtney replies rather tartly.

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Excuse me?!

This complete stranger just extended an olive branch and gave you a sincere compliment, and you respond by insulting her???  No, no, no.

I hated her at this point.  This is not how a superhero should behave, young and overly hormonal or not.  Courtney is the perennial mean girl, not caring who she upsets, be it a classmate, her parents, or a complete stranger.  She’s so self-centered that she never stops to consider how her actions are affecting those around her.  It’s a gross exaggeration of what teen girls are like (and yes, I feel I can say that with authority seeing as how I was one.)

With all my frustrations over who Courtney is as a person I’ve completely neglected the actual superhero part of this trade.  Well, truth be told there’s not much there in the first place.  Each issue features a minor throwaway fight scene against a minor throwaway character.  Courtney never seems to be in an real danger, and when push comes to shove she’s always got S.T.R.I.P.E. there to back her up.  These scenes were okay, but nothing groundbreaking and certainly not enough to save the comic from Courtney’s non-secret identity.

I went into this comic excited to read about this new character. Now, I’m just glad the trade was short. Unfortunately I have a feeling Courtney will be popping up in future trades on “the shelf”.  Maybe by then she’ll have calmed down a bit and won’t be so obnoxious.

If not, I hope someone shows up and punches her in her soon-t0-be perfect (thanks to the dreaded orthodontia) face.

-Jess

Batman: No Man’s Land Vol. 4

After a week of almost non-stop reading, No Man’s Land is officially over.

For the most part I really enjoyed the story, and yet there were a few key moments that left me a bit dissatisfied with my overall reading experience.

Most of No Man’s Land was well-paced and interesting.  Although the stories were revealed slowly, the emphasis was on character experiences rather than non-stop action, and I found that this created a much more intriguing  basis for the story.  Multiple comics are included in these collections, allowing the story room to breathe and grow without cramming a year’s worth of events into a single series.  The Batman comics were allowed to focus on the central storyline, while other trades tied in and enhanced the overall understanding of just what was going on in the NML.

That is, most of the other titles.  I must admit I found the Azrael comics to be a bit underwhelming.  Maybe it’s just because I don’t find Azrael to be a compelling character.  He’s whiny and unsure of himself, and spent essentially all of No Man’s Land  wishing he had a better understanding of what type of man he is.

Plus there was the constant jilted conversations.

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I get it. Azrael is supposed to be the typical awkward guy, raised in an abnormal environment and not knowing how to respond in typical situations.  It’s a standard enough concept.  The execution is grating, though.  Azrael lacks any interesting qualities.  His former appearances in Nightfall cemented his role as a truly unlikable Batman wannabe, and the attempts to make him seem more relatable fell flat.  His storyline was uninteresting, and quite frankly often felt as though it could have been removed from the entire No Man’s Land trade with little to no affect on the overall story.

Those moments aside, the majority of this rather massive story arc was fun to read, and this culminating trade was no exception.  After three trades of a slow build, I figured it had to be leading up to whatever cataclysmic finale would occur here, right?

Somehow, the story managed to achieve this climactic ending while simultaneously feeling just a tad anticlimactic as well.

The story itself ends on a rather benign meeting between Luthor and Batman.  Batman bursts in, intimidates Luthor, and leaves.

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It wasn’t any sort of real conclusion.  Yes, the No Man’s Land ban has been lifted, and Gotham is once again a part of the United States.  There is still plenty to be done to rebuild the once-great city though, and while plenty of efforts are being made, there’s even more still left to be done.

I suppose the point is that the story of an abandoned Gotham has come to a close.  The city may not be whole again, but at least they stand a much better chance at surviving now.

The true climax of the story wound up being a storyline that only loosely tied in to the No Man’s Land plotline.  The Joker had been relatively silent for quite some time, and Batman knew that this meant trouble.  The Joker had decided to kidnap children from across Gotham, all helpless infants.  As Batman and essentially everyone else attempts to find the missing babies, we are met with explosion after explosion at various decoy sites.

The comic then shifts to Lt. Sarah Essen finding the Joker with the children.  Sarah has a gun poised on the madman, but as he tosses a child at her she drops her gun in order to catch the falling baby.

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This winds up being a fatal mistake, as the Joker shoots her in the head, killing her.

As if this scene wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, we’re then greeted with the follow-up of Gordon being informed that Sarah is dead.

Poor, poor Gordon. This man has suffered way too much at the hands of the Joker.  First his daughter Barbara is paralyzed, and now his wife is shot to death.  It’s enough to drive any man to the brink, and Gordon even pulls his gun and aims it at Joker’s head.  Batman uncharacteristically does not try to intervene, instead telling Gordon that he won’t stop him.

At this point, no one would really blame Gordon for putting a bullet in the Joker’s head.  Instead, he drops the gun and shoots him in the kneecap.

It’s a strange and heart-breaking scene, yet it says so much.  Was Batman actually allowing Gordon the opportunity to kill the Joker once and for all, or did he have such faith in him that he knew Gordon wouldn’t take a life, no matter how horrible his grief might be?  The fact that Gordon doesn’t kill the Joker speaks volumes to his character as well.  This man has been through torture at the hands of this psychopath, and yet even now he can’t bring himself to commit murder.  If the past five decades haven’t cemented Gordon as a perennial good guy, this scene most certainly did.

I enjoyed No Man’s Land a great deal more than the similarly epic Nightfall storyline.  Fewer issues here felt like filler, and the changes to the status quo made for a comic I actually wanted to read.  Although Gotham is far from being back on its feet, at least they seem to be headed in the right direction.  If this story taught us anything, it’s that even in a society that has devolved into anarchy, Batman will be there to ensure that some semblance of order is restored.

-Jess

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

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It’s always fun to be surprised by just how much of a movie you can remember.

I know as a child I didn’t watch Lady and the Tramp endlessly, but I remembered a few key scenes.  I was certain though that there were entire subplots and asides that I was forgetting.

As it turns out, there weren’t. I remembered just about everything in this movie. Maybe I watched it more as a child than I recall, or maybe there’s just something about it that sticks out in the mind.

Lady and the Tramp tells the story of Lady, a pretty and pampered cocker spaniel who lives the life of luxury in a beautiful home, and Tramp, a stray who lives on the streets and takes life as it comes.  The film is largely centered around Lady’s life, from her arrival at her new home as a puppy to her contented existence as a staple in the family.

It’s difficult to write a summary of this film, primarily because it consists of numerous small scenes which are technically part of the whole story, but are not necessarily directly related to one another.  Rather than attempt to write a flowing essay about the film as a whole, I will instead focus on a few key scenes that stand out.

  1. The opening scene featuring Lady as a puppy

Look at that adorable little face.  I want one.  Lady’s playfulness is super cute in this scene, as she tries to figure out how to get from the kitchen up to the warmth of her owners’ bed.  She masterfully starting crying, hoping to lure her owners back downstairs before ultimately climbing the massive staircase and weedling her way onto their bed.

2.The Siamese Cats

These characters are more than a little racist, but that song will perpetually get stuck in your head for days after watching.  I remember singing this incessantly as a child, and also being conflicted because although I’m generally a cat person, I couldn’t stand these two.

3.Peg

Oh, Peg.  She has but one scene in the movie, yet she manages to steal the show.  Whenever I think of Lady and the Tramp, I hear Peggy Lee’s smooth voice confirming exactly what type of dog Tramp is.  It’s not a big scene, but it has always stood out in my mind.

4.The “Bella Notte” dinner

This is perhaps the most famous scene from the movie, and arguably one of Disney’s most iconic images.  I found myself giggling at the absurdity of a couple of Italian guys setting up a full table and serenading a pair of dogs, but it’s an incredibly sweet scene nonetheless.  If you remember nothing else from the film, you will undoubtedly remember this.

I find myself enjoying the individual scenes more than the film as a whole.  Each scene had an amusing or heartfelt touch to it, yet overall the film feels like a rather standard “boy from the wrong side of the tracks” type of story.  There’s nothing wrong with that, there’s just also nothing groundbreaking in it.  Then again, perhaps that’s what makes it perfect for children.  It is so often difficult to hold a child’s attention, so perhaps the writers opted to focus on shorter scenes that would stick out in a child’s mind.  With none of these scenes being particularly long or dragged out, they were perfect for younger viewers, remaining entertaining yet brief enough that a kid wouldn’t lose interest and could easily remember what was going on.  Given that I could recall virtually every scene some fifteen or twenty years after having last seen this movie, I’d say their methods are sound.

As is expected, this Disney movie ends on a high note, with Tramp being adopted by Lady’s owners and the duo raising their own brood of puppies.  The story is simple, yet it’s also fun and sweet.  There are a few moments where it falters, not quite standing the test of time (primarily with the depiction of blatantly racist or stereotypical ethnic characters).  Still, overall it’s a cute little film.  Perhaps not my favorite, but a fine example of how well Disney can craft a story.

Besides, where else are you going to find a movie dedicated to all the dogs in the world?

-Jess

 

Batman: No Man’s Land Vol. 3

I’m finding it difficult to write about these latest No Man’s Land trades.

Not because there’s nothing to say, but because there’s simply so much going on that it’s difficult to hone in on any one person or event.  With so many characters receiving a spotlight issue or two, it’s tough to focus my attention.

An incredibly brief synopsis of this trade might read something like this: Batman and friends continue working to contain Gotham’s criminal element while fighting to find food and supplies for its remaining residents.

That’s essentially it.  It’s simple, but the comics themselves are anything but.  We learn so much about how individuals handle adversity differently, and how certain criminals can thrive in this environment.  The utter desolation of the city doesn’t mean a complete loss of hope for some, although many are beginning to question how they can continue on like this indefinitely.

Reading these comics, there are always one or two individual issues that stand apart from the rest.  They may not have the biggest impact on the overall story, but they catch my eye and stay with me longer than the rest.

In this trade, those issues were Batman #570 and Detective Comics # 737, a storyline featuring Joker and Harley Quinn titled “The Code”.

This is one of the first appearances of Harley Quinn within the main continuity, and she truly enters the fray as her own unique character.

In this story, Joker has just shored up a new territory, and Harley goes to do some investigating in the penthouse apartments.  In one, she find a book laying out the rules of love, and settles down to read it.

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According to this book, Harley has been making herself entirely too available, and that’s why the Joker doesn’t pay her any mind.  Deciding to change her act, Harley begins acting more independent and less reliant on Joker and his whims.

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While Harley puts her new knowledge to good use, she also suggests to Joker that he hold an election and run for President of Gotham, using “Batman would never do that” as her reasoning.  Joker thinks it’s a brilliant idea and begins campaigning full force.  It’s a completely ridiculous scenario that fits him perfectly; in a city of utter chaos and instability, of course Joker would choose now to try and instill a little order to everything around him.

The election storyline is fun, but Harley steals the show.  As she grows more and more independent, the Joker begins to miss his ever-loyal lackey, and appears to even miss the nicknames he once claimed to loathe.

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I couldn’t help but love Harley in this story.  She is so determined to get her “puddin” to pay attention to her and return her affection.  Even with a city in ruins around her, she is single-minded in her goal to get the Joker to love her back.

It’s innocent, naive, and absolutely crazy, yet you can’t help but sympathize with her.

It’s also rather effective.  Joker doesn’t seem to take too kindly to not being the center of Harley’s world, and her indifference starts to wear on him.  It’s the classic “ignore him and he’ll come running” trope that is perpetuated in every women’s magazine published for the past fifty years.  With the Joker at least, it seems to work perfectly.

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Marry?! There’s a word you’d never expect the Joker to utter.

This just proves how masterful Harley is.  If she can control the Joker, there’s really no stopping her.  Even Batman hasn’t been able to make Joker change his tune about anything.  This girl’s an evil, lovestruck genius.

If this was all there was to her character, she’s be entertaining, but luckily beneath that sweet and playful exterior is a strong and skilled fighter.  Taking on Huntress and walking away virtually unscathed, Harley proves that she can hold her own against Gotham’s best.

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This, for me, is what makes Harley such an enjoyable character.  She’s goofy and childish but also fierce.  Strip away the psychotic tendencies and she’s exactly what I want to be.  I have a feeling she strikes a chord with a lot of readers for this very reason.

Of course, her resolve can only last so long, and after thinking her lovable Mistah J has been killed in a blast, she can’t help but express her undying devotion, much to Joker’s dismay.

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She tried, she really did. She even succeeded for a while there, making the Joker pursue her for a change.  Alas, her weakness got the best of her, and she flew into his arms and undid all that she had accomplished with their relationship.

These two make for a highly dysfunctional pair, but perhaps that’s why they’re so great together.  Harley loves Joker; there’s no doubt about that.  However, in this story we get to see that although the Joker’s feelings may not be identical, he at least loves the attention and adoration Harley gives him.  Sure, he’s tried to kill her once or twice, but he has his moments of caring, if only because she doesn’t.

I’m not sure what it was about this particular storyline that stood out to me so much.  Harley Quinn is certainly a key factor.  She’s fun to read about and is unlike any other Batman villain I’ve seen.  Plus, she’s paired off with the Joker, and his interactions with everyone are always fun to read.  Harley is essentially a hyper little puppy that follows the Joker around constantly, much to his chagrin.  She’s innocent, she’s sweet, she’s utterly psychotic.  She’s also loyal to a fault, and one can’t help but admire that loyalty, even if it kicks her in the butt or ends up with her strapped to a rocket.

Harley Quinn is a deranged love-struck psycho, and yet she still manages to be adorable and likable.  She walks a fine line that few other characters can manage, being a villain that the reader wants to root for.  In the midst of tragedy and city-wide destruction, Harley’s single-minded focus on getting the Joker to love her heightens her naivete while endearing her to readers.

Much like the Joker, Harley has a perfect blend of violence and comedy. She has the added touch of sweetness though that makes her a truly unique villain, and one whom can’t help but steal the show every time she’s featured.

She’s funny. She’s crazy. She’s awesome. I bet deep down, even Batman likes her.

-Jess